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Review by Peter Stone Brown
The show at the E Centre was the first Dylan/Simon show I attended, and
my first time at the E Centre, a huge indoor/outdoor pavilion, built by
Sony and Blockbuster in the unlikely city of Camden, N.J. The day
started eerily, waking up to the disappearance of JKF Jr’s. plane. When
it first opened the E Centre was notorious for nasty security guards,
but major concerts have since been taken over by Electric Factory
Concerts and security for this event anyway seemed pretty mellow. But
the tickets weren’t the only thing overpriced at this show. Five bucks
for a coke is outrageous, and of course they do not let you bring in any
drinks or food.
Paul Simon began the show with a fairly lackluster “Bridge Over Troubled
Water.” Following the song he talked about John Kennedy Jr., and how
events like this show how precious life is or something to that effect
and that life is to celebrate. Simon was never more than okay despite
his huge percussion-laden band. Simon’s hand problems seem to have
affected his guitar playing considerably because mostly he used the
instrument as a prop and mainly just held it occasionally strumming and
rarely playing, even though he switched guitars quite a few times. This
is a shame because Simon was at one time a great finger-picker. While
his band got a groove going during songs like “You Can Call Me Al” and
“Late In the Evening,” ultimately they were just too slick and
essentially soulless despite several top-notch players.
I can understand Simon’s exploration into various forms of world music,
but it comes at the expense of his songs. Once upon a time he could
make his songs mean something, but there’s something about his music now
and pretty much from “Graceland” onward that doesn’t really make me want
to take the time to figure out what he’s singing about.
Easily for me, the most moving part of his set was when Dylan came out
for “Sounds of Silence.” Maybe it was the ghost of another Kennedy
tragedy hanging over the proceedings, or maybe it was the arrangement,
much slower than the original Simon & Garfunkel single (and pretty much
the way Simon’s been doing the song for the last 15 years or so) with
Simon playing the melody on electric (finally doing some picking) but a
lot of it had to do with Dylan being on stage. Dylan has presence and
Simon for all his hand motions during his set just doesn’t -- not at
this show anyway. Dylan was singing in one of his spookier voices and
immediately you knew that he was singing strongly as well.
In any case the duet worked. The other 3 songs they did together,
“That’ll Be The Day”/”The Wanderer” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” can
pretty much be written off. There were fun parts, but nothing really to
keep or hear again. On “Heaven’s Door” both Dylan and Simon really went
after the recently improvised “I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come
in” and were obviously having fun, but as fellow RMD-er Dylan Orlando
said to me, “Two of the greatest lyricists of all time and this is all
they can come up with.”
Dylan came out for his set wearing a black suit, a red polkadot shirt
with a black tie and snakeskin boots and launched into an uprousing
“Somebody Touched Me” with Larry Campbell playing perfect Doc Watson-ish
bluegrass runs on his acoustic. If the recent change in the line-up has
done anything, it has pushed Campbell in front which to me is a good
thing. He is a superb musician. The new line-up has a leaner sound to
it and while I dug Bucky while he was in the band (and also when he was
with Steve Earle) I did not find myself missing him.
However Dylan was in excellent vocal form all night, singing much
clearer than in recent memory (last winter) and enunciating, but not
exaggerating, yet making certain words stand out. “Tambourine Man” was
a tiny bit faster than the last time I saw him do it, but for me still
not fast enough. The original tempo (meaning the Bringing It All Back
Home) recording was perfect for this song and I wish he’d return to it.
It seemed like he only sang two verses, but I may be wrong, and ended
the song with an okay but not great harp solo. Now this is one of
Dylan’s greatest harp songs and there’s a certain thing that’s hard to
describe that he used to do but doesn’t any more where he really let the
harp sing, sing almost the words that he did on the original recording,
which was expanded on on the ’65 and ’66 versions and remembered years
later at the Bangla Desh concert. But it just ain’t gonna be that way
A very strong “Masters of War” came next, and while it seems I’ve seen
him do this song almost at every show for the past five years or
something it was still effective. On the guitar solo, instead of Dylan
taking the whole thing he got into a night call and response with
Campbell, Dylan playing a lick and Campbell answering him with another
lick. Quite effective. A really pretty “Love Minus Zero” followed with
Larry on pedal steel, easily displaying his mastery of the instrument.
