July 23, 2013
Review by John E. Dickerson
I'd never been to Merriweather Post Pavilion so wasn't entirely sure to
expect. The size of the facility means that if you're on the grass well
back from the covered seating, you really can't see much of anything on
the stage. To help make up for it, there's a large jumbotron mounted in
front of the covered area so people on the grass are treated to close-up
camera views of the performers. More on that in a second.
This was also the first trip to a Bob show in almost two decades that
didn't include my good friend John back in Iowa. So to make up for it, I
brought along my 14 year old for his first Dylan show.
Traffic was ridiculous so we missed Ryan Bingham entirely and didn't
arrive till the start of My Morning Jacket. I'd been listening to MMJ
since hearing Jim James' vocals on Goin' to Acapulco and was disappointed
not see their whole show. These guys are good. Even my son approves.
Kind of like psychedelic hip hop. Spacy lyrics with a funky groove and Jim
James's vocals don't get enough praise in my book.
I'd seen Wilco before and knew what to expect. They're great musicians
and have some interesting songs, but I always get the impression they're
following a guide called "How to Play Americana". When My Morning Jacket
ends a song with an electronica jam it sounds fresh and improvised. When
Wilco does it, it feels rehearsed. Still, near the end of their set they
seemed to loosen up and ended up with a fine show.
Bob and his band appeared on stage with no fanfare and went right in to
Things Have Changed. I love this song anyway, but if ever there was a song
that shows off his ability to play with the phrasing of his lyrics, this
is it. Trying to sing along was like riding a roller coaster with a
blindfold on: you know what's coming but not exactly when. Love Sick was
riveting too, but High Water seemed to be missing some fire and brimstone.
I really enjoyed hearing Duquesne Whistle, Soon After Midnight and Early
Roman Kings, probably because they were played pretty much straight ahead
and it was easier for the band to get in sync. The songs that departed
from their usual rhythms (Tangled, Watchtower) seemed to start
erratically. But George and Tony (and sometimes Stu) eventually got
everybody back on track. Thank God for George Recile. He was the rock
that truly held the show together. Colin Linden is still trying to get
comfortable playing along with Bob's piano, a tall order for anyone, so
there weren't as many guitar leads as usual. Curiously, there were no
camera close-ups during Bob's set like there were with the earlier acts.
From my position it was hard to tell which guitarist was playing what. I
have to say that the highlight for me was She Belongs to Me. This was a
solid version of one of the songs that made me into a fan oh so many years
ago. Another highlight was Simple Twist of Fate. While it's never been
high on my list of favorite songs, tonight's version really captivated me.
In the end, it must have been a good show because on the ride home my son
actually wanted to listen to the songs we saw performed and talked about
it all the way home. Any time I can get him to open up and have a real
conversation is a win in my book. Thanks, Bob.
Review by Todd Holden
Bob gave a great performance tonight at the famed 'One of the 10 Best
Venues' in the country, Merriweather Post Pavilion. To be honest, I
think Bob was stoned out of his tits tonight...teetering onstage, leaning
on his grand piano, leaning on the speakers behind the piano...he was
drinking something, most likely water, because it was warm tonight,
surely on stage with the brilliant flames adding a small touch of
intimacy to the performance.
Nonetheless, stoned, tired, fatigued, or just not up to par, he gave a
brilliant performance to the delight of the packed house. Especially
brilliant was 'High Water [For Charley Patton), Tangled Up In Blue,Love
Sick, all done with major piano and new arrangements. All Along the
Watchtower was smoking...rousing the crowd to its feet and building to a
power-down climax. Tony Garnier was working over time on the stand up
bass and regular bass...he played his ass off... Simple Twist of Fate
was re/arranged and I liked it more than most...
Couple of us were surprised to see Charley Sexton is no longer with the
band, but his replacement, Colin Linden played masterfully, very close to
Bob at the grand. Matter of fact, I noticed a new arrangement of the
band onstage...mostly facing Bob, rather than lined up across the
stage. It worked for me.
Bob just looked tired, but there's no quit in him...he came to play
and not just for the ride. It was warm, humid and outdoors...a beautiful
night...filled with romping, stomping Bob Dylan and His Band...
For my money My Morning Jacket smoked Wilco...start to finish, but
that's just my opinion...
Jim James could lose the cape and Harry Potter references...but again,
that's his choice...He was in fine, high-volume and the band was as tight
as a rat's ear.
All in all , one of the best Bob shows I've seen...and the total is now
well over 137. At 74 I am truly in awe of Bob's continuing dedication to
his muse and his music...He lives to play...and truly, plays to live.
Long may he live.
note to John Dickerson...re: Merriweather Review...
After I read your fine review, it bears mentioning, last night Three
Generations of my family went together. My son, 43, his daughter, 19,
and me, 74 years old.... Believe me, we always have had an easy time
conversing, and going to see Bob shows...It's the best when 3
generations can have such a great time, with one common focus, a living
Review by Roger Catlin
A couple decades before someone anyone ever coined the term "Americana,"
Bob Dylan was setting its parameters, creating timeless music that came
out of folk traditions that threw in blues, rock and roll, old timey
music, gospel and standards.
