Review by Dan Lewbel
I have yet to see a concert at the Nokia theatre that can overcome the 6300+-seat
venue’s impersonal feel. It just seems more suited for a Broadway productions or
Barney on Tour then a concert. Granted, it’s better then a retrofitted arena setting,
but the place has no vibe or soul. Dylan and his band were set up in a deep semi
circle way far up stage with Bob almost perpendicular facing to the right of the
crowd, which just made matters even worse. The intimacy created by the stage
arrangement and lighting was between the musicians not the traditional entertainer
to audience that most performers would strive for. The audience was relegated to
feeling like we were peering in through a studio door left ajar. I was sitting in the
front section and still felt far away. It didn’t matter; it’s Bob ‘fuckin’ Dylan. (For
optimal viewing, if you are buying tix, try to get them where I sat, just a little to
the right of center. Avoid the far left front or all you will see is Dylan’s back.)
Merle Haggerd opened the show and it’s hard to believe he is only four years older
then Bob Dylan because he looked like he was about 140 years older. Of course
Merle also looked about 140 pounds heavier then Bob, and it felt like he was 140
feet closer to the audience then Bob. He also occasionally took his cowboy hat
off during the show while Bob’s black hat stayed glued to his head. Hag has been
recording almost as long as Dylan, but his style of performing is completely different.
With his tough guy Cashesque, ‘spent time in the joint’ street cred and huge library
of ‘classic country’ with a Bakersfield (his adopted hometown) sound edge, he had
this Dallas audience in the palm of his hand by the second song. Merle and his band
played to please performing outstanding versions of the reddest of neck anthems
like ‘Honky Tonk Mama’ and ‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink’, drawing a standing
ovation after almost every song.
So what about Bob? Fact is we are talking about seeing a legend here. You would
be hard pressed to find another 65 year old, 5’6”, Minnesotan Jew that can get an
auditorium full of Texans on their feet over and over again (of course Kinky Friedman
is running for governor, but that’s another story). I personally still cannot get used
to seeing Bob camp behind a keyboard all night looking about as comfortable as
Susan Dey and leaning into the mike like Linda McCartney singing ‘Cook Of The
House’. But then again, it would not be Bob Dylan if he were playing to please an
audience. Much as Miles Davis would play in his later years with one foot on the
drum stand and his back to the house, fans for decades have put up with Dylan’s
quirkiness. You can get away with that when you are legend and a genius. Now
if you want to hear me bitch and moan, I could complain that it would have been
nice to have one friggin acoustic song or at least see him hold a guitar. But come
on, the man’s a god and it’s not like I did not know what I was getting into when
I bought a ticket. It’s Bob ‘fuckin’ Dylan.
Enough with the pretentious Grail Marcus reviewer whining. Fact is, lucky for us all
of us there, Dylan was ON tonight (you know what that means). Bob not only
showed occasional emotion, but also even enunciated during some of the older
songs. Hard to believe anyone would bother not to slur through a song like ‘Don’t
Think Twice It’s Alright’ after performing it on and off for 43 years, but it sounded
great, as did most of the other classics. He did slip into ‘mumbling nasal god’ mode
during ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ and stayed that way for a couple of the songs
during the first half of the show. For the most part though, he was performing and
not just going through the motions. You cannot really say Bob sang nor did he do
the folkster-warbling thing from the early sixties. More like a preacher or a carnival
barker, Bob recited and delivered and impassioned recitation laid over a Bakersfield
drenched rock steady beat.
As expected, most of the songs were reworked arrangements for this tour but
nothing was too far from how you expected it to sound. There were no real
‘ah ha’ moments like when the audience catches on to the fact that they know
what song it is about 2/3s of the way into it. There was enough song and style
variety to keep the show moving with few lulls. What did consistently bring a roar
from the packed house each time was when Bob blew the harmonica. It did not
matter if it was the simplest toots or the many soulful extended song ending solos,
the crowd ‘loved da harp’. The audience sat during most songs except for the few
stand and flail dancers that kept on their feet throughout the show, but everyone
rose to their feet after most every song. The set list did not vary too much from
what he has been playing for the past year or so and was almost a carbon copy of
the last few nights of the tour if the set lists posted on this site are accurate.
The band was tight and sounded well rehearsed most of the night with just a few
exceptions: Tony Garnier screwed up on the bass several times during a couple of
songs early on (my wife started counting how many times during one song) and
Donnie Herrron seemed to have issues with the pedal steel. Otherwise the band
sounded great. No real stand out amazing solos, but efficient with enough
looseness to keep it fun to watch. If you were not an avid Dylan fan singing along
to every lyric, I think you still would have enjoyed the ‘sound’ of the show.
