Review by David Berry
We headed north to Nashville. Music row. Our expectations high. The skyline somewhat
different than in 1968. We didn't come to see the skyline but to hear the music.
As the lights strobed Dylan and his band appeared on stage, introduced by the incense
floating out into the auditorium. They each went about getting in their customary
positions and than immediately going right into the lyrics and sounds of " you may be an
ambassador to England or France." A signature for this leg of the tour. From our seats
all the members of the band were dressed in what appeared to be black and with the way
the lighting played on the stage they seemed as if they were to be photographed for a
record album cover. A flashback or the way it should be?
After Stuck Inside Mobile, Dylan's singing of Make You Feel My Love was absolutely
beautiful. His voice had a depth to it that I hadn't heard in the six concerts I have
attended in the past two years. I sat, spell- bound as he sang in such a graceful, lyrical
manner. I was going to say that that alone was worth the trip but there was more to come.
The acoustic portion of the show was the best group of tunes that I think I've ever heard
him sing. At times he and the band seemed to float on the sea of fans the engulfed the
stage. In true Dylanesque style he swayed, he moved, it was as though Nashville had
energized him in a way I hadn't seen. At times when the lights changed on the stage he
looked how I might have imagined him 30 years ago. A young Dylan playing as a focal
point of a generation. Maybe he had recaptured or was reliving some of his youth.
As the band concluded "Tangled" they seemed to get tangled on the ending some how
finishing it and Bob not being to pleased from the look on his face. When Honky Tonk Blues
began the band was tight and right. I thought for a moment Dylan was going to break into a
big grin as he yodeled his way into some of the country, country, country parts of this
tune cause he sure seemed to have some of those honky tonk blues. It was great stuff.
If the lights were just right the ghost of Hank Williams would have gotten a kick out of
these guys singing his old cowboy song.
So under the NashvilleSkyline these guys put on a show. Just like a good old studio session
where it flowed and the licks where laid down. And the band was enjoying playing what they
knew how to play. They were not going to fade away. They were going to go down that old
highway a bunch of troubadours led by the minstrel of song.
Review by Michael Nix
I have seen Dylan around 20 times since 1974 (with The Band) and have
caught every major U.S. Tour since then and last night was a treat! Dylan's
performances for the last 12 years or so have been at times
unpredictable,unfathomable and erratic but last night he rocked! I don't
know what's gotten into him but I'd like some of it.
The Set List held a few surprises such as Hank Williams' Honky Tonk
Blues,Stone Walls And Steel Bars and Friend Of The Devil. Since this "Never
Ending Tour" began in 88(?) we have been forced to wait until the 3rd or
4th song in the set to find out just what kind of voice Zimmie is in for
the evening. On occasions it kicks in and sometimes it just never happens.
Last night was different; Bob hit the stage in very fine vocal form from
the first note and never lost it. The band was tighter ,and yet more
flexible, than any backup band that he has had since "The Band". The key
seems to be that the drummer has finally learned how to swing with Bobs
eccentric phrasings;much in the same way that Charlie Watts knows how to
swing with Keith Richard. This glued the ensemble into a outfit which
followed Bob on every twist and turn without missing a lick. This maintaned
the rocking feel that some of the songs required without taking away Bob's
options to be flexible with his intrepretations. Their elasticity served
the acoustic numbers well also.
Besides being in good voice Dylan also seemed more talkative than usual.
He joked a lot from the stage. For example after finishing To Make You Feel
My Love he commented that this is one of his favorite "Cowboy Songs". Did
you hear that one Garth?
To any fans who have becomed disillusioned with Dylan's performances of
late, you may want to check out this tour. He's back...and aren't all so
Michael T. Nix
Review by Joe Cox
Yes, it's all true. Bob is truly better than ever. And also more
communicative than in my memory. Here are my impressions, fresh from
tonight's show in Nashville.
Brian Setzer played a nice set to lead into the act. He played a lot
of his usual swing stuff, and added in a nice mix of old favorites (like
"Since I Don't Have You", "Sleepwalk", and the closer, "Tequilla"). Brian is
very high energy and he really gets the crowd into it. He played a mean
guitar and his band was great as well. A friend who attended the show with
me had his girlfriend along. Since it was her first time seeing Bob, she
noted all the young kids and speculated that most of the crowd (shoehorned
onto the floor) would leave after the BSO finished their set. Wrong!
Bob came on a few minutes after nine. He opened with "Gotta Serve
Somebody" and right away it was apparent that something extra was there
tonight. He was smiling, Honest to God smiling, throught the song. His
guitar playing was strong and he was dancing around more than I'd ever seen
before. The crowd appreciated the strong opener and let him know and Bob
responded with a casual "Thank you."
