June 18, 2017
Review by Larry Fishman
So we’re a couple of shows into this Northeast US/Canada summer tour and
I’ve joined Bob in Wallingford, Connecticut. Located in the Highlands
of Connecticut, there’s not much there though I did see a sign for a Hot
Tub Superstore nearby. It’s an odd venue as clumsy as it’s name
“Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre.” I guess it’s been remodeled
and expanded over it’s 60 year history - apparently the Doors and Led
Zeppelin performed back when it was even smaller. Past security, there
is a large circular barn like space where the overpriced food, beer and
Merch was sold amidst shiny red Toyotas cars. Bob’s journey - and mine
with his - has taken him to every possible performing space. I’ve seen
him in minor league ballparks, clubs, stadiums, theaters, meadows and the
like but this is a largely forgettable shed which corporate forces have
largely scrubbed any remaining charm or character from. I’d still
rather be here than anywhere - what would you rather do? Binge watch the
latest season of “Kevin Can Wait?”
The crowd was the proto-typical Dylan crowd with maybe a suburban paunch
thrown in. One always seem to get a few were hippy types who look like a
bunch of hippos wallowing in the mud. Overall, the crowd was a bit
subdued but I was also upfront in the Premium seats with the dedicated Bob
Cats. There was a newbie couple next to me there to tick the box on
their bucket list (she gushed that she wished she had seen Freddy
Mercury’s Queen before he died) and they left just before the encore.
For the most part, I was surrounded by the happy hard core including one
woman in the front who claimed her 100th show and said she had 4 different
conversations with Bob. She said, she rolled her eyes when Bob asked her
Bob looked resplendent in his black sequined suit, white belt, bolo and
white cowboy boots, he never wore his hat though he grabbed for the end of
show bow. I am tired of the endless “he’s old” talk whether it be
about Dylan, Neil Young or any artist from rock’s great era. They’ve
all been old longer than they have been young. I find it more shocking
that a couple of the Backstreet Boys are in their 40’s. Vocally, he
sounded good to great all night. I’d say it took a half dozen songs for
his throat to clear and then he was able deliver some vocal fireworks.
With the wife & kids healthy, the Dow Jones over 21,000 and me in the
presence of my favorite Nobel Laureate, I can conveniently forget about
the embarrassing American President and say things aren’t too bad.
Okay, on to the show;
1. Things Have Changed. Bob may change. You and I ch-ch-change. The
Times they are a changin', but the opening song on Dylan’s tour is
definitely not changing. Perhaps Bob is joking with us, opening a show
with “Change” in the title yet keeping it the same every night. I’m
not a set quibbler, but I would respectfully ask Mr. Dylan to consider a
modification of the lead off hitter. With all that said it was a decent
take, a bit less melodic and a bit more foreboding. It was cranked up
with a nice whomp from George Recile’s drum kit and perhaps paced a
smidge slower. And by the way, Stu Kimball’s intro/opening guitar
flourish as the rest of the band entered the stage was a sweet little jig
with a melody that I just couldn’t place, but certainly know.
2. It Ain’t Me Babe. Can I safely say that it’s nice to get a
little setlist variety, I didn’t look it up but it has certainly been
awhile since this one showed up. I’ll admit to a palpitation or two as
soon as I recognized the melody on the instrumental intro. It was a nice
performance and I was jacked to hear it, but wish it was placed a little
later in the show when his voice cleared and mellowed. I’m pretty sure
he flubbed a lyric too, but I dig that when it happens. Also, it was
just great to see Bob with an electric guitar strapped around him as he
gently picking away during the song. Love that, Bob. Too bad we got no
harmonica at all on this night. Bob spent the rest of the night between
his grand piano and then at center stage with mic stand.
3. Highway 61 Revisited. I think this one may have cleared out the
remaining cobwebs in his throat and was a fun straight ahead take on the
classic. He definetly did a little riffing on the piano keys almost in
place of the penny whistle - or so I thought at the time. He seemed quite
laid back while playing and it wasn’t until later in the night that his
energy spiked, but we’ll get there soon enough
4. Stormy Weather. A sweet vocal and the first of 7 Sinatra songs all of
which I thoroughly enjoy - this may be my favorite. . He really puts his
soul into the song - just kills it. For some this material is like chualk
and cheese, but I dig ‘em and even look forward to them. I am in that
let Bob be Bob camp, as long as he stays vital and engaged, play whatever
you want Mr. Zimmerman.
