Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Mosaic Place

July 15, 2017

[Jim Nelles], [Peter Lauridsen]

Review by Jim Nelles

Treated myself to a Bob weekend. I’m close to Edmonton, but Bob’s showing
up on a work night so I decided to do a road trip to Saskatchewan for a
weekend double concert retreat. Saskatchewan is the easiest Canadian
province to draw, maybe a bit more challenging than drawing Wyoming and
even Colorado, but not by much. In fact, if you stacked those two states
with New Mexico and trimmed off the almost Mexico bit, that’s what
Saskatchewan looks like. Except in winter, when you can’t find it because
it is covered in snow. Which is fine, since it is so cold why would you go
in the first place? Ah, but it is now in the summertime and time to be
with Bob. Bob is multi-task touring; this time jumping from a jaunts
across Central and Western Canada with dips across the border for the
Outlaw Tour thing with Willie Nelson. They get the short set, we get the
full deal. First show is at the SaskTel Centre, in Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan. They have an affinity for the four letter combo ‘Sask’. When
I googled it, it was all theirs; even Sasquatch goes with the ‘qu’ over
the ‘sk’. The venue was easier to get to than a fast food drive thru off a
highway exit, and my motel was ‘this’ close to the venue I could walk
there. Second show was a short drive as I took a getaway place close to
the highway. The Mosaic Place is just off downtown Moose Jaw, not that the
distance is very far. Apparently, Al Capone used to run liquor through the
tunnels here where at other times Chinese families tried to survive
through the head tax years. They apparently lived in the tunnels. There’s
murals in town too, with a walking tour detailed on a convenient map for
those strollers out there. My seats were not shabby; I was 9 rows back in
Saskatoon and 5 back in Moose Jaw, pretty much center for both. I was
thrilled with the Moose Jaw seat because I had an upgrade! Once the VIP
sales closed down, the unsold tickets emerged at regular prices and I
scooped one of them by trading up for a whopping $2. Both venues serve as
home base for their respective hockey teams, which is serious business in
these parts. Chairs were put out over the covered floor about halfway down
the length of the surface from the stage. I don’t remember how full it was
in Saskatoon, but in Moose Jaw, it was about half full, if that. No one
was in the back seats. Of course, the setlist was the same at each show.
It is what Bob does these days. Stu sauntered on stage strumming a
pleasant tune, something familiar but unknown to me; seemed part Wild
Mountain Thyme, part Shenendoah. In the dark, one could see George slide
up onto his drum seat and Tony then appeared and Charlie was next and the
crowd responded with applause. From my vantage point I didn’t see Donnie
till he stood up at some point in the show. Then Bob comes on to some
louder applause and we are right into ‘Things Have Changed’. After the
opening few notes, everybody sat back down and pretty much stayed that way
for the rest of the show. This was especially noticeable in Moose Jaw
where I think I was the only one to stand at any point during the concert,
save the encore routine. Now I’ve been to my share of Bob’s shows, but
this was a muted audience. The people I chatted with, in the seats around
me were all newbies to a Bob show. They were mostly around my age, boomers
but there were enough of the younger set to say it was a mixed crowd,
age-wise. In Saskatoon, I didn’t get a chance to ask what they thought
because I had maneuvered my way up to a front seat by the time the encore
started. In Moose Jaw, one fellow told me there was no promotion of the
concert which he said accounts for the empty seats. He said he had friends
who would go but they didn’t know about it. Let me back up a bit here,
about in this front row seat, a VIP one I would assume, and one could not
see over the lip of the stage whilst seated. Especially with Bob more
mid-stage than front of stage. There was nary a soul standing at ‘the
rail’ because they were all still sitting down. And that was the show that
had more crowd interaction with the band. If the band was hoping to feed
off the crowd’s excitement, they would have all lost weight. The songs
themselves were great to listen to, especially Summer Days in Moose Jaw
and I liked Ballad of a Thin Man from Saskatoon. One of the reasons I
wanted to go was for the chance to hear Bob sing ‘Stormy Weather’. On the
CD, I like how the opening mirrors an approaching storm and it translated
ok in the show; I suppose I wanted something that sounded even more
ominous, not that I was disappointed, far from it. Bob was doing some
funny singing on Desolation Row where he would go up the scale as he sang
a line. Not sure how I feel about it. The opening choices were terrific
too.  I usually try to find a local newspaper to see what
kind of press Bob was getting. Didn’t see anything in the Saskatoon paper
and in the Moose Jaw paper they did have something, an article entitled
“Ten reasons Bob Dylan is a legend”. It is because of this article, I now
know what the good citizens of this town are called Moose Javians. I
wonder now if those in the other place are called Saskatooners?


