October 14, 2018
Review by Tom Palaima
Bob Dylan sings in “Trying to get To Heaven” that he’s been to sugar town
and shook the sugar down . Now he has played and sung his music and that
very song in Sugar Land, TX. It sure was sweet.
On October 15, 1962, way back when we all were younger and Bob Dylan
had 21 years and Buddy Holly, Echo Hellstrom, Bonnie Beecher and Flo
Kastner behind him in the northern Midwest and still had the living frail spirit
of Woody Guthrie near him and within him, he sang at the Gaslight Café in
the Village, perhaps at an after-hours show, his version of the traditional
prison song “Ain’t No More Cane on This Brazos,” which he might have
heard on Alan Lomax’s 1958 recording of Texas Folksongs.
56 years minus a day later, the show in Sugar Land brought Bob and his
now more compact band of Tony Garnier, Georg Recile, Charlie Sexton and
Donnie Herron to the northern and eastern banks of the Brazos right
where it turns south and finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Right here
during the earliest period of the Lomaxes’ field recordings, black Americans
who were slaves by another name and prison hands expended and even
on the spot exhausted their lives harvesting sugar cane in the service of
what had become in 1907, after over 60 years of cruel labor, the Imperial
Bob had returned to the land that evoked one of his greatest song pictures,
“Blind Willie McTell,” “east Texas, where many martyrs fell.” When he stepped
on the stage, a holy spirit was within him from the first chord of “Things Have
Changed”—well, they really haven’t changed all that much in these here
parts—to the last sardonic questioning of Mr. Jones in the second encore
number “Ballad of a Thin Man.” We were even reminded in a de-gospelized
“Serve Somebody” that we ought still to be thinking of our very souls along
Gavin Garcia, Chair of the Music Commission of the City of Austin and long-active
social conscience of the city through music, Brian Doherty, senior lecturer in
English at the University of Texas at Austin, who teaches a course that
investigates the literary associations of Dylan in his first two decades of writing
and recording music, Bernard Vasek, vinyl-record collector and dealer and a
living encyclopedia of Dylan’s music and concerts, and I drove down, four
horsemen of the Bobocalypse, in the early afternoon from Austin. We passed
Hruska’s Czech bakery and then traveled east-west across the basin lowlands
on the state highway that is two bits short of Hwy 61, passing the still active
Clemens prison farm in unincorporated Brazoria County.
I had gotten back eighteen hours earlier from Chi-town. I was still channeling
Willie Dixon through Bob’s and Robert Hunter’s loving and fully credited theft
of the tune for “My Wife’s Home Town.” It re-burned ahead of the Sugar Land
show into my soul along with “If You Ever Go to Houston” and “Trying to Get
Arriving around five, we channeled the spirit of “Joey” to Antonia’s Cucina
Italiana, a real find hidden in a strip mall a five-minute drive from the new
Smart Financial Centre. There our self-declared “I’m-a-millennial” waitperson,
Ruth, admitted that she did not know much, if anything, about Bob. She
went away from each trip to our table laden with all sorts of suggestions as
to where to begin and continue.
By contrast, a sixty-something couple seated at another table answered
quickly my spontaneous question of them, “What’s your favorite Dylan song?”
He: “Girl from the North Country” aka “that song he sang with Johnny Cash!”
She: “Visions of Johanna” proffered with real conviction. They would be
together with us not for life, but for two hours during a truly superb concert
at the still new-smelling Smart Financial Centre.
One thirty-something musician friend, Rafael Ibarra, whom I met out in the
lobby afterward, hugged me warmly for encouraging his partner, Joann Gulizio,
a lecturer and former student of mine in my department at UT Austin, and him
to go to the show. Such was the enthusiasm the performance inspired. We also
ran into Professor David Gaines, author of In Dylan Town, who was just back
from a Dylan conference in Denmark, and Professor Kathleen Hudson,
song-and-story polymath at Schreiner University and director of the Texas
Heritage Music Foundation.
Gone from the set were any of the ‘Sinatra’ standards of immediate years past.
What remained, however, was an infusion of Sinatra’s commanding manner of
telling a song and making us lucky listeners feel the euphoria of new love and
the late night ‘set-em-up-Joe’ despair of love’s promise gone irredeemably bad
and the rest of the stuff of life that Dylan gets across in his songs.
