Schenectady, New York
Proctors Theatre

October 30, 2023

[Mike Skliar], [Terry O'Brien]

Review by Mike Skliar

So, on October 30, in Schenectady NY, at the old and beautifully restored
Proctors Theatre, here I am, seeing roughly my 80th Bob Dylan concert
(having seen my first in 1978.   I have a history with Schenectady, having
gone to nearby Union College for my undergrad degree back in those very
same late 1970's and early 80's.(In fact my first Bob Dylan concert was, I
now realize, a few weeks after I started at Union). Back to the present, 
I was lucky enough to get great seats (about sixth row center) for this
Halloween-eve concert, and it was a wonderful show. Having seen one "Rough
and Rowdy Ways"-era Dylan concert before (November 2021 at the Beacon
theater here in NYC) I knew what to generally expect- eight or nine "Rough
and Rowdy Ways" songs interspersed with some late 60's/early 70's
'country-rock Bob', a smattering of other things, and possibly one
‘surprise’ cover. (The night before, lucky Montreal got a terrific Leonard
Cohen song ‘Dance me to the end of love'). As some reading this have
already heard, our 'urprise' song was a forceful and fun cover of the
Grateful Dead's 'Truckin'. That ended up being one of several surprises.  
The first thing that hit me as the lights went down is how Bob is center
stage, at a baby grand piano, and really dominating the sound with some
impressive piano playing. The two guitarists were mostly playing acoustic
guitar, and Bob’s rhythmic and filigreed piano chops were, many times,
effectively driving the band from the inside out. Many of the “Rough and
Rowdy Ways” songs had different arrangements from the record and from that
2021 show I saw.   Bob also leaned into some really creative and at times
comic phrasing, drawing out pauses in the title lines of ‘most likely you
go your way… (long pause)… and I'll go mine'. (This worked well also on
'serve somebody).  The arrangement of I contain multidues is different,
somehow more ‘pop’ but still worked well. There was also a noticeably
different arrangement in “My own version of you”. Its less skeletal and
spooky as the original, and feels more like a bluesy 'things have changed'
kind of thing, but it still works well, and Bob worked up a nice head of
steam doing his vocal phrasing atop the band's quiet blues chording. 
“Rubicon” has a very slow blues drama to it that I like better then the
record, and “Black Rider’ has not only all the original spookiness, but a
neat little echo effect in some lines that was perfect. Most of the older
songs were in similar arrangements to last year, but I think they’ve
evolved and sounded even better.  Many have that quiet solo piano and
vocal beginning, followed by a quicker-time trot and lively and rhythmic
piano.  The only song all evening that didn’t grab my full attention was
‘Key West”- the arrangement was ok, but I’m just not a fan of the song-
its got lots of great lines but somehow the whole is less then the sum of
its parts for me, (which I know is a minority opinion). And now to
“Truckin”. Its interesting, that fast tempo requires the singer to start
each vocal phrase right on time, to get in those long lines of lyrics that
are almost proto-rap. Yet Bob started most of the lines just a fraction of
a second late, and it had that 'is it going to come apart at the seams’
feeling, yet just about every time, he got it across just in time.  It was
funny, in its own way, just a bit out of control, but still within bounds.
There was a totally satisfying ending when he came to the famous line
‘What a long strange trip it’s been’ where he confidently phrased it right
in the pocket and let the line roar, to the delight of the crowd. I might
have heard a quick little rewrite of the line 'living on reds, vitamin C
and cocaine' to ‘vitamin D’ (all the rage at being prescribed these days,
in fact)  but who knows. It was great fun, and a fine contrast to the more
dramatic and heavy other material.  The show ended with a thoughtful and
poignant 'Every grain of Sand', though without any harmonica solo as he
has been sometimes doing.  All in all, a very strong and well played show,
and I’m glad I was able to make the trip with some friends. One strange
note, apparently the restuaruants , stores and almost everything else in
downtown Schenectady is closed every Sunday and Monday. (I get Sunday, but
Monday?) The next day, Tuesday, I went to my old college campus which I
hadn’t been to in many years and it looked great. Happy to report that Bob
was in great form as well, even tho he’s also getting up there in years.


Review by Terry O'Brien

Tonight's show was a stunner from start to finish. Bob and his band were
all business, playing the tightest set [I've seen yet] at a Dylan show. A
big part of the reason, I believe, is newcomer Jerry Pentecost. The
drummer laid down grooves that refused to let the songs meander or get
side tracked. Kudos to the rest of the band for delivering what is
obviously a well thought-out approach to Bob's music. It was a night of
blues, slow meditations and up-tempo shuffles. The Dead's Truckin'
absolutely blew the roof off the place as did False Prophet earlier in the
set, with the clever use of dynamics keeping the audience seemingly laser
focused and engaged. This band can go from a straight-out roar to pin drop
quiet in one bar.

Can't say enough about the strength and clarity of Bob's voice. The mix
team deserves the credit for allowing the audience to experience just what
an incredible singer he can be given the right circumstances. At 82, he
defies all expectations. Who else can you say that about? If he's coming
to your town, don't miss this opportunity.


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