June 13, 2017
Review by Mike Skliar
So this was the first time I’ve seen Bob since July 2016, in Bethlehem
Pa. (This is about the 70-something-ish time I’ve seen him, and,
speaking of numbers in that range, he’s looking and sounding great for
Going to see a Bob Dylan show in the year 2017 (or as Bob would have put
it on his radio show, and perhaps the excellent and wonderfully
idiosyncratic Nobel Lecture he just recorded) ‘in the year twenty and
seventeen’ is something strange, wonderful, and as it should be, always
a little surprising. Going in, one starts doing the math, as in ‘wow,
my first Dylan show was 39 years ago!’ In recent years, the setlists
have been much more static. This was the first show of the tour so there
was perhaps expectation that there might be some big setlist surprise.
There wasn’t, though some of the arrangements are brand new. As in
recent years, there were six or so ‘standards’, most recorded at one
point by Frank Sinatra (but many others too) all throughout the show, and
for me, those were all highlights. I’m definitely ‘two thumbs up’ on
his recent ‘Sinatra standards’ phase. The small-band arrangements of
these mostly-classic songs somehow manage to echo a much larger orchestra,
but stripped down to something intimate, coupled with fantastic
‘make-every-word count’ singing from Bob. Put it all together and you
have several riveting, time-stops-on-stage moments built in to the show.
Those familiar with the setlists from the past year will probably not see
much variation. Compared to the show I saw last July, this was a similar
but not identical setlist. The opener, as he’s been doing for many
years now, was a somewhat growlier-then-usual ‘Things have changed’
and it seemed like they were getting the sound together for that one.
Second song was an effective, straightforward ‘Don’t think twice,
it’s alright’. Highway 61 was done without any lengthy blues jamming
and was also straightforward and effective. I liked ‘Beyond Here lies
nothing’ when I first heard it on the album, and the first few times
live- but by now it seems to be a bit ‘same old-same old’, to be
honest. All in all, the first four songs were fine, but didn’t jump out
at me as something wildly special.
The first real highlight for me was the fifth song, “I could have told
you”, which is featured early in the new album “Triplicate”. Bob’s
singing on this, and every one of the ‘standards’, was emotional,
respectful of the song and went right to the heart of lyric every time.
These are true ‘singer’s songs’ where oversinging/over-emoting would
ruin it, playing too ‘cool’ wouldn’t work either, and one has to
really ‘live’ the songs as you sing them. Bob seems even more
comfortable with these songs then the last two times I saw him deliver any
of this material (Bethlehem PA in July 2016 and Beacon Theater NYC in
December 2014). That image of him center-stage, holding the mic stand
sideways, staring into the middle distance while the band watches
carefully, is going to stay for a while. Brilliant.
The next song, ‘Pay in Blood’ with its almost-Shakespearian lyrical
violence, was a nice contrast. His delivery of this has gotten smoother
and is a long way from the roughness of the album version. During this
song and some of the other “Tempest” material, I thought of the
recent Nobel lecture he just recorded and released, and how many of the
lines from Tempest echo some classic literature he discusses there
(‘been searching for my family for 20 years’ from ‘long and wasted
years’ must have been influenced by a reading of the Odyssey, perhaps?
Melancholy Mood, another (and more obscure) standard dating to about 1940,
was next, and it was a pleasure watching the band stretch out on the long
intro ‘verse’ which used to be standard in big-band arrangements, the
singers only coming in in the second half of the song. This band just
gets better and better, and from where I was standing on the floor (about
one or two people back from the front at worst, and by the end of the show
‘on the rail’) I could see all the subtleties of Receli’s drumming
and the fine playing by the rest of the band.