He led into a sizzling "Million Miles" next. Even with this slower
song, he was rocking out and having a good time. The crowd would roar after
each verse. Bob noticed this and threw out the full "Thanks, everybody" upon
conclusion. Next up was "Stuck Inside of Mobile" complete with the same
peculiar phrasing and tight guitar work we've come to expect. It was during
this song that I noticed Larry Campbell and Bob starting to grin at each
Bob slowed it down with "Make You Feel My Love" in the four spot. It
was the first time I'd heard it and I was quite impressed. Bob was very
clear in his annunciation tonight, especially early, and he really did a
good job here. After this one, Bob stepped to the mike and commented "Here's
a song by my favorite cowboy singer." This got everyone's attention as we
leaned forward in anticipation of a Jimmy Rodgers or Hank Williams tune,
instead we got a quick blast of "Silvio".
Let me go on record as saying that I do not enjoy "Silvio". But this
was an exception. Larry was really on tonight and he showed it here. A
fantastic version of this one, with the nice joke to boot.
"Stone Walls and Steel Bars" led off the acoustic set. Another song I
really don't like. But another sterling performance. Tight harmonies from
Campbell and Baxter and a clear performance from Bob made this one pretty
solid. He followed with a long intro which left me wondering, until he
started singing what turned out to be "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". I
would guess this was the weakest song of the night, but even it was
beautiful and nearly perfect. Bob struggled a little with the early verses,
but fixed it up nicely. He followed with "Friend of the Devil" which drew a
heavy response from the Deadheads. It's not a song that I'm very familiar
with, but more fine harmonies with Campbell and Baxter and a fine
performance by Bob, who was in full dance mode by now. He broke out the
semi-duckwalk and approached the Elvis-like swinging legs move once or
twice. He also pointed the guitar to the ground or the crowd. And SMILED
He finished up the acoustic set with a fabulous "Tangled Up in
Blue". I think they've changed the key that they play it in; as it seemed to
have a little more bite than I had remembered. Bob really enjoyed this one,
so much that he threw in an extra instrumental verse at the end just because
he and Larry had such great guitar chemistry on this night. Larry was
smiling and having a good time and this was rubbing back off on Bob, who was
Next came the song I really dreaded, Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk
Blues". Bob didn't really try the yodeling high notes that Hank hit. Well, I
should say he tried, but he just couldn't hit them. He almost cracked up the
first time through it! Still, the guitars were tight and an otherwise
flawless vocal performance made this enjoyable. He followed this up with a
very unmemorable "Can't Wait." Very powerful and very similar to the album
version. Next came the most remarkable thing I've ever seen and heard!
Bob rambled up to the mike, threw out a perfunctory thank you to
Brian Setzer and introduced the band. That aside, he began his monologue of
the evening (quoted almost verbatim here; it's the best that I could
scribble it down as) "We had a request for that 'Ballad of a Thin Man' song.
<2 second pause> But we're not going to play it. I know, I know. People
always want to know what that song's about. It's about people who don't buy
tickets to get in places, critics who don't buy tickets to get in places,
but have the audacity to write things." And with all that off his chest, Bob
launched into a rollicking "Highway 61."
The guitars were perfect here; as he lined himself up right beside Larry and
the two of them danced and played and laughed and generally kicked ass.
Bob left to great applause and came back to an arena full of glowing
cigarette lighters. He kicked into a very moody, eery "Love Sick". It wasn't
an album clone; it souned extra spooky. That one aside, he kicked into
overdrive on "Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat". Again, Larry Campbell was
incredible, for about the 800th time tonight. Larry was just brilliant. And
Bob enjoyed this brilliance and the two really bonded for the whole show.
Bob took a long instrumental break and came back to sing two verses before
he ended this one.
Next came another song I dreaded. "Blowin' in the Wind." I'd never
heard a version of this song I liked. Ever. Now I have. It's kind of
up-tempo a little with sweet harmony vocals added by Larry and Bucky on the
chorus. Tony plays an acoustic guitar on this one; giving us a three guitar
lineup. Really, though, this was spine tingling stuff.
Appropriately, Bob closed up with "Not Fade Away." He brought Tony
over with he and Larry and the three of them danced and jammed and caroused
together and closed out the show.
Consider this show a message. Bob Dylan will most assuredly NOT FADE
AWAY. He was as sharp as he's sounded to my ears in years. He really seems
to be enjoying his craft these days. See him while you can. His comments on
"Ballad of a Thin Man" alone were worth the $25. Incidentally, consider this
a grovel. If anybody gets a copy of the tape from this show, please contact
me. It's simply a must have for me. And as Bob himself would comment,
Review by Ricky Cobb
Attended the show in Nashville last night and it was simply fantastic.
Except for the general admission seating arrangement (which meant no
chair if you wanted to be on the floor), the night could not have gone
better. We were about the equivalent of the 5th row center and it was
an excellent vantage point.