Of course he'd be the headliner and spiritual guide for a terrific summer
tour called Americanarama, paired with a couple of bands that similarly
have a foot in many of the same concerns, and who have convered Dylan in
the past, Wilco and My Morning Jacket.
As the tour has continued Dylan has also shared the stage with Jeff Tweedy
and Jim Jones from both bands, as recently as last week. Tuesday at
Meriweather Post Pavilion there was no such collaboration (though My
Morning Jacket invited up really early opener Ryan Bingham to help play
the Marvin Gaye song long associated with The Band, "Don't Do It").
Had there been some sort of breakdown between the bands? Were they getting
sick for one another? No, it was probably some sort of time restraint --
moving three headliner quality bands across the country and at the
limitations of some amphitheaters (off at 11 or else).
Winging it and seeing what happens is what makes the musical event so
vibrant. Each band changes up its set every night; some songs work better
than others, but some of the missteps set the stage for the kind of
pinnacles rare in shows where every song is rote and planned to the light
On a night when it first seemed like the round the clock heat blast had
somewhat subsided, Dylan himself was hatless, but in his Spanish detailed
matador costume with a scarf tie, spats and big button.
He has a new mannerism on stage, though, a kind of "I'm a little teapot"
hand on hip, as he moves back and forth. (Maybe it's a Flamenco outfit
rather than a matador's).
Still, it's not as perverse as seeing him give a full concert without once
touching a guitar; he had cut way back on it but at least played one on
tours in recent years. Now he divides his time in between standing at the
microphone with no instrument but the harmonica, or over at a grand piano,
standing, and banging out patterns on keys that added spontaneous jags to
the music, or led them to musical dead ends, as might happen.
By now he's got his third lead guitarist of the tour. Duke Robillard
started but parted ways possibly because he's not used to taking orders or
not following his own musical muse in solos in the solos he wishes;
Charlie Sexton returned to the band for some shows to fill in until a new
face, the Canadian Colin Linden jumped on board in Toronto last week.
He was good at doing what being in the band required: Keeping eyes on the
boss at all time, framing solos with whatever notes he was plunking on
piano, and being ready to bail on a solo whenever Dylan deigns to go back
into the song.
Tough gig, but there had been worse Dylan backing bands in the 30 years or
so of the never ending tour.
This one begins with unsung rhythm guitarist strumming the insistent
chords to "All Along the Watchtower" that the band wouldn't play until
much later. Once assembled they did a strong version of "Things Have
Changed" that has been kicking off the shows this summer.
Four songs from the past decade or so, "Love Sick," "High Water (For
Charley Patton)," a breezy "Soon after Midnight" and a bluesy snap of
"Early Roman Kings" gave rise to the possibility of a Bob Dylan show
entirely free of songs from the first of the two thirds of his career.
One would almost wish it stayed so when he got to "Tangled Up in Blue," a
song in which mangled up was more the operating phrase , with Bob
insistent on starting the verses in the wrong spot, causing a stutter stop
to the rhythm.
It only helped make the more recent blues tunes sound better, such as
"Duquesne Whistle." A big drum beat behind "She Belongs to Me" suggested
Dylan as if produced by Phil Spector. Still a great song, but missing some
of its original tenderness (which one might imagine happening from the
writer after nearly half a century has passed).
"Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" was strong, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" stayed
close to its original power, though it seemed to have turned into a waltz.
"Blind Willie McTell" has turned into a splendid concert highlight with a
It would seem that with "Tangled up in Blue" there would seem no need for
"Simple Twist of Fate," since they seem flip sides of the same record (The
way "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Positively 4th Street - neither of which
were played - do). But it was better done and less tangled than the other.
"Thunder on the Mountan," with its references to Alicia Keys and its
rollicking velocity is just the right song for an outdoor summer show, and
if the final "All Along the Watchtower" seemed rushed, he came out to do a
resonant version of "Ballad of a Thin Man" that put to question everything
that had happened: *Something is happening and you don't know what it
Wilco's set was generous and rewrding. I have this idea they loaded it
with its patriotic songs because of the proximity to D.C.:, starting with
"Ashes of American Flags," and reviving their take on Woody Guthrie's
"Jesus Christ for President."
"We love this place," Tweedy said of the venue as they began a version of
"Jesus, Etc" able to raise chills. Nels Cline was less a factor overall
than I thought he'd be; after a few remarkable solos early in the show he
largely held back (but the variety and vintage of guitars never quite
stopped; they must travel with a guitar store). No encore for them nor for
Jacket, whose Jim James put on a theatrical cape despite the late
afternoon warmth. Here's a band that has honed a unique sound blending
lyricism of exotic ballads, beautifully sung, with a stinging undertow of
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