page by Bill Pagel
Review by Justin Briggs
Instead of providing a song-by-song breakdown as so many of the other
great reviewers do, I will just offer my general thoughts on the show.
Overall, "The Bob Dylan Show" was a very entertaining evening. The
Oakland Paramount is an incredible, historic venue and both Amos Lee and
Merle Haggard performed well. Although the hall was mostly empty when
Amos Lee and his band started to play, he managed to draw the crowd in
from the outer corridors and by the end of his short set received an
enthusiastic, standing ovation from a near capacity crowd! I have never
seen such a strong audience response to an unknown opening act and I
expect we will hear a great deal more from this new voice in the future.
After a short intermission, Merle Haggard and the Strangers brought their
brand of classic Country & Western to the fore. In the Bay Area
especially, Bob's audience skews much more to the hippie-side than the
Americana-side and it was apparent that Merle's Honky-Tonkin', Beer-Joint
sound wasn't typical for the audience. (I guess the audience probably
wasn't all that typical for the Strangers, either.) Despite any cultural
differences the crowd seemed to sincerely appreciate the music and the
band seemed to genuinely appreciate the warm response. Having spent some
time living in Nashville it was a great treat for me to hear some classic
twang again. After a rousing but straight-ahead version of If You've Got
The Money at start things off, Workin' Man Blues, Misery & Gin and That's
The News were all highlights for me. I also really enjoyed a song I was
previously unfamiliar with. Starting with a classic, chunky,
cowboy-guitar rhythm, the song starts with the line "Bad news spreads like
wildfire, but goo
After a second reasonably short intermission, it was time for the
headliner. A raucous version of To Be Alone With You certainly kicked
things into another sonic gear from the opening acts. While the band was
rockin' the sound was somewhat muddled. It didn't seem to be a venue
problem but rather an instrumentation problem. Too many cooks in the
As would prove to be the case for the rest of the night, the band quickly
toned things down for a slow, acoustic The Times They Are A Changin'.
While the changes of pace are welcome, alternating between an up tempo
electric arrangement and a slower acoustic arrangement from song to song
is a little distracting.
Next up was Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Typically this song is among my
favorites but not tonight. In fact, this was the first time in the
evening when the recent band changes had a large impact on the
performance. While Larry Campbell always seemed to be right in the pocket
building his growling guitar riff that made the song rumble along, Denny
Freeman's approach was far too stilted and clunky. In fact, several times
he seemed out of place and off-rhythm with this circular riff to the point
of distraction. (Curiously I noticed Tony staring intently at George on
the drums during this tune with his back turned to Denny. It almost
seemed the rhythm section needed the extra concentration to keep the song
moving forward and avoid being derailed by the misplaced guitar.)
After a mellow Positively 4th Street, Highway 61 took off with new
addition Donnie Herron providing lots of edge with the pedal steel.
Still, the rising slide guitar after each vocal line lacked the artistic
depth that Larry used to provide. Charlie Sexton was a huge loss in his
own right and with Larry gone now, too, something seems to be missing.
With the other band every night a virtuoso performance was possible.
Larry, in particular, had the rare ability to achieve superb technical
mastery (of several instruments, no less!) while maintaining all of the
raw feeling that makes music magic and makes it matter. Anyway, the
current players are all good, and a review of available bios confirms they
are well-accomplished...they're just not Charlie and Larry!
By mid-set I sat back to enjoy the rest of the show with my lowered my
expectations (hey I was still 15-rows away from Bob-freakin'-Dylan!) and
something surprising happened. Sugar Baby, always a low-point of past
shows for me was brilliant. The new band managed band to draw me in and
created layers that were never there before. High Water, another
selection I've never cared for much received a similar successful
treatment. So I could see this new group of players having potential.
Perhaps they simply need time to gel as a unit and find their own voice on
some different songs from the catalog.
Still, every time I have been to a Dylan show in the past 5 years (6 or 7
shows at least) something transcendent has taken me to another place and
that didn't happen this time. Even if it was just for a moment, a chord
change or a vocal line maybe, I always knew I was seeing something that
The other elements noticeably missing now are additional vocal layers.
For example, recent renditions of Forever Young and Heaven's Door have
been performed with a moving harmony accompaniment that hit you right in
the chest. Those sounds made you stop and think and feel whether you
wanted to or not. You had to pay attention. Even songs like Roving
Gambler featured great harmonies.
Well, every concert can't rate a 10 I suppose. And, I did get to hear
some very good musicians playing some great material with Bob Dylan.
Maybe somewhere down the road, just for a moment, I'll see Bob again and
here those sounds that transcend. As Wordsworth says in Tintern Abbey:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration: -- feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life
I guess I'll have to wait and hope to get some of that restoration next
time around. Thank God for the never-ending tour!
