October 13, 2010
Review by Rev. John Wm Klein
My wife Linda and I traveled to the concert in Birmingham from Opelika.
We had great seats in the city's Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center
Conference Concert Hall. Once there we were fortuitously seated next
to my friend and fellow Grad Student at Auburn University Toby and
his wife Heidi. The auditorium quickly filled with fans of all ages - seventeen
to seventies - nothing unusual there.
D. W. Griffith's 1916 silent film Intolerance was shown on the curtain
backdrop beginning about twenty minutes or so before the set began.
The draped curtain distorted the images - whether intentionally or
not - and the film's four episodes of "intolerance" - California labor unrest
in 1914, the Crucifixion, St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre 1572, and
Babylon 539 B.C. - were largely lost on fans more interested in sharing
Dylan stories or guessing what he might perform.
That latter answer was not long in coming. The set opened with
"Leopard-Shin Pill-Box Hat" My notes, scribbled in the dark, had Bob on the
guitar as was the case for the next two numbers in the set: "It's all over
now Baby Blue" and "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,"
which he simply had to sing while in Alabama. Sing it he did! It was perfect
with the fans, at Bob's prompting, joining in on the "stuck inside of Mobile"
refrain. I once heard Dylan sing "Girl of the North Country" in Minnesota
and "Mobile" had much the same effect here as I remembered "Hibbing"
having there. In this unending tour there is a deliberate sense that Bob
knows just right where he is. I noticed he sang "Señor: Tales of Yankee
Power" in Barcelona too. "Just like a woman" was fourth in the set and Bob
had the fans - on their feet for the first four numbers - filling in the familiar
refrain. This was very effectively done I thought. The mature man next to
me simply said, "It's a beautiful song." The reality is Dylan's songs bring back
a million miles of remembrance. This concert was no different in that regard.
I remember Bob playing the guitar on five numbers in the set: the first three,
"Things have changed" and "Simple Twist of Fate." That is the most I have
heard in recent years. Bob, of course, is constantly reinventing his work. It is
by now a commonplace to say going to a Dylan concert is all together
different from listening to an album. This is true for several reasons: new
arrangements, improvisations, and the occasional twist of lyrics. In "Things
Have Changed" last night for example, Bob sang, "People are crazy and times
are strange I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range I used to care, but things are
different" instead of "have changed" in the second refrain. At least that's what
Different arrangement can be effective as well. "Tangled Up In Blue" was easily
recognized not by its music but by its lyrics, which Bob almost spoke as if
reciting a poem. The One always had the feeling that TUIB was driving toward
a crescendo and so did this rendition with the bands powerful driving beat and
syncopation plus Bob's drawing the crowd in on the refrains. While hopelessly
traditional myself, I could not help but admire the creativity in this ever popular
tale - I imagine many have wanted to "get back to her someday," whatever or
whoever "her" might have been. I didn't and couldn't recognize "The Levee's
Gonna Break" which was fifth in the set. It seemed all around me recognized
"Things have Changed" and the very hard driving "Cold Iron's Bound" which
was very powerful indeed. But nothing equaled "Workingman's Blues #2" - by
far the best performance, to my mind, of the entire evening. To my hearing
Bob gave and increased clarity to certain lyrics, such as "Gonna give you another
chance … I'm all alone and I'm expecting you To lead me off in a cheerful dance …
Some people never worked a day in their life Don't know what work even
means." Of course, sometimes we hear either what we want to hear or what
speaks most clearly to us. Bob seemed very clear to me on "Working Man's
"Highway 61 Revisited" was a crowd pleaser; "Thunder on the Mountain" was
super accompanied with quite dramatic lighting and the by now familiar overhead
images of the band. I though the keyboard improvisation wasn't Bob's best. But,
I was just glad to be hearing it and I think it was probably one of the best-received
performances of the evening. In between these two, twelfth in the set, was
"Ain't Talkin'" with Donnie Herron on the viola and Bob on keyboard. I gave it four
stars. Utterly magnificent! There is a haunting quality to the composition that
seemed to come off even more hauntingly last evening. "Ballad of a Thin Man"
followed with numerous images of buildings - difficult to interpret I thought - that
accompanied the rendition.
After a really great standing ovation Bob and the band came back for his usual
encore of this tour, "Jolene" and "Like a Rolling Stone." And then much like that
rolling stone he was off to "another joint" but I think with a decided "direction
home." Wherever and whenever, and for as long as he can do it, Bob is "home"
on the stage singing his songs - or do they sing him? - to so many of us grateful
fans. May this unending tour never end and thank you Bob Dylan for the joy and
inspiration you have brought to millions on every continent of this sphere.
