Los Angeles, California
Wiltern Theater
October 16, 2002

[Mat Gleason], [The Front of the Line], [Howard Mirowitz]

Review by Mat Gleason

Bob Dylan at the Wiltern Theater, Wednesday October 16, 2002.
Reviewed by Mat Gleason (

Bob and the band were a little tighter overall than last night and seemed
to have a little more energy. Here is a comparison of the set from
tonight's (Wednesday) show to last night's (Tuesday) show.

1. Maggie's Farm was much better than last night's Real You At Last, it
really rocked, Bob played a mean harp - he was warmed up and ready to go.
2. The Man In Me was better than last night's Tell Me That It Isn't True,
but this second slot was again a bit of a pothole on the hopefully smooth
road every concert wants to the crowd to ride down. 3. Same as last night,
Tombstone Blues was great again, Bob got the words of the verses out
better. 4. Accidentally Like A Martyr was better than last night's The End
Of The Innocence, but crowd reaction was not as strong as it was to the
Henley/Hornsby composition on Tuesday. 5. Watching The River Flow was
better than last night's Things Have Changed, real bluesy, got the crowd
going, and was a great lead in to... 6. Brown Sugar, a real crowd pleaser,
but Bob was a lot less into it than last night. The crowd loves it and the
band loves playing it. 7. Forever Young. A very good version of this aging
chestnut, the crowd was much more into it than last night's One Too Many
Mornings, but that could have been due to familiarity, as Bob flubbed some
lines tonight. It did get much better as it went on. 8. It's Alright, Ma
(I'm Only Bleeding) was not as tight as last night, Bob fumbled a lot of
lines on a song practically written to have lots of its lines fumbled. 9.
It Ain't Me, Babe was amazing, far superior to last night's
thru-the-motions I Shall Be Released 10. Lawyers Guns And Money. This was
a polite little song, but no match compared to last night's Drifter's
Escape, if you only saw Wednesday's show, you missed out. 11. Positively
4th Street was amazing, Bob really scowled and hit the dramatic second
half of each verse's lines, although last night's Don't Think Twice, It's
All Right was a classic rendering too, both songs in this slot were very
strong. 12. Old Man was great again, and boy oh boy the crowd went nuts.
Bob is far more reverential to other peoples' material than to his own.
13. Honest With Me was a little tighter than last night. 14. Blowin' In
The Wind was great, but not as good, though, as last night's Tambourine
Man. 15. High Water (For Charley Patton) was not as sharp as last night.
16. Mutineer was pleasant, Bob's perfect articulation of everyone's
material but his own was never more flagrant. Tsk tsk tsk. 17. Moonlight
was great, and his harmonica solo at the end truly a special moment, but
Floater last night was better overall. 18. Summer Days was great again and
the two encore numbers matched last night's levels.

Bob really enjoyed himself tonight when he was at the piano and playing
bandleader, he actually danced around the stage waving his hands with no
mike or instrument in front of him. It looks like he is getting a little
bored with some of the material - definitely one reason he added the
keyboards he stands behind on half the songs, he needed something to make
this horse go a few more miles. Hopefully they will still be playing Brown
Sugar when he hits your town, it is a spectacle.

The only difference between the General Admission Floor and the Balcony at
the Wiltern Theater (besides the discomfort of standing) was that in the
balcony, the smell of hippie body odor so prevalent on the floor was
replaced with the smell of Ben Gay. All those achy senior Bob fan joints
being soothed mixed well with the smell of burning joints.

Mat Gleason 


Review by The Front of the Line

Long Verbose Review from the Front of the Line (ten+ reviewers, four
countries, about six U.S. states represented)

After a little while of trying to get organized, then deciding that we
have 10 hours and an A/C outlet (thanks Wiltern), then nixing the idea of
just doing a truly possible six-page review just about Maggie's Farm
(which we ALL loved and discussed for ½ hour), we are going to free flow
here and try to come up with a review.  (The typist gets a gold star
already for getting the controversy on song 13 calmed down so we can get
going.)  Here's our review:

Bob's first show at the Wiltern was a very good show.  In last night's
show, however, Bob and the band were twice as intense and twice as
focused.  The show was way more than twice as good.

