page by Bill Pagel
Review by Noel Mayeske
From the first notes of the first song it was clear: this was going to be
better than the night before.
I attended the first of Dylan's three Tabernacle shows on Monday, and
attended the second show as well. The first night was good (see my review
on this site), but not exceptional. But the second show -- despite drawing
mostly on songs NOT among my favorites -- outshone the first, and emerged
as one of favorite Dylan shows in the dozen times I've seen him.
Why? It was a combination of better musical performances, better vocals by
Bob, switching up almost all the non-"set pieces"
(Summer/Cat/Stone/Watchtower) from the night before -- and the almost
spiritual mojo of a good band rising above itself on a good night.
It was also the result of an interesting song flow that illuminated songs
through contrast. For instance, the segue of "Masters Of War" to "Floater"
was laughably surreal: vengeful political bile sitting right next to
sleepy domesticity on the same back porch. A fascinating comparison
between youth and old age, you could say.
Same thing with the curmudgeonly "Not Dark Yet" rubbing shoulders with
youthful "Summer Days." One might even make the same claim for "It's All
Over Now Baby Blue" meeting "Lonesome Day Blues" -- that "Baby Blue" is
the story of love lost at a young age, and "Lonesome Day" approaches the
same subject matter from an older perspective.
But let's back this train up a minute and go back to that opener, "Cold
Irons Bound." Good LORD. I would rate that performance among my favorite
single concert performances EVER. It had a visceral movement and force
that blew me away and keeps going through my head right now. I expect to
look back on that one with awe years from now. That one performance
catapulted "Cold Irons Bound" into the upper reaches of my favorite Dylan
Seeing Bob up close helped make it so powerful. My friend Mark Burell and
I were no more than 20-25 feet from him, on the floor of this venue,
converted from an old church. We were looking right at Dylan's profile --
that crazy hawk-hook nose -- and saw how he leaned into every word,
especially the three words of "Cold Irons Bound"'s title. I'll tell you
one thing, he was serious about that performance and not just "running it
out for another night." He sang it like he wanted to win over the women in
the audience, and scare the men. There were moments during that
performance where I thought the whole place might levitate and move a
block down the street. Absolutely transcendent.
Bobby was dressed in a black cowboy hat and a black nudie outfit with a
little red pinstripe down the side. Everyone talks about how short he is,
and he is, but he's also thin: that nudie suit's pant legs were no bigger
around than a teenager's. His voice was really good and his phrasing was
much less staccato than the previous night. His flow was good, and you
could even sing along to most of it. Very satisfying.
How about the band's performance? OK, it's time to give guitarist Freddy
Koella a little break. He played interesting riffs throughout, paid close
attention to Bob (who gave almost no signals or feedback to the band at
all, either show), and seemed confident and fluid. Guitarist Larry
Campbell, meanwhile, was in a good mood, and smiled during that first song
because it was very clear they were firing up something really good. He
smiled a lot throughout the night. There were almost no guitar duels
between Freddy and Larry, unlike the several good ones the night before.
In fact, Larry really deferred to Freddy overall on the guitar leads. Why?
Is it Bob's choice? Is Larry unambitious? Very polite? Or is Freddy just
taking it, and Larry's not fighting it? I think it's mostly a slightly
paternal thing, where Larry would like to see Freddy advance and get
better. He has that look when Freddy does a good solo, like "Good job,
man" that Freddy almost never reciprocates. Which says something about how
preoccupied Freddy is with trying to do good, and how naturally it comes
to Larry. I think that's most of it.
There was only one drummer for these two Atlanta concerts, unlike the
other shows on this tour, which had two drummers. I liked George Racine's
work on the skins, back there in his black beret. He's enthusiastic, and
has a style that's especially good for shuffle-blues like "Cold Irons
In terms of favorite performances this night, "Cold Irons Bound" towered
above everything. There weren't a bunch of real standouts like there'd
been the night before, mostly because the quality was so high on every
song this night. The only great favorite of mine that he played was "It's
All Over Now Baby Blue," so it was only the performances I was enjoying,
not favorite songs per se. But here's a few I enjoyed especially:
"It's All Over Now Baby Blue" - I was worried this would turn into mush,
like some of the ballads from the night before, but it was a nice, stately
version. Not very passionate like in days of old, but appropriately
"Under The Red Sky" - never had heard it before, but I really enjoyed it.
It reminded me of that old '70s movie, "Under The Crooked Sky." Hearing 3
songs from that 1990 album these two nights ("Cat," "Unbelievable" and the
title song) makes me want to go get the Under The Red Sky LP now.
"Things Have Changed" - I like the plainspoken simplicity of this song.
It's almost like a bluegrass song that passes the time in a realistic,
"Masters Of War" - not a real favorite of mine, because it's so
hypocritical: "I hope that you die/And your death will come soon" ??
That's the same philosophy that gets us into trouble with warmongerers in
the first place! But the performance was spot-on and gripping.
