Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Place
August 26, 2002

[Adrien Begrand]

Review by Adrien Begrand

Hoo boy, so here I am, three hours after getting back from what was, for
yours truly, anyway, a spectacularDylan show. My bad right ear is still
ringing, and I'm still far too pumped about the performance to think of
anything else...I have to get down these words while the feeling's still
fresh. So where to start?

Got to the arena, located on the northern outskirts of the city, around
6:30, and scouted out my third row seat, which was terrific, on the right
hand (er, or Larry Campbell) side. The seating arrangement was good, in
that they didn't stretch out the first three rows all the way to both
sides of the rink, so there were no obstructed views for folks who shelled
out sixty bucks for tickets. The interminable wait until showtime was made
shorter, thanks to my friendly seatmate (and proud Bob nomad) "Dee from
Corvalis", our converasation drifting towards what we hoped we'd hear,
with myself fretting over my ever-so-tenuous hold on fifth place in the
pool...soon, Aaron Copeland's "Theme For the Common Man" came on the PA,
and the setlists were brought out, as my new bud said to me, "Your fate
has been sealed." Too right.

Copeland's "Rodeo Suite" exploded on the PA shortly after, making many
people on the floor jump. Being on the right side of the stage, we were
able to see Al Santos at the mike offstage, reading the now-infamous
Buffalo News quote from a couple weeks ago, as he's been doing since the
Buffalo show...his deadpan delivery was hilarious. So Bobby and the boys
sidled onstage (Bob in his black suit with red trim and matching Stetson,
Larry Campbell in a long grey coat, Charlie Sexton in a sharp charcoal
suit, and George Recelli and Tony Garnier bereted and behatted,
respectively), and pulled out the first of what would be many pleasant
surprises on this night, a rollicking rendition of "Somebody Touched Me".
"It Ain't Me Babe" followed, as George provided some nifty brush
syncopations that greatly contradicted with David Kemper's previous,
straightahead backbeat rhythm. After the final verse, Bob turned around,
and the crowd cheered as he brought up a harp, playing a pleasantly
lengthy solo. When the song ended, in a brief moment of supercool panache,
he flipped the harp up in the air, caught it, and turned around..needless
to say, he was definitely in good spirits on this night. The expected
"It's Alright Ma" was next, the deeply countrified version we've come to
know recently (with Charlie on a swanky dobro and Larry on cittern), and
one of the best versions of the song I've ever heard, with Recelli really
letting loose as the song grew closer to the end. "This World Can't Stand
Long" was the next surprise, played in the fourth slot for the second
night in a row.

After that, the guys got their electric gear, and as the "eye" backdrop
gave way to the swanky white curtain, the guys launched into a flat-out
blistering version of "Solid Rock"...another surprise, and one worth the
ticket price alone. I hadn't heard the new version, and was completely
floored by the intensity. Yet another surprise was in store, as the
familiar pedal steel strains of "Lay Lady Lay" began, which went over very
well with the audience. "Honest With Me" was next, as the band clearly
enjoyed playing the new tune, with Recelli again shifting the song into
overdrive. More Love & Theft material was on hand, as Bob sang a
wonderfully tender "Moonlight", hitting the high notes perfectly, and even
tweaking the lyrics a bit ("For whom does the bell toll for? It tolls for
YOU, my friend...").

Another changeover, and Larry started the second acoustic set with the
familiar strains of "Don't Think Twice". This is one Ubiquitous Bob Song I
never tire of hearing, and it went over brilliantly with the crowd. Who
knew Bob was merely setting us up...Bob had us floating after the song
ended (or was that the weed from the guy behind me?), only to knock us all
on out collective behinds with the first performance of "Things Have
Changed" on this tour, and the first live acoustic version ever...utterly
brilliant. I was euphoric, and that wasn't thanks the second-hand smoke,
either. Closing out the acoustic set was the tried-and-true "Tangled Up In
Blue", with Recelli (wow, was he the star tonight) injecting new energy
into the Bob standard.

Next was "Summer Days", overflowing with energy from all members of the
band, who were all smiles tonight, as it became a lengthy jam, forcing the
folks out of their seats. The song sounds fantastic live, blowing away the
album version...those boys sure know how to play the rock and roll music.
"Make You Feel My Love" was nowhere near as schmaltzy as I expected it,
the twangy performance eclipsing the syrupy version heard on Time Out Of
Mind. "Drifter's Escape" followed (featuring another harp solo), and it
was so different from the original that I absolutely couldn't recognize
it. It sure was incendiary, though, as was "Rainy Day Women", which
featured band introductions and solos by all four backing members,
including some really funky solos by Recelli and Garnier (the funniest
moment was seeing Charlie sit lazily on the drum riser and Larry stand
with his hands on his hips, both facetiously "waiting for Tony to finish"
his bass solo). As the crowd raucously cheered the guys at the end, Bob
didn't show much emotion, but it looked like he certainly did appreciate
the fine reception.

As the band came back onstage for the encore, there was a bit of a stage
rush, and those of us at the ends of the rows quickly scooted into the
front row, where we all dug the music up close, fitting comfortably, three
people deep, between the rail and the seats. The expected classic trifecta
of "Like A Rolling Stone", "Blowin' In the Wind", and the scorching "All
Along the Watchtower" closed out the show, and it was such a monumental
thrill for me to experience it from such a close distance. At show's end,
Bob & band stood out to the crowd, and His Zimmyness dropped to one knee,
embracing his guitar in an act of appreciation to such a fun audience.

What a recptive crowd it was. Sask Place did a good thing in its ticket
distribution...they curtained off the upper levels (with the exception of
two sections on opposite sides of the stage), left the end zone seats
vacant, and filled up the floor and all the side seating, making for a
surprisingly cozy atmosphere in such a cavernous building, and the band
fed off the positive crowd the entire night, commingling and yakking all
the time, nobody standing off to one side. The folks I talked to who had
been to the previous shows this month all said that Bob was definitely on
tonight, and I know exactly what they mean. Overall, a perfect night,
especially for a city who doesn't see many Bob Dylan concerts at all. I
had a total blast, as did everyone else.

After the show, amidst the bustle of getting out of the crammed seating
area on the floor, I came across our Pool guru Arthur, and had a nice,
brief conversation with he and his cohorts, whose names I can't remember,
thanks to post-show euphoria (no, not weed-related). It was a great
pleasure to meet everyone at the show...unfortunately, I won't be
travelling to Edmonton with them; I'll be staying put in this neat little
city, set to relive that phenomenal concert in my head for days on end.
Which ain't a bad thing; as Mr. Dylan put it, "It sure feels right on a
night like this." Happy trails, compadres.

[A postscript: I knew I had some big points in store for me tonight, but
much to my horror, when I got home shortly after ten, I saw that I had
leapfrogged into third place. This shoudn't be happening, but it is.
Thanks, Bob!]

Adrien Begrand


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