April 13, 2022
Review by Bill Burns
A good friend and I drove down to Tulsa from Kansas City Wednesday
morning, meandering through the countryside, listening to a playlist of
stuff I put together at his request to set our mood. We arrived about t
wo and a half hours early, and since we couldn't check into our Airbnb
before 4pm, we decided to hit the Philbrook to take in their art
collection. We mistakenly thought the Frida Kahlo exhibit was on, but
we were way too early for that. Perhaps another time. The day started
out gloomy and gusty, but soon turned nice, but breezy.
After the art, we checked in at the Airbnb, then headed downtown
in Tulsa to get some brats and beer at a beerhall, then over to Eerie
Abbey Ales for another quick taste, then headed over to the Tulsa
Theater. Neither of us had ever been there before. I was happy to
see it was such a small space. I knew walking up it'd be good place
to catch Bob and his band. I wasn't wrong.
Now, I'm a big fan of Bob's…no, I mean literally; I'm a big fan. Just
like flying coach on a narrow-body regional jet, I knew the seats were
gonna be a bit snug for me. We arrived about 7pm and the doors
were already open. We found our seats and I wasn't wrong. But this
place, while really just a big barn, had the advantage that there really
weren't too many bad seats in the house. I figured if the rows of
empty seats were still open after the first song was over, I'd move a
bit and give my neighbors a little room to breathe. By the end of
Watching the River Flow, though, the folks who'd waited outside
having drinks and yakking showed up to step in front of us and have
their seats. They were pretty thirsty, too, apparently, since they
went back for seconds about an hour into the set.
Speaking of the opening song, Watching the River Flow suffered
from what appears to be a fairly common occurrence, namely Bob's
mic being way too low to hear him, and then the sound engineer
getting it potted up and we were off to the races. Fifteen,
twenty years ago, I didn't have the appreciation for WTRF as I do
these days, so while I see why it's a show opener, I have to say,
it may suffer a bit from that out-of-the-gate rust that first songs
will tend to do. It was a good way to get started, and Tulsa is laid
out alongside the Arkansas River.
Most Likely You Go Your Way's resetting took me back to a show
I caught in 1992 (I think) at KC's beautiful Midland Theater, with
G.E. Smith on lead guitar during which it took a minute or two to
pick up on what tune was underway. Not quite so drastically
reworked. Bob's voice was now audible, but showing the wear
and tear of the penultimate gig on this leg of the RARW tour.
He'd better pace himself to make it through 2024.
When the band struck up the first notes of I Contain Multitudes,
though, it was truly ethereal in the room. The sound guys had
begun getting Bob & Co dialed in, and perhaps it's a combination
of happy to be on to something fresher with the added bonus
that this new material better suits Bob's voice today. ICM, to
this ear, is like a short-form of Murder Most Foul, with a lot more
humor in the lyrics, pound for pound, anyway. Loved hearing
my first RARW tune.
False Prophet kicked up the biting guitar from Britt and Charley
banging out the beat and you can really see how Bob, even
past the eight-decade mark, is still serving up a rock and roll
feast on par with any other big act, but unlike anyone else out
there. When I Paint My Masterpiece followed started off with a
healthy dose of Bob's harp, continuing in the sharp, crackling
sound the band had settled into with False Prophet.
Black Rider settled things back down. It's such a brief, moody
piece and really doesn't go a lot of places. Again, great to hear
another of the RARW tunes, but just about as quickly as it
got going, they launched into a great reading of I'll Be Your
Baby Tonight. I really like this sorta rocked up version.
Returning to RARW, next up was My Own Version of You,
which, in my opinion, is one of the stronger tunes off the new
record. Bob's mixing in black humor, classic fiction, history lessons,
a fair bit of references to his entire career, Shakespeare, Shelley,
the Divine Comedy, a heaping helping of cliched phrases and add in
his best phrasing. This song would slide right into the track list of
Love & Theft, if you ask me. Mention of favorite son, Leon Russell,
of course, garnered a loud response from the Tulsa crowd. How
many references to his own songs are in these lyrics!? I oughtta
count 'em. Just a great song, and well done.
More classical history and literature with more references to ancient
history and Dante's Inferno in Crossing the Rubicon, all served up
with the thick, chunky rockin' blues licks from the band. The verses
in this song with their walking, loping rhythm and blues just chugged
along. It's really too bad there wasn't much room for folks to dance
without missing the show.
Back to the front pages of Dylan's songbook with To Be Alone With
You, which was delivered a fair bit faster than the original, Bob
rephrasing the lyrics, remaking the song the way you'd have to if
you'd played some of your stuff so much.
