October 24, 2008
Review by Audry Rose
After the pre-show Railway Club gathering we headed down to take our
seats in GM Place. It was great to reconnect with Arlo & Thea,
picnicspirit, augustine, Eben, Stephen, Cathy, and others ....... and
especially nice to meet Henry Porter, Sweet Melinda and Louise for the
first time. I was really happy to be able to bring my 20 yr-old niece to
see her first Dylan show, along with two other friends who are long time
fans, but had never seen him in concert. And of course it wouldn’t be
a Bob show without clara and ophelia_. The three of us all had front row
I was sitting off to the side, stage right. The perfect seat really,
looking straight at Bob. Bob & the band were set up quite far back on
the stage so he seemed a bit far away. But they let us stand at the rail
from the get go so I couldn’t have been happier. It turns out Anne,
from LA who was with us in Santa Barbara was sitting right next to me,
and then Jim -- who I know from previous Vancouver shows -- also showed
up. A pretty good sign that this was going to be the stand-up-and-dance
section. Just as the show was about to start, Jim says to me, “Hey
Audry, where’s your hat?” And then a few seconds later Bob launches
into Brand New Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat. First concert for years where
for some reason, I didn’t feel like wearing the silly leopard-skin
pillbox hat, and doesn’t Bob go and open with that song! And on
guitar! What a treat! He sure wasn’t playing guitar due to a
dysfunctional keyboard last night. Sure beats Cats in the Well, lemme
tell ya! This first song was among the highlights for sure.
Other highlights -- Tangled Up in Blue. Wow! Great new arrangement.
Can’t wait to hear it again. Just beautiful.
Visions -- always exquisite. I loved it. He was very animated on this
one, laughing and having a grand old time. I was especially glad to see
this one come around since I picked it in the pool. (I really think it
should be worth more than 6 points!)
Levee’s Gonna Break rocked. This is one of my favourites from recent
set lists. I hope he keeps it in there for awhile.
Nettie Moore was lovely.
Things Have Changed was nice for a change. Hadn’t heard that one for a
long time. I’m always surprised at what a good concert song it is. I
tend to enjoy it more in live performance than on the original recording.
To get Desolation Row and VOJ both in the same show was pretty
special. It will be interesting to hear the tapes to see if he nailed
the lyrics on these two. I thought his delivery on both was great.
During Make You Feel My Love, everything seemed to be going along
fine. We were really digging the guitar again (hoping this was
becoming a new trend), and suddenly he became unhappy with the guitar and
sang, “I haven’t made my mind up yet”. Then he threw the guitar
off after briefly attempting to just sing at the mic with the guitar
still strapped on. Then he did a bit of a discombobulated walk- about
picking up harmonicas, putting them down, standing at the piano, walking
away again. He grabbed the mic off the stand and did a bit more singing
without playing an instrument. He seemed more undecided than confused.
He’s definitely having some instrument issues. I was disappointed to
see him abandon the guitar though. It didn’t seem like it was out of
tune or anything, but he threw it off with such a look of disgust that we
knew it wasn’t coming back out. I find it very amusing when Bob has
conniptions over the instruments while the band plays on. And of course
the band rocked. They rocked on all the songs. You’ve gotta love the
I really enjoyed Bob’s harmonica playing last night. Nice long,
energetic solo on ‘Til I Fell in Love With You. I also enjoyed
seeing Bob come out to the centre mic a bit more. He was full of his
usual idiosyncratic leg movements and various hand gestures and he roamed
around the stage with his little hop-walk -- in fine form. He looked
great. I love the current Rolling Thunder style hat. And with the
guitar getting thrown off all the time, it forces him to take that hat
off for a few seconds and fix his hair. Let’s hope for all of you
heading to Kamloops that the guitar stays on a little more tonight and it
turns into something more than just cruel teasing. I loved it when Bob
first started playing the keyboard back in 2002. But here we are in 2008
and I’m ready for him to stand out front again and play guitar for a
It’s nice to see the set list changing up so much. It’s hard for me
to complain about not hearing Chimes or Long Black Coat after the set
list we got in Vancouver. I’ll be grinning for a long time. ?