Duquesne Whistle had that long old-timey ‘Louis Armstrong-meets-Bill
Monroe’ intro, and after that it was business as usual. I wish the vocal
was a little louder on that song and perhaps a few others, however- some
of the lines were a little buried. Next up was another big highlight,
what the kids today would say was a “dramatic af” version of “Stormy
Weather”, with that out-of-time intro, much like the excellent version
And next was one of those strange moments that we as Bob Dylan fans live
for, something familiar yet new, where you can say ‘there he goes,
shattering everyone’s expectations again’. It was the familiar-to-even
casual Dylan fans song ‘Tangled Up in Blue’. Rather than the
arrangement he’s been giving it the past few years, however, he
completely changed the music, with a different set of chords (mostly going
from the 1 to flat V11, or in layman’s terms from, say, G to F again and
again, and again,… and again) with some embellishments, while he
delivered the lyric clear and sharp. It’s somehow, once again, reborn
as a very different sounding song. I’m not sure this version totally
‘works’, but in a sense, watching something hot off the presses and so
experimental, it was thrilling all the same. He seems to be sticking to
the same lyric rewrites he’s been singing for the last few years, too,
which I’m sure throws off many causal fans. I want to hear this version
again, and it was surprising and new.
Next up were two songs that were not high points for me- a somewhat
rearranged version of “Early roman kings’ that I felt lost a lot of
power and just was not special or odd enough in its new incarnation.
I’m not a huge fan of “Spirit on the Water” though he does deliver
it effectively, and seems to be engaged in the song from beginning to end.
‘Love Sick’ was very good, though perhaps not quite as intense as some
other versions I’ve seen. “All or nothing at all’ was swinging and
great fun. Then came another huge highlight, perhaps the one place where
the band seemed levitated several miles in the air- a raging and wonderful
‘Desolation Row”. There was so much happening in this song, the
committed vocal by Bob, the little vocal syncopations he would give it,
which the band would echo, the little piano riffs Bob played which the
band would also throw back to him, all in a glorious feedback-loop circus
frenzy that made this feel like one of the best versions I’ve ever seen
From there, “Soon after midnight” felt fine, but much more pedestrian.
“Long and Wasted Years’ had Bob center-stage, pacing up to the front
of the stage, giving it his all in a committed, ‘wait till you hear
this’ fashion. (I’m still not a huge fan of the song itself, however).
Sandwiched in the middle between those two was a swinging and playful
“That old black magic” and Bob and the band had great fun with it. A
dramatic “Autumn Leaves” closed the main set. In the encores,
“Blowin in the wind was heartfelt and straightforward. The closer,
“Ballad of a Thin Man”, was wonderfully spooky and powerful as always.
Perhaps it was a tad less powerful then some of the prior versions of it
I’ve seen him do, but it was a great closer nevertheless.
And there ya have it, another year, another version of Bob, another
Review by Bob Sagerer
Great show last night!!!!
A few notes (from my perspective):
As people arrived at the venue doors outside after about 5 PM, VIP GA
goers were given green wristbands...other GA ticket holders were given
blue wristbands. All went into the theatre together at about 6:30 ...not
to the floor but inside the doors to the lobby and bar (Garcia's area). At
around 6:45, they asked all the VIP GA folks to make their way in thru one
door (leftmost door). Then, a few minutes after, they opened the four
leftmost doors so the GA / blue wristband holders could go to the floor
and fill in. I was able to go to dead center about 6 people back so that
was nice for me!
The security was relentlessly imposing the no cellphone rules. Made people
feel bad. They were bullies about it and made it awkward waiting for the
show. I know Bob wants people to not use phones, but I felt very weird
because of the approach used. Was the only real bummer of the show for me.
Bob was holding his white brim / feathered hat when he went onstage but
kept it off until "That Old Black Magic".
Bob wore a black suit with large red stripes on the legs. Also the black
scarf with white polka dots (no moonbeems that I could see, though). Boots
or shoes were black - no spats. Not sure what the other band members all
wore, but I did notice Charlie had a scarf on like Bob.
