page by Bill Pagel
Review by Jason Polanski
This was the first time I've been to the Chance, definitely not the last,
and certainly the smallest venue yet for me on the Never Ending Tour. With
the rumours of the band using this room as rehearsal space, I could only
imagine the opportunity they had to walk around without the wall to wall
crowd and admire all of it's ancient beauty and design gutted for rock and
As always, this was Dylan's church and we all came once again fully
expecting some prayers to be repeated but anticipating to what direction
the serman would go.
To my delight, Mr. Dylan opened with the WICKED MESSENGER. The song set a
few tones for the evening. Right away Dylan's voice was evil and snarling.
He played harp with vengence as he would for almost every song. Sometimes
playing the keyboard with the right hand and harp with the left. Sometimes
grabbing the harp with both hands, squinting his eyes, and attempting to
release every ounce of sweat possible.
Second and third songs were IF YOU SEE HER SAY HELLO and TWEEDLE DEE AND
TWEEDLE DUM. The latter being an amazing political statement which I'm
sure we will hear several times on this leg of the tour. The former being
a more rare choice including all of the "new" lyrics and a particularly
bitterly sung final verse.
The fourth song was where I believe the concert hit a higher gear. In
fact, I was going to get a beer and could not leave as the first notes of
TONIGHT I'LL BE STAYING HERE WITH YOU were played. The crowd responded to
this one and Dylan started really responding to the crowd. Lot's of looks
and gestures as he constantly created new dance movements by his need to
lead the band and his desire to flirt with the fans, always weaving and
bopping behind the keyboard. Also this song was sung with amazing energy,
deliberately extending the "you's".
Next was the absolute highlight of the night, HIGH WATER. Obviously a
current affairs choice if you've been to Jersey lately. Also sung with
great passion. Primarily, though, it was an instumental workout unlike any
version I've seen or heard on tape. Every intrumental break was extended
in that way when the band expects Bob to sing and he decides to here them
play. Bob was dancing at the keys but facing Stu. Larry playing his heart
out. George playing off of Bob's keyboard expressions and Tony completing
As if to continue the energy he followed with MOST LIKELY YOU GO YOUR WAY
with 3 harp solos. A rare version of SUGAR BABY with a slightly rearanged
sound. Dylan's keyboards gave this song a similar feel to recent versions
of "Standing In The Doorway". The energy was back on SEEING THE REAL YOU
AT LAST with Dylan belting out something like "Oh yeaaaahh" after the last
BALLAD OF A THIN MAN was great with Dylan playfully singing about
"mistaaaaaaahhhhh Jones". HIGHWAY 61 was another highlight as the band
reached a serious level of intensity and Dylan was not singing but
striking the lines like a boxer in a fight. Jab with the right and knock
with the left or something like that. Inflicting violence upon the "first
On THIS WHEEL'S ON FIRE the band and Dylan hit another high moment on the
last verse when Dylan sang "rolling down the roooooaaaaaadddd" and the
band right behind.
Songs like HONEST WITH ME and SUMMER DAYS were simple fun. On Summer Days,
Tony was having a great time!. IT AIN'T ME BABE and DON'T THINK TWICE were
real crowd pleasers. WATCHTOWER featured amazing interplay between Bob and
Stu with Bob leading the way on the keyboard.
Also, don't be fooled be a shorter than normal encore. With all the
extended instrumentals and lengthy song choices, the show actually seemed
a bit longer than normal. Also, very energetic and almost all electric.
Review by Larry Kosofsky
The show was intense, wicked, angry, and loud...the band was whip-tight, dueling electric
guitars (or pedal steel & guitar) worked very well, and Bob's keyboard work, while far from
inspired, filled in nicely. This was bar band rock; the "acoustic" numbers (4 out of 16)
were just about as hard and driving as the electric.
High points: High Water, Ballad of a Thin Man,Sugar Baby, It Ain't Me Babe (reworked with
an awesome, anthemic chorus), a country-flavored Don't Think Twice, Wheel's On Fire...Tweedledee
and Watchtower were excellent as well, but didn't stand out as the above did.
