Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Fillmore

November 19, 2023

[Matthew Gordon], [Barry Gloffke], [Joseph M. Jaworski], [Sergi Fabregat]

Review by Matthew Gordon

With essentially the same setlist as the last time through Philadelphia,
there was less of an excitement factor anticipating this show than for
previous go-rounds.  What would the new band member (Jerry Pentecost) be
like? Would Bob throw in a Philly-centric cover? What would it be like to
be standing in a mass, instead of politely seated, for a show for this
tour?  How have the arrangements evolved?  How would Bob keep things
fresh?  The answer, my friend, .... (no I'm not gonna do that).  The sound
was very clear, with Bob's voice and piano up front, and I think I heard a
lot of new lyrics, even to some of the R&RW songs.  The other
instrumentalists did a great job inserting power chords and themes and the
gentlest colorings to enhance Bob's musical ideas, but generally did their
best to stand back and let Bob drive the arrangements. They all seem to be
very well tuned in to him, and careful to be deferential to his brief but
effective musical excursions, which appeared to be somewhat
improvisational rather than well-practiced. If that's the case, their
instrumental virtuosity and attentive musical ears in finding the right
touches to accompany Bob effectively, without ever really soloing or
grabbing the spotlight, was quite impressive.  I was standing closest to
Doug Lancio and gained a new appreciation for his economical but musical
maneuverings and interplays with Bob Britt.  Donnie Herron was even more
invisible than usual, not once stepping out front with any of his multiple
instruments, but always providing the fullness of a pad for Bob to dance
around on with his piano.  The new drummer Jerry Pentecost was
serviceable, barely noticeable, with a similarly light touch, but not as
intricate, as Charlie Drayton had been.  Most of the song re-arrangements
(especially the Rough & Rowdy Ways songs), to my ear, took some of the
subtleties and complexities of the songs away into more standard blues
progressions and timings, which I found a little disappointing, but they
were quite effective in a live setting. The new dynamics built into the
songs, such as the solo intro to "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and the stops
and Little Richard-esque piano poundings on "Gotta Serve Somebody" worked
quite well.  And the lyrics came through, with new phrasings bringing
attention to different thought-provoking aspects. He never moved to the
center mic to sing, but in between songs he often stood up and turned
around to face the drummer (back to the audience) to give him some kind of
inscrutable direction for the next song. The whole band seemed to lean in
when he did that after "That Old Black Magic" to see if he was going to
insert a surprise song into the reserved occasional cover slot, but it was
not to be.  While I had hoped for one fo those bonuses in Philadelphia, it
made more sense to me that he didn't interrupt the flow of his Rough &
Rowdy Ways tour presentation.  Sure, "Truckin'" would have been fun, but
it probably would have broken the spell.  While he seemed to show his age
whenever he got up from his bench, I got a good look at his face through
my binoculars (before venue staff took them away from me!) while he played
and he looked great- sharp, attentive, alert, emotive, and fully engaged. 
It occurred to me that of all the many dozens of times I've seen Dylan
play, including the previous 2021 R&RW leg, all the way back to 1974, I
don't think I've ever seen him looking both as relaxed, and as completely
in control of the band, as he did at this show.  The most effective songs
this night, in my opinion, were "I Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You",
and "Every Grain Of Sand", but the show was well paced, and every song
landed its punches.  The crowd around me, of all ages (maybe even weighted
toward the younger) was fully focused on the show, happily without the
usual extraneous conversation and chatting.  After the band took the final
bow (which seemed appreciatively extended to acknowledge the audience's
enthusiasm) and walked off the stage, the applause died surprisingly
quickly, as everyone knew there would be no encore; which, in a way,
showed that this Philly crowd was made up of true fans who appreciate and
follow what he is doing right now.  While the years may occasionally show
in his gait and stance, as a musician, songwriter, singer, performer, and
bandleader Dylan still, amazingly, seems at the peak of his powers.  Truly
an artist for the ages.


