April 12, 2013
Review by Michael Perlin
So, a new venue, new state, new band make-up. Half the songs different than
my last Bobconcert (Barclay's; last show of the fall 12/Knopfler tour) and three
first-evers (five for Linda who didn't go to the last concert). The Post-it version:
a brilliant beginning and an even more brilliant ending, but some sag in the middle.
Astonishingly, the high point was, for me, Ballad of a Thin Man, and more
astonishingly, the low point (I cannot believe I am typing these words) was
Visions of Johanna.
Newark, Delaware, is about 75 miles from our home in Trenton. A straight shot
down 95, but heavily trafficked, of course. Town reminded me a bit of
Red Bank, NJ (that is a good thing), and we lucked on to a truly excellent
restaurant for dinner (Caffe Gelato, for those in this area). Concert was in the
basketball stadium, and our seats - I still prefer standing concerts -- would have
been perfect for a Knicks game: Abt 15 rows up at midcourt. Sightlines were
fine, tho there was a very obvious echo of snare drum shots (it seemed more
pronounced during the Dawes opening set [more later on that]) than during
Bob's set and that might be b/c (1) the gym was much less full for the opener,
and/or (2) George had set his drum set way further back on the stage than
Griffin Goldsmith (Dawes' drummer did). I leave that puzzle to the percussionists
reading this… Audience was your typical BD mixed bag. Many older than we
were (yay!) but also lots of parents with kids, some college kids (many fewer
than my last college BD concert at Monmouth College (11/10; just checked and
only a 3 song overlap with that one…). As usual, seemed to be fewest in the
We had seen Dawes (or at least Taylor [lead guitarist, singer] and Griffin at the
Dylan tribute in May 12, and they had blown us away then (Linda had been
listening to them before that, but they were a revelation to me at that time)
so we were both excited about seeing them (Bob used to bring in young 'uns
for his opening acts (Sheryl Crow when she was a rookie, Ani DiFranco (ditto),
Amos Lee) than he has done in more recent years (Leon Russell, Knopfler, etc),
and it was good to see young rockers on the stage. I thought they started a
little raggedly, but, by the 3d #, they were on game, and from there on in,
w the exception of the last song, they were terrific… driving beat, great vocals,
excellent guitar solos, and tight. The new song (airplanes/seat belts, not sure
of the title) that has been getting Sirius air play was exceptional. Only sorry that
Griffin didn't sing lead at all, as he did on [help! Oh Sister, Sara?] at the Dylan
tribute. Set was short (45 mins maybe) but a great table setter.
A very fast turnaround time between sets (abt 15 roadies on stage; it reminded
me of the Met Opera broadcasts and the way the scenery gets changed btwn
Acts 1 and 2 of Rigoletto (more on that later). As has been the case lately, Stu
comes on first, plays a blues riff (a really good blues riff), and then the band.
Same set list, identically, as Kingston and Buffalo. Has this ever happened (in one
week, three set lists being identical??). Not sure why, tho I have to think that
this is part of Bob's gradual integration of Duke into the band (but, on that
point, for Gd's sakes, Duke has been playing the blues for decades, and think
about all the 1-4-5 chord Bob songs there are to choose from), but am
perplexed. No argument about any of the selections, to be sure, but a puzzle.
Am curious as to why others think he has gone in this direction.
A grade? Probably B+/A-. Some brilliant moments, but alas, some sludge. Was it
worth it? Absolutely! But, am I regretting that this is the only one of this series
I am attending? No, not really.
For the songs:
1. Things Have Changed: I love it in the opening slot (as always when I hear an
opener, I am transported back to the mid-late 90s days of Jokerman, Crash on
the Levee, Absolutely Sweet Marie. Another lifetime…). This was a driving,
rockabilly version that was a perfect opener for this cohort of songs. Some new
phraseology (instead of "but…. Things have changed", now "…..but things have
changed"). Band sounded good so off to an excellent start. Bob center stage
(looking back, I thought almost all the center stage songs worked better than
the at-the-piano songs…)
2. Love Sick: My first one in eight years (since the Beacon in 05), and a treasure
whenever I hear it. First harmonica of the night (I'll say it; Bob has become a
worth-listening-to harmonica player; what a revelation!). Such an edge here
(especially on lines like "the silence can be like thunder"). So foreboding and
perfect for Bob's current sound. We had seen Leonard Cohen in December, and
Linda observed that Bob's posture was not unlike Leonard's…
3. High Water: Still center stage, and this definitely in the "raconteur" style that
he has been perfecting the last few years. Insistent, the presence of doom.
This is Bob in his 70s, looking back on a lifetime "full of toil and blood" (I couldn't
resist that, and for those keeping score at home, I haven't heard Shelter since
that some concert at the Beacon!)), and again, pitch-perfect.
4. Soon After Midnight: First time at the piano, and I thought it worked best on
this one. My second listening, Linda's first. I love this song, from the opening
"I'm searching for phrases" through and past "date with a faerie queen." OK,
my friends reading this will not be surprised to know that that brings tears to
my eyes… Very very much like the Tempest version, replete with the Santo &
Johnny/Sleepwalk guitar riff near-ish the end.
