August 14, 2011
Review by Peter Stone Brown
It started raining sometime the night before. Sometimes there was thunder.
Sometimes there wasn't. Sometimes huge torrents, loud enough to wake you up.
It was still raining the next morning and into the afternoon. It would stop or
slow down, briefly then start up again, full force hard rain. I left my house
and got completely soaked just walking to the car. And it was that way the
entire drive to Asbury Park. Every once in a while you'd see light up ahead and
just as you reached the light, these insane bursts of heavy rain would pound
again, the windshield wipers could barely keep up. We finally reached Asbury
Park, and as we were trying to figure out whether we had to pay to park, another
burst. And then walking to Convention Hall on the boardwalk another burst.
Luckily, the fairly slow, long line to get into the hall itself was under cover.
And of course what the ticket said was show time turned out to be doors
I saw Bob Dylan at Asbury Park Convention Hall exactly three years and one day
before this show. It was a show to remember for bad sound and cell phone
talkers. But some good friends in briefly from California made me an offer I
Leon Russell opened the show. Once upon a time Leon Russell was a pretty big
rock star. He'd been a session player for awhile, but gained a lot of notice
when he appeared on Delaney & Bonnie and Friends' first album, Accept No
Substitute, which had a lot of great players like Jim Keltner, and Bobby
Whitlock and Bobby Keys. It turned out as it often does that that album wasn't
really Delaney & Bonnie's first album, but that's another story. Russell pretty
much took that band and moved them over to become Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and
Englishmen which is another story. In the early '70s, he produced and played on
a couple of Bob Dylan songs such as "Watching The River Flow," and then backed
Dylan up playing bass with him at the Bangla Desh concert.
Russell started out alright, but for some reason his voice was mixed at the same
level as his band which was a bit disconcerting. He did a mix of his best
originals such as "Hummingbird" and "A Song For You," mixed with a bunch of
covers like "I've Just Seen A Face." Sitting behind his keyboard way on the
right side of the stage, he looked like Gandalf the White wearing a cowboy hat.
While his band was tight and more than competent, occasionally delivering nice
harmonies, the show quickly grew tiresome and the covers of well known songs and
hits by other artists made it seem like a few steps above a hotel lounge band.
It wasn't hard to leave, go up to the outside balcony and watch the storm over
After a reasonably quick stage change, Dylan and his band came on and opened
with "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," followed by a waltzy "To Ramona" with Bob at
the keyboard. Neither was high on the intensity meter, and I started mentally
preparing for just an okay show. When Bob moved to center stage, harp in hand
for "Things Have Changed," that thought was immediately erased from my mind. It
was like bam! The energy level went way way up into high gear. The new train
beat arrangement with Stu Kimball playing a rollicking guitar part straight out
of Memphis in 1956 revitalized the song along with Donnie Herron's terrific
pedal steel fills, and Dylan was on fire, ending it with a tough harp solo.
Dylan stayed center stage for "Tangled Up In Blue." It didn't matter that he
left out half the verses, though he did sing the "She lit a burner on the stove
and offered me a pipe," verse, and unlike the last time I saw him didn't mix it
up with another verse. He was literally acting out the song as he sang.
Standing to the left of the stage, there was times when Dylan's profile with his
white hat eerily brought me back to the '75 Rolling Thunder tour and the video
clip of the song from Renaldo & Clara. And once again he was putting emphasis
on key lines, really singing, not just barking out the words, and fiercely
playing the harp.
Dylan then picked up a guitar for "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," with Donnie Heron
on mandolin instead of trumpet. The band was smoking and even Dylan's guitar
solo was no longer search and destroy, but right on target.
Dylan then returned to the keyboard for "Mississippi" and the energy level went
down slightly, mainly because of the arrangement, which is one of those Dylan
arrangements I'll never quite understand. It's not quite the arrangement of a
few years ago, and it's none of the arrangements on record. He sang it great
given the constraints of the beat, but it was almost as if he doesn't want the
song to have the effect it could have or reach its full potential. Make no
mistake, this is one of greatest, maybe the greatest of his later period songs
and may well be one of his greatest songs period. And while I love the acoustic
version on Tell Tale Signs, and the one on "Love And Theft," and if he would
just stop messing around and do something closer to the latter, this song could
On "High Water" returned to center stage and the show returned to full steam
ahead energy. It was the closest Dylan came to acknowledging what was going on
outside the hall, but probably was going to be in the set list anyway. I've
been to shows in the past usually outside ones where Dylan's done more than a
few rain songs and he has a lot of them. Still there was something in the way
he emphasized "High water rising, six inches above my head that added extra
depth. Donnie Herron's jazz grass banjo was clear and high in the mix.
"Summer Days" wasn't at breakneck speed in a hopped up Mustang Ford, but more
like a 48 Mercury convertible cruising down the boulevard with the band
alternating really turning it on (and this band knows how to really turn it on)
with laying back. Dylan seemed to take an evil glee when he snarled out the
line, "Politician got on his jogging shoes."
