August 6, 2011
Review by Tom Zubal
It was a beautiful night in downtown Cleveland. I made my way to the
lot during what seemed to be the midway point of Leon’s set. I came
ticketless and was looking for an inexpensive extra. There were very
few people selling extras and about 5 of us looking for extras. I
finally got a $20 ticket just before Bob started. I was happy
(although this was $10 more than I wanted to pay) and the fellow I
bought it from was very happy to have unloaded it.
I won’t go into great detail about the performances of
the songs. Anyone whose been seeing Dylan since about 1998 knows how
the songs are performed – professionally. Bob has the band well
trained. My friends and I who’ve been seeing BD live since 1988 joke
that the band is simply a group of “trained monkeys.” They play the
songs very well with no sense of adventure, dynamics or group
interplay. The funny part of this all is that Bob is still
ridiculously amazing with his phrasing and his voice still has enough
range to sound good. The vanilla music is just not interesting to me,
but apparently that is what Bob wants during this era of his career.
Perhaps he doesn’t want to “tarnish his legacy” by taking any musical
chances anymore? I really don’t know, but I do know that the bulk of
the music that I heard was, dare I say, boring.
Ramona, Simple Twist, and Thin Man were my highlights. I
also enjoyed the elongated treatment that the verses received in TUIB.
Bob still has IT, but the arrangements just seem lifeless to me. Alas,
to each their own!
Review by Charles Cicirella
Shake Your Moneymaker
Cleveland, Ohio is an industrial town and there is no mistaking that when
you come to Nautica (I know they've changed the name, but for me it will
always be Nautica plain and simple). It is a special place because the stage is
basically dropped right there on the river so you have ships going on by as the
concert is happening. One huge ship passed through when Leon Russell was on
stage and it really added to the overall ambiance plus it reminded you that
there was a time when this river actually caught fire. Cleveland was the third
of the three shows I was doing for this tour (unless someone feels like bringing
me back out - I'm always ready to go ha-ha) with Toledo and Kettering being the
other two and I have to say I was very fortunate because the set lists really
started to change up starting in Toledo and continuing straight through to
Cleveland. To Ramona (her cracked country lips I still wish to kiss I totally
get), Hollis Brown and Hattie Carroll were absolutely stunning and to be quite
honest all three nights there really were no clunkers. I do wish Bob would let
Charlie turn up because during Watchtower tonight his volume was definitely
louder and it really made all of the difference. Simple Twist was again poignant
and personal and it is interesting because though I did very much enjoy hearing
it last year and this year the arrangement is the same, Bob seems to be even
more invested in the delivery and it takes it to new emotional heights (my heart
is still on the mend). I did not really care for the echo during Ballad in
Toledo, but found it working to better effect in Kettering and Cleveland. I
think the performance is always so menacing that the echo can, if not done just
right, really be more of a distraction than anything else. I have seen Bob at
Nautica previously in '91, '96 and 2007 and tonight's show was just as memorable
and magical and it's great to see that Bob obviously has no intention of slowing
down not even one little bit! RESPECT THE BARREL!!!
Review by Tom Karel
I traveled to Cleveland from Lancaster, PA to visit my daughter
and to see Bob at Jacob's Pavilion. Most of the 23 shows I've seen
have been in the Mid-Atlantic area so it was nice to see Bob in a
different part of the country. This show was definitely worth the
trip! I can't remember when I've seen Bob looking so energized and
comfortable on stage. He was "on" from the first notes of "Rainy Day
Women" to his final gestures to the crowd of nearly 5,000. It was
quite a night.
Jacob's Pavilion is located along the banks of the Cuyahoga
River in a once-thriving industrial area of Cleveland called The
Flats. There was a very pleasant vibe all around the waterfront prior
to the show and a few boats were on the river. Yes, this is the river
that famously caught fire back in 1969 - and Bob nearly set it on fire
again on Saturday night.
Leon Russell's opening set was loud and lively and the crowd
responded enthusiastically to his keyboard playing and singing. From
where we sat, however, 6th row left of center stage, it was hard to
understand him on most of the songs because of the mix. A highlight
was his solo performance of "A Song for You," as well as his classic
rock closing medley. Afterwards, a guy near us remarked, "If Dylan
does this well, this will be a great concert." He need not have
Before "Rainy Day Women" started I was worried about how Bob's
voice would sound. But Bob's keyboard was closer to center stage than
Leon's was, and the sound mix was much much better. Bob's voice was
clear and loud throughout the show, with the exception of "Highway 61"
when the band overpowered his singing. And Bob was truly singing!
His rendering of "To Ramona" (one of several surprises in the set
list) was simply lovely. At most of the recent Dylan shows I've seen
the highlight is the rousing and raucous "Highway 61." On this night,
however, the honors went to "The Levee's Gonna Break." It was
fantastic. I enjoyed hearing "Mississippi" for the first time, and it
was also sung beautifully. "Ballad of a Thin Man" was chilling and
Bob had the crowd mesmerized - though the echo effect was a bit
overdone. At the end of the song everyone was on their feet and
roaring in approval. A great moment.
A few final notes on the night. At one point, before darkness
fell, a huge old ship glided by behind the stage. It looked like a
construction barge and the ship seemed to go on forever. I hope the
crew could hear the music. The night was hot and steamy but a few
times a nice breeze blew through the pavilion and perked everyone up.
