page by Bill Pagel
Review by Rick Pearl
Watching Bob Dylan perform on consecutive nights is as good a reminder as
any as to why we love this guy. No matter how good the previous concert,
the next one always seems to top it. Man, I can hardly wait for Avalon
It was a bit warmer in the club, no doubt stoked by Bob's red hot band.
Freddy Koella is really growing on me. A number of folks who obviously
hadn't seen BD perform since Charlie Sexton left were heard to ask who the
new guitarist was because of his strong performance. Tony Garner, ever
steady on bass, was noteworthy for a pair of thumping good acoustic
efforts. Larry Campbell was as versatile as ever (one fan referred to him
as the "Dennis Eckerlsey lookalike" for his resemblance to the Hall of
Fame baseball pitcher) and the dueling drummers, George Recile and Richie
Hayward (of Little Feat) appeared to have some fun.
For those who are keeping score at home, eight of the first nine songs in
his second Boston show in as many nights were different from the Wednesday
night opener. Not only that, but there were some memorable chestnuts in
the mix! "Blind Willie McTell" in the four slot would have made this a
great night all by itself. Bob sang this with great clarity and passion.
"Girl From The North Country" was another notable effort, with Bob
lovingly crooning (croaking?) the words and Tony bumping a steady bass.
"Floater" (Freddy on violin) and "Bye and Bye" from "Love & Theft" were
welcome additions, as well, perhaps because I can't seem to get enough of
songs from the latest studio CD.
My personal highlight of the evening - the one that will define the show
for me - had to "Ballad of a Thin Man." This is one of my all-time
favorites, but a song I have heard Bob perform live only a handful of
times. I am positive I have not enjoyed a version as much as I did this
During the encore, the quick transition from "Cat's In The Well" to "Like
A Rolling Stone" came off a lot more smoothly than it did the night
before, and "All Along The Watchtower" had the 2200 fans screaming - in
vain - for more.
For Avalon Three what more can we expect? Maybe an additional encore?
I'm not sure. I just know I'll be lining up early with all the rest of
the BD fans to get another dose of our favorite 62-year-old entertainer
... a man who seems able to crank it up a notch night after night.
Review by Ernest Gurney
Starry eyed and laughing, as I recall..
When the Dylan Roundtable of Farmington Maine (membership.. 4) convened at
the Avalon in Boston for the second night of Bob's 3-day..skulls
immaculately Kerouaced by a 4 hour road trip of Dylan discs, ExpRained
reviews of the tour and a "brisk walk" to the venue, we walked our souls
to the line a little after 6. We hit a moment.the line had stayed stable
as we appetized our way thru the short menu at Tequila Rain..then just
after we got there.."it's time"...and the line grew.
A slow mist had started.. movement as the doors opened.deep thanks to the
part-time bartendress at Avalon who also part-timed at a music shop that
we had visited. She hinted that we would be well-served by going
immediately to the right when we entered. Dylan's keyboard would be stage
left, directly facing us on the right. The venue is a horseshoe, with a
low floor, a slightly raised outer ring and then an upstairs half-hoop. We
took her word and found ourselves at the close edge of the outer
ring...able to look over the crammed floor crowd and no TALL people in
front of us. The best! Especially for short people (who DO have a reason
to live..Dylan!) In the pack that was soon to form, our line held to one
of the best vantage points in the space, despite obese drunken linebackers
holding plastic beers..
And then WHAT?
NO..NOT Maggie's Farm...Drifter's Escape! Done in a shredded Highway
61style, with better phrasing and a clearer voice than when I first heard
this version in Portland a couple years ago. The double drums and Tony G
making a presence known. Very tightly done and close to the Masked and
The Roundtable is STILL discussing Bob's second song...definitely the
basic structure of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"...and when Bob started to
sing..he faltered a bit.and then the lyrics..of "I'll Be Your Baby
Tonight"...lain like a fitful blanket onto "Nowhere's" bed...I still think
the blending is intentional.but did Bob just start to sing ".nowhere"
..and then remember his plan? Or what? I guess we'll have to go to the
tapes, as they say..
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee followed..not a special surprise, and not one
of my personal favorites. Still, very well-done and precisely played.
Great workout for the band and a definite crowd-pleaser.
The first rough-cut jewel of the night..Blind Willie McTell. Bob hovering
over the microphone, a voice saturated with rough blues cascading
admiration.and there aren't many people that Dylan holds so well.as Blind
George Bush is in town.holding another fundraiser/flag-waver/"ain't I
greater"..did Bob think of him? I think so...'cause the next song was It's
Allright Ma..and the crowd was on it! As Bob peeled off the lines "even
the President must have to stand"...the audience knew..he was NAKED!