Low points: Bob's voice ranged from unintelligible (sound was turned up too loud) to
wonderfully growly and expressive...although seeing him spit out the words to "Thin Man" and
"High Water" were worth the price of admission alone. Dylan's harmonica playing was embarrassingly
bad; I don't understand how such a musically sophisticated group can tolerate it...and even the
crowd (which usually mindlessly cheers every time the harp is hoisted) stopped responding after a
few of these lame solos.
Not complaining though - we had a great time and heard
some positively hair-raising music...long may he run!
Review by Tom O.
Thanks to a sudden & unexpected act of generosity, I got a
ticket to The Chance show the night before the concert. This salvaged a
lot of wasted effort--shut out of the presale (I couldn't even get the
password off Dylan's website) and then a long trip to Poughkeepsie, only
to be left ticketless 3 people from the door (why was there a 4 ticket
limit per person?--that's why so many tix ended up on ebay, well
overpriced). So after a lot of cursing last weekend, I lucked out.
Having seen shows years ago at The Chance, I knew how cozy it was--I saw
Iggy there a decade or so ago, one of the finest shows I've ever seen.
Little has changed in the intervening years--it doesn't look like it's
seen a coat of paint since then. Nor does it seem air-conditioned, which
found me and crowd sweating like Xmas hams--o lordy. So perhaps my
enthusiasm for the show should be tempered by the fact that the club
became like a sweat lodge--I may have experienced visions. Here's some
random observations: There was a lot of rumor and speculation before the
show--that Dylan would pull out catalog curveballs, special guests would
arrive, etc. Having seen a couple of these intimate gigs the past few
years--Tramps in '99, Worcester in '02, I tend to downplay the
whispers--Dylan always confounds expectations. So, as far as the setlist
goes, this was a typical show--no wild surprises w/ the welcome exception
of a sweet acoustic "Sugar Baby". But I'd say that the performance as a
whole was about as good as Dylan and band get these days--Dylan's voice
was strong and clear, a good raspy lower register and not marred by that
breathy moan that affects him at times. It started solidly, if
uneventfully, with crisp versions of "Wicked Messenger" and "Tweedle".
Sandwiched between them was a version of "If You See Her" which is now
lead by Larry's pedal steel; I preferred the fiddle version from last
year. But by "Tonight, I'll Be Staying Here W/ You" I could see that
Dylan was enjoying the crowd & performance; he invested a lot of energy
into the vocals from here on out. A menacing "High Water" was terrific,
Dylan cawing the lyric--black crow blues, indeed. Dylan was also reaching
for the harmonica tonight frequently--it seemed like he's relying on it
more again, which is always great. (How his instrumental preference
shifts over the years; harp put down for emphasis on guitar; then switch
to keyboards; now a combo of keys and harp). A snarling "Seeing the
Real You" was a treat, a good "Thin man" and "This Wheel" too and the
new arrangement of "It Ain't Me Babe" were all welcome highlights. As
for the warhorses ("Honest With Me", "Highway 61" and "Watchtower")--all
were tweaked in minor ways that were enjoyable, if the songs themselves are
over-played. It was the best "Summer Days" I've heard in a while--played
with reckless abandon that really sent the crowd--somebody should work up
a big band version for Sam Butera & The Witnesses soon. "Sugar Baby" was
the surprise for me, though--a tender, acoustic version with a different
inflection on the melody. As for Stu, he's blending better, if sort of a
dead fish on stage; he doesn't seem to work those guitar breakdowns with
Larry (where the band drops out to let the 2 guitarists tangle) that pepper
"Honest" and others nearly as well as Freddy, but he seems OK otherwise.
Dylan's band, as I've said in the past, remains exceptional, and provide
the punch when Dylan can't. Dylan meanwhile was animated throughout. He
plays the keyboards like he's in high-stakes pinball tourney--bumping,
shifting and fidgeting, thrusting at the boards; he often seems to be on
his tippy toes as he leans into the instrument. Being so close, you can
see how much effort they all put into the show; in the steamy Chance on
Wed. and under the hot lights, Dylan and co. worked the crowd superbly.
When Dylan leaned on his keyboard and exhaled tiredly, you could tell how
hot and tiring this effort is. Dylan seemed happy with the crowd, we got
the "bike/trade" joke, too. I left the show elated and exhausted, happy
that he still makes honest effort at doing this. Looking forward to
hearing this show someday.
