July 6, 2013
Review by Don Ely,
THREE of the Greatest Bands in the World, AND Richard Thompson, all for
thirty clams? You can meet me there, ain't no way you gonna BEAT me there!
If that's the last fair deal gone down, I'm in! Didn't think it was gonna
turn out so well, though. Driving down from Detroit Buckets of Rain
splashed across my windshield and at the Riverbend Music Center I felt Bob
would be performing literal interpretations of " High Water ( for Charley
Patton ) " and " A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall " if indeed he was not lost in
the flood. Predictions were not encouraging as the traveler's best friend,
The Weather Channel, showed a Biblical torrent rising up from the Gulf of
Mexico, pummeling and washing away all in it's path, on up to the Ohio
Valley. Bob Dylan fans are a hardy bunch, however, so torpedoes and
buckets be damned! Besides, I brought along a 99 cent rain poncho and a
towel to dry me head in case of a soaking, so I was disaster-proof!
Richard Thompson is someone I've wanted to see for a very long time, he of
British " folk-rockers " Fairport Convention and a very long career both
solo and with ex-wife Linda. He played a festival in Detroit roundabout
2006 but was on stage at the same time as Solomon Burke and Bettye Lavette
in another part of town and there was no way I was gonna miss them. This
time I tried, I really tried to get to the show on time, but, and this is
a recurring theme in my life, I WAS RUNNING LATE and My Morning Jacket
were already reaching the ionosphere when I handed the lady my ticket.
I've got one more shot at our local Americanarama date this coming sunday.
So I'm saying it overandoverandoveragain: I AM NOT GOING TO MISS RICHARD
THOMPSON! We'll see how that one plays out. I considered buying a pavilion
seat for the Cincinnati show due to threat of the elements and because I
love all three of these bands so much, but because the sound was so full
and rich as I was standing outside the venue at the ticket window, and
because MMJ were already three or four songs into their set, I decided to
pocket $50 and go for the lawn option.
This was my first experience at Riverbend although there is a story ( a
short one, thankfully ). In 2008 I had a ticket to see Bob here but was
having so much fun in West Virginia that I underestimated the time and all
those curvy little mountain roads it would take to get here from there (
theme reoccurring ). I would have arrived in time for the encore, but
there's little point in that. So Riverbend 2013 was a mission of sorts. On
the east end there's a horse track called River Downs; on the west side a
Coney Island amusement park. River Downs was under reconstruction ( there
was no parking lot ), so all parking was diverted to the Coney Island.
I've had difficulty in times past finding my car in vast, poorly-marked
lots that look altogether different in darkness than they did upon arrival
in daylight. So I left a trail of breadcrumbs by way of taking note of
landmarks along the way. Moonlight Gardens? Check. Hey, there's the Land
of Oz! Check. Curiously, inside Riverbend there's a separate venue called
PNC Pavilion; many of the season's concerts are held there. The most
eyebrow-raising thing I noticed about Riverbend was that the lawn was
artificial turf and not grass! Haven't seen that before...
Bands that play Riverbend Music Center do so on the stage beneath the J.
Ralph Corbett Pavilion. They perform as the watchful eyes of what I assume
to be The Muses, two-dimensional cutouts erected on the pavilion roof,
oversee the gathering below. This is at least the eighth time since 2004
that I've seen Louisville's My Morning Jacket, who never disappoint. They
played a ten-song set ranging from their patented nitrogen-fueled Rock to
their electronic flirtations and back again. Songs played included the
brilliant " Xmas Curtain ", and a pair from what I believe to be their
finest album, It Still Moves, those being " Master Plan " and " Steam
Engine ". As I mentioned, sound quality was wonderful; not so the visuals
at this early hour. It was too light to fire up the Skyline Chili Vision
screens, and my aging eyes could detect very little happening on the
distant and dimly-lit stage. But that's OK! I'll take sound over sight any
day as regards music. One added texture to the band's sound is saxophone,
utilized on a couple tunes but I couldn't see by whom. Another song played
by My Morning Jacket was George Harrison's " Isn't It A Pity ". MMJ was
doing this one last summer, but this well-crafted rendering featured
Wilco's Jeff Tweedy guesting on vocals. Magnifique! With the hair-raising
" Gideon ", which I refer to as their " U2 song ", My Morning Jacket were
off to another joint. They have crossed paths with Bob Dylan on at least
one other occasion, aside from both playing Bonnaroo 2004. They opened for
Bob at Jillian's in Louisville in '03, a show I attended, but I was
running late and ( see recurring theme as outlined above )!
Next up ( I love this gig! ) were Belleville, Illinois' finest, the
fabulous Wilco. Hard to believe it's been nearly two decades since Jay
Farrar and Jeff Tweedy had a falling-out in Uncle Tupelo and took separate
paths to Son Volt and Wilco, respectively. Although I've bought every
Wilco record since Being There ( I keep waiting for the deluxe reissue of
AM ), I've only seen them live twice; in 1997 and 2002. They've been
playing great and varied sets every night on this tour spanning their
entire career. Like the band that graced this stage before them, Wilco are
no one-note wonders; tonight's set included fuzzed-out guitars and atonal
jamming as on " Art Of Almost " and took the other extreme to the sweetly
sublime, as on " Hummingbird ". During the drive down and back home I
began revisiting their catalog, beginning with Summerteeth and on into
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. Been awhile since I'd heard
those records. I'll spin Sky Blue Sky, Wilco ( The Album ), and The Whole
Love prior to next week's show in Michigan. Richard Thompson guested on
the Fairport cover " Sloth " ; gotta check the Fairport Convention Live At
The BBC box to research that one. The venerable guitarist was also along
for " California Stars ", a number from Mermaid Avenue, the seminal
collection of unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics set to music by Wilco and
Billy Bragg. During Wilco's performance I found some young folk to hang
with. Actually they found me as I leaned against one of the columns
positioned at the top of the hill. Not exactly a million faces at my feet,
but a half dozen will do just fine. And the weather? It turned out just
fine, no rain whatsoever and the Lord gifted us with a be-yootiful sunset
off to the northwest, mackerel clouds and all.
