page by Bill Pagel
Review by David Harper
Like the poster says "ALL NEW SHOW" and I was sure
hoping that was true sitting through Amos Lee making
his bid for big time. Not bad. Have to check him out
Merle Haggard seemed to be in very fine shape, always
a marvelous singer and picker and as classy as country
gets. His band, the Strangers, remain impeccable. Look
great and play like you'd expect. Excellent vibe
This night was one heck of a treat for us all.
Eyeballs almost popped through the binoculars when
Merle brought out a cool and dapper Buck Owens to take
Heart was skippin the rest of that set. Later in the
show Bob would sing the hell out of "A-11", one of
Bucks songs written by Hank Cochran. Don Deal may have
sung that too.
I've been going to these Bob Dylan shows since 74.
Listening, inside out, since Gil Turner turned me on
to the work, playing records in Michigan radio in the
very early 60's. Haven't missed much. Been through all
these changes with everybody and had almost expected
this show to have inevitably begun to wind down, lower
the volume, sweetly fading into Gene Austin reveries
or Louis Armstrong latter days gentleness. Not tonight
and not here. Maybe Howlin Wolf on Owsley is an
approximation of the full throated intensity in these
vocals from start to finish, no faltering or energy
drop in any of them.
And not from any of these players either. Bob's wound
these people into an ensemble worthy of his
intentions, I believe. Lot of readers will go "ahem"
here but I gotta tell you this is the best I've heard
Bob sing and boys I've heard some songs through the
His vocals are more powerful than I expected.
Lengthened and strengthened, as they say. Nothing laid
back. Everything forward and edgy.
Best harp work I've heard yet. Very tight. No risky
Coltrane improvs, just nailing it each and every time.
Harmonica and fiddle are like rose and briar climbing
the wall. These spiraling crescendos are luminous and
majestic. Somethings really been achieved here. Great
All the songs are better. Seriously. Didn't seem to be
any obligatory or breather songs on the list. The
material is as relevant and devastatingly soulful as
we've ever heard. Times The Are A-Changing takes on a
rightfully ominous air with a strong new arrangement.
Crowd seems to be catching on to the relevance and
satire in Tweedle Dee and Dum. I'm glad its still
played. The opener, Drifters Escape is the best I've
heard it performed. Down Along The Cove tears it up
better than before and it was pretty good with the
last crew. Lyric changes are a gas. Summer Days I
didn't think could get played any better than the last
few times we heard it but truly its up a whole other
notch or two. And when he does Mr. Haggards Sing Me
Back Home he doesn't just do a cover or tribute, like
maybe before, but he sings it deep and real. Same when
he did A-11.
Bob looked great, of course. Seems highly motivated.
There's nothing like it anywhere.
Review by Tim Roman
Just got back to Minneapolis tonight, after seeing Bob in both Portland
and Seattle. The Seattle venue was fantastic, and you have seen the other
The Portland venue is the small basketball arena for the University of
Portland. It's round, unlike other small college gyms that Bob has played
in, where sound bounces around off a rear brick wall. The beams are wooden
that lead up to what looks like the center of Madison Square Garden.
The crowd seemed a little more lively than in urbane Seattle (we only saw
the 9th). With the baby-boomers shakin' it a little bit more. I think the
same voice also yelled "Isis" like she did in Seattle...
Merle was a little more playful, but just as intense and in amazing
voice. He played "Okie" and got a big cheer for "San Francisco", but I'm
pretty sure it was for "San Francisco" itself, and not for the whole line
about hippies. Merle qualified the song after it was over, by saying that
he wrote it a long time ago, distancing himself somewhat from it. I think
it was then that he invited BUCK OWENS out on the stage and Buck came out
and waved his hat. It added to the atmosphere feeling "special". Merle is
awesome. I love the contrast on this tour. How about Loretta Lynn on the
Oh, Merle also went to introduce his band and said, "I'd like to
introduce The Strangers". And they all introduced themselves to each
other… Kills. Funnier than Bob’s jokes. Wouldn’t be surprised if he steals
it for next tour! Actually, he should steal it for this tour.
Now my review is so long, I'm not going to go song-by-song. Let's just say
that Bob was on, and the band is starting to understand better when, and
how loud to play.
Elena Fremerman is an amazing talent, and seems to understand the music in
such a thorough way that she gets her fiddle to "fit" into a tune like All
Along The Watchtower. Denny Freeman looks bored, but gets his chances to
show his chops. I'm pretty sure this is what Bob is looking for in him
though, because he's playing a ton of rhythm, and is really solid. Donnie
Herron is great too, playing both steel guitar and fiddle. All the new
musicians seem emboldened enough to take some aggressive solos, which is a
good sign. Also, it helps you hear them.
Drifter’s Escape is played a little slower. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum is a
protest song, I swear. Down Along The Cove was bouncing and rocked. Lots
Crowd note: the right hand side of the floor was constantly filled with
dancing people, and the security seemed to give up clearing it after a
while. The rear and left parts of the crowd seemed to stand for the whole
show, while the middle and front parts of the floor were sitting for most
of the show.
“A-11”. Nice country tune. Had no idea what it was. Figured Bob was
playing something for Buck Owens and Merle. Cool to find out later that
Buck had recorded it.
High Water was amazing. The Donnie’s banjo really makes it here. A
powerful, fun tune. Great lyrics. Great version.
If Dogs Run Free was perfect for this band. Like “Floater” it’s a
different kind of Dylan song, and the instrumentation is perfect for it.
Honest With Me rocked like Summer Days and Things Have Changed, but not
with the soaring power of Charlie and Larry. But like I said, Elena fits
in everywhere. I appreciate that Bob lets this band take plenty of solos.
Standing In The Doorway was emotional and intense.
Sing Me Back Home was great to hear, having known only the Grateful
Dead version for all these years. This band really fits amazingly
together well playing both country music, and Bob’s rock and roll
Maybe one of the best examples of the versatility of the new band was All
Along The Watchtower. The hard arrangement with country musicians. Again,
a great bunch of contrasts on this tour.
PS – I forgot to mention that at one point, Bob shuffled (you know how he
shuffles) over to the center mic (with, I believe, a harp in his hand),
but I think the mic wasn’t open, or he changed his mind, and did a u-turn
back to the keys.
He also visibly smiled at Stu at one point, and was shaking his
shouders back and forth during Down Along The Cove. As was everyone in the
Review by Mark Halpern
In response to other reviews, and after thinking about the show...I felt
compelled to say something.
The shows were mediocore, but its not Bob;'s fault. The three string
players, 2 guitars and violin, are new. They are figuring it out and ,
honestly, it shows. At key moments playing the songs, moments of jam that
could push further, they seem tentative. Bob stayed behind the piano, to
the left SIDE, ALL NIGHT. Even though there was a front and center
microphone, no one ever stood there. I believe he had to do this in order
to keep the constant eye contact needed to direct a band for which nothing
is yet intuitive. The violin just complicates the situation more. It was
as if, at certain times, the band wondered, now who?? Me?? You?? Bob is
singing articulately, but part of that may be he knows he needs to pick up
some slack. Dont get me wrong; this band will be amazing, but this show
was not. Every show they'll get tighter.
page by Bill Pagel
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