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Review by Shawn Pulver
I arrived at the Breslin Center around 6.30pm. A very nice venue, which
actually seemed very cozy for a basketball arena. Phil came on right after
seven and played Terapin Station, I believe, and a bunch of other songs I
didn't recognize. The whole set was enjoyable, but not exactly my cup of tea.
Some of the songs seemed to go on for a half an hour at a time. The set was
over around 8:40pm and Bob took to the stage just after nine.
I am the Man Thomas
Fun song to open with - never heard it live before. I was directly in front
of the stage (security was very nice) and the sound was not very clear for the
opening tune. It was very short, but enjoyable. The sound improved
Larry on Violin, which was a treat. Bob's vocals very high in the mix. Even
though I've heard this song many times live, it just never seems to sound old.
Bob's phrasing was great and he seemed to be having a good time. The harp solo
that closed was one for the ages - it just seemed to go on forever.
Masters of War
I must admit I was dissapointed with hearing Masters again. However, it was a
strong performance and had kind of a weird new intro from Larry. I almost
didn't recognize it at first.
Don't Think Twice
Another slightly dissapointing choice, but once again his performance was so
good that I didn't care. It seemed to explode in the last verse and the whole
crowd, which was pretty animated, seemed to love it. The song concluded with
another great harp solo.
After the show I got a cue sheet and realized that Hard Rain was in this
slot, not Tangled. Although I would have prefered Hard Rain, and was even
screaming at Bob to play it without even realizing it was on the cue sheet,
the performance was still strong. It seemed a little more laid back than
usual, Bob having no trouble spitting out the words in sync with the band
(sometimes it seems he has trouble keeping up to pace with the band). Another
outstanding harp solo concluded the acoustic set in fine fashion.
Nice change from Watchtower. Same arrangment that he played this summer. Fun,
but not exactly an adventerous choice. It was the next performance that
totally made my night.
Positively Fourth Street
Now I've heard this song on hundreds of tapes and Cd's and numerous times in
person. Other than maybe the Berlin '96 performance, this was as good as it
gets. Slow and almost spoken, with Larry on steel, it is hard to describe how
good it was. Get a tape, that is all I can say.
A nice change in this spot. He hasn't really played it in a while and it
seemed like a slightly new arrangement. Larry was playing some cool licks and
the whole performance seemed laid back and casual.
Just Like A women
Another good performance of a song that might have seen better days vocal
wise. A major shakeup in this spot could help (ie Born in Time, Shelter,
Trying to get to Heaven, to name a few). Larry was playing some beautiful
steel as well. Band intros followed. "On the Bass guitar tonight.....me. No,
I'm just kidding, that is Tony Garnier."
The usual hysteria. Crowd was nuts and Bob was doing some of his classic
Sounded great. Bob threw in a new line at the end (he either forgot a line or
made it up on the spot, not too sure)I think that the song could use a bit of
a rest, however.
Bob was playing to the crowd by this point and loved the reaction that the
song recieved. The whole band was having fun by this point.
Larry had put on his acoustic and Bob decided to add an extra electric encore
(I guess he was having a good time). Another crowd pleaser and always good to
Blowing in the Wind
Very nice phrasing, and as good of a version as I've heard in either on tape
or live in a while.
Not Fade Away
He couldn't resist another great crowd reaction. The fans, many there just
to see Lesh, couldn't have gone home any happier. The verdict: a great show,
despite not exactly the worlds greatest set-list. It seems that Bob is working
off the crowd and wants to play what he thinks will get the best reaction. I
am not complaing, since I am always happy to see Bob, regardless what he
plays. I think that things could improve set-list wise as the tour progresses
as Bob becomes more comfortable. All in all, I came home a pretty happy
camper. Thanks for reading, Shawn.
