Mexico City, Mexico

Auditorio Nacional

February 26, 2008

[Alberto Ortega Gurza], [Oscar Montes], [Howard Weiner]

Review by Alberto Ortega Gurza

Crossing Mexico City at a peak hour, is saying a lot if you are trying to 
make it on time to a living legend's show on a mild February
Tuesday night. Talented young entertainment industry entrepreneur, 
Sergio Mayer, tore down big time corporations' egos by managing 
to bring Bob Dylan to our country, when competitors had failed in 
doing so for nearly two decades.  It took me an hour to get there.  
My good friend Edgar Dylan waited for me outside the gates of Eden 
until I phoned him to say: "Oh mother, things ain't going well. The 
traffic is awful heavy."
Made it just in time to hear the good ol´ voice recite: 
The poet laureate of rock'n'roll. 
The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture.
The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, 
who donned makeup in the '70s and
disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, 
who emerged to 'find Jesus,' who was
written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, 
and who suddenly shifted gears and
released some of the strongest music of his career 
beginning in the late '90s.
Ladies and gentlemen, 
please welcome Columbia recording artist: Bob Dylan." 

It is always great to hear the biopic intro, for you know as soon as the
last two words -Bob Dylan- are said, His Royal Bobness himself will walk 
and stand under his spotlight, holding an electric guitar to the delight 
of those of us, who for a few years were afraid -not believing the 
pseudo official version of his so called hand arthritis- but thinking he just 
might never again strum a guitar on stage. Anyways, exciting as can get 
was seeing him play rhythm guitar on a magnificent version of Rainy Day 
Women n.12 and 36. Listening to the beat and harmony the Blonde on 
Blonde one take thin wild mercury sound recording  used to come out 
of those turntables back in the day, was a pleasure to start heating the 
night with.

Then Beto, my dad, finally arrived and took his seat next to my mother,
sister and nephew.  I managed to talk my father into attending the 
show, for he is the soul responsible of ruining my life by sparking the 
almost unlimited light of Bob Dylan's artful creations in me. Yes, this 
Minnesota kid's universe took over my taste and for the most part, my 
mind and feelings on account of my father. There was not a single 
childhood weekend day in which the strange young man with a voice 
like sand and glue wouldn't sing his timeless anthems from the 
Freewheelin´ Bob Dylan and Bringing it All Back Home albums to fill our 
restless home with thoughts, melodies, jewels and binoculars. Anyhow, 
after over 35 years, my dad was finally there to witness the way Bob 
spends his life hitting some hard travelling too.
In it Ain't me Babe, Bob took over the lead guitar, like he also did on a 
bluesy version of Watching The River Flow. 

But things got serious when, with black and white keyboards under his 
fingers a defying Bob Dylan shouted out "Come you Masters of War!" 
Near the end of the toughest and hardest-cut anti-war song composed 
by a human being ever since the world began, the words aimed at every 
single damn Master of War from our era:  -"I hope that you die/And your
death will come soon"-, howled like a hammer, with a graveness that 
ignited fire in the Mexican night. 
Bob then decided to open the windows and let air freshen up the place 
with The Levee's Gonna Break and Spirit on the Water. It was then 
when -for the first time in the night- he showed true pleasure from 
doing what he was doing up there. The sight of him, reminded me of 
the time when he said "The stage is the only place where I´m happy; 
where I can be myself".

Tony Garnier, who a few songs back had put the up-straight bass back
in it's case, switching it for and electric model, was visibly overwhelmed 
with the music he was playing together with what Bob calls "the best
band I've ever been into, man for man," also knowing he has been Bob
side-man longer than any other musician, ever.  Then came Things Have 
Changed, a stunning interpretation, enhanced by Donnie's violin. The 
words "I used to care but things have changed", might have confused 
some people from the audience who believed the times they were still
a-changing. I glanced at the ever standing Oscar prize sculpture on his 
amplifier, and thought to myself: "Only Tony Garnier has attended more 
concerts than the famous bronze figurine".  Just then, the loud 
enthusiastic and ever cheering audience sat and quieted down to the 
first notes of the peaceful and highly sentimental When The Deal Goes 

Might have been just my imagination, but when the words "We all wear 
the same thorny crown" were softly said, Bob looked at his audience in 
the tenderest manner, as to say "No one is better than anyone else. 
We are all in the same daily struggle, and here we are, together, trying 
to forget about today, until tomorrow.
And just as those ideas were sailing my brain, the light-hearted notes of
Donnie's banjo played the intro to High Water (for Charley Patton) along 
with Tony and George Recile´s well and tightly wrapped base line. Again 
something came to mind: The mysterious shocking way Love and Theft's 
most warning tune, repeated "High Water Everywhere" incessantly, as 
the Twin Towers were crashed and crushed by reasons which to date
remain unknown ?¿ even now, as the said Love And Theft album was 
released on -believe it or not- 9/11, 2001!!! And even more stunning is 
the way in which prophet Bob -who harshly denies the title- wrote and 
sang the words President George Bush would be yelling before the 
whole wide world that very same night: "I want them dead or alive, 
either way, I don't care". 

