November 20, 2012
Review by Pete
Bob Dylan and his band flat rocked the Verizon center in our nation's
capital last night. What a national treasure he is! Way back in the 70's
he made an album called "Planet Waves" that has never made anybody's "top"
anything list. Before music became digital and bargain record racks were
literal, not virtual, you'd find several copies of it with the round
orange, hand-written $7.99 sticker. The cover had some hideous line
drawings by Dylan himself. Inside, a dollop of mediocre songs from a
young artist trying to find himself. But two memorable lines off that
album surfaced last night as I listened. One was, "I ain't haulin' any of
my lambs to the marketplace anymore." He hauled 'em last night, boy. And
he's been haulin' right steady lo these many years. Glad he never made
good on that particular threat. The other line was "in this age of
fiberglass, I'm searching for a gem." And aren't we all? And he
certainly still is. At 71 or so. Amazing.
Pretty sure he did find a few gems along the way - one when he left the
dirt roads of acoustic folk music for the electric "on" ramp of Highway
61. For me, "Highway 61" was the pinnacle last night. Dylan's (and his
band's) performance squeezed every molecule out of both the artist(s) and
the genre. Like, if your job was to show some alien planet how we
earthlings do Rock 'n Roll, you'd send this. Any of us who've read
chapter two of James' epistle are well aware that when "God said to
Abraham, kill me a son", Abe did not say ".. You must be puttin' me on."
Rather, it was a straight up, "where do you want this killin' done?" And
some "killin'" was done at 7th and F, for sure. Something about the song
and the way they did it made your heart want to explode - doubtless a
result of whatever level the guy at the mixer board had set the bass
interacting with the usual dimensions of the human pleural cavity. Made
you want to run around the block or save the world or dance beneath the
diamond sky with one hand waving free. The roving gambler (Dylan has
pretty consistently put forth that costume and persona for the past few
years) sent us home from the bleachers out in the sun with our forty red,
white and blue shoestrings and maybe a smidgen more faith in Mankind.
There were even a thousand telephones not ringing although the kid next to
me (I say kid - the baby on his home screen must have been his daughter)
rode Google pretty hard the whole night.
He can't sing, they say. Well I say this - if he could sing, it just
wouldn't be fair. It would be, you know, critical mass. The world would
explode. Couldn't contain it.
Timeless. So, I'm in the shower the morning of the show, belting out
"Like a Rolling Stone", because that's just what you do, and it occurs to
me that he wrote it 40 years ago but it could be the theme song for the
Obama administration and the direction of their economic policies. No
direction home. How does it feel to be without a home. Unknown. Used to
ride a chrome horse. Certainly rolling stones go downhill and last I
checked it describes my 401k. Prescient.
We saw what I believe was the first live performance of "Soon After
Midnight" off his new album. Very good. He's beyond the death fixation
that he had on "Love and Theft".
"What is this dreck", or something to that effect, a noted reviewer wrote
way back when his Bobness went electric. But the joke was on him. I know
dreck, but last night was pure Shinola. Amped way up. Rock on, Bob.
Review by Oscar Montes
After visiting some touristic places in DC I got to my hotel at about 4:00
PM to be ready for the show at the Verizon Center.
“Baby tonight” was the first song of this show, everybody was happy at the
venue. “To Ramona” was next, really nice with Mark on stage on this one
and the following two. “Things have changed” with Dylan on center stage is
always a pleasure to look at, when I say this I mean the way Bob moves and
acts on the platform! So cool doing his thing!
A beautiful “Tangled up” which was so loved by the audience, Bob played
harp son intense on this one on center stage and then moved to grand piano
at the end. We had another “Chimes of freedom”! It’s not quite often to
get twice in a row so were very lucky!
Two “Tempest” songs in the same night! First time it happens! Great! “Soon
after midnight” was for sure the highlight of the night! First live
performance ever! So nice delivered. And yes, we see Bob is going to do
“Early roman kings” until the end of this tour.
The best “Highway 61” on the last 5 nights! Yeah! So much energy! An
explosion! And the same for “Watchtower”! “Thin man” always so strong! And
“Thunder” as usual makes people dance on their seats always!
Another two classics “Rolling stone” and “Blowin’ in the wind” always so
expected by the audience.
After the show; Sue, Tim and I decided to have a drink at a bar close to
the venue. Johnny from Norway joined us, so nice to meet him! 4 foreigners
in the USA! We really had a great time in there! Well, today is the last
show of the season. We believe is going to be a really special one!