Dylan then returned to center stage for the supreme high point of the night,
"Blind Willie McTell." The arrangement was somewhere between the speedier
version of a couple of years ago and the original beat. With Donnie on banjo,
it sounded like early jazz and at other times like early blues. Standing at the
mic, Dylan was almost acting out the song as he sang, but it wasn't any forced
pre-planned motion, it was just the way he moved, once again reminiscent of
Chaplin, but also WC Fields, but also Three Penny Opera, and while there was no
trumpet, you could almost feel the ghost of Louis Armstrong hanging around.
Dylan was playing a lot harp at the show, and I noted one solo, but then the
solo he took to close the show was amazing. He was just wailing, and then be
brought it and the band to a stop, and then picked it up again. It was
"Highway 61 Revisited" was as usual about the jam with Dylan returning to the
guitar for "Simple Twist of Fate," with another well executed solo.
"Thunder on the Mountain" had the energy that formerly belonged to "Summer
Days," and the band was positively kicking. Dylan seemed to be alternating
between giving a warning and joking around. There were a couple of lines I
don't think were in the English language or any other language known to man.
Once again Dylan took center stage for "Ballad of a Thin Man," which at times
was positively scary. When he sang the bridge, "You've got many contacts/Among
the lumberjacks/To get you facts/When someone attacks your imagination," he sang
it, imaginaaaaaaaaaaaaSHUN, it was with such a rumbling force, that no one would
want to face down this guy in a room ever.
The encores were well the encores, though the new arrangement of "All Along The
Watchtower" is a nice twist.
Asbury Park showed (as the field recordings of this tour have indicated) that
something is happening and things have changed on this tour. In 2010, it was
easy to say, okay, nothing special, a couple of moments. Last night, there were
a lot of moments, in fact more than moments. Bob Dylan is really singing again.
It's as if he's finally figured out how to make his voice the way it is now do
what he really wants it to do. The phrasing, the emphasizing of lines is back,
and it's revitalizing the songs and giving them meaning again, both new and old.
And it might be a different line every night meaning a different thing in that
particular point in time. It might be that the drums seem lower in the mix,
allowing both the other instruments in the band and Dylan's voice to be heard
more clearly or might be subtle shift in band dynamics. There's a certain thing
that Bob Dylan can do when he wants to, that only he can do. It's not something
that can be defined and never named. It comes from some other place. But when
it happens, you know it, and it was happening at Asbury Park on a rainy night in
Review by Mike Skliar
Just back from a fantastic Bob Dylan show at Asbury Park, NJ. I’ve seen Bob
now somewhere over 60 times, going back to 1978. In the past few years I
haven’t been able to catch him quite as often, since 2009 I’ve only seen him
at the United Palace theater in 2009 (wonderful show) and at Bethlehem Pa in
2010 (disappointing show). I’m very pleased to report that this one was much
better than 2010 at Bethlehem and on a par with the great United Palace show I
saw back in ’09.
The band arrangements, tonight’s, setlist, and the whole overall presentation
is much more sympathetic to Dylan’s current strengths, and possibly because of
that, Bob gave a focused, intense and expressive performance. The band was not
just noticeably quiet on the ballads; they delivered an intensity and complexity
that matched the nuanced vocal delivery that Bob gave. In the more upbeat
numbers, it was nice to hear Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball (and sometimes
Donnie Herron too) high in the mix, laying down great phrases all over the
What Dylan’s lost these days in vocal power and smoothness he makes up for in
expressive phrasing. It should be noted that he’s gained back some vocal
power from the last year or two. These past few years has been a great vocal
journey for him in that he’s figured out, (like all the great the great
vocalists, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, etc. when they lost
their earlier smoothness) how to make his later limitations still work for him
effectively thru creative phrasing and just that right level of ‘punchiness’
that delivers the song without getting in the way with showy or flashy
One thing that can’t be underestimated is the power and delight in seeing Bob
center stage, at the mic with just his harmonica and harmonica mic in one hand,
using his arms, hands, and whole body for emphasis. It’s at once one part
Frank Sinatra, one part Charlie Chaplin, and somehow… all Bob. I saw a wide
smile on a few lines here and there. I got the feeling that he was feeling
every word, exploring every facet of the song in his body language, vocals, and
Now, on to the nitty gritty. Torrential rain on the way down from NYC, got there
later then we thought we would,but still managed to get reasonably up front in
the GA floor. (And of course, great that it was an indoor venue on a night like
tonight!) Leon Russell’s set was great fun- his piano chops are still great,
his vocals a bit rough but very there. A lot of old rock and roll covers in his
set- maybe a few too many (would have loved to hear ‘Tightrope’) but more
than made up for it with little nuggets like a great ‘out in the woods’ that
comes from his underrated album ‘Carny” , and a bit of “Jumpin’ jack
flash’ from the Concert for Bangladesh performance.