Review by Jeff Knorek
Well, we've been planning a long time for this one. Anywhere in
Michigan is a hometown show for us, so in addition to our tour party
(myself, Kish, Michele from Toronto, and Becky from LA, all out to see
East Lansing, Columbus, and Pittsburgh), we engaged with or delivered
tickets to another dozen friends in the 24 hours leading up to the
The weather wasn't anything to write home about unless you had to
stand around in the parking lot trying to sell something. In that
case the weather SUCKED…about 35 degrees F with a driving wind after a
nightlong rain. Fortunately, our motel room was cozy warm and just a
15-minute walk to the venue, Michigan State's basketball arena known
as the Breslin Center. So for us the weather was merely a nuisance
(it would get much better on down the road).
Arriving at the motel around 1:00 pm, Mechy and I soon made our way to
the box office to pick up the BDTS tix we had waiting for us. Turns
out they weren't the ones we used, as we had much better GDTS tix that
we used as well as a fistful of TicketBastard seats which we had
distributed to a bunch of our friends.
Our walk through the parking lot took us past the remnants of the
scene that once populated (then dominated) Grateful Dead concerts.
Ask any older Deadhead if s/he thinks that the scene got out of hand
toward the end. It was so consumer driven that by 1990 we all but gave
up on it, and would instead hang out at our campsite, hotel, or some
recreational spot until the doors to the venue opened.
The East Lansing scene, this afternoon still in its infancy, looked
fairly sedate if not a little bit chilly. Mechy and I strolled
through, and not ONE person said anything to us. No hellos. No
nothing. They all just stared at us or ignored us outright. Too old,
I had all my hair shoved under my hat, so I didn't look like them.
Mechy wasn't wearing the prescribed uniform, either, so the crowd
just parted for us as we walked through it, looking at us but saying
nothing. It was just a little creepy. The days of yore that I
remember were different; folks were friendly and warm and generally
were good to one another even if you looked different (i.e. short
hair), but that was a long time ago. Now you have to look the part
or there is no part.
One guy did wheel up on his roller blades and tried to sell me a whole
wheat cornbread muffin. I said "No, thank you" but he persisted,
extolling its many virtues. I had to cut him off: "Brother, I'm just
not hungry". He muttered "royt awn" and spun away.
Back at the motel we raged and laughed and had a ball. Friends
dropped in and together we killed a few bottles of wine or some beers,
depending on the palate. Maybe we even roasted one…who knows. Our
room was near the junction of two major railroads, Grand Trunk Western
and CSX. Trains rolled by all afternoon. We skimmed through the
Weather Channel, and it looked real ugly east of us. Kishie put on
Grateful Dead and Daniel Lenois CDs as we noshed on cheeses and some
of the corned beef that I had cooked earlier, and BBQ ribs that I
'qued on Sunday night.
We departed early for the show as Mechy and I had extras to sell. We
cut the rest of our brood loose and worked the parking lot. I was
very impressed by the logic that some people used to try to get me to
give them a ticket instead of me accepting remuneration for one: "Oym
awn tooourrrr, and I get in to every show, and I haven't paid to get
into a single one". That guy was my favorite.
So we sold our extras for face value cash money to regular looking
people who were grateful to have tickets at all. The show was not
sold out, but the seats available at the box office did in fact tug.
The ones we sold were on Charlie Sexton's side, first section forward
of the stage.
Once inside we made our way to our seats. Mechy had front row
dead-ass center on the floor, while Kish, Beck, my brother Charlie,
and I were back in the 20th row on Charlie Sexton's side, which was
near the back of the floor. That's right, 20 rows and near the back
of the floor. Yes, this place is small for a basketball arena. Darn
near intimate, one could argue.
The TicketBastard seats that we had purchased were just over our right
shoulder, about ½ way up the lower bowl. 5 of our friends were there,
and to check out a different sound mix I'd go up there from time to
Phil & Friends started nearly right on time. The set list looked like
Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys>
East Lansing Noodle Factory Jam>
Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys final verse>
They played Terrapin like it was the very first time they ever read
It did get better from there, Low Spark was cool, but the jams between
the verses, particularly the one prior to the last verse, got a little
Cumberland was fun; I always love a shuffle groove to what is
essentially a country song.
