July 24, 2009
Review by Francis King
On Friday morning, my wife and I flew up to Maryland from Music City, not to
attend a Baltimore hotel society gathering, but rather, to spend the weekend
with my daughter, an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins who can happily let
multiple versions of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" repeat themselves on
her computer throughout an entire evening until that rooster crows at the
break of dawn. (Yes, I've raised her well!) On Friday night, the three of us
headed to see Mr. Dylan perform at Cal Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. This was my
wife's fourth Dylan show in a year (yes, she's a saint!), my daughter's fifth
and my 49th since 1974. It followed closely on the heels of my 48th, the show
in Louisville, KY on July 8.
There was no comparison between the two performances. This concert was vastly
superior and, indeed, outstanding. There wasn't a weak link or a dull moment.
No so-so, disappointing arrangements. Not a one. From the opening riff of
"Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" to the crescendo finale of "All Along The Watchtower",
Dylan and his band were on fire; so much so that, during "Jolene", Dylan
could be seen grinning broadly at this band mates, quite obviously
pleased with the performance. Bob does not smile much on stage; it was clear
that, on this occasion, he was thoroughly enjoying himself. If you were there,
you could well understand why. Bob's voice was strong, his phrasing was
playful and varied; he was clearly having a great time. The band sizzled with
energy the whole night.
Getting down to the details: Dylan on guitar for an excellent, raucous
"Pillbox Hat", which revved up the crowd immediately. That was followed by a
great, faithful rendition of "Don't Think Twice". These first two quickly
revealed that Bob was in exceptional form, his voice doing all of its old
tricks. Even his usually abominable electric lead playing was at least passable
on these numbers (albeit barely). Then, over to the keyboard the rest of the
way, starting with a vibrant, foot stompin "The Levee's Gonna Break", followed
by a fine "Spirit On The Water" (much better than in Louisville) and a very
strong new version of "It's Allright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding", which blended
remnants of the original with the rendition Dylan started doing a few years ago
when he began playing keyboards with the Campbell/Sexton entourage. "I Feel
A Change Comin' On" was emotional and moving, decidedly better than the
studio recording on "Together Through Life".
"Honest with Me" was a harder, edgier version than the "Love & Theft"
original, but equally good; the familiar mid-verse, lilting riff of the
original replaced by a dark, sinister one in a minor mode. Then back to
"Together Through Life" for "Forgetful Heart", again better than the studio
version, with Dylan standing center stage, using only a hand held mike and
harmonica on this one. The almost obligatory "Highway 61" was flawless. A
slightly up-tempo version of "Nettie Moore" was the best I've heard yet of that
one. "Thunder On The Mountain" was a veritable rock-out. The three encores,
"Like A Rolling Stone", "Jolene" (seemingly Dylan's current favorite) and
"All Along The Watchtower" sizzled.
This concert was, with a few exceptions, essentially a showcase of selections
from Dylan's 21st century albums, "Love & Theft", "Modern Times" and "Together
Through Life". The older numbers were great, but what was most apparent was
how thoroughly Dylan enjoys doing his more recent music, and how much his
current tour band, with him since 2005 (except for the longer time veterans,
Ricelli on drums and Garnier on bass) has evolved into a well-oiled music
making machine. I STILL like the Campbell/Sexton guitar duo better, and STILL
think that Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman are holding back a little more than
I 'd like on their guitars. And, on this tour, you can't hear enough of Donnie
Herron's instrumental virtuosity. But, overall, the sound of this band,
including Dylan on organ, is full, rich, tight, impressive and entertaining.
I don't know how long the old troubadour can keep this up, but I plan on
continuing to enjoy the ride as long as he's on it! Thank goodness the ladies
put up with me!
