page by Bill Pagel
Review by Mike Stillman
It was an exceptionally strong Bob Dylan show at the Vic Theatre in
Chicago tonight, probably the best Chicago area performance from Bob since
the late show at the Park West in '99. I've always enjoyed seeing shows at
the Vic, a slightly run-down but comfortable old theatre with few
pretensions. The Vic is never billed as "ornate" or a "landmark" but it
was well-designed many decades ago, with good sightlines and excellent
acoustics. It is no exaggeration to say that the sound is better in the
bathrooms of the Vic than the main floor of the Aragon.
Tonight's show began almost on time with TOMBSTONE BLUES, and it was
immediately obvious that the band was *on*, in the best form, with a
strong ensemble sound and focused energy. Bob concentrated on the vocals
and harp, playing minimal piano that seemed to be intentionally
undermixed. Unlike the last two nights where he duck-walked to
center-stage for crooning and harpwork, Bob stayed behind the piano
tonight, and sang with a powerful voice, tempered by subtle inflections.
Larry Campbell and then Freddy Koella took guitar solos that were concise
but meaningful, like most of the solos tonight.
Next was the new arrangement of IT'S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE that has been
mentioned in the last few days. It's missing a beat from the old version,
a little less fluid but an interesting alternative. Larry played pedal
steel, and Bob took the first of the night's several harp solos. Then came
TWEEDLE DUM AND TWEEDLE DEE, as well-played as you've ever heard it, with
Richie Hayward playing congas along with George Recile's drumkit,
well-synchronized. Then came LOVE SICK for the first time on this tour, in
all its atmospheric glory, and Richie sat out. Bob sang as if he was
singing about someone in the room, Larry took a pointed guitar solo, and
the soundman didn't have much problem using the Vic acoustics to mix the
band in perfect stereo imagery.
Then came STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE (WITH THE MEMPHIS BLUES AGAIN) performed
for the first time in a few months, with George stepping off and letting
Richie man the drums alone. Larry played acoustic guitar, and Freddy took
an electric guitar solo, but the surprise came when Bob took not one but
two harp solos, the final one ending the song.
Next was one of the evening's surprises, a completely new arrangement of
MOONLIGHT, much faster and with a different feel, beginning with Bob's
harp intro. This arrangement rides on Larry's arpeggiated riff on the
lower strings, like something that wouldn't be out of place in a Steely
Dan song. Freddy played a nice guitar figure during the bridge, which
surprised me a little, because Freddy usually plays best on songs that he
has already played a few times. He also took a guitar solo that was of the
non-cheesy variety. Tony played his stand-up bass. I liked the original
arrangement of this song, but this was an interesting alternative, and I
was glad to hear it. The other arrangement was more menacing, but this has
Then came one of the strongest songs of the night, a thundering COLD IRONS
BOUND that might have been even better than the one played at the Cabaret
Metro in '99. Richie left to go backstage, and George returned to power
the band with his forearms bulging like some percussive Popeye. Freddy
played a workable solo, but the best came when it was time for the "winds
in Chicago" line......Bob paused, Larry looked at him, Freddy looked at
him, Tony looked at him, Bob kept pausing, kicked his leg back like he was
winding up, milking it, teasing everyone, pausing again with the tension
building, then delivering "THE WINDS IN CHICAGO
Review by Robert Lynch
Thanks to a good friend of mine I received a copy of this show in the mail today. Listening to it
I remember how incredible it was and decided that I should write a brief review of the show if for
nothing else, to just get it out of my head so I could read it myself.
All four shows in Chicago were memorable for their own reasons but the show at The Vic Theater was
the best one top to bottom. The venue was an old, slightly run down theater just West of the
Wrigleyville neighborhood if I have my sense of direction right. Iím sure if Iím wrong some kind
soul from Chicago will put me straight. The Theater is very low key with a simple marquee. The front
of the building was surrounded by scaffolding which would have offered a little shelter had it been
raining but on the day of the show only helped to funnel the wind between the busses and the front
of the venue into a veritable wind-tunnel. After waiting in line all day through the coldest day of
my stay in Chicago, doors opened around 6:30 and with what was by far the most prepared security that
I have ever seen at a GA show, we were let into the venue. I was lucky enough to make it down to the
rail for the third night in a row and this night, had a great spot directly in front of Larry. About
15 after 8 the lights went down, the music came up and Bob and the guys took the stageÖ
From the first notes of Tombstone Blues the band sounded much more in sync than the previous night at
the Riviera just a few blocks away, with Bob spitting out the first line holding nothing back,
"sweet pretty things are in bed now of course." He fired off the words like there was no tomorrow
nailing the entire song. Maybe Bob was as happy to be playing a new song in the opening slot as
opposed to the last couple of nights as we were to be hearing it. Its All Over Now Baby Blue was much
improved from the night before with Bob really getting into the new arrangement with lots of emphasis
of the last couple of syllables of each line.
With the opening chords of Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, the show really began to go off into another
realm. I had grown tired of this song hearing it many times live over the past couple of years but at
The Vic it was very fresh and full of energy! It didnít drag along and Bob and the band really seemed
to enjoy playing it. This was the first night of the Chicago run that Cry Awhile wasnít in the third
slot and I started to feel like maybe Bob was really going to mix this set up.
Lovesick was next, played for the first time of the tour and Bob sang it wonderfully, singing closer
to his natural, lower vocal range. Larry played an awesome solo which got an incredible response from
the crowd bringing a smile to his face. Next upÖStuck Inside Of Mobile. Again, a first for the tour
and again, it sounded great. Larry was on acoustic for the first time really pounding out the rhythm
and Bob really cut loose with some great phrasing such as with the line "speaking to some French girl,
who says she knows me well". Very playful, singing along with the melody of the song. Its nice to hear
Bob do this, it always makes it seem like he is really having a good time up on stage. Freddy played
a great solo, one of his more straightforward solos in my opinion and it really worked well.
