Review by Bob R. Bogle
Bob Dylan has five heads and twelve arms, and when he strikes the
keyboards of creation, the music of the spheres dissolves Vyakta, the
manifest universe, into the Avyakta of luminous and infinite possibility.
He changes form continuously, phasing through multi-storied levels of
comprehension. He blasts fires through his harp to scorch the naked night.
Sounds and visions flex to Fourier waves vibrating away from esoteric
perception. . . .We descended from purple mountains, our bodies besmeared
in ashes, to receive blessings and libations. . . .
I worked last night. I'm a vampire, baby. . . .Osmosing one more cup now
of coffee for the road. We require a reading from Kerouac, or the sacred
Vedas. Even asleep the cosmos dreams me, more conscious really than the
television culture surfing vacant channels in their heads. I don't think
Siddartha necessarily did it this way. . . .Caffeine shocks the ol'
synapses, recalled to life. . . .
Sitting in a teaspoon. Sitting on a white lotus. Meditating on the world
lingam. Lucky seven. . . .Reno, Stockton, Santa Rosa, Bakersfield, Las
Vegas, Sun City, Tucson. Visions of the dark horse, clouds boiling on the
horizon. Snakes and skies and delicate conchs, the churning of the ocean.
. . .Who has the strength to draw back the bow? Where have you been, my
blue-skinned one, my bright-eyed boy?
Lucky seven, lucky seven. . . .My seventh Bob Dylan show. . . .Phoenix
'86, Mesa '88, Phoenix '95, Phoenix '99, Phoenix '02, Tucson '02, Tucson
'06. . . .Seven brides for. . . .oh, brother.
Another man eating chicken on the prowl.
Lucky seven. I'm trying to look past the bugs and out beyond the
windshield. Clarity beckons somewhere beyond the border.
Cool breeze a-blowin', inky clouds a-rollin' unexpectedly through Tucson
skies, her diamond desert's sparklin' sands, sun a worn out eye too tired
to squeeze out a beam. Greg picked me up in his chariot and we popped in
the Emmett Grogan Acetates. Skip ahead to "Denise." "California." "Bob
Dylan's New Orleans Rag." And so on. Came up to unbloodied tracks and
there's a slow train comin', but lucky for us it was only 16 coaches long.
Then deceleration on the interstate and queasy flashbacks to the Tucson
'02 show with stop-and-go traffic (mostly stop-and-stop-longer traffic)
all the way in. But we met Ernie on time at Cushing Street. Hadn't been
there in more years than I'm willing to calculate. Red chile strings on
the walls, the great spherical chandelier, and Blood on the Tracks on the
sound system. We even got to order from the official "Bob Dylan Concert
Menu." I had the grilled shrimp quesadilla with garlic sour cream --
absolutely killer. And a Guinness or two.
Ernie's a Dylan virgin, though I tried for years to dissuade him from his
lingering affliction. No matter. They all come around eventually. No
Direction Home finally did the trick for him. We three ended up outside
in an unexpected perfectly balmy southern Arizona evening. The clouds
were clearing off, the distinctive fragrance of Cannabis sativa drifting
across the brick patio. A salmon and marmalade sunset beyond swaying
black palm silhouettes slowly drifted out of the ken of man into a deeper
purple bruise. . . .
Merle opened the show: "Who can beat a show with Merle Haggard and Bob
Dylan on the same stage?" Songs and songs and songs. We noticed the
soundman playing computer solitaire down on the arena floor. That
nonsense would end when Bob came on, you bet. "Folsom Prison" got them
dancing, though. Then the lights are up, the Strangers depart, the
roadies come on, and then. . . .
There's The Man in lights crashing into "Maggie's Farm," black hat with
the wide brim, black frock coat, silk scarf. He looks like some confident
matador. "Maggie's" is so smooth. Then "She Belongs to Me." We're back
into the first four nights of the tour, seemingly, and we were, too, for
the first eight songs. "She's got no place toooooooooooooo fall." And
with some sweet harp riffs.
Oscar's twinkling, glimmering golden in the background.
"Lonesome Day" came next, followed by an elegiac "Queen Jane
Approximately." Carnival notes from his organ came poking through. From
earlier reviews I thought this would sound puzzling. Tonight I thought
this sounded impeccable, obvious, necessary, essential to the continuity
of creation, never threatening to overwhelm or distract.
"'Til I Fell in Love With You" was delivered in understated baritone, with
a controlled, rumbling passion submerged not too deep. He's Bob Dylan.
He's just here to deliver the goods. The song was more spoken than sung.