Bob opened with a fine version of ‘Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat’. Next up was a
song he doesn’t play all that often, but whenever I’ve seen it its been
delivered wonderfully, the vintage 1964 song “To Ramona”. Bob sings this,
like many of the songs he would sing at this show, with a great narrative sense
of telling an unfolding story, without any long instrumental breaks until near
the end. The song hasn’t lost its power in 47 years, and his slightly
‘circusy’ organ actually meshed well with the arrangement.
Next up were two songs delivered center stage, both absolutely fantastic.
“Things have changed’ has a new somewhat rockabilly arrangement, but subdued
enough to let Bob’s expressive vocals and hand gestures propel it to new
heights. “tangled up in blue’ had that same ‘slow’ arrangement it had
last year, but while in Bethlehem he mangled the lyrics, here he delivered a
flawless rendition. My only tiny quibble with the current “Tangled’ is that
he still only sings about four out of the seven verses. Tonight we got the
‘opened up a book of poetry and handed it to me’ verse, but not some of the
others. The climatic end verse had a great ‘me I’m still on the road trying
to stay out of the joint’ line, delivered with a wide smile.
Next up was the first time I’ve seen in person, live, “Beyond Here lies
nothing”. Featuring Bob on some effective lead/rhythm guitar in his own
style, this was a fine version which brought a lot of fire to the proceedings. I
realize one reason that he might have shaken up the arrangement to ‘things
have changed’ lately is that the chord progression for ‘Beyond here lies
nothing’ is similar—and playing both in a set would be problematic if it was
the ‘old’ version of ‘Things have changed’. After that came another
fine version of “Mississippi” which is only the second time I’ve seen it
live. Again, excellent, with a flawless narrative thread, although the organ he
played was a little high in the mix for me at times.
Then came “High water’ , appropriate on a night where the rain has been
relentless for a day now, and never better live then tonight. The arrangement
is quieter but somehow much more intense than before- one could clearly hear
Donny Herron play complex jazzy banjo lines and chords underneath Bob’s
simmering vocal. The whole thing, with Bob center stage in his Buster
Keaton-meets riverboat gambler hat, had echoes of ‘bluesy vaudeville-meets
minstrel show of the mind’ that suited the song perfectly. After an adequate
(though never as great as it was back in 2001-2) “Summer Days”, it was back
to that same ‘bluesy vaudeville-meets minstrel show of the mind” feeling for
a tremendous “Blind Willie McTell” which was perhaps the highlight of the
concert for me. The current arrangement suits not only his aged and rough voice
but also the spirit of the song, with again, Donnie’s banjo deservedly high in
the mix. A good, though not exceptional, “Highway 61” followed, with the
band trying to find some interesting jamming space at the end. Somehow this
current band can’t seem to access this space as easily as some of Bob’s
earlier bands (the Larry Campbell-Charlie Sexton era comes to mind) but Charlie
Sexton and Stu Kimbell traded some fine lines, playing hollow-body jazz guitars,
while Bob was his usual idiosyncratic self on organ.
“Simple Twist of Fate’ retains its fine and distinctive arrangement from
last year, and was wonderfully played. Bob’s vocals on this one really found
the musicality of the song. More surprisingly, his guitar playing here was
melodic, and had him exploiting that great melodic C major chord to C minor
chord change in the song that makes it so unique in his catalog. One lead line
he played was unlike anything I’ve seen him play on guitar before, a swooping
down the neck phrase which was executed flawlessly.
Next came “Thunder on the Mountain’- which was never my favorite songs, and
which is still nothing special. Burt then came a song that’s been a feature of
his shows of the past year or two, and still getting better and better, 1965’s
“Ballad of a thin man’’. It’s dramatic as anything, with Bob center
stage, growling and declaiming the lines like a mad comedian. Even better, the
bridge (you have many contacts, among the lumberjacks.. etc) was extended ,with
Bob doing some extra vocal filigrees on this one that sealed it as one of the
great versions, and to cap it off, when coming back to the verses, had this
trippy vocal echo effect added to his voice, which he took obvious delight in
Encores were a fine but not out-of the ordinary ‘Like a rolling stone’ and a
slightly rearranged ‘Watchtower’ the latter song has lost the traditional
three chords every beginning guitarist knows, becoming more of a ‘one-chord
with riff’ incantation… a fine version that subverts expectation but still
stays true to the spooky and apocalyptic nature of the song. And that, in a
way, was the secret to the entire show- the songs for the most part were true to
their essence, yet adapted in interesting and idiosyncratic ways that made the
night a delight from beginning to end. As we walked into the night air (where
finally the rain had stopped for the time being) it was clear that Bob is still
at the top of his game.
Review by Steinar Daler
After a fantastic concert in Bethel, I attended the Jones Beach concert. A solid
concert as well, but not up there among the really memorable concerts. Most of
the songs were performed well, but a couple of songs were not in my taste.
