page by Bill Pagel
Review by Howard Weiner
Stuck in Little Rock with the Memphis Blues
I hate to write a negative Dylan review, but I guess its
cathartic. I cut my pleasurable Memphis vacation a day short and
traveled two hours to Little Rock in pursuit of some Dylan gems.
At this old rickety Minor League Ballpark that was built in 1931
Bob went 0-14 with 10 strikeouts.
Maggieís Farm/ Ramona was an uneventful beginning. I dig Ramona,
but I donít care for this arrangement. Cry A While/ Positively
4th St. summed up Bobís mood at this show. Is there a song thatís
less enjoyable than Cry A While? Itís lyrically strong, but I
often skip listening to it on Love and Theft and cringe when I
hear it live. To be fair the band jammed out pretty good on that
number. Around this time a mass exodus for the exits started,
probably effecting Bobís state of mind.
High Water and Highway 61 were well played, but I been through
that movie before. Ballad of Hollis Brown was another cheerful
number. ďYour children are so hungry they donít know how to smileĒ
really buoyed the spirits of the remaining patrons. Most Likely
You Go Your Way was the best song of the night and offered a
glimpse of hope. At this point of the show its apparent Bob lost
his set list and used the one from the previous night as he
plundered through Just Like A Woman, Honest With Me, Girl From the
North Country, and Summer Days. All four songs were repeats from
the Memphis show. Why canít he play Blind Willie Mc Tell on
Donít Think Twice and Watchtower brought this snooze fest to an
end. I had one foot out the door as Bob sang ďThere must be some
kinda way outta here.Ē What happened to songs like Blind Willie Mc
Tell, Senor, Tough Mama, Hazel, Shelter From the Storm, Cats In the
Well, Every Grain of SandÖetc. Last tour Bobís shows were so
creative and diverse. Bob would never dump a show like this on New
York or Boston.
As a veteran of over 80 NET shows this was one of the three worst
Iíve seen, but when his next tour is announced Iíll be getting the
pre sale passwords and forking over more money to Bob and
Ticketmaster. Everybody has an off night and it will make the next
show I see even sweeter. I may be a little spoiled from the Spring
Ď05 tour. Of the four í05 Summer shows I witnessed, Lancaster was
by far the best.
Review by Todd Ramage
As I was driving east out of Dallas Saturday morning I couldn't help
thinking why the hell was I going to spend 10 hours in the car to see a 3
hour Bob/Willie show. After all it comes down to 14 songs and that can't
be worth the time, money, etc. That was still in the back of my head when
my wife and I walked into the Ray Widner Field Saturday night. We queued
up at the end of a monster line for beer and up strolled a Little Rock
police officer. He informed all of us at the back of the line that there
were 2 more beer stands with much shorter lines and gave us directions. OK
- a local law enforcement official was helping me to get alcohol faster.
Walking onto the field of this quaint 75+ year old ball field with beer in
hand for the start of Willie's show I began to forget any misgivings I had
about the trip. It was a beautiful afternoon/evening with the sun setting
and Whiskey River blasting. After seeing the Bob/Willie show last year in
Oklahoma City I knew what to expect. Over an hour of great singing and
playing with most of the hits covered. "Me and Paul", "Still is Still
Moving to Me", a sing-along "Will the Circle" and a killer cover of J.
Cliff's "Harder they Come" had the audience pumped by the break (Willie's
reggae CD comes out 7/12!).
By the end of "Maggie's Farm" I was kicking myself for not going to the
Memphis show on Friday night. We were halfway between the stage and the
soundboard on Bob's side with a perfect view and perfect sound. Every
syllable was easily understandable and the mix was incredible. This was
our 11th Dylan show in six different states going back to '89 and I have
to say it may have been the best. I know the song list doesn't look that
astounding but I don't think I've ever seen Bob have so much fun and put
so much effort into a performance. Between the end of "Cry a While" and
into "Positively" you could almost see his posture and expression change.
He became this playful/cocky master of "Rock and Roll" who knew he had the
crowd and the band and the night to make whatever he wanted to happen
happen. During "High Water" and for the rest of the night every word was
emaciated and sung perfectly. "Just Like a Woman" was one of the most
memorable Dylan moments I have ever been a part of. The crowd of
approximately 2,000 sang the tag line of the chorus just like the recorded
version and then there was Bob with "justlikeawoman" all sped up and
rushed in at the last second. You could see his delight at everybody
enjoying themselves and the music. Between that and the Elvis leg shaking
and the "making your fingers look like guns and shooting the first few
rows of the audience" move it was obvious he was enjoying himself
immensely. And the harp playing. Beautiful and timeless.
