page by Bill Pagel
Review by Tom Friedrich
My brother and I went to the Houston Rodeo specifically to see Bob
Dylan. The venue and the nature of the performance was too much of an
oddity to pass up. Dylan played State Fairs as recently as last August
but this was very different as it took place on the same grounds as the
Before the show we were walking through the park to see all the
exhibits when we saw other fans wearing purple wristbands. After
inquiring we found out that they got you admission to the dirt floor
itself for the actual concert. After searching in vain for the mysterious
lady handing them out we went inside and found someone who gave us the
lucky bands. They were giving out 1200 of them on the various levels of
the Astrodome to fans who came up and asked for one, so you had to know in
advance what it was about.
Around 8:45pm we lined up and waited until 9:30 before we got to the
floor itself. After a video history of the rodeo and fireworks display we
were ushered through the gates to the normal intro of "Ladies and
gentlemen, please welcome Columbia Recording Artist Bob Dylan." We
scurried through the dirt and found our way right in front of the stage,
with only one person in front of us and the railing. Seeing him at the
Astrodome would normally require binoculars however now we were less than
10 feet away.
The show was very surreal due to the surroundings and the constantly
revolving stage. It stayed in front of us for half of the opening song
then slowly started to rotate 360 degrees, stop and rotate back the same
way. There were 4 or 5 Greek pillars behind the band itself. The band
wore maroon suits and Dylan had on a black suite with a brown and white
shirt and tan cowboy hat.
They started playing at 9:41pm and left at 10:46 after the crowd
coaxed him into doing an encore. Since the stage was always moving it
gave us a view that you'd never otherwise see at a show from the band to
both sides to directly in front. We could see all the guitars behind the
stage, water bottles, rolls of duct tape, crew members tuning guitars,
etc. The sound on the floor was very good as speakers on and above the
stage were pointed at us. I don't imagine the sound was as good in the
We knew it would be a shorter set but at 12 songs and 65 minutes it
went by very fast. Highway 61 was a very early surprise in the show as
it's normally an encore song. There was only 3 acoustic songs and they
all came at the start of the show.
Other interesting notes: he only played harp once or twice, but we
only remember it during Don't Think Twice. He didn't play Tangled up in
Blue, Honest with Me, Like a Rolling Stone, or Blowin' in the Wind. 3 new
songs from Love and Theft were played in a row and without band
introductions he didn't speak a single word to the crowd. Not counting
the two covers, all of the songs came from the 1960s or last year, so he
skipped the 70s, 80s, and 90s altogether. Three songs were from Nashville
Skyline, a very appropriate choice given the proceedings.
Dylan seemed to have a good time and the band was smiling and making
gestures at us. As the crowd was only on one side of the stage we all
cheered wildly and gave thumbs-up whenever they were in front us. The
rest of the time they were playing to a crowd that was a good distance
All in all it was a very unique show and fun experience. It doesn't come
to other L&T shows as you couldn't see the band all the time however it
was a very rare chance to see him play on the same grounds where bull
riding and calf roping had occured only minutes before. All the tired
horses left the building and we did too.
Thanks for reading,
Review by R.J.
Well, well, well. Just when I thought I had seen at least some of it along
comes the good old relic of the rodeo to throw me a big league curve ball.
When I got to my seats I remarked to the usherette that while they were
good ones it appeared that the caller's stand was going to obstruct our
view somewhat. She told that there was a guy passing out tags for anyone
who wanted to go on the field. So it was that at nine on a wednesday night
in the venerable old 'dome about 300 of us were ushered down the ramp,past
the horse stalls, in front of the sarcastic rodeo caller and out onto the
floor of the place in front of 40,000 people and led to a spot 10 feet in
front of a revolving stage as the greatest poet of at least a couple of
generations broke into I am the Man, Thomas.
As has always been the case, the dome does not lend itself to good sound
quality and it was a marginal sound mix throughout. The place has too many
echoes and the roof is too high but those of us on the dirt got most of
our sound from the stage monitors anyway. The stage, you see, rotates 360
and then stops and does it all over again. It mercifully stopped for Rainy
Day and Watchtower as whoever was working the carnival ride must have
realized that we were the main ones into the show anyway and stopped it in
front of us finally.
