October 14, 2017
Review by Phil Levine
Well, almost one year to the day since his last visit to Sin City—a memorable
day on which it was announced His Bobness had entered history as a Nobel
Prize winner—the Never Ending Tour returned Saturday night to the same
venue, the Chelsea at the upscale Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino.
Unfortunately, as the backdrop to this year’s Bob visit were two sad events,
neither involving the Nobel Prize. Within a horrible 24-hour period at the start
of this month, two events shook the world of Las Vegas, America, and music
lovers worldwide. First, on Oct 1, a madman opened fire on a 22K-person
crowd at the Highway 91 music festival just off the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58
and wounding over 500 people.
Within hours of that tragedy, the world of music was shocked to learn of the
sudden passing of Charlie T. Wilbury—more commonly known as the great
Tom Petty, Bob’s 1980s bandmate and longtime friend.
With that as the backdrop to Saturday’s Bob Show, one might have thought
there would have been some—or any—acknowledgment of either sad event
during the concert in Las Vegas.
Well, there wasn’t.
And as a Las Vegan, and lifelong Petty fan—a musician who even Bob has
acknowledged as one of the great songwriters of his generation—I could rail
and rant about how ‘wrong’ it was so soon after both events, for Bob to not
even acknowledge either tragedy But what would be the point? He is who
he is..and does whatever he wants. Always has, always will.
And so…On with the show, I suppose…and on to the review. Readers can
judge for themselves the appropriateness of Bob’s choice to ignore both
At the show, the security was, not surprisingly, very tight—metal detectors,
‘sniffer dogs’ present, and constant reminders that, and I quote, “this is a no
cell phone show—anyone caught using a cellphone will be immediately
removed.” Not exactly a warm welcome, but—at least in terms of security—
perhaps understandable after October 1st’s tragedy.
It was a dark stage..literally, that greeted the audience. Even those close to
the stage in the cavernous Chelsea would have been unable to see Bob’s
countenance despite their proximity, given the dim lighting. While the stage
lighting in recent years, at least for his shows here, has been anything but
illuminating, Saturday’s was downright dingy…pretty much the only times Bob
was at all truly visible was when he came out from behind his piano to do this
‘best boy singer’ stance, legs widely spread, with the stand alone mic.
As for the songs: highlights included a spry and upbeat opening “Things Have
Changed”, followed by an equally upbeat “It Ain’t Me, Babe”-an odd pairing
but then…you know.’it’s Bob’…etc. etc.
The upbeat mood continued with a spirited version of Highway 61…but then,
suddenly, Bob slammed on the musical brakes, and inserted a downbeat, albeit
well-sung ‘Why Try To Change Me Now’. While the song was well delivered,
its placement seemed wrong; further emphasizing that point was the
subsequent ‘swinging’ version of Summer Days. Only to be followed, once
again, by a downbeat torch song…as the pace was shifted to low gear with
the appropriately titled Melancholy Mood’ .
Pacing aside, a few of the tunes performed Saturday just didn’t cut it—at least
for me. On record, ‘Trying To Get To Heaven” (which, by the way, would have
been a lovely moment to have inserted a shout out to Tom) remains one of
Bob’s loveliest latter day songs. The ‘version’ performed Saturday, however,
was unrecognizable, and frankly, a complete throwaway of a great song.
Just when Tempest’s ‘Pay in Blood’ began to pick up the pace, yet again the
mood shifted gears—sharply—with a lukewarm version of a Sinatra classic,
‘September of My Years’. The fact of the matter is that some songs truly
require nuance, range and vocal depth that Bob no longer possesses; I get
that the lyrics are easily applicable to him at age 76—but he simply doesn’t
have the Sinatra-esque vocal abilities required to evoke the emotional depth
of such a tune.
Desolation Row is one of the most sacred among the Dylan catalogue—and
while the version he proffered Saturday was enjoyable on the surface, his
insistence on loading a new melody onto a masterpiece distracted from some
of his most profound and original prose.
On a more positive note, one of the true highlights of the night was a heartfelt
version of one of his latter day’s strongest songs—the lovely ‘Soon After Midnight’
off 2012’s Tempest LP. Bittersweet, and delivered with a world-weary voice
uniquely his own…Now THAT is the type of ‘torch song’ one wants to hear from
the Bard of Hibbing.
