page by Bill Pagel
Review by Peter Stone Brown
What a difference a guitarist can make.
I was never really among the Freddy Koella bashers. The first time I saw
him in Atlantic City a little over a year ago, I thought he held great
promise. But that promise was never fulfilled, and ultimately I found him
wildly inconsistent, sometimes on the same song, great one minute and
apparently lost the next.
Tonight in Atlantic City at the Borgata Casino, none of that mattered. A
great guitar player not only knows what to play, but equally important
when to play, and when not to play. A great guitarist isn't only about
speedy licks, it's about taking all the licks and guitar tricks you've
learned and knowing when and where to use them. Like Larry Campbell, Stu
Kimball is a walking catalog of great guitar licks. And like Larry
Campbell, though they have very different style, Stu Kimball knows when
and how to use those licks and use them with taste. Now reports from the
first two shows of this tour basically had Kimball holding back. However,
tonight he did anything but. He shined, bringing back to this band a
feeling and a power that's been missing for a long time. In fact, I'm
going to go out on a limb and say Kimball can take his place as one of the
top five guitar players to play on-stage with Bob Dylan - easily. There
was no stumbling about looking for a groove, searching for that magic
thing that might lead somewhere. Every time out he hit it. It fit, it
was right, and it was soulful.
And in some crazy way, as if to make this point very clear, the setlist
tonight was very similar, in fact extremely similar to the last show I saw
at the Warner Theater two months ago. Not counting the non-version of
"Cats In The Well" at the Warner, which was the instrumental outro, only
four songs were different. But the difference between the two shows was
astounding. Night and day. The moon and mars. Russia and China.
And the biggest difference other than what became obvious as the night
went on was a much-needed change in guitar players, is that Bob Dylan is
really singing again. The voice isn't all the way and may never be all
the way back, but it's certainly on the way there - more than any time
since 2002, with the possible exception of the last 3 shows in England
last fall. What some people have called the "wolfman growl" is still
there on occasion, but now it is used for effect on certain words or
certain phrases. And more to the point, Dylan is phrasing again. He is
paying attention to what he is singing, and singing for the most part with
clarity and care. Stretching out words, pausing before key phrases,
snarling out lines when necessary. Singing in that way, that only he can
where you know the songs not only mean something to you, but to him. Even
on the songs you may never want to hear again, he made them matter, he
made them vital.
The show started out with "God Knows," which was mainly interesting
because he doesn't do it all that much. Dylan stumbled on one of the
first few lines and I had that feeling of "oh no," but that turned out to
be the only stumble. This was followed by "Forever Young," and the
feeling of déjà vu with the Warner show sort of returned, but changed as
the song went on. Larry Campbell was on acoustic, with Kimball playing a
Strat. On the first chorus, Dylan sang a short, almost clipped forever
young. On the second chorus, it was a little longer. Then Kimball took a
beautiful solo that in some ways was reminiscent of Robbie Robertson with
a good bit of Memphis-soul type chording. By the third chorus Dylan was
stretching out the younnnnng, sounding like. well, Bob Dylan.
The lights went down and the next thing you heard was a lone harmonica
tentatively blowing a couple of notes, then some more notes, until the
band kicked in for a not bad version of "Watching The River Flow." But
this was still pretty much a warm-up song. Then came the first real
highlight, "Trying To Get To Heaven." As with other recent versions, the
song was back to the original melody and pretty much the original
arrangement, except on the chorus, Dylan's phrasing was much closer to the
more jazzy arrangement of a few years ago. There was also a lyric change
(and I'm not even sure what verse) where he sang, "I tried to give you
everything that you've been longing for."
And while on many songs tonight, Dylan would close out with a harp solo,
using the solo to cue Kimball to the end, on this song, they worked out a
real ending that was surprisingly similar to the original ending of
"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You."