The "big" song off RARW followed. Maybe it was just my bladder
talking, but I was thinking by this point, man…I don't know how
Bob, at 81, can go this long without taking a leak! I hadda get up
anyway, so I waited through Key West (Philospher Pirate) and got
up. I have to say, not having ever set foot in Florida, myself, I
wonder if this song's relative popularity with the press and critics
stems as much from their familiarity with the place, maybe s
omething like Buffett's Margaritaville benefits from, as it does from
the song itself. I'm not saying it's a bad tune, but my urge to
stretch my legs (not to dance) was getting the better of it. And
nothing coming from the stage during this tune was holding me
That sorta stunk, too, because by the time I got back to the
concourses, Bob was well along into Gotta Serve Somebody,
another song that I think suffers from peoples' aversion to the
lyrical content, and maybe conviction, rather than an honest
hearing. Bob's version was rocked up, and well done. I love all of
the Gospel Trilogy, so called. The songs and of course,
performances on record and in their time are electrifying; I'm glad
Bob keeps this tune in the rotation. It was well done, but I was
focused on finding another seat, with neighbors farther apart, partly
for me, partly so as not to disturb folks who paid decent change to
come see Bob, maybe for the first time ever.
So I settled down 180 degrees from my original seats and was able
to see the guitarists much better now. I was able to see just how
much the incomparable Donnie Herron was contributing to the
show, now, as I was able to see his hands, literally in concert with
the other two guitarists, on what I think was the beginning of the
best parts of the show. Bob was now back to RARW, with the
elegiac reading of I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You. As
other commentators have suggested, rightly, I think, this song has
the character of a love letter from Bob to his faithful fans. I wonder
if, when Bob has been asked in the past 30 years or so, "Bob, why
do you think you keep touring so incessantly?," Bob didn't finally
formulate this song as his answer. This song was beautifully sung,
and audience, whether the song is a love letter or not, received it
as one. I think they're right.
People have made comments about Bob including Melancholy Mood
here in the setlist. I was glad to hear it, as I can remember a time
when I would've felt the same way. I missed the show at Kansas
City's Starlight Theatre a few years ago (with Mavis!), when the
Great American Songbook tunes were being featured. I didn't skip it.
I missed the thing. I'm still kinda pissed about it, to be honest. It was
good to finally hear one of these tunes performed live. Bob and the
band did the song true justice and it is such an example of a great
song, packed into a brief form, and fit the mood set by Made Up My
Mind. Really nicely done, and the crowd affirmed Bob's choice. It wasn't
mercifully brief. It was beautiful, but brief, and set the tone for what I
think is the highlight, for me, of this concert.
Mother of Muses, similarly to his reading of Made Up My Mind, is just
wonderful. If a song could be an epitaph, Bob could do worse than
this great song. It was a great performance of a really fine tune and
lyric and appropriately teed up the change of pace that the real "big"
song off RARW is, namely Goodbye Jimmy Reed.
By this point, everyone knows the show's drawing to a close. Anyone
who has been reading the setlists and reviews here, especially, knew
that. The band again delivered a great, rocking, close reading of the
recorded version, but with the flourishes that attend a great live show.
You really shoulda been there for it. Speaking of reading these setlists
and reviews, I hadn't been doing that, myself a lot. I'd heard he was
ending sets with Every Grain of Sand, but I was pleasantly surprised
when they started this fine song. One of, if not the best songs from
one of Bob's personal favorite records, Shot of Love. What a great lyric.
What a fine way to end the show. Really reminded me of the October
2019 readings Bob was doing of songs like Lenny Bruce and Not Dark
Yet. Not quite as delicate, Bob was just doing those with minimal
instrumentation, piano, pedal steel, but this full-band treatment of
Grain was done with the same care.
Bob only stepped away from his dimly-lit perch behind the upright
piano he played all night a couple three times, taking some
well-deserved, but very brief acknowledgment, then back to his piano.
He only spoke to introduce the band, but it's always good to be in the
same room with Bob. I'm glad to have caught him back in the land of
Woody Guthrie and so much of the musical roots that gave us the likes
of Bob Dylan. I'm sure the rest of the crowd agreed.
Review by Laurette Maillet
Tulsa. April 13th.
I ride a nice ride on Greyhound. For the first time on time with
efficient drivers :) So Stephanie picks me up and we drive to the
Woody Guthrie Center. I really expected to visit it this time. The last
time it was closed for specific event. And the specific event was
Bob Dylan visiting privately :)
This time they are preparing a new exhibit :(
So we go to the "Gypsy Café" next door for a nice salad.
Then we drive to my AirBandB booking.
A beautiful cottage !
Time to set up and relax and I walk to the Tulsa theater.
I've been here before and it didn't change.
I wait by the back stage entrance and I chat with a young fan
from England who wants to present his books to Bob. Will Gibson a
rrives later with a friend. Will is the kid who got an harmonica from
Bob back stage last time there was a show in Tulsa. And the old
hippie is also here.
I believe they will play the same trick as last time; pulling the Dylan
bus as close as possible to the back door.
And they do. So no one has a chance to get an autograph :(
I go look for a ticket when my friends Carol and Jonie arrive from
Dallas. They offer to buy me a ticket. Thank you so much.
My seat is on the right balcony at the last row. I am on the aisle
so I will be able to move. The show is great but Bob will never
mention Woody Guthrie.
I sale some of my prints then Carol Jonie Stephanie and I decide
to have a drink in a "tavern". I will say goodbye to Carol and
Jonie who will not make it to Oklahoma city. :(
We drive with Stephanie to my cottage for a good night sleep.
So Tulsa was a bit of a deception; no Dylan museum, the Woody
Guthrie center closed. Bobby invisible.
But the show was alright with a little something special on
"I'll be baby tonight".
Happy day anyway!
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