Review by Charles Cicirella
The Passion of Dylan at Park West
(March 8, 2004 Chicago, Illinois)
Something was happening there and you can just tell
that from the unbelievably non-linear set-list. It was
almost as if Bob decided the set last night would
possess the qualities of a cubist painting and then he
just turned it all upside down and inside out! From
the outset with Larry’s prominent playing of the
opening chords of, “Tangled Up In Blue”, you
absolutely had no doubt that tonight’s performance
would be something you’d never quite get over and even
that does not come nearly close enough to how anyone
of us must have felt (especially the handful of people
at the rail – myself and my friend Jim were quite
fortunate to be part of this band of refugees – and
never not once did either one of us, I believe, feel
bogged down in a magnetic field matter a fact it was
more like we were floating in space – sometimes
rotating quite majestically around the Earth – other
times asteroids were coming at us from all sides – and
then there was a lull and a hush and a whisper as
someone or another continued to relentlessly beat the
dead horse) because last night’s performance at the
Park West in Chicago, Illinois was one of the
experiences that you know if you were lucky enough to
have been there in the flesh to witness it that it had
absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with luck and in
truth you were and are blessed – one of the chosen few
who will judge the many when the game is through.
When I walked into the venue and got myself situated
at the rail just about center, and though I did not
fully realize it at that moment, just about perfectly
in line with Bob as he stood behind the keyboard like
the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker all
rolled into one going into the narrow lanes, neither
stumbling nor staying put as he showed us how very
much it meant to him to have the opportunity to be at
this exact point in his life playing this club in this
very windy city for the 1,000 or so beautiful people
who were very much present and looking forward to
being tamed by this seer.
To see him laughing and smiling and even at one
point spitting I honestly feel that since having begun
seeing him in 1986 ( 7.2 1986 Akron Rubberbowl with
Tom Petty and The Dead on the True Confessions Tour)
this was the most personal and undeniably connected
I’ve ever seen him with the band and the music and the
audience and I don’t know if it was because of the
size of the place and I kid you not the audience truly
was like an extension of the band (that is how low the
stage was off the ground without any rail to speak of
-an extremely nice man with security came out right
before the show kicked off to explain to those of us
at the rail that we were in fact “the rail” and that
we had to quite literally stop anyone who may try to
get up on the stage because if that happened Bob would
be swept off put into a van and driven away-) or
because he knew the three prior nights in Chicago had
already proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that not
only was Bob and the best band in the land very much
on top of their game they were also forging new fields
of expertise with each individual layer they peeled
back exposing more of the meat residing at the core of
everyone of our cantankerous existences.
When looking at the set list don’t just look at the
songs themselves, but look at also where they were
placed or sometimes it appears quite possibly at the
spur of the moment thrown in for instance, “Saving
Grace”, and not, “Shooting Star”, was what was
supposed to actually be played (that is what the
actual set list on stage had listed – thank God for
binoculars!) and yet for whatever reason (I have my
own personal opinions why I feel he chose to do,
“Shooting Star”, but I’ll save those to share at
another time and place) Bob opted to change it up and
thank God for little girls and thank God that Senor
Dylan does whatever he feels like at any given moment
in time and space because the man absolutely has
instincts that are just so perfectly honed that when
he acts on what may appear to others to just be a
crazed wild goose chase well the results quite often
prove that he has always in fact been operating on a
higher level and that he has done away with
coincidence and highways paved with the skulls and
bones of good intentions a long, long, time ago. There
was no rhyme or reason to this set of songs and I feel
(even though there was no Jokerman or Romance In
Durango) that the set last night at the Park West was
even more of a curiosity than any of the last three
London shows from the end of the recent European tour
and that because of it not being a more uniformed
set-list the show fed off this chaotic spontaneous
energy taking all of us, including Bob and the band,
higher and higher.