“Tangled,” which Dylan introduced as “A love song that we love to play,”
came next with the usual upbeat version, but it seemed more than a few
verses were missing. Dylan played harp again totally putting down the
guitar and this solo was an improvement over his previous one.
Then it was into “Watchtower” with another cool Campbell solo. Now the
strange thing about the band now is that Charlie Sexton is known as a
lead guitarist in his own right, but he rarely steps forward and mainly
plays rhythm. The main difference seems to be that when Dylan stops
playing rhythm, the bottom no longer drops out of the sound and it also
allows Campbell to play more effectively working his own lead runs
around what Dylan is doing on the guitar, and for once Dylan didn’t hit
any outrageously wrong notes either. He may have been searching but he
The level of the show took a dip with Dylan saying, “Here’s a song that
was on the country charts thanks to my buddy Garth Brooks” or something
like that, and then told the tennis joke again, saying “I wrote this for
my ex-wife” twice. The joke was silly but I couldn’t help but wonder
what other songs from “Time Out Of Mind” he wrote for his ex-wife. It
was okay, probably better than the record, but no big deal. “Memphis
Blues Again” came next and was better than I expected with Dylan
emphasizing certain words rather than entire lines. Once upon a time in
the years when he never played this song it was the one song I kept
wanting to hear. Once he started doing it, and I got over the initial
excitement of he’s finally doing it, I really didn’t want to see it any
more because he’s never come close to touching the insanity and more
importantly, the humor of the original where the reverse order and mixed
up events and images culminated in a usually hysterical punchline at the
end of each verse. But tonight, instead of mumbling through it which
I’ve seen too many times, he sang it clearly and strongly and if the
punchlines weren’t really there, overall he made it work.
“Not Dark Yet” was easily the song of the night. He sang it strong, he
sang it tenderly, and it was beautiful, with both Dylan and the band
displaying an amazing sense of dynamics, bringing it up where it’s
supposed to go up and bringing it down where it’s supposed to be soft.
It was perfect!
Dylan then introduced the band saying, “These are some of the best
players in the country,” and kicked into “Highway 61” which featured two
incredible and even brilliant slide solos from Larry.
Encores were “Rolling Stone,” not bad but not great, but strong. Again
he was really paying attention to making the words ring clearly, but
interestingly enough on the 3rd line of the first verse, he just sang
“People’d call, say ‘Beware doll’ “ and never sang “you’re bound to
An excellent “It Ain’t Me Babe” with more lush picking from Campbell
came next along with a nice harp solo from Bob. I think he’s sung this
at every concert (not necessarily club dates) in Philly (and while this
show took place in Camden, it was really the Philly show) for the past
11 years if not longer. A cool “Not Fade Away” ended the night.
While I wasn’t totally blown away by this show, Dylan absolutely put
out, and he seemed to be energized and alive, especially after the last
few shows I saw last fall and winter where he seemed to be in sort of
doldrums, a having fun at time doldrums, but doldrums nonetheless. Like
the shows right after TOOM was released, he was paying attention to the
music and particularly to his singing. I left the show now awed, but
feeling good and also feeling that if Dylan keeps singing and playing
like he did tonight, things bode well for the future.
"Where the angels' voices whisper to the souls of previous times."
Peter Stone Brown
Review by Kathy Miller
This is most certainly not my first Dylan show and God willing, it won’t be
my last....but....this is my first ever review. What a show! I didn’t go to
see Paul Simon, probably wouldn’t have gone to just see Paul Simon, but what
an opening act! He had a jammin band behind him, and it was great listening
to him singing so many of those old familiar tunes. We were dancing in the
aisles. We danced ourselves to the stage where I was front and center against
the rail (my favorite place to be) for a couple of numbers before Bob was
introduced. Then Bob came out and what a treat we were in for. Bob and Paul
made some beautiful music together! Watching the two of them tickling those
strings, listening to their voices, you had to know you were in a special
place with two very special guys.
