page by Bill Pagel
Review by Jesse Jones
Am I dreaming? Here I sit in the Beacon Hotel having just seen Dylan
at the Beacon Theatre. I wanted to see Dylan in New York City. It was
well worth the flight from Miami.
I had my hopes up for setlist surprises, and there were none. And
there was no Tom Thumb's Blues, to head back to New York City, no reprisal
of that great Drifter's Escape from Verano. But it was a great show.
The Beacon Theatre was full, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Even
Amos Lee and Merle Haggard found the crowd to be responsive.
But Dylan showed that he is, as the New Yorker magazine piece
announcing this stand said, at the top of his game. His voice was in
great form; he was singing each lyric with care and with passion. The
band is with him; his voice blends with the other instruments and the
other musicians all follow his leads carefully.
After a driving Maggie's Farm, Ramona bought Dylan to center stage to
close the song with the harmonica. Then Cry Awhile had a new break,
someone mentioned earlier, which was a nice change. On Bye and Bye we
heard the first fiddle work by Donnie Herron. While I was sorry not to
see Elana Fremerman, Herron seems to click well with Dylan.
Hollis Brown was as haunting as it can be; Dylan and the audience felt
every song, heard every cry, felt every shot. A rollicking If You See Her
brought us back in fine form. Then there was Lenny Bruce, and he sang it
like it was new. After a rocking Honest With Me was a beautiful Hattie
Carroll. The Beacon audience of course knows the songs, and is right on
top of the change, when "Now is the time for your tears." Another great
moment. The banjo work on High Water is beautiful. Then there was a
poignant I Shall Be Released, with the vocals again as good as they get..
The show closed with a raucous Highway 61.
The first encore was "Po' Boy" -- we've heard the arrangement before
but it was great hearing it in this slot. Then Watchtower closed the
night, with as much power as I ever have heard in the song.
Dylan, his band, and the New York audience all seemed to have a great
time. I know I did.
Review by Peter Murano
A packed Beacon Theatre found me sitting next to Wiiliam Defoe, John
Hammond Jr. of The Strokes, Bill Walton (a big Dylan fan) and Donald Fagen
(of the great Steely Dan). But I wasn't there for them, didn't even ask
for autographs. There was one reason why I took three trains into
Manhattan tonight and that was to see the final show of this remarkable
tour. People were VERY restless tonight when it was time for Dylan to
come out. When he did, ladies and gentleman he was as good as Dylan
gets. Of course that means the greatest musical artist ever in top form.
Can't ask for more than that. A torrid Maggie's farm opened up the show
and really cooked. Already everyone; Bob, His Band and the audience was
having so much fun. To Ramona followed and I couldn't believe I was
hearing this. So gorgeous and so beautiful. No one in the audience was
not captivated. Cry A While, in the same spot as last night was rocking
and that new stop in between the verse and the vocal bridge is still as
new as last night. Dylan was into this song moving shaking his head
around, smiling and making a face like he was shocked by one of the musical
stops. Pure excitement. Bye and Bye was simply wonderful, great violin by
Donnie here. Really setting a mood. Wonderful singing by Bob. Once again
tonight his vocals were top notch. Ballad of Hollis Brown. Need I say
more? The typical term is "haunting" and well, I agree. I didn't feel
like I was observing the situation of this song, I felt like I was Hollis
Brown. Going through those hardships and terrible tragedy. I am man
enough to admit I shed a tear. lol. If You See Her, Say Hello was up next
and easily on my top ten "I gotta hear it live" list. Very well done
with Stu creating a very Blood on the Tracks guitar sound. Changed a few
lyrics, Bob did, keeping the song as unpredictable as the shows set list.
I loved how this sounded, I really did. Nothing short of spectacular.
Now for the clincher, well the first one anyway, Lenny Bruce. Oh my God,
this was played so so so well by the band and sung even better by Bob.
"Lenny Bruce was BAD/he was the brother that you never haaad." A rare
live track played with clarity and grace. And people wonder why I see
Bob Dylan three times in one week. HA! Now they know. Honest With Me took
the roof off of the Beacon Theatre, so rocking that everyone (including
Bill Walton) was dancing there asses off. Bob had a blast playing this
number and the band was estatic, feeling the electricity of the crowd.
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll came up and Bob sang with a delicacy
that matched the intimate playing of the group. Bob literally nailed the
"Bury the rag deep in your face/for now is the time for your tears" line.