Highlights were Bob’s stand-up narration of the story on the eerie “Scarlet
Town”; the plaintive harp solos and yet again changed lyrics on “Simple Twist of
Fate”; the lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone” spoken emphatically as if by a police
interrogator laying out separate sets of new facts, each followed by the killer
question “How Does It Feel?’; George Recile’s drum solo on “Thunder on the
Mountain”; Charlie Sexton’s mood-perfect guitar work on every song, but
particularly the near delicacy of his playing in the middle of the maelstrom of
sound at the end of “Ballad of a Thin Man” and his managing to bring Rome,
Sicily and the Bronx alive on “Early Roman Kings”; Donnie’s pedal steel
complementing Bob’s piano and Sinatra-like vocals on “Make You Feel My Love”;
and an exquisitely modestly scaled-back “Love Sick.” All this, as always, built up
over and around Garnier’s bass.
“Make You Feel My Love” was especially poignant for me, because the great
John Inmon played it just over five years ago as the song my darling wife and I
danced to at our wedding in Austin’s Mercury Hall.
Maybe 77 is the new 57 and we’ll have a few more decades. That would
serve lots of somebodies and even many of us nobodies very, very well.
Once again, thank you, Bob, for the reverence, energy, and never-ending
humanity you and your faithful band bring to your songs and to us.
Review by Laurette Maillet
An adventure in itself.
I booked Megabus from San Antonio because ...it was cheap; 4.50$.Cool.
Problem is , I had an option between 2 stops. I forgot to check the address.
So....I ended up 35 miles away from my destination.
After 1 hour of panick and 35$ of Uber, I finaly arrive at my Couchsurfing host's,
A tea and a night later we are Sunday morning14th of October.
Pradesh and I decide to go see some Art exhibition downtown Houston.
Great Art from some American Artists. Paintings, sculptures, clay works, jewellery. ...
Then it is time to head for Sugar Land, 35 miles away.
Lyft/Uber is handy when you dont have a car!
The venue looks brand new but in the middle of nowhere.
I do have a ticket, gift from my good friend Carol. We need one for Pradesh.
The crowd arrives late. By 7 pm there is a slow flow of Fans entering the building.
Pradesh finds a nice folk with an extra ticket to bargain. Cool!
My seat is reasonably good but too far away to see Bobby's face.
The Band-1 takes place by 8.10pm. Bobby trotts to his piano.
Dressed in Black and White again. His style for the last 2 or 3 Tours!
Late folks take their seats as they start a great " Things have changed"
The sound is better than Irving (from my point of view).
Bobby's voice is clear.
He is at the piano for the 8 first songs. Either seating or standing. The piano is
turned so he will be far away from first row. I can see the fluff of his hair and
his white boots alright. The lights are dim.
Donnie picks up his banjo and Bob trotts center stage for "Scarlet town".
Well performed. The banjo gives a metallic touch to the lyrics. I could paint the
song in copper.
The public responds wildly as Bob is now full body on stage.
"Like a rolling stone " will also stir the crowd to an ovation.
"Don't think twice " is done with Bob on piano and a soft touch of guitars
from Tony, Charlie and Donnie. George doesn't use his drums until the last
verse. Nicely thought!
My highlight for this night after "When I paint my Masterpiece "
"Love sick" is center stage.
Bob is awkwardly holding the mike with his right hand. I am not sure if he is
holding the mike or if the mike is holding him straight up!
But the speech is loud and clear.
"Thunder on the mountain " stirs up the audiance also for few seconds
before ...they all fall asleep again!
"Soon after midnight " has a beautiful color lights display on the back curtains.
"Gotta serve somebody " and Bob trotts center stage for his standing.
The public is respectfully waiting for the encore (for most of it).
As Bob takes is position again he moves slightly to the front and points at one
of the lucky fans in front! Someone he knows?
"Blowing in the wind " gets a standing ovation and "Ballad of a thin man " is
A bow and off they go.
As Bob ,again, points to the front!
That was a great show. Better than Irving.
Except Charlie having a little problem with the volume on one of his guitars...