Review by Mark Rock
The Never Ending Tour juggernaut known as the Bob Dylan show rolled into
Aberdeen, MD, friday night. Very nice small baseball stadium off the
interstate and down near the bay. Opening act the Wiyos came out at 5:30 and
did a very entertaining half hour of mostly acoustic western swing - they went
over with the crowd pretty well. They were also a bit loud for being a) mostly
acoustic and b) the first of 4 bands to play. Willie Nelson was up next and he
was great as always. His band has a strange line up. Willie sings and plays
the same acoustic with a hole in it that he has for years, a bass player, a
drummer who stands up and only has one snare as his entire drum set, a guy who
mostly played percussion things you shook and some congas, a harmonica player,
and his sister on piano. Willie ran through the hits - his voice like honey and
playing those stinging country jazz leads of his. As Willie played lots of dark
clouds rolled in and the wind picked up - lighting started to roll in. They
told Willie he had to stop - so he sent the band off and did a couple more quick
ones himself since he knew that once he stopped - with a rain delay he would not
get back on. Finished with a great Always on my Mind. Everyone with any sense
beat there way back under cover - and a serious electrical storm clubbed the
place with decent rain. Rain delay - 40 minutes.
Next up was John Mellencamp and he crushed. Three very amped up guitars
including his own, bass and drums, a violin woman, and a guy on accordion who
doubled on keys. Every song was loud, well played, and the spirit of rock and
roll John played music as wide as the American sky. Pink Houses, Paper in
Fire, Cherry Bomb sung acapella, a couple of great ruminations on mortality -
but John was glad to be alive.He still has some great rock and roll moves.
Scarecrow was great. Closed with Hurt So Good. No encore - bummer as he left
out the Authority Song. Very loud serious rock guitars-killer stuff.
Then Bob came out with the same great band he has had the last few years.
Bob was wearing a black western suit with white stripes on the pants and a white
cowboy hat. That is about the best thing I can say about his performance.
They opened with Bob on Guitar and a decent Leopard Skin: Pill Box Hat.
Bob doing lots of jiving and boogying around at the mike. After two songs - Bob
switched over to the carnival organ he plays. The Levee's Gonna Break was nice
- played sort of like a Chuck Berry two step - if Chuck took a lot of acid - a
lot - with definite Around and Around rifts throw in. Bob was shouting the
lyrics all night and back to his old habits of racing through them like he was
on fire. Spirit on the Water was dreadful - white noise weak unintelligible
gibberish. Forgetful Heart from the new one might have been the highlight - Bob
center stage with just his harmonica and actually singing with some real
conviction. But most of the show was badly timed with serious non singing. Lots
of non fans were driven from the Park. Almost tempted to join them. Thunder on
the Mountain was the closer - that at least generated some interest with some
decent rock and roll guitar licks. The encore had three songs finishing with
Watchtower which he cannot screw up. Blistering version - still repeating the
first verse twice. I love Bob to no end - but this was just not his night at
least vocally. Both he and His Band can still really cook with the best of
I would estimate they had about 8000. Old far outnumbered the young - but
young kids were free - and there enough 20 something's to wonder how these
mostly old guys got to them. I have to give some credit to the older Willie
fans - they are in the 60's and up - but look like hippies and bikers. Three of
America's very different but most talented songwriters packed them in.
Review by Mary Ailes
Bob Dylan played electric guitar on the the first two and took
centered stage with his harmonica on my new favorite, Forgetful Heart.
All the rest he was on electric keyboards.
This is one of the first performances that he was actually facing the
audience on the keyboards and interacting as he played and sang. When
he finished Thunder on the Mountain he actually did a flourish at the
crowd, something I haven't seen him do. He was very energized and his
voice is the best I've ever heard live - he really sang his heart out.
Forgetful Heart was haunting, while his openers were filled with
energy as he took center stage with his guitar, something he's only
started to do in the States recently. His Oscar was as always taped to
the amp near his keyboards.
After one unknown (didn't catch the name) opening act, Willie Nelson
took the stage and did his standards (they are all starting to sound
the same to me since he seems to play all of them in the same key at
the same beat). The storm clouds were all ready forming and it seemed
like he raced through the last few before he abandoned the stage and
the thunder and lightening took over center stage. I joined a hundred
people in a tent where each flash of lightening was met by oooos and
ahhhhs that I thought we might be at a 4th of July picnic.
Actually, the entire night was like a 4th of July picnic - from the
tailgating in the parking lot to the vast amount of families with
small children who came and spread out blankets on the fields and let
their children run.
During the storms, however, we were all huddled either in the tent or
up by the concession stands until the deluge ended.
At some point during the storm, Bob Dylan's convoy arrived with a
police escort (never get to see that since the focus is usually on the
stage at that time) and people in the tent waved as his convoy of
buses and police cars drove in the rolling thunder. Guess that's not
the first time that's happened.