Dylan's phrasing was SOOOOO crisp and inventive..the song has always been
a goldmine of Dylan one-liners.."he not busy being born".."I got nothin'
ma to live up to"..."don't hate nothin but hatred".. And
"taxdeductiblecharityorganizations" But tonight.the way he turned into the
phrase "not much is really...SACRED"... the clarity of "money doesn't talk
O Bob.what else can you show me?
How about Positively 4th Street...another unexpected song. By this time,
the concert was looking like a high-water setlist. Definitely worth comin'
outta the woods fer...and whereas sometimes Bob can be dismissive of his
own repertoire, he really treated this song well. Not with stonecut
reverence but with an easy acceptance of what the song was and what it IS.
Great guitar work by Freddie Koella.
Off to "You Go Your Way".. (not MY Way) .. This has been in the tour
library fairly consistently, yet somehow Dylan still repeated
lyrics.intentional? I have always liked this song, so its placement was
fine by me!
Ballad of a Thin Man ...man what a night..one of my favorite songs
anyway.and here's Bob... Dylan is just SO amused..man, you just don't know
what it is.do you? So full of who you are, you don't know where you
are..do you, Mr Jones? And in this version, another great piece of Dylan
phrasing..when he shakily whispers "my god, am I here all alone"..the
desperation is like itchy skin.
The next five songs become the mixed bag of the concert for me.mostly due
to the Vegas tempo of Floater and Bye and Bye.which are basically
interchangeable songs.and if it's not too much to ask, Bob..pick one of
them and NOT the other in any future concert..I like Floater, but by this
time in the venue, people had been standing for quite some time. Everyone
started yakking and one could barely hear what was going on. Plus by this
time the linebackers needed another freakin refill and were breaking
through our defensive line with the normal dedication of the truly
alcoholic. "O.slow song.no date to talk to..must consume"..
True..Dylan did cut thru with Highway 61.and everyone whooped and hollered
and the guitar work was astounding..this band does a great job on that
song and Freddie chips ice..
But I think that the inventiveness of Dylan's rework on Girl of the North
Country became lost to most folks (including the Boston Globe critic Steve
Morse).it was slow.and not easily recognizable. This was because Dylan
(again) had blended two songs..he took the melodic structure of Dark Eyes
and lay the lyrics of Girl of the North Country on top of it. This was
brilliant! Dark Eyes, a song of never being known or understood..of just
being a performer in a mask..lay atop a song of sad memory.of someone who
DID love and understand .. Too much to ask..
Then a couple throwaways (to me, anyway)...Honest with Me is
irritating.the guitar plays the same four notes over and over..and
over.and Bye and Bye is a TinPan softshoe shuffle..don't we have enough of
those? Or is this just another silly love song..what's wrong with that?
Dylan finally pulls off a stunner just in time for pre-encore.. Altho this
version of Summer Days doesn't have the raucous glee I've heard in earlier
concerts, it's still a lot of fun. I think this is ONE time where Bob
should have left the keyboard and "git down" on gee-tar! Do the twisty
heel thang! But he didn't.oh well.
Cat's in the Well comes in behind the "more more" encore and it's very
well-done in every respect. LARS has been re-tempo'd and somehow Bob
twists out of the vindictiveness of the original and seems to actually
FEEL...to be on your own..there's a sympathy in this one, an
understanding. He's not laughing at the fallen at all.
Tony Garnier and the drums drive the final All Along the Watchtower,
transforming it from an exercise in incendiary guitarwork into a coiling
threat lying underneath. Not to say there isn't some pretty freaked guitar
from both Larry and Freddy. Just that the desperation of their attempts at
freedom were counterpoints to this unrelenting swirling time-bomb of bass
and drum..doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle.
And Dylan's final words...
What any of this is
Review by Josh Meisler
Night two of the Boston stand, and oh what a
difference a day makes.
Tonight the band was on FIRE, and reflecting on wed.
night, I think that tonight was about the band
stepping up to the level of intensity that Dylan
delivered both nights.
The guy standing next to me said 'my review of this
show is 'WOW'', and I agree
Tonight the sound seemed cranked up a few notches and
crystal clear, so wonderful and crisp.
Drifters Escape was super high energy and Dylan was
on from word one. Awesome traded solos on guitar.
Tonight was all about Larry C on guitar, he seemed
very into the music and really delivered powerful and
creative solo work.
Only real glitch of the night came in slot 2, where
the band kicked into You Ain't Going Nowhere complete
with heavy slide from LC. Once the verse came around
though, Dylan was singing I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.
LC looked a little nonplussed, but over all Tony G did
a good job of shepherding the tune into Baby Tonight..
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, pretty standard
performance, with Dylan really enunciating and
dragging out the lyrics 'your presence is
obnooooooooxious to meeeeee'.
First peak comes in the fourth slot with Blind Willie
McTell. What a Perfect performance. the players were
totally synced in, spooky, reverb, and Dylan really
shone, again every lyric delivered with feeling and
Follow that up with It's Alright Ma- WOW. one of
the highest of the many versions I've experienced
live. Looked like the band was having a blast.
