Review by Brian Boyd
This was a special Dylan concert for me. The first time I saw Bob was at
The Last Waltz. The first full show was at Oakland in 1978 for the
'alimony tour' and my first real extended run was The Warfield shows in
1979 and 1980 when I was lucky enough to see just about every show. I
stopped counting a while ago but am up over the 200 mark which, relatively
speaking, doesn't put me near the top of the list but is many times more
than I ever would have guessed if you would have asked me sitting outside
Winterland in San Francisco for that first show. To stand with my two 13
year-old sons outside the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on a beautiful San
Fransisco day almost 30 years later was surreal and more than a little bit
emotional for me. They were ready for action, having heard 'Modern Times'
dozens of times and my favorite post-1995 bootlegs countless times as
well. They are young masters at finding what we call 'Bobcontent' in
newspapers and magazines as well ripoffs, tributes and tangential
fragments of data that tie back to Dylan. They were not, as I like to say,
'there for the t-shirt.' My legs are not the greatest so I told them that
we would head for the balcony so I could sit for the show. They were fine
with that although Kyle is a Warped Tour moshpit veteran and may have been
a bit disappointed. We got there at 4 pm, found a great parking place
practically in front of the place and were maybe 30 from the front of the
line. When the doors opened, i could see that the whole stage was wide
open. I told them, hell with my old body, we're getting close. We ran to
the front and secured spots against the barricade on the right (Bob's
side) of the stage. Security was great, advising the folks on the floor to
find a place and sit because it was still an hour to show time but to be
prepared to stand after that point. They handed out earplugs (I must be
old...I took them!) and even collected beer cups so we wouldn't have to
stand on them all night.
Bob has always drawn diverse crowds and San Francisco crowds are always a
little more diverse anyway. Compared to my last show in Stockton, this was
a much, much younger crowd. At the front, we were surrounded by teens and
twentysomethings. A good thing! Kings of Leon came out and in spite of
what I've read here and heard in line from folks that attended last night,
they were great. Somewhere along the line, they got tagged with the
'Southern Rocker' label so people get irate that they don't sound like the
Allmans or Skynard. While hard to pin them down, I heard Black Crowes,
'Dokie' era Green Day and a lot of punky energy. When the tour info came
out, I was crushed that we didn't get The Racconteurs (Jack White is
fantastic!) or even the dumbed down Foo Fighters. I don't feel so bad now.
Their fans were young but stayed for Dylan and were wonderful. I'll get
their CD. When I look back on the insanely great openers Dylan has given
me (Beck, Ani DiFranco, Lucinda Williams, Merle and others), I always give
him the benefit of the doubt.
The set change seemed quick to me...Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan!
Bob was in the black cowboy outfit and hat and was sporting a very
noticeable diamond clustered ring on his left hand. I'd say it cost a
grand but that ain't enough. The band was in matching gray suits and the
usual assortment of lids.
1. Maggie's Farm: Bob sounded reasonably good but Bob had a creak or two
to work out. Solid rendition.
2. She Belongs To Me: I like this arrangement a lot. The slow bluesy
delivery lets Bob select his cadence and enunciation in mid-syllable if he
wants and he used to full advantage tonight.
3. Lonesome Day Blues: The voice came into it's own. Hard charging. Thumbs
up from the boys.
4. Simple Twist Of Fate: I love this song but always fear a sleepy
rendition. It was very tenderly, artfully and carefully delivered. Great
reception from the crowd.
5. Rollin' And Tumblin': This song, along with the ipod favorite 'Someday
Baby' were the two songs the boys were hoping to hear. While we got
shutout on 'Someday', 'Rollin'' sounded great in an arrangement that came
straight from the grooves (bits?) of Modern Times.
6. Boots Of Spanish Leather: A highlight. Wonderfully sung. This song has
always been great because through the years, Bob has delivered it as a
'one act play' really drawing us into the story. From my spot 30 or so
feet away from him, he seemed drawn in himself. Magic.
7. 'Til I Fell In Love With You: '97-'00 were the years that I probably
saw Dylan the largest number of times and this song was never one of my
favorites. Almost anything from TOOM was welcome but I saw this as a half
a notch above Dirt Road Blues. Tonight, I loved it. Maybe it's just
because I haven't heard it much lately but the forcefulness of the
delivery made it more akin to 'Cold Irons Bound' (a very good thing to
8. I Shall Be Released: My heart leaped for a nanosecond as I thought
perhaps this might be 'Born In Time', a favorite of mine. This is a great
song but it cries out for backing vocals of some sort. This is the first
time that it dawned on me that with this band (as opposed to the legendary
Campbell/Sexton years), backing vocals are not even an option. Nice
version but lacking as far as I was concerned. This is when I first
noticed that Donnie peers over at Bob's keyboard like a kid trying to copy
someone else's test paper as he plays. Anyone know what that's all
9. Highway 61 Revisited: This got the crowd rocking, Heads were bobbing
and there was much dancing in my area.