Then came "Memphis Blues Again," which has never been a favorite of mine
in concert because it's never come close to the album version, but tonight
the band was in the groove, and it made you want to listen, and Dylan was
really singing especially on the last verse, with "You have to
paaaaaaaayyyy to get out of going through all these things twice.
And the same thing happened "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" partially
because of the guitars with Larry (who had this wonderful nasty sound,
happening a good deal of the night) playing the main riff while Kimball
did the kind of circular fills with a power that's been missing since the
departure of Charlie Sexton, and then on the break, the two of them got
into this amazing call-and-response thing that got funkier each time
An excellent "Blind Willie McTell" followed and by now Dylan was totally
warmed up and totally into it, making every word count: "McTELL,"
"JeruuuusAL-LEMMM," growling out, "rebels yellll."
On "Highway 61 Revisited," the guitarists again took over with Kimball
laying down a John Lee Hooker-ish swamp boogie groove, and Campbell who
was inspired through out the night answering with more wonderfully nasty
A stunningly beautiful "I Shall Be Released" came next with Kimball
playing an almost chime-like lead recalling in its own way Robbie
Robertson's original guitar, with Dylan again singing with not only care
but affection, and then on the last chorus, he sang from the east down to
the west, and then followed that with an answer, but unfortunately I
wasn't able to make out what it was. He then repeated the chorus, but
sang it the right way.
Then it was back to rocking with "High Water" followed by a sort of
surprise, "Moonlight," returned to its original arrangement with Kimball
providing really nice jazz fills throughout, with a fine harp solo,
followed by a somewhat renewed in spirit rendition of "Honest With Me."
A drum fill kicked off "Lay Lady Lay" with Campbell providing
angelic-sounding steel and Dylan having a lot of fun, while at the same
time singing quite tenderly, yet letting loose with a "yeah" followed by a
broad smile after "You can have your cake and eat it too," then on the
last verse singing "Stay lady stay so you can lay across by big brass
"Summer Days" came kind of close to its former glory with Campbell and
Kimball trading licks like mad.
After what seemed like a longer than usual break, they returned for "Cats
In The Well" which kicked right into "Like A Rolling Stone," with Larry on
steel filling out the sound nicely. Larry stayed on steel, adding a
spooky touch to a fairly strong "Watchtower," though I found the echo
effect on Dylan's voice to be unnecessary and cheesy - the song stands on
This was easily the best Bob Dylan concert I've seen in more than a
year-and-a-half. Dylan's singing made the Willie Nelson thing that
started the week an easily forgotten aberration and Stu Kimball made the
Freddie Koella era seem like a dream gone wrong.
For the first time in too long, I left tonight's show feeling "yeah Bob
Dylan has the best band happening" and much more to the point, I
remembered why I go to see Bob Dylan.
Review by Hank Perlman
The highlights of this show weren’t necessarily to be found in the set
list or even the playing although you could make an argument for both
being somewhat spectacular at times. For this fan, it came down to
something that happened during "Lay Lady Lay." Bob completely cracked
himself up while singing the song and the rest of the band (minus Larry
Campbell who was too focused on his playing) started laughing along with
him. Exactly what they were laughing at is a mystery although the way Bob
was singing the song seemed somewhat playful and he took some fun chances
with the vocals that were pretty humorous and that seemed to make them all
laugh more. But the exact cause isn’t that important because what was so
great was seeing Bob’s personality break through in such a spontaneous
way. It was just a real treat to see this man who “wears a mask” so well
fight back the giggles unsuccessfully in front of 3500 people. Later
during the band introductions, Bob continued his playfulness by
introducing drummer, George Receli, as “the best drummer on this stage,” a
joke he has apparently used before. Once again, though, Bob thought he was
pretty funny. It was the kind of joke your grandfather or your silly uncle
would make. And that’s what was so much fun about those moments on Sunday
night; they made you think that in addition to being the world’s greatest
living artist, Bob’s also a first class, certified goof-ball. God bless
Review by Craig S.