Hattie Carroll that sometimes are very good, were destroyed by the stacato rythm
all through. I wonder why Bob does this. But tonight in Asbury park there were
no low points. Highlights were of course Simple twist of fate and Thin man as in
the other concerts, but what made this one special for me was the last part of
the concert, where he played the same songs as usual, but put more in to them.
Both Highway 61 and Thunder on the mountain stood out. Stu and Charlie both
contributed a lot. Excellent playing. Bob should let them shine more often like
this. Earlier on High water was also a perfect performanse. I don't think I ever
have seen Bob putting so much in to that song.
It was nice to see a lot of old and new friends and followers after the concert.
Very nice to meet Oscar from Mexico for the first time after reading so many of
his reviews here at Boblinks. Thanks to Jeff, Hank, Nina and Charlie too for
good company at Jones Beach and tonight. I'm flying back to Norway after one
more real good chapter in my Dylan travells. I'll be back on tour in Glasgow,
Scotland in october for my 150th concert. I'm looking foreward to some more top
shows. Catch him now. he seems to be better after turning 70.
Review by Mike Mettler
Bob Dylan, bard for the ages, brought his never-ending tour to Convention Hall in
Asbury Park, New Jersey, on the torrential evening of Sunday, August 14, and
reinforced his prowess as the key observer and interpreter of our ever-distressing
The 15-song, 90-minute show that followed Leon Russell’s spry opening set
stayed true to Bob’s main 2011 setlist framework. Anyone expecting Greatest
Hits-style arrangements of the Dylan classics sprinkled throughout the set — and
from the idle chatter I overheard both before and after the gig, there were
plenty who did — missed the point of what the man’s been doing for, oh, the
last half-century or so.
I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen do two separate tour-warm-up gigs at this fairly
intimate venue, which isn’t much bigger than a high-school gymnasium. The
sound was relatively clear from my vantage point (four rows up and stage-right
in the center bleachers), given the hall’s potential limitations, but Bob’s seasoned
growl, Charlie Sexton’s stinging lead-guitar lines, Stu Kimball’s steady rollin’ rhythm
guitar, Donnie Herron’s tasty banjo and mandolin, Tony Garnier’s bottom end,
and George Recile’s drums were about as good as could be expected.
Bob, perpetually sharp-dressed in a three-button black suit coat and wide-brimmed
white hat, mainly stood perched behind his stage-left keyboard, but he did venture
center stage to don a guitar for two groove-driven songs (Together Through Life’s
"Beyond Here Lies Nothin,’" Blood on the Tracks’ "Simple Twist of Fate") and blew
a mean harmonica through quite a few others, his harp tone quite reminiscent of
his soloing in the studio version of 1983’s "Jokerman." Whenever he was center
stage, Bob hunched over and crouched like a sideways carat — i.e., like this: > —
with his head cocked to his right whenever he delivered a lyric, his right hand
usually clutching the mike stand.
Tip for the uninitiated: If you’re not familiar with Bob and his ace band’s
change-'em-all-up live M.O., you may have to pick phrases out of the air to follow
along. Once in sync, you can join the rest of us in marveling at the power and
impact of latter-day standards like “Things Have Changed,” “Mississippi,” and “High
Water (for Charley Patton)” mixed with reworked perennials like “Tangled Up in
Blue” and “Highway 61 Revisited.”
I was most taken with the set-ending drama of “Ballad of a Thin Man,” which is
as poignant and biting today as it was back in 1965. Dylan, again center stage,
seethed and sneered through the pivotal lines, “And something is happening
here / but you don’t know what it is / Do YOU, Mister Jones?” — even throwing
his hands out to his sides for emphasis. Many of us perplexed and angered by
today’s spiraling economy and continual Wall Street woes could only nod along
at just how apropos the song remains (and will probably continue to remain as
this century unfolds).
With Bob back behind his keyboard, a victory-lap “Like a Rolling Stone” and
breakneck “All Along the Watchtower” comprised the encore, and by 10:36 p.m.,
the lights came up, and off we went to contemplate our respective fates as the
hour was getting late.
Sound and Vision Magazine
Review by Cosmic Kid
Well I wasn't expecting to go see Bob Dylan tonight. At around 4:00 in the
afternoon, I was in the East Village of New York, planning on spending my
evening watching some documentary or another on a drenched with rain
afternoon with my girlfriend. Yet in the back of my mind, I was aware that
Dylan was playing in Asbury Park, about an hour and a half drive away. I '
hadn't given much thought to going to the local New York shows at Bethel
or Jones Beach the previous two nights.
After all, I had sworn off Dylan's live performances. After the last show I
saw in Brooklyn in 2008, I had thought to myself that it would be a long
time before I saw Bob Dylan again. His voice from my place on the lawn
that day had sounded terrible and the arrangements had felt stale. But
today, in the afternoon, I decided to check Craigslist and found someone
who was kind enough to unload her extra couple tickets on me for a really
You see, my girlfriend, who had become a bigger Dylan fan over the
couple of years we've been together (and who has also put up with my
playing Dylan songs almost every day we've been together)...she had
never seen Dylan play. So I thought, why not? At least she'll get a
chance to experience a legend live.