One moment of generational differences was comical and sad. In the middle of
the set some Rainy Day Boy #12 squirms his way up in front of us and tries
to eke out some space for stoned fist raising and "it's all about the love
ramblings." The guy next to me whom I had been helping with the set list
and whom I have never seen before assured him that since we were indeed at
a rodeo he would have no problem goin Woodrow Call on him if he did not
fade back and lose the rude behavior. He did not get it but he did indeed
fade and at least he has the 19 year old brain to show up for Bob and not
nsync. Maybe he will get it eventually.
They only gave Bob about 70 minutes and there is no way he can get it done
in such a short time. Tony and Bob looked apologetic when they had to head
for the van after what for them is about enough to warm up and hear the
bounce. They made no comments from the stage other than the formation
smiling and thank you lip reading as Bob grinned and waved the bouquet
someone had tossed up.
As for the picking, they blew out some fast licks on Summer Days and
Highway 61 and were gone on their way. No matter. From the spring of 74 to
the winter of 02 I have seen somewhere around 15 shows and was never sorry
I went. All the walking,all the standing, all the manure dodging in the
world could not keep me away.
Review by Steve Adams
Starting on a positive note, if you are a Bob Dylan fan, seeing him in
concert is a great experience period end of story. Hearing him phrase,
“Don’t think twice it’s alllllright.” or deliver a powerful AATW or even
the opening gospel phrases and harmonies of, “I Am the Man, Thomas” are
worth the price of admission.
However…despite a concert that only he is capable of giving, Dylan and the
crowd did not connect Wed. night. Combine a huge, impersonal venue with a
crowd that for the most part are unfamiliar with all but his biggest hits
and you get what happened Wed. night.
The end of the show told the story. After an unheard of 1 song encore (a
sizzling All Along the Watchtower) Not a word, not a bow, not one “thankya
very much”, and not even a band introduction. Over the loud speaker the
announcer, obviously surprised at the brevity of the encore and hoping to
get the crowd louder so Bob would come back out said, “Ladies and
gentlemen, you have just witnessed one of the greatest songwriters in
history. blah blah blah…Don’t give up. Let him hear you.. But to no
avail. As if Dylan was saying, “You just kinda wasted my precious time.”
the van pulled away and the lights went up.
On the one hand I was upset with the crowd who seemed rather indifferent
during the show except for 2 or 3 of his most well known songs but on the
other hand I couldn’t help but resent Dylan being a butt to those of us
who had looked forward to seeing him for a long time. Oh well Dylan being
rude is not a huge surprise, just disappointing.
On to the performance itself..
The delivery was great, the set list left a lot to be desired. Harmonies
and voice quality on I am the Man were super. Being that I started liking
Dylan when he made Slow Train, Saved, and Shot of Love, I was pleased to
hear the gospel lyrics. Any chance he could mix in “In the Garden” or
“Every Grain of Sand”?? Just dreaming.
Did a good job with “Don’t Think Twice”. I appreciated the brief harp
interlude and the phrasing was magnificent. His delivery of High Water
and Cry Awhile were terrific. They both are just tailor made for a live
performance. I liked them much more than on the cd. So here I am totally
psyched and I look around the stadium and see people just sitting there.
The crowd finally got into it for Rainy Day Woman and Lay Lady Lay and
that made the experience much more enjoyable. Rainy Day Woman had very
long blazing instrumental parts. Fantastic actually.
The biggest thing missing from the performance itself was a slow song or
two where the band plays quietly and Dylan steps to the front with a
gripping delivery. No Sugar Baby, Not Dark Yet or even Blowing in the
Wind. I couldn’t believe it.
Headed to Austin Sunday hoping for better.
Review by Eben Hensby
I didn't quite know what to expect at this first of four Bob shows. Can
you picture Bob Dylan at a rodeo, on a rotating stage? I couldn't. I
couldn't wait to see what would happen. I didn't have high expectations
though because I had been informed that the Astrodome has terrible sound
and later found out that Bob wasn't scheduled to come on the stage until
9:00 or 9:30 PM (the rodeo was to start at 7:00 PM) and that Bob would
probably perform a shorter show than usual.
Our hotel, the Radisson, was close enough that we just walked to the
Reliant Astrodome. This was very convenient because parking near the
Astrodome was terrible: they're building a new arena around there. We
got into the Astrodome a bit after 8:00 PM, and I was amazed by how big
the place is. There's a huge dirt area in the middle, with a gazillion
seats around. Because the dirt area was so big, they had four(?) big
monitors above to show all what was happening.
