page by Bill Pagel
Review by Mike Stillman
[Note from Mike Stillman: I didn't write a review for the Wednesday show,
but some guy who was a bit, how shall we say it, "diminutive" or
"vertically challenged" came up to me in the lobby afterwards and stuck a
piece of paper in my hand. "Dude, I know you're hep to this internet
stuff....see if you can get my review online somehow." He seemed a bit
distressed. This is the review that was on that sheet of paper.]
I took my seat on the main floor just before showtime, and a really tall
guy came walking down the aisle.....hey, that's Bill Walton! A member of
the NBA Hall of Fame, one of the greatest players ever. Almost seven feet
tall. I've followed his career since he was a freshman at UCLA in the
early '70s. He took a seat in the aisle in front of me, actually it was
the seat directly in front of me. I was thrilled to be so close to one of
my heroes. I still remember the NCAA championship game where he scored 44
points and only missed one shot during the entire game.
The lights went down and the band opened with a song that I recognized as
DRIFTER'S ESCAPE. There was some good guitar work, and I heard Bob take a
harmonica solo, but I couldn't see much. The next song was TONIGHT I'LL BE
STAYING HERE WITH YOU, which I've always liked a lot. I was staring hard
at the back of Bill Walton's head. When he was a player, he had bright red
hair, but now it has faded to a kind of light brown with some gray. I
could hear some nice pedal steel guitar work from somebody in the band,
and another harmonica solo. Bill seemed to be enjoying the show.
Next was STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE WITH THE MEMPHIS BLUES AGAIN. I noticed
that the little whorl of hair on the crown of Bill Walton's head was a
clockwise spiral. It made me wonder if my own whorl was clockwise or
counter-clockwise, and I wrote a note to check that when I got home. It
would be strange to know that fact about Bill Walton but not know it about
myself. This song really rocked, and Bill was bobbing his head up and
down. Then the band went into LAY LADY LAY. I wish I could have seen the
stage a little better. Bob sang "lay across my big brass bed!" with gusto.
There were a couple of good guitar solos by somebody in the band. I
wondered if Bill Walton will start quoting Dylan lyrics during his NBA
broadcasts instead of Grateful Dead lyrics like he does now.
Then they played COLD IRONS BOUND. I took out my ticket stub and examined
it. Did I pay for an "obstructed view" seat? Hell no, I paid full price.
The Ticketmaster web site had no category for "best available seat not
behind an NBA player". By the way, Bill Walton was wearing a blue shirt.
Then they went into JUST LIKE A WOMAN, a song for which I have a
particular fondness. I'd like to see it played live sometime. It sounded
great, very good acoustics here even with the curly-haired obstruction.
There was some unusual phrasing from Bob. The next song was YOU AIN'T
GOIN' NOWHERE. I tried to stand up to see the band, but immediately there
was a flashlight in my face and an usher saying "sit down." I pondered the
curious fact that Bill Walton broke his nose 13 times in his career, and
had some thoughts about #14.
Then they went into BALLAD OF A THIN MAN, which sounded like one of the
show's highlights. The bass player and drummer were playing very well on
this tune. I noticed that Bill Walton shaves the back of his neck
occasionally, but not every day. After they played a good MOST LIKELY YOU
GO YOUR WAY (AND I'LL GO MINE) that had Bill sort of dancing in his seat,
they went into MAN IN THE LONG BLACK COAT, which was very atmospheric.
There was some really fine violin work by someone in the band, and more
harmonica. I noticed that Bill Walton's right ear sticks out from his head
a couple of millimeters more than the left ear. Then they played HONEST
WITH ME, which Bob sung extremely well. This sounded really different from
the album version, with some interesting instrumental exchanges. Bill
liked it too. I wondered why he was injured so much in his playing career.
He always had problems with his feet.
The main portion of the show concluded with IT AIN'T ME BABE which sounded
surprisingly spooky, with a very effective bass pattern that built up
tension with repeated notes. I'm fairly certain that Bob was playing
keyboards and not guitar, but I couldn't see for sure. Bill Walton said
"wow" after it was over. I thought about the fact that Bill Walton is the
only member of the NBA Hall of Fame to be arrested at an anti-war rally,
and I wondered if I should ask a security guard to check for current
The first encore was a beautiful EVERY GRAIN OF SAND. When Bob sang "every
hair is numbered" I began to count the hairs on the back of Bill Walton's
head, and by the end of the song reached 344, which I wrote down on my
setlist. The last song was ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER, which sounded great,
but I was irked. I handed my notes to that guy in the lobby who writes all
those verbose reviews on the internet.
