page by Bill Pagel
Review by Thad Williamson
This was one of the most entertaining and interesting shows I’ve seen in
years; perhaps precisely b/c I had thought about it so little and could
easily have almost forgotten I was going, but mainly I think b/c the
performance was objectively really good and really interesting. I’d heard
some raves about this tour and paid some attention to the prior setlists,
but seeing it yourself is another thing altogether. Bob has broken the rut
with the new setup and really introduced, it seems, a “you don’t know
what’s next” air to it. How nice it is to have a show without all the
tired horses–Tangled, Tambourine, Rainy Day, LARS, Don't Think Twice,
1. Seeing the Real You at Last–This was maybe the best vocal performance
in a concert opener I’ve heard Bob do in past 10 years...voice strong and
clear right from the start, while banging at the piano. I think this one
had a brief piano solo in it from Bob, which sounded a lot like his guitar
solos–beating a single riff to death! Fun stuff.
2. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight–Very good vocal again, and I liked seeing Bob
almost sleuthfully go back for his harmonica, which he blew for about 1 ˝
instrumental run-throughs. They jammed through the verse around 6 or 7
verses at the end.
3. Tombstone Blues–Again words clear...not sure how many of the audience
appreciated it really, but who cares. good stuff.
4. Accidentally Like a Martyr–exquisite stuff. Bob does well with these
sort of melodies, it reminded me a bit of his rendition of “I’m Not
Supposed to Care”. I hadn’t heard any of the mp3s out there of this so
this was a treat.
5. Things Have Changed–Nothing wrong with this, only complaint maybe is
that in sound it sort of echoes Tombstone a bit too closely for one show.
But I’ll never be unhappy to hear this song.
6. Brown Sugar–There must be a funny story out there about how this got on
the set list. In any case, predictably, this brought the house down. At
this point Bob’s vocal was deteriorating maybe a bit, when he sang the
verses it was pretty impossible to make out. oh well. In a strange way,
Bob playing this seems like a statement of intention: I’m here, I can
still rock, I’ve still got the juice, I ain’t going away. Or maybe he
just gets a kick out of it.
7. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue–Good stuff, a real change of mood
obviously but nothing wrong with this. This a song though I’ll always feel
is being performed in a second-best manner unless it’s just Bob solo with
his guitar and harp, just have really never gotten excited about any of
the band arrangements of this.
8. It’s Alright, Ma–quite a different sound than any previous version of
this I think. Bob really garbled some of the words early on. For some
reason, maybe a lyric which started me thinking about something, I found
myself lost in thought and a bit tuned out to what Bob was doing during
this. oh well.
9. Shelter from the Storm–again a slightly unique arrangement, with
effective backup vocal.
10. Cold Irons Bound–I missed the raucuousness of the ‘98-style
performances of this; but can’t complain about the vocal at all,
11. Every Grain of Sand–wonderful. Have never seen Bob mess this up.
12. Old Man–Another crowd pleaser, and nothing wrong with that. Bob did it
13. Honest With Me–Just great...nothing much to say really but this was
14. Simple Twist of Fate–By this point, I’m thrilled with the treasure
chest Bob is digging out...this had a garbled lyric or two but was lovely
15. High Water–maybe this and Bye and Bye were the closest soundalikes to
the album version of these tunes. Very very good,
16. Mutineer–Again, an inspired choice and a terrific performance.
17. Bye and Bye–This works pretty well!
18. Summer Days–As to be expected, the crowd pleaser to top all crowd
pleasers. What was neat for me was that it seemed actually fairly
restrained in the first few verses, then they got into the jamming, and in
Spinal Tap terminology, at some point it got turned up to “10" and I
thought “cool.” Then Larry started jamming high on the fret board and so
forth and it went up to “11" and I thought “whoa!” And then still another
level beyond that, with everybody playing as loud as possible on a single
note, up to “12"! Then back to the verse. This kicked butt. I was thinking
during this song that when Tony G. kicks the can some day a few decades
from now, this song has to be mentioned in all the obits, it’s his song to
shine on and he does it to the hilt.
19. Blowin in the Wind–Good...most novel thing for those who haven’t
heard it this tour is that the very last note, they are doing a harmony
which has the effect of making “Wind” seem to float off until the
20. Watchtower–Well, not one of the show’s highlights by any stretch, but
who could complain.