Bob opened with Maggie's Farm.  Several reviewers historically are not
fans of Maggie's Farm, but all agree that this arrangement is very
listenable and enjoyable.  Larry seems to be adding something melodic that
makes this song immensely more interesting.  A lot of first experiences in
the group in hearing this new arrangement, and we think it was an
excellent rendition.  

Bob was right on focused, doing his intense eye squinting thing and
turning his head (and it was only the first song.)  The band was jovial
right out of the shoot all smiling and laughing.  Two thirds of the way
through, Charlie walked over in an apparent attempt to play Bob's piano
with his boot which was funny, but unsuccessful.  One reviewer thinks that
with his long legs, the lanky Texan should have been able to do this, and
another suggests that he is too long on the bus and could add some yoga to
his routine so that this move can become a standard one.  Charlie was
playing the cymbal during this one, too.  (At this point, I am thinking we
may never make it through this review. Everyone remembers every move and
is gesticulating and talking excitedly. Good thing I grew up in the
northeast so I am used to everyone talking at once.) 

Bob obviously didn't miss a beat in locating and singing to the gaggle of
Dylan girls who had managed to triangulate the exact angle where his eyes
would be (slightly to the left of the night before's angle where I was, so
I could watch it all).  They were quite a sight–  an undulating group of
exotic ebullient females.

Tombstone Blues:  Bob was doing his daily levitation (personally I think
he is in the astral plane all the time.)  One reviewer says that it looked
like his left boot was two inches off the ground, while his right toes
were up and his weight was entirely back on one heel.  All we could see
was a tapping foot (not the heel), so it did give the illusion of his feet
not touching the ground.  (Hahahahahahahaha...illusion.)   A California
reviewer says we need to work in the phrase that Bob is a song and dance
man.   Or was it that Bob's our song and dance man?

Anyway, we do think that this song has been transformed (in a good way) by
the piano.

Accidentally Like a Martyr: Our lovely young lady reviewers all let out a
sign when I mentioned we were on song number 4.  When asked what to say
about it: Beautiful.  Then when asked what else we had to say: REALLY
beautiful.   Every time he sang, "the hurt gets worse and the heart gets
harder" there was an incredible amount of feeling in it.  ‘Sent a chill
through me/us.   This tune was the first of the night to really show off
his vocal acumen.

Watching the River Flow:  What's the matter with me, I don't have much to

(We're putting this as our review because we are bound by being clever
hard core Dylan fans to use lines of his songs whenever the opportunity
presents itself, which in no way should be read to imply that we didn't
like this tune, because we did!!!!!)

Brown Sugar:  Bob was having a rather flirty time of this one with the
aforementioned gaggle and was fitting the words and the phrasing right in
with that entire dynamic.  We have unanimous chick approval the lyric
change of "just like I knew you would" instead of "just like a black girl
should" or "just like a young girl should."  Plus, we like lyric changes
to keep us on our toes.  Plus, we like this tune by this band A REALLY
LOT.  (We had lots of discussion.)

Larry was making funny eyes and smiling while Tony was singing at Larry's
mike, looking slightly embarrassed in a laughing way (I will interject
here that Tony is getting universal approval and accolades from the group
here, and I'm not just writing it because he was so cool and groovy, suave
and nice when he signed an autograph for me.  Actually, all of our review
team is complimenting all the band members, which is good because it gives
me license to say everything and not sound too gushy, which I have to

Everyone is SURE that this Brown Sugar is a better version and a better
performance than the Stones could currently pull off (or have for years.) 
No doubt that means that Bob Dylan and His Band are now THE world's
greatest rock ‘n roll band.  (As the glitter twins fade into the eye logo
and our boys shine in their golden light that we all know does not come
from the stage lighting...)

