page by Bill Pagel
Review by John Wood
Another very fine evening of music at the Faux Fillmore,
one where both Uncle Bob and Merle Haggard each played
9 different songs from the previous night; and Amos Lee
also played a handful of different songs, including a
sincere cover of "All Of Me" that closed his set
quite gracefully. Methinks Amos Lee will do very well
with the John Mayer-type folk-pop crowd, but he is
clearly a talented writer and vocalist, and his band
serves every song tastefully.
I think I preferred the previous night's Merle set,
but they were both a blast all the same. Merle also
completed a personal cycle for me, with an early-set
"Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down", completing the cycle
Elvis Costello started in the same room ten nights
prior. If anything, there were a few more ballads,
and I appreciated how well Merle mixed things up
(different set openers and closers to boot).
Once again, Uncle Bob and his new band played a truly
dynamic show, starting with a grooving "Tombstone Blues"
and Elana Fremerman ripped on her violin right out of
the gate. IF anything, Elana was more prevalent on
tonight's song selection than the previous night.
"Watching The River Flow" had an arrangement fairly close
to the original studio version, with some solid leads
from Stu Kimball; then a neat twin dual-lead solo on
violin from Elana and Donnie Herron. Uncle Bob's phrasing
also twisted the music a bit ("I just sit here, and...watch...that...
river FLOHOW..."). A kind older gent to my right was hoping to hear "Down
Along The Cove", and this version rocked! Uncle Bob was on top of his
phrasing, really getting into an upbeat blues feel, while Tony Garnier and
George Recile drove some cool rhythm accents. Then Uncle Bob grabbed his
harp and went center stage and got down with his band for the rest of the
song. I looked to my right, and that gent was one smiling soul.
For those who don't know me...I've been lucky enough to
see two Dead shows, Weir/wasserman and Dylan/Phil on
my b-day. At all those four shows, "Desolation Row"
was played. So, what sounds like a mid-tempo ballad
in a different key glides into, "They're selling
postcards of the hanging..." and this damn bleepin' song can't
escape me!;-) With a new, flowing arrangment that
evolved into an almost calypso feel, Uncle Bob used
his "Tom Waits" tone to enunciate certain phrases,
almost like a narrator...and that would be a factor
later in the set. More so, Elana, Denny Freeman (who
played some solid leads) and Donnie had opportunities
to solo on fiddle, guitar and mandolin, respectively.
After four fine selections, Uncle Bob was due for a repeat,
and I boogied hard to the snaky version of "Tweedle Dee
and Tweedle Dum." Also, the guitars took more of a presence,
but it's Elana's violin accents I dig the most.
"Lay Lady Lay" was tastefully rendered, and fairly similar
to Boulder's version from last fall, but without a harp
solo. Uncle Bob did go into the bridge a second time again,
but a bit earlier than the band anticipated, but the band
handled the stumble quite well, maintaining their collective
Repeat number two...another rocking "Highway 61", and this
version was arguably tighter than last night's. Elana's
fiddle also managed to find some room, as this arrangement
is really dominated by Recile and Garnier, not to mention
Uncle Bob's cues.
"Can't Wait" was waaaay cool, the understated, slinky
arrangment similar to Boulder's, but the band really played
this clean, and Uncle Bob beautifully took advantage of the
hushed dynamics, really biting into the lyrics. I also dig
the overall creepy feel, and you truly feel the anxiety when
Uncle Bob asks, "And I don't know...how much longer...I
That said, the remainder of the set was where Uncle Bob and
band picked it up a notch in terms of sheer "song selection"
intensity. "Absolutely Sweet Marie" rocked crisp and lean, with
Donnie's pedal steel adding a soothing flavor,
while interacting with Elana's enthusiastic fiddle. When
Elena interacts with the other musicians, they clearly
become more animated and engaged.
That said, the next two selections reeked sheer KEWLness.
"This Wheel's On Fire" was very close to the mid-late 90s
arrangment, except Bob handled the choruses alone, sticking
to a lower tone, but very effective. Donnie, Elana
and Stu also had plenty of opportunities for a solo,
then after the final verse, Uncle Bob took his mike
and went center stage to drive the song home. However,
the band's closing had such power that Uncle Bob's
harp almost drowned.
IF you heard somebody go nuts for 2 seconds into the
next song, that was me. "John Brown" is one of the
darkest and more intense stories in Uncle Bob's
vast catalogue. More so, Uncle Bob was not a
vocalist: He was a narrator, telling the story
of John Brown in war, coming back home to his
mother badly injured and never being the same,
and depicting the virtues of war. The band's
accompaniment was stark and rich, as Donnie's clawhammer
banjo added a *deep* texture that gave the song that
much more depth. As far as I'm concerned, "John
Brown" stands next to "Masters Of War" as
one of his most powerful political statements
ever -- and one of music's for that matter!! At
the song's end, one kind soul that I had met earlier
turned to me, tapped my shoulder and said, "Wow!" The last
time I felt that kind of bardic moment was when
Uncle Bob pulled out "Highlands" on the Fall '99
tour with Phil at Worcester and Amherst, and once
again, Uncle Bob truly mesmerized! Brilliant!
