July 24, 2011
Review by Tom Palaima
The venue, Whitewater on Horseshoe Bend, lies adjacent to the
Guadalupe River 50 miles south of Austin, not far from the noted
dance hall in the city of Gruene which features "the best in live
Texas and Americana Music." When asked to explain its attraction to
artists who could fill larger venues, Jerry Jeff Walker, whose Live
from Gruene Hall captures some of the spirit of the place, said, "I
think Bob Dylan once said, 'Good music needs four walls'."
Well Bob and his band, with Leon Russell opening, were playing the
nearby wall-less amphitheater anyway.
One thing the walls do is limit the crowd and make for more
respectful audiences. The audience around us at Whitewater set a new
standard for me-me-me-ist gross behavior, belligerence, drunkenness,
and just plain lack of respect, not only for the performers, but for
other audience members.
One 60-something professional-looking man, after trying for a few
minutes drunkenly to hump his wife in the way a male dog mounts a
female, finally fell down and then backward into the large flower
pots that for some reason took up space at the ramp up to the
handicapped seating section by the VIP seating area to the right of
the stage, from the audience's perspective. Once planted in the
flower pot, he periodically lurched forward and collapsed backward
into two audience members standing near the handicap ramp. Two other
gentlemen--I use the term ironically--took offense at the slightest
nudge or look and seemed like ticking-time-bombs. The words excuse me
or pardon me or make way please were not heard all night, but plenty
of expressions of true anger that someone needed to walk by.
The venue itself did not have enough slope, which meant that when 6'
2" overweight slobs in cowboy hats or just in their own slovenly
bodies filled the space between us and the stage, little could be
seen, besides their movements and mannerisms.
Sound for Leon Russell's lively and truly captivating first set could
have had more separation of the vocals. Otherwise Russell performed
briskly and joyfully, with a crack band. Our friends Leslie and
Danny Crooks, former owner of the legendary Austin music club
Steamboat, were really taken with Russell's songs and quality of
Russell kindly let his lead guitarist do a more than competent solo
piece, with just him and Leon on stage, Leon not wanting to get up
from his piano and walk off because of his physical health. The solo
was of a walking blues and really delivered with blues feeling and
searing guitar licks.
Russell did a solo keyboard number following. His other act of
welcome generosity and consideration for others--in marked contrast
to the drunken barbarians in the audience--was a lengthy aside spoken
to the audience about Bob Dylan's own generosity in the a NY studio
working with Leon after Bob had done the Nashville Skyline album.
Leon closed with "Roll Over Beethoven."
Bob opened with a rousing "Rainy Day Women," driving the song along
at his keyboards, while Charlie Sexton stood center stage front
playing lead guitar. The audience sang "Everbody Must Get Stoned."
and was in happy spirits except for the many drunken and stoned
Bob stayed on keyboard for the circus-organ-like rendering of the
potentially wistful "Don't Think Twice" that followed.
"Things Have Changed" also had a bit of the circus in it, too much
for my tastes. But the whole set hit stride and stayed there with Bob
doing his histrionic, in a good sense, minstrel rendering of the
lyrics on "Tangled Up in Blue" supplemented by his expressive harp.
Bob even used the old variant, "Me, I'm still on the road / trying to
stay out of the joint" in the last stanza.
"Summer Days" and "Thunder on the Mountain" took us into up-tempo
roadhouse boogie, done with real collective panache that could have
raised from the dead the corpses of the most tone deaf and stern
"Trying to Get to Heaven" was rendered with emphasis on its defining
pathos. "Ballad of a Thin Man" with Bob's hoarse, ironic questions
of Mr. Jones.
On "Simple Twist of Fate," Bob played an almost harp-like lead
guitar, almost plucking staccato notes.His final solo had Tony
Garnier and Charlie Sexton riveted and broadly smiling as they tried
to suit their own playing to Bob's inventive sound.
A two-song first encore of "Rolling Stone" and a three-verse version
of "Watchtower" had fans hosanna-ing, at least to themselves.
Just when I was saying to my friend Lisa that Bob never comes back
for second encores any more, back they all came for a 'calliope'
slowed down 'reggae' version of "Blowin' in the Wind." It wound up
with a fine solo from Sexton and Bob blowing some beautiful harp.
That would have been enough to make me forget how boorish many of our
fellow citizens are, except that in the middle of "Blowin' in the
Wind," a concerned audience member led a policeman and a security
person who could have played starting offensive tackle on the Chicago
Bears down front to the bring law and order at last to the mob.
The only answer not blowing in the breezes of this not-unpleasant
evening was why do more and more people lead lives lacking in any
instinct toward civility.
Next time Bob plays central Texas, let's hope he chooses a venue with
Review by Dustin White
Wow!!!!!!! What an incredible show!!!!! I never thought I'd see a show that
compared to the Austin Music Hall show in 95 but it happened last night. In fact
I just sort of let it go once Bob started playing keys. 5 shows later it was
like a baptism that kept me grinning ear to ear the entire evening. I'll give it
a 10 on performance and a 10 for sound; from where we were standing it really
was that good.
I'd been to Whitewater earlier this summer to see Joe Walsh with a crowd about
1/3rd the size. So there was plenty of room and it was easy to get in and out.
