page by Bill Pagel
Review by Alex Leik
After not playing Salem since 1996, Bob Dylan returned Friday night for his
second show in a year, almost to the date. Upon my arrival in Salem, a local
at one of the watering holes advised me that she felt Bob owed her $50 from
the June 2004 show. I got the whole story about her contacts that work at
the Civic Center told her Bob showed up wasted on booze & coke, blah, blah,
blah – you know, we have all heard it before. Rather than getting into it
with a mildly attractive older woman who had clearly spent the better part
of her afternoon seated at this establishment, I paid my tab, polite smiled,
and told her I’d let Bobby know she’d like a refund.
Once at the venue, I started to think that maybe that woman was not the only
one put off by Bob in 2004. This had to be one of the most poorly attended
Dylan shows I have ever been to. Could have been the heat, or just a general
lack of interest in 2 legends of Americana? Oh well, Bob & Willie clearly
could have cared less who was in the crowd, as both brought their “A” game!
I did not catch the Greencards, had no interest, so I’ll let that to folks
who did see them. Willie was stellar, a level above Merle (and I thought
Merle was GREAT both times I saw him w/ Bob). Willie had great presence and
crowd control/interaction. (heard that before, eh??!!). His son Rufus plays
a mean guitar, and Dad “allowed” him to do a blues song with both lead vocal
& guitar. This reminds me, Willie can still pluck the strings VERY well
which was nice to see considering the surgery he had last year. He played
all the big hits, and some not so big that I may not have recognized until
well into the song But he delivered, and I already felt that at least ½ of
the ticket price was legitimized.
So Willie was done about 8:30, and Bob was on just after 9. I had made it
just short of the rail, about 3 people deep, in front of Donnie. This was a
treat indeed. “To Be Alone with You” was dead on and immediate indication
that Bob & the boys meant business. My 1st “Hazel” followed, nothing
different from what we have been hearing, and a clear, tight version to
boot. “Cry a While” was the first indication to me of how much this band had
grown since I last saw them the final 2 Pantages shows. This nasty little
stop/start thing really drives this song now, and all the guys seem to get a
kick out of it. Tony was laughing a lot, and Donnie has this great presence
on banjo in this song, really nicely done. Denny was given some freedom to
offer some nice Texas blues licks as well, and it quickly became apparent to
me that this band finally has their imprint on a song. Then came Shelter…
I was never fond of the 2002 version of Shelter, pretty much hated it. Now,
it can die a quiet death because this version takes the cake (OK, well maybe
not over ’76, but you get the hint). Another imprint for these fine
musicians, who are quickly making me say “Larry who?? Charlie what??” Donnie
Herron stole about 2-3 minutes of my life during this song that I will never
get back, just frozen in time watching him drive the band.
“Cold Irons Bound” was another chance for Denny to remind us that he had
joined the band as well. Then came, for me, the highlight of the past 2
years of mediocre and slightly above average Dylan watching – “Chimes of Freedom”.
When the song started had to make a choice. Being so close, I was getting
mainly the feed from Denny & Donnie. If I wanted to take this in for what I thought
it would be, I needed to move further back, and towards the center. It did not
take much personal convincing, and I was rewarded splendidly with what I may
someday go so far as to say ranks as the single finest performance of a sing that
I have witnessed in over 40 shows, save MAYBE Visions or Big River 11/8/99. Donnie
Herron drove this song with such conviction, there were times I swear Bob
looked over at him thinking “Hot Damn! Larry who? Bucky what? Charlie
where?”, and it only continued with a scorching “Highway 61” (this is when
Donnie thinks he is Robert Randolph – hah, Robert Randolph couldn’t sit in
Donnie’s pedal steel stool).
Love Sick, River Flow (with a very nice harp solo from Bob), Most Likely &
Summer Days were all just more excuses for Bob to show off this talented
multi-instrumentalist. I could have done without Make U Feel or Watchtower, but
Don’t Think 2X was the icing on the cake, if only because they had played
this as 1st encore Friday night @ Pantages, roughly 2 months ago, and this version
on this night was more convincing evidence of the growth these guys have
Donnie (shocker, eh) drove it, Bob delivered some upsinging, but this has
never been a pet peeve of mine, especially when he does it in such fine
voice, he sounded great, and Denny threw in some great licks as well.
Don’t let my lack of mention of Stu Kimball lead you the wrong way. He has,
simply put, filled Larry’s shoes as the professional musician who drives all
these songs with a tight rhythm guitar, frequently offering up some blistering leads.
He also looks MUCH more comfortable and confident, and pleased to have back his
boss’ attention now that Elana is gone.