China Doll was beautiful, but the neo-hippies behind me needed to
carry on a loud conversation about all the vital shit that was
happening out in the parking lot and the set list of the Chicago show,
so I lost part of the guitar solos.
Midnight hour was good enough, but I must say that Warren Haynes sings
those Pig Pen tunes way better than Bob Weir ever could.
An okay set, leaving a lot of room for improvement. I was very glad
to see Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes playing guitar. I like the idea
of Allman Brothers Band alumni playing Dead songs instead of somebody
who is trying to sound like Jerry. That was my big problem with
seeing the Other Ones; Jerry was so obviously missing. The show I saw
from that tour took me to a place where I didn't want to go, almost
like it was some kind of hospital patient wheeled out there to wring
some more money out of the GDP cash cow.
This show, however, was way, WAY different. Even though they are
playing the same songs, the current incarnation of Phil & Friends
doesn't come off sounding like a Grateful Dead Revue. It sounds much
more pure and honest, even down to the point of taking chances and
getting a little singed as a result of trying. This band takes risks,
and I think they shed some of this risk-taking onto Bob Dylan's set.
Not everybody digs the jams that sometime meander to nowhere, I sure
don't. But sometimes they just reach out and punch it. They are one
band that you need to see more than once to give them a fair listen,
if you are inclined to give them a fair listen.
The energy in the house was warm and peaceful. None of the "my band
is better than your band" crap that is filling the newsgroups these
days. Deadheads and Dylan fans appeared to be getting on just fine.
The crowd did thin out somewhat between sets, though, much to my
astonishment. It was roomier down our way when Dylan played. I'll let
you all editorialize on that one.
After about 20 minutes after Phil's set was over, the air became thick
with Nag Champa. This should serve as one of the testimonies to how
small this venue is; remember, we are at the back of the floor and we
can smell Dylan's Nag Champa. We got everybody in our crew back to
their seats in time for the flashing lights and stage introduction
(which, BTW, I used to loath but now look forward to).
1. I Am The Man, Thomas (acoustic)
This is the first time I've heard this one. I didn't realize it was
so up-tempo! Larry sings great backup Bluegrass-ish vocals. The
sound is remarkably clear. This song seems to loosen up the band
2. My Back Pages (acoustic) (Larry on Fiddle and Bob on harp)
The Cleveland '96 version of this is my favorite of this one, we'll
see if it survives in that #1 spot upon review of the tape of this
version (once I get one ;^). I fiddle didn't sound in the least bit
hokey and syrupy as it could in the wrong hands. Sometimes when you
are standing there in the heat of the moment, it sounds like the best
thing you ever heard. I try to be somewhat more objective when
something special happens, like Larry playing the fiddle. It has to
fit; otherwise it is merely a novelty. Larry makes it fit. Bob
blows a truly lovely harp solo. Gone are the days of the
"consolation harp solo", not long ago, where he'd make a faint
attempt and quit, ending the song.
3. Masters Of War (acoustic)
Yawn. Every last one of us is a part of the Machine; some of us
merely strive to mitigate the degree of our complicity. As long as we
rely on cash and fossil fuels, we are all part of the economic factors
that drive War. I don't buy the argument that we can preach to the
warmongers while we drive cars powered by the very fuel that their
craft has virtually guaranteed to be ours so that we can all drive
ourselves to work or go on tour or whatever. Whenever I hear this
song I just listen to the music.
4. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (acoustic) (with harp)
I'll never get over the gumption of this song. What an artful way to
say "Goodbye". Seeing this here in the set made me wonder what the
encore was going to hold for us, since this is a fairly typical encore
song. Even though I have seen this one at almost every Dylan show
we've seen, it was good enough that by now I have declared this to be
the best acoustic set that I have ever seen. No small feat since I am
not a huge fan of the acoustic set to begin with, but this one is just
5.Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic) (with harp)
Speaking of cookin', this one smoked. Bob just blew and blew his harp
solo at the end. Seemed to come around several times, extending the
length of the song by a minute or two. We are very happy to see him
playing harp so much more these days. The Deadheads in the house, or
at least, the ones who stayed, were going apeshit.