When we arrived, the rodeo events had been underway for about an hour.
We went to our seats - Kait and Lewis were in the same section as me, but
7 rows back. Martin was up one or two levels. I sat down next to the
kind people who got me my Houston ticket: Nancy Hernandez and Bill Parr.
We watched some of the rodeo, but I'm not into that kind of thing. After
a while, Kait tapped me on the shoulder and said we should try to go find
out about these wristbands we'd heard about: they were giving wristbands
out to folks, and they would then allow you to crowd around in the dirt
around the stage. Of course, I went with her.
We found a group of semi-important-looking employees, and asked if they
knew about the wristbands. I can't remember whether or not we got the
wristbands from them, but Kait and I got two (as there weren't any more).
We walked around to try to find more for some of the others we were with
(Martin was at the show with four or so of his friends), but to no avail.
We went where the woman we'd acquired the wristbands from had told us to
go, but her directions weren't very specific. Shortly after 9:00, she
told us to go through some doors. Through these doors, there was a long
lineup of folks with wristbands, and we had to go to the back of the line.
This lineup proved to be very stressful. There we were waiting, and they
weren't telling us what was up. Some frustrated people started yelling.
Watching the time, 9:30 came and went. Finally, the line advanced a bit
(at this point, Martin came down the ramp and caught up with us) and we
could see into the dome (we had been waiting on some ramp). The classical
music started up and we really got anxious to get out there. We slowly
advanced as they announced Bob Dylan...argh! Then, just as we were about
to get into the dirt area, the guy put his arms across the gate (yeah, we
felt a bit like rodeo animals) as he had apparently decided that too many
were going in too quickly or something. Meanwhile, Bob's on stage singing
I Am The Man, Thomas! Finally, we got through and got up to the 5th or so
row from the stage. So there we were, standing, in the dirt, 5 rows from
Bob Dylan, watching him spin on the rotating stage.
Now, let me tell you something about the rotating stage: it's a funny
concept, but it is not good in practice. You see Bob half the time, and it
just sort of makes the whole show feel weird. And you could tell that the
band didn't really know what to make of it either. Actually, the whole show
only felt like a semi-show: it was really odd. I did manage to end up in
3rd row, which was nice (for the time that Bob was there). The stage
finally stopped rotating at the second to last song, which was nice but
much too late.
Here is the setlist:
1.) I Am The Man, Thomas (acoustic) (song by Ralph Stanley and Larry
Sparks) 2.) Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (acoustic) (Bob on intro
harp) 3.) Searching For A Soldier's Grave (acoustic) (Larry on mandolin)
(song by Johnnie Wright, Jim Anglin and Jack Anglin)
4.) Highway 61 Revisited
5.) Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You (Larry on pedal steel)
6.) I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Larry on pedal steel) (Bob on intro harp)
7.) Cry A While (Larry on slide guitar) 8.) High Water (Larry on banjo and
Charlie on slide guitar) 9.) Summer Days (Tony on standup bass) 10.) Lay,
Lady, Lay (Larry on pedal steel) 11.) Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Larry on
12.) All Along The Watchtower
It seems to me that Bob was really playing to the crowd here: he played three
pedal steel songs, three L&T songs, and the rest were either bluegrass type
songs or else his greatest hits kind of show. Up close, there was an
interesting echo effect happening with the voices. It especially stood out
during the great acoustic songs. It took until Summer Days or so for Bob to
visibly get into the show.
After Rainy Day Women, Bob and the band stood in the Formation, but they
had nowhere to go afterwards! Bob and Tony were talking quite a bit. After
the applause, they just picked their instruments up again and went into
All Along The Watchtower. At the end, I thought I saw Bob look somewhat
quizzically at an audience member then give a thumbs down. Bob then
smiled. Flowers had been thrown on stage earlier, and he picked them up
at the end. On the way off the stage (after the thumbs down), Tony bent
down and picked something up, grinning all the while. He showed it to
Bob, who didn't seem to care. Bob looked as though he would've high-fived
us or something if he could've reached. They got into a van and slowly
drove off. Our applause couldn't get them to come back.
I was amazed at how empty the place was near the end. I was also amazed
at how many folks wear cowboy hats down here!
Well, we walked back to the hotel afterwards. I must say that this first
show of Eben's Texas/Louisiana Tour was disappointing, but I'm sure that
the next few shows will more than make up for it.
page by Bill Pagel
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