5. Summer Days. I used to rue hearing this song in concert which often
turned into a Dead like drums/space rally around the bar mitzvah boy jam
fest. Thankfully, this song has been fully reimagined into a barn
storming 2 step. The hero here is Donnie Heron’s fiddle which weaves,
bobs and dances away leading the band through a country fried romp.
Charlie Sexton channeled James Burton on a couple of bit perfect solos and
it was complete.
6. Scarlet Town. Donnie now grabs his banjo and we get a spoken sung
beautiful, sullen, dark, howling take on this late career masterwork. It
was soft and straight and sturdy.
7. Duquesne Whistle I have never quite appreciate this tune which is I
find a trifle, but I guess it was time for a change of pace. Seemed to
have a more improvisational feel as I saw Bob nod at Sexton to take an
8. Melancholy Mood. Bob then returns at center stage with a magnificent
performance. He was theatrical, mic in hand, shimming, hopping,
gesturing, just putting it all into it. Nearly dancing with the mic
stand, he clearly loves these songs. A Highlight.
9. Once Upon A Time. Back to Back Sinatras and I was still reeling from
the last performance so this one was a bit lost on me. Not sure I like
the song either or was still gobsmacked by the previous one.
10. Pay in Blood. Time to get going. This is a right cross to the solar
plexus and a left jab to the kidneys. It hits where it hurts, man. A
lilting dance of duality. For anyone who questions Dylan’s continued
master, this song is tougher than anything the Sex Pistols came up with
visual imagery that would Brandan Behan and Norman Mailer flinch. It’s
a gutsy powerhouse full of piss, fire, pain and dismay. Wow.
11. Why Try To Change Me Now. Another great vocal and again back at
center stage. He utilized his vocal with all the sweetness and
resignation that he could muster.
12. Early Roman Kings. This is a soundtrack for a lot of crises.
It’s been on the setlist for awhile and have always enjoyed it. One for
the blues lovers only this time we get a slight rearrangement which no
longer has the same sis-boom gut bucket blues sizzle. It’s a bit slowed
down and more melodic with perhaps a changed lyric or two. Nice.
13. Desolation Row. Arranged in a familiar, snappy beat this was one of
the night’s great standout performances. It was the return of the
inspired, riffing Dylan phrasing. We got 16 different voices, changing on
nearly every line by line with a variety of emphasis. You got lines spit
out, you got a little nasal snarl, a sing song line, a half beat pause,
this and that. Vintage Bob Performance. It’s a song that would be the
center of any band’s legend performed with verve and gusto. He nailed
it and he knew it.
14. All Or Nothing At All. Time to bring it down with a sweet, romantic
take. Simply dialed in.
15. Soon After Midnight. This original certainly snugly fits into this
Songbook as it feels like the Chairman of the Board would have sung it. (
I saw him once too, Pia Zadora and Don Rickels opened, oy).
16. That Old Black Magic. We’re back to the crooning and I loved the
arrangement with the jazzy yet understated drums. A cool groove that
Dizzy would have appreciated. A song that reminds of the old Russian
expression that it’s easier to make an aquarium into fish soup than fish
soup into aquarium.
17. Long & Wasted Years. With big and slow power chords, the evening’s
end is approaching. Some people would call it weaponized sentiment, but I
disagree. I remember last summer’s show this song was treated with real
enthusiasm, this time a bit muted.
18. Autumn Leaves. Well performed. A pretty song from a bygone era
19. Blowin’ in the Wind. The encore begin with Bob performing with
zeal behind the keys. Timeless. It’s that moment when the boat hits the
water. With his legs straddled wide behind he grand piano, he leaned into
the vocal with heart.
20. Ballad of A Thin Man. Ending the night with great phrasing and a
nice way to send me humming home. A song more valuable than the Basquiat
that just sold at Christies.
An excellent night of music from our man Bob. I get one more in
Providence, hope it’s as good.
Review by Ernie Pancsofar
My 28th Dylan Show did not disappoint. The highlight of the evening was a
new rendition of Summer Days featuring Donnie Herron on the violin. A
sedate crowd with a median age of 50 to be my best guess. Very tight
security as mentioned on the Jimmy Fallon show a few nights ago from his
trip to Port Chester. No intermission on this leg of the journey. Dylan
plays a role as part Rudy Vallee and part Charlie Chaplin during his
crooning to the oldies tunes. He appears to be having fun! I wonder if I
will have his energy at 76! He also managed his way through a couple of
malfunctions: wobbly mic stand and faulty stool. Earlier this week I
thought of an apt comparison on the Dylan I have come to know: Dr. Who.
