page by Bill Pagel
Review by Michael Smith
My own personal Bob tour ended with the second Berkeley show last night
and I can't stop thinking about what an incredible run it's been so far.
MP3s are already up and the shows are beginning to circulate, so even
those of you who haven't been there in person know that this tour is
something different and something truly special - even for someone whose
art is always more or less constantly evolving. Still half-believing the
"end of the NET" rumors and not knowing when I'll have the chance to see
Bob Dylan perform again, I had a lot of time while waiting in line
yesterday to reflect on what his music has meant to me. There has been
more criticism than usual of Dylan's live performances this year, even
among those who don't usually speak about Dylan as an artist "in decline".
And even though I had to admit that none of the shows I had heard through
August lived up to the best performances from last fall, I always felt
that it would only be a matter of time before Bob regained that spark,
that certain flash, that has always distinguished him as the most
spontaneous and dynamic live performer that I've ever seen. Well, I'm glad
that it's happening now and I'm glad that I've been able to see it up
close and personal during four shows over the course of the past week. Bob
was visibly cold on stage last night. Even before he said "It's cold out
here, it's freezing" in the middle of the show, I could see that his
fingers and nose were red. His voice was also weaker in places and, toward
the end of the night, he also appeared tired. And yet . . . it was an
awesome show. Dylan's concentration and determination were equally
palpable. He cared about putting on a great show and he did so in the same
high style that has made this tour such a crazy and energetic affair so
far. Once again, we could hear the soundcheck a couple of hours before
showtime. Again it included Quinn the Eskimo, which alas we would not be
blessed to hear, but more intriguing was an acoustic country song that I
had never heard before. Larry played mandolin and shared vocal duties with
Charlie. The melody sounded similar to In the Pines and the lyrics
contained references to "West Virginia" and "moonshine". I'll be very
curious to see if this pops up in the tour. When the doors opened, my
friends and I secured a spot close to the stage. Dylan and the band came
out after the familiar ritual of the tuning of the instruments, the
lighting of the incense and the music of Aaron Copland. This was the first
time I've seen the band in their matching, sparkly-silver suits (!), which
I thought looked really funny. Bob was again dressed to the nines in a
white jacket with black trim and black dress pants. 1. Maggie's Farm -
Maybe it was because I'd seen it already in Eugene but this didn't do much
for me. The passion and energy of Seeing the Real You at Last from the
night before were nowhere to be seen and I felt like this was merely a
warm up. 2. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You - A great rendition,
beautifully sung. The vocal gymnastics of Bob drawing out the word
"leeeeeeeeeave" and ending on a really low note was a total delight.
Before this even began, Bob retrieved his harmonica from on top of his amp
and placed it on the keyboard. When he was done singing, he immediately
picked up the harp and started playing. It's been years since I've heard a
harp solo begin so quickly following the vocal and a great harp solo it
was. The songs in this "slow, electric" slot are all being done very well,
it seems. 3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - I'm not
crazy about this song live but this was better than average. Dylan
alternated between talking and singing the vocal in a totally
unpredictable way that was very refreshing. This ended with an
instrumental jam in which Bob really came alive at the piano. 4.
Accidentally Like A Martyr - Great as ever. What else can I say? See my
other reviews. 5. Tangled Up In Blue - Outstanding. A new arrangement that
started off with the familiar chiming chords of Larry's acoustic guitar
but that turned into something else entirely as the band kicked in during
the second verse. Bob's singing on this was great, very careful and
controlled. The instrumental breaks were amazing as Charlie played two
very rocking solos on the electric guitar (and it was really unusual to
hear an electric solo on this song). Bob likewise pounded on the keys in
great rockabilly fashion and the whole thing gelled and worked very well.
