page by Bill Pagel
Review by P. Hayes
Weirdest Bob concert I've ever been to. Picture "Dylan-in-the-Park" at
Aspen, or Cape Cod, or Martha's Vineyard, or Palm Springs. It was an
outdoor concert, where the crowd was dressed by Ralph Lauren, L.L. Bean,
Rolex, the Gap, etc. I just don't expect to see Ralph Lauren blue jeans
and $5,000 wrist watches at a Bob concert. Audience spent most of the time
standing and talking to one another (loudly, with lots of laughter, back
slapping, hugging, and cheek kissing). Lots of people walking through the
crowd, greeting and visiting with their friends. People with nice tans and
nice jewelry. A few freaks (young and old) mixed in here and there but
pretty much lost in the crowd of local Big Sky residents. It takes lots of
bucks to be a Big Sky resident. Woman sitting next to me said she hadn't
ever heard Bob but she came because she likes outdoor concerts. I heard a
couple having a little discussion about who did, It Ain't Me Babe -- took
them awhile but they finally decided it was Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Bob was Bob. I guess this performance was similar to the others I have
seen reviewed on this tour. He spent the whole evening at the keyboard. I
personally was not in love with his performance. His attack (the only word
to use) on every tune is so similar to every other tune that it is hard at
first to figure out what he is singing. I can only tell after I've been
able to hear and understand a few words. It's hard for me to tell from the
music alone. Of course it may be that I am getting old and set in my ways,
and am no longer qualified to have an opinion. I've been listening to Bob
since I was living in New York City and he was at Cafe Wha? I think this
concert rendered his music pretty inaccessible for a casual listener and
probably contributed to the crowd's tendency to talk and visit all through
it. That, and the beer that everyone was drinking. Whole thing reminded me
of a baseball game where the home team is losing by a big margin.
I have to say that his harp playing was wonderful. Very minimalistic,
almost surreal. Kept running down blind alleys with it and then finding
some miraculous way to escape at the last moment. Breathtaking. (No pun
I guess this was more of a crowd review. Maybe someone else will do a Bob
Review by Steve McCue
Mary and I set off in the 98 degree weather from Helena for the show at
4:00 p.m., and arrived at Big Sky at about 6:30 p.m. I had never been to
a concert at Big Sky, although I have skied there in the winter almost
since it opened in mid-70s. This was my sixth Dylan concert and Mary's
second. I first saw him in 1974 with the Band in Seattle on his
"comeback" tour, then in 1988 at the Gorge at George, Washington (the
beginning of his "Never Ending Tour," as it turned out).
I have recently had the chance to "up" my total shows in a relatively
short period, starting in 1999, again at the Gorge, where Dylan shared the
bill and the stage with Paul Simon. Took the whole family to that one.
Then in March 2000, Bob played what I'm certain were his first ever shows
in my home state of Montana. He swept through Missoula, Bozeman, and
Billings, and filled the halls he played. I saw him in Missoula and it
was the best of all the shows I've seen, including this one at Big Sky.
The sound in Missoula was outstanding, with Bob's vocals (often hard to
hear clearly) crystal clear. Maybe that was because my daughter, brother,
and I had seats in the fifth row on the floor! Maybe Missoula being where
I was born and raised made it special. Whatever the reasons, I have a
bootleg CD of that concert which is of very high quality in both sound and
performance, so I know what I heard that night.
My other show before last night's was in Spokane in October 2001, the
first night of his tour after the release of Love and Theft. I found it
very hard to hear his vocals, and the sound was somewhat muddy in the vast
arena. My impression is that Bob is a very consistent performer in these
last few years. However, because his voice is more limited in its range
as he gets older, it is sometimes hard to hear what he is singing. He is
thus more at the mercy of the acoustical environment he performs in. I
guess most rockers wrestle with this to some degree. If you know the
song, however, you can still enjoy the performance. If you don't, you can
find yourself lost.
