November 8, 2012
Review by Jerry Spanbauer
Attended with my buddy Tim, we are both in our mid-40‘s; 31st show
for me. 20-something for him. We were in the 7th row left on the
floor.Excellent seats! Took my 13-year old son Dylan who sat with his
mother in a different spot. It was his second show, first was being
carried on my back in 2000 when he was 9 months old!
Knopfler great! Excellent large band. Still plays amazing leads with
“that sound.” Lots of Celtic sound that gave his eclectric band a
chance to show off. Crowd like a morgue during his set but people were
enjoying. Dude nearby looked like he has “Twisted By The Pool” a bit
too many times!
Decent-sized crowd, 5000 to 6000, most of floor was on feet during Dylan
set. Didn’t see many leave during Dylan set. Venue proved to be decent.
Have no problems with staging or mirrors.
Don’t miss intro, still love the “EYE” (how long has it been
around???). Dylan looked sharp, voice was solid, harmonica leads were
excellent and focused. Show was “competent” but is that what we want
from a Bob show???
Knopfler was assertive and fit in well during his songs with band.
”Things Have Changed” had us laughing out loud-WITH Bob and not AT
Bob. Crazy arrangement was cool!
3 from Modern Times, 0 from Love and Theft and Tempest. WHY? Replace
“Thunder In The Mountain” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” with
similar but less played songs PLEASE!
Took us about 30 seconds to recognize “Million Miles.” Apparently the
first one in three years.
2000th performance of LARS and they performed it like they knew it.
PLEASE give the band room to breathe!!! Stu played several sharp leads.
WHY AREN’T CHARLIE AND DONNIE ALLOWED TO SHINE???? I am seriously
starting to think something more is up with Charlie. He stayed back near
drums the whole night, looks like he is getting into it with head bobbing,
etc. BUT.....practically ZERO distinguishable moments...WHY??? I think
back to early 2000’s and even when he first rejoined band when the band
would take off, but there were no moments where they entered a different
zone. The sad part is I know they are CAPABLE of taking it to special
places! George and Tony were solid as always but there were none of those
“Tony moments” we usually experience where we focus just on him
because he is doing something “special.”
Review by Morris Schaller
I have to say that I went into the show not expecting much. Was I wrong.
There are shows I have seen over my 60 year lifespan that from the opening
note you knew were going to be just wonderful. An Allman Bros. show in '76
in Omaha. A Moody Blues show in Champaign,Il in '71. So many Grateful Dead
shows. A couple of Bob shows in Minneapolis in '92. From the opening note
I knew this was going to be a good night. Bob and friends were on tonight.
Musically and Bob's singing, yes singing, were in fine form. A big
surprise was the sound in the Bradley Center. From my seat in the third
row the sound was excellent. Mark Knopfler was a nice treat. Love that
sound he creates. No need to go into each song Bob played. Just a
wonderful night of music in Milwaukee. As I was walking out there were a
couple of couples in their mid 40's I would guess walking behind me. I
heard one of the men comment about wasn't Bob from Minnesota? So I looked
back and said Hibbing. He said Hibner? I spelled it out for him. He
commented that he never heard of that city. I said yes actually he was
from Hibbing. They still seemed skeptical. One of the women asked me what
I thought of the show. I said I had seen many bad shows but I thought this
one was outstanding. I could see she didn't share the same feeling. She
asked where were all the old songs? I just smiled and did not comment. She
then asked me why I was leaving then in the middle of the show. I had
started walking in the middle of Blowin In The Wind. I said the show was
over. I haven't seen any reviews of the show yet in the local paper but I
am sure there will be the usual no talking to the audience comments and
the different way songs were performed. I am sure this group I walked out
with would probably agree with those comments. Oh well. For me and the
surprising large amount of people, even though it was a lower bowl seating
only show, it was a wonderful, wonderful night of music.