Review by Barry Gloffke

I added a Baltimore show to my itinerary. That makes 15 shows for this
tour. Tonight's Philadelphia show was 11 of 15. It was an easy two-hour
drive from NYC to the Filmore in Philadelphia on a crisp, sunny Sunday.
The autumn leaves have turned. Not too long before the killing frost is on
the ground. As this was a General Admission show, I arrived around 1pm to
hold my ground for what I hoped would be a spot on the rail off to Bob's
right. It's a long wait, but with help from others on the line, we all get
to take our food and bathroom breaks and some of us are able to warm
ourselves in our cars if parked near enough. And my hard work paid off as
I got the spot I wanted, only about 35-40' from Bob and off to his right.
Perfect! Bob and the Band were a bit late tonight. There was a digital
clock on the wall, stage left, and at 8:06 they all made their way on to
the stage. No musical prelude tonight. No matter. Bob charges right to the
piano and commences to offer some of THE BEST piano playing I've heard in
years. Best of this tour. All night long he was embellishing, tinkling,
improvising and running up and down the keys at will. He seemed to be
having a blast! And since he was so close to me, and I was in his line of
sight when he was sitting at the piano and playing, I was egging him on as
best I could when he gazed in my direction. I could swear he was playing
off my energy! And the Band? Crystallization! Each night of the tour they
seem to get better. As Bob says, 'these songs are not easy to play'.
Tonight they were as tight as one of Jerry's drums. And Jerry was one
reason the Band sounded so good. But overall each instrument seemed to
melt into the other. It was extraordinary to witness. Truly one of the
great nights for the Band. The only drawbacks were Bob getting lost in the
lyrics to KEY WEST and a rather plodding MOTHER OF MUSES, which was the
one song where Bob's piano playing was underwhelming. But there were so
many highlights I could easily overlook those transgressions. FALSE
PROPHET was booming. WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE had some of the
aforementioned superb piano playing. BLACK RIDER was phenomenal, all doom
and gloom, and, oh so spellbinding. A slightly different tint to MY OWN
VERSION OF YOU tonight and one of the best so far on this tour. It was
like that all night long for each song. This is why we keep going to his
shows... each night a little change, maybe subtle, maybe not... one night
a good show and one night a great one. He isn't mailing in these shows as
he's done in the past sometimes. He's fully committed to the songs and
each night is proof. Tonight Bob was moving around on stage frequently
after songs. He would get up from the piano, take a quick look at the
audience, then turn to the Band. At different times he was looking at and
talking to either Jerry, Tony, Doug, or Bob Britt. It seemed he was mostly
speaking to Jerry and Tony. He rarely spoke to Donnie, although he looked
his way several times during the evening. The guys were killing it tonight
and I think Bob was letting them know he liked what he was hearing. To my
dismay, no cover tonight. During Band intros Bob once again did the
routine of telling us that these songs are hard to play, but these guys do
a great job. Tonight he had us call back to him with a YEAH and then and
OOH-OOH. He was definitely in a good mood. The evening climaxed with a
resounding version of GOODBYE JIMMY REED and a version of EVERY GRAIN OF
SAND which built in intensity and ended with a wailing harmonica solo by
Bob. Beautiful end to another great show. At shows end inside the venue, I
saw my man from the Mann from so many years ago, whose name escapes me now
like a drifter. Up next, Newark, NJ for two nights. Don't you miss it!


