Review by James Strohecker
As we struggled to get in from the rainy outdoors and pack into the
Stockton Arena before the rains came again, we noticed a different
energy, and in fact, a different sort of audience than Reno. Not a
difference in the type of Dylan concert attendee in Stockton, per se,
just the number of people who seemed to be going to the Stockton Arena
for the first time and who seemed to be really jazzed about the concert
itself – on a “school night” no less.
For those of you around the globe, Stockton, Calif. is about 90 minutes
East of Oakland, Calif., out towards the farmlands, foothills and the
back way to get to South Lake Tahoe. Stockton is a huge shipping port,
and as a gateway for produce and agricultural chipping for California.
As a result, it’s a funny town – with a combination of old and new, a
University (Pacific), a diverse, integrated population, and all
different kinds of commerce. The people around our seats seemed to be
satisfied to have Bob and his band take the time to play a gig there,
and throughout the show demonstrated their energy and appreciation.
Bob emerged onto the stage at about 8:10, wearing his ratty old dark
brown Stetson cowboy hat and headed to his organ-center stage setup as
Reno, with the band in black suits and Bob with a sequined white shirt
under his black suit.
M-2, sitting next to me, noticed that there’s a lap pedal-steel guitar
next to Bob and in front of Donnie – so would he, like Larry in the
past, actually use it? And, given the number of guitars lined up next
to Denny, why didn’t Bob pick one up for once? Good questions, but ones
that wouldn’t be answered in Stockton.
They began with an OK Maggie’s Farm. Clearly stronger and a tad more
upbeat than Reno on Saturday. Definitely louder. Similar to what Colin
Selig reported on the Santa Rosa show the following night, the Stockton
version of Maggie’s Farm was a significant improvement. Casual and
confident, the band was already moving into their Tour Mode – more
upbeat and consistent.
They did a quick turn into She Belongs to Me, with Bob’s energizing
baritone sounding strong and consistent. It was nice to hear She
Belongs to Me as a regular song in their early tour repertoire. Bob
capped it with a capable, lengthy harp solo that added new dynamics to
the version. The sound mix, like Reno, was stellar – Bob’s voice comes
in clear and full, and the instruments are all consistently high/low or
meshed, depending on the melody. I didn’t get a chance to stop by the
sound board and compliment them, but hats off to their fine mixing work.
The band stepped into the new R&B version of Lonesome Day Blues, which
like She Belongs to Me, seems to be a 3rd song staple on this tour.
They followed Lonesome with Queen Jane Approximately for the second show
in a row – something I found surprising. Nonetheless, Bob’s harp solo
swelled to fill the silent, attentive crowd-filled Stockton Arena and
received huge accolades.
Next, they launched into ‘Til I fell In Love With You, in a version that
would be best described as having evolved from a bouncy, high-toned
upbeat song, into a low-down, dirty beat. This, like It’s Alright Ma,
have a “bully-beat” to them: hard hitting and gutsy. And Bob’s new
focus on singing in a low-tenor/baritone voice really augments the
Following the same set sequence as Reno, the band shyly drifted into
Make You Feel My Love – in a ballad style that was as much poetry in
motion as it was emotion of poetry. Bob played some echoing harp and
really crooned the lyrics to a quieted audience. Excellent. They
followed it with Highway 61, and (thankfully) turned up the juice on
this from the previous show. Turn it up, tune in, etc.
Tears of Rage found some excellent, tight acoustic guitar work by Denny.
If you see them play, you’ll notice that Denny shows up every show with
his hat and briefcase, i.e., he’s there to do his work and work well.
Actually, I should note that indeed, Denny does wear a black pork-pie
hat, and it looks really cool when his shadow is projected on the wall
behind or next to the stage. They followed Tears with Honest With Me, a
song that started out subdued, but became loud and revived – with
Donnie’s pedal steel riffs replacing Larry’s slide guitar hotties on
Next the group strutted out a cool, quiet Girl From the North Country,
complete with its complex lead-in that they introduced last year. It
was a nice surprise; right before they played it, a girl in front of me
turned around and asked, “Is this the same show they played in Reno?” I
had to say, “Well, yes and no. This is louder and harder – but the set
list is the same.” Anyway, North Country was performed to a quiet
Arena, with people hanging on Bob’s words.
High Water was raucous, including a fine banjo solo in the middle of the
song and some lugubrious bass lines by Tony. It was really jumping –
and actually eclipsed Summer Days for its rockin’-daddy ability.
They next turned to a surprising old standby, and one (in looking
through Bill Pagel’s most excellent songs/shows database) they certainly
had not played in California for a few years, Lay Lady Lay. This was by
far the song of the night. It was melancholy, wistful and R&B-laden.