Forever Young- This song, though well-liked by the my team here was a
little bit of an abrupt come down from Brown Sugar, so it was hard for me
to get the groupthink flowing to generate comments on it.  We do think
that the harmonizing by the one on guitar and the one on the other guitar
is primo (Bob was hanging back a bit until the end) with nice high
register guitar work from Larry.  (The discussion has now moved to
breakfast, so we are having a little lull in the excited verbal reviewing.
 This group is rather incorrigible.)

It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding)-I am hearing compliments on Dylan's
phrasing on this one and, particularly at this time, our British reviewers
like the delivery of/and the line, "Even the President of the United
States sometimes must stand naked."  George did a jazzy drumming that we
like, more open than rock drumming, hitting the bell part of the ride
cymbal. "Nice" is a fairly close consensus of what we thought of this one,
and one reviewer summed it up by saying that it had gone from a bit of a
dirge in recent times to a show highlight.

It Ain't Me Babe: Bob was totally singing this to the mass of smiling
 This is a new arrangement that is quiet, slow, and even the entire way
through (no crescendo, no steady build)  Nice trio of acoustic guitars
took the place of the harp playing, to our liking.  Our one word
assessment: sweet.

Lawyers, Guns, and Money: We have none of those in line here as far as we
can tell.  This was a faithful rendition that was short and punchy. Bob
was laughing out loud toward the audience and with Tony and George and
laughing at himself when he said, ungh!

Positively Fourth Street: Our reviewer from parts unknown and our Irish
reviewer are saying that it was probably the best of the "regular" numbers
with wonderful phrasings (long, drawn out and a new way of singing the
punch lines.)  Not total consensus on the "best" rating, but we liked it
at any rate.

Old Man: Very well done, clear, clean delivery.  We wish it had gone on
and on.  In fact, most of our reviewing gang thought that all the covers
were too short for how much we enjoyed them, and we wish they were longer
with jams or something.

Honest with Me: "Blinding version of a song that had become a bit turgid
in previous tours with Bob laughing, and incredibly animated," says one
 (I finally got smart and made people write down comments on songs that
later than the ones I was writing.)  We have no concurrence with that
statement or any on this song, the most hotly debated song of the night
(tour?)–I'd say we are equally split between liking and hating this song. 
 We have widespread agreement that Tony is the best part of this song with
his funky hip swiveling, though a few feel that this song is high powered
enough that the tune in and of itself is the best part.  Although there is
massive Larry approval in line, some of us are monotonously lobotomized by
the slide guitar part here on this the sole tract that Bob has played at
what seems like every show since Love and Theft was released.  One
reviewer respectfully states that if Bob can skip playing Like A Rolling
Stone for two shows in a row, he could skip playing Honest With Me
occasionally.  (I strongly concur.) The lyrics are largely liked for their
truthfulness and honesty.  Vocals were stronger than other nights.  Bob
left the piano for awhile toward the end and danced, pointed, and band led
which is entertaining.  (We all like it when the Bob and the band appear
to be enjoying themselves.)

Blowin' In the Wind:  Whereas this song was getting somewhat stale in the
encore suite of songs, it has new life and freshness when it's played
during the main set. (and a quick Californian comment that it is still
pertinent to today's politics.) Larry and Charlie's harmonies were
compared to James Brown's back-up singers (?), well, no need to compare,
as they were brilliant.
    Bob sat down on the riser during this one, something exciting to all.

High Water: Bob did splits which we all noticed, and everyone agrees is
that this is a new better arrangement than the one done in the summer. 
(As you can see here, even though people had enough things to say to fill
up ten pages at first, the comments were waning. It's later in the day and
we were moved out of the alcove of the theater front and spread out onto
Western where a cool ocean breeze, food/bathroom breaks, and huddling to
stay warm/nap has broken up our panel discussion.  I am down to polling
individuals, with one willing beautiful young assistant from the UK.)