I got a chill up and down my spine as he sang that line louder and
clearer than any line of the night. Feeling the importance of that line
as it was sung. High Water (For Charley Patton) was delicious with
brilliant banjo work by Donnie and Dylan smiling pretty much throughout
the whole song. He pointed towards Stu who took a great guitar solo
after a stupendous banjo solo by Donnie. What a beat that song has and
what incredible lyrics sung with care by Bob Dylan. The second clincher
was I Shall Be Released. Dead on vocals. Dylan sang the hell out of
this. When the opening line was sung I turned to the person behind me
and screamed "Oh My God!!!" Probably thought I was nuts but who cares
it's Bob Dylan you're allowed to go nuts. Get a boot of this show
somehow and listen to this song if you think Dylan can't sing anymore.
The band was also great on this track. You could really hear why Tony
Garnier is one of the best bass guitar players out there. I will say
again that Bob sang this song very, very well. A Highway 61 Revisited
that must have blown the doors of the theatre came next to close the
first set. Dylan donned his cowboy hat before this track that had him
pounding on the keyboard like never before. The stage was sizzling after
this loud and hard rocker was performed. As I stood there stunned I knew
it wasn't over yet. Po' Boy come up and it shocked me completely. Tony
was playing his upright bass with a bow and Donnie was great on the
violin. Bob was drawing laughs from the crowd with the "Freddy or not
here I come" line. A well performed version of a fun and really special
song. Loved it. Bob sang it pretty much just like on Love and Theft.
But it's Bob so no, not exactly like it. He's always playing with his
vocals, keeping the audience on their toes. Po' Boy was followed by All
Along the Watchtower and it was POWERFUL. Bob really getting into that
gritty singing style that is perfect for how the song is played. There
is no other word than power to describe every aspect of tonights All
Along the Watchtower. Well, that concludes this tour. And what a tour
it was. Please, God let Bob Dylan return to New York City soon! I know
I will be there watching and listening to the master work his magic for
us, his loyal fans. We love you, Bob.
Review by G.V. Hamilton
LAST NIGHT AT THE BEACON: EPIC
Well, Jazzfest didn't happen for me this year, so there I was yesterday
twiddling my thumbs--actually checking out the setlists and the great
reviews here at Bob Links--and wondering if there was any way I could get
to the show. I figured it would cost me "two bucks," as they say on the
street, it being the last gig, on a Saturday night in New York. But then
I got a call from my friend in the city, apparently on the same
wavelength, who'd talked to a mid-town ticket broker...This dealer had a
couple left over from his big stack: two 3rd-row center loge seats, the
place to be, and he wanted just $10 over face. Let's go for it, we agreed
Getting excited, I clicked on the cool "songs performed in 2005" page here
at Bob Links and noticed three tunes done just once on tour: Hattie
Carroll, Lenny Bruce and To Ramona. It would be nice to hear those, I
thought to myself...and later on, before the show, articulated these same
thoughts to the dude sitting next to me, a polite and knowledgeable Dylan
fan from Florida named Patrick. (He would subsequently "call" Lenny Bruce
after only two notes. I didn't have a clue, having lost my vinyl cut-out
of Shot Of Love sometime in the eighties.)
Mr. Peter Stone Brown, in his Friday review, described Shelter From The
Storm as "gorgeous...with all [band] members playing quietly, letting the
words be the focus." That's a perfect description for most of last night.
It was a very special, acoustic-y evening (5 tunes with Tony on stand-up
bass), with rare songs (Po' Boy hadn't been played), and a band mostly
content to hold back and listen to the master. Denny took most of the
solos, Donnie and Stu came through when called upon, and George was
noticeably quieter. Mr. Dylan himself stayed mostly at the keys and
seemed clearly determined to play an outstanding show, as evidenced by his
attention to the singing, which was as good as the other Beacon nights, or
better. And it was as good as I've heard him in a long time.
Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll-- Definitely the showstopper for me.
Really wanted to see it. Been listening to the Live 1975 version a lot
(what a great record), but had sort of forgotten that it's done
differently now. What a treat to hear it in an acoustic setting, with
purple lights illuminating the starry backdrop under the red curtain...As
mentioned above, the audience hung on every word.
Lenny Bruce-- Didn't really know the lyrics but was able to decipher and
appreciate them. Powerful stuff.
Hollis Brown-- I love minor key melodies and story songs so this one's a
favorite. What made it great, though, was Denny's acoustic guitar.
Hauntingly loud and crystal-clear, his guitar sounded like it was recorded
in a studio.
I Shall Be Released-- Also performed just once before tonight.
Reggae-ish, a little too fast for me at first, but then I discovered the
groove and got into it. Denny's fluttering notes during his solo were
reminiscent of the late Jerry Garcia's take on the song.
To Ramona-- Yet another treat. Nice harp solo. Always reminds me of the
great '64 Halloween show which I had for years on bootleg before it
finally came out. Still haven't bought the cd, but listened to it to
death as a kid.