[Postscript from Mike Stillman: I'm pretty sure this review was meant as a
joke, and the Bill Walton portions were more or less fictional. Bill
Walton was spotted at the show last night, but from what I've heard, he's
a really nice guy who takes care not to block anyone's view.]
Review by Adam Selzer
Well, I'm conflicted. This was almost certainly the weakest show of the
Chicago run, and was, at the very least, anti-climactic. But I'm not too
compelled to write a particularly bad review for the following reasons: 1.
When it was hot, it was hot. Seriously. 2. I had a really good time today.
3. People around me who hadn't seen Bob before, or in a while, thought it
was awesome. I try to keep this sort of thing in mind; Hamletcats might
think a performance sucked if the soliloqouy was missing a few lines, the
Fortinbras section was left out, and Ophelia sang the wrong song, but
newbies would still think they'd seen a great play, and they'd be right.
It may have been a weaker-than-average set from my point of view, but it
delivered the goods.
Anyway, it was a fun day outside. Fellow poolies Disco Stu,
the3penguins, MoreDignity, Joany and I got the chance to sing "Happy
Birthday" to Merle outside his bus, and he even took a request from Stu,
but I'll let Stu tell that story. Class act, that Merle.
It was evident during Merle's set that he'd probably been doing some
celebrating - the set was a bit loopier than average and the speeches went
on longer. At one point he said "I was gonna say something about Bob's
set, but I can't. Bob's got a surprise for you tonight, and it affects my
set." He later implied that Bob would be doing "Sing Me Back Home." We
thought maybe there'd be a duet.
This whole "surprise" thing, of course, had us all excited and curious,
though we told ourselves it was probably just "Sing Me Back Home." The
fact that Bob started 15 minutes or so early further made us wonder - but
there was no surprise.
This, some missed cues, a less varied setlist, and some technical
problems (Elana was having trouble with her bow; seemed like every song a
few more strings came loose from it), sort of lead to an unexectional set.
Still, here's the blow by blow:
Drifter - same old
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here - seemed like a warmup, but no complaints.
Mobile - same old, not as good as friday
Lay Lady Lay - not as good as the other show it appeared in.
Cold Irons Bound - okay, this one was better than Friday. Really cooked.
JLAW - I've never felt that the singing on this was very good live in NET
versions, but this one was above average. The song was hung up like a
piece of baroque art - not living, breathing, screaming and raining, but a
You Ain't Goin Nowhere - not as good as the other night.
Ballad Of a Thin Man - this one cooked, the band is doing very well
here, but I get the idea that they'll get a lot better at it soon. Not one
to be missed, and the blue lights on stage were jussssst right.
Most Likely - nowhere near as good as Friday
Man in the Long Black Coat - one of the spookiest songs played by what may
be Dylan's spookiest band - it's a match made in heaven, except that it
was a bit rushed tonight. Dylan sang out the verses in a rapid succession
(though he did sing them well), then the band played a few solos, and it
was over. No fan of long jams I (unless it's, say, Coltrane), I'm not
normally one to wish that the band would draw a song out far, far longer,
but, well, here we are.
Honest With Me - a highlight once again. Disco Stu, sitting next to me,
said "man, if he's gonna sing it like that, he can go back to doing it
It Ain't Me Babe - a surprise highlight for me, the band was at its
spooky best here. I've heard many emotions behind this song before, but
this is the first time I found it frightening, like he was doing something
sinister behind that window. It never occured to me that "there's nothing
in here moving / and any way I'm not alone" could imply that he was with a
murder victim. I'm really sort of disappointed in myself for that one.
Some goth I turned out to be.
Every Grain of Sand - this was a highlight. gorgeous singing, gorgeous
AATW - I don't get tired of this. The last two nights I've noticed this
one kid doing a version of the hippie dance with which I'm not familiar
during this song. Wheras the average hippie dance is that fluid,
pull-the-rainbows-from-the-sky-with-feeling dance, like a fast version of
the standard goth dance, this kid is doing something that looks like he's
on either an exercise bike or a stairmaster. I hope he can manage to shed
a few pounds.
So, well, not the best show of the run, but the highlights made it worth
it to be there, and I had a great time hanging out with all my friends
before the show. And most below-average shows I've seen have been followed
by really good ones, so on to the cheese state!
NOTE: those who've read my other reviews will note that some weeks ago
Michael Smith bet we'd hear 60 different songs in Chicago, I said 55. I
hit it right on the nose! This means Mike has to mow my lawn for the next
(luckily for Mike, I have no lawn).
page by Bill Pagel
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