Mutineer: The universal appeal of this song and Dylan's delivery makes us
agree that it is one of the finest songs that Dylan does all night.  It's
so Dylanesque you'd think it was his.   Our reviewer from Boston
reiterates that the vocals are fine (the fine you use to describe a wine.)
Gorgeous, soft, purple and blue background lighting added a lot to the
song.  Again, it's short, but it's sweet.

Moonlight: Bob was laughing as he sang the schmaltzy, "won't you meet me
down in the moonlight alone?" to the ladies.  He was playing some funny
little notes on the piano during a quiet passage and cracking up laughing
as if he couldn't believe it.  Some amazing new phrasing came out, and the
song was punctuated by an great harmonica solo.  Our panel of reviewers
gives this one two thumbs up.

Summer Days: This is fantastic.  They fly on this and it can't get any
 (Until the last night at the Wiltern, in case I don't get to writing that
review.)  Where we all were (in the front), this was a dance-a-thon, much
more raucous even than the night before.

Knockin' On Heaven's Door: "The harmony of the three boys together is like
three little angels."  "Charlie's solo is one of the musical highlights of
the evening."  (We are all glad he's still never ending touring.)

All Along the Watchtower– We liked all the individual solos.

This is about where the review-writing ended with our crowd, and as I edit
and finish this review a day later, I am sad not to be in line with all my
pals, critiquing (if you can call saying all good things that), comparing,
and getting exited about some great music to come.  The mid-October part
of the tour offered a perfect opportunity for many to join up for about a
week of the tour and the day we wrote the review (last day at the Wiltern)
was it for most of us for awhile. As I write, I am at the airport myself
on a flight back like many of my compatriots. (Delta has Tangled Up in
Blue as song 10 on Channel 11 as a little consolation.)

We didn't have time to get to our superlative round robin to describe the
series of shows during the week, but in just our dry run we went around
about three times each with ten people, so you know it was a lot. (And
we're not kidding, these shows are the ultimate shows thus far this tour.)
We didn't get to make a table that would have cataloged every move that
every player made sitting down, singing together, laughing, jumping on the
drum riser, you name what else on this rollicking night, but it would have
been a long table since each one of us remembered different things that
this animated group did.  We ran out of time to send a note in the review
to each band member, our friends who weren't with us, and our support
teams back home enabling us to live out our passions.   Suffice it to say,
love was the main sentiment expressed. Love you, miss you still, miss you
already, wish you were here and see you soon!


Review by Howard Mirowitz

Well, this isn't really a review, since so many excellent ones have
already been posted. It's more of a series of thoughts about the show. And
a lot of the thoughts probably won't make sense until I write a review of
San Diego, because the two shows were of a piece, cut from the same bolt
of cloth.

My wife Ellen and I took off in the Jeep for downtown LA with Maurice, a
friend and fellow Orange County Bobfan, riding shotgun. Ellen won't sit in
the front seat when I drive on the freeway, and Maurice shortly found out
why, as I deftly darted in and out of traffic until the rush hour began to
tail off. After wending our way through the sprawling Los Angeles freeway
system for about an hour and a half, we finally arrived at the Wiltern.

The Wiltern is a monument to Art Deco -- it's on the National Register of
historic buildings. It was saved from the wrecking ball and recently
restored, and Dylan was the first act to play the venue since that work
was completed. (Originally the Stones were going to open it, but Bob
scooped them -- which might be one reason he chose to play "Brown Sugar"!)
The Wiltern is about 10 stories high with offices in cascaded set-backs
above the concert hall. It's built of a strange pearlescent green stone
that looks like nothing you've ever seen before, except in the Emerald
City of "The Wizard of Oz", with strong vertical bas-relief motifs incised
into the fascia between the windows, leading the eye inexorably upward to
the crenelations crowning the roof. It looms over the intersection of
Wilshire and Western Avenues like a piece of Batman's Gotham City somehow
caught in a spacetime vortex, improbably deposited in the midst of Los
Angeles' Koreatown.