Anything can happen tonight in Brooklyn, we’ll know for sure soon!
Review by Roger Catlin
It’s been way too long since I’ve seen a Bob Dylan show – two years to the
day according to my research. Moving, settling, being out of town when he
was in town was part of it; Dylan was also touring a bit less with one
U.S. tour a year instead of two.
I was anxious to see his latest incarnation on stage, behind a baby grand
piano instead of the electric keyboard he had been standing behind in
recent years – both of them completely out of character for a man who was
a troubadour for 50 years with a guitar, and who caused a cultural tidal
wave when he switched preference from acoustic to electric.
I had all kinds of theories for the keyboard – he had a back pain that
meant he couldn’t sling a guitar on every night any more; being behind a
keyboard was an easier way to see lyric cue cards, something like that. T
Bone Burnett told me he probably did it just to confound everyone.
But his splendid show Tuesday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., I
finally figured it all out: He’s moving to all these different instruments
because he’s still learning things at 71 and eager to see how piano colors
these towering and indelible songs he’s been playing so long.
He’s always brought something different to his material, evolving songs
that fans would have long ago embalmed into organic entities, unexpected
waltzes, inventive blues variations with stinging patterns, always with
the odd, often barking emphasis on the words – the words being, finally,
the only way each song could be identified.
But on piano, there was a richness as he brought a gospel scale to many
songs and once again led his band (he seemed to have let the guitarists
lead the songs when he was on the comparatively inaudible electric
keyboard). Best of all his voice was nuanced and expressive and carried
well in the arena especially at the beginning and end of his set.
It's the end of the tour, which is closing in Brooklyn tomorrow, and means
that he’s by now incorporated the talent of opener Mark Knopfler into the
set. Knopfler, who opened what was obviously a co-headlining show with his
own solid set, In the same way as Dylan's band is ramshackle and driving,
Knopfler's approach is precise and more pure, breaking down several of the
melodic songs into the quite Celtic basics, with fiddle and flute, before
building them up again. When he joined Dylan during his set, he almost
snuck on stage alongside Stu Kimball and Charlie Sexton, to take lead on
“To Ramona” and be part of the string interplay on “Tangled Up in Blue.”
But the song that really delivered was a version of “Things Have Changed”
with Dylan standing in front of the band, diving and crouching at the
microphone, free of any instrument but a harmonica, punching the words and
punching Knopfler’s arms as the guitarist added his own tasteful electric
flourishes to a much more intense version. It should either be released as
a new live version or at least be captured in a video before the tour ends
Though Knopfler has a long history with Dylan, notably being the producer
and guitarist on “Infidels” (and the two songs from that session that were
arguably more important, “Blind Willie McTell” and “Foot of Pride”), no
songs from that era was played.
But there was a bit of history made in the show, as he performed the
light, 50s style “Soon After Midnight” live for the first time. It was
also the first time he has played two songs from the latest album
“Tempest” at a single show. When the North American tour began a month
before his new album came out, there were no songs from it featured in the
live shows. By now, he has performed four different “Tempest” songs live
so far, and the other one Tuesday that’s earned a permanent place on the
tour is the snarling “Early Roman Kings,” and its familiar electric blues
Just about everything in the show was a highlight, from the easy going
opener of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” (without the recorded fanfare or
oddball announcer’s spoken intro), and an unexpected “Chimes of Freedom.”
It was great, too, to see the care taken with what might be understandably
by now throwaways, resulting in a powerful “Ballad of a Thin Man,” a still
effective “Like a Rolling Stone” and a driving “All Along the Watchtower,”
making way for a really sweet acoustic and heartfelt version of “Blowing
in the Wind” in the encore.
Taking into account Dylan’s age, one must consider how lucky it is for
fans to have the influential writer and performer still on the road,
triggering an early thanksgiving.
One must wonder though: How much longer can we expect to see these annual
tours? Not that he has any indication of slowing down.
Still, I don’t think I’ll go two years without a show if I have the
Comments by David Mendick
What a phenomenal show.
Over the years I always went alone to see Dylan - it wasn't an experience
I wanted to share. Then one day I got married and made my wife come. Then
another day I had kids and some more kids and I made them come. Then my
wife refused to come and my kids went off to college and I was back to
going alone. Then came thanksgiving Washington, D.C. last night and Naomi,
Ethan, Mira and Gabriella were dragged along to see the one and only bob
Dylan . That's my life last night. Thanks to Bob for perfect.
