April 30, 2013
Review by Duncan Hume
How much longer? How much longer? So goes the refrain in New Pony. Based
on tonight's performance the finishing end isn't at hand. Not even close. Way
back he said "What do they want from me? I've given them enough already"
and yet he's still there, night after night doing what he sees as his job and
what we see as remarkable. Anniversary's come thick and fast. 52 years since
his first paid New York performance has just passed us by. His peers meet their
maker with alarming and increasing frequency. Death's honesty has thankfully
not yet fallen upon him yet. Ding dong Daddy. His bell still rings.
An energetic start with Things Have Changed to a half filled barn of a place;
Bob hatless in a dim light stood stage center holding the microphone and using
it as a prop; the back lighting giving his tangle of unruly fluffy hair a halo effect.
Love Sick giving the new boy Duke a chance to show us his chops and he's got
plenty to offer. The rotund Mr Robillard, static for most of the evening, lets his
guitar do the wandering to great effect. He is clearly a great addition to the
band. No leaping about the stage, (I'm not sure he could actually leap) but he
brings an authority, a gravitas. He doesn't continually watch Bob for queues but
listens closely and provides some really fine interplay with Bob's unorthodox
The stunning highlight of the evening is What Good Am I? Faithful to the New
Orelans studio heritage so fascinatingly glimpsed in Chronicles Vol 1. The hairs
on my arm stand to attention as I think about the performance. The vocal
delivery was sublime. Staggeringly great. Deep, rich, considered and masterful.
Soon After Midnight was also a delight. Crooned and casually gorgeous.
He's left fans behind and picked up new ones along the way as we know; the
younger crew probably more familiar with Modern Times, "Love and Theft",
Together Through Life and Tempest than say Knocked Out Loaded, Infidels,
Saved, Real Live, Self Portrait and even maybe Another Side of Bob Dylan.
Everyone knows Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61
though right? Right? You wouldn't have known it from the crowd, most
seemed near death, offering a reserved smattering of applause at the
conclusion to most of the new songs and many of the old. Visions of Johanna
was the first time in the evening Bob sat down on the piano stool. He crafted
his masterpiece that was greeted, not with a deserved rapturous response
from the crowd, but with a polite round of applause that I found very odd
and somewhat sad.
There is still the bizarre element we come to expect. The mirrors on stage to
foil the casual snapper using a flash is my theory, supported by the pre show
announcement admonishing those who attempt to watch the show through
their camera phones rather than "live and in person". The glances and glares
and a hundred expressions delivered at band members. You know the looks,
'I approve' with the eyebrows, 'I wish you were not here' with a sly squint,
'my hair is okay isn't it?' with a tug, the thumb and forefinger chin rub. The
hands on the hips and belt fiddle. The body bends and chaplinesque
moments. They were all on display tonight as usual.
So what of the 2013 version of Bob Dylan? He's said he continues to make
music for new audiences and again proved that by show casing four songs
from the latest release. Only Pay In Blood didn't work. A song that lacks a
tune became more tuneless, if such a thing were possible, while Bob tried to
crowbar the flabby lyrics into some sort of structure. Tangled Up In Blue by
the way is re-arranged ambling around until the title line is thankfully delivered
in its original format.
The set list remaining unchanged is a change. Unusual for the so-called Never
Ending Tour but then look at the setlists from earlier years. Those pre 'Never
Ending Tour' shows. Those pre internet ExpectingRain Boblinks set list trackers.
Those pre Dylan Pool 'guess what he's gonna play tonight' gamers.
The stage has been set for the "Bob Dylan show" now. One could explain the
lack of song changes with the arrival of his new lead guitar player. There's
probably an element of truth in that but he's clearly a very accomplished
musician who can turn his hand to anything. He's a very exciting addition.
Asheville 2013 demonstrates to all who care to listen that Dylan is still engaged
and can still leave me speechless. There were moments of majesty tonight I
very much doubted I'd ever see again. After all these years he can still do it.
These years have not been long and wasted. Far from it. What a ride it's been.
Review by Tom Kerr
I have read many reviews from this tour from people who didn't much
like the shows they attended. Several referred to how "dark" they were,
using words like "dirge" and "death" to describe the overall performance/mood.
That's bullshit. The stage ambiance is low-light and minimal, and Dylan
uses trademark snarl in some of his vocal deliveries. Some of the lyrics
go into dark places. But the music and its performance were far from funereal.
Instead it was elegant, uplifting, poignant, and sexy. Dylan doing his thing, just
as he's done for decades by being the incomparable artist that he is.
If you want a rockabilly show you will likely be disappointed. If you buy
a ticket wanting a strong emphasis on Western swing you'll likely be
disappointed. My guess is that folks who wrote the downer reviews had high
expectations of the version of Dylan they would prefer to see this time around,
and when they didn't find it they felt bad and blamed him. (Sound familar?
Haven't we heard that kind of disgruntled whining since Dylan was in his
But that says a whole lot more about the reviewers than it does about Bob
Dylan and his band. They just put on a kick-ass beautiful performance with a
particular kind of musical arrangement and set that won't agree with
everyone's personal taste. Was the show any good? Are you kidding?
Phenomenal from start to finish. Leave your preconceived expectations at
the door. Then listen to and enjoy this memorable tour.
Oh yeah, and for those who think Bob has lost his juice.
One pretty young thing took off an article of clothing and
threw it to the stage a few minutes before the encore. She
was obviously pleased and not feeling too dark and bored.
