page by Bill Pagel
Review by Gary Honig
This review comes from a fan rather than a song tracking enthusiast. I saw all three D.C. shows,
Friday night barroom, Saturday night college auditorium and Sunday night theatre. Each night I had
an excellent comfortable vantage point. He altered the set list for each night. I think he chooses
a third of the songs that he knows his fans want to hear, a third of the songs come from his latest
album which he is in fact on tour promoting, and the remainder are songs that give his audience a
taste of the various stages of his career. I don't think it's more complicated than that.
Between many songs he huddles with Tony or Freddie which gives you the impression that they are
picking songs as they go. After about an hour or so, Bob starts to wander around the stage between
songs. The audience is figuring he's up to something but he always ends up back at the piano by the
time he needs to start singing.
Richie Heyward only plays on three songs at this point, which is fine because George really makes
the engine of this band hum. All three nights had an even consistent energy, like a well oiled
machine. Many who have seen the show too many times might consider this stale, but it's nothing
more than an extremely professional rock band doing its thing, night after night.
A word about the man himself. Bob in a funny way has a clear picture of the "image" he wants to
project on stage. He's playing a very simple electric piano (if I had to guess it would be circa
1960's, but there's crepe all over it). But more importantly the microphone when he stands in
front of it, is nipple high. This means when he sings or plays harp he has to slide into it. He
bends a knee, stretches out his back leg and lunges into the mike. He is constantly hunched over,
barking out the lyrics. When he backs off he squares his shoulders this way and that, cocks his
cowboy hat and squints his eyes. Tonight at the Warner Theatre I was in row D, center of the row
and trained a pair of binoc's on his face all night. He sings in a very controlled way, phrasing
to fit his capabilities. Tonight he all of a sudden totally spaced out during Hwy 61 and it was
everything he could do just to get the "out on Highway 61" refrains in (I don't think many noticed).
Each evening when he's finished, the band lines up in front of the drum set to take in the
adulation. Tonight I noticed that he always cradles one of his harps in hand kind of ceremoniously.
And one more thing, Bob doesn't wear a wedding band.
Saturday night they did a rare second encore of Rainy Day Woman, from my seat I could tell it was
because his manager corralled him at the bottom of the stairs and sent him back out there. But this
evening he only did a two song encore and split because the crew had to get packed up and move on
to Norfolk, VA tonight for a morning load in.
And a special word about the Bob Dylan band crew. Not enough gets said about good crews. They idle
many, many boring hours in order to make a show look effortless and professional. These guys are
clearly top flight (as you would expect). Over the past few years I'm sure you have all noticed the
lighting at these shows. Bob Dylan's lighting engineer has such a careful subtlety and beautiful
creativity it really makes the show sparkle.
So with the roar of the crowd still ringing in my ears, I bid you adieu….
Review by Peter Stone Brown
Bob Dylan started off his show at the Warner Theater, an old-style Art
Deco one-time movie palace with a strong, to the point and totally
surprising "God Knows" which probably was the last thing anyone expected
as an opener. But then with Dylan, trying to guess or predict what he
will do has pretty much always been an exercise in futility. Following an
arrangement not all that dissimilar from the original studio version, the
song took off under its own steam, but was hardly the swing insisted upon
by a noted music critic on the tour's previous stop. As with most Dylan
concerts I've seen over the past couple of years, his voice was far
stronger than I expected it to be, his singing clear, and this version
quite concise with no extraneous jamming or soloing. Just as surprising
for the second spot was "Forever Young" starting off with Freddy following
the song's melody for an opening solo. Bob brought out the harp for the
first of many excellent solos.
For some reason where I was sitting allowed me to notice the position of
Bob's microphone, which seemed to be positioned lower that I remembered
from the shows last summer (but maybe not) forcing Dylan to bend down and
kind of turn looking at the audience every time he sang. Since the mic
was positioned for someone who would be sitting at the keys instead of
standing it was kind of strange.
The show got quite a bit funkier with song number 3, "Lonesome Day Blues"
with great slide work from Larry Campbell, but the song never took on the
intensity of either the studio version or the live versions from 2001
where the power of Dylan's vocal was nothing less than scary.
"Trying to Get To Heaven" following the song's original arrangement (as
opposed to the jazzy rearrangement) was a splendid surprise and easily one
of the evening's high points, again beginning with a full instrumental for
one verse before Bob started singing. Again the harp came out for a
Larry Campbell then kicked off the familiar intro to "Tangled" which was
somewhat abbreviated in terms of the number of verses, but for the first
time of the night I found myself wondering just what Freddie Koella was
playing on the Gibson hollow-body electric he used for that song. His
solos didn't seem to go anywhere and clashed with what the rest of the
band was playing more than anything else. This was followed by a
basically ho-hum "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum."