6. Brown Sugar - Fourth time for me and, once again, a lot of fun. 7.
Every Grain Of Sand - A mesmerizing performance and the highlight of the
show. As with this slot from the previous night, Bob played acoustic
rhythm, while Larry and Charlie played some very subtle electric and steel
guitar, respectively. But also like Positively Fourth Street from the
night before, it was the singing that made this. Bob's voice was very soft
and he sang each phrase right on the beat (unlike a lot of performances of
this where he gets ahead of himself). Everyone around me was dead quiet
during this performance and it was a magical few minutes. 8. It's Alright,
Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - Once again, I didn't think the singing was too
hot but Charley got a nod from Bob and played a very unusual and haunting
solo where he would play long notes, sliding his fingers up and down the
neck of the guitar. 9. Forever Young - A great version, much better than
Eugene. Bob really belted out the chorus along with the boys, which makes
all the difference in the world. I was glad I got to hear this with my
girlfriend at my side, as it's one of her favorite songs. 10. Drifter's
Escape - Above average. Unlike Wicked Messenger from the night before, Bob
put a lot more care into the vocal delivery and it was much more
successful with the crowd. 11. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right -
Fantastic. This tour has so far been characterized by consistently great
renditions of (1) the Zevon tunes, (2) the Love and Theft songs and (3)
the slow, acoustic songs. The singing on the songs in this last category
has been consistently great from night to night, always gentle and soft
yet purposeful and clear. I thought Bob's guitar playing on this was very
good: he strummed chords a lot (VERY loudly, as if dictating the rhythm to
George), and at other times played notes halfway down the neck but only
utilizing the top two strings. 12. Old Man - Faithful version and well
done but this isn't one of my favorite Neil Young songs. It lacks the
emotional, heart-rending quality that he puts the Zevon covers over with.
But if you love this song, you're probably going to love seeing Bob do it.
13. Lonesome Day Blues - This had the great, growling delivery that it
always does although Bob flubbed a few lines. He threw in a couple of
additional words though that made me change how I think of one of the
song's crucial lines: "I got my dial set on the radio, yes, but I wish my
mother was still alive," thus connecting the two sentiments in a way they
hadn't been for me before. 14. Blowin' In The Wind - Perhaps because it
was divorced from the context of the encores, this was an excellent and
very moving rendition. The Berkeley audience responded very loudly to the
more overt anti-war sentiments in the verses and this, in turn, seemed to
cause Bob to really feel what he was singing. 15. High Water (For Charley
Patton) - Bob's voice sounded rougher than usual here and I think his
energy may have started to flag. 16. Mutineer - Another great one. Ain't
no room on board for the insincere. 17. Moonlight - Coupled with the
Eugene performance, it's clear he's finally found out how to sing this
really well live. Instead of singing most of the lines in a monotone and
punching up the last couple of syllables, he's now singing almost
completely falsetto, following the melody and hitting all the notes. The
discordant piano isn't going to be for all tastes but I liked it. 18.
Summer Days - This is where Bob really looked tired. For most of the song,
he wasn't moving and his singing was pretty lifeless . . . until the end.
He fed off of the energy of the climactic guitar jam and then really came
alive again. Larry was grinning at Bob a lot during this and Bob's singing
was great when he got around to belting out the last verse. As is
customary, the band stood still in formation after it was over. As they
left the stage, knowing Bob was cold and tired, I predicted we would only
get a two song encore. 19. Like A Rolling Stone - The spark was definitely
back and this was another very good, high energy affair. Good singing and
great solos from Charlie. 20. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - The best version
I've heard of this from the new tour. The interplay of Larry and Bob's
acoustic guitars was really tight and the instrumental parts were longer
than usual. Another good vocal too. After this, Bob spoke to the crowd for
the second time. He said, "Folks, would you like to hear one more song?"
Of course, the crowd screamed "Yes!" Bob then turned to George and said,
"What do you think, George?" George looked very befuddled and put on the
spot and just shrugged. It was a really funny moment. (As if what George
had to say would dictate what was going to happen!) Then, Bob added,
"George's hands are really cold and so are mine." 21. All Along The
Watchtower - Like a good prizefighter, Dylan seemed determined to go the
distance and he did so by delivering another blistering performance of
this old warhorse. Bob was still totally there, pulling out all the stops
right up through the explosive final verse, sending the crowd into ecstacy
all over again. When it ended, the band stood in formation for a moment
again and then Bob did something I've never seen him do at the conclusion
of a show. He took a few steps to the mic and said "Thank you." Then he
turned around and left the stage. Soon he would be on the bus, heading for
Lake Tahoe and another set of shows and I would be on my way back home to
northern California. As my friends and I stood in front of the stage
waiting for the crowd to thin out, the post-concert blues set in (there's
a medical term for this, right?), moreso than usual as I didn't know how
long it would be before I saw Bob again. But what a show it was and what a
tour this is. And to think that it's only begun. Hopefully, I'll see you
next time, front and center.
