Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 02/07/99


February 7, 1999

Birmingham, Alabama
Boutwell Amphitheater

[Trey Stark], [Duncan Hume], [David Berry]

Review by Trey Stark

We left Montgomery in a tear trying to get to Boutwell by 4:00 due to this bizzare concept
known as general admission.Great for the Brian Setzer crowd but the old time Dylan fans this
is hard work.The doors did not open at 4:00 but at 7:00 and we made the made dash to be
hot,cramp,and bathroomless all for the sake of being close.We did have a great view.

Brian Setzer could have a good thing going because it crosses so many generations.He would
be a perfect fit for the college homecoming circuit.I really liked the music and there are
numerous ways he can make it evolve.The songs followed the normal format-Hot Tin Roof,Good
Times Roll,Stray Cat Strut,Rock This Town,etc.

Bob came out about 9:20 dressed in black with his black and white  boots.His hair was
perfect?I was excited buy now especially after the wait and the sweat was coming on.I was
disappointed in the first three songs.Gotta Serve was out of tune and Bob words were very
jumbled,Million Miles was O.K. and some of the guitar playing was nice.I hate to sound like
a communist but Watching The River Flow was just bad.    

After that the show got much better.I have heard Silvo over twenty times and I thought this
was one of the best I have heard.Tangled Up in Blue was the best of the Acoustic songs and
Bob and the Band really groove on this song.It is excellent ever time I hear it at any
venue.Birmingham is the closet that Bob will get to Hank Williams (buried in my Hometown)and
Honky Tonk Blues was fitting.He stayed away from Stuck Inside of Mobile...a song he had done
almost every night.

Bob was really sweating during Hwy 61 and he seems to really enjoy playing that song,make a
few shuffles,pulls back the guitar and walks the stage.Honestly that song has alot of energy
and it seems that he feels it to.    

To me the best was at the end.Like I said in Atlanta Lovesick fits his style,vocal
range,etc.Again a geat job.Maggie"s Farm was nice twist and you got to love this song.It did
appear there was some confusion among the band and  clearly Bob was not happy.I think all
the members new.He wanted to keep going but the drummer hit the ending notes.Dont Think
Twice was excellent.The best all night and especially nice because I knew the harp was not
going to be in the cards.    

I do not know about the other cities and it is not his song but he cooked on Not Fade
Away..It was a nice change from Rainy Day Woman.The bathroom talk after the show was
centered around the song.    

The police were downright rude after the show.They wanted it Cleared out.I was looking for
the poster but the one  looks like the "official" website poster.Anyway they wanted us gone.

Not a bad night.Bob again appeared to be happy and it is showing in his music.He has a great
band and this shows.Just get rid of general admission and think about a few background


Review by Duncan Hume

Don't you hate it when you start to read a review of a show and the author
goes on about the opening act. But then isn't that what Robert Shelton did
almost 40 years ago ?

Brian Setzer and his band/orchestra were great. 15 guys beating on their
trumpets, brass thingys, double bass and drums.  Finger snapping swing with
Setzer's lead guitar blazing in front. Sounds like a strange mix, but it
really worked. If you're going to one of the shows, don't miss him. I really
hope Bob get's around to inviting Setzer to play on Not Fade Away. He really

So, back to the beginning. The Boutwell Auditorium staff struggled to hold
back the line of impatient customers. I got the feeling that George the
Boutwell Manager, (don't really know if that was his name but he looked like a
George) was somewhat surprised when he opened the door and was nearly
flattened  by ticket clutching  fans. A quick sprint to the front to claim my
15 inches of barrier. Ok, so I used only to take up 12 inches but gravity is
winning the battle. Burley "Event Security" staff told us to move back and not
touch the barrier. At that moment I wondered if they exercised the muscle
between their ears as much as their biceps. "Anyone who touches the barrier
will be escorted from the building".  "You're kidding ? " Nope" replied
Birmingham's answer to the missing link.  Within two minutes of  Setzer coming
on the entire front row, lets say 100 people, should have been shown the door.
My security buddies looked on, confused, and then sat down to peel another
banana. I wondered out loud if it was possible to order a T shirt with "Event
Security"  across the back in a medium size. They didn't get it. 

Bob took to the stage wiping his mouth, picking this teeth, like he'd just
finished chomping down a tasty morsel. He has to eat, right ? Black boots with
white ornate inlays. 6 out of 10 on the ugly scale. Black pants with white
piping and that black jacket with the leaf pattern. You know the one. Polkadot
bow tie. Hatless. Serve Somebody. Singing strongly, the veins standing out on
his neck, Bob ploughed though the song, no expression on his face, no eye
contact with anyone, a quick glance in Tony's direction and close. Million
Miles. The blues getting Bobs right boot tapping. Still no expression. Still
no eye contact with anyone. Concentrating on delivery.  Bob trying to get
close to the mike. To the feel of the song. His eyes were a million miles
away. A glance toward Larry. As if listening to what he was playing and giving
his approval.  Watching the River Flow followed.  The alternate "Goose was
really cooked"  line got the faintest of smile's from Bob.  Still no eye
contact.  The first bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face and
vanished in a plop on to the shoulder of his jacket. At this point I noticed
the dry cleaning pin still attached to the base of his jacket. No label, just
the pin. My mind wandered to the conversation at the dry cleaners "Yes, Mr
Dirren, ready Tuesday".

Before I knew it the opening bars of  Make You Feel My Love arrived. He seems
to enjoy this song. Singing each line with care, no slurring laziness here.
Bob's guitar playing let him down towards the end of the song. As it closed he
lent over a box of tissues and blew his horn. Bob had the sniffles. Not a full
blown streamer. Just a snotty nose. He stuffed the tissue in his pocket, maybe
he was concerned that one of the road crew would pass it on to a fan. Imagine
50 years from now. "Lot 57, an original dirty tissue produced in Birmingham,
Alabama". Sorry I digress.  