Review by Tom Wilmeth
No songs from Tempest were played in Milwaukee. Bob played no guitar
during this show. Neither fact made the least difference to a concert
that was as good as I’ve seen Dylan perform in my nearly 40 years of
following this strange and compelling figure.
However, I readily admit that before this concert:
I was concerned. Bob Dylan had scheduled himself with more dates for the
Fall 2012 tour than in any recent concert season. Reports had come in
that his voice was shot. But I had been hearing that for decades. More
troubling, friends in other cities were reporting numerous walk-outs in
mid-concert, sometimes including the friends themselves!
I was surprised. For the first time in my experiences with Dylan
concerts, this one was being advertised on television. 30-second ads were
being run during local news and on Letterman. I figured this meant ticket
sales must be sluggish. If true, this added fuel to my premise about the
potential problems for Bob caused by being on the road for so many dates.
He had lately been covering the Midwest like a blanket. Fine for the
obsessive fans, but this smacked of the heavy touring schedule Dylan
employed during the early 1990s, prior to the revitalization brought on by
the release of Time Out of Mind. Then, Texas friend Tony Davidson and I
feared that “Dylan was using-up his audience.” How long would fans keep
I had low expectations. How much longer could Dylan keep delivering? And
if this was the beginning of the end of a touring Dylan, how much effort
would he be putting forth? After all, he had barely touched the songs
from his new Tempest CD in concert. Was this a sign that it was too much
trouble to work-up new tunes for a stage he soon planned to abandon? As
with all things Dylan – who knows? Or as Bob himself says in a song title
– “God Knows.”
But in spite of all of these multi-leveled concerns:
I was elated. Of the numerous times I have seen Bob Dylan, beginning in
January of 1974, this was perhaps the most completely satisfying show I
have experienced. That’s a big statement, I know, and takes nothing away
from the many other good nights I have seen him. But while it is
certainly not a contest, this concert may have been the best of the lot.
I bought tickets on the first day of availability. They seemed to be good
seats, but always tough to tell. After all, this show was to be held in
the Bradley Center, where the Milwaukee Bucks play basketball – in other
words, a large place not designed for music.
My son Dylan and I arrived at the hall and found that our seats were
great! In the second row off the floor – not the second row of a distant
balcony. As 7:30 approached and opening act Mark Knopfler prepared to
play, my son asked me if I thought a lot of people were waiting until Bob
hit the stage to sit down. After all, the place was not at all full. The
entire upper level of the sports arena had been curtained off, and the
lower levels were very thinly populated. About the time I was forming my
response, Knopfler’s band began their first tune. I was surprised &
happy: Surprised about the very low attendance (in spite of my previous
theories over this very thing, this was beyond sparse) and happy that the
concert was beginning on time – a few minutes early, in fact.
I knew not to expect Dire Straits tunes, but I was nonplussed by the
hour-long performance by Knopfler and his 8-piece band. Talented
multi-instrumentalists, to be sure, but I was not connecting with much of
it. Surrounded by talkers and drinkers, we headed to the lobby to wait
out the set – a rare occurrence, that.
When returning to the hall, I instructed my son to just follow me with
confidence. I didn’t think the ushers would care if people shifted
positions on a night such as this, and they didn’t. We moved over two
sections and spread out in one of the non-populated areas. Actually, we
even had slightly better sight lines from this vast stretch of open seats.
Dylan came on stage with no fanfare and no opening announcement – a
recently dropped custom of intoning a strange, spoken overview of his
career. The band kicked into “Watching the River Flow,” and we were off
and running for the 100 minute evening. The “River” rolled along
pleasantly, but what surprised me most was how good the sound was – for a
Bob Dylan concert in general, and for a sports arena in particular.
Bob seated himself at the real, grand piano – a recent concert addition –
and began a beautiful version of “Girl From the North Country.” The song
is a long-held favorite of mine, but once again perhaps the biggest
surprise was the sound – you could hear the words articulated and every
piano note was audible and clear. I have been at the later “keyboard
shows” when none of what Bob was playing could be heard, which may have
been intentional. Before the show, I indicated how I believed that Dylan
liked muddy sound – a contention backed-up both by critics and by Bob
himself at various times.
