Review by Bob Ferdman
"People told me I'd never make it to Normal, well they were wrong"
-- Dylan prior to "She Belongs To Me" 2/13/99
Made the two hour trip from Chicago down to Normal last night. It was well
I didn't quite know what to expect as I'd never been down to Redbird country
before but I was pleasantly surprised. Redbird Arena was a great place to see
a show: wide open, round and spacious yet not big enough to not be intimate.
We had general admission floor seats so we got down there early.
Brian Setzer and his Orchestra did a nice job opening up. They got the crowd
going a bit, swinging and dancing. Setzer is a great guitar player but I was
itching for him to finish and ready for Bob.
Bob and band came out at around 9:30 to the usual "Columbia record recording
artist introduction" and immediately broke into "Gotta Serve Somebody." He's
been opening with this as of late so it was no surprise but I was happy
because it was my first time seeing it live.
Next came "Million Miles." He plays the new stuff great and this was no
exception. Haunting, roadhouse, ghost-town blues.
I was really really happy with what came next. "Watching the River Flow" is
one of my all-time favorites and they rocked the shit out of this one. Bob
and Larry traded off solos before the last verse with every band member in
sync with each other and Bob doing his duckwalk-strut-shuffle thing to the
solos. An audio and visual delight.
"River" was so smokin' the band took about a minute to recoup after words,
wiping themselves off, switching guitars and so forth. Bob took off his
guitar and sauntered over to the mike to thank people for coming and then
tongue-in-cheek told 'em: "People said I would never make it to Normal, they
were wrong." Perfect set up for the next surprise.
"She Belongs To Me," another one of my favorites was definitely one of the
show's highlights. Great jams and interplay especially before the last verse.
"Silvio" rocked as usual. Better, grittier and dirty than the Stones, or
anyone else for that matter, could ever hope to be at this stage in the game.
Acoustic set followed, opening with "Cocaine" followed by "Masters of War."
How many artists can go from rockers on the electric set to traditional cowboy
blues to pure political folk protest all in one show with each sounding great?
"Love Minus Zero" was the third acoustic number. Another highlight of the
evening. This was my first time seeing one of my favorite songs so I was
again happy. But, I was even more happy about the way they performed it. It
sounded like it coulda fit perfectly on "Blonde on Blonde" or "Blood on the
Tracks." It had that real nice, warm, acoustic rock feel to it and Bob
changed up the melody trading the tune from "Series of Dreams" and placing it
here during the "matchsticks tremble" part.
"Tangled Up in Blue" got the crowd going as usual. This one rocked; the jam
was great and everyone was having fun. Bob was too, with his words. He
switched the Delacroix line having the character go down to L.A. where "his
mind was slipping away, " instead.
"Make You Feel My Love" was very nice. A beautiful song. Again, he never
ceases to amaze me: to go from breakup songs straight into just about the most
tender, romantic song you can imagine is unbelievable. The man is a marvel.
A poet, a rocker, a folkie, a bluesman, a cowboy, a rebel, a romantic, an
actor, an entertainer: a true song and dance man.
Next he brought out some of Setzer's horn players, "cause they looked the
part," he told the crowd, to join him in a rousing version of "Ballad of a
Thin Man." I've seen Bob four times in the past two years and have never seen
him have so much fun as he was having here. It was like 1966 again.
Sneering, vicious version of this song.
Setzer came out and rocked on "Highway 61."
Encore time: "Love Sick'" was great as usual, and Setzer and his horn boys
came out again to rock on "Rainy Day Women." A surprise for me, an acoustic
"Blowin' in the Wind" followed.
I was really looking forward to finding out what "Not Fade Away" was going to
sound like and I was real pleased when I finally found out. Great closer. He
played it real straight ahead and right on than either the Dead or the Stones
did it, and rockier than Holly's original version. The effect was great.
Just a great, great cap off to a great night. Bob is definitely on top of his
game to say the least. At times it was like I was watching a movie of him
from thirty years ago. He looks like he did in those old Daniel Kramer photos
and is playing possibly the best he has since then.
Review by Robert Keifer
TANGLED, BALAD OF A THIN MAN, HIGHWAY 61 and the EXTRA long ending to
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (and the fact that he played it) were each
worth the admission price.
After assessing Brian Setzer w/ a suck factor of ten for the three
numbers I saw him open w/ (I was in the parking lot meeting and greeting
late), I had to take it all back when he played on Highway 61 !!! (and
Rainy Day Women)
Other than that, the show was too short, but I could've seen him play it
3 times and would have said the same.
For anyone who thought Blowin' In the Wind was a tired old song that
Joan Ozborn killed(myself included), they HAVE to see BOB play it now in
Cocain Blues and NOT FADE AWAY will make you laugh off anyone else ever
doing a cover song again.
Any other musician would have been called too old to do the old stuff,
but only BOB could get away w/ not playing the Columbia favorites the
way we know them, but in a whole new, incredible way.
I met GREAT BOB FANS from Madison,Wisconsin; Peoria, and Dekalb, and a
Sara who had seen BOB in Carbondale last night!
Everyone was great as they passed the BEAST, who was parked right in
front of the doors, sharing the MUSIC OF THE LIVING LEGEND. Especially
great were the couple who bought seats 4+5, and the guy who bought seat
3, and never came to sit in it (leg room, baby!)
Managed to snag Borsa and Company on their way in (I started tailgating
at 5:30!), and Tiny as he started Strike on stage.
Special thanks to Michael for attending w/ the crazy concert coon, and
honorable mention to the Chicago Branch of the Fab Five for wanting to!
Will send out tonight's official set list when I get it on-line (I have
such the short-term memory)!
WE SAW BOB BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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