Overall the performances I will remember most from this are Martyr,
Mutineer, Real You, Summer Days...quite a night; if you’ve been to the
shows that last few years and feel that there’s nothing more to see or be
surprised by, guess again, and go check out one of the remaining shows on
Review by Bob Keyes
My only regret about this unusual fall tour is that I failed to buy tickets for
multiple shows. Based on Bob's performance Saturday at the Fleet Center in Boston,
I think it's safe to say that this tour is the most interesting and inspired of
Dylan's recent outings.
To be sure, all the recent jaunts have had their moments. But this one -- the
so-called Tribute Tour (with nods to the Stones, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Van
Morrison and on one occasion George Harrison) -- Dylan has trotted out several
new songs and different arrangements and displayed an unexpected vocal passion.
Another Boston reviewer noted how engaged Dylan's vocals were from the outset,
starting with "Seeing the Real You at Last." So true. Rarely, if ever, have I
personally witnessed Dylan so on top of his game on the first song. Part of that
most likely has to do with his decision to return the piano, an instrument he
carted around on the '89 tour but often did not play. I cannot recall seeing it
on stage during any of his other tours in the years in between. But, clearly,
eschewing the guitar for a large portion of the set has helped him either a)
focus on the vocals more or b) simply given him new inspiration.
So the show was strong from a vocal perspective. But it had much more than that.
The band, as always, was in a fine groove. This summer, there were rumors that
Charlie and/or Larry were both on their way out. While that news was not welcome,
neither was it unexpected. Besides Tony, few bands members have lasted more than
a few years with Bob. A change is inevitable. In this case, perhaps the change
that has kept them on board (if indeed those rumors were at all true) is Bob's
decision to not play so much guitar, giving much-deserved (and musically welcomed)
air time to the other guitar players. And to those fans who criticize George's
drumming, I say back off. Riceli certainly does play hard, but it fits on this
tour more so than in the previous acoustic-based outings. This is very much a
rock-inspired tour, andGeorge's work propels many of the songs.
For me, the other nice thing about Boston was the song choice. Bob decision to
drop "Rolling Stone" and "Tangled," among others, is a smart one. I love hearing
those songs performed live, even if the performances are more rudimentary than
inspired. But dropping them has given life to others that we've not heard a lot
of in recent years, including "Shelter" and (a personal all-time favorite) "Every
Grain of Sand." I loved this show because I got to hear those songs, and a few
others, that I haven't heard in long time.
Finally, it's nice to hear Bob talk a little. I'm not paying $50 to hear Bob
blather, but it is cool to hear his infrequent between-song meandering. On
Saturday, he took a small dig at "pop music critics" and just generally seemed
more engaged with the crowd.
The other aspect of Dylan's shows that I find fascinating is how he and the band
choose their postures before leaving the stage before the encore. Several years
ago, Bob almost encouraged fans -- female fans, mostly -- to come up on stage for
hugs and occasionally kisses. Then he gave us those long, deep and very awkward
bows. And for last year or so, we got his twitching shoulders and a long stare
down with the audience. This time out, the lights go off so the stage is totally
dark. When the lights come back up, Bob and the band are all still standing in
place, mostly still, facing the applause. They're not quite frozen in place, but
almost. And then Bob nods his head just a bit, and they're off.
This was a fantastic show for all the rights reasons: Inspired song selection,
better-than-average vocals and astute musicianship.
My only hope is that Dylan finds enough goodness in these songs to want to keep
playing them, in these arrangements, for several tours to come, so we all can get
ample opportunities to hear and see them in a live setting.
Review by Willy Gissen
Philadelphia, PA, September 15 and Boston, MA, September 16-It's 2 AM, and
I'm thankfully home in my apartment after concerts four and five of my
eight-concert extravaganza. It's the first time I've seen Bob Dylan on two
consecutive days, and the accomplishment was a measure of my devotion as a
fan. From my home in Westchester County just north of New York City, I
drove about 125 miles down to Philadelphia, listened to the concert and
then drove 125 miles back (who can afford hotels.not this unemployed
ex-campaign staffer). After about six hours of sleep, I drove 200 miles to
Boston the next morning, visited the ex-wife of an old friend (it's a long
story which I won't get into here), listened to Mr. Dylan in the evening,
then drove back 200 miles through the torrential rain of a Nor'Easter.