The long and agile Stuck Inside Of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, 
reminded me a lot of the last time Bob Dylan performed in Mexico City in 
1991, when I was lucky enough to witness the whole show standing 
only a couple of feet away and facing the lean, withdrawn and distant
figure. I clearly remember myself singing along to Memphis Blues Again.
And although I was only 26, I was so much older then, I´m younger 
than that now. Workingman's Blues was soothing and fit just fine placed 
behind an exciting and tremendously rocking Highway 61 - in my opinion 
- the highlight of the night, along with the awe-inspiring Netty Moore. 
By the way, Donnie's viola arrangement is my favourite one from Modern 
Times. Summertime, preceded the loudly cheered world-famous, historic,
striking, culture-making, history-changing, ground-braking, slow tempo 
rendition of Like A Rolling Stone, which the over 10,000 souls who 
crowded the Auditorio Nacional on the Mexico City majestic Reforma 
Avenue, took colossal pleasure in listening, singing along and dancing to.

But what struck me kind of funny was the sight of Guagua, my ever 
Dylan-apathetic sister, actually cheering her lungs out in evident 
excitement. I had to pinch myself just to see if I was dreaming. 
"Someday you'll be glad to have him around," said I to her when the 
show was over. -"Really"- said she, nodding.
When neither His Royal Bobness nor his five band-mates had anything 
left to prove, they closed the magical recital with the up-beat Thunder 
on the Mountain, reminding us all that one day in Hell's Kitchen, an Alicia 
Keys was born.

Tomorrow I'll be back to witness history again, but tomorrow is a 
long time.


Review by Oscar Montes

I arrived to the Auditorio Nacional 3 hours before the show and there 
were few people around this place.  My last Dylan show had been 9 
years earlier.   I was in the 3rd row, in first 2 rows there were just
people who were invited by the promoter (not really Dylan fans).
The show started at about 10:40 PM, the stage was quite simple
but enough for a great show, the smell of incense was everywhere,
everybody had cell phones with cameras but the security people
did not allow us to use them, we took some shots and clips tough. Bob
started with Rainy Day Women, I did not expect it to be honest but it was
a great surprise and a great beginning, people were shouting: Bobby,
Maestro, Poeta! Everybody stood up at the beginning but then everybody was
sitting, I must admit it was difficult for me since I had always been on
foot in all my Dylan shows. It ain’t me babe was great, a really Dylan
classic and a well-known tune in Mexico, Watching the river was nice too,
all of these three songs were played with Dylan in the electric guitar.
The next song was Masters of war, really great song, here Dylan played the
keyboard and did not stop doing it until the end of the show, then he
started playing mostly songs from the 2 lasts albums The Leeve’s gonna
break, Spirit on the water (which was really good and well-known by the
Mexican fans) where Bob played the harp, High Water sounded kind of heavy
but was good, then Stuck inside which was good as well, Workingman’s
blues was nice and then Highway 61 really shook the Auditorio Nacional, a
lot of energy in this song, Nettie Moore was soft and nice, in Summer Days
Bob really enjoyed playing Rock n’ roll! I kind of figured him as if he
was trying to be Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis! Then next song was the
highlight of the night, Like a rolling stone one of the greatest songs of
Dylan, everybody stood up and sang along with Bobby, and then the encore
Thunder on the mountain with the Dylan eyed logo in the background of the
stage, the last song was Blowin’ in the wind with Bob playing the harp,
everybody was as well on foot really enjoying this classic tune, then
Dylan left the stage and everybody was expecting another song shouting
Dylan, Dylan, Dylan! but Booby and his band did not return. I am looking
forward for the next 4 shows in Mexico and I hope he sings several
different songs.