If You See Her Say Hello-- Conspiracy theories abound. When Donnie
started playing the violin, before I even recognized it, he was doing that
tapping--tap, tap, tap--on the strings the way Elana used to do
constantly. Hadn't seen him do it before. You can draw your own
conclusions...but, like I say, it seemed as if he was imitating Elana.
Not in any malicious way or anything. Just the way I saw it. The last
verse was, I believe, "tell her she can look me up, I'll be here or at
Overall, I feel blessed these fine tickets fell into our lap, and it was a
great privilege to witness this exquisite show, for only a few dollars
over cost. Thanks to Bob, the band, the crew, and everybody else.
Review by Jim Bishop
I SEE MY LIGHT.
Alright, so it’s the last night of a triumphant 30 + date tour. You’re in
your home town. The crowd is baying and ready to cheer you every step of
the way home. The air is electric and crackling with anticipation. So
what do you do? Well, you shun all of that, of course, and you play a set
of highly-personal, introspective and sometimes downright cranky songs.
You make absolutely no concession to ‘showbiz’ and you confound your
audience’s expectations yet again.
Take, for example, the highly perverse choice of Po’ Boy as first encore.
This is a tricky-to-perform number and an obscure one at that. How much
easier it would have been to throw in a crowd-pleaser at this point: a
Rolling Stone or even the I Shall Be Released from earlier in the set.
Instead Bob - clearly exhausted - said to himself, ‘I know, I’ll make it
really hard. I’ll do the most difficult, cranky, hard-to-nail song on
‘Love & Theft’. I fancy a challenge at the end of a tour.’ It was an
audacious move and one that says a great deal about our man’s integrity.
Indeed the entire performance eschewed anthemic sing-songs in favour of
one person dramas and narratives. Following last night’s wide screen
outing it was the individual and the personal under the spotlight tonight.
Ramona, Hollis Brown, Lenny Bruce, Hattie Carroll, Po’ Boy: all came
under the relentless Zimmerman gaze and like actors taking the stage to
play their parts they were allowed to people this final night play.
To Ramona was sweet. Bob, once again, in full command of his vocal and
therefore his subject. The final line, ‘... who knows, baby, I’ll come
and be crying to you,’ dovetailed neatly with the ‘I cried for you, now
its your turn to cry a while,’ following hard on.
Hollis Brown’s parched tale of dust bowl despair was masterfully rendered.
The band dipped to a tickle of banjo and a tap of skin as Bob told the
story with complete authority.
My personal highlight of the evening was Lenny Bruce. Essentially a
dirge, this is another difficult song to perform. As we have established,
though, Bob never takes the easy option. I was delighted when his voice
was alive to the challenge and produced the best version of the song I
have yet heard.
The girl from If You See Her Say Hello somehow managed to acquire blue
skin in a tremendous piece of Freudian fluffing from Bob.
Hattie Carroll - another individual whose plight we were asked to witness
- drew another top notch performance from Bob and I Shall Be Released saw
the first outbreak of arm-waving in the audience. Perhaps Bob was
thinking of his own release from the past two months’ grueling touring.
The story felt celebratory.
The lap of honour that encompassed Honest With Me and Highway 61 saw the
first signs of flagging from Bob. He seemed to be rather on the ropes as
the band carried his fading croak along. His audacious stab at Po’ Boy
followed and then the apocalyptic curtain closer All Along The Watchtower
ended a truly magnificent residency in New York. No razzmatazz, no
fanfares, no ‘It’s great to be here in my hometown, folks.’ Bob Dylan
stood in formation with his band as the applause and cheers rained down
and the curtain fell at the Beacon.
Dylan remains a beacon, too, for anyone who believes that artists must
pursue their muse and vision rather than seek approval form their
audience. Long may he continue to confound us.
Review by Toby Richards-Carpenter
‘Tired And Emotional’
A fifth show at the Beacon, and a fifth different tone of performance.
Frederica, the Italian lady who attends every Bob Dylan show, has the
right idea. You can never grow tired watching Bob Dylan.
Bob himself seemed to grow a little tired by the end of tonight’s
performance, mind. Considering all that he has delivered over this NYC
residency, let alone the thirty-odd shows preceeding it, it would be
amazing had he not. Yet he still left us with a head full of ideas from
this final show.
It was a set-list populated by characters, Bob exploring and presenting
the plight of individuals. This was in marked contrast to the
all-encompassing, epic songs of the previous two shows, and left me with
many contrasting thoughts.
Tonight the emphasis was less on the singing. Bob’s voice was still
strong, at least for the first half of the performance, but seemed to take
its place back among the band’s overall sound, rather than striding out to
dominate the music as it had done so gloriously at the previous Beacon
Only on one song, ‘Lenny Bruce’, did Bob’s singing approach the magical
heights of Thursday’s and Friday’s shows. This was a heartfelt
interpretation though, Bob’s personal connection with Bruce laid bare. The
line ‘He knew what he was talking about’ seemed to be projected with
particular energy and passion, as though it were the key to Bob’s
admiration for the man.