Here's an example: I know Dylan's songs fairly well, and he's one of my
all time favorite artists. However, I heard him play "Drifter's Escape"
in Spokane and had no idea what song it was until I read the set list on
this site. One of the great things about his concerts is how he keeps
radically messing with the song arrangements, as he does with this song.
He played it last night at Big Sky, and it was a real highlight. This
time I knew what he was playing, because I noted that he played it in
Winter Park the other night, and because I moved closer to the stage for a
time and could see him better when he sang it. On this one, Larry and
Freddie on guitars get some great volume and tandem playing going. The
audience really responded to their playing enthusiastically.
The atmosphere at the concert venue was great. It's a flat grassy park,
with a baseball diamond tucked in one corner in the back, and the audience
facing west toward the stage. One can see Lone Peak (the ski mountain) to
the right of the stage in the distance. It towers over the surrounding
mountains, and as its name implies, it is a singular and somewhat isolated
mountain in the area, set apart from the rest of the Madison Range. The
concert grounds are in the lower, Meadow Village, not the Mountain Village
where the ski lifts are. The crowd had people of all ages, and I saw
license plates from Billings, Missoula, and Helena, and some smaller
towns, as well as nearby Bozeman. It was sprinkled with a fair number of
affluent-looking Big Sky types. Some people were sitting on the
mountainside adjacent to the venue, and got a free show that way.
Dylan kicked off his show at 8:30 p.m., while it was still quite light
out. The crowd was thus not as focused on what he was playing, still
getting one more beer and so forth. As the evening wore on and the sun
set, of course, the audience got more involved in the performance and
cheered the band well at encore time.
Particular highlights for me were "Things Have Changed" and "Dignity." I
had not heard him play "Dignity" before, and it is one of my favorites of
his recent stuff. "Things Have Changed" is likewise a favorite among his
newer songs. The whole band is really great to watch as well as listen
to. Larry clearly was enjoying himself, smiling a lot. They are all
powerful players. Freddie Koella and George Recile have joined since I
last attended a Dylan show. All the players got a chance to shine during
the evening. Bob on the electric piano was also different. He stands at
the piano on the left side of the stage, plays and sings. I expected him
to be sitting at an acoustic piano, but this works fine. I could rarely
hear what he was playing on piano, but I could hear his harp playing very
well and it was consistently great. He played quite a bit of harp, too,
which the audience always likes. I also enjoyed watching Bob "boogie" a
few feet away from his piano a few times when he wasn't singing, just
swaying a bit to the music and moving his arms with the beat, as others
have described. I'm still waiting to hear him play "Down in the Flood."
However, I never get tired of "Like a Rolling Stone" or "All Along the
Watchtower," which filled the encore slots.
I was glad to be able to see Kathleen Edwards, who opened with a short set
(about 40 minutes). She is a promising young singer-songwriter with her
first album just out. She noted she was from Canada and joked about it
being a province of the United States, or something like that. She also
commented on the beauty of the mountain setting at Big Sky. She has three
male musicians on guitar, bass, and drums backing her, while she plays
My next Dylan checkpoints will be the release of the movie "Masked and
Anonymous" and the soundtrack album (with a yet another version of "Down
in the Flood"!), followed closely by the release of a bunch of his albums
on Super Audio CD. I'm looking forward to all of it. Thanks to Bill P.
for this great site and the opportunity to share our impressions of these
shows and find out all about Bob, particularly where he's playing. And
thanks for coming back to Montana, Bob!