Well...in a nutshell, the show shocked me. It completely surpassed my
expectations. After all, hadn't I been the one telling people that Dylan's
voice had in recent times become "unlistenable" live..? Tonight has changed
my way of thinking folks. However, there is a caveat...and an important one.
We were lucky enough to be about 10 feet from the stage. And I think
that might have made all the difference.
Some fans have written here, "Well...you had to have been there. It's
different at the shows..." And I have been really skeptical about that
being some kind of excuse for his diminishing skills. When I'd listened
to recordings of his recent performances, they were really hard for me
to connect to. But seeing him in person tonight, up so close transformed
the whole experience.
His voice tonight in Asbury Park was on its 3rd performance in 3 nights.
And truth be told, it did sound shot. If I had just heard the recording, I
don't know if I would have liked this show. The voice was rough, no lie.
A lot of barking at the end of lines. But the way that he used that shot
voice....! The f*cking phrasing. Was brilliant. He was like a jazz musician in
the way that he punched out the vocal lines. With a great deal of energy,
creative genius, and emotion. It was easy to see how that same phrasing
permeated all the instruments he played, whether it be keyboards, guitar,
or harmonica. Incidentally, his electric guitar playing, of which I am not the
hugest fan, was very good tonight. I was surprised and impressed by his
solos on the guitar and on the harmonica as well. His instrumental work
(and vocal work) seemed much more focused than I had remembered.
And he was cocksure tonight. Very confident and not withdrawing or
tamping himself down. He was a song and danceman in the truest sense.
Spitting out his words with conviction. At times a pulpit preacher, at
times and old time vaudeville entertainer. At times, it may not have
sounded pretty, but it was absolutely exhilarating to see.
In all, what made this show remarkable was how completely focused
on the performance he seemed to be whether he was singing or playing
his instruments. And his life force was shockingly vital for a 70-year
old. Dylan's body jerked around loosely like a marionette, as he
stabbed at his organ solos. And his facial expressions...being able to
see them so close. I found on his face the same emotional currents
being played out that I remember seeing in his face in the Hard Rain
video from 1976. Sometimes, somehow, it becomes easy to forget it's the
same person. At times, it almost feels like 1970's Dylan and 70-year
old Dylan (along with all the other eras) have personalities that can be
detached from one another. But tonight, I saw it unified there in the
performance. The same vital complaint expressing itself.
In retrospect, I think many people experience something special at his
show that has nothing to do with the music. Tonight, sure the band
was tight and really rocked the place. And Dylan, as I wrote, was fully
engaged in what he was doing. He was courageous (who takes so many
chances vocally, especially with such a damaged instrument?), he was
free, he was saying "f*ck you" and "bless you" to this crazy life at the
same time. I think being in the presence of someone engaging life so
vitally, so intensely, so freely pushes our own edges and our own desire
for freedom. It is a reminder for many, who have gleaned much
inspiration from the content of his work, and the story of his life,
that there are people out there still risking themselves like this.
Still fighting like hell to be true to themselves. To rage against
anything that drains life from life. Still dreaming. Still struggling.
Still yearning for God. Still asking questions. And still doing so
with displays of prodigious and original talent.
Joseph Campbell once wrote that what we are seeking in life is not
happiness, but rather a sense of aliveness. Dylan tonight was alive in
the fullest sense of the word. And it was something to behold.
Review by Oscar Montes
GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK! We could read this at the top of the venue.
Asbury Park is also a beautiful venue just next to the ocean! It was raining
Saturday night and all Sunday! I got there about 3:00 p.m. and there were
already about 25 people standing on line, the good thing was we could stand
inside. My new friend Dennis Hengeveld was the first one to get there, great!
Bob started with Leopard-Skin, it seems a favorite for he and his band now, they
did again To Ramona, it was so sweet, Things Have Changed with Bob on harp was
so hypnotic! Admirable! People started to get excited on this one and on any
song that Bob would play harp just like on TUIB.
When they started with High water, Bob was so in touch with the audience,
mastering the stage as no one else can do! Oh my God I said! He’s so in control
of the show! Summer Days, a really rocking song, everybody happy inside the
Another great one with Bob on harp was Willie McTell! Let me tell you again,
people so excited with Bob playing harp and he was really giving feedback to us!
Highway 61 is always so expected by the audience! We always want it! So much
energy at the end! Bob laughing with Donnie! We also love to listen to Simple
Twist, so sweet, so sentimental, so sad, so beautiful, and so touching. Thunder
on the Mountain is another high one. Mr. Jones is also a number you have to
live! Very emotive performance besides the new echoes arrangements.
The encore, Rolling Stone, always so honored to have this one live! And All
along the watchtower so solid! I could notice that Bob was just about to say
Donnie they should do another encore, just for a second… but they left!