It was fascinating to hear both ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ and
‘Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ in the same show. Both require stunning feats of
memory and concentration, and Bob delivered on both scores to recount
these dignified stories. ‘Hollis Brown’, to my ears, had a particularly
tragic tone to it, such was the tension created by Bob’s vocal dexterity.
Another personal tale, ‘To Ramona’, filled the number two slot tonight. It
was an understated, sympathetic reading from Bob, clarified by the most
extensive harmonica solo of the show.
Crowd-pleasing was, once again, heroically low on Bob’s list of
priorities. Final night of the tour or not, he wasn’t compromising his art
for anyone. ‘High Water’, for example, was all the more dramatic for Bob’s
off-beat singing; he cut across the song’s rhythm and forced the band to
chop around him as best they could. This tension drew my thoughts closer
to the song’s unflinching lyrics, although the band had locked into a
momentous groove by the song’s conclusion.
The high points were scattered this evening, among several weary-sounding
performances. ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ was redeemed by some sparkling
harmonica work, after a rather eccentric vocal performance characterised
by Bob’s ‘up-singing’ technique. ‘I Shall Be Released’ struggled in vain
to strike home a particular point, and ‘Honest With Me’ and ‘Highway 61
Revisited’ re-covered ground already conquered by Bob in previous shows
Perhaps the finest ‘Bob moment’ of the evening came with the first encore,
when he sauntered into a wholly unexpected rendition of the little-heard
‘Po’Boy’. This was a magnificently odd choice under the circumstances.
Given that it was Saturday night in NYC, with two songs to go on the final
night of the tour, the boisterous crowd was ready to dance and Bob’s
strength and voice were rapidly fading, perhaps an auto-pilot pivot
through ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ would have been a more comfortable choice
for all concerned. But oh no. Bob is no-one’s performing monkey. Whatever
bloody-minded spirit prompted him, at this point, to tackle perhaps the
most awkward "Love And Theft" song of all to master live, we should be
grateful, for it is this spirit that gave us all the glorious, re-invented
versions of many of his greatest songs this week.
And the version of ‘Po’Boy’ itself? Well, several lines were missed and
Bob seemed to struggle to connect with it at this stage of proceedings. He
wasn’t quite done yet though. ‘All Along The Watchtower’ closed the show
with its lines chopped in two; ‘There must be some way... outta here’.
Finally, there was a way out of there. I was very sorry to leave the
Beacon Theater, but over the five nights, I believe I heard the most
expressive singing from Bob of all the 28 live shows I’ve attended. I
didn’t dare hope it would be this great
Review by Todd Holden
This was my first time visiting the Beacon in NYC…and it likely wouldn't have happened except I
signed on, just in the nick of time with FanAsylum for 'up close, front row Orchestra seats' for
our little fella, Bob. First off, the package was all it promised and the accommodations with
On The Avenue hotel were far above expectations.
How could this miss?…Bob in NYC at the Beacon…and Amos Lee was incredible. I'd seen him on
Letterman a few weeks back and he wasn't anything to write home about…but the Beacon and being
along the Dylan tour must make all good spirits rise above even their own realms of music.
Earlier in these very pages some 'reviewers' reviled Merle Haggard for putting on a mediocre
show…'goin' through the motions…and so on…well to those nay-sayers I say 'shove it'…you missed
the whole point. Merle Haggard and the re/vamped Strangers knocked the walls out both nights
I was there…Friday and Saturday…as the curtains opened they went to work and came to play not
just for the ride. I'd never seen The Hag before, never really wanted to…but this was indeed
a pleasant and satisfying surprise for this hillbilly at heart…
Bob smoked the sets he performed both nights…Willem DeFoe nearly knocked my down racing up the
aisle to do whatever he does when he races around a theater. The last time I saw Bill Walton
at a concert was a Dead show in Philly…twenty years ago….we both were in better shape for the
NYC shows however..
Many folk on this 'package' were from Scotland, England, Canada and all over the States. We
were a gathering of kindred spirits for sure and the sole purpose of the trip…at $1475…was to
get great seats, in a historic venue…for the muse of many…you can read of the show in other
reviews herein contained. Suffice it to say, he blew me away…as this pair of shows topped 100
times I've seen him perform. Easily in the top twenty of all time…both nights…he left no stone
Didn't have tix for Thursday night, so I staked out the big, black Prevost parked outside stage
door…and sure enough, at 9:37 the entire street was closed down…more security that I saw when
President Bush appeared in Charleston, S.C. a year ago.