Review by Steven King
Well, the "Watchin' the River Flow" tour is home. After the Jackson show
and a night at home we crossed the Teton, Buffalo, Henry's Fork, and
Madison Rivers and then followed the Gallatin River downstream to Big
Sky. We were there early and had a good time hanging with the "line"
crowd. We had the usual formality of hassles by security just when we
should have gone through the gate. Hard to back up 4000 or 7000 or
whatever people but patience is a virtue and we got a good spot in front
but had to leave it after Kathleen Edwards (who was great, rock on gal) as
the crowd crushed in. Bob came out and did "Maggie's Farm", then
"TNIBSHWY", Larry on pedal steel (one of 3 songs). yahoo!!, "throw my
ticket out the window and the bathtub out there too". #6 Watchin' the
River Flow was so sweet, as Larry peddled in to it. Guess Bob was looking
out the window coming in. There was a rumor he did a hot tub before the
show (I only allow myself to invision that from the waterline up). The
whole Big Sky area is amazing, narrow canyon with massive mountains. He
followed "Watchin'" with "It's Alright, Ma". Perhaps my favorite Dylan
song. Kinda' makes me sit down where ever I am and take off my hat. To
watch the words from the source is just sweet. Both it and the next, "It
Ain't Me Babe" were acoustic. Seems Bob had a band aid on his right thumb
and never did play guitar. ("maybe get a blister on your thumb.") By now
we had to move off to stage right again but we could see Bob for the rest
of the show. Glad to have heard "Dignity", something the world could use
more of. I could hear Freddie's guitar much better on "Summer Days" and it
was "right on target". They happened to break for the encore near our spot
so I just kept saying a loudly as possible with out shouting, "Take me on
a trip, take me on a trip, take me on a trip" just for the fun of it. Bob
was on a different trip and came out and did "Like a Rolling Stone" with
provocative enunciation. Then things ended with a great harmonica on "All
Along the Watchtower" and off we went under the wide open starry western
skies. We made a loop through Yellowstone to get home and followed the
Gallatin, Yellowstone, Gardiner, Gibbon, Firehole, and Snake River home.
Thanks for rockin'' our world Bob,
it needs all the rockin'' it can get.
Review by Fred Robinson
Will somebody please tell the Never Ending Tour Band web site that
it is no longer just a rumor that Freddie Koella is the band's new guitar?
I, for one, was impressed with how well Freddie has fit in. I was
disappointed when Charlie left, but, things have changed. Freddie really
put on a show particularly on "Drifter's Escape" and "Summer Days". The
sound and look is definitely different, more bluesy. Tony and Larry were
there to keep things tight, maybe not as tight as when Charlie left, but
give Freddie some time. I missed Bucky when he left too. George really
wails on those drums.
Tony looked like Lee Van Cleef in the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"
and Bob had on what looked like blue silk pajamas.
I liked Bob at the key board and his new band director type role,
but I kept hoping he would pick up the guitar for a song or two. He
never did. Things have changed. One thing never changes, though. I
have never been disappointed by a Bob Dylan concert.
I saw Bob at the Shrine Auditorium in Billings--so why not on a
softball field at Big Sky? Such were my thoughts as Janet and I entered
the so-called Big Sky Pavillion. The evening was beautiful. The crowd
included all ages and types. Celibrate Diversity! Most notable to me was
this big farm kid looking guy who seemed to know the lyrics to every song
the band played. Janet received a lot of thumbs up for the leopard skin
pill-box hat she wore. She picked one up at a second hand store and had
been dying for the right opportunity to wear it. Finally, Bob came back
to Montana and Janet donned the hat.
We found a spot right up front. Things were kind of rough, but it
was worth it. We had a great view and everybody was really into the
To me, it seemed like Bob really started getting into things during
"Dignity", about half way into the show. In fact, after that song, he
actually said, "Thank-you. I am having a good time tonight." No surpises
on the set list, but I was real surpised to hear him say he was enjoying
himself. At the end of the show, he came out front center and seemed to
be genuinely appreciative of the crowd.
I am not able to go through the set list with observations for each
song. At the start of the show I was trying to remember things for a more
informative review, but I gave up and decided to just concentrate on the
moment. I had a really good time. Thanks, Bob.
page by Bill Pagel
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