Review by Colin Selig
I just had the pleasure of attending the three Dylan shows at the
Paramount in Oakland, a vast Art Deco theatre with teriffic acoustics. I
was uncertain what to expect with Larry gone. I hoped it meant Bob would
be back on guitar. All I knew is that it was going to be different. At
least that part was the same.
I see Bob as a mad scientist, conducting a collective experiment on his
songs each night. For example, within these shows, one night we got a
deconstructed Mr. Tambourine Man, slowed way down as if to expose its
basic elements. Girl from North Country got a similar treatment the third
night. And there were lots of other experiments as well. It’s All Over
Now Baby Blue on the first night had a totally new arrangement.
Bob is giving the band members a bit more freedom of expression then in
recent past, which is better. Many songs had full instrumental
introductions instead of Bob cutting in with his lyrics at the earliest
possible moment. Stu is slipping nicely into his new role of lead
guitarist, particularly apparent on songs like Hwy. 61, now in slot five,
and All Along the Watchtower at the end of the show. The addition of
Elana on fiddle is excellent, and she’s clearly having fun out there and
she looks at Bob adoringly. Donnie and Denny are both making nice
contributions as well. I have a lot of respect for any musician who joins
Bob’s band, as there are so many songs to learn. Bob is still behind the
piano and I will continue to miss his guitar playing.
The highlight of the first show was Bob at the front mike with only
microphone, singing The Man In Me. The second night, with a similar
delivery, it was This Wheel’s on Fire. But the songs he put in the “open”
slots of the set list the third night were prime choice. The Times They
Are A-Changin, Positively 4th Street, Every Grain of Sand, and the
afforementioned Girl from North Country were delivered with clarity and
passion. Musically the third night was the peak, I suspect because the
band had had a chance to relax in town for a few days. If you’re trading
for shows and have to choose only one, go for the third night.
Also, don’t miss Merle Haggard! He’s a finely polished act and he has an
excellent, seasoned band.
Review by David Link
The last show of Dylan's three night stand was played last night at the
beautiful Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland. I was fortunate to have
found second-row seats for face value weeks after they went on sale, so
that helped ease the fact that you could not stand up during the show.
Before we left home we made the mistake of turning on the news.....The
nightmare of future oil drilling in Alaska, Robert Blake not guilty, and
Scott Peterson moving to San Quentin, which affected us because we had to
drive right by there to get to Oakland, and I was wondering if there
would be a million cops and newspeople milling around, like there always
are when they put someone to death....(thankfully, they waited till three
in the morning to move him there, so there were no traffic issues).
We got there for Merle Haggard, who did a set similar to what he's played
for the last few shows. I enjoyed him very much, as did most of the
audiance. He did the same jokes he's been doing, but what the heck. (I
loved hearing Mama Tried the other day, and contrary to what someone
wrote, The Grateful Dead never played that song here because they never
Speaking of Merl songs the Grateful Dead did, Bob did a great Sing Me
back Home the night before, and then The Watchtower that had the 60 year
old women ushers in the back rocking as hard as anyone and harder than a
lot of people!)
For wednesday, the opening To Be Alone With You was OK but a bit muddy
sounding; the sound did improve as the night progressed. (Of course due
to my vantage point I was relying on sound mostly from the stage
monitors, so it was not as good as being in the middle of the house, but
I could not complain at all.)
I loved 4th Street, sung with conviction. High Water was also given an
excellent go around, Donnie sounded great on Banjo; I was bummed when
Larry stopped using that on the song, it fits in perfectly. Girl Of the
North Country was also well played and sung, a nice treat. Every Grain Of
Sand also came through with some passion.
The scene in the front was funny....The scalper I had talked to on day
one had been broken down by a friend of mine, a vetern of many many shows
who got the front row center seat he was selling for next to nothing, way
under face value. (You gotta love a scalper running around with a broken
thumb; it was like something out of the Sopronos).
Two people in front of us in the front row had left after the fourth or
fifth song, people who obviously needed to get a room rather than see
Dylan from the front row. It was a blessing because they were talking the
whole time, obviously a major distraction for everyone around.
After a decent Summer Days (much different now, of course, compaired to
past rocking versions), 5 or 6 people left the front row. It would not
look good for Bob to come back out for the encores to see 1/4 of the
front empty, so we did the logical thing and walked up. I was hoping for
and got A-11, a song that I couldn't get out of my head after day one,
and this version was even stronger than the first night. He really
delivers this with energy and zest---- I really needed to stand, and was
glad that no one was yelling at us! After that great rendition,
Watchtower finally brought (almost) everyone to their feet to move a
little, and then it was over. The Flower Girl was holding out a bundle of
lillies to Bob, who was trying to get Tony to go get them from her, but
he was having none of it. Bob finally, obviously a little grudgingly,
walked to the edge of the stage and took them, then retreated back to the
lineup holding the flowers and looking like he was feeling a little
strange about the whole thing.