Review by Tim Shorrock
Bob Dylan was magnificent tonight and played like he meant it, all the way
through. Lots of harmonica and acoustic piano gave him a deep, rich sound.
Mark Knopfler and his multinational guitar folk band started off with a
rollicking set, ending with an old Dire Straits song – “So Far Away From
Me.” A nice prelude to Bob. No announcement before he came on – just a
stage black and then into his opener from JOHN WESLEY HARDING, “I’ll be
Your Baby Tonight,” walking it out on harp. Then into a nice “Ramona,”
which I’ve never heard him perform before – a real throwback to 1964 when
I first started listening to him. With “Things Have Changed” and “Tangled
Up in Blue,” I knew we fans were in for a wonderful night. Love the way he
keeps making up the words on the latter. He had a great blues riff going,
and that told me the next song was going to be “Early Roman Kings.” And,
yes, I called it. Bob was playing his grand piano now and it rocked: Muddy
Waters was in the building. “I ain’t dead yet,” Bob sang, “but my bell
still rings.” It does indeed. Then it was a stunning “Chimes of Freedom,”
a perfect song for DC, which melded into a bouncy and very danceable
“Summer Days.” Next came the high for me – “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.”
This was the first Dylan song I ever heard – Pete Seeger introduced me to
it way back in 1964 – and I can say without equivocation that it changed
my life. Listening to Bob’s powerful version brought tears to my eyes –
all those years, still all this horror in the world. But Bob didn’t sit
still. He followed with “Highway 61” (“play fuckin’ loud” someone nearby
yelled as he began), then a second song from TEMPEST – “Soon After
Midnight,” followed by “Thunder on the Mountain” – singing about Alicia
Keys again. And of course, Mr Jones – “Ballad of a Thin Man.” I think he’s
done that song every time I’ve ever seen him, from 1974 to now. Again,
perfect for DC. “Rolling Stone” was almost like a dirge, but “Watchtower”
snapped the mood around, and I started thinking of way back, during the
Vietnam War, when I first heard that song as our planes bombed and strafed
a country 10,000 miles away. During his moving take of “Blowin’ in the
Wind” I couldn’t stop thinking of Gaza and what was going on so far away
in the Middle East. The world’s still “full of plunder and murder,” as Bob
said at the end of his fim MASKED AND ANONYMOUS, and he's still not afraid
to look that world in the face. What a troubadour!
Review by Thad Williamson
Overall, an excellent, energetic showing from Bob Dylan in front of an
appreciative audience. There were in my mind three really thrilling
moments: for whatever reason, the start of Tangled Up in Blue with
Knopfler on guitar and Bob singing alone at the mic sent a chill up my
spine. Chimes of Freedom was utterly magical and perfect. And then the
debut of one of (in my opinion) the three great songs on “Tempest,” Soon
After Midnight, rendered heartfelt and perfect. Concerts in DC always
bring out the liberal politico crowd; fine by me. Mostly the older
generation there tonight, which is fine. The people around me seemed to
thoroughly know Dylan and all the songs. Some other comments: I’ll Be Your
Baby—slow buildup into the town, then a suitably swinging, twangy version.