Bob was quiet and composed as he delivered it, and both the band and
audience revered it.
They completed the show with the standard Summer Days-Like a Rolling
Stone-Watchtower. No changes. Louder and tighter than before. Keep
your earplugs handy for the latter, because they really bang.
You have to figure that on this first leg of the tour, they’re working
out the kinks. I expect them to vary the set beginning in Bakersfield –
where M-2, like me, predicts that Bob will do at least one tribute song
to the late Buck Owens. Interesting that Merle Haggard, a long-time
Bakersfield resident, isn’t on the bill. Look for some surprises in Las
Vegas, where Bob always seems to step it up.
Review by Simon Stow
Tonight was a really enjoyable show. Bob's voice was great -- his growl
on 'She Belongs to Me' was delightful, his near falsetto on 'North
Country' equally pleasing. The new arrangement of 'It's Alright Ma' was
excellent; 'High Water' just rocked. But strangely, perhaps, the
highlight of the show -- for me at least -- was 'Make You Feel My Love.'
That song has always been a mystery: why a man who can do such wonderful
things with words, and even better things with subverted cliches, would
simply choose to string a series of platitudes together has remained a
puzzle. Bob's lusty performance tonight made everything clear. It's not
his love that he wants the listener to feel, but something else entirely.
It's a seduction song, but more than that, it's a seduction song from a
lothario oozing with confidence. He doesn't even have to try, and knows
it: hence the cliches. It's the song to which 'Will You Still Love Me
Tomorrow' by The Shirelles should have been a response: the disparity
between that singer's naivety and Bob's confidence not only tells us
what's going to happen, but that the answer to her question is no (even as
she thinks it is yes). Wonderful.
Review by Brian Boyd
Into Stockton's new complex with a spanking new baseball stadium and arena
for a much anticipated Dylan show. This was the second concert at the
arena (the first was a highly subsidized Neil Diamond show that drew some
negative press because Neil's $1 million guarantee) and the local
restaurateurs will learn in time to watch the concert schedule but tonight
they were flustered by clearly unexpected crowds on what should have been
a sleepy Monday night. The packs of aging hippies and pierced teens could
only mean that, inexplicably, Bob Dylan had found his way to this
agricultural Central California port town. The word was that the concert
was sold out.that they had cut off ticket sales at 6,000 (so the Stockton
paper said) in a 'halfhouse' layout. It looked like there were some seats
at the far reaches were empty but all in all, great crowd and very
enthusiastic from the start. I've always liked shows earlier in the tour.
Bob's voice seems fresher and there's always hope for setlist surprises.
The voice was in fine form from the start with a great, confident
'Maggie's Farm'. Great phrasing on 'She Belongs to Me' in an arrangement
that didn't sound new instrumentally but the phrasing made it new.
'Lonesome Day Blues' was good but not enough of a growl for my taste.
'Queen Jane' was interesting to hear and 'Til I Fell' was well sung but
the next kick in the head was 'It's Alright Ma'. The power of the phrasing
and the band made this song stand out on an evening full of wonderful
phrasing. While I will always think of the Larry Campbell-Charlie Sexton
years as the best, the guys gave this all they had and Bob's vocals drove
it home. The next few were good versions but I was gobsmacked by
'Highwater'. It was as perfect as I can imagine. Great vocal, powerful
arrangement and Donnie's banjo breaks were spacey, otherworldly and such a
contrast to the guitarwork. The texture of this performance was
breathtaking and I was pleased to hear such a great song done so well. I
should note that since Bob has been playing only keyboard, there have
rightfully been comments that he was so far down in the mix that you
couldn't truly hear if he was really playing. Tonight, he was front and
center to the point that some arrangements were quieted down so that bob
could play an actual solo. It was particularly effective on some songs
where it helped contrast the two guitar assault. The encore was
well-received and well-executed with quite a few smiles exchanged between
Bob and Tony during 'Watchtower' Following that, the band came out to the
right side of the stage and stared out at -but did not acknowledge-the
crowd. The comments of the crowd walking out was overwhelmingly positive
as it well should have been. It was a very strong performance and a
fabulous night for those of us interested in the nuance of the later day
Comments by Michael Williams
The Stockton Arena is really nice - pretty good acoustics for a sports facility. The
show started with a new arrangement of Maggie's Farm. It was still rocking
but less in a Rolling Stones style as before. Bob sang clearly and actually performed
some of the original melody. His vocals for the most part stuck to his style of the
last five years (approximately): Phrases are sung at one pitch level (tonic) and
cadence either up a perfect fifth or an octave. I've grown to like this style in
part because his lyrics are the greatest.
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