Two days earlier I'd managed to grab some loge (front balcony) seats that
suddenly came up on Ticketmaster, and they were waiting at the box office
Will Call window, which providentially was located inside the Wiltern's
lobby. Jane and Lewis, who I'd given my other mezzanine (rear balcony)
seats, were waiting for us by prearrangement just outside the entrance. I
told the ushers that we needed to go to Will Call and they waved our
entire group right through -- no standing in line!

The Wiltern's lobby looks like something out of the mid-1930's, only
spanking new. It reminded me of pictures I'd seen of New York's Stork Club
and Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel. There was a bar, and a merchandise booth,
but they were rather understated and didn't seem to detract from the
overall ambiance. We got drinks and waited at the foot of the grand
staircase leading to the balcony for the rest of our Orange County Dylan
Fan Club to assemble. Gradually, they wandered in: Blondie, CovWoman61,
Delia, Marvin, Only_A_Hobo and Mrs. Hobo, soulsprophet, tangledupinbob,
... After socializing for a while it was time to walk upstairs and into
the theater.

The theater itself is a riot of art deco. The ceiling is indescribable --
think of one of those stained glass windows in a Frank Lloyd Wright house,
only all in pastel colors shot through with gold leaf. There's not a bad
seat, although ours were only 2 rows from the edge of the balcony. The
entire floor level is standing GA -- no seats -- in three separate tiers.
The Dylan Eye hung projected at the back of the stage; the keyboard stood
in front. We waited until the lights dimmed and the familiar hoe-down
theme of Copland's "Rodeo" began to play, and then the Hamburg
introduction -- such a crack-up! -- and then --

The band came out dressed in their iridescent matching sharkskin suits,
with a hatless Dylan in boots and a black Western-style suit with red
piping and detail. Immediately they roared into "Maggie's Farm": A
daemonic, crankin' rockin' version, not unlike the one on White Dove, and
LOUD! There was Bob bouncing around at the keyboard, turning his head to
the right to sing into the mike, striking Devo-like poses in between
verses as he jerked himself like a roboto marionette on the strings of a
mad dancemaster while he pounded away at the ivories. You could imagine
him as a teenager doing the same moves when he auditioned for Bobby Vee
... Unfortunately, the keyboard was so far down in the mix that you
couldn't really hear it, although you could feel it, in a strange sort of
disembodied way; it was a subliminal presence, the primer beneath the
crackling paint on the fiery wall of sound that crashed into us from the
stage. And it continued to be way down in the mix for nearly the entire
night, which became very frustrating. But on this song, at least, it
didn't seem to matter that much; Receli was cookin' and the band was
joltin', every chorus ending with two sets of two slammed beats: "I ain't
gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more!" -- Blam, Blam! Blam, Blam!

Then Dylan pulled a rabbit out of his hat: "The Man In Me"! I'd never
heard this live and I'm guessing he played it because it's the unofficial
theme song of "The Big Lebowski" ... he must have wanted to remind
Hollywood about his film and those two new movie theme songs. I guess it's
never too early to start plugging for that next Oscar... He sang it
beautifully, casting himself as a jaded, craggy-voiced roue who thinks
he's finally found love and is trying to convince himself it's true, as
much as he's trying to convince his lover.

"Tombstone Blues" was next. This was a new and interesting version for me.
Slower than usual, but filled with a weird, dark, sinister power by
Receli's pounding and Larry and Charlie's dual-lead guitar attack and
Bob's body language behind the keyboard. "Mama's in the kitchen, she ain't
got no shoes" because she had to cook 'em for dinner. "Daddy's in the
alley, he's lookin' for the fuse" so he can light it to blow the National
Bank off all the roadmaps for the soul. And I still couldn't hear that
keyboard! Either during this song or maybe one of the next two or three,
Dylan started letting us in on his management style. He started to relay
instructions to George through Tony. He would turn and shoot Tony a
significant look, then Tony would walk over to George and say something,
and then George would start doing something different. One time he began
hitting his bongos with his bare hand. Another time he lowered the
intensity of his drumming. Verrrrrry interesting.

