Charleston, South Carolina

Family Circle Magazine Stadium

May 4, 2013

[Jim Lundy]

Review by Jim Lundy

May 4th, a Bob Dylan show on Daniel Island, SC: a pretentious planned 
community near Charleston that brings to mind one thing for me, “The 
Truman Show.” I planned on getting there a half hour before Dawes but 
arrived a full hour early due to surprisingly zero traffic on the roads that 
had me wondering if I had missed a hurricane evacuation order or 
something; the wind was certainly blowing like it does when a hurricane 
is churning off the coast.  But in this case it was a stalled front that 
brought dove-gray skies and winds that can be described at best as 
“blustery” and at worst as “gale force.” Since I was concerned that a 
hard rain was a-gonna fall during the concert, I bought a rain poncho 
that I am glad to say I never had to use for the light rain that came 
and went during the show. 

My early arrival and general admission floor tickets meant I was able to
walk right up to the stage just behind the die-hards that lined the front
rail. This meant I was about 25 feet from His Bobness, or at first, Dawes
as they walked on at exactly 7:30 and delivered a solid set of 8 songs
with great enthusiasm while the wind whipped the stage mercilessly. Since
those of us at the center front were at the side of or below the banks of
speakers that delivered the sound to the rest of the “stadium” (actually a
very small affair for tennis tournaments and surprisingly no attempt had
been made to protect the clay surface, which was certainly trashed by the
end of the night) the sound for the warm-up act wasn’t well distributed to
my ears. I was getting guitar straight out of the guitar amp and muddy
vocals from the singer’s monitor speaker. Where I could make out the
vocals it seemed like this is a band strong on lyrics but their sound was
a bit generic for my taste. After 40 minutes they said their goodbyes and
setup began for the main event.

At 8:30, Bob Dylan and His Band walked on, preceded by Stu Kimball and 
his one moment of glory for the entire night when he banged out the
introductory chords for “Things Have Changed” looking very pleased to be 
the center of attention until the rest of the band got to where they were 
going on stage. This was a rocking song to start the night with and Bob 
stood front and center delivering his vocal with all gusto. And I was happy 
to notice that he was actually singing. The last time I saw him years ago 
he was on his baseball stadium tour with Willie Nelson and his voice was so 
hoarse that he was essentially reciting his songs – and occasionally he 
couldn’t even do that. He would try to recite the next line and nothing 
but air would come out. Now, years later and he was actually singing and 
there were times during many songs where he achieved high, pure notes 
without a hint of rasp and a vocal range of more notes than he had 
seemed capable of even ten years ago. Which is not to say he doesn’t 
still do a great Tom Waits impression…

Bob stayed at the front/center mic for the next two songs: “Love Sick” and 
“High Water,” both of them highlights of the show. It was apparent that 
Bob was enjoying himself immensely and the mostly-full Family Cup Stadium 
was enjoying it too. Since I was up front with the die-hards, many of whom 
had traveled great distances to be there, I didn’t have to endure much of 
the never-ending conversations and cell phone chatter that are the hallmark 
of the American concert experience. A few songs later, a twenty-something
would push his way up behind me and found a reason to text on his phone
for the entirety of the concert. I know this because he kept poking me in
the back with the damn thing. He was within 25 feet of The Master and
spent the whole time looking down at his glowing iPhone. I will never
understand this compulsion.

Bob first visited an instrument on the 4th song, “Soon After Midnight” when 
he went to his baby-grand piano and I was pleased to hear it in the mix. In
the past I had to wonder if they even plugged his keyboard in as it was
entirely inaudible. This time he was part of the sound. His other keyboard,
the tiny one he’s been using for years, was set up and ready to go but he 
never played it, nor did he play guitar during the concert. 

Now, I have not drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to “Tempest” – not one 
of my favorite Dylan albums to say the least – so my enthusiasm died down 
a bit for “Early Roman Kings” but it came right back for “Tangled Up in Blue,” 
even if Bob did bark out the lyrics in a very percussive way through most of
the song. This was my first experience with the new guy, Duke Robillard,
and he rocked this song with a stunning lead guitar instrumental before
the last verse. And then it was time for another piece from “Tempest”
where my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered for a while: “Pay in

Songs 8 through 15 were solid gold. Highlights include “What Good Am I?” 
where he did a whole heck-of-a-lot of singing, and “Blind Willie McTell” which 
has had a major makeover. And despite what I’ve said about “Tempest,” I 
even enjoyed “Scarlet Town” which found a groove. They ended on “All 
Along the Watchtower” in the mode of Jimmi Hendrix and posed for 
audience then went backstage to do whatever they do for the few 
minutes that elapse before they come back for the encore, in this case 
“Ballad of a Thin Man.”

Now a few notes on the concert as a whole. Bob has said/written that his 
so-called “Never Ending Tour” is a series of very different tours, each with 
their own set list and vibe. If I may be so bold, I will dub this tour “The
Light in This Place is So Bad, It’s Making Me Sick in the Head Tour.” Most
of the lighting came from above with only footlights shining on the front
of the band and Bob’s face. At no point were the lights turned up on stage
or on Bob much more than the equivalent of a candle-lit dinner. This might
have been an effort to keep people from making good videos of the concert
(although plenty were making bad ones) or maybe this was setting a tone of
some kind. As for sound, George Recile, a true powerhouse of a drummer,
was much more restrained than I’ve ever seen him. The rest of the band is
workmanlike and flawless but clearly not encouraged to be flamboyant or a
stage presence in any way. Bob was in a good mood, did a lot of dancing,
and came as close to appearing to notice the audience as I’ve ever seen
him do. The audience seemed to be true fans, not as many curiosity seekers
as usual, probably because the College of Charleston had some major events
surrounding graduation that night. Security was lax getting into the
stadium but the staff was vigilant about picture-taking and smoking,
although plenty of truly nasty-smelling skunk weed was wafting about. 

Towards the end of the show, the girl next to me said to her boyfriend, “I
can’t believe how he is still rocking like this at 80.”  Well, she might
have been off by almost a decade but it’s true that Dylan is still rocking
today as much as ever. The first time I saw Dylan live he was in his late
40s and he was no more energetic then as he was at this concert, on the
verge of his 72nd birthday. And apparently his voice has more lives than a
cat, so anyone tempted to write him off should look at how he’s been
written-off so many times over the last 50 years. The old guy’s still got it.  		 	   		  


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