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Review by Joe Epstein
First off I just want to thank my Dad for picking me up at school and driving
the 7 hours to Binghampton. Thanks Dad!!!
Natalie Merchant wasn't that bad and most of the college/high school people
(except for me) seemed really into it. Her performance was enthusiastic which
was nice, a lot people were jumping up on stage and what not but I couldn't
really get into her.
Gotta Serve Somebody rocked and was a pretty good performance. Larry had some
nice solos and Million Miles was really good. Bob's vocals were passionate but
he didn't look like he was into it at that point. Watching The River Flow was
nice, but not great as was Make You Feel My Love. Stuck Inside of Mobile
seemed awkward at times although it could have just been me. Bob seemed to be
doing some strange phrasing during the chorus that didn't seem right yet you
could tell he knew exactly what he was doing. The first part of the show ended
and Bob's performances were good yet nothing more. He didn't appear to be
enjoying himself and he was yet to "dance." He seemed very stiff and uptight.
I noticed Bob blow his nose once and throughout the concert a women would come
onstage in between the songs. I couldn't clearly see what was going on but it
was the first time I ever saw anything like that so it stuck out in my mind.
Luckily Bob seemed to loosen up a bit on Masters. Very inspired performance.
One Too Many Mornings followed and the chorus got the first big cheer from the
audience. Honestly, I don't think the crowd really knew any of the songs until
the beginning of the acoustic set although I might have gotten a different
perception if I was on the floor. Tangled was Tangled. Excellent as always.
If I had to guess a turning point of the concert this was it. The crowd got
really into it, the band really got into it. Bob got really into it as he
started moving around and dancing. Passionate singing, passionate playing.
Friend Of The Devil rocked. Everyone clearly enjoyed it. I really like the
back-up vocals on the chorus by Larry and Bucky. Awesome stuff.
Bob kept up his high energy for 'Til I Fell In Love With You. Extremely good
version. Everything was clicking and Bob was having fun dancing all over the
place. Then there was a lengthy conference by David and when they came back
they started a long and beautiful instrumental that was Every Grain Of Sand.
Totally blew my mind! I'm pretty sure he got all the words right, he put so
much energy into it. I can't really even begin to explain how good I thought it
was. Tremendous. Highway followed and was Highway.
Love Sick was also a very inspired vocal performance. There was some cool
lighting effects switching from the overhead lights to the floor lights and back
again to the overheads. It was cool as there was much more use of the lights
than I've noticed in the past and I think it really added to the show.
Everything Is Broken was nice. Bob and boys jammed and were dancing all over
the place. At one point Tony stood next to Larry and they started swinging
their guitar and bass necks back and forth in unison. That got a big smile out
of everyone. Blowin' In The Wind was nicely done and got a big pop from the
crowd. The same goes for Not Fade Away. I saw him in Hartford in '97 when he
played it but I think that failed in comparison to this version. Everyone in
the band was jumping around and dancing like crazy. The back-up vocals by Larry
and Tony throughout the entire song were awesome. I really like the back-up
vocals by these two and wish they would do it more often. Tony jumped up on the
drum risers and was jamming with David. They turned and played to the crowd
behind the stage and were clearly having a wonderful time as was Bob. When the
song came to an end they left. The house lights stayed on a bit longer than I
thought they would which got my hopes up big time but they went on after a
couple of minutes.
All in all a pretty good show. The first electric set wasn't that great. Not
necessarily uninspired but sort of on autopilot. Acoustic set was wonderful and
was when Bob really got going. After that he was like a jumping bean, dancing
all over the place. Larry seemed to be having a lot of fun too as he took some
nice solos. Tony was also very animated during the second half of the show. I
think he should get a microphone. I mean he's been in the band the longest and
I just think it would be cool. Or maybe he can just walk over to Larry's or
Bucky's. Anyways, four people jumped up on stage perhaps inspired by Natalie
Merchant allowing a dozen or so people up on stage. But you would think that
after the first idiot got carried off stage left, the other 3 wouldn't be that
dumb. Oh well. My Dad said that this was the most animated he had ever seen
Bob and besides MSG in November I'd have to agree with him. His energy, as well
as everyone else's in band, was amazing and made the show from the acoustic set
'til the end. Thanks to Bob, the band, Dad, Elaine, Jana, and everyone else
along the way!
Review by John Wood
It was hard to believe for me that over a year
had passed since my last visit with Uncle Bob,
but the man enjoyed a whirlwind '98; touring
several countries and playing numerous shows
with Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and the Stones.