I’m not going to sit here and like most reviews tell
you what he played because you can see for yourself
the songs he played. No what I want to try and do with
my review is express to you somehow what it meant for
me to have been standing there last night watching
this crazed epiphany gain more and more momentum until
a, “Summer Days”, that just about left me writhing
around on the ground like some idiotic hopeless
romantic who finally decides cold turkey is the only
answer to this perverse addiction called love. Larry
Campbell (who at one point I told was great and he
just had to laugh) it appears has really again stepped
from the shadows as Freddy played more rhythm last
night and many if not most of the lead playing was all
Larry – including on, “Summer Days”, some magnificent
strumming that just could not be beat – I was told by
some friends who had attended the other three Chicago
shows that, “Summer Days”, really wasn’t that
impressive this time around and yet I can only believe
that last night changed all that because not since
the, “Summer Days”, of Kent 2002 and Fairfax 2002
(which I saw live in both instances) have I heard such
transcendent exemplary sonic waves of rocketdom as I
did last evening. These guys took off in their own
unidentified flying saucer heading farther and farther
into space never once nearly crash landing or burning
up in the atmosphere. This performance of, “Summer
Days”, took us to new lands showing us that anything
is possible when the wizard is standing right there in
front of you and the four horsemen of the apocalypse
are given free reign to do whatever they must do to
make us accept the reality of light and magic and how
when combined it can be very much the lethal dose that
aids in you discovering your very own personalized
I am so thankful to have been saved by all these
charismatic ministers up there on the stage with their
special blending of love and theft proving that the
mercury sound is still very much an integral part of
everything this song and dance man touches and then
ultimately sets free. Listen to, “Positively 4th.
Street”, “Lay, Lady, Lay”, and “Shooting Star”, and
you’ll hear Bob sharing with us his heart without any
walls or moats present as he sketches quick mind
bending sketches of this crossroads he finds himself
standing at and listen even more closely to hear
beneath the gravel and the scowl how he has finally
come to terms with the restless hungry feelings
driving him toward another joint and how we to can
find inner peace if we choose to face the one
authority on High with the proper amount of fear and
trepidation a human must possess when making amends
and facing their death.
“But People don’t live or die, people just float.
She went with the man in the long black coat”. And
then Dylan looked directly over at her twice showing
her that yes he was very much aware of her presence as
well as her present circumstances. The man connects
with everyone of us and that is why we travel for
hours and even in some cases across an ocean to see
him live. That is why we cower down in our cars when
it is 36 degrees outside and you have at least 9 or so
more hours before another beautiful soul shows up to
keep you company. That is why we deal as best we can
with the stress right before ‘the powers that be’ open
the doors allowing us to enter his sanctuary for an
hour and a half of the best live music you are ever
going to hear not to mention the most profound and
evocative poetry since Shakespeare gave up his ghost
so many eons ago. That is why we go without sleep for
twenty four hours straight because we know he will
reenergize us and replenish us with his iron ore will
and Midwest charm. Bob Dylan is the man of this and
many hours and on March 8, 2004 at the Park West in
Chicago Illinois he not only over filled our loving
cups with his kindness and generosity but as well
stood before us without any hidden agendas or smoke
and mirrors and gave unto us some real love. I swear
at the end of I believe it was, “Positively 4th.
Street”, he looked like he was the young scruffy kid
all over again and then I got it that he really is
younger than that now and so are we all if we just
accept this truth and move on.
Charles Eric Cicirella March 9, 2004
page by Bill Pagel
Review by Scott Judd
Park West was my only show of the Chicago stand. I'd see both the
early and late shows at Dylan's last stop at Park West a couple years ago,
and they were major highlights, fantastic shows and the closest Dylan
sitings I'd ever had. So I jumped at the chance to go again. Funny
enough, the friend who scored the tickets this time invited me to come as
a MAKE-UP for his having lost our Phil Lesh tickets last fall.... much as
I love the Phil shows, this was a way better option, and we shall never
speak of the Phil ticket-loss again!
Tangled Up was a great galvanizing opener, people love this song and
I'm one of them. Great way to set the tone for the night. Don't
Think Twice is another of my favorites and was well received. I don't
think I was the only one somewhat unfamiliar with High Water, but it was
enjoyable none-the-less. The Park West has phenomenal sound quality, in
stereo, and the sound was great, esp. as the band ramped from acoustic to
electric and brought out Richie on drums.