It was a very good show overall, and this tour will clearly pick up steam
as they go. It will be interesting to see if they do a couple more songs
in Reno due to the lack of the openers, but I wouldn't be surprised if
I went out to do a final farewell, and tonight Bob had dispensed with the
towel over the head routine, and walked out straight and tall with the
black hat, onto the bus and off into the night.....
Review by Sharon
Arrived a little later for the final Paramount Theatre - Oakland, CA show. Approximately 6:00pm and
was fortunate to once again park across the street from the box office and stage door. Ah…tonight
looks more like Bob Dylan is in town, there are lines in front of the box office, and tonight instead
of the street ticket vendors asking if you want to buy or sell a Dylan ticket, they seem to be looking
to buy. I spot a woman that had been outside the box office the previous night with a sign that read
"I Need 1 free ticket". I asked her if she had gotten in the night before and she says yes. She was
once again holding up her sign for a free ticket. The street ticket sellers who are now looking to
purchase walk by read her sign and laugh. 21ST street is once again filled with Bob's Tour Bus and
other vehicles of the tour. I entered the theatre at 6:45 to find my seat and get ready for the show.
The Amos Lee band takes the stage at 7:00pm sharp. (http://amoslee.com/) The red hair jell that a few
of the members were donning the previous night was gone, or at least now covered up with a baseball
type hat. Amos was dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans. Visually he reminded me of Bruce Springstean
vocally Robert Cray with a hint of Cajun feel. Standing center stage playing his acoustic guitar and
delivering up some incredible vocal notes to the lyrics of his ballads he truly captivated his audience.
His band, all accomplished musicians received several accolades from the audience. Fred Berman, the
drummer appears to be someone who has seen some miles, and was not all that impressed that he was
touring with Dylan, I had noticed him walking outside the theatre the past nights before the show or
standing outside the doorway talking on a cell phone. He is good drummer, keeping the tempo where
it needs to be. Nate Skiles - Guitar, Backing Vocals, mandolin, and trumpet to name a few of the
instruments this fine musician brings to the table, received several accolades from the audience as
he soloed riffs throughout the performance. Jaron Olevsky - Bass, Keyboards also added to the evenings
most enjoyable performance. Amos Lee will be a guest on Jay Leano's show on March 23,2005. You owe it
to yourself to check this band out.
Merle and the Strangers were up next, gone tonight was the sharp pin-stripped suit, in its place a shirt
opened to give a more working man/relaxed feel to the show. Gone also were the jokes Merle had been
sharing with the crowd on previous nights. Merle's music was right on and totally enjoyed by this writer.
Merle's smile could melt an ice cube in Alaska. The Strangers really do know their jobs, and they all do
them well. It really is too bad that he does not include "Oakie From Muskogee" I would really have loved
to hear it live. I'm sure I was not the only one in the audience that was a "Hip-oakie". The highlight
of Merle's performance for me was "Silver Wings". One could not help but wonder, what happened to the
jovial banter with the audience that had gone on during the previous nights shows. Big thank you to
Merle and the Strangers for a job well done.
Time for Bob: Curtains open and Bob is at the keyboard laying out an upbeat version of "To Be Alone With
You". Followed by a slow sultry "Times They Are A-Changin" with an arrangement that left behind the
rebellious youthful cry, and now envelopes the wisdom of the ages…yes…times they do change. Tweedle
Dee & Tweedle Dum picks up the beat again. Elana Fremerman keeps her eye on Bob and sends some fun
fiddle his way. Donnie Herron leads off on the Pedal Steel, Bob begins singing "Positively 4th Street"
strange it does not evoke much of a response as the audience recognizes what he is singing. It receives
a few scattered applauds. Bob's voice is strong his harp playing precise, the audience finally gives
their approval at the end of the song including a call from a woman in the balcony "Thank You Bob".
Highway 61 was back to the hard driving rock n roll beat. It was OK, I have always liked this song,
Bob pours it out on this, George Recile is earning his money here, Tony Garnier rocks to the beat. The
rest of the band members are also working hard; somehow the chemistry is missing on this one. "Sugar
Baby" is a song that grows on you the more you hear it, Bob must like it he sings it a lot. "Down Along
The Cove" and the curtains open behind the band, the starry background begins to emerge. "High Water
(For Charley Patton)". gave Donnie Herron a chance to show us his banjo pickin. Bob next delighted his
fans with "Girl Of The North Country" that received applaud approval once folks recognized the song.