5. Early Roman Kings: Again,. My second and Linda's first. A march-of-death beat.
Pure danger-in-the-air projections. When I heard this just after the election, I
couldn't figure out if it was about a 50s gang in the Bronx or Romney supporters.
I'm still not sure. Some of the lines -- "a Sicilian court" - jumped out at the
audience in 3D/Technicolor. I expect this will stay in rotation even after Bob
starts changing the setlists around, and I think that that is a very good thing.
6. Tangled Up in Blue: Here is where things started to get a bit murky. First verse
went great, and even some tentative singalong on the last line of the chorus
(audience was too sedate; no singalongs, no standing in the aisles…). North
Woods verse was skipped, some word changes in the Italian poets verse,
Montague street verse (I think) was skipped, some word changes in the
carpenters' wives verse, but that's not the point. By the end of the song, I felt
the energy ebb away. This was the first song in which Duke played more than
6 bars of solo guitar (I still worship at the altar of Larry Campbell, but have been
looking forward to see how Duke's presence would change the band's gestalt
[as did Charlie in his 2d-time-around] but that has not happened yet). One word
change to note: "Heading for another joint" became "trying to stay out of the
joint." Some of us laughed, but I think it slid totally past others…
7. Pay in Blood: My first "first" of the night. Love the song, love the album. But a
sludgy sound to it… not coming alive, not filling us with the sense of ominousness
that this song does on CD.
8. Visions of Johanna: Sigh. A serious disappointment, When I heard this at
Barclay's, a said it was a "magnificent rendition, … focused, driving,fulfilling." This,
alas, was not. It didn't come alive for me til the "conscious explodes" line,
obviously near the end. The piano worked for me last year (as it worked for me
then on Chimes), but not last nite (the intro was a bit different, I think, but that
wasn't the point). It was here that I so, SO missed his guitar playing.
9. Spirit on the Water: Still on piano, though w the harmonica added that gave
the song some depth. The rikki-tikki arrangement that is familiar to those who
have heard this more than once. Beginning to regain a little energy, tho not that
much. And, opminously?, for the first time in all the times I have heard this song,
there was no outpourings of "NOOOO!" at the "You think I'm over the hill/You
think I'm past my prime" lines (when I first heard this in Philly in 11/06, it sounded
like The Spectrum [or whatever it was called then] was going to come down
from the screams. Not this time…).
10. Beyond Here Lies Nothing: Back at center stage (thank you!). Band began to
pick up the pace, and I started to sense the band working together in ways that
I have grown so accustomed to in recent years (Tony is no longer at Bob's right
hand and that might be part of it?), and Duke picked it up a notch, making this
sound like a dirty Chicago blues (which is a very good thing) . Excellent harmonica,
and, as on Love Sick, the addition of Donnie's electric mandolin added a great
texture. Linda noted dryly that Bob's voice was sounding a bit like Jimmy
Durante's at this point and I didn't argue the point (tho I thought maybe more
11. Blind Willie McTell: Center stage w harmonica again. A very good thing. A
brilliant, brilliant song and a top-notch rendition. I was in West Texas on work
last week, and while there, driving through empty fields, I thought about the
"East Texas" line in the first verse and wondered if I were going to be lucky
enough to hear it again. Nothing will ever match my first live perf of this (late
fall, '99, Meadowlands) but this was close. Near the end, there was a tease
is-this-the-end? before the band picked it up again, and in Bob's last harmonica
offering, it reminded me of the way a really good shofar-blower can hold on to
the final tekeya gadola during the Rosh Hashanah service (some readers will get
12. What Good Am I?:I Another first. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Far and away his
best piano work of the night. Exquisite phrasing. Band totally in sync. The
middle -set sludge now totally a thing of the past. Worth the price of admission.
13. Thunder on the Mountain: Duke shone here, the sound was of a 40s big
band doing a jitterbug based on a 12-bar blues (not sure if this makes remote
sense but is exactly how it sounded). Have heard this a skillion times, but was
happy to do so again. The slight pause in the vamp intro before George's
rat-tat on the snares to lead to Bob's vocal was hold-your-breath-able.
14. Scarlet Town: My third first. Again, almost note-for-note from the album
(as he always does the first couple of times he goes through new material), but
so glad to have heard it in person. Again, the noir lyrics so far removed from the
romanticism of Soon After Midnight. Part of Bob's brilliance that no one
questions how one man can express both emotions so perfectly.
15. All Along the Watchtower: I am so glad that this has returned. How many
different versions have I heard in the past decades? Uncountable. But this is
the essence of Bob: hard driving 3 chord rock, the enigmatic lyrics that will
never be less enigmatic, the wind will always begin to howllllll. Excellent Duke
solo. The band could play for another hour, as far as I was concerned.