The lights went down and the intro to another of the evening's highlights
"Blind Willie McTell" began, with Larry on cittern. The last time I saw
this song was last May in Atlantic City where it was ruined by a drunk who
was falling into everyone around him, so this was my chance to see Dylan
do it on piano. The lights slowly came up to reveal a a real drummer
on-stage, in fact, one of the greatest drummers in all of rock and roll
for the last three decades, the magnificent Richie Hayward. Keeping his
eyes on Dylan at all time, looking around at the rest of the band every so
often like a driver using his rear and sideview mirrors, Hayward doesn't
beat the drums, he plays them, constantly creating interesting
multi-rhythms that make you notice the drums for all the right reasons.
The other great part of the song was Larry's mandolin-like solos on the
"Highway 61 Revisited" followed with Hayward restoring the song to its
original beat, much the way David Kemper did, though what Hayward was
playing was a bit more complicated. Both Freddie and Larry took some wild
solos on this one with Larry's standing out.
A moving "I Shall Be Released" with Bob on harp came next and again
Hayward showed his virtuosity with a multi-rhythmic pattern that gently
propelled the song but never got in the way of Dylan's vocal or the guitar
The difference between the two drummers was clear when Recile returned for
the Shot of Love arrangement of "High Water" bashing out the beat on two
snare drums making the drums louder than the entire band combined.
Larry then played the Stax-Volt arpeggio intro to "Just Like A Woman"
which kicks into pretty much of a regular "Just Like A Woman" by the time
the song reaches the bridge. The song featured a superb harp solo.
"Honest With Me" was a standard, nothing-special version, that was
followed by another ballad, "I Believe In You" that was okay, but mainly
served to showcase how shot Dylan's voice at this point is. The emotion
was there, but the voice was not conveying it.
On "Summer Days" about a quarter of the audience crowded the theater's two
center aisles. It was fun, but "Summer Days" simply hasn't reached the
supersonic heights it once did since Charlie Sexton has left the band.
When the band took their places for the encore, they did a very strange
thing: they played the outro to "Cats In The Well," and immediately went
into "Like A Rolling Stone." The arrangement has changed slightly with
the guitars stopping and starting throughout on the verses leaving Recile
to fill in the rest. It doesn't work. This is a song that is built on a
surging chord structure and especially with no organ (or Bucky Baxter
steel) to fill out the sound it is dependent on the guitars not the drums
for its power. Despite the instrumental weirdness on the second verse,
Dylan started singing the song as if he suddenly remembered what he wrote
it about. "All Along The Watchtower" served as a vehicle for the
guitarists with one piercing, kind of strange, but at the same time
amazing solo from Koella followed by one that went nowhere, and then a
truly spectacular perfect solo from Larry Campbell.
As with most of the Dylan shows I've seen over the past two years, this
one started out exciting with impressive performances from both Dylan and
his band but somehow lost both steam and focus midway through never really
regaining the momentum and intensity the songs deserve. In a crazy way,
it was as wildly inconsistent as Freddy Koella's guitar playing where he
can totally blow your mind one moment and then on the next solo seems to
take it nowhere at all. At the same time, the show was always highly
professional and well executed. But the mystic moments - and no performer
can take you into the mystic like Bob Dylan - were in short supply.
"If you don't underestimate me
I won't underestimate you" --Bob Dylan
Review by Brian Burkhart
I went to all three DC shows; this one was by far the best, although the
9:30 was great, especially since he dusted off "Hazel". The American U.
show had a great set list, but the sound was crummy thanks to the
basketball court acoustics and the herd-like feel on the floor.
On this Palm Sunday it seems to me that the set list tonight indicated
that Dylan was in a spiritual mood. I couldn't help but make the
connection among the references of God in tunes as diverse as "God
Knows," "Tryin' to Get to Heaven", "Tangled Up in Blue", "Tweedle Dee
and Tweedle Dum", and "Blind Willie McTell", just to name a few. Almost
all of the selections and their performances had an other-worldly
quality. Could Dylan be embarking upon a neo-spiritual period? I hope
so, after hearing the scintillating Gospel tribute last year that
included Dylan's reworking of "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking" with
Mavis Staples and the new composition "City of Gold"; not to mention the
apocalyptic "Masked and Anonymous".
"He opened with "God Knows", not one of my favorite songs but a rarity
nonetheless and a real treat because I felt it was far better than
either recorded version of it that I have heard (Official "Under the Red
Sky" release and "Oh Mercy" outtake).
"Forever Young" was far more beautiful and serene than any live
performance I've heard it. His voice was very gentle and delicate for
this prayer-like rendition.
"Tryin' to Get to Heaven" was a personal favorite; I had been trying to
see this one forever. It had a similar feel to the recent "Standing in
the Doorway" performances. Bob broke up the refrain, pausing after each
word: "I'm just---tryin' ta---get ta---heaven---before they---before
they close the doooooor". It was a great effect, made it seem far more
desperate and wounded. He had played "Standing", "Love Sick" and "Not
Dark Yet" in the other two DC shows; great to hear the "Time Out of
tunes, since it's my personal favorite album. Also great to hear "Love
Sick" now that I have images of supermodels dancing in my head.