So good to see again/meet/hang around with Denise Sullivan, Nichole Hersey, Sue
Osborne from Canada, Doodie and Rita from Italy, Simone from Greece, Dennis
Hengeveld from The Netherlands (endless gratitude for dropping me off at JFK),
Keith Stauring, Ben Taylor, Jay Powers, Randy Mason, Susan & Al, Angela Snide,
Ed & Michelle, Tzippi from Israel, Tom Platzer, Diana Wolf, Ross, Steinar Daler
One thing I can tell you! Bob is getting better night after night! Don’t you
dare miss his shows! HE’S ON FIRE!
See you soon Bob! See you soon my dear Bob fans friends!
Review by Michael Perlin
Another monsoon, another show. How many times in the past
have I driven through relentless rainstorms to see a Bob concert (on nights
when, no question, I would have begged off any other commitment). This past
Sunday was yet one more, and, as I was driving from Trenton to Asbury Park, I
had a few moments of second-guessing myself (will this – my 35th or 40thor
whatever # it is [I have lost track] concert – be that exceptional, that
different, to be worth it?). I figured, yeah, maybe, and motored on. I am so
glad I did.
The “fits on a Post-it “ short form: Bob was engaged and in
great humor. The band was outstanding. Bob’s musicality was, on more than a few
occasions, totally brilliant. And, even though I first saw Bob 48 years ago (!),
there were still two “first-evers” for me.
I was last at the Asbury Park Convention Hall three years
ago (also to see Bob) on a sunny August late afternoon, one on which
getting-to-the-site-hours-ahead-of-time made much more sense. I was
apprehensive that, like that time, we’d have to queue up outdoors. Luckily, no.
The Convention Hall powers-that-be allowed us to stand inside the grand old hall
(unless Mel can beat this, I may hold the record (among Sunday’s attendees) of
first-time-at-that-site, having seen the Platters as a 13 year old HS freshman
in 1959 (!)). I met up immediately with my Dylanista friend Diana (from EDLIS
café on FB; what a joy to connect in person!) and we quickly met others from the
online group -- Oscar, Tom, the couple from Italy [Rita and ???] on their three
week all-Bob US journey, and others – as well as other fans (Mel, David, more)
with whom I’ve connected at other shows. As always, the absence of my late
friend Michael Feuerstein was so stark, tho I did feel as if I were able to
commune with him a bit during the show and on the drive home. The last time I
saw Michael was at the Brooklyn show the day before the 08 Asbury show, so it
was especially poignant.
The concert - I had no idea what to expect from Leon
Russell (whom I had never seen before). A tight run through a dozen or so
songs in less than 45 minutes, both his own and others’ (at times, the group
sounded like a really good Rolling Stones cover band), ending with two medleys
("Jumpin’ Jack Flash" - "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" - "Paint It Black" - "Kansas City"
[per usual, they had done "Wild Horses" earlier on], and then, "Great Balls
of Fire" - "Roll Over, Beethoven" [I guessed wrong, I was expecting "Johnny B
Goode"…). High points were Leon’s piano solo performance on *A Song for You *
and lead guitar Chris Simmons’ solo performance on a Robert Johnson blues that
smoked! The upside of getting to the site 3 hrs before doors-open was that I
was at the rail. The downside was that I was directly in front of the
skyscraper-sized speaker that was amped to the max for Leon’s set, meaning that
it is only now (Tuesday, near noon) that I am actually hearing perfectly well
again… My takeaway: Leon looked enigmatic as ever (his beard is even more so
now) and he needed a cane to get to his seat, and there was some sadness to me
of watching him do this wham-bam set. Am going again tomorrow nite (more on that
infra) and it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, is different.
So, on to the Bobster:
1. "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" - Will the opener be a statement about
the evening, will it be a soundcheck, or something else? Always the
question. Was so relieved that it wasn’t "RDW" (my life will be fine
if Bob drops this from his repertoire entirely…), tho, of course, had faint
hopes of a resuscitation of "Gonna Change My Way" or something else from the
catalog that hadn’t been played in years (am still wistful for the days when
"Crash on the Levee" opened every nite..). Having said that, it was OK. Bob’s
two-tone shoes made quite a statement (smiling).
2. "To Ramona" - This was my 5th time over the years (I just checked,
starting with the Halloween concert in ’64, then a gap til 97; last time
before this was Spectrum in 06) and the only one that has stayed with me as a
haunting memory was the one at Irving Plaza (12/97). This was a march/waltz, I
think in 12/8. It’s a sad, evocative song (at least to me), and Bob’s expressive
vocals were the highlight. Band was fine, but nothing special yet.*
3. "Things Have Changed" - When I saw this at Terminal 5 last November
(my last Bob show before Sunday), Bob played guitar, and I was sorry he didn’t
do that again (he has decreased from 3 on guitar to 2; I still hold my breath
til I see him pick it up for the first time on any night…). But, having said
that, this was a great version. Slightly different arrangement from last year.