I turned to Kish and told her that this was my favorite part of the
show, the first electric song after the acoustic set. This one then
started with a real country twang to it, like we were at some hoe down
somewhere. How I love American Music! Larry Campbell can do those
country licks like it is nobody's business. With Charlie Sexton
anchored there at the other end of the stage providing wild but
straightforward riffs charging forth, this band is like an unstoppable
freight train. Drummer David Kemper knows the to lay back and knows
when to leap out as the guitarists really nail one. Tony, of course,
swings there giddily and smiling, driving the whole jam like he was
born to do it from the get-go. All those "Jam Band" kids need to pay
more attention to these guys here. They are the real deal. And they
dress sharp, too!
As for the sound, it appears that the mix has evolved to the point
where if you are on Larry's side of the stage, you get more Larry. If
you are on Charlie's side of the stage, you get more Charlie in the
mix. This is how the Dead's sound was before they went to digital
sound in 1992. You could fashion your own mix by moving around the
venue. This evening we got a big ol' fat Charlie Sexton mix at our
seats, and I noticed that in moving around Breslin Center we could get
a different mix and volume level depending on our location. Up where
our TicketBastard seats were, it was seriously loud with Charlie in
your face. Over to the left of us on the floor, it was quieter with a
more ensemble kind of mix; everybody's volume even. Here at our GDTS
seats were it was loud but not too loud, with Charlie up front but not
in your face. Larry was there for all the solos, but otherwise
Charlie dominated the guitar mix. Bob's guitar was somewhere lower
than either of the other two, which is how I like it. Bob's vocals
were just dandy. His inflections and cadence were right on the money
all night. He sang every single song like he really meant it, and
knew exactly like how he wanted it to sound like.
7.Positively 4th Street
The arraignment of this one has changed; the anchor riff that had
dominated the end of the verses in years past was nowhere in evidence
tonight. In the last stanza, he repeated himself to great effect:
"You'll know what a drag, what a drag it is, to see youuuuuuu".
Larry played Pedal Steel, and took his leads on it. At this point in
the show, two loud talkers were in the isle to our right, so we bolted
for the other side of the floor where there were way more people
dancing than talking (except for the Ann Arbor contingent of Deadheads
I recognized, who seemed more concerned with socializing than they did
with the music...however, they respectfully kept their chatter to a
low volume). The mix as way different over there, too, not as clear
is it was at our seats just 30 feet away
It seems like Bob has dumped the TOOM songs from his shows, except, of
course, for Love Sick. Can't Wait was among my favorite arraignments
from the fall '97 shows. It seems that they have since lost the punch
that they could project this song with, perhaps because they don't
play it every night. This is the down side of these wonderfully mixed
up setlists; we get to hear more of Bob's repertoire, but they don't
always nail them quite as well since they are not playing them every
night. The up side of those cookie cutter setlists is that they get
very familiar with the songs, and just crush them every time. I was
very happy to hear Can't Wait, but it was not the best version of it
that I have heard. We just danced…
9.Just Like A Woman
Now this one they played like they have played it every night…Charlie
Sexton did the little guitar bit between verse/refrain segments
perfectly. It was a very sweet and heartfelt delivery from everyone
10.Highway 61 Revisited
We went back to our seats, shooing away the kids who had occupied them
in our absence. The loud talkers had moved on, so there was nothing
to disturb us for the rest of the night. As usual, they just blew the
roof of the place with this number. Bob had let Larry and Charlie
take all of the leads this evening, so this song wasn't quite the
ear-blistering showcase of pent up creativity that it was over the
course of the summer tour. But it was still awesome, and of course it
was great to hear Larry and Charlie play the leads throughout the show
instead of Bob hogging them all. Larry has taken to using his Flat
Steel on this number, with Charlie playing all but one of the leads.