The house lights were mid- to bright all night, starting right from
the first song. This seemed odd, but was less noticeable as we went. I
wondered if they tried to discourage smoking? If so, their ploy was less
and less effective as the night went past, esp. by the time of Rainy Day
Women. But I digress.
Sylvio was a great next choice and had the guy next to me freaking out
(he'd see the whole Chicago run and said NONE of these songs had yet been
played). I'm a Robert Hunter fan (he wrote the Sylvio lyrics), so that
was a nice twist to this one.
Positively 4th Street is the greatest bitter love note ever, and Bob
delivered this one with aplomb, I could hear every word (which was not
necessarily the case with the previous number, by the way).
Lay Lady Lay - wow, he's really laying it on, playing a greatest hits
collection and we're loving it. Larry added some beautiful pedal steel on
this one that tied it to the old vinyl version I grew up on. I was
completely charmed by our song selection by now, this was right up my
Cold Irons was rocking, don't remember much else except that Bob
really had the lyric delivery thing going tonight when he wanted it.
His piano playing was scant and a little crazy, not mixed real loud -
novel to see/hear for the first time, but not something I'd rush back just
to hear again. He did a good bit of harp playing tonight too, but it was
de-emphasized to my ear, just something to color a song or swing a jam
around the bend now and again. It was more about the band and the songs,
and it worked.
Rainy Day Women was very well-received (judging by the many smoke
clouds abounding), but featured a botched/abortive harmonica solo that
went nowhere, and ended with Bob hacking up a lung, turning his back on us
briefly, bagging the harp, and resuming his gruff singing with no apparent
problems. The band, however, shredded this one up nicely and appeared to
be having a great time.
Tony on bass is very fun to watch - looks like he's seeing
conspiracies unfold all around the room, very shifty eyed, and dapper in
that suit and hat, a mysterious smirk often cracking through his otherwise
serious demeanor. I found him very entertaining to watch the entire
night. Once he appeared to look right at me as he scanned the room for
the person who might eventually head backstage to steal his lighter out of
his coat or something. I was cracking myself up wondering what he was
thinking (and probably over-doing it a bit - he's probably thinking "play
good, stay in band!"). I also really liked Richie's drums on Rainy Day -
he captured the original recording's bar-room/cabaret feel on his snare -
bap bap bap bap! It was almost like striptease music, and it really
This is a crack band in all respects, kudos to Bob for continuing to
evolve his great lineup. Bye and Bye and Dignity seemed to give
everyone a break after the opening hitfest. The energy dropped and
folks re-focused a bit, myself included. Shooting Star was a great
return to the playlist Dylan seemed to be stealing right out of my
head - I love Oh Mercy material, and this was a nice, nice treat.
Summer Days was a rocket jam and we knew the set was over, but man did it
go out with a great bang.
Man In The Long Black Coat picked up the Oh Mercy bag and flung it
high into the sky, my favorite possible song off this great album (shy of
maybe Most of the Time, which I don't think sees much action). I was
really beaming by this point and hoped everyone else loved it like I did.
Remaining songs were all expected titles but nicely executed versions, and
Larry especially looked very proud and pleased to be playing Like a
Rolling Stone - he had a huge grin as he looked out around the crowd for
the whole song, as if he wasn't EVER going to let a version of this pass
w/o connecting to the crowd and the history of this great number.
And Larry also OWNED Watchtower. During the intro, I swore they were
playing Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, or perhaps Godzilla by Blue
Oyster Cult, until Dylan hit the first vocal line. This was an excellent
re-arrangement that stood up nicely through to the end, and sent us home
on a very high, rocking note.
I saw/heard Neil Young and Crazy Horse do the same thing with Rockin' in
the Free World last Thursday, and this Watchtower really connected the
dots to that show. What a week of music it's been for us here in Chicago.
My advice is take any chance you can to see this band in the small venues
like Park West, esp. if the shows are short-notice. The performance and
setlist seem to always add up to be extra special, and this night was no
Review by Michael Smith
My brain is scrambled after four shows in four nights but here goes . . .