Brian Setzer hit the stage about 15 minutes late and played a very
good show that lasted just about an hour.
Definitely the most enjoyable opening act that I've seen in my six
times seeing Bob live. Setzer was highly energetic and played some
interesting material. But, by the time he was wrapping up "Tequila",
my friends and I were getting antsy for Bob.
And, 15 minutes after Setzer departed, we got him. Clad in black
pants, suit jacket and funky white and black cowboy boots, Bob
launched into the expected "Gotta Serve Somebody." I was really
looking forward to this one and it was terrific. It was evident from
Bob's demeanor that he was in a good mood, with a variety of funny
facial expressions. I love the groove that Larry gets going on this
one and Bob's vocals were clear and crisp. A great start.
Next, Bob again played Million Miles in the #2 slot and he was still
smiling and mugged his way through it all the way. Very good vocal
work and the band sounded extremely tight.
Then it was time for "Mobile" and, although Bob began to slur his
words in places, it was still a solid performance.
Fourth was "Make You Feel My Love" and it was nicely done.
Then, in the first of two interesting ad-libs by Dylan, he commented
to the crowd, "This is a song by my favorite cowboy singer." At this
point, my friend Joe and I looked at each other and kind of exchanged
that "What the f---?" look. Seconds later, we heard the opening sounds
of "Silvio"! We both got a huge laugh out of that. Nothing like Bob
The acoustic set then began and Bob played "Stone Walls and Steel
Bars." I don't really like this song, but the rendition was good. Nice
harmonies with Larry and Bucky.
Next, Bob played that slow version of "Baby Blue" that he has favored
in recent times. Not bad, although I still prefer that song more
up-tempo. Good phrasing and vocal work, although Bob botched the last
verse, singing the vagabond line a second time.
"Friend of the Devil" came #8 and it was okay. The Deadheads loved it
and sang along. I was busy looking forward to TUIB.
And it was a very sweet version of "Tangled." Bob didn't do any of
that annoying verbal gymnastics with it tonight and sang it pretty
straight forward. The band was cooking and it was highly enjoyable.
The next number was a highlight for me too, somewhat surprisingly.
"Honky Tonk Blues" was really quite good. It was funny to hear Bob
attempt the yodel, although my friend aptly observed, "Yodel, hell. He
can't even hit the note." Bob would kind of grin before the yodel part
every time and was clearly having fun with it.
"Can't Wait" continues to impress me with each listening. What a
tremendous song and Bucky, as usual, gave it some great steel guitar.
Great vocals by Bob and one of the best sets of the night.
Now, I have to tell you that I still can't believe what Bob did next.
I probably wouldn't have believed this had I not been there and, even
so, I'm shaking my head as I type this. After the conclusion of "Can't
Wait", Bob said the following: "We've got a request for that song,
'Ballad of a Thin Man.' (crowd cheers) But we're not gonna play it.
People been asking what that song's about. It's about writers who
won't pay for a ticket and critics who won't pay for a ticket but have
the audacity to write things." Wow. It would be worth finding a boot
just hear the way he enunciated "audacity" and "WRITE things."
Unbelievable. It was like the acerbic Dylan of "Don't Look Back", if
for only a few brief seconds. I would have paid the $25 just to hear
that 10-15 second sequence. With that, he played a sweltering "Highway
61" that had the entire crowd rocking. I looked up into the upper deck
and saw about 30 teenagers dancing like crazy while the band wailed
away. I missed part of the first verse because I was transcribing what
he said before the song, but it was worth it.
The band left and came back for the encore. "Love Sick" was first and
it was good. Not extraordinary, but I enjoyed it.
"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" came next and it was, well, "Leopard-Skin
Pill-Box Hat." It rocked hard and the crowd ate it up. I was glad to
hear this one.
Then it was time for "Blowin' in the Wind" and, although I didn't care
for the arrangement, the others in my group loved it. I could have
done without Larry and Bucky's vocals on this one, but oh well.
Last was Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Man, Buddy never did it like
that. It was a good rocker and Bob kept hiking his leg up as he sang
the vocals. I was apprehensive about what this one would sound like,
but Bob really ripped into it. It was a good way to close the show.