Then, finally, the sun broke through, the thunder rolled away, and the
rain stopped and everyone return to wet seats and tables and made the
best. It was the happiest crowd I've ever been stuck in the
thunderstorm with - it was almost as though it was part of the bill.
John Mellencamp came out next and he was terrific. He had enormous
energy, seemed in fine form, and did a wide variety of music, from old
rock and roll to folk blues. His voice was stellar and he did my
favorite, Small Town, on an acoustic guitar, just like Side B.
Then it was Dylan & his band's turn. The crowds turned over by the
stage - the Willie Nelson group now sopping up beers at the aluminum
tables and swapping stories of last summer's trip to Uncle Earl's
Tavern. The Mellencamp Crowd - mostly children of the 70s - blended
back into the stands to see if they could comprehend Dylan's lyrics
this time. And the thousands of fans that had come to hear Dylan moved
forward, including me.
I had thought I'd stay at my table - excited that I had a table - I
thought I'd be civilized and sit by the table and just enjoy the
music. But I realized as the time approached that half - if not
perhaps even most - of the fun of seeing Dylan in person is watching
him phrase and emote his songs, along with the possibility he might
smile. Which he did.
I did attempt to Twitter from the Mosh Pit, which was more like
standing in line for the It's A Small World After All ride at
Disneyland. The vast majority of the crowd was in their twenties and
thirties - a thousand of them and that has to make Dylan's day. They
knew the songs too.
Of course, there were these four young guys with short haircuts who
started to talk loudly to each other early in Dylan's set, shouting to
each other about how they couldn't understand what Dylan was singing,
"what is he saying!" they shouted to each other, "what's he singing? I
can't understand him!" They kept shouting that over and over. But of
course, how could they since they were so busy shouting at each other?
It went on, and on, and on and finally I remembered that there are now
advantages to being somewhat over 40 at a rock concert and told them
to knock it off now. "Listen to him!" I said to them. "Knock it off
and listen!" I felt like their mother. The crowd around us cheered.
It all rushed by too fast - again, my favorite of the night of course
was Forgetful Heart, but Rolling Stone was especially fun since the
crowd was singing along on the chorus. In fact, at one point Dylan
stopped singing and the crowd just kept going. What year is this?
He sang Jolene in the encore and I could make a case that it's send up
of Dolly Parton after she dissed him for not doing a duet with her on
an album. "Honey I'm the King," Dylan croons, "And your the Queen."
But who else has been dissed lately?
Of course, it could be about something entirely different - which is
what makes it fun. It's just how he said "Queen." It was 1980s nasal
"Queeeeeeen." You can do that without grimacing.
It of course ended too soon. After the encore Dylan and his band are
headed for the bus. They took an especially long break this time
between Thunder on the Mountain and coming back for the encore. In
fact, when Dylan finished Thunder on the Mountain he did this dramatic
flourish with his hand to the crowd like "voila!" It brought the house
Then it was a three song encore finishing with All Along the
Watchtower which was in the Hendrix arrangement - a rather pointed and
mystic way to end a show when all is supposed to be well and happy in
the Obama era. Oops.
Headed out for the cars and then was the next drama of the night.
Spent the next forty-five minutes and nothing, no, nothing moved in
the parking lot. I knew there was only one way in and one way out (as
is the case it seems with these minor league ball parks) but this was
forty-five minutes of nothing. People just shut off their cars and
some even started tailgating again, but for the few who honked their
horns when the forty minute mark had passed.
Then I saw it, the convoy - the buses with police escort heading out
of the park, heading for 95, heading south to the next gig. We'd all
have to wait until the King went by.
I loved it, though, I loved Willie, Mellencamp, and the storm, and
Dylan who sang, "If it keeps on raining, the levee's gonna break." -It
was worth driving a hundred miles north to make it. Had no idea
Maryland was that big. I could have just kept on going and spent the
night in Newark. Then reason returned to me - and so did I return
south to Virginia, knowing that somewhere out on the road, somewhere
in the night was Dylan and his convoy headed south to Norfolk, to four
more guys with short haircuts shouting "what is he singing!"