Review by Royal Johnson
After seeing the Friday show I had high exceptions for the second show and
was not disappointed. It's funny how you go to a lot of Dylan shows and
miss certain songs, well this was a catch up show for me. After the first
few seconds of Maggie's Farm I could tell the energy from the previous
show was still with the band. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You was a
first for me and a great version with Larry on pedal steel. Memphis Blues
and Accidentally Like A Martyr (he played it Friday also) were also nice.
I think people were getting tried of Tangled Up In Blue the last few years
but with the new electric version sounds great. Though Bob did Brown Sugar
both nights I don't think I would ever get tried of hearing it. Every
Grain Of Sand was the song of the night for me. Charlie played some
beautiful guitar on it. After It's Alright Ma the band went into an
excellent Forever Young. I've only seen this song as an encore but it
works nice in the middle of the set. Next was a smokin Drifter's Escape.
Don't Think Twice is always nice to here and everyone around me seem to
know all the words. Old Man was nice again but the Lonesome Day Blues that
came after it was first class with Larry playing slide guitar. Blowin In
The Wind seems fitting today and was right on. I haven't hear any of the
new Love And Theft songs in concert so High Water was cool. Bob is a
master at taking someone else's song and making it his own and Mutineer is
this type of song. Again great pedal steel by Larry. Moonlight was really
fun and a killer Summer Days closed the set. I guess the only complainant
I have was the same song encore's both days, but with an intense
Watchtower to end the night what can I say?
Review by David Link
Well, another great show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley! Just some brief
observations here and then I must be off to Lake Tahoe.
It was cold! They 4 big heat lamps on stage both nights, but this second
night was way colder than the night before....also no curtain backdrop
either night; no need for one when you have a backdrop as stunning as the
white greek columns, with the lights shining off them...
The two sound checks I could make out while waiting were Quinn the Eskimo
and Something by the Beatles (people around me confirmed I was not
imagining this) Perhaps he is trying to get something together for the
Harrison tribute....who can tell?
Great line into the show, front-row center...who could complain?
Highlights for me: A Tonight I'll Be Staying Here w/ You that I could
actually hear all the words to...I love this song so I'm biased.....it
reminded me of Maui in '98...but this sounded a bit better.
Memphis Blues....I did not think this would make it ino my highlight
films, but the end was so raging I must include it...Charlie went over to
Bob and pushed his empty mic stand towards him while he was on the keys as
if to say, PLAY, goddamit!! And then they both started raging....amazing.
Like a Martyr was nice and clear.
Tangled Up In Blue came out of nowhere for me, which was great....I had
grown a little tired of it after seeing it for 30 shows in a row or
so....but to see this w/ him on piano? Get outta here! An awesome
version, with a really great piano solo in the middle, and then Charlie
playing some really weird-sounding guitar at the end...."There was music
in the cafes at night, Revolution was in the air." Good response to this
line. Bob smiled widely at the end, obviously very pleased w/ the version.
Every Grain of Sand was pretty powerful, I was very glad to hear it;
nice and melllow.
Forever Young.....This song hits home every time...Timeless.
Drifter's Escape.....Raging harp and guitars from Larry and Charlie.
Old Man---The best one so far, in my buddy's opinion..."The vocals meshed,
the guitars were perfect...that was awesome" I had to agree.
Blowin---Perfect for Berkeley at this time in history...and very nice to
hear it in the main set, not just as an encore.
Another Great High Water..."It's ROUGH out there!!"
Either before or after Mutineer, (another great version), someone (George?)
said to Bob that it was cold. Into the mic he says, "Cold? It's freezing!"
