page by Bill Pagel
Review by Barry Lehman
I can't believe I have missed out for so long. I have wanted to see Dylan
live for Thirtysomething years. I finally had the opportunity. Unlike
other reviewers on this site, then, I do not have previous concerts,
previous tours or previous sets. Just tonight in the Xcel Center in St.
Paul. It was beyond description. It was far more than I expected, even
reading all the reviews. Dylan never spoke with the crowd, he didn't need
to. He sang to us for over two hours. He was relaxed, playful, intense,
and always on target. The newer material like Sugar Baby and Summer Days
fit in as if they were old standards. The old standards fit in as if they
were written yesterday. When Dylan sings Masters of War or A Hard Rain's
Gonna Fall you do not think of Vietnam or nuclear war, you think of
Afghanistan and anthrax and you know that there is a power beyond the
times in Dylan's message. When he rocks out or swings or does rockabilly
you dance and respond as if they were meant just for you on this one
night. I have never been a fan of "retro" concerts where the groups get
all spiffed up and sing just like they did on those old records so the old
people (my age, now) can go and relive their youth. Dylan doesn't do
that. Whether it is Blowin' in the Wind or Positively Fourth Street they
do not sound like old records. They are Dylan today! And what a
musician. What a show. I can't believe I have missed out for so long.
Barry Lehman, Chaska, MN
Review by Brian Keenan
Expectations were high as we entered the new Excel Center for my 10th Bob
Dylan show, anticipating a set list fresh with new songs. Despite a
scheduled start time of 7:30, it wasn't until 7:55 that the lights came
down. To the tune of Copland's "Rodeo", Bob hit the stage and launched
into "Wait for the Light to Shine", my first hearing of this new gem. Very
sing-along like and reminiscent of "Somebody Touched Me". I'd be happy
just hearing a whole Bob concert of these kind of songs. Then it was into
"Tambourine Man", as Bob couldn't stand still during his guitar solos,
that left knee was constantly twitching. As if that wasn't enough we were
treated to a harmonica solo that expressed more than even Dylan's lyrics
could. Next David started beating out a waltz tempo and I thought we were
getting "Ramona" but it turned out to be "Hard Rain"! Bob was
ultra-serious on this one and spoke-sung the lyrics more like a poetry
reading than music. "Soldier's Grave" followed with pleasant harmony
The first electric set began with a bouncy but somehow held-back "Tweedle
Dee", just a tease for things to come. A not-too-eventful "I Don't Believe
You" followed, then a slow and accusing "Positively 4th Street". Next came
the highlight up to that point, an electrified "High Water" that
completely outdoes the recorded version, almost as if Bob is doing a cover
of himself. This one was so guitar-heavy, Larry's banjo was almost totally
Bob next gave us "Mama, You Been on My Mind", (in an arrangement almost
identical to "Don't Think Twice") with a more playful harmonica solo to
boot. Then came the nicest surprise of the evening, a jazzy "If Dogs Run
Free" that I never would have expected in this slot. Bob continued with
the expected "Masters of War", made even more spooky by the lighting which
gave Bob an enormous shadow on the curtain behind the stage. He repeated
the first verse at the end for good measure.
Then the band really got cooking for "Summer Days", as Charlie, Larry and
Tony were at their most animated all night. "Sugar Baby" was as thoughtful
and introspective as you would expect, with a minimal amount of
instrumentation behind Bob's vocal. Then Bob unloaded with an absolutely
explosive "Wicked Messenger", adding another harmonica solo to a firestorm
of guitar sound. After that there was nowhere else Bob could have possibly
taken us, but a groovy "Everything is Broken" and band intros rounded out
the main set.
The encores were a desperate, gloomy "Love Sick"; "Like A Rolling Stone"
which always gets the biggest crowd reaction; an anthemic "Forever Young";
a rocking "Honest With Me" which was another new breath of fresh air into
Bob's set, and "Blowin'". After a loose "formation" and another minute or
two of applause, Bob gave us a bonus encore of "Watchtower". Then it was
10:05 and back into the cold blustery wind of St. Paul.
Coming out of seeing a Bob show, it's always too easy to say this was the
best ever. For me nothing could ever top 1995 Target Center, but tonight
had its amazing moments which showed a band right at the top of its game.
"Summer Days" into "Sugar Baby" into "Wicked Messenger" was as kick-ass
and profound a sequence of three songs as I could ever have imagined. To
you who have yet to see Bob on this tour, enjoy the man and his magic!
Bob, thank you for once again bringing your art to Minnesota. I will get
myself together and I'll keep looking for the sign.
Review by Mike Bast
Winds were blowing fiercely outside of Xcel Energy Center on Thursday
night. Even stronger than the nip in the air, was an attitude of
inspiration and wonder that swirled amid the 14,000 people filling the
venue. Of course the main event, was "Minnesota's favorite son" returning
home. Every Dylan concert in Minnesota seems to have raised expectations-
Thursday was no different.