Let's not forget his triumph at the Crappies
(a.k.a. Grammies) either.
First off, we -- Steve W., Dave H. & I --
trekked to Binghamton in a loaded rented Buick
Century, intent on enjoying a long weekend.
After hooking up with Bruce H. and his
friend Mojo for dinner, we headed inside the
Broome County Arena just in time for Natalie
Merchant's opening set.
Some words on Natalie: Prior, I had always
taken her lightly, as I long felt 10,000 Maniacs
as a band were rather bland and thought
her voice was one-dimensional. While my opinion
remains on the Maniacs, Natalie proved me wrong:
While she maintains the same setlist of material
from her two solo albums, her performances
throughout were most enjoyable. For a petite
sized woman, her voice rang large in volume
& tone, containing far more heart and spirit
than I ever knew. Her set gradually built up
momentum, as her 6-piece band utilized a variety
soft and hushed dynamics that made for a
cozy cushion to wrap her voice around.
A stage presence that always maintained a
touch of little-girl shyness, by the time
Natalie wrapped her set up with Kind & Generous,
many people in the arena were dancing & swaying.
The one downer was that during the set-closer, a
college-aged moron saw fit to rush onstage and
try to hug Natalie: Thankfully, security
intervened immediately, and wisely tightened
their presence around the stage the remainder
of the night. Nonetheless, Natalie's set was
of the quality that made for a great warm-up
to set you just right for the main event.
As for Uncle Bob, there is no way I can
write an unbiased review of this evening for
one simple reason: Every Grain Of Sand! It is
a ballad I had waited over a decade, especially
the last five years, to experience live: As
like It's All Over Now Baby Blue, Every Grain
contains a special meaning to me that is deeply
personal. So, when I heard the opening bars,
then the key country-flavored chord change, I
wound up in a special space where my soul and
body became more than one, while another side
of me became the little boy who just opened up
the present I always wanted!
Uncle Bob remains in fine form; his phrasing
very strong and authorative, with minimal mumbling
monents -- such as his repeating the first verse
in the rocking Gotta Serve Somebody opener.
Million Miles was played with a cool smoothness,
with Uncle Bob and Larry Campbell trading leads.
Seven words to describe the rollicking Watching
The River Flow: If It Ain't Country, It Ain't
Shit! Make You Feel My Love worked well in a
slight uptempo rearrangement, and the crowd cheered
upon the opening lines. Capping the first electric
portion was a driving Memphis Blues, albeit only 5
verses from Uncle Bob. Still, there was plenty of
energetic band interplay throughout.
Once again, the acoustic segment rules! The
timeless Masters Of War felt spooky, as I connected
its significance to the recent Middle East
happenings. One Too Many Mornings was the #2
song on my wish list, and this careful rendition
hit a tender spot -- at this point, my smile
turned to a grin. Tangled was Tangled: Anthemic,
spunky and full of playful energy, with lots of
ideosynchric leads by Uncle Bob and Larry. Finally,
there was a beautifully played FOTD brimming with
care and confidence -- Jerry would have been proud.
Just great stuff all the way around!
Returning to electric, the band followed with a
crunchy 'Til I Fell In Love With You, with some cool
bossy grooves. From there came Every Grain, where
I was now stuck with a permagrin!:-) The set capper,
as always for '99 and the bulk of last year, was
a rip-snortin' Highway 61 where bassist Tony
Garnier was dancing on David Kemper's drum riser,
the two playing off each other with glee; the
catalyst to another heavy dose of bone-crunching
rock & roll!
While Love Sick has been played at nearly
every Uncle Bob show since its birth, I loved
this version because the band (especially Larry)
played these neat little nuances that made it fresh.
Then there was a smoooooth Everything Is Broken
where Kemper and Garnier just *laid* down this
slinky groove that refused to quit, augmented by
another Bob-Larry guitar duel. At that point, the
band left the stage, but quickly returned for the
newly-retooled Blowin' In The Wind -- no, that's
Blowin' In The Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind! Larry &
Bucky provided forceful backing harmonies for Uncle
Bob, who phrased certain verses with bite.
Finally, the evening was capped with "I'm gonna
tell you how it's gonna beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" -- and
this NFA was a hoot! Uncle Bob, Larry & Bucky sang
the choruses with gusto and the band blasted the
melody and tempo with sheer force. A
smart-but-classy move to pay homage not just
to the Grateful Dead, but to Buddy Holly himself.