"This Wheel's On Fire" - not one of my favorites from the Basement Tapes
LP, but heartening to hear it live, just for the weirdness of it. The
performance was done with the same mixture of goofy joy and a bit of
terror you hear in the lyrics.
I appreciated Dylan playing mostly recent songs -- 10 of the 17 were from
the last 14 years. He did 5 songs from Love And Theft, but only "Summer
Days" is a real favorite of mine. I would have voted for "Bye And Bye,"
"High Water," "Po' Boy" or "Sugar Baby" instead. Not a single song tonight
from the '70s or '80s!
My friend Mark had a couple theories about Dylan shows I'll pass on for
your interest. One is that part of the appeal of a Dylan show now is like
seeing the original Old Glory flag unearthed from its vault, unfurled and
allowed to fly. There's an almost patriotic sense of seeing a big part of
America's culture since 1961 when you see Dylan live -- sort of what one
might feel visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. But the magic of a
Dylan show is that it's more than that -- it's also the primal alchemy of
putting that "cultural relic" (I don't mean that disparagingly) in front
of a living, breathing, audience, and mixing the two in real time. It's
like I said about Dylan's "Cold Irons Bound" performance: he is trying to
CONQUER you with that performance. And that's a powerful, living dose of
Mark's other idea about a Dylan show is how it relates to spirituality.
Many of us come from different spiritual perspectives, and Dylan's own has
changed through the years. But at a Dylan show, it's like church, and
we're all communing towards something higher together. It's multiple
pathways to God. Even if you are an atheist, you can feel that higher
connection in the live performance. So go out and see him live while you
Review by Philip Covin
Tuesday was the second of three shows at The Tabernacle, a former Baptist
church constructed around a hundred years ago in downtown Atlanta. It is
a nice intimate setting to see any band. The venue has a main floor and
lower and upper balconies, the latter of which seems to extend magically
beyond the building's roofline.
On to the show. Cold Irons Bound makes a great opener. This seemed to
a shortened version with the new beat that was demonstrated on the Masked
and Anonymous soundtrack.
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue was a new arrangement, and it is nice to
this one in any form. Lonesome Day Blues rocked, as usual. Under The Red
Sky was a gem, as we don't get it very often. Things Have Changed was
pretty faithful to the original. Something about Tweedle Dee seemed
different, a little subdued perhaps. Positively 4th Street is a favorite
of man because of its wonderfully bitter lyrics ("I wish that for just one
time you could stand inside my shoes. You'd know what a drag it is to see
you!") Most Likely You Go Your Way was another first for me, and the
attitude of its lyrics run in the same vein as the previous tune. I think
we've all had our share of tough relationships and having to go separate
paths. Masters of War was very dark and eerie, and Dylan really growled
out the lyrics. It was my third time seeing it performed, but it
definitely seemed more menancing than ever before. Considering what's
going on at this time in the world, it is quite appropriate and who better
to enlighten us than Dylan himself? Freddy "Fuzzy" Koella played fiddle
on Floater and did quite a nice job. Another rare gem tonight was This
Wheel's on Fire from the Basement Tapes recordings. Many of us really
appreciated this one being dug from the depths of Dylan's material.
Honest with Me and Summer Days both rocked as usual. Not Dark Yet from
Time Out of Mind is a personal favorite of mine ("Behind every beutiful
thing, there's been some kind of pain"). Great writing.
The encore was the same as usual, and we all enjoyed it but would be
delighted if Dylan threw something different in there tonight (maybe DIRT
ROAD BLUES perhaps??? PLEASE).
Looking forward to show #3 tonight! Thanks Bob, Larry, Tony, Freddy, and
George for a wonderful evening of music!! You really are the "finest band
in the land".
Review by Jeff Bridges
For me the last Dylan show I see is the best. Last night was no
exception. His Bobness took the stage about 8:15 dressed in black. Black
Stetson, black suit with red piping, white shirt and black string tie. All
band members were sporting hats except Larry. The set list was a good one
for me. Bob's voice was in good shape to my ears and the words rang clear
and true. Positively 4th Street was a nice selection and the Masters of
War was quite a statement. Then in The Tabernacle we got Not Dark Yet!! It
looks so uncomfortable for Bob to be hunched over his keyboard and strain
to reach the mike on the other side of it. Can't someone find him a longer
pole for his mike stand? After Watchtower, Bob picked up a harmonica and
fiddled with it during the ovation. Teasing us. He appeared to think about
a second encore, but then turned and walked from the stage tossing his
harp on the stand by his music award. Thanks Bob. We'll see you again real
soon, you hear.
Review by Larry Wood
Dylan seemed in better voice than last night, and the
crowd was intensely involved. The highlight was
clearly "Masters of War." He spoke the words from his
twenties with anger and some despair that we are still
sacrificing our youth to the greed of the wealthy and
Summer Days was so intense, the crowd could barely
breathe wating for the encore.
Just an observation - I believe Dylan is playing piano
simply because he has two great guitarists and to add
a rhythm guitar or his eccentric noodling would
detract from the very powerful effect of the band.
page by Bill Pagel
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