This concert was an amazing concert, as the performance was nearly
flawless, new guitarist and all. Stu Kimball started off slowly, but was
superb, really. I'd read that he was tentative, but not at this show. His
rock licks are done with feeling and accuracy, and he has added an
immediate improvement to the band. So far his range on leads does not show
the versatility of a Larry Cambell, but then again who does? Larry seems
perfectly happy to let the other lead do the dramatic rock leads, while
his increased pedal steel playing adds so much to the overall sound. God
Knows...surprise start, simple lead by Stu... Forever Young...unbelievably
great...Stu has been listening to Planet Waves, his two string drag lead is
Robertson like, the beginning even sounded a little like Hazel. This type
of playing was to be repeated throughout.
Watching the River.... Best slide licks from Larry yet, Dylan is
sounding clear and is careful with his phrasing. He is reenergized! Tryin to
get to Heaven... Another surprise, very soulful rendition, pedal steel heavy,
he reminds that when we think we've lost a lot, we can still lose more and it
rang truer live than on the CD..
Stuck Inside.....Standard, Bob gives Stu advance notice of his upcoming
lead, which is a courtesy any guitarist can appreciate. Stu showed
more range here. Tweedle Dee....Done quietly and smoothly, a little jazz
like. Blind Willie McTell...Larry on the cittern, gives more emphasis to
Stu on lead...killer version. Highway 61....Standard I Shall be
Released.... Pedal Steel, another standard performance High
Water...powerful, as before Moonlight.....Crowd was restless, but Larry's
jazz guitar is the best.....Singing was as the album...Stu had to concentrate
and made a false move, but unlike Fuzzy, quickly recovered...
Honest with Me...Standard, needs a rest by now, but Bob seems to really
need to sing the words to this song.
Lay Lady Lay...Best version yet, pedal steel sounds like Nashville Skyline
Summer Days.. Version still rocks, Stu needs to learn the duet lead in
between verses better so he doesn't leave Larry hanging. Bob is just
checking in, but the whole night he has been on, voice clear.
Cat's in the Well.. ok
Like a Rolling Stone..Great vocals, Still Planet Waves influenced leads by
Stu, pedal steel even on this, some slightly new arrangement of the chorus.
All Along the Watchtower...A little more bluesy...
With the locusts back in Princeton, I half expected something from New
Morning, but that was not to be. Do not believe the reviews about his
voice or energy, this is going to be a strong leg of the tour when Stu
Kimball gets more comfortable. They know their show was tight. The drummer
missed a beat once, and Dylan sang "From the East on to the West", then
tried to invent something that ended in best, but hey, it gave us
something to smile about..My 14 year old son enjoyed his second Dylan
concert, he liked it better than the Troc a month or two ago..
Review by Barbara N.
I don't go to thirty-five shows a year, but I have loved Dylan for
thirty-five years now, so it was an enormous thrill for me to see him in
AC. I can't go into detail on the band and the individual songs, as many
of you do, but I will say the band sounded very tight, and sounded like
they were all enjoying playing good old rock n roll, and I couldn't tell
who the "new" guitarist was. The absolute thrill for me was hearing
"Forever Young". I know he does rotate that into his set, but I never
expected to get so lucky ( but I was in AC). I am so used to hearing
others do "I Shall be Released" that I almost forgot it was his song.
Hearing "Lay Lady Lay" made me remember how eagerly I awaited "Nashville
Skyline". Old habits die hard. I am concerned that Bob may be ill. His
voice was fine, but his movements seemed oddly, jerky, as though he may
have developed motor problems. I fervantly hope I am wrong. It was also
hard to ignore the spiritual theme of so many of the songs. If given the
opportunity, I would not miss another Dylan show. For those of you who
are familiar with jazz trumpeters, you may remember a man named Doc
Cheatem. Hearing "Moonlight" made me think of Doc, and how much Bob has
turned into a crooner. Check out Doc if you don't know him. I would bet
Bob is an admirer of him. By the way he performed until he was 85 years
Review by Nancy Hood
Wow. The Borgata show was great. I have been to many shows and just saw
Bob in March at The Tower Theater is Phillly. All of his shows have
nuggets of gold and he always give something but yes, some are More
intense than others.
