July 21, 2009
Review by Larry Fishman
This is Bob's third Ballpark tour and third visit to McCoy Stadium
famed for hosting the longest game in baseball history - with future Hall
of Famers Wade Boggs & Cal Ripkin in the lineup the game ran to 33
innings. Pawtucket is 10 miles north of Providence (good food and
mobsters) and about 40 miles south of Boston. It's a great place to see
a game and Bob, of course, on this rainy, warm night.
I arrived very early and lodged myself up to the fence right at the
stage. As always, met quite a few interesting characters -- some
transplanted brits living in New Hampshire, a couple of older New York
chicks one of whom claimed to have been living in the village at the same
time as Zimmy in the 1960's (and had the pictures at home of him walking
down Bleeker Street to prove it). And my favorite was this 20 year old,
Jack White look-a-like, who pulled out a rock out of his pocket that he
swiped from a road trip to Big Pink over the weekend. He said he walked
up the house and hugged it. On to the great evening of music...
The Wylos. In the Hot Club of Cowtown spot and dressing like extras from
the movie, The Sting, the Wylos promptly took the state at 5:30 playing
their old school, country-blues, western swing. A 4 piece band, the
lead singer played a washboard thingy with horns and bicycle bells on it.
It sounds weird, but it worked. They played covers of Charlie Poole &
Blind Willie McTell along with some originals in a very dramatic,
spirited style. From Brooklyn (the coolest place on earth these days),
they were superb. I think I'm going to form a Bob Willie Cover band
and see if I can open the shows next summer. Anyway, with a quick 10
minute set change done with German precision we get...
Willie Nelson. There's been too much criticism of him in some of the
reviews I have read on this tour. He may playing the same set that he
has played for the last 20 years --- but it's a damn good set. Why mess
with success. The point of Willie Nelson is not to hear some obscure
oldie from Shotgun Willie, it's to feel the warmth and joy. When Willie
points your way and smiles - hot damn - smile back. I did. And it's
always an honor to hear the harp flourishes of Mickey Raphael.
Highlight: "Always on My Mind" sounding elegant and gorgeous. It was
time to turn the stadium into, well, stadium rock with...
John Mellancamp. While I own 2 of his CDs, I've always been
somewhat lukewarm to Mellancamp. It could just be my aloof,
Northeast provincialism - the midwest just kind of gets in the way of the
two coast. But, I promised to try to be open-minded. He's retained his
boyish looks, Martin Sheen hair and can probably still fit into his High
School Prom Tux. He's an energetic front-man and his band was muscular
(both physically and musically). The high point would the "Walls Come
Tumbling Down." There were a couple of times when he fell into a little
too much small town earnestness for my taste, but he put on an excellent
show. It was loud, boisterous, and full on. Now on to our favorite
Bob Dylan. Still as thin as microphone stand, white hat, black suit with
sort of a shiny purply shirt and two glistening rings on both ring
fingers. This was indeed "The Bob Dylan Show" as the ticket stub says.
I've been to a few (okay more than a few) shows and never have I seen Bob
take every single solo. That's every one. When he played guitar, he
played guitar solos. When he played organ, he played organ solos. The
band, tonight at least, was treated as the backing band. Garnier,
Kimball and Freeman all lined up stage right, then Recile and Heron
behind and just supported the boss, No-one stepping forward for a lead.
Bob was certainly hoarse voiced throughout the night, but passionate,
focused and jovial. This was also a night for rocking - while I usually
pine for the ballads and slow songs, not tonight. This was a hard
rocking, pedal to the medal, rock show:
1. Cat's In The Well. It's a somewhat straight opening tune, Bob
appearing at centre stage with guitar and ready to go. It's been some
time since I have seen Bob with a guitar for a couple of tunes and I must
say that it warms my heart.
2. It Ain't Me Babe. Holding the guitar neck up high and strumming on
the lower frets, this was a rocking version not at all like the acoustic
versions in the past. A sly smile crossed his face as he spat out the
3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight. A fluid strong take and certainly a bit
of setlist surprise - don't think he's played it for awhile. Bob is
swinging now, still on guitar and having fun.
4. This Wheel's On Fire. Before laying the guitar down, this
classic gets uncorked in a bold arrangement that's more of a funky
5. The Levee's Gonna Break. Seemed appropriate due to the weather,
though I would have preferred "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." Performed with
zest in the familiar arrangement. Lots of organ which was well
represented in the mix all night long.
6. Masters of War. While past versions were meditative or funeral, this
was hard rocking, biting and in your face.
7. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Again, loud and in charge,
Donnie was playing banjo but he got drowned out by the organ and the rest
of the band who ignited. Bobby spitting out those words that still
8. Po' Boy. Begun with a sweet harp solo, finally a slow song to
take a break, though it was still a bit faster than previous
9 Highway 61 Revisited. Straight ahead take with the instrumental
breaks focused solely on Dylan's organ.
10. Ain"t Talkin' If I would have one criticism of the new album is
that there isn't a song like Ain't Talkin on it. It is a late era
classic and performed with care and nuance. Bravo.
11. Summer Days. Well the most interesting songs of the night
have passed and we're on to the crowd pleasing Summer Days. I
shouldn't complain because atleast he didn't play "Honest with Me"
and "Tweedle" which are my two least favorite live songs, but I guess
this is my third. But hey it's me (i've heard it enough) not him. He
does a good job with it so I guess we have to let Bob be Bob.