Review by Mitch Meyer
It's hard to imagine that a devoted Dylan fan of nearly 40 years like
myself can see Bob perform "Visions of Johanna," "It's Alright, Ma." and
"Desolation Row" in one show and not enjoy it much. While the previous
night's show in Victoria was just about a perfect experience, this one was
marred from start to finish by being seated at an intersection of aisles
ten rows from the stage, with security constantly moving people out of the
area. In addition, a couple of teenage girls were incessantly talking and
screaming behind us (until they quieted down a bit after I asked them not
to talk during the songs -- prompting one of their boyfriends to flip me
the bird). It felt like watching the show in the middle of Grand Central
Station. As hard as I tried, I couldn't settle into a groove of just
focusing on the show.
As for Dylan, he didn't take the stage as loose, frisky and relaxed as the
previous night. He was pretty stiff and cool through the first half of
the show before getting a bit more animated during the second half. The
set list had many changes from the night before, but most of these
arrangements didn't offer the opportunity for the band to really stretch
out. Denny Freeman had very few out-front solos compared to the many the
night before. Dylan again wandered to the center of the stage a few times
with nothing but his microphone (and at times his harmonica) and sung like
one of those old crooners he so admires. He picked up his guitar a couple
of times but seemed uncomfortable with it, and once took it back off after
a minute or so. He also seems to have a nervous fixation playing with his
hair between verses. One more comment: the band is in a great swamp blues
groove with "Till I Fell in Love with You." Dylan seemed to relish a long
harmonica solo at stage center at the end of the song, rolling with the
band's great groove.
I couldn't help wondering if the initial flat mood of Dylan and the Cowboy
Band might have had something to do with the absurdly negative article in
the Victoria newspaper that morning, panning the phenomenal show the night
before. The review in the Times Colonist by Mike Devlin earned the title,
"New-school Dylan not for every old-school fan." Devlin reported that
about 500 of the 4,500 fans who bought tickets "flooded the exits" during
the show apparently because they were shocked and disturbed that the folk
singing Dylan "who haunted the alcoves of Greenwich Village in 1962" no
longer exists. Instead, according to Devlin, we now have a new Dylan who
"sounds, looks and acts not like the Dylan you once knew, but an old
codger." The band is of the quality of "a very good bar band" while Dylan
lacked "passion." The music was often "unrecognizable" and the concert
was "divisive." The reviewer feels that he understands what Dylan is
trying to do but that "doesn't mean I have to like it." Forty-three years
later, this fellow is shocked and disturbed that Dylan has gone electric.
The poor guy just wishes that Dylan would stay the same, decade after
decade, show after show. What a loss. Here was a terrific performace by
the greatest songwriter on earth in at least the last century, as far as I
know, and the reviewer for this newspaper is fixated on the "unpleasant"
fact that Dylan has changed since he was a youth. For all I know, Dylan
found the article amusing, or maybe he doesn't even know about it. Or
maybe it annoyed the hell out of him.
I did, however, enjoy my conversations about Dylan with Customs officals
as I crossed the Canadian border and then returned to the USA this
On Wednesday, the Canadian Customs official seemed like an intense
interrogator so I immediately spilled the beans and told him the whole
Why are you coming to Canada?
To see Bob Dylan perform in Victoria and Vancouver.
Where are you from?
Doesn't he perform in California?
Well, actually this year he isn't playing at all in the Bay Area so we
decided to come up here and see him. Do you have any guns or other
dangerous items? No. Do you have narcotics? No. Do you mean to tell me
that you're going to see Bob Dylan and you don't have narcotics? (I
thought I detected a slight smile.) That's right. O.k. You can go.
The American Customs official today seemed to be buying our story.
What were you doing in Canada?
We saw Bob Dylan perform in Victoria and Vancouver.
Is he still putting out good new stuff?
Are you bringing anything into the country with you from Canada?
Just saw the shows and that's it?
Flip open the trunk.
Oh, well. Maybe he didn't buy the story as much as I had thought. He
seemed to assume it was all a front for trying to import something
illicit, like Cuban cigars.