But wait, you mean there's more? Time for the main attraction, Bob Dylan
and His Band, who I'd put money on has played more shows and logged more
road miles than all of tonight's stars combined. Fresh from the spring US
tour, here they are again. This is my fourth show this year and 85th
overall. Somewhere along the Americanarama road they lost guitarist Duke
Robillard, who filled in sharply and blues-ily this spring, and were
reacquainted with stalwart Charlie Sexton. I don't follow the Dylan
newsgroups and haven't heard any reasons officially for the change, but
either way's just ducky with me 'cause the band's still cookin' with fire
on high! As with the spring tour setlists remain static, with minimal
differences in a scant few gigs. The set remains similar to April/May.
There are fewer Tempest songs now, with " Pay In Blood " and " Scarlet
Town " being dropped. Brand new is " Duquesne Whistle ", a close cousin to
" Summer Days " and " Thunder On The Mountain " that rocks and swings with
the best of 'em. " She Belongs To Me " makes a welcome return, played
slowly and deliberately to emphasize it's entrancing lyric. " Love Sick "
was especially strong, not always the case these days, I find. The band,
with Charlie back in the fold, didn't skip a beat, and sounded flawless to
my ears. The crowd was slow to recognize " Tangled Up In Blue ", with a
more subdued intro than usual, as the cheering didn't begin until almost
fifteen seconds in. Other standouts included " Beyond Here Lies Nothin' ",
a really sharp " Blind Willie McTell ", and " Simple Twist Of Fate ", a
song that always makes me relax, even if I'm not stressed to begin with!
And " Summer Days " was nearly as good as days of yore.
This summer night was almost gone, and as " All Along The Watchtower "
rocketed through the darkened skies I left the banks of the Ohio behind,
followed those breadcrumbs, and beat a retreat back to my hotel. I urge
everyone to see the Americanarama Festival of Music when the caravan pulls
into a town near you. At four and a half hours you're not gonna get better
value for the money, and the performances are nothing short of
exhilarating. I'll meet you there!
Review by H. Finn
Awesome. Multigenerational. Multi genre. 5.5 hours of outdoor music,
cool skies, cool people (!)... Folk, rock, Scottish bluegrass (!),
country-folk, umerikan music, psychedelic, iconic Dylan live. The "Olde
Bard" & was showcasing his old friend Richard Thompson (1st highlight);
with the next generation of socially conscious (deal with it) rockers MMJ
(2nd favorite-Wow ya gotta see "em live my friends) & Wilco (3rd favorite
act, clean, rich... where was Mavis?) who teamed up to bring our
friend George Harrison into the house with a powerful "Isn't It A Pity"...
musically jammin & strong... Bob & the Band were classic, Charlie was
hangin in, Tony, Stu, George & Donnie the ultimate road warriors... Bob
looked like a man on a mission (!), all business & professionalism. It was
all it could be & more. Thanks again gentlemen & enjoy the ride 'cause
you, once again, indeed have the best seat in the house. How you all do
the 24hr turnaround with the logistics & smiles (well, mostly...!) is amazing
and a true testament to 2013 AmericanaramA roadies and venues. We
music lovers fortunate enough to have been there are so much the
richer for it all. Vaya con Dios Amigos. See ya soon...
Review by Arsenio Orteza
“Things have changed,” sang Dylan at 9:15 Saturday night from the
dark, outdoor stage of Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center, but the
setlist hadn’t. It was the exact same one that he and his band have
been following since this second U.S. leg of the 2013 tour began on June
There were, however, surprises--namely, that contrary to the negative
reviews piling up here and elsewhere recently, Dylan was in fine form.
Wearing a smart white jacket and going hatless until the “Ballad of a
Thin Man” encore, he enthusiastically, articulately, and accurately spat
out the many weird words that comprise his latest ninety-minute message to
the world, riding and guiding the jagged rhythms of his incredibly
locked-in band with masterly engagement and assurance.
Although the lyrics were sometimes “hard to understand,” so were those
of the foregoing acts Wilco and My Morning Jacket. If anything, Dylan’s
barbed-wire-on-gravel voice cut through the amplification better than Jeff
Tweedy’s or Jim James’. (Richard Thompson fared best, having only a
guitar-bass-drums-trio’s worth of amplification to sing over and-or
Advice: Cup your ears forward. Your arms might get tired and you might
look goofy, but you’ll hear less middle-range distortion and more treble
definition, enabling you to make out even such delightful lines as “She
says, ‘You can’t repeat the past.’ / I say, ‘You can’t? What do
you mean you can’t? Of course you can’” and “I ain't dead yet, /
my bell still rings. / I keep my fingers crossed / like the early Roman
The only songs that felt less than crisp were “Duquesne Whistle” and
“Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” each of which relies on a rhythmic
precision that would probably get lost in the amplification even if the
band were to reproduce it faithfully (which, for all I know, it did).
Perhaps the best gauge of Dylan’s having “gotten over” with the
crowd is that, unlike many other Dylan shows at which people start leaving
halfway through (i.e., once they realize that something is happening and
they don’t know what it is), the few thousand paying customers under the
Riverbend roof stayed with him until the end, cheering more loudly after
every song, old and new.
Verdict: Dylan ain’t dead yet. His bell still rings. Keep your fingers
crossed: Beyond here lies somethin’.
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