November 5, 2016
Review by Kalonymaus Amshinov
We've had some heartwarming travelogues here over the years but even though
mine lasted three days and over 1000 miles, I'll spare you and get straight to the
point, which came to me about 5 songs in when I turned and said "He's dramatically
cleaned up his act" to which my friend replied "Yes, this is a professional show".
We've been going to his concerts for decades but hadn't seen our hero for more
than 2 years, and were remarking on just about everything that mattered: voice,
singing style, sticking to a single melody, enunciation, the variety of emotional
perspectives presented in the songs from a performer nonetheless consistently in
positive mood, his appearance, energy and song selection, the kinesticity of his
Also for me, the penny finally dropped as to why Bob had been spending so much
time of late, in his recordings and concert performances, doing the Sinatra tunes:
He's been trying to learn and continuing to improve how he sings, plays and
performs that kind of music, lessons he has started to apply to his own
compositions, old and new, just like he did with Woody's songs and the old blues
guys at the start of this road.
And I loved how the portentous intro turned into the raucous Things Have Changed
, the poppy jazzy bounce added to numbers like Don't Think Twice, and the
stand-and-deliver rock 'n' roll thunder of High Water, reminding us (you'd ordinarily
imagine unnecessary but not here, when we're deep in the euphoria of being there
for this show) about what's been going on this season in the whole wide country
outside, and giving us comfort and reason to believe we'll somehow make it through.
The mariachi riffs accompanying his Desolation Row recitation; the rockabilly
temperatures of Early Roman Kings; the belabored and elongated blues-style with
which he delivered Blowin', his antediluvian folk anthem (reminiscent of how he did
it on the Basement Tapes); and the precision with which he so carefully sang every
syllable of the Sinatra tunes were all magically, magnificently revelatory.
I've never seen him take such simple joy in performing, his knees bouncing in time
to the rockers, grinding his ancient limbs (that at those moments seemed timelessly
spry) into the crooner's familiar poses and movements, jumping up from the piano
bench and back from center stage as required by whatever number he was about
Catch him now, on this tour. "If it's at all possible."
Review by Anne Margaret Daniel
Oh, Shenandoah: Down the Valley with Bob Dylan in Roanoke, Virginia
Roanoke is a beautiful small city cupped by the Blue Ridge Mountains, resting on
the banks of the Roanoke River in the Roanoke Valley, which is at the southern
tip of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. These places take their name from the
Native American tribe living in what is today the coastal Carolinas when English
settlers arrived in 1584 and from the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke, composed of
the first English colonists in the New World. That colony, funded by Sir Walter
Raleigh, had farms and families including a little girl, the first baby born there,
named Virginia Dare when it was last known to exist, in late 1587. By the
summer of 1590, when a ship managed to get through from England during
that country's war with Spain (remember the Spanish Armada, 1588), over a
hundred people and their homes were gone. One word had been carved on
a tree: "Croatoan" the name of a nearby island, and another local tribe.
What happened to the Roanoke Colony remains a mystery. Reports drifted up
in documents from the 1600s, of "four men clothed that came from roonock"
living twenty years on in a nearby tribe's village, of blue-eyed, blond warriors
fighting with the Tuscarora later in the century. Archaeolologists continue to
If you go to Roanoke, Virginia, you will find a gracious downtown full of, among
more, old and beautifully preserved buildings; a flourishing City Market full of
local produce and goods; fine food from oyster bars to French-Louisiana cooking;
the grand Hotel Roanoke; and The Berglund Center. We road-tripped from
Richmond along highway 460, passing history: Appomattox, where on
April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered, and, as the billboards put it, "our
nation reunited"; Bedford, where the D-Day Memorial to the "Bedford Boys"
who served together and died on Omaha and Utah Beaches in 1944 now
stands. We got to the Hotel Roanoke in good time, and enjoyed supper at
Alexander's before showtime.
This column has been a bit of a travelogue up until now, but that's appropriate,
because it is about one of the longest-running road shows in the entertainment
business, by a constant performer. Bob Dylan has been criticized for ages for
being "inaccessible," for hiding from the press and fans. That's remarkable, and
remarkably silly, when one considers that most nights of most years since the
summer of 1988 he has been out in public somewhere in the world, standing
on a stage in front of thousands. How many miles has Dylan traveled, over
what sort of roads, from interstates to backroads? What has he seen, out the
windows of his rolling tour bus? No wonder his new art show, now on view at
London's Halcyon Gallery, is called The Beaten Path. Are there roads less
traveled for him any more? We have to wait and see.
