Des Moines, Iowa
Val Air Ballroom
April 21, 2006

[Lynn Varco], [Eric Jonjak], [Carl Martin]

Review by Lynn Varco

The Val Air Ballroom (capacity 2,500) proved to be an ideal venue for
Bob Dylan’s intimate tribute to Rob Borsellino, a columnist at the Des
Moines Register, who suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease).

1940’s nostalgia abounds at this renovated ballroom, which celebrated
its first concert without an actual roof.  The ghosts of Glen Miller and
Duke Ellington pervade its every crack.

Merle Haggard ran through his smooth set of country staples and
heartache.  He hit his stride with “Tonight the Bottle will be King” and
“Folsom Prison Blues” and showing us his sensitive side with the
standard, “As Time Goes By.”

Then the American troubadour took the stage.

Clad in black coat, studded trousers and stern brim, Bob laid his claim
with heart and sympathy for Mr. Borsellino.

Showing no visible emotion, save the odd band directive, Dylan commanded
his band of music expeditionaries through his crossword set of 14 songs.
Beginning with the blues induced “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll
Go Mine)” and ending with an extended “All Along the Watchtower”, the
maestro continues to intrigue and madden his fan base.

Most notably, Dylan’s recent musical concoction, rests in a return to
simple four bar blues cum R n’ B cadence and outlays.  These tunes ebb
n’ flow with great ease as Bob relishes each puzzling bar.  The audience
is left to parse the jester’s most recent yarn. 

Lynn Varco


Comments by Eric Jonjak

It is a wonderful pleasure to be able to watch Bob
Dylan perfom live.  Tonight included "This Wheel's On
Fire," "Watching The River Flow," and "Blind Willie
McTell" which are rare treats among a strong program
of wonderful songs, well performed for a very warm and
appreciative audience.

I have enjoyed most of the reviews I have read of the
recent shows, but I don't think we are appreciating
Bob enough.  I personally am delighted that Bob is
still touring, that his band is playing so well, that
the arrangements make every song a pleasure.  His
harmonica is wonderful, his voice still is
fascinating.  He has been so good for so long that
maybe we take him for granted.  It is a delight to
watch him perfom live, and I am pleased to catch every
show I can knowing that he might decide to turn the
tours off at anytime.

The one special mystery to me this tour is the pencil
thin moustaches.  Everyone in the band except Donnie
Herron sports one (maybe he does too, but it doesn't
show up because of his light colored hair or my fading
eyes).  A majority of the band even wears a patch of
whiskers on the chin.  Certainly someone will step
forward to present a theory on the signifigance of

As for me, I just feel a deep joy during every show
and I hope we all get to enjoy many more.  

Eric Jonjak


Review by Carl Martin

Merle was a fine opener with a great sounding band and he delivered a
fine, short set.

I thought Bob sang with more clarity and conviction than when I've seen
him on his last few trips through the Midwest.   Several songs had radical
rearrangements - again - alway.   There was much more emphasis on
annunciation and some material was as much spoken as sung, pretty easy to
pick up on the lyrics but as a friend pointed out, it's always best to
know the songs before-hand when going to a Dylan show.

The biggest surprise and the biggest puzzle to me was 'Down along the
Cove'. Bob tossed in a couple verses I wasn't familiar with.   Something
about a riverboat queen / ain't she a sight to see and another verse about
how they kick you when you're down.   Where did this come from?  I've
never heard tell of nor heard tapes of these - and it's a favorite song of
mine, I'd have remembered... it sure was a treat!    I guess I need to
track down a tape.

Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll was sang much as it might have appeared
on Love & Theft, to my ears.   When he played High Water I was delighted
but assumed that meant no Blind Willie McTell - but there it was, two
songs later - the second highlight of the show for me.

Wheel's on fire, Watching the River Flow, Positively 4th street, all top
notch - definitely the set list of choice for me among the recent shows.

Carl Martin


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