The Park West was a damned interesting show. Before it began, speculation
was running high in the crowd that it would feature the "best" setlist of
the four Chicago shows. In a way, it did; Dylan surprised us all by
playing a lot of the most-frequently played NET songs that he hasn't
happened to play in a while. In fact, the boot could be called "Greatest
Hits Live" as 10 of the 18 songs are featured on Greatest Hits Vol. 1 - 3,
including every song he played that was released before Oh Mercy. And,
let's face it, a lot of the newer songs are going to wind up on Greatest
Hits Vol. 4.
About the venue: the Park West is so small and so intimate, it's just
unbelievable. Supposedly, it can hold a thousand people but that's hard to
believe when you're inside and looking around. The stage is small and very
low to the ground - lower than my waist. There is also no rail in front of
the stage. What that means is that to be in the front row is to be leaning
on the stage with Dylan and band just a few feet away. It's an incredibly
strange feeling, almost like you're a part of the show, interacting with
the performers. I can't imagine being physically closer to Dylan and the
band at any other venue. This is, however, both a blessing and a curse.
While you can clearly see the blue in Dylan's eyes and the subtlest
expressions on every band member's face, the sound down front leaves a lot
to be desired. Dylan's vocals were nearly drowned out by the instruments
from where I was standing. I'm sure the sound was excellent elsewhere in
the venue though. Having the audience that close also affects the
performers; as opposed to the first three Chicago shows where Dylan
positioned himself to face the audience diagonally, mostly looking out at
those in front of Larry Campbell at stage right, Dylan was looking
straight across the stage at Larry for almost the entire show at the Park
West. Being that close to the audience clearly made Dylan uncomfortable
and he therefore made much less eye contact than he usually does. In fact,
the only songs where he really looked at the audience were High Water and
Shooting Star. This isn't to say that he wasn't having a good time or
working hard. For the most part, he played and sang very well and he
smiled a lot at the other band members.
And now, the blow by blow:
1. Tangled Up in Blue - This was a real treat as an opener and a fantastic
performance. Larry played acoustic and Freddy played electric. Dylan sang
great and nailed all the words. Most intriguingly, he even sang the
"topless place" verse for the first time in who-knows-when. From where I
was standing, Dylan's keyboard was loud as hell and his playing was very
2. Don't Think Twice - This was the same arrangment from last year with
Larry picking out the melody on the cittern; it was also the first true
acoustic performance I've seen from Dylan in a long time (meaning both
Larry and Freddy were acoustic) but the performance was just okay. It
sounded a little rusty, to be honest; Dylan's keyboard playing was off-key
and he flubbed the opening line of the second verse by singing, "It ain't
no use in calling out my name, babe . . . the light I never knowed." It's
always a treat to watch Larry work the magic on that cittern though.
3. High Water - A killer version. Sounded pretty much like it always does,
which in my opinion, is a good thing. I think this is one of the songs
from L&T that comes off the very best live. He ended the last verse by
singing, "Don't reach out for me, she said, unless you're happy too."
4. Silvio - Excellent. The band rocked really hard and Dylan sang this
confidently - almost cockily. Crowd loved it.
5. Positively Fourth Street - Once again, a little rusty and just okay.
Another lyric flub as Dylan conflated a couple of verses, singing about
four random lines in a row that didn't rhyme.
6. Watching the River Flow - This was a fun, high energy performance.
Sounds pretty much like it always does.
7. Lay, Lady, Lay - One of the unexpected highlights of the night. Great
singing from our man. One of the best versions I've heard in recent years.
8. Cold Irons Bound - This song is almost never less than great live. And
it is always great in Chicago, especially when you've been waiting in line
all day and the winds have torn you to shreds.
9. Rainy Day Women - Believe it or not, this was a lot of fun to hear
after some time off. Larry played slide guitar on this, not pedal steel.
Dylan ended this, like he always does, by making up some lines on the
spot. He also grabbed the wrong harmonica, played it for a little while
and then threw it behind his amp.
10. Bye and Bye - The absolute low point of the show. Unlike some fans,
I've actually heard performances of this that I like but tonight it seemed
meandering and brought the energy level down. Richie was the sole drummer
on this one and it's obvious that he has no clue how to fit into the band
just yet so a lot of it could've been his fault. I really hope he's fully
integrated by the time he needs to replace George.