The songs they chose to share together. Sounds of Silence and Knockin’ on
Heaven’s Door. If you haven’t seen them (yet?) can you just imagine it? I’ve
got the age behind me, so I experienced Sounds of Silence when it was first
released. I’ve been buying and listening to Dylan since 1964. My roots are
in 50’s rock...listening to my brother’s 45s....but my trunk and branches had
major growth in the 60s. This was great.
We danced to That’ll Be The Day and The Wanderer. How could you sit still?
When the set was done, off they went backstage and security dispensed those
of us who have a need to be up-close and personal. Who have to see every
expression, every line, every hair, every drop of sweat drop off his nose.
Have to watch his face as he sings out the words only he can write.
While stage crew was preparing the stage for Bob and the Boys, I was drawn
into a life experience outside of the hall. I returned too late to hear the
E-Center welcome Columbia Recording Artist Bob Dylan....and too late to hear
his first song....which I had looked forward to hearing. I returned in the
middle of Tamborine Man and once again danced in the aisles until opportunity
allowed me to dance right back up to my rail spot at center stage again. My
husband plays guitar, and I’ve been listening to music all my life. I’m not
an expert by any means, but I know what I like to hear, and I had very happy
ears! I heard songs I would welcome if they were played every time I went to
see him...and some of them are. I heard songs I hoped he might play but knew
not to expect. I was there to be played to....and we were all certainly
played to. Played to by the man who always plays it and sings it the way he
feels it at that moment. Doesn’t that harmonic just pierce your soul? I
walked away in awe, and haven’t come back yet.
Review by David Owen
I am a big fan of both Dylan and Simon. This is the first time I've seen Simon live, and
the 5th time I've seen Dylan, so for me the Simon set was really special.
It was great to hear Bridge Over Troubled Water without the melodramatic orchestral
explosions on the S & Garfunkel version, but this airy keyboard arrangement was not as good
the jazzy piano on the live recording from Central Park a few years ago. Can't Run But . .
. brought the incredible percussion section to life--there was a lot more energy and emotion
than on the album. Next, The Boy in the Bubble--with a nice hard downbeat. Everyone around
me started dancing. After the last verse they played a The Coast is one of my favorite
Simon songs. He still had the same bass player and Vincent Nguini on guitar--I'm pretty
sure this bass player and Nguini played on Graceland, Rhythm of the Saints and the Central
Park live album. They were great together Saturday night--especially on this song. Then
Simon played Trailways Bus, one of the better songs from Capeman. The crowd didn't seem to
be familiar with it--most of the people around me were sitting back down and looking for
Mrs. Robinson brought them all back up on their feet again, and then Me and Julio kept the
feeling going, with everybody cheering, dancing and singing along. Further to Fly is a
little less well-known, but a beautiful song, and they did it better than the album. Of
course everyone enjoyed Graceland.
Cool River is one of my all-time-favorite songs by Simon (or anybody else). It's also one
of the most interesting and complex rhythm patterns I know of--something like a 9/8 broken
into 4 & ½ beat pieces during the verse. People near me kept trying to clap along, but it
didn't work very well. Anyway, this song was a real highlight. The lyric is very powerful
and Simon seemed looser and more comfortable with the words than he is on the album. This
song ended with incredible energy and a lot of hard braSlip Slidin' Away put the crowd in a
romanitc mood. People all around me were smiling and slow dancing. Diamonds and Call Me Al
were big entertaining crowd pleasers. Simon's bass player was incredible on both of these
songs. Late in the Evening was great, and Still Crazy brought back the slow-dancing Slidin'
Away mood, but you could feel the excitement as people knew Dylan was coming out for the
Sound of Silence was the next big highlight of the show. Dylan and Simon began with a
tentative guitars-only pass through the verse, and as the crowd realized what song it was
there was a lot of cheering. Dylan's low and ominous vocal made the song sinister and
powerful. He brought a dark apocalyptic tone to the lyric, which was just perfect.
That'll Be the Day / Wanderer was ok and people enjoyed the beat, but I had hoped to hear
the I Walk the Line/ Blue Moon of Kentucky medley. Knockin' on Heaven's door was
interesting, but not as good as I've heard Dylan do it by himself. Sound of Silence had
been so good because the arrangement really fit the lyric. The upbeat reggae Knockin' might
have been believable if Bob Marley had been singing, but Dylan and Simon just didn't seem to
be taking it seriously. The one interesting thing about it--DylThen we waited for Bob.