The mix was amazingly clean and crisp. Whoever was working the soundboards
should get a raise. I cannot tell you how many shows I have seen lately that
sounded like muddy shit. I also could have done without the goofy psychedelic
echo on Dylan’s voice during the second verse of ‘All Along The Watchtower’.
Even though Dylan has tried to win this song back for decades, you still can’t listen
to it without thinking of Hendrix (how many people think of Otis Redding when
you hear ‘Respect’). But now I am getting nit picky so I should rap this up.
Great show, great night, come on… its Bob ‘fuckin’ Dylan!
Review by Thomas Orange
Merle Haggard and the Strangers (opener):
Unfortunately we got there a little late and missed the first three of four songs.
As we found our seats, he was playing the old classic "Big City". Merle was wearing
dark blue jeans, jean-jacket, copyboy hat, and a guitar strap with his first name
prominently featured. The Strangers consisted of two guitarists, pedal steel, bass,
drummer, keyboard, fiddle / guitarist, and saxophone / trumpet player. Merle played
lead guitar as well as fiddle on some songs toward the end of the set. Merle still sings
great, and played a mean lead guitar as well. His band was also excellent. They
played old-school country, but had the chops to expand that sound with the horns
(sax and trumpet). They also did a little Texas swing. In short, it was a great little
His set included the following songs:
" Big City
" Mama Tried: This all time classic was great.
" If You've Got the Money (I've Got the Time)
" San Antonio Rose: Merle played fiddle on this, and they did it "Bob Wills" style.
" As Time Goes By: Interesting version.
Bob Dylan and his band (headliner):
" Bob Dylan: vocals, piano
" Tony Garnier: bass
" George Recile: drums
" Donnie Herron: violin, pedal steel, lap steel, banjo
" Stu Kimball: guitar (lead, acoustic)
" Denny Freeman: guitar
To me the sound didn't seem quite right for much of the set, though my perception
might have been due to my seat location at the far right of the stage. However,
during Merle' set the sound seemed fine. But Dylan's music was much more amplified
and (indeed) coming from another universe in comparison. Dylan's band sounded
muddy at times when they got a little loud. The sound just wasn't consistent to me.
Bob was situated at the keyboards nearly centerstage. He was dressed in a jet-black
suit and black cowboy had. His hair appeared grayish. Lead guitarist Stu Kimball was
by himself to Dylan's right. The drum kit was on the right side of the stage, facing
Bob. Tony stood stage right, by the side of George's drums most of the night. At
one point toward the end of the set when the music got intense, Tony came
centerstage doing some interplay with Donny.
Bob's voice just isn't what it used to be. But what can you do about that? His
keyboard playing has gotten a little better in the three years since he's been doing
it onstage. His harmonica playing was great; that came across very well sound-wise.
But as a band they did many amazing things with the songs. And that's the cool
thing about going to a Dylan concert these days. These guys were incredibly
focused on one another and Bob. They were creating musical art. Sometimes it
didn't quite work, much of the time it did, and some of it was quite amazing.
Whether the casual audience member appreciated this onstage artistic exploration
is another thing. I thought it was pretty cool.
Stu Kimball was pretty good. He wasn't incredibly flashy, but he did the job well
as lead guitarist. Donnie Herron did some very nice soloing on his instruments. As
usual, Tony and George laid a massive musical foundation. George did a great job.
Denny Freeman played rhythm guitar much of the night, but did do a little soloing
during the later part of the set.
Set list and comments:
1. Maggie's Farm (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel): This was okay, but not
exceptional like the version I saw done in 2002 with Charlie Sexton and Larry
Campbell. Bob's vocals sound a little muddy on this.
2. She Belongs To Me (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel): This is nice.
During this song, Donnie switched to lap steel because a string had broken on the
pedal steel he'd started out on. Later in the set, he switched back to pedal steel
once it'd been fixed. It didn't seem to affect his playing much. He did well on the
3. Lonesome Day Blues (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel): Now this was more
like it. The band did a nice grooving version of this. When the band played like this,
they were excellent.
4. Queen Jane Approximately (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on lap steel): This
was okay, with Bob struggling to sing it at first. However, it musically evolved into
something quite beautiful.
5. 'Til I Fell in Love With You (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on lap steel): This
was very cool, with the band doing some evil-sounding blues. Another great band
6. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - Bob on keyboard, Donnie on violin, Tony on
standup bass): They quickly went into this one, which musically sounded so similar to
the previous song at first I thought it was a continuation. This was a fast, rocking
version of this classic song. Pretty cool.
7. Don't Think Twice Its Alright (Bob on keyboard and harp, Stu on acoustic guitar,
Donnie on lap steel, Tony on standup bass): The arrangement on this was somewhat
more faithful to the original, and the crowd really responded to this one.
8. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel): This was great.
The band did a suburb blues-rocking treatment of this classic, with Tony laying down
a cool groove.
9. Every Grain of Sand (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel): This
song's a favorite of mine, and they did a good job with it.
10. Cold Irons Bound (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel): I've heard some amazing
live versions of this song, and tonight's was no exception. Very cool arrangement,
with Stu doing a hypnotic lead guitar chord repetition. This was the convert high-point
to me. Simply amazing. On songs like this, Dylan's vocals are perfect.
11. Boots of Spanish Leather (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on violin, Stu on
acoustic guitar, Tony on standup bass): Interesting version of this.
12. High Water (for Charlie Patton) - (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on banjo): This was a
great slamming version of this song. The band left the stage after this, and came back
about five minutes later.
13. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel): This was okay.
I'd seem him do these encore songs before.
14. All Along The Watchtower ((Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel): We left during
this to beat the crowd (there was a large crowd tonight at Nokia). I did hear from a
local reviewer that he did some interesting things to this song (including "looped vocals
and otherworldly organ"). Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn't witness this.
All in all, I was satisfied with the concert since I'd seen him before. Musically his bands
are always interesting to watch, and tonight was no exception.
Review by Chris Coker
Last night was The Bob Dylan Show at Nokia Center
in Grand Prairie, Texas. Needless to say, I was in
attendance, a little over 30 rows back, slightly to
the left of center stage. It was my third time to see
Bob Dylan in concert, and it certainly lived up to and
exceeded my expectations. The last two times I had
seen Dylan were both outdoor concerts, so this was the
most intimate setting I have had an opportunity to see
Dylan has always been a showman, and still is
today. His band came out in all grey suits and
fedoras, and he wore a black western suit with his
trademark cowboy hat. Throughout the show different
kinds of lighting were used on the band; bright white
front lights mounted on the stage monitors of each
member, an amber light that came from the front right
of the stage giving a parchment feel during It's
Alright Ma, and overhead spotlights in the shapes of
multi-pointed stars over each member during
Watchtower. The stage also morphed over the course of
the show. At first it was just a blood red backdrop
curtain, but after the third or fourth song it was
pulled back in the old theatre style. After that it
was lit to be a beautiful purple, and eventually there
was a backdrop of blue "star" lights behind the band,
framed by the heavy curtains.
The set-list for the show was impeccable. Dylan
and his Band opened their performance with Maggie's
Farm. Also included in the set were impressive new
versions of It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) and
Highway 61 Revisited. I don't think it should be
overlooked that Dylan included It's Alright Ma... in
his set, considering the current state of our nation,
and the world; "They make everything from toy guns
that spark to flesh-colored Christs that glow in the
dark...It's not hard to tell that nothing much is
really sacred..." or that he has been playing 61 in
such a heavy and driving way in the past years. "Now
the rovin' gambler he was very bored, tryin' to create
the next world war...we'll just put some bleachers out
in the sun and have it down on Highway 61." He also
played High Water (For Charley Patton) and Cold Irons
Bound, two of my favorite of his newest songs. If you
haven't listened to his newest albums, Time Out of
Mind and Love and Theft, they are definitely worth
listening to, and just as strong as his acclaimed work
from the 60s and 70s.
Dylan's sound in roughly the past decade hits
right at home for me. It seems to be the perfect mix
of blues, twang, and good old rock and roll. His band
hits it right on the mark. Although a lot of people
criticize his voice, I think it bears more character,
sincerity, and integrity than any singers I've heard
of late, and it fits with his new vocal style
perfectly. His voice is 60 years of cigarettes and
touring, why would you want it to sound any other way?
The beauty in Dylan's vocals has always been the way
he can get more out of words than anyone else, the way
he twists them, hits them, bends them, the way he
performs them. Nobody plays Dylan like Dylan.
-- See you there in '07.
Review by Ron Dempesmeier
Merle HaggardMerle’s Intro Theme / Today I Started Loving You Again /
Honky Tonkin’ / As Time Goes By / I Think I'll Just Stay Here And Drink
/ If I Could Only Fly / Mama Tried / I Had A Little Gal / New San Antonio
Rose / Milk Cow Blues / If You’ve Got The Money (I’ve Got The Time) /
Merle’s Exit Theme * NOTE: This is a partial list and not necessarily
in order, although the 1st and final 5 are definite. Bob DylanMaggie’s
Farm / She Belongs To Me / Lonesome Day Blues / Queen Jane Approximately /
‘Til I Fell In Love With You / It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) /
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright / Highway 61 Revisited / Every Grain
Of Sand / Cold Irons Bound / Boots Of Spanish Leather / High Water (For
Charley Patton) / Like A Rolling Stone / All Along The Watchtower
Grand Prairie was graced by two performing legends last night: the current
living King of Country Music, Merle Haggard, and the songwriting genius of
Bob Dylan. Both of them are pushing or beyond retirement age, but their
performances left one feeling that they could go on for another decade
before calling it quits. Merle Haggard’s ace band, The Strangers, kicked
things off by doing 2 songs as a warm up. Guitarist Kenny Vernon sang and
acted as musical director of the Hag’s crew. They broke into an
instrumental I’d call Haggard’s theme and the man himself strolled out
nonchalantly. Wearing an all black outfit with his trademark fedora and
sunglasses, Haggard was treated to his first standing ovation of the
evening, especially when he doffed his hat and glasses to the crowd.