Closing with the duo of Blowin’ In The Wind (no ,not the one you know, at
least not melodically) and Ballad of A Thin Man were interesting choices of
denouements to a concert that could be described as truly a mixed bag of
great moments, and missed opportunities.
Still, in the wake of the tragedies of early October, there was something
reassuring just to be in the presence of a man whose music has provided the
proverbial soundtrack to the lives of so many, for so long.
As the Never Ending Tour moves down the road, ‘heading to another joint’,
many—including myself—left the hall reminded that, throughout good times and
bad, when it comes to Bob’s special place in our lives—we are, in the words of
the Traveling Wilbury classic, likely to be ‘going to the End of the Line.”
Here’s hoping that won’t be for many years to come.
Review by Laurette Maillet
Las Vegas on the 14th of October 2017 I wake up with the sun rise and
realise with wonder there will be a Bob Dylan show tonight taking place in
the Hotel I can see in the far distance. And I have conscience that it is
a miracle that Mr Dylan is still alive and still on the road for me and
for you. I have conscience that I am a lucky one to be able to attend the
show. Not knowing if yes or no I'll be able to get in but I'll be there,
and I'll try my best to applaude and honor one of the most remarkable
Artists of this century. No matter the setlist, no matter the sound,
no matter the quality of this performance, Bobby will get MY standing
ovation. I get myself a breakfast : bagels and coffee. A good start for a
long day. I'm still confused with the jetlag but I feel fine. I check
the Cosmopolitan. HUGE, fancy hotel. The first floor is the casino but
second and third floor are empty. Sort of wasting space for no special
use. The paintings and Art deco are giving a sense of museum but it could
be better. I walk back to my AirBandB for rest after the purchase of a
telephone. I will need it to call Bill for the setlist! I try to catch
some sleep. 5.30 pm. I take my 40 minutes walk back to the
Cosmopolitan. The gambles are also out. I know Vegas, been here few times
already. I disconnect with the noise and lighting and focus on the Dylan
crowd hoping to the third floor. I know security is tough and of course
this is not a place for "begger". After 45 minutes of asking discreetly
for an Extra ticket a nice lady comes to me and is willing to sell her
extra ticket for a fair amount. But though I am tempted I also know this
is the beginning of my Tour and money is sparce. Finaly Nancy recognizes
me as one of the writers for Bill and gives me the ticket. Thank you so
Much. I am waiting to read your comments on the show. The Dylan crowd is
of 'old days'; retired people in their 50's,60's,70's. Few BD Tshirts.
Even one of Tom Petty. May he rest in Peace! And no, I don’t wish
Bob to send him an homage on stage. Bobby lost many companions along the
road. He HAS to move on. Small theater. Not extra fancy but comfy. I
spot Chris(the light tec) and say hello. I crisscross with Jason(the sound
tec) and say hello. Move front to check hand with Barron. Check hand with
Big Bob passing by. They feel like old friends to me. My seat is on the
floor, middle row, all the way on the right. I see the keys of the
piano. 8 p.m. Lights off. Stu strumms a new arrangement. George is
giving the signal and the other members of the Band take place followed by
Bobby. I am up before anyone else. I haven't seen my Hero for so long!
Lights on(on stage). Bobby is all in black, except the white straps on his
pants. He is wearing a light 3/4 leather jacket. His hear style is long
curly and dyed black. No hat at no moment. 1.Things Have Changed New
arrangement. More drumms from George , the little drummer boy. I focus on
George and realize he is wearing a hat and not the beret. Nice. I like it.
More staccato in the lyrics. 2.It Ain't Me, Babe And why Bob decided
for this one among so many? He might not be talking to a Girl but to the
Fans. Leave me alone. I'm not your Prophet or your Guru. 3.Highway 61
Revisited A good solid Rock. Unchanged. 4.Why Try To Change Me Now
Parallel to "It ain't me Babe". Take it or leave it. 5.Summer Days
Woah! Donnie on violin is fantastic. Country /bluegrass style. I feel
like stepping on my feet and dancing the Irish dance. I'm out of
voice(can't even sing)! One of the highlights of the night. 6.Melancholy
Mood My favourite of the croonies. Sweet! Beautiful intro by the Band.