The rest of the show was repeats...but who bleepin'
cares at this point?! Uncle Bob dug deep, and "Summer Days" was
a juke-joint swingin' time, with Stu and Denny playing
solos with thick tones; but Donnie and Elana's contributions
also give the rocker a new Texas swing texture. Of course,
Uncle Bob is growling and wheezing about those "Summer
Days, Summer nights are Guh-oooonne."
Yes, if only Merle would come out for "Sing Me Back
Home", but I loved the way Uncle Bob paid tribut
to a fellow musical warrior, and the ensemble's
accompaniment was nothing short of tasty. After
a quick band introduction -- Uncle Bob, give people some
time to applaud!! -- Uncle Bob and band closed with
a snaky, greasy "Watchtower" where this new arrangement
was just nailed! From Elana's darting solos and fills
to the unified three-guitar attack from Stu, Denny
and Donnie, that old warhorse closed to hearty and
Upon leaving the Fillmore, I overheard plenty of
positive comments from many sastified folks.
One thirtysomething guy who clearly saw his
first show was literally losing it with bubbling
glee: "Shit!! I just saw Bob Dylan!! FUCKING
I tapped him on the shoulder, smiled at him and
said, "I'm glad you enjoyed!"
I sure did too! Many kind thanks to Merle Haggard for
showing why he's a genuine legend and his Stranglers for
being "the best beer joint band." Kudos to Amos Lee
and his band for playing very enjoyable opening sets.
And of course...THANK YOU, UNCLE BOB!!:-)
Review by Barry G.
I've been a Dylan fan since 1962--and to be able to actually see Bob
perform live has been an inspiration and a dream come true for me
personally. In recent years "The Bob Dylan Band" has been, in my opinion,
one of the very best in the world, proven by his ultra-loyal fan
following. The accolades and the awards that Bob has earned over the years
are truly well deserved as far as I'm concerned. He's an icon, a legend
and, as often announced, "the poet laureate of Rock and the 60s". Well,
he's still performing prolifically on his "never ending tour"--and he's
now got a "new band". I attended the recent "show" in Denver,
Colorado--and for the very first time, I'm sorry I was disappointed. Bob's
songs and delivery are always "special" and he still puts so much into
each performance-- but somehow the "band" was not in sync, and not
delivering the high quality of "tightness" and subsequent "power" that has
previously drawn such a following of fans who are almost addicted to Bob's
live performances. The show was still not one to miss, because--there was
Bob. But, often, it looked like the band didn't know what cue to take next
and there was a lack of "tightness" and "flow" to the musical backing,
which, I felt, "minimized" the impact of a usually unforgettable Bob Dylan
concert. I just hope the band can "gel" soon so that Bob can still ride
high on these live performances. I wouldn't want to see a show that didn't
have the high quality of music we've all been accustomed to and enjoyed
over the years. Bob is too great to be brought down a level on these live
shows. I'll always turn up to see Bob. I just hope and pray his musicians
reflect that greatness and quality too.
Review by Dave Hanson
By opening with Tombstone Blues and in fine voice with a solid, tight
band, Bob Dylan set a fine tone for his Show. This is a show one would
like to listen to again to see if the memory of it matches up. Not the
ROCK-N-ROLL of recent days but it was a good one also that was full of
E.g. ' John the Baptist after torturing a thief, Said to his hero the
commander in chief, Tell me great hero but please make it brief: Is there
a hole for me to get sick in?' Abu Ghraib wrapped up in the hell of a
soldier's war laid at the feet of a Bushlet (o.r.: oblique reference to
song not in the set but there nonetheless) 'The commander in chief after
swatting at flies Says Death to all those who would whimper and cry
Dropping a barbell and reached to the sky Says The sun's not yellow it's
chicken' Bushsh_t at the core of a Texas swagger who didn't anymore want
to swat at flies. HA!
Later on down Highway 61 is a bit of God talking to man in an ancient
story that is like Bush's way of thinking, which ain't gonna change
Absolutely Sweet Marie expresses the polar opposite of the
Administration's way : If you live outside the law you must be honest.
When John Brown went off to war, his mother sure was proud, but she was
not a member of congress or the Administration. These asswipes that never
saw a shot in anger sending our brothers and sisters and sons and
daughters to get their faces all shot off . leaves your tongue in a knot
and turns your stomach into dust. Unforgiveable.
Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee? Who else but Dick and George? Maybe Rummie
This Wheel's on Fire and its burning for change.
Did I mention the band is tight? Not a weak link and coming into their
own? And that Bob enunciated like it mattered?
Summer Days will Send Us Back Home All Along The Watchtower with Jimi
Hendrix dressed as Stu Kimball.
page by Bill Pagel
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