Summer Days did not touch the first version in Sacramento, or the version
here the night before. It was not as long or as raging. They were getting
cold, no doubt in my mind.
After Like a RS, Bob says, "We'll, do you want us to do one more?" Huge
response from the crowd. Turns back toward George and says, "What do you
think George, one more? Georges' hands are cold and so are mine."
Thankfully they did not leave and did 2 more. So it was a rather mellow
ending to this 2-day Greek run, but better mellow than nothing at all.
You all on this tour drive safe, and see you down the road.
Review by Kathleen
It was with about the most excitement I have ever had about going to a
series of shows (or about pretty much doing anything) that I embarked on
my trip to Berkeley early Saturday morning--getting a listen or two to the
covers that have been posted on the web, reading the reviews that have
been so articulate, eloquent, and descriptive, hearing everyone's stories
in all the chats, AND knowing I'd get to be in California (or thereabouts)
for a week sounded like it would be my personal dream of magic enchanted
rock ‘n toll fairyland. Last night in Berkeley, it was.
I met my concert-going buddy of years past in Berkeley. Luckily Bob
Dylan is where our tastes intersect, so I didn't have to trade him
anything to attend with me. (Once I had to go see Kiss with him, with our
wearing make-up, as a trade to have him see the Sex Pistols with me.)
Last time he and I had seen Dylan concurrently (and his last time until
tonight), was about the most abysmal performance I have ever seen at a
place with a bad sound system (‘88 or so.) I had to entertain myself with
watching Edie Brickell try to get backstage before she was famous.
So, here we were now in Berkeley in ‘02, and we were blown away. Even
though my flight didn't get in early enough for us to get good stage
position, every seat in that venue is pretty good, and for the second time
in a row for me, I liked not being right in front of the stage. (Glad I
didn't wait in line, the stage was so high, from the front row, there
would have been no way that I could have seen.) A perfect half moon made
an appearance over the stage on this very clear night and made an arc to
be right by the end of the show adding to the beautiful pine and other
tree shapes that make up that familiar magical backdrop at the Greek.
The boys looked darling in their matching fall-weight grey suits with thin
silver threads–my first night for this tour leg so it was obvious to me
they had all had haircuts. Bob was in black (pants, shirt, and boots)
with white trim and a white jacket with black trim. I agree that the loss
of the cowboy hat is a good thing. It just makes him seem so much more
The opener, Maggie's Farm was terrific. I love the new arrangement which
is like the Stones doing Maggie's farm, rockin' and bluesy. Although
somewhat counterintuitive to me, this one worked beautifully as an opener.
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You was also a lovely arrangement with
what we have come to expect as laid back, never overdone, standout work by
Larry on pedal steel. Bob's singing was quite melodic.
Stuck Inside of Mobile also sounded like a newish arrangement. It worked
well. By this point, I had gotten to see what everyone was saying about
the new keyboard-player rock star moves, but I have to add my two cents
and say that Bob has some other new moves, even better than rock star
move–tap dance moves. The fact that he did these steps was retro and
fun, accentuated by the big black and white square ‘50s linoleum (in a
giants house) look floor that seems to be traveling along with the band.
Accidentally Like A Martyr is so beautiful it hurts.
Tangled Up in Blue has a new dimension with Bob on keyboards which is what
I'd read. The crowd was happy with this choice.
After that, the brilliant yellow and white lights came up on the stage and
into the audience as the first few chords of Brown Sugar pierced the air.
Everyone was singing, dancing, and screaming. It's amazing how much of a
crowd-rouser this song is, and what an inspirational version these guys
do. This is way better than the Stones have been doing it for years.
After that, I almost lost consciousness when they did Every Grain of Sand,
my favorite Dylan song of all time, and one that I had never heard live.
It took my breath away.
More gospelly is how I would put the Forever Young arrangement now.
Although the harmonies have been terrific on this one for awhile, it
seemed that the guys were especially singing their hearts out here in
The guys rocked out then with Drifters Escape (must be a band favorite the
way they play it)
My notes seem to be spotty from here on out (dancing, no doubt), but
Mutineer and the tunes from the new album were all great, and the fairly
typical bevy of closing, encore songs were well-delivered. Everyone in
the band did way above average, though it was hard to hear Charlie
sometimes–he seemed turned down in the mix.