Bob center stage , in full crooner mode. Doing a semi-exaggerated
step-up-step-down every few minutes for emphasis. As with every other
center-stage performance, some work on the harmonica (my recollection is that,
most times, he went to it twice [maybe 3x on *Ballad of a Thin Man*?]) that
punctuated the vocals in structurally precise ways. And it rocked! This one of
my five favorite Modern Era songs, and I am always glad to hear it (in some
ways, I think it’s a jagged version of Bob’s autobiography). At this point, you
could sense the crowd really getting into it.
4. "Tangled Up In Blue" - Again, Bob center stage. Phraseology somewhat
different this time than any of the gadzillion of other versions I have
heard ("Early one morning" [REST REST REST] "the sun was shinin’" [REST REST] I
"was layin’ in bed" [REST REST REST REST). On one of my last year reviews, I
suggested that someone might want to think about how Bob’s use of rests is like
(sorta/kinda) Thelonious Monk’s use was, and this was, to me, another example).
His final harp solo (32 bars; long for Bob these days) was exceptional. Skipped
some verses but included the “Italian poet” one so that was OK. Here, the band
really started to kick in.
5. "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" - My first first of the nite. Along
with Forgetful Heart, this is, to me, the heart and soul of "Together Through
Life." This was Bob’s first guitar playing of the night, and it was a joy to see
him so in sync with Charlie. But wait: for this (and later for Simple Twist),
Tony came up nearer to the front of the stage too, and the three of
them attacked the song as a single unit. It was bracing to hear, and a great
first-time experience for me.
6. "Mississippi" - Yes! In anticipation (having no idea what the
arrangement would be [I don’t listen to tapes/videos of a tour til after I
first see a show]), I listened to the "Tell-Tale Signs" version, and of
course, this was way different. But so great to hear (my second ‘first’ of
the nite). Again, a brisk almost-waltz tempo (Donnie’s mandolin added so
much to this) of a brilliant song. The key for me: I don’t think I ever paid
much attention to this line – "I’ve got nothin’ but affection for all those
who’ve sailed with me" -- until Sunday. And I thought, “And there it is.” We
have sailed with Bob and continue to. And he gets it. Wow.
7. "High Water (For Charley Patton)" - The musical high point of the
night for me. OMG, did it rock (there are so many Bob songs about rain and
water and floods and storms; who knows if the weather in any way inspired the
addition of this one to the setlist?). Bob center stage again, and, during the
jamming, on the harp, outrageously trading bars with Charlie (sometimes 2,
sometimes 4, sometimes 8). Band totally driving, Charlie down to one knee for
the first time of the night, Bob gesturing broadly with his arms to paint the
8. "Summer Days" - Well, my euphoria had to (temporarily) end. I never have
understood Bob’s affection for this song (I am not as adverse to it as I am to
"Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee", but my life would be a fine one if I knew he
would be playing something else/anything else in this slot in the future). My
son Alex has suggested that maybe he just likes to play it. With that in mind, I
focused on Bob’s solo in a slightly different way, and decided that Alex was
right. His keyboard playing on solos *was*, to me, more imaginative and creative
than it had been on other songs to that point (even though there were no notes
in common, at one point in his solo, I thought he was channeling the
introduction to "Night Train" (!!)). Longer solo than in other songs, and, yeah,
a good one. But still…
9. "Blind Willie McTell" - Yow! A 2d-ever for me (first: the glorious
Meadowlands show in Fall 99 with "Ring Them Bells", "Johanna", and the Willie
Dixon cover ["Hoochie Coochie Man"]). Different arrangement, so I didn’t know
what to expect til the first line. I screamed. Oh, did I scream. To be brutally
honest, I prefer the earlier live-show arrangement (much closer to the original
recording), but this performance was other-worldly. Another center-stage song,
and Bob’s harp playing (especially after the “charcoal gypsy maiden” verse and
the “chain gang” verse) was from another galaxy. I saw both Stu and Donnie
staring at him agape (“How does he *do* it?”). Possessed, inspired, channeling
200 years of music and blood and death and slavery and redemption.
We saw Rick Danko sing this as a solo w acoustic guitar at the Tin Angel in
Philadelphia shortly before Danko’s death (still one of the eeriest performances
I have ever seen), and I remember thinking then: Will this be the last time I
ever hear this song (as it was off Bob’s rotation by then)? I am so grateful to
have had this opportunity.
10. "Highway 61 Revisited" - And no more surprises for the night. The
last time I saw Bob was the nite when Donnie’s pedal steel died halfway thru
this and he switched to electric violin, leading to one of the most electrifying
experiences of my BD concertgoing life. No such fireworks tonite, but Bob’s
keyboard solo was entirely different from (1) any other solo he did previously
this evening and (2) any other solo I have ever heard him do on this song (which
I have been hearing in person since forever). Not the greatest but certainly not
simply going thru the paces, either.