But, overall this band is currently Donnie Herron’s, the guy who looks more
Jeopardy contestant than Dylan sideman. He is producing the sound that we
will most associate with this leg of the NET when we look back on it, and it is a
startling, true, professional & lovely sound!
Review by Reid Evans
Well, after seeing Bob and the gang in Myrtle Beach and then again in
Greenville on Tuesday, I planned on taking the three hour drive to
Greensboro on Saturday, then laying off for a while.
I worked an 11p-7a shift at work on Thursday night, and then they needed
me to stay over till 3p on Friday. So around noon I took a break and went
to the hospital library and got on the web. I wanted to see just how many
shows I have seen, so I went to Bob dates and printed out all of the set
lists of shows I had gone to and some reviews, turned out to be 19 in all.
As I went through the set lists I was transported through time to glorious
memories of shows gone by. Philadelphia '99, Reno '00, Chicago last year,
and I said to myself "hey, you know theres a concert going on just 4 1/2
hours away tonight. You should leave when you get off here at three and go
tonight" The fact that I hadn't slept in 24 hours never occurred to me, so
sure enough, I ran home took a shower, and was on the road by 3:30. I
rode hard figuring I could knock at least a half hour off of the trip. I
would have had there not been 5 o'clock traffic in Charo9lotte, as well as
a wreck that people were staring at.
So I got in town at 8, asked directions at a gs station and headed
towards the venue, paid face for the ticket and went inside to hear the
last 3-4 songs of Willies set. So the guy who announces Willie and says,
"Walter Cronkite (Sp?) said Willie Nelson was the Walt Whitman of his
time, blah blah blah, has over 2500 published songs......" Okay so if
Willie has that many songs, why does he play the same 15 every frickin
night? Go Figure.
The Crowd was larger than Greenville was but still not huge, this night
they had no big screen set up for the fans in the stands, of the which I
was one, having been up for now about 30 hours, I had no desire to stand
that long. The Stage was set up much closer this time , just beyond second
base. This caused the bands to have to take a long walk from right field
to get to the stage.
So they came on around 9:05 and went into To Be Alone With You....... it
was doomed immediately. Bob's voice had become frighteningly Wolfy since
Tuesday and I was like, "oh Crap, he sounds like he did on the Willie
Nelson TV show", then his mic went out midway through the song and even
before that the vocal was way to low in the mix. A tech had to come out
and replace the mic during the instrumental, and then Bob gave us a harp
If you've been to many Bob Dylan concerts you know that you can be walking
into anything, but with Myrtle Beach and Greenville having been such
complete shows, I'll admit I had my expectations. I was a little scared at
So then the next into begins and I'm trying to figure it out, and It hits
me, HAZEL!!!, I know he's played it a few times here and there as of late,
but this was gonna be a highlight of any how for me. He could have hummed
it and I would have been satisfied. Seemingly the sound was worked out
halfway through the song and Bob's vocals were improving? I think they
were any way.
So they bust into Cry A While, and for all intents and purposes, Bobs
voice has cleared completely, (you know what I mean), and all was well, I
love that CHRYYYYY awhile effect, he throws in.
Shelter was next and kicked everyones butt, Bob got in to the lyrics here.
The next five or six songs were all good but the highlight of the night
was To Make You Feel My Love, I just about cried and almost like a moth ,
my weary Body was drawn out of my seat and into the pit. The crowd was
very loose and I got 30 or so feet from the stage, the song revitalized me
in the midst of a spiritually draining week. Like water on a dried desert.
Review by Jim Klagge
Bob was back for his sixth show in these parts in 16 years. I was glad I
went. After a glitch with the microphone during the first song,
everything went well after that. Bob's voice was in as good a shape as
you could hope for, and he used it to good effect. He'd had two days off,
and it's fairly early in this particular tour. The band was excellent,
though you get the feeling, in "Cry A While," that someone's out of synch
sometimes. Bob's keyboards were more audible than last year, at least on
some songs, and gave a reassuring feel. (In contrast, when he used to
play the guitar, it got to the point that when you could hear his guitar,
it felt like it was pulling the song off-kilter.) And the harmonica was a
treat the few times he pulled it out.
So the only other factor was choice of songs. This time around they
seemed to have the set list worked out in advance. As usual Bob's
covering a wide range these days. The 3 songs I found to be special were
"Hazel," "Shelter from the Storm," and "Chimes of Freedom." He hadn't
done these yet on the minor league tour, and I see that when he did any of
them in the Spring tour, he did all three--and he did that three times.
So it was surprising to me that he seemed to see them as a unit, too. I
liked these rare choices.