Before the last two songs, Bob asked the crowd if they wanted to hear more
(8200 people saying "Yeah" at once was pretty loud.) He said he'd have to
ask George, because he and George had cold hands. (It was pretty chilly
It's delightful to hear him talk to the crowd.
My concurrence with the recent reviewers--love the new arrangements, love
the well-done covers, love the keyboards, love the band (tighter than
ever), and love Bob relaxed without the cowboy hat and more accessible to
the audience. My advice: take the $300 you would spend on one Rolling
Stones ticket and catch six or eight Dylan shows. He and the band are
roaring like no others.
Review by Tanya Hunt
It was October 12, 2002 and it was Bob Dylan's second night at the Greek Theatre
in Berkeley, California. I had just witnessed a stellar performance the evening
before. My Dad at my side had told me that they only got better (he had also
attended last night's, as well as the three prior to that in Sacramento and Red
Bluff). I believed him. I was ready. He was right.
Robert Alan Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), at age 61 is at the top of his game. He is
more alive and vibrant then ever. I can say this with great confidence as I have
seen Dylan more times than my age (35)! He has his own unique voice and delivery
that no one will ever match. Although he has his critics he is a poet beyond our
imagination's reach and no one can deny that. For those who say Dylan mumbles, he
isn't mumbling now! And yes, I am familiar with a lot of his lyrics but believe
me, he was clear as the star twinkling sky above! His diction was audible and
important. I felt that Dylan was there to get a message across. And he did. It
was a message of peace and perseverance to…keep on keeping on!
The Greek Theatre is an open cement theatre with floor space below the stage. A
tier of wide steps goes out from there leading to steep bleachers forming a small
bowl and a small lawn up above. The unique theatre is located on the U.C.
Berkeley Campus and the audience reflected this in a positive manner. Holding a
mere 8200 you felt an intimacy you don't obtain with larger venues. Huge columns
behind Dylan made him look like a Greek God ready to amaze the people with his
magic powers. And that he did. With the massive columns lit in purple, Bob and
his incredible band opened with "Maggie's Farm". This is a classic Dylan rocker.
The crowd was hopping already. He magnified and intensified each word and note
he wanted to stress. He had the audience in his hip pocket before the concert
even began. You could feel it in the night air, under the stars and a setting
half moon. The crowd was appreciative and generous and Dylan reciprocated.
His timeless songs, "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Forever Young" were delivered with
a grace and style that only Dylan can exude. He was able to change the mood with
the dynamics of his voice. At times Dylan may have been singing in more than one
key, but his intonation would match the mood being portrayed. There was a hush
during "Blowin' in the Wind" as pockets of the crowd put their arms around each
other and swayed. Tears of nostalgia rolled down my cheeks as my dad, my sister
and her boyfriend and I did the same. I was raised with Dylan in my ears and in
my soul. The emotion was high and euphoric. Here is an example of his lyrics
from "Blowin' in the Wind" written in the 60's yet still so relevant today, "How
many times must the cannon balls fly before they're forever banned?…How many
deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?" With the
world in its current state, this song alone spoke volumes to an audience in need
of an evening of peace away from the media's fear frenzy.
In watching his breathing, I noticed he was a pro at "sneaking in the breath".
He does it with such ease, looking a bit like the grin of a jack-o-lantern as he
inhales and than delivers his distinctive rhythm and rhyme. His facial
expressions had intent. He would conduct with his eyes, controlling the tempo
and length of riffs by giving the band members certain looks. Rarely did I see
an actual smile, but a slight one could be caught at the very end of a song or
during a pound on the keyboard. Dylan was having a good time and it showed.
It was an unusual treat to have him standing at an electric keyboard for the
majority of the songs. And of course he played the guitar and harmonica, too.
After pounding out 18 songs, Bob and His Band left the stage. The crowd clapped
and roared bringing them back to give three encores of three classics, "Like A
Rolling Stone", "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and "All Along the Watchtower". I
floated out of the Greek Theatre that night.
page by Bill Pagel
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