Review by Todd Holden
Forgetful Heart...full treatment, bob center stage, spot on him ...well
Leopard Skin Pill box hat...always a hit..
Levee's Gonna Break, timely in light of the storm that interrupted the
Spirit...weak, and getting weaker...
Nettie Moore...Christ Jesus...being it on...again...well done Bob Dylan
Thunder on the Mountain...again timely...no one was hit by the bolts that
broke loose during Willie's set, and cleared for the runt, Mellancamp to
open his set...which, having never seen him or bought a record of
his...wasn't bad...he did good...
Jolene...working it's way into the starting line up...and well so...
For the $$$ the talent was there to play and not just for the ride...sorry
about the drenching some took, but hell, it's a stadium, a night out in July and
best of all some icons who might not pass this way again...literally or
The traveling road show continues...with all the good wishes from this
sodbuster in Harford county Maryland...
Review by Bob Cohen
I did not make up my mind to attend until the morning of the show. Cal Ripken
is minor league baseball park located in Aberdeen, a small town in the northeast
Maryland. This the site of my first Dylan show in 2004. had also attended the
Dylan Tour in 2005 and 2006. The 2004 show was outstanding. Larry Campbell and
Stu Kimball traded guitar licks and George Rocile was crzy-good on drums. I was
mesmorized and set free by the power on the stage and by Bob's gyrations on
keyboad as he kept time to the frantic pace of the band. The 2005 show was also
great. Dylan's voice was in fine form, and the band changed to a mellower sound
with Campbelll leaving and the arrival of Donnie Herron and Denny Freeman. Each
guitarist soloed frequently. The 2007 show was way too loud, and I could not
hear the music through a wall of distorted sound.
This 2009 show was more aligned with the wall of distorted sound of 2007. Why
have two guitarists (plus Donnnie Herron) if each basically plays accompanying
chop rhythm guitar licks? Freeman and Kimball rarely express and play anymore,
and Herron is way in the background of the mix. Bob seemed to have a good time
and gave it everything he had. But why have all those musicians if they are not
going to be heard in the mix?
John Mellencamp was the surprise of the night for me. He came on right before
Bob and after Willie. I could hear each instrument of the band. Violin and
accordian gave the music richness and fullness. Mellencamp and his band took
the listener through peaks and valleys of the musical roller coaster. Herron,
Kimball, Freemen, et al could provide this type of experience again if allowed.
The first words from Mellencamp: "There's a black with a black cat livin' in a
black neighborhood." I did not observe one black person in a crowd of ten
thousand people, except for a couple of black teenage staff members who picked
up trash. It demonstrated to me that Mellencamp understands something about
America and how to write a song.
Review by Daniel Mark Epstein
I first heard Bob Dylan in concert in 1963, and not since then have I seen him
so connected to the audience, and his music, as he was last night. The set
list provided a perfect opportunity to showcase his strengths, as well as the
band’s, from the rocking, ironic “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” he moved
directly to the more lyrical “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”
showing in microcosm the emotional range that was forthcoming in the rest of
the show. The first was performed with straightforward vigor, the second with
considerable feeling, all of the lyrics clear and well-considered.
(Incidentally, the sound mix for the concert was very good; with the exception
of "Highway 61, there was never a problem hearing anybody.) Dylan was just
warming up. It wasn’t until he put down his guitar and went to the organ for
“The Levee’s Gonna Break” that he showed us how excited he was to be
there. This was the only song of the night that is not his (originally by
Memphis Minnie) and the spirit of Minnie, as well as Billie Boy Arnold (whose
guitar riff Denny Freeman uses to drive the number) had everybody dancing. Dylan
was all smiles throughout that, and the upbeat jazzy “ Spirit on the
Water.” And perhaps the most stunning performance of this first third of the
show was “It’s All Right, Ma.” Dylan kept grinning on and off throughout
the song, as if he himself was delighted by the invention he had made so many
years ago, that was still in perfect working order. I’ve never seen him
happier. Like others who were lucky enough to be there, I have difficulty
choosing favorites, the performances were so uniformly superb. But if there was
a show-stopper it was “Nettie Moore.” There is no one in the world who
could have put more feeling into that song of love and loss than Bob Dylan. I
looked around me and many people were weeping.
Daniel Mark Epstein
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