Anyway it's on to Ft. Worth tomorrow for a much shorter drive and a
shorter Bob set. I guess he said it best last night when it comes to
deciding if you want to invest the time and $ to traveling to one of his
shows. "Don't Think Twice, Its All Right"!
Review by Dan McKay
I guess you could say I agree with both of those first two reviewers,
although they take opposing sides. This concert was an enigma for sure
from my view. I have three children and had one left who had not gone
with me to a Dylan show. She flew in to Little Rock from Quantico and the
the Marine Corps and it could not have been a worse time to take her to
the show. It was somewhat noteworthy that an announcer came out and read
aloud that opening intro that had usually been played on a recording--the
one about the counterculture and finding Jesus, being written off, etc. I
just read last night the pages from Chronicles where Bob rails about the
press and how he always told them he was "just a musician" and complained
about the headline that said "Spokesman Denies He's Spokesman", but I
guarantee you when he sings "Masters of War" he and everyone knows what he
is talking about. That's the song I most wanted to hear (again).
Problems were with the layout of the stage (in the outfield) and the
speakers. There were just two speaker towers, one on each side of the
stage, stacked and facing somewhat inward. There is a freeway right
behind the outfield fence and the entire infield area was taken up by the
sound booth. Few sat in the lower stands between first and third bases
because you could not see. The crowd talked incessantly through all the
performers who were so far away they looked like ants, and those who chose
to sit were on the fringes of the sound. I walked down and complained to
the sound guy that he needed to crank it up, but he did nothing. After
apologizing to my daughter and asking permission of her and my wife, I
decided to make my way down front. The night had been hot but had enough
of a breeze to feel OK. The sardine can down front was like being in a
sauna. At least you could hear and the folks down there were not carrying
on conversations. Bob was wearing a suit jacket and tie and dripping
sweat, as was I. The performance was pretty good when you could hear and
see the faces and Bob smiled alot more than usual. He and the band were
feeling good. He played his harp more but not as well as usual on To
Ramona, You Go Your Way, Girl of the North Country and Don't Think Twice.
Bob was being Bob -- he and the band were pleased with their performance
and it was different, as different as any I have heard and not really to
my liking. The band had to be pleased because they spent alot of time
intently focusing on Bob with that "deer in the headlights" look to see
which way he was going. But, you've got to give it to him for never being
too predictable, even if he did have his shiny Oscar on stage with him,
about the only thing that might connect this show to those that have gone
Dan McKay "oldern17" (Louisiana)
Review by Jim Kavanagh
First of all, I had heard about the communal urinals at Ray Winder Field, so I was not surprised.
Luckily, whenever I had to take a break it was not too crowded, and so spacing was not a problem.
I don't know how long it takes to get used to this kind of bathroom arrangement, and I hope I
never find out. Still it's a great ballpark, unless, perhaps, you're a left hand pull hitter
and have to deal with 345 down the right field line and a 15' wall. Which reminds me, is Bob
ever going to play Going Going Gone at any of these shows? Also, it's great that there are still
teams out there with names like the Travellers, much preferable to the Screaming Dust Mites et al
types in fashion now.
On to the concert. It was a marvelous time for all (except I guess for one of the reviewers on
this page), and what's new. This has been a great tour. At Little Rock the crowd proved that
rowdy and courteous are not mutually exclusive, which was great to experience. And the weather
Gods were kind, as it was not blast-furnace hot.
Willie came on at the usual time and looked a little tired. He played a little less lead-guitar
than at some of the other shows I've seen, but nothing was diminished. Another set of one
terrific song after another, by a truly great performer. Oh, and if there is a better harp player
than Mickey Rafael, please let me know who he/she is. The Harder They Come was a nice surprise,
and before we knew it Willie was playing Superman, and then it was time for "old Bob" , as Willie
has been calling him.
"Old Bob" looked great. For the first time since I can remember he was not wearing a Western suit.
He wore mostly black and a flat-rimmed hat, and since it was Saturday, he opened with Maggies Farm.
The band crunches this one out with an almost punk sensibility, and it's a great opener.
Highlights of the set included To Ramona, with a real nice harp solo at center stage, a
rollicking chorus sing-along on Just Like a Woman, and Most Likely You Go Your Way, where the band
really flush out the Blonde on Blonde arrangement. Just a consistently excellent concert.
This is a really nice tour and I'm sorry it will be over soon. I hope Bob and Willie make it an
page by Bill Pagel
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