Lights up for Silvio. Bob's sweaty face peered for the first time toward the
front row. Blue eyes searching. Cambell did his usual fine job but Bob still
seemed very detached. The usual winks and blinks of course. These have been
taken the wrong way by fans for years. He's winking and blinking to get the
salty sweat out of his eyes. His hands are busy, to coin a phrase, with the
guitar. Now granted sometimes he connects with a fan, usually young with large
breasts (so it's normally a girl, but who can tell these days).  Bob seems to
be getting into the show a little more at this point, the few knee bends and
the odd pose and Silvio crashes to a close.

Lights down.  Guitars switched. Unplugged. A single white spotlight from the
back of the room picks out Bob. Cambell and Bucky are bathed in a much softer
blue spot. Bob screws up his face, tries to look forward in to the light and
rolls into a delightful delicate Blue Eyed Jane. He repeats several verses so
the pleasure is extended. I wish they'd kill the light cause it really is
bothering him. The bright white light makes him look like a ghost. His eyes
are closed to slits but he delivers a fine performance. Tonight's highlight
for me. needs to make this performance public.  Its All Over Baby
Blue, with Tony extending the bass notes 'til you think they'll break. Bob
gets his fingers in a twist a couple of times but a solid performance. At the
songs close I see Bob mouth "Times" to Tony. They obey of course. So here we
are in this political circus and Bobs pleading to Senators and Congressmen not
to stand in doorways or block up halls. Funny how this song always seems so
appropriate. Behind Blue Eyed Jane in my 'tonight's best list', but only just.

Tangled and finally Bob connects visually with the audience. They use the
white footlights for the first time giving the feel of watching an old movie.
Towards the end Bob forgot his snotty nose, his remoteness, and he let himself
be moved by the music. Largely, I think, a response to the great audience

Honkey Tonk Blues is a simple song. Bob's performance stuck to the original
plot. No Dylanesque curves. A straight forward delivery of a song that Bob
must love. Remember his comments about seldom hearing real music anymore. This
is an example of real music. So on the front end we have Setzer, in the middle
we have Bob and behind we have Hank Williams. Just links in the musical chain.
All in one evening.

Can't Wait sounded spent to me. This is the only TOOM song that has really
lost it's original flavor to my ears. The delivery was rushed, almost like Bob
couldn't wait. This song would sound so much better delivered with a slower
beat. So much more dramatic.  Full lights and volume for 61. Actually the
music was unusually loud the whole evening. Bob responded to the crowd with
the full repertoire of knee bends, funny faces and guitar poses. Full contact
with audience had finally been made. 

Back for Love Sick, as per program. Still sounds great. Strong delivery with
Cambell playing the breaks just right. Maggies followed. Do you remember the
Maggies Farm at Farm Aid with Petty ? Remember the poses and those great looks
after he sang "Noooo moooore" at that show. For a fleeting few moments Bob
looked exactly the same during this performance. He belted out the song,
despite looking a little irritated with Cambell for not being ready at the
beginning of the song.  Don't think Twice got a warm reception. I can never
watch this song without remembering a Hammersmith Odeon London show when
halfway through the song the band fell apart and stopped playing. "We've
rehearsed this a million times" said Bob looking at the band in disbelief.
Tonight there was no such drama. 

And so to Not Fade Away. What a great way to close the show. Bob's voice
coming in a full octave above the bands intro. Almost screaming. I try and
block the Duracell advert from my mind (remember, "re-record not fade away").
I have no choice but to stand open mouthed and marvel. Not Fade Away indeed. I
don't think he'll ever fade away. Do you ?


Review by David Berry

Having been at the I was blown away Nashville concert the night before my thoughts
raced as to how the performance would be in Birmingham. What came to mind is that 
here is an artist that transcends the test of time. The voice and words that helped 
change the times has with stood the test of time. For 35 years, no one has done it 
longer and is still on the never-ending tour. With the type of output that he has had 
and all the incredible media focus and attention that he has endured his songs remain 
as strong as ever. Play on Bob play on.
Dylan and his band didn't disappoint.
Standing in the second row to the right of me is a father and his teenage son. To the 
left of me is a mother with a baby in her arms. Behind me is a group of college students. 
That alone has some magic to it. Have they come to hear? Have they come to see?
In my mind any time you can see a great artist live it is the way music needs to be heard. 
Maybe that's why the ages are here.
He rocks and he rolls. He glares, grimaces, and growls. He mumbles and tumbles like a 
boxer in a fight. In fact when it all boils down the words of Kristofferson come to mind.
He's a poet
He's a picker 
He's a prophet
He's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher
He's a walking contradiction
Partly truth and partly fiction
While each tune has its elements that make it unique I couldn't help but enjoying 
Watching the River Flow, Blue Eyed Jane, and Don't Think Twice. Not because they 
were part of a great performance but because like any artist doing their craft it was his.
I've had the good fortune to see and hear some of the old bluesmen live. They lived to 
play music. Music is what defined them, made them what they were. In fact they lived 
the music that they wrote and sang and performed. In my mind Dylan is right there with 
those guys. Weaving a song, weaving the words, coaxing the music along. Pushing it, 
pulling it, making it hurt when it needs too hurt, making it come to life when it needs to.
So play on Bob play on. Play your new stuff and play your old. Keep em guessing. 
Tell the critics to get stuffed. So while the times have changed and we have changed 
with them I have no regrets going down the highway to yet another Dylan show.

David Berry


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