Rochester, New York
October 24, 2023
Review by Barry Gloffke
It's always thrilling to see Bob Dylan back on stage, and equally
thrilling to begin a mini-Bob tour of my own... 30 days, 13 shows, 7
states, 10 cities. Traveling with the traveling man! For my first show on
this tour in Rochester, NY, my sister (HI WENDY) joined me for our
inaugural concert together. She had seen Bob one time when he toured with
the Grateful Dead, but she walked out, unimpressed with Bob's mumbling.
Tonight she stayed for the whole spectacle. An excitable air was palpable
outside the venue beforehand with a mix of some familiar Bobcat's and
curious locals. With the luck of timing a few extra tickets could be
purchased out front by any enterprising Bob fan. The venue tonight, West
Herr Auditorium (approximately 2400 seats), while modest in terms of
beauty and charm, had great sight lines, good sound, and was staffed by
wonderful people who were mostly volunteers. I tip my hat to a smoothly
run operation --- which unfortunately is not always the case these days.
At 8pm sharp the house lights dimmed to romance lighting and the Band took
stage to the sound of what I'm told was a piece by Beethoven. The stage
itself had an industrial/warehouse vibe with an array of ladders that had
been referenced by previous reviewers here on Bob Links. The audience gave
a generous applause to the Cowboy Band as they grabbed their instruments
and began noodling Bob's walk-in music. A few seconds later Bob saunters
on stage to a thunderous ovation, dressed in one of his trademark black
outfits with white embellishments and sporting what looked like some type
of Fez. Bob beelines for the piano, sits down and starts into what will be
an eventful evening of piano exploitation. There was a bit of hammering
like Little Richard, a bit of rolling down the ivories Liberace style, and
a lot of Bob's experimentation (with some third rate plinking thrown in
for good measure). We were taken on a rockin', rolling, tumblin' roller
coaster ride. Our hero --- in another one of his recent trademarks, barks
the opening lines to WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW into thin air. Whatever...
old news by now. The fact is the Band and Bob cook from the start. I love
the new hard charging arrangement for the opener. The Band is tight and
Bob's new drummer, Jerry Pentecost, sounds like he's been with Bob for
years. The new arrangements on this leg of the tour give a fresh air to
the uniform setlist and the possibility of hearing a cover song or two (or
three on some good nights) makes these concerts as compelling as they have
been since around 2014 or so.
Highlights for me tonight were WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE and Donnie
Herron's violin playing. A bopping version of MY OWN VERSION OF YOU ---
I'm calling this version the Funky Frankenstein. A blistering I'LL BE YOUR
BABY TONIGHT. And the final trio of MOTHER OF MUSES (Bob leaned into this
one with heart), GOODBYE JIMMY REED (the Band was smokin' hot) and an
exquisite EVERY GRAIN OF SAND. Beautiful!
A good show to start my adventure. My only quibble is one of my own
creation. Any Bob Dylan concert is the place I want to be... I'm always
thirsting for that next show. That's always the best one... the NEXT ONE.
So sometimes I take for granted the show I'm presently watching. In this
case I was looking forward (too much so) to the cover slots 14-15 (and
maybe 16). I was hoping for something along the lines of TRUCKIN', NADINE
and LONGEST DAYS from recent shows. Instead we got a very good version of
THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC and a profound version of STELLA BLUE which the
Deadheads in the audience loved. So although the covers were fabulous, I
wanted a bit more rock in my roll. Such is life, such is happiness.
There's a few more chances to get my rock to roll.
Lastly, it was nice to talk to Jeff from Harrisburg, PA before the show...
you've got my number... see you at the Brooklyn shows. And it was
wonderful to run into Mangala and Sue in the lobby before the show and
have a nice chat with them and my sister after the show. Always happy when
I see you ladies! See you in Springfield or the next city on your
itinerary. And remember kiddies... DON'T YOU MISS IT!
Review by Victoria Laneri
It was an evening with Bob Dylan. He was right on time, soon as he sat at
the piano and positioned his hat, it was on. The audience was reserved,
lazy, mundane. What were they thinking in the front seats? Being here is
an excursion, it's an art exhibit, a poetry reading, a warm night with an
almost full moon, it's foreign license plates and tour buses, it's a
history lesson, a painful memory, a warm breeze, a what could have been.
It's a family reunion with strangers, shiny objects, dreams and illusions.
It's anything I want it to be, right in front of me. It's melodious, it's
ladders to climb, emotions to explore, it's the game of tickets, the
chatter in the hall, what song is that? It's the Sistine Chapel, it's
people who are looking for rhythms, it's relics, it's kimchi, it's what
happened in my life, it's not giving up, it's starting to dream again,
it's that moment , it's all there in that last verse. it's colorful and
tangled in emotion, it's a reminder of who I was, or hoped to be, it's all
the stories I need to be told, it's all those words that sound scary,
Rubicon. It's the Eastman School cellos. . It's so much more . It's an
evening with Bob Dylan.
Review by Sergi Fabregat
I'm writing this from a 27th floor hotel room with an unforgettable
(now nocturnal) view above Niagara Falls after an amazing day with
boyfriend and a fellow bobcat who these days is one of our angel
guards. I mean, I'm not an expert on human communities but few can
equal the kindness and caring, supportive spirit that I've felt from
Bob fans these days. I don't want to spread the word on the hotel's
name as for me the price that they charge for what you get is even
cheap, but PM me and I'll happily tell ya.
