Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

Tower Theater

November 12, 2017

[Peter Stone Brown], [Laurette Maillet]

Review by Peter Stone Brown

Woke up kind of tired, and all day I was thinking, do I really want to see
the same show again? And the answer to that question of course is it’s
Bob Dylan. But that really wasn’t the answer. As it turned out the
answer really was because it’s FUCKING BOB DYLAN man! The energy at the
show tonight was on another level entirely.

Saturday night, Mavis Staples was a bundle of energy. Tonight she was a
fireball that never let up, and she did some different songs. A couple of
songs in she pulled out the Staples Singers version of “For What It’s
Worth” which was amazing in itself, but then a couple of songs later she
did an extended version of “Freedom Highway” that not only brought the
crowd to its feet, but turned the Tower Theater into a revival meeting. It
was an incredible moment.

When Bob Dylan took the stage tonight as Stu Kimball was winding down his
acoustic rendition of “Royal Canal,” he didn’t go right to the
piano, but walked to the front of the stage and then went to the piano as
the band launched into a thunderous version of “Things Have Changed”
with Dylan paying attention to every line, phrasing like a madman,
stretching out the last word so it was “Lots of water under the
bridge/Lots of other stuff tooooooo.”  And he kept that kind of phrasing
up the whole night. 

He sat down for “It Ain’t Me Babe,” in another strong straight
forward version, considering that this is a song that had innumerable
arrangements, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe this was the way
he really wanted to do it with The Hawks back in 1965. 

“Highway 61 Revisited” brought the crowd to its feet midway through
the first verse, with Dylan shooting out the lyrics at machine gun pace
with both anger and humor in his phrasing as if it was 50 years before and
on top of that, he pounded out some very cool piano solos.  

Then it was to the front of the stage for “Why Try To Change Me Now”
with Dylan almost acting out the words and tonight the audience was not
only expecting it, but they got it. 

Then it was back to the piano for the new arrangement of “Summer
Days,” but again his delivery was just smoking, with every verse phrased
in a different way, again placing emphasis on certain words and lines:
“Seems like it’s stuuuuck,” and then later, pretty much with a
smile, “Politician got on his jogging shoes/He must be RUNNING for
office, got no TIME to LOSE. Midway through the song it hit he, he’s
playing like Jerry Lee Lewis, who’s had a fiddle in his band for
something like 50 years, and I started thinking it’s too bad a producer
didn’t suggest Lewis do this song 16 years ago. 

After “Melancholy Mood,” came as explosive “Honest With Me” and
once again he was emphasizing key lines, “The Siamese twins are comin'
to town,” and especially “When I left my home the sky split open
wide/I NEVER WANTED to go Back There--I'd rather have died,” and on the
last verse, “Well, my parents warned me not to waste my years/And I
still got their advice ooooooozing out of my ears.”

I started to warm to the new arrangement of “Trying To Get To Heaven,”
and maybe because my seats tonight were a few rows closer to the stage, I
was able to notice some of the things the band puts into it, like the
steel lick Donnie Herron does at the stop at the end of each verse. It’s
just a tiny little lick, but it adds a lot to the arrangement. And again,
Dylan was emphasizing key lines, “When you think that you LOST

Then it was back out front for a truly moving “Once Upon A Time,” and
when Dylan went for the low notes at the end of the song, the audience
stood and cheered. Throughout the night, the pace was we’re going to
slow it down for a ballad and then we’re going to rock and rock hard. 

After a searing “Early Roman Kings,” as the band was doing its tuning
and noodling in the darkness, I suddenly heard a banjo, and instead of
“Soon After Midnight,” came a dramatic “Scarlet Town” during which
I started thinking of certain senate candidates. Donnie Herron’s banjo
part was a bit different than it was previously, as he played frailing
licks in the background, and the second part of the melody has changed
giving the song a less repetitive feel. Then came “Desolation Row,”
and Donnie stood right behind Dylan smiling and watching what he was doing
on piano like a hawk. I was waiting to see if he’d do the descending
mandolin riff again, and at one point Dylan turned around and said
something to him, and instead of it happening on the “Across the street
they nailed the curtains” verse, it happened later on the “At midnight
all the agents” verse, and this time it turned into a mandolin and piano
duet that went on for a bit after the verse. 

“Thunder On The Mountain” brought the energy level up even higher and
featured a terrific solo from Charlie Sexton. Then as Dylan returned to
center stage for the last time, an interesting an unexpected thing
happened, as the band played the intro to “Autumn Leaves,” the
audience stood and cheered and cheered wildly. 

The energy stayed high for the final three songs, and again Sexton’s
B-bender solos on his Telecaster for “Blowin’ In The Wind” were a

At this point, this band has been together longer than any other line-up
of the so-called never ending tour. I think not only having to learn, but
to play night after night the more intricate arrangements of the standards
has made an already tight band even tighter, and in these new arrangements
of the Dylan songs are all kinds of rhythmic changes and stops and starts
that they pull off seamlessly. And for his part, Bob Dylan is rocking as
hard as he ever has if not harder, and what he’s playing on the piano
works all the time.

One other thing, it was a total pleasure to attend a concert and not see a
few hundred cell phones waving in the air in front of me. And the audience
both nights kept needless chatter to a minimum and actually paid attention
to what was happening onstage. 


Review by Laurette Maillet

It is Sunday in Philly, like anywhere in the world, I suppose. But 
here the library and stores are opened. The city buses are 
running.  At 5 p.m. it is time to catch the bus 109 to the
Tower Theater.  The weather is slightly better, less wind so less cold.
Barron suddenly appears behind me.  I keep on bumping on him!  I spot
Charlie and George walking by. I just say hello. It never occurred to me
to ask for an autograph! A kiss?? Ah!ah! By 6 p.m. people are queuing.
Don't ask me why, anymore.  Scalpers and poor souls seem to look for
tickets, but I will be the first one to get one from 2 young girls. I get
in and find myself on the floor. Not too close but not too far! The
seat on my left is empty and will be the entire show. I am ready for
Mavis.  She sure warms me up. She is talkative tonight.  I run to the
bathroom to find a queue. As much as I hate it....I need to go. I run back
to my seat.  The 2 seats on my right are now empty and will be until the
end.  Mavis Staples Fans who hate Bob Dylan!?? Stu is on. The first row
is up, and will be up the entire show. Plus the second and third row
center.  It is the first time on that Tour people don't seat. I don't
mind since the stage is high and I have a perfect view. But to my surprise
the sound is not as clear as last night.(from my seat). I won't do much of
my karaoke for I do have folks in front of me who might not like an 'echo'
for every song. Bob is picking up on the vibes from the front. He is doing
a remarkable "Summer days". Unfortunately as Bob is Bob he can overwork
his enthusiasm and he is doing a weird "Tangled up in blue" . Blu.ue.ue!
Rapping more than singing. As I am ready to start "Soon after midnight" I
recognize the first note of "Scarlet town ".  Thank you Bobby!  It is
refreshing.  "Desolation row " is sooo good that he's got some kind of an
ovation. The show is far from being sold out but at least the Fans present
are... Fans. Few will move during the performance to get a drink and it is
good news! "Thunder on the mountain " is orageous. George,  (my little
Georgie )will get some applause. Charlie will get his moments of glory
on "The Early roman kings". The first rows are making the difference and I
wish I could be there. But I have to seat or I will be "crucifized".
Better  than the previous night. Bobby was taken by the Public and did
more than just a great performance. He enjoyed himself.  As I walk out to
the bus terminal Bobby's bus passes in front of me. Night, night Bobby!
Sweet dreams. 


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