Mark Knopfler joined Bob’s backing quintet for this second tune. He came
on with no announcement or fanfare, and he departed the stage three songs
later in a similar fashion. While adding a third guitar to those of band
members Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball, Bob next played “Things Have
Changed” and “Tangled Up in Blue.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of “Things Have Changed” was the
guitar interplay between Knopfler and Sexton, who dueled it out at the
song’s conclusion. Usually when two instrumentalists are musically
sparring, they face each other. But as the guitarists traded licks, they
both kept their eyes riveted on Bob, still seated at the grand piano.
Most notably, Knopfler actually had his back to Sexton as their guitar
The concert continued with two rarely heard tunes from very different eras
– “Million Miles” and, even more noteworthy, “Chimes of Freedom.” After
this last song, my son said to me, “They seem to have a little trouble
with a few of their endings.” I said, “Yeah. They don’t play some of
these a whole lot. And even on the oft-performed ones, Dylan may change
things in mid-song.” And that’s why all band members’ eyes remain fixed
on Bob, no matter what!
The stage was adorned with a number of old style lights on high, black
tripods such as those that would illuminate Hollywood movie lots. These
lights were functional, but in themselves they offered a bit of
interesting ambience. Although dwarfed by its surroundings, Dylan’s Oscar
for his song “Things Have Changed” was clearly visible amidst the stage
trappings. But in addition, draped around the golden film figure, as my
sharp-eyed son pointed out, was what seemed to be Bob’s Presidential Medal
of Freedom, awarded just last May by Barack Obama.
As the night continued, the set had its expected sign posts, such as
“Rollin’ and Tumbin’” and particularly “Highway 61 Revisited,” but nestled
between the oft-heard songs were two somewhat recent less played jewels.
While “Love Sick” was a big song for Bob as his resurgence began in 1997,
it is no longer a concert standard. Even more welcome was the closing
track from 2006’s Modern Times CD, “Ain’t Talkin’.”
Beautiful versions of all these songs were offered, played with conviction
by a road tested band. After the moody “Ain’t Talkin’,” the band launched
into “Thunder on the Mountain,” and I knew we were on the downhill slope.
What I expected, and what followed were “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Like
Rolling Stone,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and (as an encore) “Blowin’ in
I was again struck by the quality of the sound during “Ballad of a Thin
Man.” Bob came center stage and sang the song clearly, line for line.
This was an intentionally crisp vocal performance because the sound had
been set to echo his voice for a single repeat. The initial vocal was
distinct, and the echo also was effectively clear and haunting. At most
Dylan shows I have attended, this type of echo nuance would be completely
lost in the overall muddled sound. The night was impressive on many
As the concert ended and the house lights came up, I thought of several
people I wished had experienced the evening with us. And I was again
struck by the diminutive size of the crowd. It brought to mind the words
of another friend, Mike Toft of Minneapolis. Toft gave Dylan a lot of
credit for not jumping on the 50th Anniversary wagon. That struck a chord
with me: It would have been easy for Bob to stay off the road for a while
to create demand, followed by a highly touted, huge pay-day tour. With
Keith Richards defending $800 face value ticket prices for an upcoming
Rolling Stones show, one wonders who is interested in making music and who
in making money. But that topic is fodder for another time.
As for the state of Bob Dylan, my fears were completely allayed. This
concert showed no signs that Bob was at all tired or cruising on
auto-pilot. True to form, he did exactly as he pleased. And I too was
pleased just to be sitting there with my son, watching & listening.
I have been told by the statisticians that on this night in Milwaukee
Dylan played “Like a Rolling Stone” for the 2000th time. Let’s hope that
Bob is thinking in baseball terms, perhaps aiming for that elusive 3000
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