Review by Steven Thwaits
My friend and I made a spontaneous trip from Seattle. My disappointment
that Bob had skipped us became giddy excitement when I picked up a couple
of great seats just left of the stage, facing Bob¹s keyboards.
It had been two years since my two last shows, at Seattle¹s Key Arena and
Portland¹s Rose Garden, just after the release of ŒModern Times¹.
Vancouver was my show #26, over a thirty year span, beginning at the
Blackbushe Aerodrome in southern England in 1978. Things have certainly
changed in that time, in my life, in the world, and in Bob¹s performances.
He¹s still amazing, and I would see him again tomorrow if I could, but I
do turn a more critical eye on the shows after all this time, particularly
after seeing more than a dozen in last ten years. And as much as I admire
the current line-up, I¹m afraid I¹ve become one of those Œit¹s hard to top
this or that period¹ kind of people. For example: the Larry
Campbell/Charlie Sexton days were simply the best, with Dylan always on
guitar. Hey, but I loved the ŒStreet-Legal¹ band too.
Anyway, last night: The rockers were tight and explosive. Highway 61 and
It¹s Alright MA were highlights as usual. Among the slower numbers, Til I
Fell in Love With You stood out, swampy and menacing. Visions of Johanna
was also compelling and hypnotic. Spirit On the Water however, was a mess.
All discordant and plunky. Things Have Changed, usually one of my
favorites, seemed to have no energy. Tangled Up in Blue also a relative
bore compared to the hoedown days of the old band. Sorry, folks, but I
need to tell it like I heard it. And I would be happy to never hear Summer
Days again. Its been beat to death. Watchtower, however, for me, never
loses its scary appeal.
Please don¹t get me wrong. Last night was more great than mediocre, but I
wish that Bob would change it up. Play half the show acoustic, with only
Herron to accompany him. The recently released recordings show that he is
often at his strongest, on the slower songs, with spare instrumentation
and voice. And stop setting up 20 feet back from the front of the stage.
The very best of last night was when Bob stood, center stage (although way
back, of course), with just his harp and the mike. Those were the moments
that keep me coming back.
Hey, but he ain¹t gonna listen to me. Regardless, every time the master
swings through the Pacific NW, I¹ll be there.
Review by Jay Solomon
It was a brilliant performance - powerful and focused. The muse that
keeps him creating his tapestries is in high gear. The setlist was varied
and communicated his repeating themes of love, theft, greed, decay, and
hope. From the second row centre stage the sound was crystal clear and
every word rang true like burning coals. There was no lull in the show but
a burning "the levee's gonna break" in the fifth spot had Bob singing hard
as ever and pounding out the chords on his keyboard - it was really
something to be that close to him on this night . "Summer Days" and "'Til
I Fell in Love with you" also got the mojo going with some great jamming.
Visions and desolation stand the test of time - the emotional content was
laid bared for all to experience. If you have the chance get out and see
him, he is definitely not in bobomatic mode and you will not be
disappointed. Judging by the first 2 shows of this tour the man is on a
mission. Can't wait for the tapes!
Review by Jerry Toivola
I was up pretty close to the stage and had binoculars, so was really able
to study Bob through the whole show...
1- LEOPARD SKIN- Bob picked up the semi-hollow body Gibson that was laying
on the drum riser (not even on a stand), and picked at it sporadically. He
looked completely disinterested in it and the song. At times he put his
hands at his sides and didn't play at all, just stood there, staring
straight ahead. Very odd. I thought he looked in a terrible mood.
2-TIMES- Easily the lowlight of the night. Bob was back on keys for this.
3- THINGS HAVE CHANGED- OK version.
4- SPIRIT- Now this was cool. For much of the song, he sang just holding
the mic/cord at centre stage, while doing alittle swaying dance. In the
light it looked great, him with his hat and riverboat gambler attire. He
even blew a quick harp between the verse lines!
5-LEVEE- this was the first point in the night where the keys were
actually audible from where I was. Bob got into a great jam with the band
at the end. He also found a rigid vocal pattern in this and went with it.