When they left the stage, the crowd was roaring:
It's always cool to see a legend leaving 'em
But I've written far too much in this review
already, as I really needed just four words to
summarize this night:
Thank You, Uncle Bob!:-)
Review by Justin Edgar
Let me start off by saying that Binghamton, NY, is the most depressing city
in the world. I go to college in Pennsylvania, but am from northern Maine,
so I know just how desolate and depressing cities/towns can get.
Believe me, Binghamton takes the cake. The arena was also rundown looking
and I didn't know what to expect, but ended up pleasantly surprised with the
facility. I was also hoping for a great show after having seen the show on
Feb. 10th in Columbus.
Natalie Merchant came on at 8:05, played an array of songs and finished
w/ a flurry as tons of fans got on stage and danced with her during her
regular set closer. She was entertaining, but her vocals were hard to
understand and the instruments seemed to dominate the songs. She
finished her set and on came Bob....
Gotta Serve Somebody: The band came out strong on this number. The
rhythm section sounded great and Bob's vocals were potent from the
opening line. I like the new/rearranged verses that he was using, but the
song seemed to be a warm-up like the one in Columbus on the 10th.
Million Miles: A better version than the one from Columbus. The band
was ripping out the riffs and the crowd was really getting in to
everything that was going on on-stage.
Watching the River Flow: This song was one of the highlights of the
night(IMO). Bob and Larry really smoked through their solos and the
groove of the song was incredibly overwhelming. One of the best
River's I've heard.
Make You Feel My Love: Every version I've heard of this song is sung
with intense passion, and this version didn't change the trend. You
could feel Bob's emotions flow through each word he sang, as the
instruments floated smoothly through the melody. Beautiful and
Stuck Inside of Mobile: After being thoroughly impressed w/ this song
in Columbus, the was no let down with this version. It can be easily
heard that Bob and the boys have experimented relentlessly w/ this piece.
It is so solid, that it's a shame the complete set of lyrics isn't sung
Masters of War: The first time I heard this in concert was in Bangor, ME,
in ' 97, and the eeriness of that performance makes it hard for others to
live up to it. This particular one was less eerie than poignant. You couldn't
help but notice that Bob still feels the same about every word in this song
as he did back in ' 63. Very powerful to see all of the crowd react to this
One Too Many Mornings: Finally a song sung as gentle as the acoustic
pieces from the show in Columbus. Beautiful minute to a minute and a half
intro. Every lyric poured straight from Bob's soul into the souls in the
audience. You can't ask for much more.
Tangled up in Blue: I was surprised to see this one slower than the version
in Columbus. Guitar duel was good, but not exceptional. A letdown from
the outrageous version a week and a half earlier, esp. since there was no
Friend of the Devil: The way they do this song makes you think that it
could be an original from TOOM. It is played as solid and strong as
Cold Irons Bound is or Can't Wait. Just imagine how those two are
usually played, slow their tempos, and go acoustic and that's what you
have. Guitars were at their best and the crowd ate it up.
Til I Fell in Love w/ You: To put it frankly, I've never heard this song played
as intensely as it was that night. Lyrically pleasing as the instruments
pushed it on home.
Every Grain of Sand: The highlight of the night. The instrumental intro was
the same as always, but as the song progressed, the instruments seemed
to experiment and blend into melodic perfection. I've never heard this song
w/o at least one flubbed up word, but was elated to hear an errorless piece
Highway 61: Rip-roaring as always, but not as good as the version from
Love Sick: Have never heard this song done badly, and don't think I ever
will. Dylan makes sure that this one works every time.
Everything is Broken: The opening licks made me scribble down Maggie's,
but I was quickly surprised to hear the change in Broken. Haven't heard a
really recent version of this song and I loved very minute of it.
Blowin in the Wind: Simply put, one of the best newly arranged Blowins
I have heard. Gently sung w/ the backup singers mixing surprisingly well.
Great to hear.
Not Fade Away: By now, you've probably heard the hype about this song.
You have to hear it/see it to understand. Like everyone else says, this is
the definitive version of this classic done by any group of musicians. Not
the 10 that was put on in Columbus, but a 9.5 isn't bad.
All in all, an extremely solid show. Instrumentation was superb and lyrically
flawless. Dylan got into it, but not over the top. Not a lot of the duck walk,
though the grins were shooting out everywhere. I couldn't belive that the
harp didn't get blown, but went away into the night overjoyed.
