page by Bill Pagel
Review by Tampa Steve
First off, the density of Nag Champa incense smoke must be heavier
than ambient TD Waterhouse Centre air, since it became much more apparent
as we descended to our seats near the back of the floor section. I love
the stuff, but you have to wonder about the band and crew. The moment we
sat down, the house lights dropped and the band (now known as His Band)
strolled out, three-fifths of them wearing hats, if you count Bob. You
already know these guys except for new drummer, Joe, who seemed not a bit
intimidated by his first outing. In fact, Joe plowed a deep groove for
His Band to follow throughout the majority of the show. I had not seen
Dylan since '98, so I was not sure if this nice grooving thing was brand
new, or something that had developed over time. In any case, gone were
the bombastic Grateful Dead-style jams of a few years ago, the ones where
you were never sure who was soloing. This band, His Band, gave each other
room to play. Dylan still used up much of the guitar solo time himself,
but all the pieces fit together, with riffs bouncing off each other in
fluid conversation instead of the confused collisions of sound I
You'll see from the set list that not a lot of new ground was covered,
but the song selection was plenty satisfying. The songs from Love and
Theft translated well into the arena rock setting. Bob has practically
created a lifestyle from on-the-spot arrangement adjustments, and these
numbers road-tested admirably. An edge of comfortable uncertainty
permeated the proceedings, just what one wants from a Dylan show.
More than ever, Bob has the country-gentleman persona shining at this
point. His oversized cowboy hat kept the pesky lights off his face and
his sharply pressed suit accented his bony joints during the almost
incessant knee-dancing Bob favors these days. The distinct vibe of an
old-timey country/bluegrass show persistently colored the acoustic sets.
This aesthetic was only surficial however, as familiar originals (Just
Like A Woman and Tangled Up In Blue, for examples) were treated to
impassioned vocal stylings that were pure, eccentric Dylan. I can name no
other vocalist that can render a song so perversely right.
From my vantage point (and given the shade of the cowboy hat brim,) I
could not detect whether or not Bob retains the pencil-thin moustache of
recent photos. My only attempt to move forward was thwarted by a very
persistent septuagenarian female usher. She led me, to much
embarrassment, back to my mediocre seat even though plenty of folks were
crowding the aisles near the front of the stage. I have a much better
seat for the Tampa show on Saturday, I am happy to say.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the shockingly funky treatment
given to Drifter's Escape. Remember back in '95 when Bob was opening most
shows with a rock version of this song? Well, forget that. Now it is an
even more unrecognizable, groovy, riff-based rave-up, punctuated by
harmonica bleats that will leave you grinning. Imagine Charlie, Bob and
Larry sporting matching sunburst Stratocasters, playing a funk groove with
Dylan barely able to contain his glee at the enormity of it all. It would
not really have surprised me if they had broken into a little
choreographed routine at this point. Why not?
The set (and the encore) ended with the band, His Band, standing in
formation as the crowd poured on the adulation for half a minute or so.
This came off as a genuinely appreciative gesture, even without the
obligatory "thangooverrymush". A thoroughly satisfying show from a man
and band in top form.
- Tampa Steve
Review by James Hope
I could tell it was going to be an interesting night when I pulled into
the arena parking lot and the attendant-- who saw my Dylan t-shirt--
asked, “How do you say his name? I mean, is it ‘Dilon,’ ‘Dilan’, ‘or
what’”? Incredulously I responded “It’s ‘Dylan”-- like a lot of people
name their kids these days, you know?!” “Oh” she said, “He must just
spell it funny.” (Welcome to central Florida, Bob.)
Bob seemed well rested from a several week touring-hiatus, and
consequently I found him to be in ‘good voice.’ He even enuciated his
words well, and was only muddled when the volume of the band served to
drown him out on a few loud numbers. He was fairly animated, and in fact
raised his leg for punctuation almost as much as Ian Anderson does in a
Jethro Tull concert. As typically, however, Dylan never spoke a single
word to the audience (which included never saying “hello”, “thank you”, or
“goodnight”), with the sole exception of introducing the band as the music
played on. While intensely focused on his lyrics throughout the night,
and given to much facial expression, Bob refrained from even the glint of
a wry smile. His lone act of guestural flair came at the close of the set
(prior to the encore), when he lowered himself on bended knee to end the
song. He bowed only once-- and ever so slightly-- at then end of the
evening. The trained ear heard him drop at least one line (no one is
perfect), and the trained eye saw him give up on at least one harp solo
when the instrument would not cooperate in coming back out of his pocket.
All in all, though, Dylan seemed sharp for a Legend of his age.