16. (encore) Ballad of a Thin Man: Although the band lined up for a bow, no
intro of the members. (and the reason is??). I had expected that Bob would
come center stage for this - back to Rigoletto: we saw the Met production this
winter, in which Verdi's opera is recast as a 50s Las Vegas rat-pack fantasy,
and in Act 1, the Duke of Mantua, comes center stage to sing Questa o Quella
(a la Sinatra or Dean Martin), in exactly the same raconteur style that Bob has
been singing BoaTM the last 4-5 times I have seen him. I expected Bob to do
this center stage in almost the same way. So was disappointed that he stayed
on the piano. But that lasted a second. This was an absolutely brilliant version,
the best band ensemble work of the night, great harmonica by Bob, great
vocals, great spirit. This may have been my favorite live performance of this
since the 60s (and that is saying a lot). What a way to end.
So, that was the evening. Again, a terrific beginning and ending, but not so
much in the middle. I look forward to reading others' reviews and reviews of
later concerts. Maybe next month he'll get bored and start playing One More
Cup of Coffee (OK, probably not, but a boy can dream). Again, Bob, as
always.. thank you!
PS Dawes was selling CDs afterwards and I chatted with Taylor a bit. I told
him that my dad's mom's maiden name was Goldsmith and I wondered if we
were related. He was great.. so animated, so obviously thrilled to be part of
the Bob show, and so conversational. I am putting my cousin Susie, the
family genealogist, on this project as soon as I can write to her…
Review by Paul
mostly bare stage, no intro, they just walked on to applause. bob had
great looking attire, especially a sparkling blue shirt, but the suit is
way too large for him; he was swimming in it. nearly full house. general
impressions: bob's singing for first 2-3 songs surprised me, as it was
strong , not gravelly and tortured. lots of harp playing throughout the
show, and a very nice visions, with smiles on the fishtruck that loads
verse, bob forcefully enunciating his exploding conscience, stressing each
syllable. changed some lyrics in tangled, but the song wasn't anything
close to emotional. a very workman-like show, not a single surprise from
the band, with d r handling everything he played completely dull and
ordinary. on watchtower, bob seemed awkward, sometimes playing piano only
one-handed, the other resting on his hip. no intensity, vocally or
musically. after pay in blood, the voice had had it. raspy screen door
returned. i don't mind that voice, nor altered rhythms, nor hanged lyrics,
but this show was uninteresting, boring, no pace except slow and hesitant,
no lightshow, coasting all the way through.
after seeing shows that date back to 74, bob has gotten my last $.
Review by David
A couple of things. Bob wore a green shirt with a black suit/green trim.
He had cowboy bootson with white tips.
The first couple songs Bob basically stood in front and didn’tplay the
gee-tar or piano. I can see why he added Duke Robillard. Duke was awesome.
A great addition. The similarity to Jerry Garcia is obvious tome. Duke
really played well on Tangled Up in Blue, and I really like the
newarrangement. For the new song this tour “Whatgood am I,” you can
really hear Bob playing the keys. That was awesome.
Bob starts around 8:30 after Dawes at 7:30. The security was somewhat
strict, no beer atall (I don’t care about that, but some folks do). The
audience sat the entire time, and Ithought most people were bored and
didn’t like the show. But again, I was surprised. When Bob left
thestage, everyone went crazy and wanted an encore.
The other thing I noticed isthe Oscar is still on the stage, but it is
clear the Oscar is a copy and notthe original. The New Orleans Beads were
laid around the Oscar. The big disappointment wasI didn’t see the young
man who usually sets up the stage. I’m not sure what happened to him,
but he is thehardest working stagehand I ever saw.
Also, the mirrors are back for sure. So no pictures- haha.
Basically a good show- Duke is the reasonto go now. Duke doesn't seem to
care if Bob gives him the “look” because he is off on hisown thing and
just playing what he feels. That was really nice. He stood byBob on the
piano most of the night. Tony was great as usual. If you get achance,
watch Tony through binoculars. He really is an amazing Bassplayer.
Going to the show tomorrow in PA(California- but no beach).
I like the new arrangement. The big difference I noticed from last year
is Bob plays piano and guitar much less, and stands center stage and plays
harmonica- the college kids seem to like that better. I really enjoyed
Bob playing piano on Visions of Johanna tonight. See you soon, David
Review by Joshua Seese
Thoughts on Bob Dylan. This was indeed the Tempest tour. All Tempest
songs played went above and beyond the recorded versions(I had no
conceivable idea that anything could be improved upon). The set list was
air-tight, well-constructed, beautifully orchestrated. Grand piano continues
the resurrection of key characteristics set forth in the mystifying swell of
the Rolling Thunder Revue. Sold out shows. Duke Robillard settled in
perfectly in place of Charlie. This guy can solo. We gave him so much love.
Just thinking about how his guitar work fits into the DNA strand of the
band makes me giddy. Beatles bass makes several appearances with Tony.
George moves to brushes on drums for majority. Stu noodles on acoustic
guitar. Mood is dark and calculated. Pay In Blood is the highlight:)
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