It was great to hear "Tangled Up in Blue" again. This version rolled for
sure, the crowd loved it. Larry opened with an acoustic solo, and
(is that what Bob calls him now?) Koella took off on a great
midsong-solo. I never got sick of this one being played every night a
few years ago. I hope Bob brings it back.
The crowd was wowed by "Blind Willie McTell" with Larry's cittern
commanding the attention and penetrating your emotions. "I Believe in
You" was the last surprise and very spectacular.
The encore included a few measures from "Cat's in the Well" but they
launched instead right into LARS. I also never get sick of the badass
version of "Watchtower".
On to Norfolk!
Review by Todd Holden
Another revelation…third night, each show unique and brilliant and loaded with vitalizing energy
from Bob Dylan and his Band…
Opening with God Knows…now I do! Each night we noticed the crouched position of the Master at
his keyboards…the mike set low, so, indeed, he bows to the music…literally…Yep…Bob's got "eight
carburetors and startin' to stall'…so what's he do?….He chills the hands, eases the grind, plays
great keyboards and even better mouth organ…the best harmonica I've heard in forty years of
listening to him.
And in the past, every now and then, he'd forget a word or two from the reams he's penned into
our collective souls and hearts…
He's in love with a woman who don't even appeal to him!
So what's he do…a little lapse here and there…he moves from stand up guitar for two solid hours
and slips stage right, settles back in front of his Oscar and occupies a mini pad of supreme leader
of the tightest band playing…engaging guitars from Freddie and Larry…two different drummers and of
course the thread of lunacy in an otherwise compelling 'orchestra'…the fabulous Tony Garnier.
O.K….back to the keyboards, rows of harmonicas, Oscar and Bob…as he crouches for each and every
song, standing only for non/vocals…he stretches, spreads his legs, gets positioned and dives on the
mike again and again…
And there…through binoculars from the balcony of the comfy and deco Warner it all comes clear…the
plastic covered lyric sheets are piled on a pedal steel guitar, sitting in front of his keyboards…
and in the darkness that falls after a rousing Highway 61 as silhouettes greet the visual sensations
of seeing genius, live and in person…here's Bob, forgetting for a moment, the band clips on I Shall
Be Released and he's jabbing, quick, to set the lyrics clearly in front of him, and he catches the
second lead in and barks out 'they say everything can be replaced…yet every distance is not far…'nor
are the words he penned long ago and far away in a haze of smoke and cool times for a troubled
troubadour….so, it's fair..open and honestly…but he's done creative work before, don't ya' think?
He never misses a beat, and the crib sheets are his own remedy for tired hands and perhaps a bit
of mind blowing quantity of prophecy ….so his stage prescience is altered for the better and form
truly does follow function. He achieves much with the new twists to the band, and his own
positioning, playing, singing and organizing…he's at work, folks, in his office for a couple of
hours, to sweat and toil for our petty pleasures…and in doing do he evacuates all bitterness he
once professed on audiences…he's mellowed and now he's a pussycat…leading us on down the road to
our own revelations and messages that we feel and he underscores…
It was a memorable three nights in our Nation's Capitol…Gems for my soul tonight were Released,
Honest With Me, Blind Willie McTell and Tryin' to Get to Heaven…
Years ago Bob Dylan wouldn't have dared played what the audience expected, moreover he would torment
us with spit and venom aimed god knows where…
Tonight he brings again, Summer Days, Watchtower, Tweedle and Tweedle…and that's got my dead ass up
and moving and circulating blood in this ravaged 64 year old frame…
Bob delivered…on time, on every tune in his magical bag…
God bless him and those of us who feel his muse, if only for a few morsels of time.
Review by Steve Hoffman
Dylan's concert at the Warner April 4 was good but not great. Dylan is
a great artist on so many levels but those who claim that by seeing him
in concert nowadays one is seeing a great concert are deluding
themselves. The concert was indeed an excellent, strong rock'n'roll
show. But it was also flawed and uneven. And, sorry, there is no excuse
for an artist to ignore an audience the way Dylan does. It's off-putting
and inappropriate. By the by, as long as he is only playing keyboard on
this tour, why not have him play a bit of organ (or get organ sounds
from his electric keyboard). His band members play brilliantly and add
a lot of special instrumental touches to each song (e.g., Larry
Campbell's wide range of guitars and other string instruments). Can't
say the same of Dylan. And the voice. Good lord. He once was the
greatest singer I'd ever heard. Not just in his earliest years, but for
many decades -- but not in the past decade, that's for damn sure. The
odd thing was, there'd be brief moments (like during one verse of Blind
Willie McTell) where he was actually singing rather than croaking. I
have been a Dylan fan since about 1963 and believe that the body of his
work is among the greatest bodies of creative work of the 20th century,
and rivals any in history. But I refuse to join the fantasy club that
makes a cult out of his recent tours -- and that seems to care a lot
more about his shows than Dylan himself appears to, based on the
evidence of his performances.
page by Bill Pagel
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