The songs from “Love & Theft” were, in my opinion, the most exceptional of
the show. “Summer Days” was a red hot number that ‘rocked the joint’ in
an unparalled manner, and when Dylan cried out “I got my hammer ringing,
pretty baby, but the nails ain’t goin’ down...”, it was proof-positive
this was a night to remember. Likewise, ‘Honest With Me” scorched; “High
Water” and “Sugar Baby” were passionate; and “Lonesome Day Blues” could
have been played ten-times in a row without a complaint from anyone in the
Dylan played “John Brown” (and even “looked up and all around” to
dramatize the lyric), but I must rate the MTV Unplugged version superior.
In fact, some of the whole-band arrangements ‘lightened up’ many of the
songs in a way I did not prefer. Dylan thus played the ‘friendly’ version
of “It’s Alright Ma”, and the friendly version of “Like A Rolling Stone”.
(No biting, caustic “How does it feeeel” to be heard.) Again, the band’s
backing seemed to work better on Dylan’s newer material, as with the solid
performance of “Love Sick”-- the only “Time Out Of Mind” tune played
tonight. (Can you say, “Grammy” and “Soy Bomb”?!)
Other tunes included a well received “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum”; “Rainy
Day Woman”, which had everyone on their feet; a pleaseant version of
“Blowing In The Wind”, and a stand-out treatment of “Forever Young.” If I
had my chance to ‘tweek’ the set list in any way, I would have tossed out
“Tangled Up In Blue” (which is getting to sound like “Mangled Up In Blue”,
and substituted another number. In all honesty, despite having some 40 or
more Dylan albums there was one song just too loud and distorted for me to
make out... in hindsight I’ll have to say it was “Frankie & Albert”,
because the only words I could make out in the entire song were “Judge
said to the Jury...”.
So there you have it, folks. If the concert was a term paper I’d give it
a B+ overall, with an A for the “Love & Theft” material.
Review by Tom Barthelemy
I thought the band was struggling with the acoustics, Bob looked a bit
ragged and not as neat as Larry and Charlie. Tony held it together and was
Joe's tutor throughout the show. Left during Forever young. Could not
understand Bob at all because of acoustics at veneiw. Have Jax. tickets.
Where can I meet fellow Bobcats/fans at Jax. show? The review by tampa
steve is hard to take for a man whos not seen Bob scince 98. He was great
in 98 and still good but more downhome/personnal man than rock star now .
The new material does work well as did time out of mine. I would like to
see Bob adjust to fit his show and dynamics more to the venue and the
crowd. Last night could have been done well with more Electric. Dont just
follow a format. Peace serenity and health Tom Barthelemy a big fan for
Review by John Goldacker
We arrived (Hippie Dave & I) for the Orlando 'BOBgig' around 3:15pm on a
tip that the sound check would be near 3:30. You see, I had drawn a
portrait of Bob to commemorate the evening, and in hopes to get a
signature on the original- to add to my collection of about 80 signed
Well, Dave and I spent the next four hours bouncing around between the
arena's staff, then Bob's. I was quite hopeful, but everyone kept
insisting the BOB was not recieving gifts or signing autographs. And I
guess he held true to his word. I only witnessed one person who got a
signature (a signed blanket!), and he was shocked to have gotten that. Oh
well, I'll make my 3rd try next time he comes to town.
Now on to the show. Amidst the brightwhites & patchouli smoke, Bob and
His band strolled out non-chalantly, and opened with a wonderful acoustic
version of Fred Rose's bluegrass ditty "Wait for the Light to shine", followed
by a pretty (but very different) reading of "Girl From the North Country",
and with a blistering "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" Bob began to
relax. I've seen Bob three times in the past 13 years, and it seems to
always take 3-4 tunes before he appears more comfortable).
It was great to hear Bob do at least 5 new tunes in the first set (at the
Cameo, Miami, `98 the only new song was "Love Sick", which I was glad he
included in the 1st encore tonight). "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum", "High
Water" Kicked-Ass, as did "Don't Think Twice" & "Rainy Day Woman". I
personally belive Bob's last two records are amoung the best he's done in
twenty years, so it was great , for me, to hear lots of new material.
During the first set, "Just Like a Woman", and "Tangled Up in Blue" were
as good (better!)than ANY verison I'd heard before. I hear alot of talk about
Bob's 'new', 'ragged' voice... to me it sounds great-and makes some songs even
The band was wonderful (if a tad loose), and it was a real treat to hear
Bob blow his harp on at least 7 tunes (the last two times I saw him he
kept his harps at home). Larry Campell & Charlie Sexton were obviously
having a blast dueling guitars, and Bob was loose, jamming & having fun,
though barely acknowledging the crowd (so whats new!).
The five encore rocked, acoustic "Forever Young" & "Blowin' In the Wind",
electric "Love Sick" & "Like a Rolling Stone" were all great, but the
encore highpoint for me was again a new one-the humorous/rollicking
"Honest with Me".
