Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 02/15/99


Grand Rapids, Michigan

February 15, 1999

Van Andel Arena

[Kyle Olson], [Brandon Zwagerman]

Review by Kyle Olson

I had my expectations high Monday night and there was no need to lower them.
In fact, it was even better than I expected.  Bob Dylan is the man!
After an hour-long set by Brian Setzer, Bob Dylan came on donning a black
suit, dark gray shirt and black bow tie.  Larry Campbell wore a long gray coat
and jeans, Buck Baxter wore a long black coat and derby hat.  Tony Garnier
also wore a black coat, with a red shirt and black leather pants.  I couldn't
see David Kemper too of his cymbals was in my line of view but I
could see him wearing a tan hat and sunglasses.  They of course opened with
Gotta Serve Somebody, which I've really grown to like.  I think it's a great
song and I'd like to delve more into his Christian-years work.  Anyway, they
next played Million was pretty cool but nothing too outstanding.
I could tell right away 3 beats into the intro of the next song what it was;
Maggie's Farm.  A song I really wanted to hear but one I doubted I would.  I
was surprised how relatively quiet it was.  It's usually a pretty rockin' song
but it really wasn't last night.  I suppose it was probably louder behind me,
since I was center stage and about 15 feet back.  Anyway, I was goin nuts to
this one and singing right along.  Silvio, which followed, was rockin' but
IMHO, it is a little worn out.  I was surprised how many people knew Just Like
A Woman.  Many people were singing along, including all the high-schoolers all
around me....I'll get to them in a bit.  I was really impressed how much Bob
was getting into the songs; moving around, extended solos, etc.  He still
wasn't really connected with the audience at this part of the show.   Next was
a ho-hum Stone Walls.  I've never really liked this song so it's hard to be
impartial.  I think I would still travel 200 miles to hear Bob Dylan play even
one song...even if it was this one.  Anyway, Masters of War, which was next,
was incredibly powerful.  The only version I've ever heard was by Eddie Veder
on the 30th Anniversary album.  It wasn't quite as powerful as Eddie but still
a highlight.  Next was a very rockin' Tangled Up In Blue.  I think a song like
this has the potential to get stale but this never did.  More extended solos.
It looked at one point as though he was going to reach into his pocket and
pull out a harmonica, but no such luck.  Later on in the show someone even
threw one on stage but it didn't move Bob.  Brian Setzer joined Bob & the band
on stage for Honky Tonk Blues, one of 5 that he would participate in.  Bob
really got into the show during this song...he actually smiled!  Bob would
sing, not quite getting the falsetto part goin, then join Setzer for a duel.
It was really great because Bob had a huge smile on his face during the whole
song.  I could see him almost laughing sometimes because he was having so much
fun.  He would turn around to David and Tony with a huge smile on his face
like "look at me!".  He was like a little kid...  The audience was going crazy
& I would have to say that it was the highlight for me.  After a high-five
from Bob, Setzer stayed on stage for Ballad of the Thin Man and Highway 61.  A
horn section also joined on Ballad and they were particularly disappointing.
This was Bob's song and Bob's solos & sometimes the horns would get carried
away...particularly the saxophonist.  Another saxophonist actually nudged him
to stop playing because Bob was singing the lyrics.  No sharp glances from Bob
but he deserved one.
  The encore of course began with Love Sick.  This was about the time in the
show when about 6 guys behind me tried to rush up to the front, thus making
the first 20 feet of people into 10 feet of people.  It was a little caotic
and it didn't help my concentration any to have a hot blonde in front of me
yelling behind me for her cigarettes.  After Love Sick, a few of the high-
schoolers were yelling for "Let's Get Stoned."  I've never heard that song
before... :)  Anyway, they got their wish, even though they didn't even know
what the name of the song was.  There were a lot of high-school jokers there
last night which surprised me.  All the pretty boys were smoking their pot and
being rowdy.  I'm not saying that concerts shouldn't be rowdy but they were
just being stupid.  Granted I'm only 20, but I wasn't acting like a fool
there.  They would get pushed a little by somebody accidently and they would
turn around and just nail anybody close to them.  Also, I didn't even think I
would see crowd surfing at a Dylan show, but there was...only on Rainy Day
Woman though.  Brian Setzer (with horns) joined Bob for that too.  Next was
another highlight for me...Don't Think Twice.  This song has really struck me
lately with the recent break-up with my girlfriend...technically she broke up
with me, but anyways...  And after listening to that a lot lately and hearing
it last night, I've decided the day she comes back to me, I'm going to sit
down and personally play that for her.  That song really hits home for me and
I was really pleased it was played last night.  I hate to end my first-ever
review sounding stupid, but I don't have any idea what the last song was.
Right now I'm assuming it was Not Fade Away, but I saw a post earlier today
that it was Friend of the Devil.  So it's a toss up to me.  My advice to
anyone out east:  GO SEE BOB DYLAN.  HE'S A LEGEND.  One more note.  I first
saw Bob in 1996, when I didn't know much about him.  A friend and I were in
the 2nd row (about 10 feet away at most) and it was a pretty good time.  Last
night was a very different feeling.  After knowing a lot more about Dylan and
having more of his music, I felt awkward to be 20 feet away from him.  It felt
like there was a god who you just aren't supposed to get near.  He's someone
you just really look up to but shouldn't be associated with.  I felt a great
presence around Bob Dylan.  After last night, I think my book of holiness
goes: God, Jesus Christ, and Bob Dyan.  Long live Bob Dylan.