Review by Joseph M. Jaworski

I just got home from seeing Bob Dylan in Philadelphia playing at The
Fillmore. It was a sold out show, and Bob delivered in a big way. This was
my first time at this venue, and it is general admission with standing on
the floor. My brother and I went and bought the early entry package so we
were in the front row. It was pretty much 5 hours of straight standing
beginning with standing in line from about 5 pm until the show ended at
around 10 pm. The showtime was 8:00 and Bob and the band walked onto the
stage at 8:06 pm. The band members were all in black, Tony Garnier wearing
a hat. Dylan also was in black but his jacket and shirt and a silver
sequin design, and his pants had a single white pinstripe down the side.
He wore black boots. He looked very sharp. He came out holding a black
hat, but this stayed on top of his piano the entire night. There were no
“Philly specific” songs for the show. It was the standard set list for
this show, in this order: Watching the River Flow, Most Likely You Go Your
Way (And I’ll Go Mine), I Contain Multitudes, False Prophet, When I Paint
My Masterpiece, Black Rider, My Own Version of You, I’ll Be Your Baby
Tonight, Crossing the Rubicon, To Be Alone with You, Key West, Gotta Serve
Somebody, I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You, That Old Black
Magic, Mother of Muses, band introductions, Goodbye Jimmy Reed, and Every
Grain of Sand. He sung all of the songs with a very clear and powerful
voice, and it was obvious he was having a blast the entire show. He would
flash a wry smile during many of the songs, and there was even an audible
chuckle during some of them. I clearly remember him laughing before saying
“Thump on a Bible to proclaim a creed” in the Jimmy Reed song. He spent a
lot of time seated at the piano, but he also did stand at the piano
banging the keys a good bit during some of the songs. From the show I saw
in 2021, many of these songs have a different arrangement than what I
heard before. The man is just brilliant and never stops evolving. For
instance, in Masterpiece, there is a long piano intro where he sings the
first verse, same with To Be Alone with You and I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.
Then the band comes in. Key West is more beautifully done now compared to
what I heard before. My Own Version of You is just, well, awesome. Dylan
has a way of altering the timing when he sings certain lines for emphasis,
and it is done in such a brilliant way in this song. For example, in one
line, he says “You know what I mean, you know exactly what I mean.” In the
studio version, these lines are sung right after each other, but tonight,
there was a long time between them. He did that a lot in this song. False
Prophet rocked, as did You Gotta Serve Somebody. Again, long piano intro
for the latter and the band enters with a brilliant sound. I’ve Made up My
Mind to Give Myself to You and Mother of Muses were both very touching
songs performed exceptionally well. After Mother of Muses, the band was
introduced and Dylan started off by saying “You know, these aren’t easy
songs to play, but this band does a good job, don’t they? Say Yeah!” And
the audience obliged and cheered and said “yeah” as one. He closed with a
great version of Every Grain of Sand. Before he started, he grabbed the
harmonica and I knew we were in for a treat. Last time, he did not play
the harmonica. But at the end today, he took the harmonica and played it
masterfully to end the song and the night. He took his black hat off the
piano and stood in front with his band mates as the audience cheered the
legend loudly. He is like no other.

I’ve heard rumors that this might be his last tour. However, after seeing
him tonight having such a great time, I don’t see it. He still clearly is
very much enjoying what he is doing. I can’t count the number of smiles I
saw on his face. In between all of the songs, he was very engaged with his
band as he would say something to Tony Garnier, and at one point said
something to the drummer. Perhaps his song I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give
Myself to You is him directly addressing his audience. I hope, as I’m sure
all of you do, he continues writing great songs and performing for his
people as he is showing no signs of slowing down. Thank you, Bob, for a
great evening, one I will never forget.

Joseph M. Jaworski


Review by Sergi Fabregat

We arrived at the beautiful city of Philadelphia, once I loved already in 
2021 after hearing and reading so many bad things about it, on a not too 
cold Sunday morning, restless (literally, from a relative's bday party the 
night before :lol: ) and ready to roll and rock with 3 consecutive days of 
Bob Dylan and his thing. As planned, we visited (my second time there) the 
Independence Hall, with the lovely ranger Jules leading gracefully the 
main tour of the Supreme Court and Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State 
House, where the Declaration of Independence was voted on July 2nd (a very 
instructive way to learn how random and human History can sometimes get), 
and the awful ranger 'Don'trememberhisname' leading the tour of the 
Congress Hall next door, in which he treated the visitors as stupid childs 
asking us questions in quite an aggressive manner to the point some 
visitors left a tour that lasted... 20 minutes :lol:

The walk from the hotel to the venue was about half an hour below gigantic 
highways, abandoned factories and some new buildings. I go in the Fillmore, 
a really cool looking place, not as cool as Milwaukee's Eagles Ballroom 
but surely with its own personality. The floor is already half packed and 
while I check if the right side is good, I end up leaning to the left, in 
quite a sweet spot from which I have a very nice angle of Bob's microphone, 
a bit futher than what I had wished. As I have this kind of shyness that 
impedes me to break the ice, I stand there for about half an hour in almost 
complete silence with all these people surrounding me that logically talk 
and chatter, and I wouldn't lie if I say that I felt quite lonely there, 
looking at Bob's mic and missing him more than ever.

When lights go half-down and they come into the stage in full formation 
(that is, with Bob too, as opposed to the previous run of shows I had 
seen), the feeling of safe space is so amazing and warming... Now all 
eyes on him, don't have to worry of how much I dance, cheer and enjoy, 
I'm just someone in the crowd. One thing that gets my attention quite a 
bit is how Bob almost looks for the eye contact during the songs but 
refuses it at the final salute, as if the stage persona and the real 
persona were not only different but outrightly opposite beings.