6- TANGLED- it was ok
7-SUMMER DAYS- boring
8-MAKE YOU FEEL- He started this one on guitar, looked completely
disinterested in it, and in the middle of one of the verses, he took it
off, but first had to take his hat off. It was pretty funny. Why not wait
until the musical break to switch? He switched WHILE he was still singing
9-IT'S ALRIGHT MA- one of the highlights of the night.
10- VISIONS- I would never have said it out loud for fear of jinxing it,
but this was a dream of mine to see live. It's my first version after many
shows. It was absolutely great. Bob sang it alittle like he sings CAN'T
ESCAPE FROM YOU, with a repeated vocal stab that the band eventually
picked up on too. After the "Madonna still has not showed" he growled
"naahhhh". Very cool. Also, I can't remember what song it was, but after
one of his lines, he added in a quick "I don't know though"
11- TIL I- This was a great slow smoky blues. Bob came around again from
the keys and sang just with the mic, holding his harp.Bob was into this
12-DESOLATION ROW- for me the best performed song of the night and Bob's
best vocal. It was transfixing & magical. His vocal was classic Dylan. He
zigged when you thought he'd zag, but it was not just being perverse for
the sake of it. Very committed.
13- HIGHWAY- it was good as usual
14- NETTIE MOORE- another highlight.
15/16/17- all solid.
Review by Mary Clare Kersten
We loved Friday night's show in Vancouver, as we love Bob, his music and his
band. We've read the reviews posted last night, and thought we should add
Leopard-skin Pillbox Hat-We don't think Dylan's guitar was in the mix. The
song started with clear playing from either Denny Freeman or Stu Kimball, but
when Dylan kicked in-nothing. And he seemed disconcerted and looked
around the stage while he sang. His band members kept looking at him, and
he kept "playing along" and singing, but before the song was finished, he put
the guitar down. Walked away. What a way to start a show. (I had brought
my own hand-made hat, so I put it on, climbed over a bunch of chairs and got
up to the rail for the song-just to try to make a connection with Dylan. But
with these events, no connections were going to be made.)
The next song-Times They are a Changin'-was lackluster. Well, no wonder.
The opening was damaged.
Combine this confusion with the acoustics in a large arena, where sound can
be a crapshoot. From row 12 on the floor, his voice rang crystal clear and
loud, and we also got great sound from George Recile (love his playing) and
the guitars. But all of the great playing we're used to hearing from Denny
Freeman and Donnie Heron seemed non-existent. We definitely missed it,
and I had to try hard not to let it bother me.
Despite the technical deficiencies, Dylan performed a fine, fine, fine Visions of
Johanna, It's Alright Ma, Tangled Up In Blue, Levee's Gonna Break, Nettie
Moore…. Everything you want-great lyrics, heart-rending phrasing, "like it was
written in my heart from me to you"-great like that.
My own thoughts on this toned-down version of Tangled Up In Blue, one of
the great portrayals of the inevitable feelings that follow the break-up of a
great and deep love. Pathos, conflicts, pain-everything raw and exposed and
infinitely cathartic. But for years now, in concert, the opening bars of the song
have signaled the start to the party. Larry Campbell would pick up the acoustic
and go to it, and suddenly all the young people around me would be dancing
and celebrating…. Tangled up in Blue??? I could never reconcile it with such
sadness. Even so, I predicted that a version that would be to my liking-that
version would fail in concert. And on Friday night, I think it may have happened.
Dylan started in on a more thoughtful version of this song, and while I loved it,
the crowd around me seemed to deflate. Disappointment. People like a party.
Make You Feel My Love…. The early reviews mentioned Dylan starting out on
the guitar, then putting it down and walking around the stage. He played that
song halfway through the first set. Don't you think the guitar could have
gotten hooked up by then? Does it not strike anyone as outrageous that the
finest musician of our time cannot have a guitar that is connected to an amplifier?
It occurred to us that we never saw Tommy, the guitar tech of many years. I
don't follow all the scuttlebutt about Dylan, but has something happened?
Where was he?
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