Bob voice is fitting this one better than any others. 7.Tryin' To Get
To Heaven New for me. Melancholic! 8.Honest With Me Also new for
me. I'll have to listen to it more carefully to give a note. 9.Where Is
The One The worst of all for the voice. He can't reach the high notes ,
exposing his default. He is Not a singer. But an interpreter of Poetry.
Should pick up another one? I have to check the lyrics for it might be
where the force is. 10.Pay In Blood Unchanged, unchallenged.
11.September Of My Years I don't know this one. Will check on it soon.
12.Tangled Up In Blue He changed the melody and crashed it all. Too slow.
With no power. The public doesn't even react to the one which used to be
so prized. 13.Early Roman Kings Less George, more Charlie. Less drumms,
more guitar. Great Charlie! 14.Soon After Midnight My sweet one. And I
don't want nobody but you! 15.Desolation Row Finaly a reaction from the
public. Some even stand up. A moment of pure joyce! One of the
highlights. 16.Thunder On The Mountain That I can hardly recognized.
Also a pure Rock and Roll that would have made the crowd dance and shout
in other times , in other days. Hardly few balancing of the head, here and
there. Come on People, Rock and Roll will never die! 17.Autumn Leaves I
could do with another one. 18.Long And Wasted Years Yep! The other
loud and angry one. Unchanged. I will pay attention to the lyrics though,
he may change few lines. (encore) 19.Blowin' In The Wind I could do with
another one or another arrangement. Can't get used to it. 20.Ballad Of A
Thin Man No surprise. A change from 'Along the watchtower' or LARS he
had been doing so often. I used to like it better center stage.
Thank you all the good people; Nancy, the crew people, the tecs.
Thank you the Band. Good night Bobby. Sweet dreams! See you soon.
Review by Nancy Cobb
I just came to you because you're a friend of mine.......Bob Dylan
I was so excited to be coming to Bob's Vegas show because I would have the
chance to meet people in the 21,000 plus facebook group called The Bob
Dylan Fan Club. We gathered at the Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan
before the show. I met for the first time someone who lived less than 10
miles from me who has been to going on 200 Dylan shows. This facebook
group is the most polite, democratic, and yet focused of all the groups
that I belong to. Through the kindness of Caroline, I was able to upgrade
to a much better seat and as I walked in to the venue, I tried to sell my
original ticket. I said $30 and was offered $20. As I politely declined,
and walked away, I asked who was it that wanted to buy my ticket? My
companion said a French woman and I immediately know it was Laurette. I
have always admired Laurette on her never-ending odyssey to see Bob
everywhere, and saw the desperation in her eyes as the time was only 10
minutes before Bob was set to go on. I went back and gave her the ticket
and we hugged. I would have regretted it forever if she had come all the
way from Paris and could not get into the show. I know she is famous for
minimizing expenses by not buying tickets in advance, but I always enjoy
her observations and reviews and it made me feel very happy to do this.
Despite added security, the show started at 8:01 pm, right on time despite
a sold out crowd. Like the stage set in Funner, there were no colored
lights, no video, nothing to distract from the music. Also Bob wore no
hat at all for both of these shows ....a subtle reminder that he is not
over the hill yet and his bell still rings. The set list was the same as
the previous night except for 3 switches in the order. Tangled was a bit
more intelligible this time .. and came after September of my Years which
is so sad and wrenching. Soon After Midnight was really sexy, better for
me than any Sinatra song. I just love what Bob has been doing lately with
Desolation Row. It makes me feel like I am in a foreign country far away
from suburbia and shopping malls with almost a Bach or Mozart fugue
feeling. Then, the biggest switcheroo, Autumn Leaves followed by Long and
Wasted Years. It just gave me a new lease on life....a time for sadness
and reflection and a time for continuing to fight and moving on. For me
it added to the dramatic impact of the show. Then the two encores where
the audience can rejoice and look forward to Bob being "the soundtrack of
our lives" for many years to come.
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