Boy, did that crowd ever roar when it was finished.
Charlie seems really comfortable with his role as timekeeper here; he
turns the fuzz way up as he hits that simple little rhythm chord over
and over. Larry, who has been struggling with gear problems all
night, needs to place his steel guitars a little further away from the
drum riser…he keeps his volume pedal in the corner created by it and
his amps, and has to fit his way between the riser and the steels to
use it. It looks like he is trying to quickly weave his way through
basement clutter before and after his solo. He seems to handle this
distraction well, since his solo was mind blowingly good, but it sure
does look inconvenient. This particular problem would especially
bother him in Columbus and Pittsburgh.
12.Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
I never once thought that I'd be psyched to hear this song, but the
way Charlie plays the leads, I'll look forward to hearing it again.
Everyone in the crowd who had any weed left fired up one last double
(not that they haven't been doing it all night to begin with).
Security, such as it was, couldn't have cared any less. Even the
ushers were dancing! Charlie Sexton really makes this song shine.
13.Like A Rolling Stone
Another arena anthem, but they are so ON tonight that they make even
this one sound great. That's a point I have failed to make thus far;
Bob is really on this evening. There was nary a flub or foul up to be
heard, although Bob was a little pissy with Tony for some reason or
14.Blowin' In The Wind (acoustic)
Charlie and Larry are what make this song happen; their duel falsetto
backing vocals during the chorus push it to places that Bob may not
have even dreamed of when he wrote the song so long ago. When I am at
work, sometimes I sing the chorus to myself the way Charlie sings it:
"The answer, it is blowin' in the weeeeeiiiiinnnnd". I never thought
that'd I'd actually look forward to hearing this song; those boys make
it sound fresh and relevant.
15.Not Fade Away
We love the garage band style that they whip this one into. It sounds
real crunchy and rough, propelled by raw energy and excitement, and
the whole crowd is just going out of their minds with joy. I love
this song as a show closer; it just leaves everybody feeling so
satisfied and sated.
This show just blows away all of those summer shows, even the one club
date we saw at St. Andrews Hall. Charlie Sexton has really come into
his own, and is now a solid, forward, and confident presence. Larry
Campbell's role has evolved to that of providing color as well as
leads…indeed, he and Charlie trade lead and backing roles in the music
so well that they are probably the finest team to have worked with Bob
that I have seen. Coupled with Tony and David, this band is just
incredible, and we were truly blessed to be able to experience it.
Phil Lesh, I think, played a role in the greatness of the Dylan set.
You know how it is when a good opening act can raise the bar for the
headliner's following performance, Kenny Wayne Shepherd didn't do it,
but IMHO Joni Mitchell did. And Phil & Friends are doing it for this
run of Dylan shows, too. To such a degree that I think this is one of
the best concert packages I seen offered in a very long time.
Sure enough, Phil & Friends is not everybody's cup of tea. But nobody
is going to be a more vigilant critic of his set than I am, and even
if his set wasn't what I thought it could be, the next night in
Columbus would. But the fact that he is so obviously taking risks in
going out there in front an audience with a new band and playing brand
new songs for most of the members of that band has to have gotten
Bob's attention, IMHO, as his own sets have become a stream of
rarities and bust outs, performed with varying degrees of greatness
but always with vigor and enthusiasm.
The vibe inside the house was among the warmest I've ever felt at a
Dylan show, and it was one of those rare times when it seemed that all
that mattered (for most of us) was the music. We were blessed to have
so many of our friends there, be on the road with great folks, and
come to see this great show, among the best I've ever seen. Columbus
would be even better, and Pittsburgh very nearly as strong if not at
least as much fun. We do love to tour, even if it's just for a few
shows. It's in the blood, after all.
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