As I entered the arena, the first person I really noticed was in the
front row. The person was a man wearing a black cap, with white
lettering that read "Hibbing". It's nice to see that type of local
support. It reminded me of the Duluth concert in 1998, where there was
a banner that read along the lines of, "Iron Rangers Welcome You".
I found a nice spot on the floor about twenty-five feet from the stage.
I awaited the idol to appear. Conversations of all kinds, from all types
swirled in the air. I listened to a man in his forties brag about his
grade school children taking piano lessons. I overheard the struggle of
a local folk musician trying to get his album produced. Next to me, a
couple in their early twenties stood wrapped in one another's arms for
almost the entire night. They talked about grad school and one pronounced
Dylan's new stuff as "hokie".
Then 7:55 came and the music started. Dylan and his band entered the
stage guided by triumphant classical music. Dylan was dressed in a
southern white suit, and was flanked by the band wearing "California
Raisin" purple suits. The backdrop of the stage was a nice curtain
that actually changed positions during the night and was lit up in various
different colors. Energy swirled around the Xcel Center, and the band
began. The crowd nodded and swayed to the opener, "Wait for the Light to
Shine", half moved by the music, half pondering what the song was.
To be quite frank, the beginning of this concert did not live up to the
spirit in the air. Dylan plowed through six more songs, including "Mr.
Tambourine Man", "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall", and "I Don't Believe You",
before the liveliness returned. Things changed wonderfully when the band
tore into "High Water". The version played live was much more powerful,
more dynamic, than the album version. The new direction the song takes,
is similar to how in later part of 2000 "Cold Irons Bound" was revamped
into a faster song. "High water" got the crowd back into the concert.
Following the tenacious playing of "High Water", Dylan slowed things
down with "Mama You've Been On My Mind". This song was an interested
selection, seeing that Dylan's mother, who lived in St. Paul's Highland
Park area, recently passed away. I started to think Dylan's "message"
was creeping out.
After a jazzy sounding "If Dogs Run Free", Dylan threw flames with
"Masters of War". Given the fear and anger in the country concerning
terrorism, it wasn't hard personalizing the lyrics. I wonder what and
who Dylan equates the lyrics to these days? From "High Water to Masters
of War" was definitely the highlight portion of this concert. These songs
all were played with boundless passion, and recaptured a crowd that
seemed to be slipping away.
Dylan then tossed out two "Love and Theft" numbers, which were anything
but the fore mentioned "hokie". "Summer Nights" was performed superbly
music-wise, however, Dylan's singing was barely comprehendible on this
one. "Sugar Baby" came next, and was very studio sounding. Dylan
wrapped up the first part of the concert by releasing a rocking "Wicked
Messenger" and a good-natured "Everything is Broken".
After the band did their staring match with the crowd (ala Minneapolis '00)
they briefly left the stage. The encore was stacked with songs that seem to
have become a fixture in the last part of his recent concerts. "Love Sick",
"Like A Rolling Stone", "Forever Young" were the first three songs. All
were played well and dutiful, but appeared to lack emotion. It felt like
the band was just going through the motions. Then came "Honest With Me" which
picked up the pace, perhaps because it was less expected. "Blowing In the
Wind" followed and I thought the night was over. The crowd stood waiting,
clapping, and chanting "One more song, one more song". To everyone's delight
the band reentered the stage and closed the concert with "All Along the
Watchtower". It was a hard-driven version that reminded me more of a cover
band's version, then the masterpiece it is. I guess I am biased though,
because I'm still longing for Dylan to go back to the rendering found on
the "John Wesley Harding" album.
All in all, the concert was pretty good- four out five stars good. I have
seen better Dylan concerts, but the introduction of the "Love and Theft" songs
to the rotation made this show fresh and special. The "High Water" to
"Masters of War" portion of the concert was by far the best. They really made
up for the hit and miss beginning, and the greatest hits closing. Dylan was
crisp and smooth, yet to my delight let a few snarls go. The band played
magnificently, especially Larry Campbell, who really looked like he was having
a good time. Heck, I don't think anyone in the Xcel Energy Center had anything
but a good time!
Review by Amy Egan
The black to white transformation immediately caught my eye, when Mr.
Dylan walked upon the black and white checkerboard stage. Having been at
the Lacrosse show the night before, I noticed Bob's wardrobe change. We
had 7th row next to the stage and snuck down to 2nd row during waiting for
the light. The highlight of the evening was the next song, "Tamborine
Man." Recently, this has been a song that Bob truly makes love to, when he
performs it. As I twirl and danced 20 feet from Bob, he looked in my
direction several times. It was mesmerizing to feel the magical connection
as my heart sailed like a dove. Bob sang each line with every bit of his
heart and soul. Imploring the tamborine man to "please play a song for
him." "High Water" has become another standout song on this tour. The
hypnotic guitar work seems to pull the audience right into the songs'
focus and get them into the soul of the experince of the message. "Summer
Days" had the entire crowd dancin' and prancin' about, with a carefree
wrecklessness. "Wicked Messenger" provided Bob with a chance to slide into
a razor sharp harmonic solo directly on the heels of blazing guitar jams
by his band. For the finale, Bob ended the show with a scorching
"Watchtower." The song was played with an intense sense of purpose, and
considering the freezing 30 mile-an-hour winds outside the arena, it hit
home in Bob's home state that night. As we left the arena, our minds were
filled with Bob's message of, "as the wind began to howl."