Oscar Montes


Review by Howard Weiner

It was a day only the Lord and Dylan could make. I had an action-packed 12
hours: climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun – part of the colossal
remnants from the archeological city of Teotihuacan dating back 2,000
years, stepped inside churches built in Mexico City during the early 16th
Century, and saw a Cowboy Band ransack the most populated city in North
America located in the gut of Mexico. 
I purchased an inexpensive ticket for 275 pesos (about $25)
for this performance at the Auditorio Nacional. My thriftiness
landed me a less than desirable seat in the rafters and my
second monumental climb of the day. I realized the folly of my
ways and went to the hospitality desk to ask if I could
upgrade my ticket, I told them I was willing to pay, I knew
this 14,000 seat venue didn’t sell out. A lovely Mexican
maiden who spoke good English surrendered to my charms and
handed me a third row, dead center ticket in the lower balcony
for free. Dylan sounded great on guitar and vocals on a well
executed “Raniny Day Women #12 + 35”= 47/ “It Ain’t Me Babe”
opening.   All early reports about how tight the band has been
this tour were validated with a resounding “Watching the River
Flow.” That song seems to capture the pulse of the people of
Mexico City. Maybe it was because my bewildered brain baked in
the sun all day, but the ensuing “Masters of War” had me
thinking about Mexican history. The United States has been the
reigning Mater of War since its birth, but Mexico has
experienced that saga more than any other place in our
hemisphere. Dylan led the charge perched behind his beloved
keys; Austin’s Denny Freeman played some dazzling guitar
solos. Dylan was wearing a suit of black and a white top hat
with a touch of grey, his Cowboy Band was in matching grey
suits and black hats, though my vision was blurry do to
excessive consumption of the gold of sunshine and Dos Equis.
My perceptions of reality were further challenged by a lethal
dose of “When the Levee Breaks.” “Some people on the road
carrying everything that they own/ Some people got barely
enough skin to cover their bones/ Put on your cat clothes mama
put on your evening dress,” exalted the maestro. As our
fearless leader provoked the third blitzing instrumental with
some chunky organ riffs, he yelled, “Oh!” The Cowboy Band led
by the honorable plucking of the Denny Freeman/Donnie Herron
combo, and the restless thumping of Garnier and Recile,
wreaked rocking havoc on an appreciative crowd. Dylan ended
matters by howling, “This is a day only the Lord, only the
Lord can make!” Checkmate. A reality check followed in a well
received, yet anticlimactic “Spirit on the Water.” “Things
Have Changed” was a powder charge throwing the evening back
into spin cycle. “When the Deal Goes Down” and “High Water”
were of the highest quality, and continued a symmetrical
ballad/ rocker flow to the show. When Dylan sang, “The shacks
are sliding down,” I thought of the all those poverty shacks
piled on top of each other in the foothills that surround
Mexico City. It’s also noteworthy that the five songs just
mentioned were the core of the show and they are all recent
Dylan creations. “Stuck Inside of Mobile” was bland and blunt.
“Workingman’s Blues” was pure bliss, especially for those like
me who enjoy rice and beans and Mexico City Blues, as Dylan
sang like a bird on the horizon and Freeman whipped up another
distinctive solo. “Highway 61 Revisited was extra vicious and
elicited the most enthusiastic standing ovation from the
crowd. It reminded me of my tour guide during the day, Manuel.
He’s a large native with an equally huge presence and white
sombrero – a man of wisdom, though he spoke few words. Manuel
was gunning our red van down from the pyramids toward Mexico
City on Highway 85 at a 110 MPH clip. Highway 85 cuts through
the heart of Mexico, east to west like Highway 61 slices
through heartland of America, north to south. After “Highway 61,”
I heard a weird chant behind me, “Dill –awn, Dill –awn,”
it took me a few moments to realize they were chanting for his
Bobness. The Cowboy Band anthem, “Nettie Moore” followed –
brilliancy revisited. “Summer Days” was truncated. Dylan ended
the set with his first “Like a Rolling Stone” of the tour – it
was poignant. Dylan sang the often skipped verse, “You gone to
the finest school alright miss lonely but you only used to get
juiced in it. “ “Thunder on the Mountain was a pure rush of
adrenaline…best version… Mexico City was shaking. A nice harp
solo introduced a satisfactory “Blowin in the Wind”
conclusion. There was a post-concert mob scene. At least 100
vendors were selling all sorts of Dylan merchandise: pens,
stickers, shirts, posters, coffee mugs, shot glasses, etc. I
picked up a few Never Ending Tour pens. Attention shoppers:
clearance sale after tonight’s show. 
Rest was hard to come by last night; I drifted in and out of
strange dream sleep for a couple of hours.  I felt like I had
sucked the milk out of 1,000 cows, in one day. Also, the
mattress in my hotel room is so uncomfortable it can wake up
the dead. I would have rolled on to the floor, but this rug
hasn’t been shampooed in half a century. It’s back to the
nitty-gritty tonight, I’ll be tenth row. 

Howard Weiner


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