The only show I can compare it to in mood and ambience
was one I saw years ago in a tiny venue in Spain with Jimmy
McGriff on the Hammon B3 organ and Hank Crawford on guitar
- a jazz blues gig. Bob may be aging, but like fine single malt.
Review by J. Matthew Martin
I had reservations about last night’s show at the U.S. Cellular Center (formerly
the Asheville Civic Center). The usual cast of characters was going: Terri,
brother Bob, the kid and her friend, our buddies from Cherokee and, yes,
even Bubba, although he did not attend with us but rather with his pal. I
wanted the teenagers to have a good time and some reviews had been, if
not dour, at least problematic. Still, we got free parking on the street and
that was both rare and welcome. It turned out to be a good omen.
I liked Dawes just fine. They seemed enthused just to be there and promised
to return to the Orange Peel in July. The teenagers particularly enjoyed the
lead guitarist. Terri said that their parents force fed them a diet of the first
two Eagles albums for all of their toddler years and that could be true.
What I thought was a late arriving crowd never really showed. Over the last
decade or so, attendance for Bob at the Civic Center has diminished each
time and this go ‘round the old bunker was maybe 35% full. The show would
have fit and perhaps worked better, in the smaller Thomas Wolfe Auditorium,
next door. Still, I should point out that the sound in the Civic Center has
historically always ranged from dreadful to barely adequate and might have
kept some away. However, tonight, the sound was superb, never better.
Maybe the suits from U.S. Cellular have gotten involved.
The main event was marvelous. However, if you wanted the full on rockin’,
the roadhouse bar band of yesteryear (or even last year), you were bound
to be disappointed. This is a totally different show in theme, pacing and
timbre. The driving elements are not the guitars, but rather the base, drums
and Bob’s voice (which I thought was not bad for a septuagenarian smoker).
The guitars added the fills, but only occasionally took the spotlight. Stu plays
all of the hard parts on the acoustic type songs (Love Sick, Soon After
Midnight, Tangled up in Blue, Visions of Johanna, etc...) while Duke comes in
and out with little leads, watching Bob for cues. Donnie basically ties it all
together. The piano was plonked, pinged and played, depending on the
song, but only on Ballad of a Thin Man did he play the whole song on the
piano. He did not play the keyboard, but it was set up. It looked to me like
he had lyric sheets, lying on top of the piano, but that is just a guess.
Yes, the staging is dark. There are no spotlights. Yes, there are a couple of
mirrors at the front of the stage facing outward, but I hardly think those can
deter or impede filming. Brother Bob opined that the whole show sounded
like the album Tempest. If you like the pacing and sound of that album, you
will love this more reserved, somewhat dark show. Terri thought it was like a
club show from the 1940's and that is an interesting observation. The pacing
was deliberate, but languid. He did not speak to the crowd, but did tilt the
mike toward himself while rocking back and forth in a rickety manner.
Our hero wore a slightly large black suit with a 5 button coat, fitted out with
red piping up the legs, across the wrists and between the buttons on the
back. His white shirt sparkled with rhinestones or some sort of twinkles. He
wore a bolo tie and his collar was open. His white boots were adorned with
black tips. All of the band members except Donnie wore hats and were
attired in crisp suits. Bob had a hat, which he did not wear, and it appeared
to me that it held harmonicas.
The highlights were Soon After Midnight, Early Roman Kings, Tangled Up in
Blue, Visions of Johanna, the incredible harmonica solo in Blind Willie McTell,
and Scarlet Town. I am not sure that I had ever heard What Good am I live
and it was a treat.
How does an old guy like that stay so cool that teenagers in the audience
are shouting "I love you, Bob!"? The only thing I can think of remotely close
to this phenomenon, and it is a phenomenon, is perhaps late Pablo Picasso.
Thank you, Bob, for coming back to the Land of the Sky once more. And
thanks to Bill Pagel for providing this wonderful community space—it
obviously takes a lot of work.
J. Matthew Martin
Review by Bill Morris
Bob and company hit the stage in Asheville, all looking sharp- promptly at
8:30 with 'Things have changed' followed by 'Love Sick'. Bob at center
stage in a black suit with the usual vest and frock coat....pants and coat
with red piping.....the description 'funky admiral' came to mind. There
have been some great descriptions of his outfits over the years: riverboat
gambler / mariachi gunslinger / wild west undertaker and last night he
scored with both his attire and the show.
Duke Robillard adds a lot of heft to this band with his leads and it appears
Bob enjoyed giving him the nod to take over...lots of grins from Bob
compared to what seemed like years of non-stop (almost) scowling.
Donnie Herron versatile on banjo, guitar and steel; Bob stood over his
grand piano most of the time, but when he sat down he turned more
to face the audience, especially when during 'Spirit on the water' he sang
'you say I'm past my prime / show me what you got / we can have a
whopping good time' . I was up close on the floor and you could tell the
band knew that they were clicking. Bob pulled some cool poses at the mic,
playing harp with one hand, and the other in his pocket.
I miss seeing Bob strap on an electric guitar and would like to have heard
them stomp through 'Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat or Sweet Marie, but I did
hear 'Blind Willie McTell' for this first time, and they absolutely scorched
"Watchtower" and 'Thunder on the Mountain". The Modern Times and
Tempest songs were all great...no weak spots in this show. Just after
10:00 They wrapped it up with 'Thin Man' convincingly and heading for
another joint - Charlotte, then Raleigh.
Don't miss this tour. With My Morning Jacket and Wilco opening some
shows this summer (right?), it will be the best lineup of the year.
Comments by Tom Kerr
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