"Accidentally Like A Martyr": This was a change of pace and most of the
crowd probably thought it was a new Dylan tune ... I don't know many Zevon
songs, but Dylan really seemed to feel this one, and his voice lost its
cragginess and turned into something new. He really _sang_ it. Why?
Perhaps because he sees Zevon as a martyr, or perhaps because he sees the
song as some kind of metaphor for his own life, or perhaps because he's
just a great interpreter of songs. All songs. I have a more comprehensive
theory about this, but I'll save it for my San Diego review.

Then one of the evening's highlights, for me at least: "Watching The River
Flow". This was quite simply the best rendition of this song I've ever
heard, either on albums or boots or live. Bob's voice was dead spot on,
his phrasing beautifully timed with the rolling, lurching rhythm and
Tony's bass line, and you could just barely hear the keyboard, and it's a
great keyboard song. And Larry and Charlie came up with a really intricate
guitar break that sounded like Dixieland meets The Basement Tapes. Highly
entertaining! And also dark and sinister. Something about Bob's vocal
intonations, the way he wrapped the growl in his voice around the verses
-- "I ain't got too muuuch t' saaaay" -- a rock & roll Nero playing his
tune with a tight little smile on his lips while Rome burns, only it was
2002 and it was Bali burning, or maybe it was 9/11 and the Twin Towers
collapsing, or maybe it was Baghdad next in the sights. Bob invested the
performance with a Shakespearian ironic distancing, as if he'd seen the
course of civilization's river, as if he'd figured out long ago that the
High Water's rising and he'd already got his ark built while everybody
else was just expecting a little rain. And he played it like the only
thing left for him to do was to "Just set right heeeeere, an' watch thah
rivvah flow." So cool, soooo cool.

OK, by now I'm getting to realize that I've got to get a recording of this
concert, but when the guys launched into "Brown Sugar" it clinched it. Bob
picked up a guitar for this one. What a great job they did! And very true
to the original recording; although you coudn't mistake Bob's voice for
Jagger's, when Larry and Charlie chimed in on the chorus, it did sound
just like the Stones themselves. And I do think Bob pulled this out to
kind of gig the Stones for slipping into LA ahead of them to open the
renovated Wiltern. Anyway, this one yanked everyone in the balcony out of
their seats and up onto their feet, and if they had gone right into
"Summer Days" at this point, they would've probably started vaulting over
the balcony railing and down onto the floor ...

But instead, the boys went back to get their acoustic equipment for
"Forever Young". While this was a very polished version with the vocal
harmonies and the finely executed instrumentals, it was basically the same
arrangement that Bob and the band have been doing for the past several
tours. And everybody sat back down.

But the next song just blew me away, and what blew me away the most was
the fact that this particular song blew me away -- "It's All Right, Ma".
George got to this one, too, and somehow convinced Dylan to turn it into a
balls-out, dirty blues (thanks to downthehighway for that description!)
that would do any roadhouse proud. I love the song, but I never expected
it to metamorphose into anything remotely resembling this dark, sinister,
weird arrangement, Dylan growling out the words and twisting himself
around behind the keys like he needed every bit of phlegm in the back of
his throat to help him exorcise all the phantasms in all those
thought-dreams. Who would've thought of "It's All Right, Ma" as a
back-beat bar-room keyboard tune ... plus Charley got to cut loose and
this is really his kind of musique. Wow.