Kyle Olson


Review by Brandon Zwagerman

Dylan. This name conjures up many images-- an angry young man from
Superior's ore-country, and a wizened sage, weathered by life; a skilled
musician and artful lyricist; a member of American folk music's holy
trinity, along with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie; and a rock icon,
constantly changing the rules with his innovations. From his early political
acoustic ballads, to his electrified born-again era, to his current
blues-toned gems, Bob Dylan IS late twentieth-century American music. And I
experienced him. 

We pilgrims left the lakeshore on Tuesday, February 15, putting all academic
and economic ventures aside, and journeyed to the fabled Furniture City.
After a pause for mass-produced fast-food sustenance in Hudsonville, we
arrived several hours before the 7:30 concert was scheduled to begin. The
arena doors opened, then the turnstiles. Securing a standing space four rows
back, the excitement built up. Finally, the lights dimmed-- the time has
arrived. . . for the Brian Setzer Orchestra. 

Maybe they put on a decent show, but this opening-act band, riding the crest
of the current swing-music revival, held no interest for me. These
sentiments were echoed throughout the crowd, as sporadic calls of "Dylan!"
were emitted several times during Brian Setzer's set. After about forty-five
minutes of this mind-numbing torture of flashy-suit-wearing trendy
nostalgia, the house lights went on, and eventually off again-- the moment
had indeed arrived to witness the legend himself. 

The world-beaten fifty-seven-year-old ambled out, a prophet clothed in black
and white. Strapping on an electric, Bob Dylan and his band rocked into the
decidedly Christian "Gotta Serve Somebody." I stood in awe, attempting to
comprehend the man who stood before me. The ecstasy continued with the
recent "Million Miles," "Maggie's Farm," and a rollicking version of
"Silvio." Next was a lovely "Just Like a Woman," as I mouthed every word.
Dylan then began his acoustic set with "Stone Walls & Steel Bars." This was
followed by a spine-chilling version of the angry protest song "Masters of
War," and a soft "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," and 1974's "Tangled Up in
Blue." The crowd under his spell, Dylan reverted back to electrified music,
accompanied on stage by Brian Setzer, who, as much as I enjoy jeering his
music, is indeed quite skilled with the guitar. As the duo played Hank
Williams' classic country tune "Honky Tonk Blues," they really seemed to be
having a good time, and Bob even radiated one of his rare smiles. The
opening set ended with a haunting "Balland of a Thin Man," and a
delta-driven "Highway 61 Revisited." 

The audience in a state of euphoria, Dylan, Setzer, and the band put down
their instruments and left the stage. Lighters flickered in the empty
darkness-- flames in the hands of aged folkies, raucous teenage boys, drunk
forty-somethings, neo-hippies, straggling swingsters, socialites in
skyboxes, remnants of the beat generation, normally-stodgy Dutch
churchgoers, and aspiring young hobo-poets. From the shadows stepped the
musicians, and the encore began with the bluesy "Love Sick." Next, several
members of Setzer's horn section stepped out, and, as I had expected, they
blared into the crowd-pleasing "Rainy-Day Women #12 & 35," initiating the
attempts of several rowdy young men to "crowd-surf," and the entire arena
joining in on the refrain. "Dont Think Twice, It's All Right" followed.
Dylan's beautiful, sad, raspy vocals emotionally affected me during this
song as I swayed with my eyes closed, feeling the music surge through me.
"Not Fade Away" ended this second set, and as the performers retreated, the
lights stayed off, the crowd desperately hoping for a second encore, knowing
that it would not happen. Wistful sighs filled the air as the incandescence
brightened the vast room once again, and we quietly filed out, driving back
to our homes, attempting to love the studio-recorded album on the stereo,
but now and forever perceiving it as artificial. 

That night, I witnessed a legendary poet, listened to a skilled musician,
and felt four decades of America passing through my being. That night, I
experienced Bob Dylan. 


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