Positively Fourth Street, ok thats it. what a 123
punch! very laid back version, gently building to the
peak, still very much the 'original' version. I'm
starting to feel a narrative tonight. if last night
was the juke joint, tonight is more bitter sweet,
reflection on love and death, regret and hope.
The theme continues to develop, and takes a manic
turn with You Go Your Way (I'll go mine). very nice
harp work, also great harp solos on Drifters, Baby
Tonight, North Country...I think that may be it. More
blistering guitar solos traded.
Now manic turns hallucinatory with Ballad of A Thin
Man. more WOW! Every lyric is clear and biting, and
the band, lord the band...what a performance by all,
with Dylan in full control, chiding, teasing,
heckling. On the last chorus Dylan sings 'somethings
happening and you don't know what it is- WHY DONT YOU
ASK SOMEBODY?- do you mr. jones'. WOW again.
Now pull it back a notch with Floater. another 'new'
tune that has aged beautifully. this time around,
instrumentation seems to stick closer to the
foundation blues change, ignoring most of the color
chords in the recorded version. very sweet.
Highway 61 Revisited, first repeat from last night in
slot #10. not too shabby. another blistering
version, but this time as i wrote earlier, the band is
ready to support Dylan all the way. The breaks are
fiery, killer traded solos by both guitars. Awesome
moment: as the solos end Dylan sort of adjusts his
cowboy hat, first tamping it down from the top and
then a little tweak of the brim down over his eyes,
all in PERFECT SYNC with the break down. SO STYLISH,
super hip move. PURE DYLAN, Dylan when he knows its
all just right.
Girl of the North Country, a personal favorite, being
a north country boy myself...unlike the reworking of
It Ain't Me, this new(ish) version really works for
me. A descending baseline reminded me of Friend of
the Devil, I thought it was for a moment. very
tender, great work by all. I really enjoyed the
dueling drummers on this number, they worked nicely
together, not overplaying, and swapping the 'swing'
back and forth. FK's fiddle work was excellent! His
solo transformed the stage to a country dance, and the
LC brought us back to town, maybe Kansas City, on the
hollow body guitar. Very wonderful.
Honest With Me, solid again. I like the way they've
reduced the descending 'Memphis blues' transition from
every verse to just the beginning and end of the tune.
Bye and Bye, another Love and Theft tune that has
developed nicely in concert. no major changes, just
very comfortable groove, and Dylan right on top of the
rhythm and lyric, as he was all night.
Summer Days, standard, although a higher version then
Encores maintained the excellence, exceptional LARS
tonight. Another variation on the 'two drummer tow
truck' joke on band intros, then Watchtower and
they're gone again.
This was IT. The quintessential, what we come hoping
for. I'm one who just wants to be in the building
with the man. Any night that i can be here is a great
gift. but tonight we got such a powerful performance,
nothing regular about it, it's almost awe inspiring.
I'm so grateful to have been there and shared an
amazing musical experience.
As always, THANK YOU MR. DYLAN!
and thanks to Bill P too.
Review by Jason Polanski
Even before Bob Dylan took the stage, the expectations were high. As a
follower of the setlists, I knew in advance that we should expect the
unexpected. Having been to the Avalon before, including the Dylan show in
1997, it also seemed possible that this show would be seen in tight
quarters with the temperature high. All of that true.
Of course, the fan in me wants to say that the set was above those
expectations and I think most would agree. More on that in a few seconds.
As far as the Avalon, it was what it was. The drinks were priced high, the
security low, the sound was bad. Most would agree.
Around 7:30 we positioned ourselves to the right of the stage on the
second level. For us short people, that seemed to provide a good chance of
seeing Dylan at his stage right. Shortly after we heard the long intro as
Dylan and his band broke into DRIFTERS ESCAPE. This version was strong.
Dylan was in Masked In Annonymous psycadelic cowboy dress. For those
keeping track, a black hat with a silver jacket and black pants.
The second song seemed to echo the country passion in Dylan's appearance
as the band broke into the familiar chords of You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. Of
course, even Dylan doesn't know what to expect as he sang "Shut the
light!". By about the second verse the band seemed to be aware that the
song was I'LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT! Great harp on this one also. At least
that's how I thought I heard it go down. What followed was lot's of band
meetings for the entire night as Dylan in the darkness would walk around
to his mates between songs.
The rockin' third slot tonight was TWEEDLE DEE AND TWEEDLE DUM. What
shined here was some great instrumental breakdowns. Following this was
BLIND WILLIE MCTELL. As much as this song sounded good, we realized we
couldn't see anything being short and moved to a better location near the
rear of the club.