There was incredible excitement in the crowd when he was introduced. I was surprised,
because I'd read reviews of shows that made me wonder if the corwd would be all Simon fans.
But everybody was going crazy, and everything Dylan did brought wild applause. Who else can
wiggle their knee or say "Thanks Everybody" and get that kind of incredible crowd response?
It always seems like less is more for Dylan. He made Simon seem pretentious by comparison.
I was hoping for Hallelujah, but we got Somebody Touched Me. It was a great energetic
opener. Then Mr. Tambourine Man, which was a crowd favorite. It was a good performance,
but not like the tour a few years ago with Patty Smith. Masters of War was
interesting--very serious and dark. This has never been my favorite, but it was the best
arrangement I've heard.
Love Minus Zero was very good, sort of countrified with a lot of pedal steel. There is
nothing like hearing one of these great songs live. I don't remember ever hearing this song
live before. He snuck half a joke in before Tangled--something like: "now we're going to
do a love song for you; it's a love song 'cause we really love to play it . . . " He did it
well, but the lyric was not as strong or clear as the last time I heard it live at the show
with Joni Mitchell.
Watchtower really rocked, and the crowd got into it. The electric guitars sounded better
than any of the shows since the Patty Smith tour. Where I was sitting, back in the outside
grass section, the sound was very good and just at the edge of too loud, which made me think
I must be hearing something like the mix the PA guys were hearing.
The second joke--"I wrote this song for my ex-wife; she was a tennis player; love meant
nothing to her"--was followed by an apology to Larry, and then they launched into Make you
Feel My Love. This was a good performance, better than I remember from the Joni Mitchell
show. It brought back the romantic mood Simon had established with Slip Slidin' and Still
Crazy. Having just heard Simon's love songs, this one by Dylan (which seems a little
shallow compared to the other stuff on TOOM) took on a real depthMobile / Memphis was good,
but I've heard this song live several times and I still don't know enough of the words to
appreciate it. I told the Simon fans with whom I attended the concert that they needed to
learn Dylan's lyrics ahead of time or many would be unintelligible. I should have taken my
own advice and studied this song a bit.
Not Dark Yet was the highlight of the night. It was better than on TOOM. I've never heard
Dylan sing a song so perfectly. I would have been happy to hear him play this one 2 or 3
times in a row. Highway 61 was a lot of fun for the crowd and Dylan as well. We were
sitting near a video screen enjoying all his knee twisting, tip toeing and more smiles than
I've seen at any other Dylan show. He dragged out "Highwaaaay sixty oooooooooone . . ."
more and more with each verse.
Rolling Stone was of course a crowd favorite, with lots of people singing along and really
enjoying themselves. It Ain't Me was slow and simple, with another great harmonica solo.
There was more harmonica at this show than any I've seen before. I guess he's got two great
guitar players in the band now, so he's taking a bunch of solos on the harp instead of the
Not Fade Away brought the energy back and the crowd loved it. The backup singing was great,
and made me wonder why we don't get more of that. It was a great ending to an incredible
Review by Andy Saylor
Many of you see Bob frequently. I saw him 7 times on the Dylan/Band
tour in '74, and this was my 7th time since. My first since 94 or 95.
On the 30th anniversary video, shown on PBS, they ask Eric Clapton if he
had a message for Bob, and Eric goes, "Oh, just that I love him."
That's how I feel after this show.
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. Bob's
not one of them. So when he opens with a Southern bluegrass gospel
number like "Somebody Touched Me" it's for a reason (of course maybe
only he knows the reason). And when he does "Masters of War" it's so
intense, the crowd cheers at the image of the Masters in their graves!
And I thought he meant it when he introduced "Make You Feel My Love" by
saying he wrote it for his ex-wife "to get it out of my system."
Considering that's his most recent release, one can only think Sara's
still on his mind.
The band and he can be so musically tight. My wife Lois came away so
impressed with the musicianship. Please, Bob, release a live CD of this
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