Jaunting, not teetering, Bob strolled past the well wishers who screamed his name from half a
block away…and into the bowels of the Beacon he went. On the rear side of the building, which
is the back of the stage, you could hear the music clearly…so I joined a rather eclectic group
and enjoyed what was to come the next two nights.
All in all, it was well worth the trip to New York…and the seats were great in a great venue…
like the Warner in D.C….and it must all have an affect on Bob Dylan…it's where he started out
40 years ago…and whether he got laid earlier in the day or not…when he hit the stage Friday
night and rendered a sizzling 'To Be Alone With You'….and without any sign of losing intensity
tore into Hazel, Cry A While and Shelter From the Storm….well…he was at his peak…the band was
tighter than a rat's ear…and so he put the Knock Out Punch on me right then and there…with Cold
To be honest the rest of the show had me on the ropes but I wouldn't go down…I just hung on…
never sat down…just took all I could from the show…and then, like the dumb ass I am…went back
for more on Saturday…and without a doubt every performer in the Beacon…delivered.
What more could this 'po boy ' ask for?….I need to rest…the train ride back on Amtrak to
Baltimore was enough…I'm ready for more….and likely it will be Bowie Baysox Arena and Lancaster,
Penn. To satisfy once again.
For what it's worth the Bob Dylan and His Band shows offered of late and not to miss…and for
those who've not had the chance to see legend Merle Haggard…he is hitting his prime, just as
Bob…no chance of letting anyone down…not as long as they are having as much fun as they are…
Review by Peter Stone Brown
Last night I watched the show from the steam bath environs of the Beacon
Theater's loge, though people in the orchestra said it was stifling as
Again the curtain rose on Merle Haggard and the Strangers with Haggard
showing he could change things around just as much as the person closing
the show. I like seeing shows from several vantage points and from the
loge you could see what was going on on the entire stage easily.
Haggard doesn't necessarily focus on his hits or even his own songs. At
this point in time he seems more interested in playing what he wants to
play and having fun though plenty of his classics song were included
usually right up front to get things going. Tonight however, he received
standing ovations on quite a few songs including "Mule Skinner Blues."
The interesting thing was even after two months on the road he didn't seem
quite sure which songs would work. For the two shows I saw he ignored his
2003 quite good album "Haggard Like Never Before," which included Woody
Guthrie's "Philadelphia Lawyer" and a quite interesting swing song
co-written with his keyboard player, called "Lonesome Day" which includes
the lyrics, "Who's gonna sing the songs of freedom when freedom goes away
and "When the big boys with the microphones get stuck and back away and
they're afraid to say the things they know they ought to say."
Now for Bob Dylan's portion of the evening, Friday night was better in
terms of energy, song flow and consistency of performance. It was
Saturday so "Maggie's Farm" was the opener followed by "To Ramona" with
Stu Kimball setting the mood on acoustic with Don Herron on electric
mandolin, and Dylan coming to center stage for the first of several quite
good harp solos throughout the evening.
For a week of shows that saw few night-to-night repeats of songs, I was
somewhat surprised "Cry A While" came next and I almost suspected they
wanted to see if they could pull of the dead stops of the night before
which they did.
A so-so "Bye and Bye" came next followed by one of the high points of the
show "Hollis Brown." This song showed what this band is capable of in
providing arrangements with Denny Freeman playing slide on acoustic,
Kimball playing the original lick of the song on electric, Don Herron on
banjo and Tony on standup bass, they created the perfect tension and stark
background for this song.
This was followed by "If You See Her, Say Hello" in pretty much the
arrangement Dylan's been using on it for years, complete with the
apparently now official lyrics from the latest lyrics book. Why this song
is done this way will probably remain one of the great Dylan mysteries.
However the harp solo was a lot of fun.
Vocal-wise, "Lenny Bruce" was the song of the night which might be the
weirdest thing I've ever said in a Bob Dylan concert review. He sang
clearly, with obvious care making each word count. There was a sadness
about this performance that went beyond the lyrics, beyond the subject
matter. If Dylan's present vocal limitations prevent a song from truly
cutting to the bone the way they once did, he is still quite capable of
letting you know when he cares about something.
A rearranged "Honest With Me" followed. The key slide lick to the song is
now played in very different form by Herron on lap steel way up on the
neck giving the song both a different feel and sound. This band can rock
hard and the sound was loud and nasty.
A close to acoustic jazz arrangement of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie
Carroll" came next. With Stu on acoustic again this band showed their
mastery of dynamics, playing quietly, letting the words be the focus.
This arrangement could work in time, but the sadness of the melody was
Things returned to extreme rocking mode with "High Water." With Herron
setting the tone on banjo with a quite a few dissonant jazz-grass
excursions, what the current version of this song does is combine the feel
of the original album version with the hard blues rock arrangement Dylan
has been playing since 2002. The sound was nothing less than ferocious.