10. John Brown: When I saw the tech prepare Donnie's banjo during H61R, I
was really hoping for 'Highwater' which had been the highwater mark (pun
apologetically intended) of the Stockton show last year. My initial
disappointment quickly dissapated as it became clear that, like 'Boots',
he was giving us another well recited one act play. Brilliant. With our
men inexplicably still in Iraq and 'THE 'C' STUDENT' in The White House,
this song needs to be played.
11. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine): Not a favorite of mine
but well played. This is one of those songs where Bob needs to work so
hard to get around the limitations of his vocal range, it loses some of
the mean spirited yet playful lyrics.
12. Workingman's Blues #2: Fantastic. I love this song. Although I'll bet
that if you ask Bob, he's admit that 'proletariat' isn't the easiest word
to shoehorn into that first verse night after night. A highlight.
13. Summer Days: Larry and Charlie, get back on the bus. All is forgiven.
Ah well, at least I'm not bitter. This is a great song and it's always
good. It would just be better without the image of Bob, Larry and Charlie
hunched over in a circle in the middle of the stage trading licks and
blowing the friggin' roof off of venue after venue.
14. Thunder On The Mountain: This is the new "Summer Days'. Forget the
notion that we don't need a new one. This song rollicked and Bob sounded
unbelievably great. At one point, he sang and played the keyboards with
his right hand and held the left up like a rodeo cowboy in the chute just
before all hell breaks loose. The boys picked this as hands down worth the
price of admission. Kyle pointed out that the bassline was more prominent
than on the CD and drove the band and Bob harder. Good point, little dude!
15. Like A Rolling Stone: The usual. The crowd was way into it and
enjoyed shouting the 'how does it feels'.
Band intros...Bob finished the intros by saying 'let's see if you can
guess which one this is...' and the band started the newer spooky opening
16. All Along The Watchtower: Good version. Mature of me not to mention
other guitar players from days gone by. Bob repeated the verse as is his
way now. He came to the front of the stage and pointed at the crowd. Two
people threw flowers on the stage and Bob picked one bouquet up and waved
it a bit. Off they went. A tech handed Tony his bass (in the case) before
he left the stage.
The place emptied out nicely and within a few minutes we were in our
beetle and headed across the Bay Bridge. What a perfectly memorable
evening for me and my boys. If you're still reading at this point, thanks
for letting me share!
aka Botticelli's Nephew
Review by Steve Brunell
For what it's worth, some ramblings about one of the most important
artists I have had a pleasure to see again after two nights in SF at the
Bill Grahmn Civic in San Francisco.
Bob is 65 now and is playing as good as I have ever seen him every few
years since 1987 which was my first show with a backing band of "just" the
Grateful Dead in the Oakland Stadium. I have seen Bob several times since
then and have always thought of his band as his "Posse" (a friend
suggested this term to me circa late 80's when we first saw him with his
own band in Berkeley) since the backing band guitar players all wear
stylish hats and suits that make them look like gunslingers in a well
dressed criminal enterprise of the 21st century modern version of the wild
west of rock and roll. Members come in go in Bob's band but they are all
in the Posse on any given night. Bob is of course the master gunslinger
in a black suit and hat but plays keyboards and harmonica only these days.
The last time I saw Bob was a few weeks after 9/11 and was a pretty
intense show at the time...that was 5 years ago. This time around, the
last couple nights had an understated political edge to them as well for
obvious reasons. Tuesday night's "John Brown" left the crowd pretty
silent at times during the rendition...the widow or mother (I forget) who
open's the casket of her fallen lover or son against the wishes of the
military and can't recognize his face since it is blown off...chilling in
these times of war and too many casualties. I don't know if this was a new
verse to this tune but it was reviting and maybe I was hearing things
since am not an expert in the Dylan lyrical catalogue but this version
sounded different to me from the live Unplugged CD.
After talking with those in the know from what I can tell anyway...Bob has
decided to not play guitar anymore and now plays strictly Organ/Electric
Piano and/or Harmonica which is a wonderful change to the sound since
everytime I've seen him he only had his guitar Posse with no keyboard
player which I always felt left out the keyboard parts from the classic
songs or even new tunes at the time as I've seen him play over the years.
I might guess that instead of hiring a keyboard player to play the keys
for the last 20 years during his live tours that he has now decided to now
play them himself since they otherwise wouldn't be perfect in his opinion
which is fantastic in my opinion! That being said, some loyalists still
want him to pick up his guitar axe from what I've heard and he has not
done so live in several years apparently...I personally don't really care
as long as he plays and sings for us and want to emphasize the band sounds
a lot better with keys in the mix these days.