Review by Stephen Walter
A club named "The Chance" would seem an appropriate setting for Jack Fate
and the latest incarnation of his backing band. Romance aside, however,
the place is a squalid hole, and the overpriced bars have already been
open too long by the time Fate comes knocking shortly before 8:30. I
arrive late and find a spot in the rear, close to the soundboard, on a
ledge overlooking the sunken floor. I'll be grateful for this vantage
point later on, since it affords decent views of Dylan and band --
clustered on a stage too tiny for a drum riser -- throughout, and since
the room is far too small to care about getting any closer; even back
here, there is scarcely room to move.
Since Worcester I've tried not to expect much from these rehearsal dates,
yet at the outset of a country-themed tour with Willie Nelson, a wide-open
field of possibility for Dylan's repertoire, the temptation seems hard to
resist. Turns out I need to try harder; as you've all seen from the
setlist, you could count tonight's surprises on your thumb. Not only does
Dylan break little new ground, he also gives almost no indication of what
he may or may not intend to perform on tour with Nelson, assuming we can
still look forward to a duet portion of the show.
"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here" may provide a faint clue, I suppose: and
it's here that the set begins really to take fire after a
barely-smoldering start. Dylan's singing turns playful as he exaggerates
the "with you" for obvious effect. Both "High Water" and "Most Likely"
further fan the flames, Dylan investing the vocals with a savage wit and
I'm then taken completely unawares by "Sugar Baby" in what I'd describe as
a soft, gently-swinging countryish arrangement (perhaps another hint?). It
takes me part of the first verse to realize what I'm hearing, and I'll
likely hit on a better description once I have it on tape; as it is,
between the bar noise, the loud drinkers pushing back and forth, and the
first of many security ejections out the side door, I can barely piece it
all together, and am left to reflect bitterly on the conduct of this
audience contrasted with that of those, tens of thousands larger, who
greeted this song with rapt, pin-drop silence back in 2001. From what I
can hear, it seems tentative yet still graceful, more fluid in its
delivery, less of a stark near-recitative than before.
Probably just as well, then, given the crowd, that "Sugar Baby" stands as
a little island of quietness in tonight's by-now too familiar overpowering
electric tide. That it is now somewhat channeled by Campbell's more
frequent pedal steel and Kimball's lighter -- though fairly monotonous --
style does not change the basic equation. I won't deny that I've been
hoping for a radical shift in approach. At the same time, a roaring
"Seeing the Real You at Last" -- with Dylan virtually barking out the
lines with a sort of feral glee -- and a properly menacing "Ballad of a
Thin Man" prove irresistible, and at this point I surrender my
disillusionment and let myself get sucked down into the flood.
As he does on many songs tonight, Dylan peppers "Thin Man" with brief,
sharp harmonica sketches exemplary of their kind, interweaving them with
the musical texture and counterpointing his vocal line. I find these more
interesting than most anything he pounds out on the keyboard, at which,
alas, he appears set to remain for this tour if not for the duration,
bobbing at the mic in a nearly-horizontal stance (even more so for the
harp) underneath his impossibly large hat.
Further standouts are "This Wheel's on Fire," biting and self-sufficient
without the backing vocals, and "It Ain't Me, Babe," my first opportunity
to hear the soaring new arrangement in person. Placed in the context of
his current voice, Dylan's singing on all of these rather demanding
choices strikes me as quite powerful and fresh. How long it will hold up
in open-air ballparks in the August weather is anyone's guess, of course.
As for the rest of it, standard is the word. What I try to do for songs
like "Wicked Messenger" or "Summer Days" is either to "go up into the
gaps," ferret out some piece of phrasing or musical interplay that I
hadn't noticed before, or simply yield myself to the moment, the overall
tone and atmosphere. But even the gaps are well-traveled these days, I
confess, and the here and now has mostly come and gone. You're certainly
no flash in the pan, Bob Dylan; not for the first time, however, your
set's taken on considerable dead weight.
Still, I enjoy it. The electricity peters out by the encores, which are
mercifully cut to two, a pallid "Don't Think Twice" and that other song,
the one that always starts me to thinking, yes, there must be some way out
of here, and looking anxiously for the door. Nothing spectacular tonight,
several compelling and a couple of genuinely adventurous moments at best.
An amiable, loose-limbed warm-up set.
page by Bill Pagel
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