What transpired at this point was quite possibly one of the best strings
of songs I've ever seen at a Dylan show. ITS ALRIGHT MA, POSITIVELY 4TH
STREET, MOST LIKELY YOU GO YOUR WAY and BALLAD OF A THIN MAN. The energy
was amazing. The songs are not nice, they are mean to begin with and
snarled at the Avalon. "You don't meeeeeeeeaaaaaannnniiiiiitttttt!" "You
go your waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy and I'llllllllllllllllll go mine!" and of course
Dylan banging at the keys and weaving and bouncing around while facing the
band, his microphone low. Freddie and Tony with dance moves even more
outrageous. Larry seeming to hold the band together and George and Richie
having a great time. It must be fun to be two drummers.
After Thin Man, all you could do is watch as the genius that seemed to
reach it's higher levels just took off. They played FLOATER with Freddie
on violin standing behind Dylan as if he was serenading a group of elite
Victorian woman sipping tea on a Tuesday afternoon. Dylan singing about
Romeo and Juliet and duck trappers as if time could weave itself from the
living rooms of great southern plantations to the silver dressed sherriffs
of the old west.
Of course HIGHWAY 61 rocked. Larry had the best solo here. His guitar
screamed and howled. If anyone listens to the tapes, pay attention to the
"fifth daughter"verse. Dylan's singing was real cool. Dylan also brought
out the new arangement of NORTH COUNTRY as folks around attempted to shush
people who were talking and I wondered why the nightclub could not turn
the sound up a notch. It is a rock concert!
The rest of the show was a more expected set but fun all the same. As
Dylan went into the final encore, we discussed our opinions of the most
recent version. Brings up one of the best reasons to keep watching Mr.
Dylan. His performance allows us to go home and discuss the arrangements
and re-arrangments of songs from days of new and old. In the end they all
contribute to a force that is rock and roll. Perhaps for Mr. Dylan, life
also. For me, a small hangover and another show tonight.
Review by Seth Rogovoy
FromThe Rogovoy Report
(BOSTON, Mass., March 26, 2004) – It’s a typical indication of Bob Dylan’s influence that at his
sold-out show Thursday night at Avalon, the 2,200-seat concert club across the street from Fenway
Park’s “Green Monster,” a fan – or was he a follower? – sported a T-shirt that read, “What Would
A wry allusion to another messianic figure in Jewish history, the slogan turned out to be an apt
motto for the concert, which featured a Dylan seemingly invigorated by the contemporary relevance
of his pearls while at the same time disgusted that 40 years down the line, nothing has been
In the second of three shows in Boston, part of Dylan’s current U.S. tour of downtown theaters and
nightclubs, Dylan and his band tore through a selection of his mid-‘60s electric anthems and a
healthy offering of numbers from his most recent album of new songs, 2001’s “Love and Theft.”
The band’s guitarists cut through the stop-start, honky-tonk version of the paranoia-inflected
“Drifter’s Escape” that set the urgent tone for a show that only occasionally let up to highlight’s
Dylan more lyrical side. Those guitars, played by Larry Campbell and Freddy Koella, snaked through
Dylan’s dark portrayal of contemporary politics on “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” ringing clarion
calls of alarm in between Dylan’s phrases of scorn. Campbell switched to bouzouki for a majestic
version of “Blind Willie McTell,” a spiritual song of loss and regret that was given a prayerful,
Four songs drawn from Dylan’s creative peak in 1965 and 1966 served as the fulcrum of the show.
Standing at an electric keyboard that he played intermittently throughout the evening, Dylan spat
out the lyrics to “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” like a prophet sick of being ignored. “You
follow, find yourself at WAR!” he blasted, drawing out the last word in his long, trademark sneer,
before concluding with weariness and disgust, “It’s all right ma, I’m only sighing.”
Dylan maintained the momentum through an anthemic version of “Positively Fourth Street,” a
rawhide-tinged rendition of “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” featuring country-funk
riffs and Dylan at his most vocally playful, and a twisted, surreal reading of “Ballad of a Thin Man,”
which he couldn’t possibly have invested with more significance when he first played it nearly 40
years ago. “Something’s happening here, but you don’t know what it is,” he sang, and then improvised
in jest, “You’ll have to ASK somebody.”
As noted, Dylan touched his more lyrical side on “Girl of the North Country,” a dusty old jewel in a
polished, new chamber-folk setting replete with extra harmonic voicings that found new resonance in
the ancient folk melody. Several tunes from “Love and Theft” also explored Dylan’s fondness for
1940s-era country-swing and jump blues.
But this was a night for Dylan to rock as hard as ever, and his band, sporting two drummers and
long-time bassist and musical director Tony Garnier, was fully up to the task, lendingBeatles-like
touches to “Cat’s in the Well” before concluding with blistering versions of “Like a Rolling Stone”
and “All Along the Watchtower.”
[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 27, 2004.
Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]
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