The Berglund Center is a large venue with a small, acoustically lovely Performing
Arts Theatre. With less than 2500 seats, it was one of the nicest, most
intimate places I've seen Bob Dylan perform lately. It was full, and the security
team, whose primary job during the year is protecting the Roanoke Symphony
Orchestra, was more vigilant than that in too many venues about not
permitting the use of cameras or recording equipment on which Dylan
concerts are legendarily severe. Like the signs posted on all the doors said,
"Please enjoy the show in real life! Not on your tiny little screen."
Set lists at The Bob Show don't vary, recent history teaches us, unless he feels
like varying them, which infinitely rarely happens. A young man asking the
roadies for a set list at the end of the show was met with general laughter
from fans around him, and the roadies, who explained politely that there
weren't any. The stage set is spare and devoid of distraction, with beautiful
heavy lights above the band that make you feel at once like you're in an
industrial space, and around a campfire. Stu Kimball strolls onstage and begins
live walk-on music for his bandmates; in Roanoke, it was "The Foggy Dew," in
the version written by Irish priest Charles O'Neill after the Easter Rising of 1916.
Did Dylan ever hear Liam Clancy sing this one night long ago in New York City, I
wondered, as Kimball played. And then there he was, black suit, big white hat,
boots with spats spats! standing in the center of the stage behind a
century's worth of variety of microphones. He chose one for "Things Have
Changed," his Oscar-winning song from the soundtrack of Wonder Boys (2000).
Quickly he shifted back in time, light years ago and fresh as now: "Don't Think
Twice, It's Alright," "Highway 61 Revisited," and a gorgeous "It's All Over Now,
Baby Blue." When he sat down at the piano, Dylan shed the hat for "Don't
Think Twice," and as he performed "Highway 61" and "Baby Blue" the
presence, and present, of the past continued. The first time I ever went to a
Dylan concert, at the Mann in Philadelphia on July 6, 1988, he played those last
two songs. The arrangements have changed mightily, especially on "Baby
Blue," which is now almost a waltz a one-two-three-dance beat with lyrics
you would never feel like dancing to. But listen; back in 1965, sped up and
strummed, that one-two-three is nestled there.
The first of his so-called "Sinatra songs," which constitute Dylan's recent
releases Fallen Angels (2015) and Shadows In The Night (2016) was "I Could
Have Told You," written by Jimmy Oliver and, indeed, recorded by Sinatra in
1953. Check the tracklists for Dylan's two albums, though: he hasn't
released it yet. Only a few people seem to be noticing that he's serving up a
new number, for him, on the road right now. "Oh, Sinatra" just gets plugged
in, and you think you've heard it before, and you have, but not from Bob.
He lifted his mic stand right off the stage, danced with it, vamped with it. At
the end the audience cheered and yelled their approval of the old sweet
song, and everyone in the band, Dylan included, was grinning. He did three
more covers, including a grand "Why Try To Change Me Now" in which the
title line, when first sung, got an even bigger approval reaction from the
audience: why indeed.
His own 1997 song "Make You Feel My Love" made the point of the
influence the lyric classics recorded by Sinatra, among others, have had on
Dylan. But his own songs were what fans had come for, and they came in
waves spanning decades, something for everyone. "Love Sick." "Tangled
Up In Blue," with new instrumental emphases, and words that might be new
to you too. "Lonesome Day Blues." On this tour, Dylan is performing
"Desolation Row," which, if you forced me to pick one, is my favorite Dylan
song; the arrangement is to a gently rocking beat that keeps it quiet, so you
can hear every one of the words.
The band's encore was a twofer; one of Dylan's songs, and a cover from his
newest record. "Why Try To Change Me Now" was a lovely goodnight on a
warm evening in the mountains of Virginia. But, on the brink of an election
in the heart of a contested state, an election that had by the 5th of
November already shown the rifts in America and riven it even more,
"Blowing In The Wind" bore with it even more emotion and history than I'd
felt before. People sobbed, some seemingly caught by surprise to do so, as
Dylan sang. As I write, this version of the song from the film Masked and
Anonymous (2003) just won't go away.
Anne Margaret Daniel
Oh, Shenandoah: Down the Valley with Bob Dylan in Roanoke, Virginia
| Click Here
to return to the
page by Bill Pagel
| Bob Links
| Set Lists
| Set Lists