Unfortunately, a sold out show can throw a wrench in your waiting time just to
get in. We could've done without the 5 miles of gridlock just to park on the
side of the road. By the time we got to the gate Leon was singing "Wild Horses"
and EMS was on the scene assisting what appeared to be a dehydrated tuber. But,
when you come to Whitewater, you need to realize that there's gonna be a
percentage of the crowd that has been drinking and tubing in 102-deg all day
long. You can easily spot 'em by the look in their eyes.
So far, the sound here hasn't let me down because they can turn it up. It's not
like Stubbs or other venues that have to comply because of other nearby
businesses, so they can get away with it.
Bob and the band have really dialed in something special. It's as though they've
re-captured the "Time out of Mind" sessions. That mystic swirling eeriness of
that sound was almost too much to take in. But that wasn't enough; Bob was
singing his ass off last night like he had something to prove to somebody. I
mean, "Ballad of a thin Man" had freaking echo effects for Christ sake!!!!!!
Yes, something was definitely going down that night. If you've thought there
wasn't any more gas in the tank then think again. Bob and his band are firing on
all cylinders and playing hotter than hell!!!!!!!!
Review by Lin Giralt
I am not a professional reviewer, just a long time - since 68- Dylan fan. I
would like to add some notes seeing how some other reviewers were not so
I saw Dylan in 76 at Charlotte Colisseum, a long, I guess 2 hr concert, with
some rock and just folk guitar sets. Dylan was still in his vocal prime then and
returning from his motorcycle accident.
This concert was far better!! IT was simply amazing, marvelous from both a
musical and an audience/interaction point of view.
I went with my 23 year old nephew (Dylan who?) to the concert... we were
both blown away by the experience. Whitewater, no walls, was a great venue,
around four thousand people milling around, drinking, smoking (whatever) and
generally chilling out to one of our legends. Dylan was absolutely magnificent!
He even sang to the audience with just a mike, looking at us and this is
something that he never did in 76.
You have to realize that as a seventy year old he could no longer keep his
falsetto folk voice going on, so he did a brilliant artistic shift in re
orchestrating his songs to fit his new, lower and more limited range voice. Thus
we no longer have the original Rolling Stone and others, but a Dylan does Dylan
version which is what the calendar can give us. Incredible is not enough!
An absolutely amazing performance, his new orchestration, arrangement and
delivery were spectacular! My nephew was blown away by the quality,
performance and overall ambiance of the concert....so was I. The flow of
the evening was sublime, each song leading into the next in terms of tempo
and rhythm. Plus a great venue to boot.
Dylan is a genius and must be respected as such. All the songs were great
and although different from their original versions must still be recognized as
works of arts from one of the two or three leaders of rock. Forget what you
hear, this is the real thing and it will take another fifty years to get another
Dylan on stage.
Without going into detalis, the flow of the concert was great, the audience,
mostly forty plus as myself, I am fifty six, were totally into it and it was an
absolutely incredible evening. Dylan's legacy is secure and have no fear that
this never ending tour will cement him among our top cultural bulwarks. Everyone
walked out feeling great, I heard nothing but rave reviews from my fellow
concertgoers as I walked out, everyone was simply blown away.
I rank this alongside Picasso having reinvented himself numerous times as an
artist and Dylan is certainly the Picasso of our Rock culture.
Shame on anyone who besmirches this amazing legacy that we have to enjoy.
Review of Leon Russell's show by Mike Forgey
I would like to comment a bit about Leon Russell's performance. I've seen Bob
Dylan many times, but a big part of the attraction for me to attend this show
was Leon Russell. I've been a fan of his from way back when I was a kid, but
had never seen him perform live; and I must say, I was not disappointed. At
show time, Leon followed his quintet band onto the stage in a very casual and
friendly manner. Wearing a colorful casual shirt with large leaf patterns, a
white cowboy hat, sunglasses, and those flowing white locks; he leans into the
mike and says, "How're yall doin'?" He says it with the comfort and confidence
of one who knows he is among friends. And appearing before a largely Bob Dylan
audience, he surely was.
Most or all of Leon's set list was from his 1970's repertoire. I couldn't
recall all the song titles, but all the songs were familiar. He opened with
"Delta Lady" and followed with "Rolling in my Sweet Baby's Arms". He also
played a very early Beatle's song (couldn't recall the title), and also the
Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses". He performed another 4 or 5 of his own songs,
among them "Hummingbird" and "Out In the Woods". At one point during the set,
his guitar player did a blues number by himself, singing and playing electric
slide guitar. Leon followed that with his own solo number, singing and playing
piano. Leon with his band closed his portion of the show with Chuck Berry's
"Roll Over Beethoven". Leon's set ran about 50 minutes.
I just recently watched some video on YouTube of Leon playing at the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame show earlier this year. There Leon seemed pretty physically
weak; maybe due to a medical operation. Leon has regained much of his strength
because he performed with good energy on this night of July 24.
At one point Leon said he arrived at the point in the show where he normally
does one of Bob's songs, but was opting not to do it since the "real deal" was
in the house. (The audience expressed some disappointment because we would've
loved to hear it.) Instead Leon related some background to the time he produced
for Bob the songs "Watch the River Flow" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece" which
were both on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. 2. A very touching recollection
from Leon; his voice broke up some, expressing what was clearly genuine love and
appreciation for Bob, and how Bob had touched his life. And Leon has touched
our lives too. He played and sang great with a great band, and he was very well
received and appreciated by this audience. Thanks Leon.
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