Review by Bill Shute
Nice to have Dylan back in San Antonio, home of his longtime friend Augie
Meyers and his late soulmate Doug Sahm, after so long. The Municipal
Auditorium is an old fashioned circular, semi-formal place where, other than
the seats in the two front corners, every seat is a good seat. Except for a
few cheap seats in the balcony, the venue was full, the Kinky Friedman
For Governor people were out in full force, and the audience was a mix
of Dylan fans who also liked Merle Haggard, and Haggard fans who also
liked Dylan. Like many country artists from the old days, Merle had his
fine band warm up the audience with a hot version of Carl Perkins'
"Restless" and then a heartfelt tribute to Waylon Jennings. Merle then
arrived onstage, and performed a diverse set of material spanning four
decades for almost an hour. This present version of The Strangers is
first-rate in every way, and whether performing blues, western swing, or
the classic Bakersfield sound, they are a well-oiled machine and also
featured many great solos. The trumpet/fiddle interplay on one track
reminded me of Bob Wills' 1940's "big band" sides with horns, and Hag
himself paid tribute to the King of Western Swing with one of Wills'
patented "aaaah---haaaaahh" asides. Cheers to Dylan for having Merle
open for a second year. After about 25 minutes, Dylan and crew emerged
out of the darkness with the new arrangement of Maggie's Farm, and it
was immediately evident that this is a great band. While Larry and
Charlie are missed, and there are no harmonies, the big news is that
Dylan is playing ORGAN now. Considering that organ is so much a part of
many classic Dylan recordings, played by either Al Kooper or Augie
Meyers, it's great to hear Dylan himself weaving his snaking organ lines
(with a nice cryptic reverb) through the new arrangments of the music.
Stu Kimball is featured near the foot of the stage at the audience's
left, and takes more solos than the great Texas blues guitarist Denny
Freeman (who is buried on the far right of the stage, right next to
Tony), but for me Freeman's blues-based and imaginative guitar playing
should be given more solo room. He probably took about 40% of the solos.
I'd make it 75%... From the first bars of Maggie's Farm, it was clear
that Dylan was in fine voice with a good range and NOT falling back on
some of the mannerisms he does when he is "coasting" on off-nights. This
was the tenth night of the new tour, and he had a day off since playing
El Paso, so the performance was enthusiastic. I remember hearing the
recordings from Spring 2005 with the fiddle-dominated sound, and this
new sound is quite different, very blues based and rooted in slow-to-mid
tempo numbers. Others of the slower numbers were drenched in steel
guitar, and Donnie Herron (also heard on Hank III's great new album, by
the way) wove intriguing steel lines throughout many numbers, when he
wasn't playing fiddle or banjo. I'll leave the song-by-song comments to
others. I'll just say that, except for the encore, every song was done
in a differing arrangement from last year, and Dylan's organ brings the
band a new level of depth and mystery. While security checked ladies'
purses and had us turn cell phones off, there was no patdown, so I
expect there will be some wonderful quality recordings surfacing soon.
With Queen Jane Approximately, Every Grain of Sand, She Belongs to Me,
Cold Irons Bound (HEAVY new arrangement!), and a complete re-inventing
of Girl From the North Country, the set-list couldn't be faulted. (A few
people sitting near us said "Thank God, no Tweedle Dum and Tweedle
Comparing this show to other Texas shows I've seen in recent years, the
2002 Austin show suffered from being at the cavernous Frank Erwin Center
(I actually enjoyed the recordings of the show more than the actual
show--I certainly heard a lot more on the CDR than live!), and while the
2003 Houston show was superb (and had the unpredictable Freddy Koella on
lead guitar, a man who took a lot of chances and for me was always
interesting, even when his gambles didn't pay off-- if only Stu Kimball
took more chances!), Dylan's organ playing is much more interesting than
his electric piano playing, so I'll give the edge to the 2006 show. It's
great to see Dylan back in El Paso and San Antonio. Texas has always
loved him, and cities other than Dallas, Austin, and Houston deserve to
see the Never Ending Tour. Come back soon, Bob Dylan and Band!
Review by James Thomas
Just some quick comments on the San Antonio show. Merle opened the show
in great form with some really excellent guitar playing. As a Merle fan
I knew all but one of the songs from his set and basically he plays them
note for note from his recording. This made for a nice contrast to Bob's
set, as he hasn't heard his recordings since he was in the studio
Bob came on and opened with Maggie's Farm, from the first word I thought
he was in really good voice, maybe as good as I've heard (been to about
25 shows since '93) for an opening song. Nice arrangment on this one
but pretty standard.