Yesterday we had an equally amazing day driving (co-piloting is a
more accurate word :mrgreen: ) from Erie to Rochester through some
backroads, rolling through uphills and downhills in the NY
countryside, seeing crazy Halloween decorations (one big skeleton
sprawling a bit over the road!) and passing through two small places
with such catchy names: Barcelona and Hamlet. Apparently, in the NY
state there are these kind of unicorporated communities that are
called "hamlets" and that have no clear boundaries. So, this
specifical hamlet is, fittingly, named "Hamlet". What caughts the
attention primarily in Hamlet, NY is the 'Hamlet United Methodist
Church', established in 1812, so not before America was made but not
much later either. There's no much more to see there, a really
rundown string of houses across the road but, as a bobcat, the name
of course rang some bells.
Before that, stopping due to traffic lights, I saw a gas station
called Barcelona, with a little deli called Barcelona and a
supermarket called Barcelona. A bit later, I saw that the place
itself was in fact Barcelona and, funnily, Barcelona is a hamlet
depending from the town of Westfield. Barcelona (NY) is overlooking
the lake Erie and its lighthouse was built in 1829 and it was the
first one in the world to be powered by natural gas. Had I known that,
we surely would have stopped to take a picture!
Flashforward to this morning when I was having a look into yesterday's
pictures and I've seen the Barcelona gas station one. Then something
has clicked on my brain: Bob played 'Stella Blue' for the first time
in Barcelona, my hometown, last June and he played it for the second
time in Rochester after I had just crossed the hamlet of Barcelona, NY,
that very same day. What are the chances of all those things taking
place at the same time? There's this concept defined by Carl Gustav
Jung called sinchronicity: "to describe circumstances that appear
meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection."
I'm sorry for this big detour before talking more specifically about
the show but I think that art and the emotions it springs vary so
much from person to person due many times to those synchronicites
taking place: when your smile meets my smile something's got to give.
The forever mystery is that "something", so difficult to describe
yet so real and true.
Last night the song that moved me the most was 'I've Made Up My Mind'.
We were seating on first row, in the pit, which was in fact a bit
underground, so we could see the stage in such a vertical way, Bob's
eyes and surprisingly black hat when he was seating and his glorious
full face when standing. Bob built up 'Made Up My Mind' in such a
progressing way, maybe not as a beautiful conclusive statement but as
a work-in-progress, so the finalization of making up his mind was
only reached about both parts of the couple saying "yes" in the end
and not before, hence the most special line for me was "from the
mountains to the sea". The way in which he sang "sea" made me think
of home, of my Barcelona, and how unbearable it was the hope that
the gods were easy on me. "I hope" is an expression full of such
degree of uncertainty, is such a personal point of view based on
nothing else but a fragile feeling. Such fragility never stroke like
The fragility went on during 'Stella Blue', with the first part of
the performance finding Bob a bit temptative and unsure on the lyrics,
but after a bit of a piano solo, he took control again of the song
and, ironically, set in the hardest stone, really raising his voice,
that there's nothing you can hold for very long, that it seems like
all this life was just a dream. And it was so breaking to see him
seeming so sure about that, that as there are two Niagara Falls at
either side of the border, as there are two Barcelonas that are for
me now forever connected by 'Stella Blue', as Hamlet is commanded by
a ghost that could well be his own ambition, that all this life was
just a dream, hence a nightmare.
Anyway, in Rochester we algo got probably one of the best 'My Own
Version of You' ever and surely the best one since the new arrangement
was introduced, along with another smoking hot ' Goodbye Jimmy Reed'
with the band shining endlessly and Bob "sort of" acknowledging that
they can play these songs. 'Version' specially featured such an
AMAZING phrasing by Bob, a bit like that start-stop rendition of the
Los Angeles June 15th show last year that was a bit unfinished
business. Last night in Rochester Bob pull it off masterfully, with a
finezza and sense of swing that, honestly, was the coolest thing to
see. For a show that somehow left with some sad and melancholic
feelings, it was probably the happiest I've ever seen Bob. Half of
the songs he turned to Tony and some other members to crack a laugh
and grin big time, so maybe everything up above was just a dream and
none of it happened in real life.
Seeing Bob from so close is always a kind of challenge, as you like to
focus on his expressions and mannerisms, but at the same time I want
to concentrate on the songs and not the man, and I often end up
spending so much energy paying attention to all of it but it is
honestly so rewarding to leave with such images as for example how Bob
gave all his heart during an spectacular 'Mother of Muses' that,
specifically on the opening verses, featured a delicacy and careness
that were truly moving. You could see him breathing (I literally
remember him breathing heavily) the words out, with so much airy
tenderness in them (the naming of the generals, oh my), as in 'Goodbye
Jimmy Reed' he danced so vividly at the end, with his half-turned
trademark pose, and his shoulders hitting the rhythm, and it was such
a joy to behold such happiness I was even jealous of him, of a guy
that seemed so genuinely content.
It all ended with another beautiful rendition of 'Every Grain of Sand',
with some words again standing out ("only ME", "loneliness", "morals of
despair", "idleness") but what caught my attention is that I saw Bob
grabbing the harmonica before starting to sing, so I was pretty
positive we were getting an ending solo. When it came I stood up to
just be soaked by it and absorbe it all, just looked at him with a
couple of tears running down my cheek, and I felt humbled and about to
broke down, trying to hold on to something that had already ended.
PS: Doug Lancio and Jerry Pentecost are doing such a great job these
days, I love them so much.
PS2: less road cases behind the band but three big theatre ladders up
against the back wall, with no sun beating upon them to ease the pain
of idleness and the memory of decay. Alas.
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