Then. . . .the low lights threw monstrous shadows of the band back onto
the burgundy curtains. We're talkin' serious, serious Rimbaud territory
now, A Season in Hell. Bob mutates before anyone knows it into a fiery
preacher and relentlessly cudgels us with the timeless diatribes of "It's
Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," the devil's violin dispensing perilous
wailing behind him. The apocalypse had struck the arena. This was one of
the night's two most rapturous performances.
After that, the wind knocked out of our lungs, he let us recover by
shifting to "Make You Feel My Love," never one of my favorites. This was
graced by touches of his now-trademark and brilliant up-singing, though,
and with sinuous harp romps.
Bob was digging into the keyboard on "Highway 61" -- down in the groove,
indeed. The crowd was starting to stamp, not just their feet, but their
whole beings. This evolved into a John Lee Hooker grove approaching R&B,
although I'm not sure how any of tonight's music can really be classified.
It's not rock and roll and it's not R&B. It's a new creature. . . .A
groove with a one-two punch to the kidneys.
"Just Like a Woman" followed as Bob veered from the early set list. It
was a winner as it must be, but I was looking forward to "Tears of Rage."
Some technical problem ensued early in the song. A roadie came out on
stage, Bob interrupted the lyric to say: "No, this one," the roadie went
away, and Bob went on singing. Something was happening, but I don't know
what it was.
He followed "Woman" with "Honest With Me," another not necessarily a
favorite, but this version is light years beyond that found on Love and
Theft, and the crowd ate it up.
Then the real stunner, an amazing intro to. . . .to what? I couldn't make
out what it was, but it morphed into a fantastic "Girl from the North
Country." The organ was absolutely dynamite! I don't know how they made
that sound, like a shotgun marriage between a sweet Beatles melody and a
harpsichord. This song also had stunning and transporting harp work.
Can't wait for the mp3.
Then. . . .BANG! Out comes the banjo and "High Water," again an
incredible improvement over the studio release, and most definitely
feeding into the communal unconscious iconography of that wild child
Katrina. . . .Dylan was no-holds barred, unleashing his growling attack
voice. This was guerilla attack music, take no prisoners, declaring war
through the power of drums with funky bass breaks.
The same "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower" for the
encore were sure-thing crowd-pleasers. I thought "Rolling Stone" faltered
a bit midway through, and "Watchtower" was the scorcher it's been for some
time. Somewhere though Jimi is nodding his head. . . .Far out. . . .
Dylan completely retooled Love and Theft live and on stage tonight into
Power and Restraint. That's the overarching theme. This guy's got power,
and he's confident enough to bring it right near the surface but to rarely
dip down into it. The resulting tension is electrifying. Pretty good for
an old guy, huh?
A lot of people have been expressing reservations about this band. Forget
about it. I considered skipping this show even though it's in my
hometown. I'm glad Ernie came around. Because this show, lucky seven, is
the best Bob Dylan show I've ever seen.
Should you catch him on his current tour? Only if you're still alive. Or
plan to be.
The audience was positively enrapt throughout the concert. Dylan's come
full circle. Once again they're sitting in their seats listening. Not
out of sentimentality. Even if they came to see an historical superstar,
they left seeing the future. Bob's truly communicating. He owned the
theater tonight and everyone in it, and everyone knew it. His voice is in
astonishing form. His phrasing is better than anything I've heard in 30
years. He's unassuming, and he's getting the dignity he deserves. Lucky
seven. . . .
I don't know how many heads and arms Bob Dylan has. He is from this
world, not another world. The rest of us -- as usual -- have a lot of
catching up to do.
Thanks again, Bob.
Review by Tamarack Little
In some ways, I couldn't tell the difference between Bob's show and Merle
Haggard's opening set: slick performances with a decidedly country bent,
competent backing musicians running through the songs yet another time,
and the stars putting in just enough effort to justify the paycheck. It's
not that there was anything so terrible, it's that there wasn't anything
to get excited about. 6 out of 10.
The problems were threefold: the set list, the venue, and the backing
The set list: everyone in the place was on their feet for Maggie's Farm,
but by the middle of She Belongs to Me it was like a movie theater in
there. When It's Alright Ma showed up, we were a bored and fidgety bunch.
One of the few signs of life of the night came with the line, "Even the
president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked." I
just don't think people come to Bob Dylan shows to hear songs like
Lonesome Day Blues, and do we really need to hear both Make You Feel My
Love AND Till I Fell in Love With You? The highlight of the show for me
was High Water. It's intriguing to see how the song has changed in only
the five years since Love and Theft. But overall, the particular
combination of songs on the set list lacked any fun elements, any spunk or
spirit that usually shows up at least a couple of times. Why not a Blind
Willie McTell or a Subterranean Homesick Blues or a Man in the Long Black
Coat, just something to make people actually care?