It was well performed, as a nice mechanic well oiled!
Some fans gather to say goodbye, see you next year.
Some are driving home, some are catching Uber to get to the bus station.
I am supposed to catch a Greyhound to Lafayette at 4 am when....I realize I've
done a mistake on my schedule.
It's life and life only
Review by Wade Greiner
Bob Dylan’s concert in Sugar Land, Texas, on October 14, 2018, was the 16th or
so of my life since my first show in 1992. It has been quite a journey up to this
point. I admit there were shows in the past that I felt more concern about Dylan
than true enjoyment - a Bay Area show in 1993 comes to mind - but since a great
show I saw at Berkeley in ’95 I have seldom been disappointed by a Dylan show.
The Sugar Land show was no exception - not the finest I’ve seen, far from the
worst, it was solid and enjoyable. I don’t think that there were songs on the
setlist (which was identical to the one the night before) that I had never heard
live before but there were several new arrangements. It didn’t throw me, but
there were a couple of (rather loud) fellows behind me that were complaining
that he didn’t play the songs the way they were on the record all night (and
letting everyone know that they felt these arrangements were inferior, yelling
“that sucked!” after “Like a Rolling Stone”). I felt that some of the new
rrangement worked well and a few didn’t. I was on the fence at first about the
Rolling Stone arrangement (and my wife didn’t care for it) but by the end of
the song I had warmed up to the start stop thing. I think the highlights for me
were very fine performances of "When I Paint My Masterpiece," and “Don’t
Think Twice, It’s All Right” - which surprised me because Don’t Think Twice is
one I have heard many times in concert and which I have sometimes tired of.
It was very different and lovely this time, though. “Scarlett Town” was very
good and George had a nice solo in “Thunder on the Mountain.” I must admit
I felt that Sexton was perhaps not used to his maximum effectiveness - I miss
the great back and forth Sexton-Campbell combo of old.
I was not entirely impressed with the acoustics of the venue, but Dylan’s voice
was well up in the mix and sounded good most of the time, the voice doing
that guttural thing only very occasionally - he was mostly very clear. As he has
often in the past, he changed the lyrics of many of the songs. “Simple Twist
of Fate” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” both had different lines from the
official versions. In Simple Twist, for example, he sang that she should have
met him in ’58 so that they might have been able to avoid that Simple Twist
of Fate. As an attorney I appreciated that he added a lawyer to “Gotta Serve
Somebody.” He stayed behind the keyboards most of the evening coming
out only a few times (for example during Scarlett Town). I miss his guitar
playing and the keyboards he played were not all that impressive. He went
to the harp a few times and sounded good with that. He didn’t say a single
word during the show, which doesn’t bother me, but I was a little surprised
that he didn’t at least introduce the band.
The crowd was appreciative, if a little muted, and after the encore ("Blowin’
in the Wind” with Donnie on the fiddle, and a fine “Ballad of a Thin Man”)
Dylan and company took a bow and were gone. Given his age I always
wonder when seeing him if this is the last time - but judging from the
energy he displayed in Sugar Land and his continuing reinvention of his
songs, I see no evidence that we won’t be seeing him for some time
coming down the road.
Review by Demetrios Macris
The beginning of the Sugarland show was hampered by the venue. Parking was
backed up for a 1/2 mile and the $15 fee was being collected by too few
folks with not enough change. Ridiculous. Security to get into the venue
was slow and clunky, too. Very non feng shui (probably not grammatically
correct but it felt that way)Consequently, many empty seats for Things
have Changed and when folks did arrive, they were a bit more than
chagrined. The sound guys were not quite right early, either. But the band
was ready and they were solid. Once we all got in the groove, the show was
great, lots of smiles, and an obviously happy crowd. I hope it’s
released someday. Both Bob and the band were exceptional. Seemed like he
was pointing to someone in the crowd. Looked happy. Lots of posing.
The experience was beautiful and the band was a pleasure to watch. Their
leader is definitely someone to follow and if you have the opportunity to
see them, get as close as you can get. You won’t regret it. It’ll make
you remember the magic that a band can create. As far as specifics, I’ll
state the obvious: Don’t Think Twice was magnificent. I’ve already
listened to it a dozen times.
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