Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 01/29/99


Daytona Beach, Florida

January 29, 1999

Ocean Center

Thanks to Tampa Steve for the following review:

        I don't know if it was a one-off thing, or if Dylan has turned the
corner on a way of finally re-connecting with his audience and band, but
this was by far the best show I've seen him play in the 90's.  The word for
the evening was focus, with Dylan almost constantly squinting and observing
the audience, like some kind of animated gargoyle surveying the countryside.
If you've seen the video "Hard to Handle", then you know what I mean.  I'll
bet you his eyes made contact with everyone in the place at least once. His
singing was as impassioned as I have seen it, with downright beautiful
harmonies from the band on many of the acoustic songs.  The band itself was
very sharp, and onto almost all of Bob's unsignaled changes.
        The opener for this tour, "Gotta Serve Somebody", was served up as a
straight-ahead blues, with a simplified 1-4-5 arrangement.  He went nowhere
near the name-calling verse, of course.  (I wouldn't call him Zimmy, even if
he said I could anyway.)  Very powerful.  Other highlights included "You
Ain't Goin' Nowhere", with the steel-guitar licks lifted note-for-note by
Bucky Baxter from the Byrds' "Sweethearts of the Rodeo" version.  This one
ground to a shaky halt, seemingly to the delight of everybody.  "Ballad of A
Thin Man" had one of the characters in the song crossing himself, which, I
think, is a new twist.
        The acoustic set was played by the full band.  Everything clicked,
even "Tangled Up In Blue", which could be in danger of getting tired.  The
lyrics have been returned mostly to their original ("Blood On the Tracks")
state, and the crowd really ate this one up.  Dylan ditched his guitar for
the harmonica break on "My Back Pages", and did his stumbling,
finger-pointing Vegas thing all through the solo.  He looked exactly like a
marionette under the control of a drunken puppeteer.  This man really loves
to entertain!
        Lefty Frizzell's "You're Too Late"  punctuated the remainder of the
electric set.   A straight-ahead country rendition worked perfectly for this
band, who probably had little or no rehearsal on it.  It is this kind of
thing that keeps these shows fresh for everybody.  The singing on this was
beyond anything I thought Dylan capable of.  It may have even been played in
a key he was uncomfortable with, but he hit all of the notes, some of them
quite a bit higher than his usual range.  A cacophonous  "Highway 61
Revisited" ended the set on a high-energy note, with Dylan clearly pleased
with the show.
        A three-song encore followed, and Larry Campbell was finally allowed
to stretch out a bit on "Love Sick".  Up to this point, Dylan had hogged
almost all of the lead breaks.  His herky-jerky lead guitar style is like
that of a backcountry bluesman in a way, and can result in either great or
awful guitar solos.  He'll relentlessly worry a few notes around the middle
of the fretboard until something gives, and then the solo either soars or
plummets.  This kind of musical danger is one of the things that makes these
shows so great.
        "Not Fade Away"  was the perfect vehicle for Dylan to kick the show
into overdrive.  His singing was just stunning on this one, and the band was
right on , with the exception of one missed change, which earned Tony
Garnier an evil scowl from the boss.  This misstep was forgotten by the next
verse, and they drove it home perfectly.  I hope they play this one every
show so eveyone can witness it.
        "Blowin' In the Wind" closed the encore, and was sung and played
beautifully.  (Bob was a little unsure of the first few words, but recovered
        I thought that was it, but the crowd wouldn't let them go.  They
came back and launched into "RDW 12&35", which gave me a big head start on
the traffic leaving Daytona Beach...

- Tampa Steve

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