Review by Jeff Kurtzman
Bob continues to amaze. Last night's show in Birmingham left no doubt that
is the Bob show. Our man in black took all the guitar leads but one, and
on every other song he took the solo on his keyboard or harmonica. While
not as flashy or technically proficient as the solos Charlie might have
provided, Bob's were angular yet melodic. The latest versions of Things
Have Changed and Simple Twist of Fate contained especially tasty guitar
licks. Bob explored the keys nicely on Levee's Gonna Break and Highway 61
Revisited, so much so that a couple of times Tony had to wander over to
Bob's side of the stage to see where he was taking things. Bob's
idiosyncratic gyrations and gestures highlighted his center stage harp
solos. Bob's singing was passionate and forceful all night long, even
beautiful on Workingman's Blues #2. How he does it---all those lyrics and
all the leads now too at age 69---boggles the mind. In all, a virtuoso
performance by a national treasure. Praise Bob!
Review by David Bond
I first saw Bob in Los Angeles in 1974, the afternoon show at the end of the
comeback tour with The Band. I saw Rolling Thunder in Mobile in 1976, the big
band tour outside of Washington D.C. in 1978, the Gospel tour in Charleston,
West Virginia, the Retrospective Tour in Atlanta in 1980 and several versions of
the Never Ending Tour over the last couple of decades. This was my 15th concert
with my last being Bob's appearance with Willie Nelson at the Hoover Met in
The Concert Hall seats 3500 and has excellent acoustics. I'd say there were 2500
to 3000 folks there, with the upper tiers near the back empty. Bob and his band
were on stage shortly after the designated 8 o'clock start time. They moved
right into an excellent, jumpy Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. Bob's voice was clear,
he was enunciating the words well and his organ was turned up in the mix and he
seemed to really be into playing it (then and throughout the evening). One of
the big surprises of the night came next with Bob picking up his electric guitar
and starting into a song I quickly recognized as It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.
It was really beautifully done, almost as if he were playing an acoustic guitar.
From some recordings I have heard he is doing a similar thing with Don't Think
Twice. It is great to have Charlie back with the band because it seems to have
gotten Bob back to being the instrumentalist that I remember him being in the
late 90's. The other things that emerged with Baby Blue and came with a few
other songs was what I'd call almost a talking blues style that I think serves
Bob's voice well at this stage. It was fun to see the interplay between Bob and
the audience with Just like a Woman and the clear enjoyment he got out of the
crowd singing along during the chorus. It was the first of many times during the
night when Bob was grinning and seeming to be having a good time soaking up the
enthusiasm of his fans.
Tangled Up In Blue is one of those songs that has worn on me over the years of
listening to many shows and I don't think he's been playing it much the last few
years. Maybe it is good to give things a rest for a while. I thought the
arrangement tonight, with that talking blues like style, was outstanding and it
seemed to feed into some excellent harmonica breaks. As they moved into Things
Have Changed I began to realize just how much lead guitar Bob was playing.
Again, it was similar to back in the 90's on into the early 00's when Charlie
and Larry were in the band and Bob seemed to being pushing himself to show his
stuff on the guitar. He stayed on guitar as they did a lovely version of Simple
Twist of Fate with Bob singly softly and distinctly in that way it seems he can
Next came one of my very favorite Dylan songs, Cold Irons Bound. I thought
it was a very good song on Time Out of Mind and has become a great song as
he has taken it out onto the road. The version I was hearing earlier this
year was probably my least favorite but there is a new twist to it now,
maybe because Bob is doing it as a stand up, with all those body movements
he brings with that and a very nice harmonica break. All of that interwoven with
the drum variations is mesmerizing. Workingman's Blues #2 was sung movingly and
seemed to really grab the crowd's attention. Ain't Talkin' was spectacular and
haunting, as I guess a Bob Dylan apocalyptic song should be. Whatever roughness
is there in his voice these days just gives added authority to the vision of
this world and the one beyond.
Besides the great emotional delight I experienced in hearing Baby Blue
(Bringing It Back Home is my favorite Dylan album) the highlight of the show was
Ballad of the Thin Man. I had seen some video of other shows and the consistency
in the set lists told me it was coming but it still didn't really prepare me for
the truly dramatic effect this dramatic song has with Bob standing up, exposed
to the audience, singing about the vanity of vanities that encloses not just Mr.
Jones but us all. It was a great night to see Bob, soon to be 70, still on the
road and bringing it to us still.
Review by Noel Mayeske
Lovely October day in the deep South... my favorite musician, doing great work
in his 69th year... a lovely venue I could drive to since Bob’s not coming to
Atlanta this year... my happy place...
My 14th time seeing Bob, dating back to '89. I look forward to the shows more
each time, always wondering if “this might be the last." As I cruised past the
venue upon arriving in town, the marquee sign showed Dylan’s mysterious face
holding a harmonica, then flashed an ad for an upcoming Justin Bieber show. Born
in 1994, it’s possible Justin’s parents weren’t even born when Dylan’s first
album came out; in fact, it’s possible Justin’s g r a n d p a r e n t s were
just kids when Dylan started out!! Wow.
Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex is a fine place to see a show. Just
before the lights went down to start the show, the place couldn’t have been more
than 2/3 full.
The new pre-show movie -- D.W. Griffith’s 1916 silent movie “Intolerance” --
flickered in black & white, getting us into the mood. For Dylan, "the future is
just a thing of the past," so this makes sense.
The setlist's always key. This show walked a line: not one real surprise, but
also not one song I really don’t like, other than “Just Like A Woman.” In fact,
the set included quite a few deep favorites: Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, It's All
Over Now Baby Blue, Tangled Up In Blue, and especially Things Have Changed,
Simple Twist Of Fate, Cold Irons Bound, and Workingman's Blues #2. Quite an
The arc of the setlist was interesting: 3 of the first 4 were from Blonde On
Blonde, an amazing 4 from Modern Times, 3 from Highway 61, even 2 from Blood On
The Tracks. So it was basically a show of 4 albums.
I was bummed the setlist is often getting foreshortened to 16 songs these days
-- and that’s without even an opening act! But... who am I to fault America’s
greatest musician “only” playing just under two hours at almost 70 years of age?
(He started at 8:04 and ended at 9:51pm)
The first 6 songs felt like a bit of a warmup for me , but when he started into
Things Have Changed as the 7th song, I was leaning forward and having fun. I
think the lead song is too early in the set for Leopard-Skin to do its magic; it
feels like a song you want to lean back with, stiff drink in hand, after the
band’s gotten a bit warmed up. I enjoyed Baby Blue, but it’s wild how far it’s
gone from its original ballad state... it’s really more of a rock song, these
days than anything personal or introspective.
In fact, I started wishing he would just play a quiet little ballad. The sound
is huge in these shows; a bit of a maelstrom at times. Not much subtlety. It’s
almost as if he’s hiding behind that wall of sound a bit; hiding his voice,
hiding his heart a bit too. I did get my wish, ballad-wise, when he got to
Simple Twist Of Fate, which had to be the night’s highlight, and the most
remarkable rearrangement. That downward spiral of melancholy and regret is
The weirdest song was Tangled Up In Blue. Dylan walked alone to center stage,
looking pretty awkward. Like a kid in a 7th grade talent show who doesn’t know
what to do with his hands. Charming, actually, his absolute lack of showmanship.
The closest I’ve seen to this was a great ‘95 show in Atlanta at Music Midtown
when he came out in a bright pink outfit and just sang the first song with no
instrument in hand.
But what was weird was the lyrics to Tangled. He sang the first couple stanzas,
then went right into the final chapter about Montague Street! Not a word of all
those wonderful middle parts, about old north woods, Italian poets, tying his
shoe, none of that -- just the bookends.
Prince has long driven me crazy with his propensity for truncated medleys...
well, this was like that but inverted; he just snipped out the whole middle of
the song -- the whole story, really! Crowd didn’t appear to notice a lack at all
-- biggest whoops of the night.
And he can be so sharp lyrically when he wants to -- on Ain’t Talkin’, not a
word was misplaced. Which got me thinking, after all this time, with so many
songs, does he use a teleprompter of any sort -- even a printout of lyrics?
It’s so cool having Charlie Sexton back in the band. He cuts a cool figure --
long, lean, young-looking. Charlie’s playing is great, but I feel a bit bad for
him because Dylan seems to give him so few spots to shine. I was a little taken
aback by Dylan’s alpha-dog attitude towards arrangements; Dylan's ballpark organ
definitely dominated every song. There were so many obvious places where Bob
could have laid out just a few bars to give Charlie space to carve out some nice
guitar figures, but Bob was almost always playing something, either organ or
(god bless ‘im) clunky guitar.
They took all the lights down between each song. Genius. Complements the natural
mystique of Dylan, and even seemed to tie into the silent movie that played
before the show. It enhanced the anticipation of what the band would pull from
its magic hat next. They also had some intriguing backgrounds behind the band:
simple images or light patterns. The coolest lighting effect was seeing the
elongated shadow of Bob’s cowboy hat, him hunched over his organ or guitar,
projected on like a puppet show.
So... a fairly workmanlike show, but, a well-played, very real set. I mean,
after all these years, there he was fidgeting nervously singing “Tangled Up In
Blue” center stage, apparently discovering he’s got nothing to do with his hands
while he sings! This is real, folks. Such a treat.
It's like President Obama said when Dylan played “The Times They A-Changin’”
earlier this year at the White House:
“Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He
wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before
the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all
the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but
he didn't show up to that. He came in and played "The Times They Are
A-Changin'." A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he
can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely
different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the
front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a
little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only
interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You
don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a
little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.”
My thoughts exactly. Dylan, wrapped in all his mystery, his contradictions, his
triumphs, his disappointments, his personal trip through time that we get to
ride on -- that’s the Dylan I love, and that’s the Dylan we got this evening in
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