11. "Simple Twist Of Fate" - Back to the guitar (thank you, Gd). A
beautiful version of a beautiful song. Again, the mesh between all the
instruments was absolutely seamless. The fade out was ethereal. This was the 8th
night in a row that Bob has played this (as part of the block of his last six
songs), but this should give rise to zero complaints…
12. "Thunder On The Mountain" - My notes simply say “Charlie – incendiary
solo.” And that about states it. Rollicking approach to the song, and now we are
clearly at the “rounding third and headed for home” part of the evening. Which
always, on one hand, make me so sad, but on the other, so grateful. To have the
privilege of being able to hear this band (and it is not just Bob at all, but
definitely Bob and the band) again and again. My cup runneth over. And again,
Bob was smiling and in great humor all night. As he has been the last few times
that I’ve seen him, the man was definitely enjoying himself. Lots.
13. "Ballad Of A Thin Man" - Next to "High Water", the musical highlight
of the night. Bob, one last time on center stage, drawing out the syllables
(“yourrrrrrrrrrr imagination”), spitting out the accusations (“lepers and crooks”).
A slow and deliberate and exquisite harp solo. Back to my Thelonious Monk
analogy - perfect use of rests. Another even better harp solo. Totally totally
brilliant. How does he do it?
(encore) 14. "Like A Rolling Stone" - for the 10001st time, but enough is
never enough. Again, from my notes, “Charlie!!!” Was there anyone in the
audience not singing along to every word? I don’t think so.
15. "All Along The Watchtower" - New, for me, arrangement, and a
relatively fast run through. Always good to hear but, truthfully, not in
the same league as most of the performances. It was 10:40 on a miserable
Sunday night. I think Bob may have been looking forward to his off day.
We cheered and applauded for a 2d set of encores, but, alas, no luck. So, I said
goodbye to my new friends (again, how great to be able to share this with them),
and pointed the car home. Arrived just at midnight…
So, a great concert and a great experience. It is now 3 pm on Tuesday.
Wednesday night, at the Mann in Philadelphia, I’ll be back again. As always,
thank you, Bob. For being you. For making our lives so much richer than they
ever would have otherwise been. 29 hours to go…
Review by Jeffrey Johnson
On paper and the Pagel web site, Asbury Park would appear to be largely a carbon
copy of the Jones Beach performance, with just a few substitutions, namely
McTell and Highwater. But, oddly for this notorious venue, the sound was
clearer and crisper than Jones Beach (except for some vocals—and that may have
been part of the plan). Strangely, not even a meek one called out for His
local understudy to join Him on stage. Before the show, someone politely asked
the sound guy to raise Charlie up in the mix. Though this request was deftly
referred to the mixing desk, Charlie by some coincidence was more out front, but
still tightly tethered. He and Stu did provide some highlights, particularly
toward the end of the show when they thought they could get away with it.
Particular improvement from the prior night occurred on a vastly superior To
Ramona. Also, the banjo tunes, Highwater and McTell, were splendidly
performed, though McTell suffered from a purposely-slowed tempo. Early in this
show and last night’s Jones Beach show, a thunderous Tangled Up In Blue gave
the show a strong start.
Review by Gregory Schwartz
In a grey hooded sweatshirt, Bob Dylan enters Convention Hall in a rhythmic
sense of constant clarity.
Being no one’s allowed in the building for sound-check, it’s time for me and my
two friends to hide.
Bob Sound-checks' a variation on Love Minus Zero.
Playing a dexterous mixture of chords and arpeggio’s with a most flowing
control of the Stratocaster, very Bob Weir like.
A classic image of Bob giving the band three nods of approval from his
as they shift gears and concentrate on the rest of the bands sound levels.
We leave the building and wait on line.
We take our place on the floor, stage right able to lean upon the barricade.
Everyone could get out of the rain while waiting for doors.
As convention hall fills with a winding line.
By Bob Dylan’s second song the musical style of the show is evident.
As every show is musically different it's now up to the individual to decide
what they’re going to embrace as either familiar, innovative, or you should of
stayed home and listened to past recordings.
These limitations do not apply to this reviewer.
Bob Dylan the greatest songwriter is on the moment, a master vaudevillian
No poignant songs where performed, this was a summer swing jazz, toe tapping
celebration of escapism.
A Simple Twist of Fate sounded like no other song of the evening’s
A hybrid of The Byrd’s and The Beatles.
After comparing experiences we concluded this was Howling Wolf meets the Sun Ra
Bob signed a poster for the office, Bruce Springsteen stopped in to say
Bob Dylan is down to earth, patient in understanding how his songs affect
his audience, quiet, and likes his space to remain undisturbed.
This is the fourth time we’ve brought Bob to the area.
This being the second time Bob has played Convention Hall,
And the two shows at Blue Claws Stadium,
Bringing the Greatest Songwriter and most influential artist to the
neighborhood is of great pride and responsibility .
Thanks’ to everyone who came out, thanks’ to Bruce Springsteen for the sound
curtains. Bob will be back when ever he wants to be.
Asbury Park NJ
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