A not bad "I Shall Be Released" was highlighted by an extended harp solo.
The encores, "Po Boy" (which was interrupted by a loud conversation behind
me) which caused me to miss many of lyrical mistakes) and a quite typical
"Watchtower" were basically inconsequential.
Based on various recordings I've heard all along this tour, and the two
final shows I was able to see in New York, it seems obvious that the tide
for this group of musicians was turned in Boston and they are just
starting gel, and find out what they can do. If the same crew goes is on
the next tour, things should start to get interesting a few weeks from
Review by Charles Cicirella
Fried Beef (Cuban Style) (New York, New York Beacon Theatre April 30, 2005)
Surprisingly I really enjoyed the fried polenta. I wasn't sure what I
would think of it but my friend insisted I try it so I did and I found
myself going back for a second and even a third piece (actually I was
becoming quite full by this time so I actually cut a third piece in half
and ate it). The fried beef was also quite delicious and I also loved how
the whole meal was so colorful. That's one of the things I noticed about
NY while there how the food was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the
Bob's bowtie is really the first thing I noticed well after that is taking
in that he was not wearing a cowboy hat or any hat for that matter when he
came out to slay us with Maggie's Farm. The show really did take off like
a jetliner as I thought to myself well Detroit was Heaven sent, but this
feels like it could quite possibly be the baptism by fire I have been
awaiting for a very long time.
Sadly the next two numbers I have very little to say anything about
because right at that moment myself and a number of others on the rail at
the right side of the stage were treated very unkindly by one of the
Beacon security people and what is so troubling to me is how none of the
other people on the rail in the center or left side of the stage were
bothered at all while this one security guard made it what seemed like his
personal mission to continually harangue us for just trying to enjoy Bob.
I will not go into that whole argument of standing versus sitting because
to me that isn't really the point. We were told when trying for tickets
for these first three rows at the Beacon that they were for the real Bob
fans and though I was in the second row and had gotten my ticket through
the special presale I strangely discovered myself surrounded by people who
seemed like anything but a Bob Dylan fan. And what's so strange is there
were lots of people standing all over the theater and no one seemed to
have any problem at all except in this one section at the lower right side
of the stage. Finally I was able to sequester a better vantage point of
Bob and the band though I still discovered myself (all 5'2 of me) asked
countless times to sit down and this was by a person not even sitting
behind me and because I truly don't want to ruin anyone's good time I made
certain (while sitting mind you) to make sure no one was being blocked but
when the person behind and to the right of me then asked if I could ask
the girl next to me to also sit down I had had enough. I have to say if
you are going to a rock and roll concert and yes believe it or not Bob
Dylan is a rock and roll concert - a bonanza really - expect to have your
view blocked if you so choose to sit down - I mean I find it just as rude
for people to expect someone to basically sit on their hands when such a
rollicking inferno of song and dance is happening right before your eyes
and ears (if you have ears to hear that is). Finally another security
guard appeared and this one told me to tell the people behind me to
f%$&*#@ stand up and dance which made me wonder where this guy was at the
beginning during To Ramona when Bob himself had left his perch and was
waltzing/shuffling across the stage like a drunk kangaroo.
Okay so back to the show even with the distractions toward the beginning I
really loved the music and yes they were very on target and so direct.
From If You See Her Say Hello on when I could really begin to focus I was
completely astounded at how in the moment Bob and his merry tricksters
quite often can be and when the opening chords of Lenny Bruce were played
I was in second and even a third or fourth Heaven!!! Though my friend and
I disagree about this version versus the second night Boston (I felt that
one may have been more inspired while my friend thought the version last
night took more risks) either way to finally hear it in the flesh (my
friend and I both had only experienced the second Boston version on
account of a masterful field recording!!!) truly was absolutely riveting.
Hearing Hollis Brown and Hattie Carroll on the same night was to me very
surprising especially when Hattie was followed by a dynamite High Water. I
love this song live and with the return of the banjo it's really being
taken to new heights. I Shall Be Released was poignant and while listening
and watching all I could think was how beautiful a Spirit Bob possesses.