It's amazing to me that each time I get to see Bob (`88, `98, `02) he
keeps getting better! I can't wait till my four-year-old son (Dylan), is
old enough to go with me to see "Uncle Bobby"!
Peace Ya'll...Keep Rockin` Bob!
Review by Rev. John W. Klein
This was the first concert in a new segment of the never ending tour. Bob
came on stage with real animation. His movement showed even more
enthusiasm than at the Washington Concert just last November. Always
working the knee and occasionally exercising that little gallop, he showed
genuine energy for "Girl from the North Country" the second song on the
set list. I have now heard Bob sing this three times including Rochester
Minnesota, and I didn't expect it in Florida, but it was as good as I have
ever heard it. One might add, that everyone did hear it! The audience,
while a bit calmer than most, was nevertheless perhaps more attentive.
Bob's voice was clear and his use of the harp was but the first of several
harmonica crowd pleasers during the evening. In fact, all together, he
played the harp nine times, close to a record for shows in the last couple
of years. I was unable to capture facial expression largely due to his big
white Stetson, but if his body language and many brilliant harp solos were
any indication, he was having a good time. Masterful entertainer,
traveling troubadour, Bob Dylan does know how to inspire audiences
everywhere. Four of us went to this concert. My wife Mary and I flew down
from Baltimore as the guests of my Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law, Bob
and Donna Olive, who managed to get really great tickets. Never one to
turn down generous offers to see Bob Dylan with best friends, we were
promptly on the airplane. I think it would be fair to say that Bob Olive,
who has infinitely more experience as a guitarist, could appreciate the
superb guitarist that Dylan really is. Donna and Mary have both had to
live with Dylan fans since 1965 and both really liked the concert. One
thing that any Dylan Concert will inevitably do is get people talking
about things that really matter and this time was no exception. We had
been listening to both "Love and Theft" and "Blonde on Blonde" on our way
to the T.D. Waterhouse Center. I think we expected much from his most
recent album and we weren't disappointed. Once again I was surprised at
how Bob is reinventing the songs before our very eyes. Some of the numbers
I heard in Washington just two and 1/2 months ago are changing again. Some
for the better, I might add. I particularly liked "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle
Dum" in this rock arena version. The album version seems fairly dull by
comparison. At this point I noticed Joe the new drummer. One could see he
and Tony Garnier coordinating a bit during the evening but I just didn't
realize he was performing for the first time with Bob's Band. Beyond any
doubt he was very, very good; one couldn't tell that he hadn't been there
a thousand times before. In fact the percussion and bass stood out in my
recollection as one of the very best parts of an excellent performance
I do suppose that one day I will recognize (and believe me I have tried)
"Drifter's Escape" before I hear the first words. It is getting harder. I
should say that "Drifter's Escape" is one of my favorite songs in the
whole Dylan corpus. The words are wonderful, the tune playful. I imagine
that latter quality makes it so much fun to play with musically. It is
hard to guess how much more electricity Bob can get into it. It is fun to
see it rocked so hard. Still, I would like to hear Bob really sing the
words, maybe quite as calmly as the original from "John Wesley Harding"
but so we could enjoy the marvelous lyrics. I've always wondered if it
isn't Bob who is the Drifter who escaped and is still having the last
laugh. Probably there were in that audience of 7000 quite a few more
escaped drifters for whom the song tells their tale well.
It goes without saying that in our present state of world violence and
terrorism, "John Brown" and "Blowin' in the Wind" plus "Searching for a
Soldier's Grave" take on ever new, poignant meaning. Bob's haunting
performance of the first was riveting. Very real questions, as ever,
asked really well.
The usual favorites were the only times the rather attentive but quiet
crowd got up on their feet. "Tangled Up in Blue," "RDW12&35," and "Like a
Rolling Stone" were both recognized and appreciated by all. They were
however not the best performances. The best had to be "Just Like a Woman"
with the wonderful harp introduction. It was very good. On the acoustic
side "Don't Think Twice it's Alright," "Girl of the North Country," and
"Forever Young" stand out as brilliantly sung and played. Mary thought
"Forever Young" far and away the best! I didn't think the concert version
of "Summer Days" to be an improvement. It was just too fast and too
electric. However, Tony Garnier's work on the standup bass was really
prominent and very good. Two songs from "Love and Theft" are really
exciting live: "High Water Rising" and "Honest with Me."
Bob's wonderful improvisations on "Rainy Day Women" will always stand out.
If I heard it right he sang: "...they'll stone you when you're turning
sixty." Marvelous! I also thought his very animated, highly unusual
genuflection on one knee as a kind of "thank you" bow to the most
appreciative audience was splendid. And, of course, Bob, we think you
splendid. Thank you very much for brightening our lives and challenging
page by Bill Pagel
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