Review by Rosey
A letter from the poor side of town.
It was a chilling wind that was blowing that night. Bitter cold. I wrestled with
the idea of staying home. I am seriously ill and preparing for surgery on
Halloween as this was the soonest opening in the operating room schedule. But
I was determined to see Bob Dylan and his band in concert. It was my first time
into the Excel Energy Center. Upon my arrival I stepped inside one at the
opposite end of the arena to see these impressive speakers arced and suspended
from the ceiling. Less clutter on the stage. That put a smile on my face. The
arena is beautiful. Much better than the Target Center in Minneapolis.
I had one of the best seats in the house. Left of the stage eight rows up. A
view from an angle but a far cry better than being smashed together on the main
floor. The stage was set more opened not boxed in as Bobs shows have been in
the past. I liked the floor of the stage. Black and white checker board laid in
a diamond style, not boxed. The lighting was exceptionally placed above and
around the stage and the arena. While I appreciate those of you who are focused
on the guitar work, the licks missed and the words forgotten or changed, I am
focused on the stage, the speakers and other audio equipment.
I dressed in black and white Albert Nipon suit jacket and black velvet pants to
keep me warm. I was in pain and medicated. But as I said, "I was determined!" To
miss the man I love was not on my agenda.
Bob was dressed in a white suit with black trim. His pants were to me "Simply
Too Baggy"….What can I say, I love his legs and his behind. I love the long coats
he wears, especially when they come to the middle of his thighs and he wears
tighter pants underneath. He really should lose his inhibition to dance and be
free to move his legs and behind when he is performing. He has come a long way
in presenting himself and his band. I never got closer than the back rows and
corners through the years and stopped going to his concerts. And I'm sorry but I
would have loved to have seen his bare arms and blue jeans, his black leather
pants and shirts with the sleeves torn off. But these days I understand he has
developed into a more sophisticated individual. A very pretty and class A man.
And the band, with their very tight connection and devotion, display a look of
belonging to each other and partnering in this unit that plays for Bob Dylan.
It's been hard for Bob as other bands through the years to have members who
don't have personal agendas for their own careers. This band has been tight for
a long time now.
Ten years ago I couldn't understand what he was saying in concert and I certainly
could not see anything. You can say I have come a long way in getting closer to
the teacher. And now I can play his cd's and listen to him two rooms away and
understand what he's saying, groove to his little stories. "Master Bob". I loved
the entire evening. The long narrow marquis that has been installed around the
arena repeating its display of "Minnesota Wild" where the wild roses grow for
our eyes to savor prior to the start of the concert was very effective in setting
a great mood in the arena for that nights performance.
The lighting, the spot lights and use of background displays and changing of the
lights from song to song was also nicely done. Bravo!
About the songs I want to speak not of the ones in the set list that night. The
set was great. I like the new "Love and Theft" and it's variety of content. As
always, some of understand most of what he is saying, what the story or the
message is and some just never will understand. I like the rockabilly, the swing,
and the true 50's flavor of of the songs. There is a blue grass style there too.
Great job on this work of art.
In his messages I need to say that that the idea of Aunt Sally and Bob makes me
ill. I know who Aunt Sally is. I don't know who the Sugar Baby is. The song
makes me very sad. I feel sorry for the person that he says "has no brains" even
though we all know someone like this. And I feel sorry for Bob that someone
would tear his world apart. I can see that he is cared for but not always
adequately. I pray for him a lot. I think about him and see that some of my
prayers have been heard. I ask that Bob has no more trouble with women. The
ones who have filed law suits against him for right to royalties and any other
legal issues they have pursued. The gospel thing never truly worked out for Bob as we all know. A prophet doesn't usually work well with gospel. His messages
were very strong back then, the delivery and presentation was bad. I believe
that is why people booed him and critics were harsh.
I wish Bob more happiness in the twilight of his life and may he heal from his
past soon. It is easy to see that music and messages surround his soul and his
aura. His life heals and jams from day to day and Bob can feasibly changes the
words to many songs night after night and if you listen close enough you might
hears the new words of the day.
Two more things before I go, as a cosmetologist, I love to style men's hair. I
would love to get my hands on Bobs hair. He has a very uniquely shaped head that
holds so many possibilities for style and shape. Don't give me that "It's too
wild to work with"….as I don't believe it. Something is wrong here.
To all of you devoted fans, stay the way you are pray for this man. Things are
looking very good for him now. He'll keep on loving you too.
Rosey…The REO Speedwagon woman.
page by Bill Pagel
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