The audience was generally respectful and enthusiastic, though here
were some tensions between the "standers" and the "sitters." A
slightly drunken woman next to my daughter tried unsuccessfully to get
a guy in front of her to sit down and that disturbance detracted from
a couple of the later songs in Bob's set. She had been on her feet,
happily dancing for most of the show, so we didn't sympathize with
her. But that's how it goes at concerts these days. All in all, it
was a wonderful evening and I look forward to my next Dylan adventure.
Review by Daniel Chester
Rainy Day: realize it's a warm-up and yet of all the possibilities...short
Ramona: what a treat..."Your cracked country lips I still wish to
kiss"...the start of a great singing night that really pulls the lyrics into the
focus they deserve.
Things Have Changed: and the band showed up as well making this oft-tired
tune move nicely.
Tangled: energetic warhorse with some stellar harp that somehow captured,
and helped create, the evening's atmosphere (no mere party trick).
Beyond Here: first guitar tune of the evening, well-driven (didn't it used
to include trumpet?).
Mississippi: another fun one..."Things should start getting interestin'
right about now".
Hollis: think the guy has a few gems in that there gem-bag?..."Way out in
the wilderness a cold coyote calls".
Levee: big fun, especially the Bill Basie organ blasts, think this was where his
left leg was spontaneously kickin' out to the side.
Hattie Carroll: you know you're in the right time and space when you hear
"William Zanzinger..."...poignantly delivered.
Highway 61: not on fire yet not without life...kept things going.
Simple Twist: the other guitar song...one of the true masterpieces in the
aural museum he's created...threw in a new-to-me verse...thank you.
Thunder: man, the last few times experienced this thing has
thundered..."Gonna forget about myself for awhile, gonna go out and see what
Thin Man: not bad (loved him wringing out "tax deductable charity
organizations")...so many other possibilities for this slot...good keyboard
tune...crowd really dug.
Like a: one of the better versions...things still mighty crisp.
Watchtower: good energy and focus right up until the end.
All 'n' all, cool little outdoor venue tucked into a riverbend with a very
relaxed crowd and staff. Band had a James Brown-type vibe with the matching
suits and the precision, rhythm, and attention to detail (starts and stops were
near-perfect all evening). As good as the band was the singing may have topped
it (the phrasing had a real rhythm of it's own). This show reminds us in a most
joyful way that we are so blessed to have witnessed any part of this series of
dreams. Thanks everybody!
Review by Joshua Seese
This adventure became me and my girlfriend’s first trip to Ohio.
Anticipations ran high as we sang the Drew Carey Show theme song while
crossing the state line. Cleveland rocks! We knew the show would rock
before it even began because we trust Bob to show us the world wrapped up
in a ribbon in a shade over 2 hours. The show was astounding. The venue
was intriguing; basking in a city sunset, as boats lit into the night came
and went, passing behind the stage moving swiftly through the river.
Shortly after the sun went down, Bob came out from behind the curtains
ready to finesse us into a state of awe. Rainy Day Women was played close
to the album version with clear and articulate vocals. These strong
vocals were present all through the show. I was amazed by his energy as
he looked closer to a twenty year old musician rather than a seventy year
old musician. Bob battered away at his piano keys also using his guitar
and harmonica as weapons of musical assault when his muse called upon him
to stir things up. To Ramona gave me the feeling that he continues to
work new arrangements since it has not been in the set list recently.
Great emphasis was found in lines that meant the most to him. Things Have
Changed was immaculate and fully encompassed letting Bob realize the
song’s full potential. His phrasing and nuance of movement center stage
at the microphone began drawing the crowd in early and kept them on the
edge of their seats. Tangled Up in Blue was phenomenal as always with
verse swaps from the last time we heard it in fall 2010. Beyond Here Lies
Nothin’ showed the band as a whole while Dylan played some wonderful
guitar. I got the feeling that he was living deep inside the song on this
one. Mississippi was a pleasure to hear, as it suits his current themes
in the show. Ballad of Hollis Brown was the highlight for me. He sang
the verses with a soft coo, yet a blistering bite that wrapped up each
line. I felt that he was sewing this story together with the lesson we
still need to learn, the relevance of memory and history. Throughout the
song he possessed a smirk which hinted his awareness to tell a story with
flair and alacrity. Hattie Carroll also had the “work in progress” feel
since it has been missing in the previous sets but he attacked it with
only the charisma that Bob could exude. The latter half of the song
possessed a vocal choppiness that reflected the state of the courtroom as
not being on the level. The rendition of Highways 61 was solid
throughout. I know my girlfriend enjoyed it because she was singing
perfectly along with Bob in my ear. Levee just went on and on but evolved
enough in its melodies to sizzle and blaze when necessary. Simple Twist
of Fate moved towards the end of the set engaging the crowd. Bob gave
Ballad of a Thin Man scrupulous attention driving the crowd into frenzy
with his fancy harmonica work. Vocals came at the audience with the
narrowest cordiality of invitation at the start but budded into a
storehouse of condemnation, spitting out lines of calculated knowledge,
and we all know nobody drops knowledge like Bob. I did not mind the echo
since it was used sparingly. All Along the Watchtower had some
interesting guitar lines that differed slightly from what we heard in
2009. This one also had its forceful driving moments. The show carried a
few set changes from the previous shows. I found it refreshing that he
continues to remain playing with his songs and carrying an admiration for
blending the old with the new and then driving it into the faces of the
audience. We remarked about how happy he looked. The way he was
battering on those piano keys it is a wonder they didn’t break and hit
anyone in the audience. Who would not be happy to be him? His vocals
were perfectly in time with every song. The band was tight. A hot and
steamy Cleveland night I will never forget. Happiness is all in a day’s
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