I like this song to start because Bob nailed the vocals from the start. To
Ramona—Dylan on piano, very nice version. Lyrics delivered a little too
quickly for my taste, but all the words there and clearly enunciated. Very
nice harmonica playing too. Things Have Changed—This won the audience over
for the night—Bob taking center stage, prancing around, pointing, showing
expression on every line. An awesome sight. Tangled Up in Blue—He started
off still on center stage, mugging with Knopfler a bit; then harmonica
solo; then back to piano for last verse. I like Dylan’s piano playing a
lot in this context, much better than another mindless guitar riff. Early
Roman Kings—Good, not remarkable, but good, and the lyrics came out very
clear and powerful. Repeated performances of this song indicates that this
song means something important to Dylan. Chimes of Freedom—Bob at piano,
gentle, lilting version, every lyric spot on delivered. Truly terrific, a
wonderful surprise. Worth price of admission. Summer Days—solid, more
restrained version of the concert standby. Hard Rain—After comic relief of
Summer Days, another heartfelt rendering of an early classic, again
clearly enunciated apart from a couple of slips. This had everyone on edge
of seat. During the last verse (I was in the 15th row of floor), I took my
eyes of Bob and the band and looked around and saw everyone around my
swaying, tapping, doing something to show they were totally in with the
song and Bob’s performance. Maybe not quite the best performance of this
I’ve seen, but excellent. Hwy 61—to be honest, I lost focus on this after
Hard Rain’s high. It was fine, and the band turned up the volume. Soon
After Midnight—a real treat; gentle fade-in, then became clear what the
band was playing, then Dylan started singing it. Pretty much exactly same
sound as what’s on Tempest. A couple of words didn’t quite come out
clearly but it was great. A real privilege to see a debut of a significant
song from Dylan. Thunder/Thin man: again lost focus on these. Thin Man was
a pretty energetic performance though with Bob at center stage again,
pointing and gesticulating. LARS: I love it that Dylan sang all four
verses, restoring the third verse. AATW/Blowin’: Good, AATW had some
interesting coordination of the guitar rhythm and the singing. Blowin’ in
the Wind has a tasteful, rich rendering from the band. No extra layers or
going over the top: the arrangement lets the song stand for itself, which
it still does. A fantastic show. My advice is to ignore those who think
Dylan should “retire.” On this night at least, he still very much had it
as a live performer.
Review by James Mahoney
It's been obvious for, oh, a few decades, that Bob Dylan's voice is
something he both controls - and doesn't. Reviews in this tour from
"well-meaning" reporters have commented accurately on how disappointed
many concert-goers have been by Dylan's supposedly wrecked voice, and to
be fair, when I first heard Dylan in 1964, I though he sounded like a
hillbilly with throat cancer, those words. This concert was full of such
vocally-"wrecked" songs - Summer Days was such a mess, as was most of Hard
Rain and Things Have Changed... just a strained barely-speaking-voice,
mostly - so what's up?
In DC, his occasionally repetitive, choppy vocal style, and that of his
piano-playing, was like years before, when he played "embarrassingly"
repetitive guitar leads. But there's an instinctive practice of
repetitive gesture, a rocking back-and-forth, that happens both with
autistic children and Orthodox Jews deep in prayer. So does Bob Dylan
basically give himself up to transpersonal energies when he takes a stage?
It's what we pay to see him for, isn't it?
Sometimes in DC, as in the chorus line of Chimes of Freedom, or on
occasion in TUIB, this note would emerge that revealed that - not
occasionally or incidentally - Bob Dylan can sing notes on key, if that
emerged within him. Both songs from "Tempest," Early Roman Kings and the
first performance of Soon After Midnight were sung straight on the notes.
And when he's drawn to evoke Krazy, as in his magnificent Thin Man, or his
Highway 61, he has radically sufficient vocal skills to make it evident...
Sure, when we see Bob Dylan these days, we see a wild old Country Music
Star on the Wane, plus a little Dean Martin who plays transcendental harp,
but what's with those two strange mirrors onstage, that plastic Oscar?
Are we in a Trickster's Presence? That photo in Rolling Stone this fall
tells us a lot - Bob's wearing a hoodie, concentrating on a pool shot,
being watched carefully by a very beautiful, probably very intelligent
young woman. And she's watching the shot. As we all are...
Review by Emily Smith
Well, first off, I have a confession to make... I know absolutely nothing
about Mark Knopfler. I have no interest in Mark Knopfler. I am completely
indifferent to Mark Knopfler. I meant to google him before I went to the
show but... I never got around to it. His set seemed fairly pleasant, I
suppose - though the piss-poor acoustics at the Verizon Center don't
exactly lend themselves to hearing music you aren't familiar with. I kept
zoning out. Yeah, I'm a horrible person.
I've listened to very little recent live Bob, but what I have heard has
run the gamut from "surprisingly excellent" to "Oh dear god make it stop!
My ears! My ears!". Well, tonight's show didn't make me want to hang
myself from the nearest railing... but aside from a few bright moments it
was fairly depressing.
Some song by song thoughts:
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Is Bob deliberately playing this song at every
show I go to 'cause he knows how much it freaks me the fuck out? Bob.
You are 71 years old. You are not anybody's "Baby" anymore, you twisted
old fuck. Stop it. It's creepy. Ironically this was actually one of the
best sung songs of the night...
To Ramona - so this was my first time "seeing" bob on the grand piano...
I forgot he was doing that now. It took me a moment to figure out where
he'd gone. Utterly forgettable performance. Seriously, I don't remember
a thing about it. I think it was ok but not great.