12. Like A Rolling Stone. It's a stadium show,he'd play it
anyways. Always nice to hear the greatest rock song of all time.
13. Jolene. The sole new tune (If I could design the setlist I'd
include them all). It's a fun, upbeat tune and he performed it that way.
14. All Along the Watchtower. Time for another show to finish, no Jimi
Hendrix guitar work on this night, just a scorcher to send them home
A very good show. And a very good night of music.
Review by Bill Thomas
To my mind, any review of a Dylan show these days is
remiss – and there is a conspiracy of silence in this respect –
if it does not address his utter lack of attention to, or disregard
of, a general understanding of his lyrics. Tuesday's show in
Pawtucket was a case in point, as he cranked up the indecipherable
level to the point where he might as well have been singing – if
you can call it that – in Swahili.
To wit, you've got to take the good with the bad at a show by
America's greatest bardic performer. At least these days. Reference
1975's “Rolling Thunder Revue” reggae-tinged track of “It Ain't Me,
Babe” against Tuesday night's version of the tune and the verdict is
clear: A voice that once was a clarion-clear instrument has
deteriorated into a spoken-word disaster.
Likewise, Dylan's vaunted penchant for rearrangements of timeless epics
often degenerates into depressing chaos. Witness a tune such as
“I'll Be your Baby Tonight.” Instead of a gentle, nuanced lullaby, we
were served up a harsh, discordant, almost cringe-inducing mess of
an offering at Pawtucket.
When a rare live-performance gem such as “This Wheel's on Fire” is
dusted off, the urge to belt out the verses alongside Bob is squelched
by his discordant utterances.
While we were treated to the cataclysmic, molten energy of “Highway 61”
and “Like a Rolling Stone;'' there were the unintelligible vocals on
“It's Alright Ma,'' and a lame instrumental bridge on “Po' Boy,” which
Bob's chirpy harp did little to allay.
Lest I appear to be a kill-joy dilettante, let me aver that I enjoyed the
show, replete with a crackerjack band, Deadish jams, and an ominous
Yet more good and bad, defined like a wedding vow: The treat of Bobby
doing four songs on guitar, and the lament of only one composition from
“Together through Life”; “Jolene.”
And this may be sacrilege, but if the show were a baseball game, I think
it would have gone to John Cougar Mellencamp. The rootsy energy of his
set enthralled; colored by Miriam Sturm's fiddle, as well as his band
member's stinging guitar leads and superb organ. Sure, a sing-along ditty
like “Authority” has a cornball texture to it. But for every “Authority”
there's a stomping “Scarecrow.”
With apologies to the late, great Bill Perry; with some confusion I've
come to the conclusion that Dylan's stuff now sounds better on the
radio, and JMC's work hits the ears more
The Little Neighbor Boy
Review by Kenneth Dorchak
As Bob continues to avoid Florida at all costs, I made my way from Ft.
Lauderdale to Rhode Island to catch the Dylan show. My wonderful and
understanding wife (she is not a fan but this is her second show) was in tow and
from what I can tell she enjoyed Mellancamp, as did I. Willie Nelson was
pleasant as usual. Both his and Mellancamp's voices are well preserved.
As expected, Bob opened on guitar, which was great to see. The sound mix
at the start was solid. As the set list indicates Bob played the first four
songs on guitar up front and center - a pleasant treat. As prior reviewers
indicated he holds the fret board high at a 45 degree angle. All songs played
on guitar were electric. Perhaps sometime in the near future Bob will again
feel confortable playing some acoustic guitar. But, any guitar is better than
none. I will say, however, that it is behind the organ that Bob appears to be
most confortable now. He was somewhat stiff playing guitar. The familiar "pee
wee" dances were not present during his guitar turn. However, once Bob went
behind the keys he became quite animiated and was more engaged in the ebb and
flow of the music. His keyboard playing has become bolder compared to when he
first when behind the keys. The keys are much more present in the mix and Bob
takes quite a few keyboard solos. Oddly very little harp playing on this night.
Opener was Cat's in the Well. Not a favorite but played with force. Next
was It Ain't Me Babe. Nice version with good phrasing. I'll Be Your Baby
Tonight followed which was nothing great but simply good. This Wheel's on Fire
was a nice addition to the setlist and provided a fourth turn for Bob at front
and and center on guitar. Again, a solid performance - one of my favorites of
the evening. Arrangement provided for nice accenting of the "if your mem'ry
serves you well" lines of the song. I enjoyed it.
Levee's Gonna Break was played as the midset rocker. Good vibe on the tune but
I recall this being better at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia last year.
Next came what I would say was the highpoint of the show which was Masters of
War. Great musical arrangement, great execution and great performance by Bob.
Phrasing was spot on.
Not much to say about Po' Boy other than its was a nice acoustical number.
For Highway 61 I left my wife in "our spot" and moved closer to the stage.
Fun song as usual and still done with its hard rocking meter. Next came
Ain't Talkin, which was another highlight. Acousticly done - great mood
created by the band and Bob sang the lines with brilliance.
The remainder of the set feature the usual "crowd" pleasing songs, LARS,
AATW with the ever present Summer Days. Not much to say there. Jolene,
which I like from the new album, was put in the mix of fnal songs and was
performed well and is a good live tune. All in all a good but perhaps not
great show. In the meanwhile as this tour leg of the NET continues, I will
continue to stand by to see if Bob takes Florida off the "no-show list".
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