How someone you've never met before can make you feel so much for not only
the song but as well his condition and our condition and the human
condition is really beyond revolutionary and I swear Bob I really was
framed! I must also mention that Honest With Me - Highway 61 - and
Watchtower were simply Buddy Holly and the Crickets incarnate -- 'nuff
Review by Adam Dean
The Bob Dylan Show 2005:
Four Nights with Bob & Friends, Four Different Shows, Four Incredible Evenings
by Adam Dean
Timing is everything[…] in life and now it seems with Bob Dylan shows. I was fortunate to catch
the most recent tour on four different nights - a Sunday (4/24), a Tuesday (4/19), a Friday (4/29),
and a Saturday (4/30) - and saw four completely different shows. Each performer on the tour played
different sets each night I saw them - musical diversity at its finest. This tour featured two
excellent opening acts, both of whom set the tone for rather brief (by historical standards) Bob
Dylan sets. Bob Dylan concert tours have gone from having "opening acts" to being a "show," a trend
which began last year with the Willie Nelson stadiums tour, and which will seemingly continue into
the future. This format takes the pressure off of Dylan to perform long (and one must assume
exhausting) sets of songs every evening. The shows lasted about three hours from start to finish,
including two intermissions.
Amos Lee and his band show real promise - hope things go well for you, Amos! The AMOS LEE compact
disc is well worth buying, very relaxing. However, like most performers, this act needs to be seen
live and in person to really appreciate their skills. Amos has a crooner's voice, plays great
guitar, and has fantastic stage presence. His band features a stand-up bass, a crack
drummer/percussionist, and a fantastic rhythm guitarist who also play the trumpet on a few songs.
I heard most of the new CD during these four shows, each number standing on its own, as well as a
great Sam Cooke cover to close the set on Saturday night. Amos Lee has a very strong stage presence
and was never intimidated by playing to half-full houses or distracted by people moving about in
the aisles. He was genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to open for Bob Dylan, and
after every set he was out in the lobby signing his CD for fans and answering questions.
Merle Haggard & The Strangers have been on the road a long time playing W&C (western & country)
music - Haggard comes from the Texas Playboys tradition of musicians who combine jazz styles,
blues, swing, and "down home" country songs. Haggard is at ease on stage, treating each evening
as if he were playing in a "beer joint" (his words). The Strangers know how to capture and audience
and hold their attention, mixing quiet ballads with up-tempo "wheeeeeee-hawwwwww" songs. Haggard
has so many great hits, and he played many of them on this tour. Each night he featured a different
group of songs: blues rockers (I heard Workin' Man Blues, Mules Skinner Blues, Folsom Prison Blues,
and Milk Cow Blues), Bob Wills songs (Take Me Back To Tulsa, several "western swing" instrumentals),
several Willie Nelson covers (Stay All Night, If You've Got The Money, The Night Life Ain't No Good
Life),) and so many of his greatest hits (Rainbow Stew, Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, Okee From
Muskogee, Jackson, Think I'll Just Stay Here & Drink, Misery & Gin, The Fightin' Side Of Me, Silver
Wings, and Mama Tried (which most in the crowd relate to as a Grateful Dead song, but which was
actually written by Merle), to name but a few. Merle spoke to the crowd every show, told a few
jokes, and in a nod to vaudeville, "introduced the band" (during which the band members all shook
each other's hands - this was very funny!). Merle also played several new songs, including That's
The News, which is a scathing anti-war song wrapped in a patriotic cover, and the jazz standard
cover (and title of his new album) Unforgettable - which to me was the best song he played (I heard
it three out of the four shows) - the man can still really sing and play the guitar - he put on a
Bob Dylan seems to by following a kind of schedule these days - playing particular songs on certain
days of the week - mixing it up a bit but pretty much following a "If this is Tuesday, let's play……"
set list. On Tuesday April 19th, we heard what may be referred to as the "anti-war" set list. NJPAC
is one of the finest concert venues I have ever been to - right up there with Lincoln Center, The
Academy Of Music (in Philly) or the Kimmel Center (also Philly). The chairs are plush and
comfortable, the sight lines almost perfect from every seat, and the full rich sound rises from
the stage to bathe the listener's ears, never harsh or dissonant. This was one incredible place! But
the message here was definitely in the music. This concert featured This Wheel's on Fire, John Brown,
Under the Red Sky, and Masters of War, each song reminding us that our country remains a country at
war, and that peace on earth remains an elusive dream, after all these years. This was the only show
I saw which included Elana Fremerman in the band; I really enjoyed her and felt she added a (much
needed) quiet touch to what has become a very loud band. She really added a nice flavor to swing
tunes such as Bye & Bye, and her duet with Donny on Absolutely Sweet Marie was magical!
The following Sunday April 24th, we met up with the tour again in Atlantic City. The Borgata is a
really nice place, but the concert hall seating really fails the venue - it has very, very
uncomfortable chairs! This evening Bob played what has become known as a "Tribute To God" set of
songs, taking us on a mystical and spiritual journey, including several very rare songs (Love Minus
Zero/No Limit, God Knows, Ring Them Bells, Tryin' to Get to Heaven, I Believe in You, and I Dreamed
I Saw St. Augustine). Several other songs had an apocalyptic message (Ballad of A Thin Man, A Hard
Rain's Gonna Fall). Without Elana in the band, this group plays LOUD!! It may be the loudest band
I have ever heard Bob Dylan surround himself with. A real highlight was the re-arranged Mississippi,
now sounding kind of like a two-step. Dylan has revised every song from Love & Theft and made them
sound new and different, which keeps them fresh. This is, after all, his "latest" album, even
though it is approaching four years old.