Haggard immediately opened with his classic tearjerker “Today I Started
Loving You Again.” From the first note, Merle was proving that his
voice was as sparklingly clear as it was in the 1970s. He had no problems
making his voice break in that classic honky-tonk style. He also phrased
his lyrics much like Willie Nelson: casually behind the beat making his
songs sound a bit jazzy. The Haggard and the Strangers are celebrating 40
years of touring. Now, not all of the Strangers were originals, but steel
guitarist Norm Hamlet, drummer Biff Adams and tenor saxophonist/trumpet
player Don Markham either are or VERY close. The Strangers also featured
Scott Joss on fiddle and electric mandolin, Doug Colosio on keyboards,
Kevin Williams – bass, and the aforementioned Kenny Vernon and Joe
Manuel on guitar. With Merle playing his own axe, the taunt Bakersfield
sound was made evident with 3 guitars. Merle actually played most of the
lead/solos of the evening proving he’s still a great picker. His set
included his classic “Mama Tried” and barroom standard “I Think
I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink.” There were several other songs that I
believe were from his later albums. They were touching and tinged with
nostalgia and regret that suited Haggard’s whiskey wizened voice. One
of the song’s lyrics was “Tonight, I’m singing for all I’m
worth” and the crowd heartily agreed. Merle also performed 3 Bob Wills &
the Texas Playboy standards and brought out his own fiddle to recreate the
Western Swing string band style. He also sang a couple of
“Aah-Haaahs” in the vein of his hero. His final song of the evening
was Left Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got The Money (I’ve Got The
Time).” He left me wanting just a bit more of a set so he could do some
more of his own legendary songs (“Sing Me Away”, “Okie from
Muskogee”, and “Footlights” just to name a few). Merle and the
Strangers were given several standing ovations during their excellent
opening set. After a 15-20 minute break, Bob Dylan’s band came onstage
and kicked off with “Maggie’s Farm.” Bob was standing behind a
keyboard that sounded a bit like a classic Hammond organ to me, but it was
too modern looking to be that. Must’ve been a synthesizer of some sort.
Dylan played the whole show pretty much behind his keyboard. He did take
his harmonica out and played it with one hand which jamming down on the
keys with the other. Okay, let’s talk about the voice. It’s pretty
much shot. However, nobody performs Dylan’s songs like him so it
somehow seems to work (for the most part). I will admit that his voice is
better suited for his later songs off of “Time Out of Mind” and
“Love and Theft” albums, rather than “The Freewheelin’ Bob
Dylan” since he writes in a more conversational tone on them. So
“Cold Irons Bound” and “High Water (For Charley Patton)” sounded
almost the same as they do on CD, although in concert the energy level was
much higher. I especially loved how pedal steel guitarist, Donnie
Herron, played an especially electrifying banjo on the latter song.
Dylan’s band included Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman on guitar, Tony
Garnier on bass, and monster drummer George Recile. Recile’s thunderous
playing got stronger as the evening went along. Stu Kimball played mainly
rhythm until the encore, where he got to explore his Jimi Hendrix-inspired
leads. Most of the evening, Denny Freeman was laying down pristine,
steely leads like the good Texan he is. Herron also played lap steel and
fiddle when needed – a true triple threat. Besides the newer songs, the
other highlights of the evening included a very nice version of “Boots
Of Spanish Leather”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and a
interestingly re-arranged version of “Highway 61 Revisited”. Bob can
spit out lyrics like a machine gun and you sometimes can’t help but
chuckle. When the Dylan and his band came back for the encore, they kicked
it off with a very aggressive “Like A Rolling Stone” which had the
most exciting drumming of the evening. Recile looked like Keith Moon
plunking down fills all over the song. Hendrix definitely inspired
Dylan’s version of his own “All Along The Watchtower” and the band
responded with an even louder and chaotic version. It was a fitting end
to the evening. It’s not very often you get to see two legends tour
together like this, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to see it
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