11. Dignity - This was very well performed until the penultimate verse
where Dylan sang dummy lyrics ending with "edge of the lake" about three
times in a row.
12. Honest with Me - Great as ever. George always shines on this. Dylan
seriously considered picking up the electric guitar on the rack behind him
before it began but, sadly, it was not to be.
13. Shooting Star - The absolute high point of the evening. Very similar
to the Euro version, with what sounds like a slowed-down version of the
Mississippi riff before each verse, but much more INCREDIBLY SUNG. The
last verse, especially, was goose-bump inducing.
14. Summer Days - Very nice. Not quite as good as the Vic because Dylan
cut the jam way short but he at least sang the whole thing very well. Once
again, Dylan almost picked up the guitar; in the middle of the song, he
crouched down and strummed the strings with his finger (while it was still
on the rack) and twiddled with the knobs. But then, he called Tommy over
and Tommy picked it up and proceeded to play it from the shadows. After
this, Dylan walked out center stage and faced the crowd head on for the
first time. He looked hilariously awkward. It looked like he wanted to
wave to the crowd but didn't quite know how. He kind of raised both his
hands to wave but looked like he wasn't sure what to do. The Baker's Son
and I gave him a thumb's up and he shot us back two thumbs up in return
before leaving the stage.
15. Man in the Long Black Coat - We knew we were in for a treat when the
band returned to the stage and Larry strapped on his acoustic guitar! When
the familiar intro to MITLBC began, I knew we were in for a four song
encore. Next to Shooting Star, this was the highlight of the night. And,
as with Shooting Star, he sang the bridge twice (complete with the new "I
went down to the river but I just missed the boat" line) and the last
verse twice. Beautifully sung, appropriately spooky.
16. Cat's in the Well - Well done. I like this new arrangement with the
minor chord thrown into the bridge.
17. Like a Rolling Stone - A highlight at all of these shows. I'm glad
this song has been given a new lease on life, courtesy of the new chorus
part. Also, I can't say enough good things about Freddy's soloing on this.
I love the way he steps out with his rubbery legs and his head tilted
back, his mouth wearing a kind of frown as he squeezes out those high
pinched notes. The band leaves the stage and we know they're coming back
for a second encore.
18. All Along the Watchtower - The band returns and Bob introduces them
from center stage. They proceed to play a very fine version indeed and
then they're gone.
All in all, it was just incredible to see Bob up close at a venue this
intimate. It was also a very fitting way to end the run of Chicago shows.
The whole weekend felt like a three-act play - with the Aragon and the Riv
as the first act, the Vic as the second act and last night as the
resolution. Bob definitely rewarded us by mixing up the songs last night
and by throwing an extra song into the encore. But, to be totally honest .
. . I felt last night's show wasn't nearly as great as the Vic. While the
Park West highlights were incredible (Tangled, Lay Lady Lay, Shooting
Star, Man in the Long Black Coat), as with a lot of Dylan shows it was a
night of highs _and_ lows. The low points - Don't Think Twice, Positively
Fourth Street, Bye and Bye - were performances that felt a little rusty
and/or uninspired. The rest of the performances fell somewhere between
these two extremes. So if any of you reading this only get one of the
Chicago boots, I think it should definitely be the Vic. While I felt all
of the Chicago shows were very good-to-great and each had more than a few
magic moments, the Vic was the one show that approached dazzling
perfection, giving us a Bob Dylan at the peak of his current performing
powers. There was not a single weak performance at the Vic; it was really
just one incredible performance after another for the entire damn show.
Next up for me - Milwaukee.
Review by Kevin Klein
I'm not going to tell you about the Park West, Chicago, what I had for
dinner or how many beers I had before the show. In fact, I'll be brief
here. My expectations for this performance were already tempered by my
last Bob Dylan experience - - last summer in at some motor speedway south
of Chicago. In a nutshell, Bob's "new band" and approach to his music fall
short...very short of what he had going for him back with his 1999-2001
incarnation. The subtly and grace are gone. The classy, old-timey,
Americana has now regressed back into what Bob was offering up to his fans
back in the early 90's - - an amped up, roadhouse blues stomp, which at 60
years of age simply isn't the best way to frame this legend.