All in all, a fantastic show. Quite possibly the best I've seen. I had
taken my fiance along for her first Bob show and she was pretty
impressed. I'd say she wasn't the only new fan Bob made last night. As
my friend said on the way out of the auditorium: "There are only two
kinds of people in this world: those that love Bob Dylan and those
that haven't seen him live yet." A 30ish gentlemen who had never seen
Bob asked me before the encore what kind of form this was for Dylan. I
told him I'd never seen him this animated. In fact, my fiance
commented "I thought Bob was gonna bust a move a couple of times!" He
really did, too. Get a ticket and catch him in the near future if at
all possible. You won't be sorry. Perhaps closing with "Not Fade Away"
is more than a tribute to Buddy Holly. Judging by last night, it's
also an accurate assessment of this man's career. Bob Dylan is as good
Review by William Robinson
Thoughts regarding Nashville, February 6, 1999
The song-by-song reports on this show have been well done, so I would
like to add some notes of an impressionistic nature. Beginning with the
observation that I went to see a Bob Dylan concert, and was blessed with
the opportunity to see what could surely be called one of the best country
music concerts ever. Bob and his bandmates are so good that they can
introduce, as if by magic, a tone or undercurrent that is very subtle, but
unmistakable. On this night, the magical undercurrent was country.
(Please note that when I say country, I'm talking about a big family-one
that includes folks like Leadbelly and Robert Johnson.) It was a twang
that was overt sometimes (Honky Tonk Blues) or more subtle other times,
but it never went away. I know there has been some country in all the
shows-just check the cover songs-but I'm sure Nashville got an extra dose.
If you weren't there, just imagine Exile on Main Street with Ralph Stanley
and Hank Williams doing the leads. I spent the morning in Memphis at
Sun Studio and Graceland, so I came to Nashville with Elvis in my heart,
thinking about how (whatever you think about Later Elvis) the young Elvis
really did a mystical thing when he blended the music of the church, the
honky tonk, the blues, and everything else into something that had never
existed before. I think Bob is doing a similar thing now, giving us a sound
that captures the heart of real American music in a way that has never
existed before. And yes, I agree with those who assert that Bob has never
been better. I've just been watching since '74, so if someone wants to tell
me '66 was better, all I can say is, man you were lucky to be there.
I also want to rave about something I saw mentioned briefly in an earlier
report-the lighting. I don't know the technical lingo to describe this, but I
have never seen concert lighting so subtle and effective. The Nashville arena
is distinguished by a very high and very dark ceiling, and one of the most
effective light modes was a clear white light on Bob and the band, with
undiluted blackness in the background going all the way to the ceiling far
overhead. It was absolutely incredible. The effect, in harmony with the
country theme of the night, was as if we were watching the County Fair of
the Apocalypse. Bob on stage under the stars, dirt and straw under our
feet, the ghosts of Hank and Jimmie tapping their feet on the side. We all
love Bob's description of the "thin, wild, mercury sound." The lights at
this show achieved the visual equivalent of that sound. I spoke to the
light guy after the show, and he said, "We just want everybody to enjoy
the show." Modest man.
The crowd was interesting. I've noticed that some folks are getting a
little bit obnoxious about how many shows they have seen. It's not a
contest, people. More uplifting, a guy standing next to me said quietly
and happily that this was his 50th show. The usual flock of young
teenagers was there, and I noticed that some of them knew all the words.
Bodes well for the future of the audience.
Brian Setzer was great, as noted frequently by others. How cool is
Bob that he is willing to turn the stage over to someone that talented?
As everyone else says in closing-do not miss this show. Even if you
saw it last year, go again, because it is even better than it was then.
Review by Ian Boswell
I've never reviewed a show or anything, but I have to submit my thoughts
on Dylan's performance in Nashville. Here goes:
Brian Setzer entertained the crowd, and that's about all. His band was
very tight (especially the Nashville-native bassist who at one time had
a strong solo jam.) I personally am not into the commercial rebirth of
swing. Though it's possible that I was biased from anticipation of
Anyway, no need to be redundant and mention how healthy Bob looked or
the each song played.
I went to the show with one of my deadhead friends, and he was quick to
notice all the Dylan -> Dead songs played. First of all, Silvio. I've
never been much of a fan of Dylan and Hunter's collaboration called
Silvio, but Bob pulled this one off nicely. Pefectly on cue, the crowd
would shout "Silvio, silver and gold..." as is expected. Other songs
the Dead covered that Dylan played were "Stuck inside of Mobile," "Baby
Blue." Both of these had choruses the crowd could chant with Bob. The
highlight to me was without a doubt "Friend Of the Devil." "Not Fade
Away" exemplified his rock 'n roll roots. "Honky Tonk Blues" his
country roots. I see it ironic when such an accomplished songwriter
covers other artists' songs. "Friend of the Devil" was obviously
written by Hunter under the direct influence of Dylan, but Dylan played
his pupil's ballad with a dignified humbleness inadequately described in
I was hoping for a "Don't think Twice" with harp or "Blind Willie
McTell," but was not dissatisfied in the least. I was not aware that
"NOt Fade Away" was in Bob's repertoire until this year. For future
tours, everyone get a copy of a Dead show with "NFA" on it and learn
the "clapping" at the end of the song. Once the band has completed
"NFA", the crowd chants "no our love will not fade away!" repeatedly
with a series of claps in between. Trust me it would be fun.
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