Initially I had some light waves of trepidation at The Borgata. Every
time I go to a Dylan concert where there are people who may be going for
some other reason ..such as when they are held in venues that have other
attractions you can get some walk outs or some talkers or distractions. I
did see some people leave but hey they probably weren't real fans or it
didn't deliver what they expected. It made more room for us to dance and
the whole lower level was standing and bouncing the whole night.
Bob seemed rested and came out with both guns blazing ..meaning Stu and
Larry. For me, And I'm sure everyone has their favorites, the most
poignant was the slightly re-worked version of Trying to Get to Heaven..He
sings the chorus differently and emphasizes certain words for maximum
emotional effect and it was achingly beautiful. It doesn't get any better.
Lay Lady Lay was gorgeous and sexy and to see the man at 63 up there
singing the invitation with lust and longing ...well, I think plenty of
women would still Lay Across his Big Brass Bed..and even if he was Masked
and Anonymous and not a Big Star! Forever Young and Blind Willie McTell
surprised me and didn't disappoint. High Water and Watching the River Flow
along with all of the others rocked very cohesively with Larry and Stu
making a good connection. Summer Days had very tasty interweaving of
guitars as did Moonlight which was another sweet old invitation from Bob
that was irresistible and perfectly sung. I am seeing him tonight in
Wilmington and I am very excited. Would love to hear Grain of Sand or
Just Like a Woman but whatever he wishes to give I will be there to
Review by Michael Gordon
Well, I thought I might chime in a little regarding Bob's show at the
Borgata, in always surreal Atlantic City, NJ.
Throw your panties overboard? Purpose a toast to The King? Sure! Why
I must admit, it has taken a little while for my eyes to adjust to the
present right side of the stage positioning...it has also taken a little
while for my ears to adjust to the barely present in the mix
keyboards...but the Freddie Koella thing had me truly stumped.
Absolutely perplexed. I just didn't get it.
I must admit, I'm glad he's gone.
Stu Kimball - whoever he is - apparently called up from the minors, hit
home run, after home run, after home run Sunday night, with understated
solo's and smooth, tasteful (as well as tuneful) fills.
One thing that I have noticed since Bob took up the piano is that he
appears to enjoy listening to the guitars. Particularly the one on the
guy that is standing 3 feet away from him. I always see Bob bobbing his
head and gooseneck in the general direction of Larry jr., whomever it may
be that is plugged into the closest amp. It looks as though Mr. Kimball
may be just what the doctor ordered - what's up bro.d.?
The last show I can remember where the musical energy level was as high as
it was at The Borgata, was when that cat from Bruce's band jumped on
stage at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC and ripped the roof off the
joint. I thought Bob was going to start dancing on his Yamaha when all
hell started to break loose there.
So, in my opinion, that guitar part is rather important to not only the
bands sound, but to Bob's individual performance as well. If Sunday
night was any indication...well, for those of us here in the good ole'
USA...come on August and bring on Willie! For those of you abroad...get
your tickets while they last!
Some highlights from the show:
The Blind Willie, Hwy 61, I Shall Be Released layout, was 2 jab's to the
body and a beautiful uppercut on the chin.
Lay Lady Lay was practical studio version perfect. Larry's lap steel was
Bob's vocals were clear, well annunciated and perfectly delivered. He
ad-libbed several times during the show..."his shoes are dirty, but his
hands are clean." There was also a little tempo changed during Trying To
Get To Heaven, which he handled with great care. At the very end of the
show he picked up a bouquet of flowers which had been tossed on staged,
gave them a BIG sniff and held on to them during the adoring applause.
It was a nice touch.
That's it, folks. I guess you just got to have a little faith...
page by Bill Pagel
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