Next was a really nice version of She Belongs to Me, you could really
hear Bob's organ/keyboard on this one and it actually worked. Some harp
to end it if I recall correctly.
Lonesome Day Blues was a highlight for me, good old fashioned blues with
a fine vocal performance, he really does this one justice, "he ain't
gentlemen at all, he's rotten to the core and he steeeeaaaals", one of
my favorites of the night.
Queen Jane was next, and again his organ was hot in the mix on this one,
the band laid back and just basically let Bob sing this one, I haven't
heard this one too often in the past so it was a nice change for me.
till I Fell in Love With You has a new arrangement (no real surpirse I
guess) but once again a blues number, the reality of most of the night
was this is a really tasteful blues band with Bob Dylan as lead singer,
at least that was the impression I got.
It's Alright Ma really works well in the new bluesy sound, I think Bob
nailed almost every word, this was another highlight, finished off with
a real blues outro that anchored many of the songs tonight.
Don't think Twice was next and it actually felt a little out of place
because of it's folkier sound, it was a crowd pleaser though, as I
think many in the audience were like "I think I might know this one?",
pretty similar version to past years, but I don't mind.
Highway 61 was attempled but after 1st hearing it with the JJ
Jackson/Bucky Baxter tamden, then the Larry/Charlie tamden this didn't
quite cut it, maybe it needs a rest, but again the crowd ate it up.
Every Grain of Sand was next and worth the price of admission in itself,
I really enjoy hearing this one and this version was really nice with
some very tasty guitar parts from Stu. A few instrumentals between
verses helped to stretch it out which I welcomed, probably the best
performance of the night, very understated.
Cold Iron Bounds has a new lick and it's extremely repertitive to the
point of annoying, another blues but it didnt' work, try another lick
Girl Of the North Country was really nice, I like the new rapid
chord/bass movements and Bob really sang this one, even after all these
years it seems like he can still really get behind this one, another
Highwater was a nice choice as closer, very unapalagetic to the audience
and also rocked, really like this one and the band gets a chance to
Like a Rolling Stone was expected as Bob finally threw the crowd a bone
and the they grabbed it! Crowd pleaser but at least Bob makes it
interesting with "no secrets to con......ce.....aaaalll, laughed out
loud at that phrasing, great fun.
Watchtower had some nice dynamics, they come down for the verses and let
loose on the intrumental parts, rocked.
All in all a really fine show, solid.
I'll leave you with this,
"I know Bob Dylan is really famous, but he has a really crappy voice",
overheard that after the show, Ha!
Comments by Kelly Pierce Humpert
My 13th show in 28 years and possibly the best I have ever seen.
I first saw Bob at the tender age of 11 years in Norman Oklahoma at the
Lloyd Noble Center. November 23, 1978. Being fortunate enough to have
"hippies" for parents, the adults stayed in the nosebleed section while
I worked my way to the front row. I stood at the feet of the man. I
watched the sweat run rivers through his cake-white face. In 1998 I saw
him in Boston with Van Morrison. Friday, I saw him in San Antonio with
Merle Haggard. Including a false start on "Okie..." Merles show was
warm, familiar and cozy. Being from Tulsa, there is a certain ownership
involved. From the snakeskin suits and flattened Fedoras on the band,
to the tiny, happy notes played on his harp, the show was
a complete experience unlike any other.This started as a West Coast
swing-blues driving train that, 14 songs later, finished in crescendos
worthy of a Led Zeppelin show circa 1969. There were opportunities to go
over the line, become a parody. This never happen.
The spare stage sets a rehearsal hall feel with old Hollywood style
metal hinged standing lights changing to the blue twinkling on black
backdrop later, just like the suit he wore in Boston almost 7 years
ago. To me, this tour feels like a culmination of a gumbo that has been
stewing since "Time Out Of Mind" and this is a man at the top of his
game. I am particularly fond of the Paul Revere squared-off effect his
Tennessee Gentlemans coat and hat have taken on. This is our Elder
Statesman and I can't wait for #14! From the girl in the Leopard Skin
Pillbox Hat in San Antone....We love ya Bob. Thank you, again.
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