Bob Dylan once had what he even called, "The Finest Band in the Land."
Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell had to be the very best guitar tandem
going at the time. Their styles so perfectly aligned. The tension, the
gravity the focus on tone and restraint...it was all perfect. And of
course Tony on bass and David Kemper on drums...and Bob actually facing
the audience playing (yes) a guitar!!
What is this Bob Dylan piano stuff? He can't play piano. He's a decent
enough guitar player - - when he's strumming or picking out a tune, but
stabbing at piano keys, off time, out of key and truly bizarre...is just
too much damage. He's always been a song killer, but to varying degrees. I
mean sure, these are his songs. We love them. We know them. And we somehow
feel entitled to hear him treat these songs with a little more respect.
But Bob Dylan is not interested. Instead he faces across the stage in
Larry's direction...seated at his piano...never once even looking into his
audience. When his band plays the break, or a solo, Bob looks utterly
lost, bored and even disturbed at times. Like a child, he'll then crash on
his keyboard, knocking the groove to it's knees and wobbling the song off
its own feet at times. I've been seeing Bob Dylan live now for almost 15
years and he has never seemed so intent on "challenging his audience" to
enjoy themselves. I don't mind if he wants or even needs to re-work or
re-arrange his songs. They are after all, his songs. But he's certainly
not out there "aiming to please."
I think I can get to the heart of the matter here with one observation I
made last night at The Park West. Now obviously people are excited to see
this guy. They paid over $65 a ticket to be here. And they want to see and
hear what Bob is going to play. Is he going to surprise us with something
from 1965? Or might he play something from The Basement Tapes and so
on...But the thing that really hit me smack in the face was how the
audience was reacting to this performance. For $65 a ticket we're all
going to find a way to enjoy ourselves, right? And here's the thing...the
crowd would cheer its loudest...going wild with glee...following the few
times Bob would actually sing a line they could understand both in lyric
and in melody. This only happened maybe 5 times over the course of a 2
hour show. Those 5 lines might equate to say, 30-40 seconds of the 7,200
seconds we were there. That has me thinking maybe I'll take a pass next
time. Can you imagine how fans might react if Bob sang his songs
"properly?" Don't kid yourself, he still can...if he wants to. People
would have religious experiences...it would be beautiful. But Bob
I once read an article where Jerry Garcia said he wanted to punch Bob
Dylan for not singing his songs right. It was when they toured as Dylan &
The Dead back in like 1987. Jerry said he pleaded with Bob to sing them
the way the band, the way everyone knew them...the melodies at least!!
"But they are HIS songs," Jerry said..."and what am I gonna do, punch him
in the face?" Bob has even acknowledged that he had reclaimed his
confidence and desire to perform back around 1993 or so. From then
everything got better and better. The shows, the albums...he was a quite a
roll for a while. That has apparently ended. Bob needs a break. He needs
once again to find a little inspiration...and in the meantime I look for
some as well - - just in other places.
Review by Jeffrey Johnson
For the Chicago finale, He moved upmarket to the Park West and fed yuppie
egos big time. When He played Tangled Up In Blue they talked about how
they recognized it. When they couldn't recognize Highwater, they talked
about not recognizing it. (When 7 guys collectively can't identify
Highwater, you have too many yuppies in a 1000-ticket venue!)
Unlike the Riviera and the Vic, the sound in the pit was mediocre, but
stellar throughout the room. Thus, the dogfight for position was
counterproductive. The show bore no resemblance to prior spring 2004 shows
and repeated only Cold Irons Bound and the encores.
Those who missed the November 2003 London shows must preface all comments
with that caveat. Thus, for those who missed the London tour, the Chicago
tour was arguably the best He's done since the twin MSG 2002
masterpieces. Freddy is now fully assimilated into the band. He and
Larry have a nifty cross-stage exchange goin' on. While we did not
experience the London excitement, 40 different tunes in four nights, was
worthy of the global convergence on Chicago and more than enough to keep
us coming back.
Jeffrey Johnson, at tour's end (or intermission)
page by Bill Pagel
| Bob Links
| Set Lists
| Set Lists