The surprises kept coming during this show and the next one was the biggest of them all for me. After
a quick instrument change for Larry from acoustic 6 string to Bozuki, the band sort of slipped into
the next song with Bob leading the way setting the pace on keys. Once the band came in I had no idea
what song they were playing , all I knew is it was one that they sound checked a couple of hours
earlier. Waiting for something to be recognizable, "Seasons they are turning, my poor heart is
yearnin" . What!?! I still couldnít figure it out. The music didnít go with anything I knew so I
couldnít place it even with the lyrics until nearly the end of the first verse. Bob really hit his
stride with the vocal delivery after the first verse and he was able to settle into something that
he was comfortable with. Personally if I had to choose which new arrangement I like better out of
Moonlight and It Aint Me Babe, I gotta go with Moonlight. The upbeat tempo is fun and I think itís
a great re-working of a great song.
Cold Irons Bound was next and I was surprised that it hadnít been played at either of the previous
Chicago shows. I was happy to finally be hearing it knowing that the crowd would really respond to
this song especially the "winds in Chicago " line and apparently Bob knew it too really playing up
the moment. When it came time for that verse he let the band play an extra few measures while he
leaned back on his heals and put his hands out, palms facing the rest of the band as if to say, "Here
we go" and then leaning into the mic he nailed it and of courseÖthe crowd went nuts.
Boots of Spanish Leather is the same arrangement as the Fall European tour. I think it was one of
the highlights of the show. Its nice to see Bob bring the energy of the show way down and sing
something as sensitive and beautiful as this song. I hadnít seen it live in a while and was very
happy to see it played. Highway 61 of course brought things right back to the boiling point as usual.
Larry shined on this one as usual while Bob pounded on his keys while spitting the lyrics out with
no holding back. Blind Willie McTell was another nice surprise in this night of surprises. I had only
seen this performed once previously and was really blown away by this performance. Larry on Bozuki
again with Freddie taking the leads worked well. Bob played some great piano behind it all and of
course as is par for the course these days, nailed the vocal.
Floater seems to have made a return to be a regular once again in the set. This was great again with
Freddie playing some beautiful violin. Honest with me has become the most solid night in night out
song in my opinion. With Larry playing slide and George just beating the drums for all they are
worth, this song might have been the sonic high point of the night. When Bob introduced the slightly
new arrangement of this last spring I thought that maybe it would become the new Summer Days but it
never happened. Iíd rather see this as the set closer but hey, who am I to say where the songs get
Saving Grace was a welcome newcomer to the 15 slot as far as the Chicago shows go. Iím not
complaining about hearing Every Grain Of Sand by any means but its nice to get some variation
especially when its something like Saving Grace. Bob delivered this with great care and it was
one of the highlights of the 4 shows that I saw. Larryís pedal steel playing was wonderful and
Bob sang his heart out.
Summer Days was better tonight than the first couple of nights. It still seemed a little tired
though. It was the only point of the show that it looked like Bob would rather be doing something
else. I think he really needs another song to close the show with. I just think that Summer Days is
wearing a little thin. Some nights it completely cooks while others it just sort of fills up the last
song of the night slot.
After a short break Bob and the band came back out and wrapped up what was an absolutely wonderful
night with a super tight 3 song encore consisting of what has become the standard encore. Cats In
The Well, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower. All three were great, lots of energy
and seemed to really please the crowd. I love the new arrangement of Like A Rolling Stone with the
guitars dropping out during the middle lines of the chorus and Bob really sang the whole song with
lots of energy, again playing around with the phrasing and delivering some lines in his newly adopted
For the band intros Bob has taken to coming to center stage and with mic in hand introducing the band
members one at a time. There were some women hanging out of one of the overhanging balconies that
really got Bobs attention and he had a good laugh at them.
Like I said at the onset, this was the best show of the four that I saw. Bob seems to be singing much
stronger now compared to the summer US tour. The new arrangements of songs we have become familiar
with are brilliant showing us that Bob is one of a kind. No other artist that I can think of takes
the chances with their songs that he does. To completely re-work songs that people know and love is
a gutsy move but he does it like its no big deal and thatís why we love to go and see him live. You
never know what you might get.
This ended up being a little longer than I intended . For those of you still with me, thanks for
reading. I hope I was able to give you and idea of what the show was like. The short version is Bob
and the band rocked the house leaving little to be desired. They seemed to have as much fun playing
the songs as us lucky enough to be in attendance had listening to them. We are lucky to have the
opportunity to see such a great performer like Bob Dylan on a pretty regular basis. If you are
thinking about going to a show go! You will not be disappointed.
Review by Jeffrey Johnson
The Maestro moved to a third Chicago venue, the Vic, in a better part of
town. To the relief of many, the opener changed to Tombstone Blues.
Larry was unleashed on Love Sick. Spanish Boots contained a hint of the
drawn-out Tramps '99 "Lea-THAH."
Inspired by the Chicago weather, Cold Irons Bound brought down the house:
Anticipation grew as He delayed the Chicago tag line. Bob also performed
one of His patented solo dances bounding away from the keyboard
repeatedly, returning with His fingers high and flailing as if He were
playing scary movie music.
Moonlight got the stop/start tempo makeover accorded to It Ain't me Babe
at last night's Riviera Theatre show with lesser results.
A rare McTell benefited from the Larry Campbell reemergence. Freddy's
violin on Floater was also nicely up the mix from two nights before.
(He's got the best soundman in the business!)
No Tom Jones segue tonight. But He laughed with amusement at an inept
blonde's balcony flower toss, that failed to reach the stage.
page by Bill Pagel
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