Now just as it occurred to me that every single song had been a rock &
roll number, including "The Man In Me", they did a countrified acoustic
version of "It Ain't Me, Babe" with Larry on pedal steel that was better
than any I've heard in the last three years, and I've heard some fine ones
(Philly 2001 comes to mind), because for once Bob didn't try to sing high,
he didn't do that little rising voice thing at the end of every verse.
(Well, maybe he did, but only once or twice.) Instead, he went down on the
"Babe", like Johnny Cash does, and like he wrote the song in the first
place, and it made a huge difference, because the song had a new gravitas,
the fact that it's about the end of a relationship seemed to manifest
itself with more authority, more finality. And as I listened to it I had
an epiphany; there is a deep connection between "It Ain't Me, Babe" and
"Moonlight". Forget about the sequence in which they were written, and
imagine instead that the action in "Moonlight", which is about the start
of a relationship, happens first, and that the action in "It Ain't Me,
Babe", which is about the end of that relationship, happens afterward. And
then when I realized that connection, I got the feeling that Dylan might
play "Moonlight" later in the show. It came to me as a tingling ... "He's
gonna play 'Moonlight' ... 'Moonlight' ... "

Then back to electrics for "Lawyers, Guns And Money", and I knew this one
was aimed like a corkscrew straight to Hollywood's heart. What else is the
movie business about, anyway? Unfortunately what could have been a
promising opportunity for Bob and the boys to cut loose sort of just
didn't happen. The band never quite jelled around the song and seemed too
tentative. But I agree with the other folks who posted to the effect that
this could end up being a great number once they get it right.

And "Positively 4th Street" -- Here Dylan gave a hard emphasis to the
final word of each verse, drawing it out and curling his voice with
derisive whiplashes of defiant dismissal: "When I was down, yew jest stood
there, grinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnninnnnnn'!" "Yew jest wahnna be ahn the sahd
that's wihhhhnnnnnnnnnnniiinnnnnnnnn'!" But I still couldn't hear the

Then -- STILL electric -- came the unmistakeable opening chords of "Old
Man". And Dylan and the band did this superbly. Everything he sang in this
show had a tinge of self-reference, and "Old Man" was no exception. It was
definitely Bob's interpretation, and he wasn't trying to sound like Neil
Young. But when Charlie and Larry stepped to their mikes and harmonized
with Bob in the chorus I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to the
original Neil Young recording with Crazy Horse. This song got everybody
out of their seats again. It began to dawn on me that Dylan wasn't taking
anywhere near the same liberties with the covers as he was with his
renditions of his own material. And I began to wonder why this was. But I
didn't come up with a good theory until three days later at San Diego.

STILL electric and into "Honest With Me" which sounded pretty much the
same as has since Fall 2001 -- also dark and sinister -- but it's still a
pretty good rocker, and I STILL COULDN'T HEAR THE KEYBOARD ... and
Charlie, who had walked over to confer with Bob during several of the
other songs, came over and literally bent down in a crouch and looked up
to Bob as if in supplication ...

And then the anthemic "Blowin' In The Wind" ...

And then a completely new (for me) "High Water" without banjo, with
keyboard, and -- unbelievably -- more dark and spooky power than the
original. I missed the banjo. But George's fingerprints were all over this
arrangement, too. It wasn't rootsy Delta blues anymore. Now it was
musically the same logical continuation of "It's All Right, Ma" that it
was lyrically. And it had always been sinister, and it still was, only
more so. The high water wasn't just a flood, it was the tidal wave from a
cosmic impact, a dinosaur-killer.

Now the guys regrouped once again for "Mutineer". This was such a simple,
plaintive song, and I didn't really pay enough attention to it. But in San
Diego he played it again and at that show I began to understand why.