The venue: the Tucson Convention Center is basically an oversized high
school gymnasium. They're talking about building a new convention center,
and aesthetically I can see why. Grey and cavernous, and no overhead
screen (even Motley Crue had a screen in there a few years back..). If I
were Bob doing a sound check there, I wouldn't care either. Everybody in
the place was sitting down the majority of the show, due in no small part
to the fascist yellow-shirted bouncers, who were ever-present and overly
obnoxious. At one point, there was a guy in the back row of the floor
seats who was standing up. As one security guy was trying to get him to
sit down because he was blocking the view, soon about ten showed up,
blocking all of our views. The highlight of the entire show for me was
slowdancing with my girlfriend in the aisle to Just Like a Woman, along
with several middle aged couples, and being swarmed back to our seats by a
horde of yellow-shirts. It was pretty excessive by any standard, but
especially for a Bob Dylan crowd.
The backing musicians: I'll just say that there have to be dozens of
skilled guitar players who could groove with Dylan's deal that have more
charisma than the current bunch. I'm not talking about Tony; he's solid.
First of all, I'm not a huge country fan, but even besides, they just
aren't interesting at all, to watch on stage or to listen to. I was
having more fun listening to Bob's keyboard sounds. They produce a
polished sound, yes, but it's like muzak or a background band at a
restaurant. I'm sorry, but Bob deserves better than these guys, and I
hope he makes a full sweep in the guitar department at the end of this
tour. I have never heard Highway 61 sound so weak, so . . . elderly. And
what happened to the great extended jams during Watchtower? What worries
me is that this crew played on Bob's recent recording sessions.
I just hope the new album is more exciting than this concert was! Sorry,
but a bit of a snooze-fest.
Review by Barbara
Well, I finally went to see my "idol" as far as earthly celebrity idols go
and you know what, it was a big disappointment.
I knew he wasn't the same Bob, didn't have the same voice, didn't even
play the guitar, but there had to be something to see that looked like him
or cause me to smile or cause me to say, wow, what a show, when's the
Not only was it not as good as I even had hoped it would be, but on top of
it, the children of the devil himself sat in front of us and caused such
scenes which in turn caused me to miss some of the show. Now, why did that
have to happen?
Merle Haggard came out first with his band and even though I hate most
country music, Merle's voice was pretty strong.
I love Bob, always will, but why couldn't he try harder, how about
smiling, saying hi Tucson? Couldn't even your band make your songs sound
more recognizable and darn it, you think this arena would have enough
sense not to sell hard liquor?
I looked forward to this show for a long time, yeah I got to see him, only
made me wish I had seen him years ago like between '62 to even heck 2002
or wasn't there a show I could have caught without the devil children and
even possibly a smile and wave from Bob? Is that too much to ask? You tell
me. Nay, don't tell me, I already know.
Yeah, I'm bummed over it and don't tell me this is his new voice and isn't
it great? It's not. I love Love and Theft, I love the gravely sound too
but let me hear Queen Jane the way he first did it in the studio, let me
hear young Bob on acoustic, young Bob an electric, ok, that's not possible
but how about an older Bob with enthusiasm? I would have been happier. He
didn't look happy, were we suppose to make up for it?
It didn't work, I left there in tears, of disappointment and shreads of
I think I'll need time to recuperate even before I put on a Dylan CD. I
Review by Andrew Johnston
After reading the 3 reviews already up here, I'm not sure if I was at the
same concert as a couple of them. We saw him 2 nights earlier in a Phoenix
suburb. That night's set list was totally different from Las Vegas except
for the encores. Tucson's was totally different from Phoenix except for
the encores. The venue is a standard convention center cavernous place. I
was expecting awful sound but was quite pleased. The sound was much better
than Sun City West. We were about 9 rows back in the center. The stage was
elevated several feet so I could not get a full view of the Dylan
Herky-Jerky but I could watch down to the knees. The band sounded fine.
Donnie was great. Bob sounded great. No more Little Rascals flashbacks.
Bob was playing that damn organ again. This time I could hear it. I almost
wish that I had not. I half expected to see Harry Caray celebrating just
one more seventh inning stretch. Jimmy Smith is rolling in his grave. The
songs were great. The music was totally reworked on a couple. Highway 61
Revisited and High Water were incredible. The best versions of those two
that I ever heard. Interestingly, the day after the show, there was a very
unflattering review in the Arizona Daily Star which masquerades as
Tucson's newspaper. I think the reviewer was hoping for an MTV Unplugged
type of performance. Maybe she is waiting for Tucson's next big concert
which is probably Journey or Foghat or something like that. I agree with
another reviewer, run, don't walk to the next show. Dylan's still got it
and he won't be around forever.
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