Review by Peter Lauridsen

My wife and I travelled to Moose Jaw from Alberta in order to hear Bob Dylan and
his band in a more rural setting.  It proved to be a good choice as we were 
treated to a remarkable and inspiring performance.  From our vantage point stage 
left, Dylan's voice and piano were high in the mix and his passion and energy was 
palpable.  (My wife went for a wander during the show and said the vocals got l
lost at the back of the venue and, after the show, we overheard the usual 
complaints that Bob was incomprehensible.)
The static set list seems to have allowed everyone in the band to settle into a 
comfort zone and the concert was free of the lapses into musical chaos that are 
known to occur from time to time at a Dylan show.  That is not to say the show 
was by rote: the band was fully at attention, ready for whatever the boss might 
throw at them.  Charlie Sexton was given a little extra room on Summer Days 
(remade as a fiddle tune and one of the night's many highlights) and contributed 
some pleasing melodic lines with a big smile on his face. Dylan seemed equally 

The groove was strong with the band and the tempo high and none of the songs 
dragged. Up tempo numbers like Don't Think Twice and Duquesne Whistle came 
across very well and everyone was clearly enjoying communing with the music. I 
wasn't looking forward to the 'crooner' tunes, preferring existential Bob to 
sentimental Bob, but they all came off quite well and the audience was surprisingly 
receptive to what he was doing.  Among those tunes, That Old Black Magic stood 
out for me, with Dylan pumping the microphone, gesticulating like Wayne Newton's 
weird uncle and giving a spirited, whimsical vocal performance.  My wife, much more 
familiar with The Great American Songbook, preferred Autumn Leaves, which she 
thought he performed with sensitivity and feeling.

With a good portion of the show devoted to songs from Tempest the cover tunes 
fit nicely into the set list; it's not a big stretch from Soon after Midnight to Why Try 
to Change Me Now.  The Tempest songs were not substantially altered from their 
recorded versions, although darker songs like Pay in Blood and Early Roman Kings 
had more of an edge.
Dylan came up with a bright piano line the band picked up on in Don't Think Twice 
which made it sparkle, and the bass-y rumble he provided for Things Have Changed 
added an effective and ominous undertone.  But let's face it: Dylan has no great 
finesse as a piano player and for the most part it is a rhythm instrument in his hands.  
At the best of times, he adds a raucous energy to the proceedings; at other times 
his infernal pounding is downright cacophonous.  But from my perch not far above 
his piano one could observe from his body language that, after all this time and all 
the shows, here was a man who still takes child-like glee in making noise.  And it 
was not difficult to picture a young Bobby Zimmerman - on stage at Hibbing High 
with the other members of the Golden Chords - channeling Little Richard.

I was pleasantly surprised by the vigour and energy with which the old songs were 
performed, even though they sounded mainly the same as they did five years ago 
when I last saw him perform.  Of those songs, Highway 61 Revisited, bears special 
mention.  The band provided a restless, galloping groove which Dylan's passionate 
vocal rode throughout.  After more than 50 years, it's a song that still holds up, 
and in the era of the Trump presidency seems particularly relevant. 

It is remarkable that Dylan, at his age, is still bringing his music to the people and 
keeping his songs alive the old-fashioned way: by playing them. 


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