Review by Carsten Wohlfeld
Binghamton is a much nicer city than Bethlehem and Allentwon are. At least
the part I got to see. Lots of old churches and new tall buildings, much
cleaner than Bethlehem, too. While there my motel, the venue and the bus
terminal were like 10 miles apart, in Binghamton bus, venue and the hotel
Josh found for us (thanks!) were only three blocks from each other. The
arena, like the one in Bethlehem was pretty small and so sold out, that
they actually seated some folks behind the stage as well! Natalie kicked
off proceedings at 8pm sharp and did the exact same set that she played
the night before, which was okay, cause I loved it. This time, everything
sounded even better and the audience definitely got more into it. Natalie
really had a great time, talked to the audience a lot (during her songs
even!) and did her funny dance again, a bit of Janis Joplin, a bit Ballet
dancer, a bit of a pixie, a bit of a freak... quite a sight actually.
During "Kind And Generous" there was a big stage invasion with about 30 to
50 people, Natalie was so impressed, she did her dance again, this time on
top of the grand piano! This time her set even lasted for 75 minutes and
ended with the encore "These Are The Days".
It was 9.35pm again when Bob and crew took to the stage, who started once
more this a very powerful, bluesy rendition of
Gotta Serve Somebody
it was followed by
which wasn't as good and playful as the night before, but still
surprisingly good for the fact that I don't really like the song.
Watching The River Flow
was pretty much excellent too and that's something that usually wouldn't
come across my lips. I remember quite cleraly what a drag it was to see
and hear this song in 1995/1996, but this new arrangement, rather similar
to 'Maggie's Farm', really works and there were some hot, countryfied
guitar parts courtesy of Larry 'n' Bob as well. The long slow ending made
for a very nice contrast to the ridiculously fast rest too.
Make You Feel My Love
was "Make You Feel My Love". As good as a Grammy nominated song gets.
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
had an extra nice Larry riff and went down very well with the audience as
usual. Good way to end the electric set too. Even better than "Silvio"
even though I doubt that we'll get "Memphis" for three years straight now.
Wouldn't that be nice? I#m sure not only Josh would agree.
Masters Of War (acoustic)
same ole song again with the spotlight on Bob, which made for a very nice,
spooky effect. I noticed that this song gets a much more immediate
reaction to the lyrics in the US, which alone makes it worth hearing.
One Too Many Mornings (acoustic)
What can I say? There are very few songs Bob and crew always get perfectly
right and this is one of them. Beautifully done, much loved by the
audience, long intro, built up for the first verse. Nice!
Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic)
the 'mind was slipping away' version that got even the last few people up
and dancing. Two people tried to climb onto the stage, but security
wouldn't let them.
Friend Of The Devil (acoustic)
This is just a nice song when played in Europe or the Pacific region, but
in the US it means a whole lot more of course. The Deadheads were close to
'Til I Fell In Love With You
Rougher, rocked harder, very loud and pretty convincing is how I remember
this one. Sounded very different if compared to the summer '98 versions.
Every Grain Of Sand
Yes! Josh and I had talked about the song earlier in the day and it was
great to hear it again. Unfortunately, hardly anybody in the house seemed
to recognize it though. And yes, he did get the words right as well. Josh
thought it sounded better than usual, I wasn't too impressed with Bob's
rusty vocal delivery, but still I won't complain when he plays "Grain"!
Band intros were long, mumbled and supposedly funny. "We also would liketo
thank the people in the back [turns to peopel behind the stage], they
payed to see you [points at people in front of the stage]."
Highway 61 Revisited
was "Highway", which is to say that it was cooking and a fun version if
you haven't heard it a gazillion times already.
One of my favorite Bob songs of all time, I just wish it would change more
so it would be more fun to hear *every* single night.
Everything Is Broken
Clearly the highlight tonight, along with "Masters". Killer groove, very
loud, Larry and Tony renamed themselves Boogie Down Productions after the
song had ended.
Blowin' in The Wind (acoustic)
nice phrasing on the last verse...
Not Fade Away
crowd: nuts, band: having fun. What a great way to end the show. It lasted
100 minutes and there's no doubt on my mind that every single soul left
very happy indeed. The Bethlehem show was *very* good, this one was even a
little bit better. Maybe. Next stop: Lake Placid. Thanks for reading!
"you wish that you were special - i'm just like you" (the cardigans)
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