Things Have Changed - best performed song of the night. Bob center stage
w/lots of adorable, bizarre... dancing? I guess you could call it
dancing... and hilarious vocal interjections. ("eternity - and that's a
long time!) .
Tangled - Was not bad, though I'm not.... a huge... fan.. of the...
William Shatner-esque... vocals. Some decent harp playing - I think he
even got more than 2 notes in there! After this song Bob retreated back
behind his piano again and did not re-emerge until Thin Man.
Early Roman Kings - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
playing this song is like Bob saying: "Hey, you know all those awesome
songs on my new album? Yeah, I'm no going to play any of those. Instead
I'm going to play this shitty boring crap 'cause it's easy. Deal with
Chimes of Freedom - would have worked better if Bob had actually SUNG it
instead of barking it.
Summer Days - Remember the sweet, swinging Summer Days of 2001 when you'd
sometimes see people swing dancing @ the back of the floor? And the
insane, orgasmic, jams of the Summer Days from 2002 that made your brain
melt? Yeah... this was the exact opposite of that. (At the end of the
show I was talking to the guy next to me and we started reminiscing about
the great & legendary Summer Days from the Patriot Center in 2002 with bob
and the band rolling around on the stage like lunatics... ah...
memories... ) It was also one of the few songs where I could really hear
Bob's piano playing, and judging by what I could hear that's definitely a
Hard Rain - Really, Bob? Really? You play Chimes of Freedom AND Hard
Rain in the same show? Really? Is that necessary? You can just copy &
paste what I said about Chimes for this song too.
After Highway 61 there was an unusually long pause... and I started to
think that maybe we were actually going to get a surprise. And holy shit
I was actually right!
SOON AFTER MIDNIGHT, BITCHES! Fuck yeah. My favorite song from the new
album and I get the live debut of it. Bob seemed to be running on fumes
by this point so a low-key song like Soon after Midnight worked much
better than say... everything else he'd been playing. It was no where
near as good as the album version, but it was a passable performance
w/some very nice guitar in the middle by somebody-or-other. And I was
just so damn happy to hear something really interesting in the middle of
such an fucking abysmal setlist.
Thunder on the Mountain - again, Bob, just like with Chimes & Hard Rain
there is no earthly reason to play Summer Days & Thunder on the Mountain
in the same setlist.
Thin Man - for once Bob came back out of hiding. Nice to actually see the
old bastard. He definitely puts more effort into his vocals when he's
center stage w/just the mic. Too bad he doesn't do it more often. This
song was ok, though I've heard much better versions.
Rolling Stone, Watchtower, Blowin' - no comment except: when did All
Along the Watchtower become a clap along song? Lame audience is lame.
In conclusion: I think I just paid 100 bucks to hear Soon After
Midnight... hm.... WORTH IT. ;)
Review by George Deyman
Bob Dylan’s terrific 14-song set began with a sublime I'll Be Your Baby
Tonight, with Bob at the keyboard on the far right side of the stage from
the audience's perspective. He followed with To Ramona and then moved to
the center of the stage with an up-tempo version of Things Have Changed
(with a bit of soft-shoe thrown in) and a surprising but crowd-pleasing
almost-calypso version of Tangled Up In Blue. Bob then went back to the
piano for a great Early Roman Kings, from *Tempest*. That was followed by
a with-feeling version of Chimes Of Freedom, one of my favorite Dylan
songs, in which he was virtually spitting out the words. Then came a
raucous Summer Days and subsequently what I thought was the best song of
the night, a powerful A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, in which the words again
came out with feeling. The ninth song, Highway 61 Revisited, received
especially huge applause. Then came a splendid Soon After Midnight, also
from *Tempest*, which was the first time I've heard it live and perhaps
the first time he's sung it live. Next, a thundering Thunder On The
Mountain and a return to the center of the stage with a really LOUD, but
great, version of Ballad Of A Thin Man and back to the piano for also-loud
versions of Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower. It all
ended with Bob back at center stage for the encore: Blowin' In The Wind.
Bob pulled out the harp (which the crowd loved!) on To Ramona, Things Have
Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Ballad Of A Thin Man, and Blowin' In The
Wind. Also, Mark Knopfler joined Bob on stage for two or three songs.
(Mark and his first-class band did a superb job on their 11-song set
earlier, including several topnotch songs from *Privateering*, his most
recent album.) All in all, a great night of music.
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