I'm starting to learn a little more as I become a more experienced
tour-goer. I'm getting a feel for Dylan's song selection; it's really an
art in itself how he varies the tempo and works in the standard songs and
those that are special to each event. And each concert seems to have these
special nuggets.In Philadelphia, one was "In the Summertime," in Boston,
"Every Grain of Sand," and "A Simple Twist of Fate." "Every Grain of Sand"
was important to me (even though it was played sans the great harmonica
solo on the album) because of the influence Dylan has had on my religious
beliefs and my becoming a born-again Christian. "A Simple Twist of Fate"
also hit home because of an almost-girlfriend I had on the campaign. I
remembered Dylan's comment about its album, Blood on the Tracks, that he
didn't see how anybody could get pleasure from songs that came from that
much pain. The song moved me deeply, but because of Dylan's comment, I
didn't applaud after it.
In addition to individual songs, the overall audience reaction varied from
each concert as well. In Philadelphia, one fan protested Dylan's new habit
of playing some songs by other artists. She screamed, "Play more Dylan,
Play more Dylan." In Boston, for the first time in the concerts I've been
going to, the audience was really attentive to the lyrics, almost silent
at times as they strained to understand every word. Perhaps, that's why
Dylan rewarded us by playing "Every Grain of Sand," one of his now more
private religious selections.
One great thing about going to Dylan concerts is that it's easy to make
friends by talking Dylanese. I went to the Philadelphia concert solo and
had a friend cancel out in Boston, but at each event, I got into long
conversations and became on a first-name basis with my neighbors. We
compared opinions about the latest Dylan developments and the finer points
of the concert as it unfolded. You'd be surprised how many of the audience
are familiar with the recent set lists, are going to more than one concert
per tour, and, of course, know the songs forward and backward. It's much
better than the outside world where you often have to start from scratch,
like talking to a child.
Some additional observations. Dylan seemed more relaxed in both
Philadelphia and Boston than he was in Madison Square Garden. It's like
Bob Dylan in Madison Square Garden raises such high expectations that even
Dylan gets caught up in it and feels more pressure to excel. In Boston, he
started joking to the crowd, "I always thought that pop critics should
criticize other pop critics, at least, that's what Van Morrison says." In
Philadelphia, I thought that he forgot to introduce the band, which he
usually does before playing the last song, "Summer Days." This let the
audience really enjoy the jamming on the song without the sadness of
thinking that the concert was almost over. Or maybe Dylan just forgot.
Anyway, he introduced the band afterwards. As I said in a previous essay,
you can never be totally sure with Dylan.
When I got home at 2 AM this morning, my Dad had faxed me a review of
Wednesday's MSG performance in the New York Times, titled, "Dylan's
After-Hours Side." Despite the hour, I, of course, read it. Here's an
excerpt: "Meanwhile, he and his band knocked around the songs with
confidence that the tunes could survive countless transformations, sending
them back to blues, western swing, rockabilly and mountain gospel.His
concerts always mix the masterly and the arbitrary, the pointed and the
Well, it's getting a little sad now as I realize that my odyssey is now
more than half over, but I still have a third consecutive day in Hartford
tomorrow (technically today since it's past midnight) and then Kingston,
Rhode Island on Wednesday and Wilkes Barre, PA on Thursday.
(to be continued)
Review by Anthony Cavallerano
As was mentioned this was one of the most entertaining and animated concerts
(more than 60) I have ever seen him give. Roadhouse fervor and honkytonk
jauntiness marked the informal aura of a band that is musically and
metaphorically tight. Did you notice them being drawn together physically on
the stage as they played off of one another, especially on Brown Sugar,
Summer Days and Summer Nights and even Watchtower? It was obvious that they
were enjoying themselves - Bob was smiling as he and Sexton traded riffs and
Bob even demonstrated his wry sense of humor with his Dave Matthews quip and
the Van Morrison rock critic’s remarks! Reminded me of "I looked in the closet
-- there was Donovan" from DLB. All in all it was a great show, I didn't want
to see it end and I am surely going back for morre since Bob always makes us
feel that just when you think you've heard it all from him he digs deeper and
comes up with more gems.
--- Anthony Cavallerano
page by Bill Pagel
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