Anyway, just a couple thoughts about his new stuff (Modern Times - I'm
buying it tommorow) sounds great which he played a few songs from each
night. He also threw in a couple hot tunes from the previous CD (Love and
Theft - note that this CD was released exactly on 9/11/01 which is kind of
weird) each night and the rest were the classics but almost always
reworked extensively from the originals since this man is not resting on
his laurels at all but instead reinventing every tune and it is really
good live music.
The sound system was incredibly clear on the floor and am continuing to be
impressed about how well sound is getting better and better live these
The place was maybe 1/2 to 2/3 full (maybe 4000 of 7000 capacity) on each
night which left plenty of room to move about on the floor and was a very
well run show with friendly staff.
Review by Mark Stevens
Tonight was a special one, in the 19 shows I've seen (since 1988) this
was in the top three. No feedback squalls for bob's mike or monitors, no
weirdness in the second half like last night's set. Just pure
unadulterated musical finery from beginning to end, with lots of smiles
from Mr. D and the band throughout. What a set list! I haven't heard "John
Brown" in quite some time, and I think Bob called an "audible" on that one
by walking over to Tony while the lights were down and verbally changing
the list right then and there. The standout, for me anyway, was the
hottest and most musically accomplished version of "Summer Days" I've
heard yet, lots of great drum fills from George and concise, tasty guitar
soloing from Denny Freeman. I'm so used to the song that the level they
reached last night caught me off guard a little, they really pushed the
envelope and made it sparkle.This was one of those nights that us frequent
attenders long for: Great performances from the whole band, A set list
full of nice surprises, Great vocal phrasing and positive energy from Bob
(who was clearly having a righteous blast after the confusion of last
night's last half) A clear mix where you could hear all the instruments
(Including Donny's violin!) and an audience that knew what it was getting
and quite appropriately flipped out at the really good bits. The only
other recent show I can compare this to would be the Sacramento Memorial
Auditorium set in October 2001, another barn burner!
Review by Michael Williams
Dylan and his band played a relatively long show last night (2 hours
including a three-song encore) at the somewhat large Bill Graham Civic
Auditorium. Great playing from the band and Dylan appeared highly
energized. We were treated to several keyboard solos from him, a first
The band has really found their groove with strong ensemble playing
making up for the lack of virtuoso soloists as were found in the group I
heard in 2000.
New arrangements like Simple Twist of Fate and Boots of Spanish
Leather along with strong renditions from the new album – Workingman
Blues, Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and Thunder Road made for a very satisfying
song list. The repertoire focused on songs that played to the strong
blues-based American roots music like those previously mentioned and
The interesting inclusion was John Brown, the anti-war war song from the
MTV album. Perfect choice for these frightening times.
The soundman did a great job mixing in a very difficult hall.
All in all a great show as per usual. I’m hoping Dylan returns to
smaller venues after this “hit album” celebration tour. The sound
and the energy in the smaller rooms are much better.
Review by Lori Zook
What a great run in San Francisco! From the 10/16 opening song - Lenny
Bruce - to the closing notes of 10/17's Watchtower, we were treated to an
incredible range of music from beautiful, sad ballads to hard driving
It was wonderful to be in a general admission setting once again, so that
those of us who like getting in line a little early can get to the places
we like to be, and sit together. The group of people I usually hang out
with at shows sat a little closer to the stage than usual - probably 4-5
people off the rail @ stage center right. We had a great view of the band,
including Bob's new perspective.
I enjoyed both shows immensely, but last night's show was a standout. The
band seemed to be much tighter than the previous evening and Bob appeared
to be in higher spirits...smiling...looking at the audience...bopping
around. It was great. I have to say that Denny's leads sounded much more
integrated last night than the previous night. For some reason - an
effects box? An off night? Strange tuning? - the guitar leads sounded
very distracting on the 16th. All was back in balance on the 17th and it
had a strong and positive effect on the music.
A couple of highlights: She Belongs to Me. One of my very favorite songs
for many reasons, whose return to the lexicon last spring made me a very
happy girl. The mix of tenderness and irony in the lyrics was clearly
delivered and the music was excellent.
Simple Twist of Fate...a haunting version with a slight pronoun shift. I
don't believe I've seen this song performed live very often, if ever, and
I was moved to hear it.
Boots of Spanish Leather....another beautiful and sweetly delivered song _
Obviously, I'm a sucker for the ballads. I also enjoyed the songs that
rocked, and there were many. The new material is amazing - ballads and
fast songs, alike. The most striking thing I gleaned from this show was
the depth and intricacy of the orchestration. Sometimes the sound just
sort of blasts me, and sometimes I hear one instrument above the others
with varying degrees of effectiveness. But last night - I'm not sure if it
was during John Brown or Hwy. 61 or what - but there was a moment that I
could just hear everybody simultaneously in a perfect blend, and I
marveled at how much thought and trial and error goes in to putting
together and arranging these songs.
A great show, once again. Makes me want to head south this weekend!
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