Bob decides he does not like the harp he is using, leaves the keyboard and wanders to his harp case and
changes it "Honest With Me" average presentation. AH then the highlight of the evening (concert wise)
"Every Grain Of Sand" was an incredible presentation. The backdrop added to the experience. Worth the
drive, worth the time, worth the money. Summer Days had the kind of energy that even had the elderly
usherettes (in their 70's) rockin in the isle. Delightful ladies..The band left the stage and made the
audience work for the oncore..They did not come right back out. Encore: Bob's Country song of the night
A-11. With lyrics like "please don't play A-11"; one wonders why Bob doesn't listen to his own words…
(JUST KIDDING BOB). You did a fine job on Hank's song. Followed by Band Intros and Bob's exit song:
"All Along The Watchtower." All in all the concert had a business as usual feel to it, and that the
troupe was ready to head out of town now. As Bob and the gang was finishing up All Along The Watchtower
I was able to run out of the theatre, cross the street throw my belongings in my trunk and head for the
street camcorder in hand. BIG highlight of the evening, catching Bob on camcorder leaving town. Bye bye
Bob see you again soon I hope.
Review by Mitch Meyer
I also attended the three Oakland shows and agree with the previous
reviewer that the third was clearly the best. The first two nights the
violin was too low in the mix and therefore hard to hear except on the
quiet songs, and the drums were a bit too loud. On the last night,
everything was in balance and Elana's violin playing was vigorous and
always right on target. Her visual presence on stage in the middle of a
bunch of guys, with her ever-present smile and a look like she is having
the time of her life playing a few feet away from Bob Dylan, adds a great
deal to the whole impact of the group.
Dylan's mood is highly serious and intent. His mood is dramatically
different, for example, from his openly joyous demeanor at the Konocti
show in July of 2003, with the Marionette poses at stage center. On
Tuesday, even sitting around 20 rows back from the stage with binoculars,
I didn't detect the slightest smile from Dylan the entire night, or even
the slightest positive nod or gesture toward the band members. Except for
a brief smile by Mr. Garnier and the constant smile from Elana, I didn't
see any smiles from the band members either. It looked like they had all
just been chewed out before the show. And Bob seemed to be in a somewhat
surly mood. But none of this affected the intensity of Dylan or the band.
Dylan seemed to be throwing his heart into every song with great
The last night Dylan finally started seeming a bit satisfied with the
performances. He gave Stu a brief nod after a solo and generally seemed
more pleased. He was so loosened up compared to the dour attitude of the
first two nights that he even told the Louisiana Windshield Viper joke
during band introductions. ("So and so is from Louisiana. They have so
many snakes down there that when it rains they climb on the car
windshields. They call them windshield vipers.") Not too funny, but it
least it's good to see that Dylan is feeling good and loose.
My experience was a bit different than the first reviewer's in that I
experienced quite a few transcendent moments. The first night I was also
missing Larry Campbell's presence alot, but still loving the new band's
driving ecstasy of "Highway 61" and the beautiful delivery of "The Man in
Me." Tuesday I was accepting the new band more, but frustrated that the
violin wasn't loud enough. Still, there were great versions of "High
Water" (the best I've seen in about five versions), "Masters of War", and
again "Highway 61." The highlights of the much improved last show were
"To Be Alone With You," "The Times They Are a-Changin'", "Positively 4th
Street," a reworked "Sugar Baby" with a gorgeous new melody, and the
beautiful new version of "Girl From the North Country" that I first heard
in his Fall shows. On almost all the songs that last night, Dylan and his
band were a Force of Nature, delivering a grand, symphonic, eloquent
sound, with Dylan singing his heart out. Get over the Sexton/Campbell
thing and don't miss this group as they evolve and grow. They are already
very, very good, and Dylan has as much intensity as I've ever seen.
Review by Mark Stevens
I'd have to say that tonight (My 14th show) was on par with last
night, really smooth performances. A great new opener with Stu
kicking into a chuck-berry inspired version of "To Be Alone w/You",
really nice midtempo roadhouse-style rocker to start things off.
Great to hear "4th Street" again (It's been about 13 years since I
last heard it, wheeee!) "Grain of Sand" and "Girl of the North
Country" were soothing and restful for someone on their 3rd 18-hour
day (next time there's a 3-show run I'm taking the middle day off!). I
just love "A-11", Bob puts the feeling across so strong it's
inescapable...you can smell the sawdust on the floor and practically hear
the whiskey being poured. Another great night of amazing songs. It never
ceases to amaze me that I can go see this man over and over and have my
mind blown every time, no one can match him that's for sure. Good to see
that he didn't hesitate to go to the front of the stage tonight and
collect his flowers, he was pretty gun-shy last night and seemed to take a
long time to finally walk over to the fan. I was down front for encores
Monday, and he really eyeballs the audience carefully-must have had too
many stage-invaders over the years, can't blame him for being careful.
Very sorry to see the series end, can't wait for the return!
page by Bill Pagel
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