Something that catches my attetnion from the start is how cohesive and 
organic the sound sounds. I wrote already that it reminded me about 
Manchester 2022, with the piano resembling a clavichord and something 
inherent just sounding different. Despite not close to the speakers, the 
sound comes out loud, powerful and super clear, with Bob's voice and the 
instruments super merged and at the same time clearly distinguishable 
from each other. The thing that impresses me the most is how Bob's 
energy is in such high spirits that it has this bone-chilling word by 
word translation that feels like a travelling light that in nanoseconds 
correlates his inner feelings, thoughts and ideas in the uncountable 
ways in which his voice expresses them. If I recall correctly, is 
during 'Most Likely' that his voice goes from 60s nasal to 2010s growl 
to his current smoothness to even the 70s wide and wild range, he just 
keeps it coming out so easily and I feel mesmerized in a very unique 
way, because Bob keeps changing the approach very quickly, if not word 
by word, line by line, and I feel so blessed to be there.

Bob will remain seated for most of the show, maybe the time I've seen 
him seating that much, but what comes out from the speakers is a man 
with full use of all his powers, unpredictable not in the insignificant 
details but in the much more obscure depths of the stumbled blocks, the 
abyssal, unfathomable emotions of his own songs. Crazy, crazy stuff 
indeed, as it was not about this or that arrangement, this or that 
inflection, it was (like for me in Barcelona 2010, again in 2018, 
Milwaukee 2019 or this same year in Tokyo) seeing a new man, a newborn 
seed that kept blossoming and growing in front of my eyes with a 100 
minutes of life expectancy. When it's over, it's over, but in your mind. 
I said this after Akron: you've been warned.

The backdrop of the stage couldn't be more fitting to all these feelings. 
The current usual road cases, but no curtain at all behind them, just 
this cement industrial wall with arches in it, blue lighted. It makes me 
think about Giorgio de Chirico's paintings or some Antonioni movies, 
their kind of no-spaces, desolate, desperate and hopeless, as if we were 
on a crypt hiding below the world's horrors, with that Virgil or Charon 
singing about them, hammering us with them, getting them from the inside 
out. I thought the Niagara Falls would be the greatest landscape I'd see 
this fall, but that nude stage sight in the outskirts of Philadelphia 
may just top it. It could all well belong to a Matrix movie.

'Key West' and 'I've Made Up My Mind' become great examples of this 
openly approach that Bob seems to be into (in spanish there's this 
amazing expression "a tumba abierta", literally means "to open grave", 
as if in a really decided manner): you can't be sure which ways the songs 
will go, and surely they are not what they were. Bob messes up a bit the 
"land of light" chorus in 'Key West' and then concentrates on a piano 
riff that he keeps growing into a melody and makes the band go along with 
him. Very aflame he starts to sing the last part of the song, and suddenly 
I notice how the music gets more textures, gets louders, Bob's singing 
super strong and nuanced but even in an angry way, and I feel that if I'd 
died in that moment, I'd have done it happily, very selfishly but 
honestly speaking. That precise moment, I'd have died a happy man.

Fortunately I saw a new day at song, and 'Made Up My Mind' proves to be 
worth of holding up a bit more as it features a unique, very emphasized
way of phrasing the words that gets me completely. I know not all folks 
are fans of stating-Bob, but I feel that in shows like Philly's it works 
wonders, again an imposing delivery, a bit circus-like, not too serious, 
not too funny, not too lovely, not too harsh. Somewhere in a perfect 
balance in which you can hear Bob breath crystal clear, and is quite a 
feeling to hear those breaths, not sure if that happend before with 
that intensity.

I danced once to 'Melancholy Mood', so it's not that strange to dance to 
'That Old Black Magic', but I loved it so much, everyone was clearly 
having such a great time around me. More or less vividly, Philly's 
audience was one of those that seemed completely into what was happening 
on stage, could well compared to the best ones I've been among to 
(Oakland '22 #3 or Rome '23), and of course that translated into the 
greatest exchange I've seen Bob deliver, when he asked us to yell "YEAH!" 
and the passion of our answer was so obvious that he seemed genuinely 
impressed by it. For a show that revolves around the bitter dance of 
loneliness, which I felt when entering the venue, I'll always remember 
it as collective, joyful tango. The night of the living dead.


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