Some arrangements were changed (6 I can recall):
1. A new/different Stu's Noodle - it was not "The Foggy Dew" which has
been the standard for quite a while...
2. Highway 61 Revisited had a small tempo addition during the instrumental
line between the lyrics "you better run" and "Well, Abe said, "Where do
you want this killin' done?" and it was repeated each verse at that same
spot. It felt like Charlie and Bob were trying to have the music "run"
with that lyric.....and it was cool - got some of us in the crowd
3. "Pay in Blood" has a very odd (to my ears) change as well. It was a
walk down with a weird chord progression (bass-notes descending) and was
performed on each verse during the lyrics (in the 1st verse) "Sooner or
later, you'll make a mistake, I'll put you in chains that you never will
break". The band repeated the new progression on each verse in that same
spot. I saw Charlie mouthing the chords towards Tony and Stu one time when
someone hit a bad chord or maybe seemed, (to Charlie), to be hesitant.
4. An updated "Tangled Up In Blue" - different chords and a bit of a
different tempo. Melody was also modified by Bob.
5. Stu did not shake his maracas during "Early Roman Kings". (Well, at
least not his instruments that were on stage...maybe he did shake his
internal maracas! Go Stu!)
6. In "Ballad Of A Thin Man", Bob included the third verse (Is this rare
or not? Sorry but I thought it was not an included verse of late, so I
noted it here):
You hand in your ticket
and you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
when he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
to be such a freak?
And you say, "Impossible!"
as he hands you a bone.
And something is happening here
but you don't know what it is.
Bob seemed to really enjoy "Spirit On The Water". A lot of smiles!
A few rust spots in playing at times. Not flawless for all, but some were:
"Autumn Leaves" and "Desolation Row" come to mind as very well-played!
Overall: thank you from the bottom of my heart to Bob, his band and his
I really enjoy this man and his art performance!!!
"May God Bless and Keep..." him always!!!!
All the best to my "fellow" fans from around the world.....
Peace, love, happiness and Bob Dylan's spirit,
BOONTON NJ USA
Review by Barry Gloffke
Thanks Bob for another scintillating show. Stu ambled out around 8:04 and
the boys soon followed to loud cheers. Bob was in great voice from the get
go, unlike some previous tours, and the first 4 songs…
• THINGS HAVE CHANGED
• DON’t THINK TWICE, IT’S ALRIGHT
• HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED
• BEYOND HERE LIES NOTHING…
blew the house away. The band rocked. The band rolled. We danced. We
screamed. Bob was nailing it all.
This was a much more rock oriented opening than the previous tours and
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED was especially thunderous with an arrangement that
was similar to the late 90’s shows when Campbell, Sexton and Dylan
shared guitars bursts. So glad to hear this arrangement again, man was
The remainder of the show alternated between slower (American songbook)
and more up tempo (Dylan canon) songs. All of the American songbook songs
were done splendidly. Standout performances were MELANCHOLY MOOD, STORMY
WEATHER and AUTUMN LEAVES, but the real standout was THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC.
The arrangement was fast and jazzy with Stu ripping up some good grooves.
This song cooked! Definitely had me spinning 'round and ‘round. I cannot
stress enough how good Bob sang. And because he was singing so well we got
a truly wonderful version of DESOLATION ROW. An absolute beauty!! Hearing
Dylan do this epic with such a good voice is something not soon forgotten.
Another song that stood out because of the great voice he had was
BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND. Usually Bob eats his words on this, but tonight you
could grab every syllable as it tumbled out of him. Soooo good!! The
finale was a superb version of BALLAD OF A THIN MAN. There certainly was
something happening, and I knew what it was!!! Just a great show from
end-to-end. Dylan shows are always better up close, and I was fortunate
enough to be on the rail, directly in front of and no more than 20’ from
Bob. I was also surrounded by people who actually listened instead of
conversing… always refreshing. It was such a great show, as a matter of
fact, that I went back for more the next
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