Dr. Who has his T.A.R.D.I.S. and Dylan has his Cowboy Band to take us back
and forth through time. Dr. Who regenerates himself so that his 13th
version (not sure of the exact number) is currently airing on BBC America.
Dylan has gone through the regeneration process a variable number of
times depending on the observer. The scenes from his songs [Desolation
Row & Highway 61] could take place in distant galaxies many light years
away. Dr. Who is “The Doctor” – Dylan is … well, he is “Dylan.” [In
honor of Father’s Day, I thought it would be a great touch if Jakob Dylan
had made an appearance. Perhaps he was there somewhere in the audience.
It was 20 years ago (my 2nd Dylan Show) at this site that Rick Danko came
on stage for a classic version of This Wheel’s on Fire.]
Review by Stephen Goldberg
A strange venue for sure. Not really sure what to make of it. The lobby is
crowded, has a couple of Toyotas on display and is a cross between a
tourist trap in Cancun and a promenade at a ball park. The actual hall
appears to be a barn like structure, zero atmosphere. Our seats are great
though, first row center off the floor. Sound was loud and clear. Usual
opening, then, no it can't be, but it sounds like the opening chords to a
You're A Big Girl Now. It's not only me, some others recognize it too, but
then it turns into something else, totally unrecognizable, and
then......It Ain't Me Babe! Wonderful new arrangement with Dylan
talk/singing and playing guitar (rather badly). Highway 61 follows and is
great and then the energy comes to a dead halt with the first of the
Sinatra songs. A great Summer Days follows and the energy is back with
some great fiddle playing. And that's how the concert went, up and down,
fast and slow and slower. Early Roman Kings has a new arrangement losing
most of the Mannish Boy riff but has over stayed its welcome to my ears.
Desolation Row is a joy as is Black Magic. Dylan and the band leave the
darkened stage after Autumn Leaves and the crowd is clearly bewildered.
They return for a great encore with Dylan really into Thin Man. From a
musical perspective George was the star of the show, his drumming
outstanding from start to finish. Bob clearly enjoys doing the Standards
but they really suck the air out of an otherwise energetic show. Funny how
Dylan uses a clear voice on his tunes and brings out the occasional rasp
for the Great American Song Book. Message to Bob, if you want to ding slow
sad songs how about Dirge, Going Going Gone, Shooting Star, and hell yeah,
You're a Big Girl Now.
Review by Barry Gloffke
Nice set up. Many parking attendants making it easy to get into the lot
and find a parking space. Nice employees. The venue looks like a casino,
but is a marketing ploy for whoever puts their name on the place. Lots or
announcements to let you know what's what. Very bland inside the theatre
itself. A plethora of obstructed seats on each side. Balcony looks like a
school auditorium. The sound is good though.
Older. Most over 60 years of age. Definitely not a dancing crowd, but
certainly one that will sit the whole show.
Smoking as usual. Tight and loose at the same time. Great rhythm.
Top notch. Great voice, great emotion, great range. He is singing at such
a high level right now. Growly, powerful and tender, sometimes all within
the same breath. At 76, not many are better. Shit, not many are better in
their prime than this aged old bard is.
Two small changes in slots 2 and 9 from the last Port Chester show. Every
song nailed by Bob and the Band again. Highlights were many: • Bob dons
the guitar in slot 2 again, but inserts a different song this time and
gives us a tender IT AIN'T ME BABE. • HIGHWAY 61 was an understated rocker
tonight. • STORMY had such great emotion. Riveting. • SUMMER DAYS was
boisterous and bouncy. • The couplet of DUQUESNE WHISTLE and MELANCHOLY
MOOD were juxtaposed like a yin-yang and they work so well together. •
The couplet of EARLY ROMAN KINGS and DESOLATION ROW was sensational.
Great crowd feedback during KINGS and Bob finally ditched that terrible
tinkling piano melody he using on ROW the previous three nights I saw him
in Port Chester. • The three songs that end the first part of the show
work so well for me. OLD BLACK MAGIC is splendid, with fantastic energy.
Down and down I go, round and round I go. LONG AND WASTED YEARS was
fantastic, deep, and powerful. And AUTUMN LEAVES is devastating every
time. • The finale was a rocking BALLAD OF A THIN MAN. Bob did some
wonderful piano bursts.
With absolutely no help from a stultifying, pacifistic crowd Bob and the
Band drove the spikes in all night long. Maybe because the crowd was so
hushed, especially on the American Standards, Bob was able to reach for -
and give us - a beautiful range of singing throughout the show.
If you are on the fence as to whether or not to go see Bob... fall on the
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