Most of us who go to lots of these concerts or, in my case, listen
to a fair number on tapes, are used to his current sound. Most newspaper
reviews and people who know him only from records are not used to this and
comment on it--usually negatively. It struck me that in some ways Bob is
like surviving sculpture from Ancient Greece. It doesn't look much at all
the way it used to--what with all the erosion, parts broken off, and lost
paint--but it has its own dignity and value. In fact, when you see
recreations of what ancient sculpture used to be like, it is way too gaudy
for our tastes. Similarly, if I listen to some of Bob's original
recordings of these songs, they sound too nice and sweet. He and they
have aged, and the songs have matured. He brings something different to
them, and makes something different out of them.
Hearing Willie Nelson beforehand makes this contrast pretty clear.
Willie's voice doesn't have the range it once had, perhaps, but it
still has the same sound. And it's a great sound. But the songs he sang
were the same songs he always sings--not just because of a limited
selection, but because he doesn't manage to bring anything new to the
songs. So they remain as they are.
Thanks, Bob, for growing with us. Not that we all grow the same,
or hope for the same. But Bob clears a path ahead, and shows us we can
always keep on going too.
Review by Brad Nutt
The Greencards opened the show with a laid back yet enthusiastic set.
Well played and would enjoy them again on a Sunday morning laying in bed
moment. It being Friday night however, I was looking ahead as they
wrapped up their 30 minute set.
Willie and family soon emerged for their greatest hits package. In just
over an hour, Willie played or teased a portion of 24 songs. Not too
shabby. Personal highlights included Me and Paul, Working Man Blues, and
Superman with it's Chuck Berry, Johnny B. Goode guitar break. Glad to
have seen Willie, but I get the feeling most shows are pretty similiar.
It is too bad that Willie and Bob have not been colaberating like Bob and
Paul Simon did in 99. I would really like to hear a Heartland, but alas.
After the usual, yet comical everytime intro, Bob and band strode out.
Band in black pants and white bowling shirt with two vertical black
stripes down the front. Bob in black suit, black boots, and white hat.
To Be Alone With You opened. Band sounded good, but their were some PA
issues and Bob hadn't found his voice yet. By the end of the second
verse, the sound had improved. Nice opener, nothing exceptional
As they dropped into Hazel, I fealt like the only person there that
appreciated the rareness of this offering. I know this not too be true,
but I was surprised that there was not a louder fan reaction. Just
Awesome. Beatiful. Bob emerged from the keys to take center stage and
offered the best harp solo i have heard him play. Not in his howling
style, but very tender.
Cry Awhile accented with Donnie on banjo was the first song to really
bring the dancers out. Tempo changes were nailed everytime.
Shelter was very delicate. Bob's voice had realy opened up since the
opener and was very audible. He cut the end each line very tight. Nice
pedal steel through out.
Cold Irons Bound after some early band miscues on the weird accent settled
in and brought some great guitar work and the typically hard but never
over powering drumming.
Chimes of Freedom brought out Tony's upright for the first time in the
performance. With the current line up fealt a little different than in
the past. This was about the point where some the more drunken people
started to leave giving lots of open areas on the field. Once again, Bob
was doing a great job of pronouncing every word.
Highway 61-was more rock than anything on MTV. It's too bad Bob doesn't
have a baby grand, because if he did, he would probably stood on it.
Sick of Love was very erie with some nice audible piano and electric
mandolin. One of my highlights.
Watching The River Flow showed Bob return to the front of the stage for
the second time dueling with the band nicely.
You Go Your Way was another great surprise. The first time that I was
able to see it live. Bob played harp, but stayed behind the keys as he
Another first for me followed with Make You Feel My Love. I noticed a lot
of couples snuggling close on this one.
Summer Days also featured the stand up and was swinging. Tony controlled
the jamming. Just rocking. Bob was laughing it was so good.
The first encore was Don't Think Twice. Denny played acoustic and Stu
switched from his hollow body to a Strat. I think Bob started before the
band was ready, but instead of it sounding bad the band did a great job of
morphing into the theme. Best performance of the night. Bob played harp
at the end as the song lazily ventured away before George brought everyone
back with a rave up ending.
"Thank you Friends," Bob said just before introducing the band. Before he
was half way done the band started noodling and feeding back so with
George's lead they exploded into Watchtower. I did not want to hear this
again, but found my self raging. As they were halfway through the first
verse for the second time, George doubled the time and the band finished
in a blaze.
The most fun I have ever had at a Bob show and arguably the best.
Highlights included Hazel, Make You Feel My Love, and Don't think Twice.
page by Bill Pagel
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