Friday April 29th found us at the venerable Beacon Theatre in New York City, for the penultimate
show of the tour. The Beacon Theatre is a classic venue[…] with incredible artwork and statues
inside, great sight lines, and very good acoustics. This was The Place To Be on a Friday night in
NYC, and many celebs were there for the show (I particularly enjoyed meeting Donald Fagen - what a
face!). From the opening number, Dylan and his band were on fire, and the crowd was mesmerized! The
Friday night shows have been featuring several rather rare songs, including Hazel and Chimes of
Freedom, and both were included. This was not a "themed" show; rather it was a journey through time
with Bob Dylan. We got songs from older albums like Planet Waves and Blood on The Tracks, and from
more recent albums like Time Out Of Mind and Love & Theft. This band really seems to enjoy playing
together, as evidenced on Cry a While, with its infectious stop-and-start rhythm, led by Tony and
George - another great re-write! Cold Irons Bound was played very LOUD, and featured another
great bass and drum duet, punctuated by Bob's staccato singing. Shelter From The Storm was a
musical magical journey, from "another lifetime" - Bob's "upsinging" vocal style is especially
noticeable on this song. The moods of this concert ranged from crashing highs (Highway 61
Revisited, Watchin' the River Flow) to silence so profound you could hear the proverbial pin
drop (Not Dark Yet). During Not Dark Yet, we experienced one of those moments that long-time
fans seek out at these shows: that moment when time stands still, and it's just you and Dylan in
the room together, riding the ethereal wave of timelessness. The Bob Dylan time machine took us
all the way back with the fantastic set closer, Mr. Tambourine Man, re-arranged in a slower,
more melodic way. The vocal were passionate and you could see Bob trying to squeeze every ounce
of emotion from this song. The encores tonight were also very special - Things Have Changed was
orchestrated as a country song that featured Donnie on a plucked-string fiddle solo, and the
evening's finale was Like A Rolling Stone, which was played very infrequently on this tour.
Needless to say, the crowd went wild for this one! This was really a great show.
Saturday April 30th was the tour's final night, and having caught a NY taxi with ease we arrived
right on time to find a huge crowd outside seeking tickets - made me feel good about having bought
mine through the internet pre-sale! The final night of any tour is all about getting down the road
to another joint, and nobody is better at this than Bob Dylan. His latest album, Love & Theft, was
the feature tonight - and sorry to those who don't love this album! It is a genius album, a
consolidation of so many great American musical styles - blues, jazz, swing, rock & roll, two-step,
shuffles - all Dylanized and wrapped up in some of the best story line vocal of his long career.
Five songs from Love & Theft were performed in this show - all of them brilliantly re-arranged and
passionately performed by Bob and his band. We got Cry a While again, with the same fantastic
stop-and-start bass/drums/guitars from the night before (and which the band was obviously really
enjoying!), a joyous two-step Bye & Bye with an incredible violin solo by Donnie, a driving
rocking Honest With Me, a mournful and scornful High Water, and a genuine surprise in the first
encore spot - Po' Boy - which no one expected and which had people dancing in the aisles! Several
surprises highlighted the set list - a lovely To Ramona during which Bob came to center stage and
danced around with his harp, a matching pair of acoustic despair and desperation songs (Ballad Of
Hollis Brown and The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll), both brilliantly played, and If You See
Her, Say Hello - I couldn't help but think about hearing this played by a solo Bob Dylan during
the Rolling Thunder Revue show I saw back in 1975. But THE SONG, the absolute highlight of my
four shows this tour, had to be Lenny Bruce - I had never heard this song performed live and
other versions I had heard paled in comparison to this one - the plaintive "Lenny Bruce is dead"
coming from Bob's mouth gave one the feeling that he was singing his own requiem, that he had
written his own epitaph, well in advance of his own demise. The performance was stunning, the
applause for this song thundering through the statues, across the balconies, and back to the
So four different, four magical, four completely diverse nights on the road with Bob Dylan have
once again passed my way, and yes, I can't help it if I'm lucky - lucky to be alive at the time
of The Bard, a musician's musician, the poet laureate of rock & roll - and lucky to have a
chance to share these shows with other fans through the magic of the internet. So go I say, go
see The Bob Dylan Show, bring your children, bring your wives and husbands, bring friends and
family - you will not be disappointed. See you this summer - I'll be sitting next to the foul
pole with my mitt, waiting to catch Bob again.
page by Bill Pagel
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