The next song was the second highlight of the show, the one I'd been
expecting since "It Ain't Me, Babe": "Moonlight". I'd never seen this done
live either, and it was a real treat, because all of a sudden, for the
first time that night, I could hear the keyboards clearly and lo and
behold, Bob played them really well. "Moonlight" is another great keyboard
song; its lilting rhythm gives great opportunities for inserting all sorts
of chromatic riffs and flourishes and syncopated fills. Bob tried just
about all that stuff, and for the most part, it sounded pretty effective.
He's not a very sophisticated pianist -- rather, he plays square chords
and arpeggios, and if he does play a melody lead, he picks it out (as he
does on the guitar) like a rhythm line, a simple counterpoint to Larry and
Charlie's guitar licks. And he has, indeed, as another poster wrote,
figured out how to sing "Moonlight" live. He doesn't try for sustained
falsetto notes -- he stays mostly down in his natural range and just
traces the suggestion of the high notes, almost by cracking his voice in a
sort of controlled break, to define the envelope of the melody. It's
really effective and it was clear that he was enjoying himself immensely,
because he started to do shuffles and skiffles, pointing to Charlie and
then to Larry to give them the lead, and then his feet got the better of
him and he danced away from the keyboard and turned his back on the
audience, toward the band, and started directing them, kind of like
Lawrence Welk ... and then he walked back and got his harp and that, my
friends, was magic. Such a sweet and beautiful harp lead, sophisticated in
its simplicity because of how precise his timing was to ride with the lilt
of the rhythm, and much better than the ones he did during the Fall 2001
performances of this song. The harp works wonderfully with the tune and
the rhythm of the song, especially in the high register ... he played it
for a couple of verse and chorus repeats, but it was too short, and it
probably would've been too short if he had played it ten times as long.

Now everybody was on their feet and primed for the closer. "Summer Days".
The knockout punch. The opening riff rang out and George slammed those
drums and the house rocked. Tony took his standup bass, climbed up on the
drum riser next to George, and planted himself right in the middle of the
drum set. I looked down at the floor; everybody dancing and waving their
hands and jumping and going ape. Looked back at the stage. Dylan now on
guitar, Larry and Charley taking turns and then playing counterpoint
against each other with Bob cranking a great lead of his own! Then all
three playing a trio -- Bach's "Three-Part Inventions" meets Sun Records!
George and Tony wailing away on the riser! The volume rising! and the
volume rising louder and louder and louder and the dancing faster and
faster and the building shaking and the air pounding and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOT
and people screaming and cheering and don't stop don't stop don't stop ...
the end! The lights go off and then on and there they are in the Formation
... and then Bob takes a bow, really not a bow, but more of a curtsy, and
they walk off the stage.

Well, you can't get folks all excited like that, so after about 5 minutes
of sustained cheering, they came back and did "Knockin' On Heaven's Door"
as the grey curtains at the back of the stage slowly dropped, suggesting
the long clouds rolling down. The elegiac lyrics and hymn-like harmony
were given extra power, not only because the mikes were turned up super
loud, but also because of the show's subtext as a tribute to Warren Zevon.
Then they went into a rousing "All Along The Watchtower" and it was over.

It was a great show. Ellen, who's not the Dylan fan I am, said that she
enjoyed this show more than any of the other Dylan concerts she's ever
seen. When I asked her why, she said, "Because when he sings other
peoples' songs, you can understand the words!" And he really did seem to
be taking more care with the covers than with his own material. Plus,
despite his new fascination with the keyboard, his guitar playing was
significantly better than I'd heard it in some time. And George clearly
was coming into his own with the band, leaving his mark, putting his stamp
on the repertoire and the arrangements. There had to be some reason for
all the classic rock covers now -- so many more per setlist, if you
include the Zevon songs, than for any tour in recent memory. I thought
about all this as we drove home through the LA freeway night, and over the
next three days, as I greedily anticipated the upcoming San Diego concert.
All this isn't just an accident -- the more disciplined singing, the more
disciplined guitar playing, the keyboard, the covers, the dancing, the
dark, sinister cast to nearly every song. With all Bob's footwork, I
mused, maybe we'll see an actual moonwalk soon! I'd go to San Diego with a
hungry heart.



page by Bill Pagel

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