May 1, 2013
Review by Corey Fisher
Dylan is back. Tonight he stood unprotected and unashamed with just a
microphone to unleash his lyrics like I've never seen.
Clad in dress black like the band but sans hat, Bob approached the mic
unencumbered by guitar and let the audience have it. I've seen him over a
dozen times in the last 15 years and he's almost always been strapped with a
guitar or behind the keyboard. His performances have been straight-laced
and to the point at times without a sign that he was doing much more than
a job with the tempo and 'upsinging' driven by his need to coordinate an
instrument and his vocals--but not tonight.
I've seen Bob enjoy himself, but not like tonight. With just a mic on a stand,
he crooned and swayed, leaning and twisting, gesturing with his hands and
snarling with his eyes as he manipulated the words he knows so well like taffy,
pulling and pushing at his whim in a way I can only describe as a mild Elvis
combined with a subdued Jim Morrison. No one could doubt that "things have
changed" or that he was truly 'love sick' as his conviction, pain and history was
spelled out unabashedly. With a handheld white mike for his harmonica, he
added his touch where and when he needed.
After three songs, he retreated to his keyboard and slowed the tempo down
for 'soon after midnight' before cranking it back up for 'tangled up in blue' that
left the audience cheering. He alternated between keyboard and mic stand
and focused more on his harmonica for the next five songs, highlighted by
'Johanna' and 'Beyond here' that erased any belief in the rumor a few years
ago when Bob dropped the harmonica that he'd lost his ability to play it well
or at least his finesse. No, his harmonica was out and proud, playing a whole
verse/chorus on 'spirit on the water' and filling interludes of 'blind willie mctell'
as good as he ever has.
He finished out the show with five showstopping songs behind the keyboard
starting with a soulful confession 'what good am I?' followed by his relishing a
'summer days' that actually had him laughing. 'Scarlet town' was a new song it
was nice to hear and the slow cadence was contrasted by the ripping of
'watchtower'. The encore of 'thin man' was enjoyable and, before and after,
Bob posed briefly with his band, sans instruments, like an old western posse
for a picture.
I left elated.
But let me pick up just for a moment where I left off: posing for pictures. Even
though the concert was introduced not by the "poet laureate" he's used for
years that I think is classy, a lone woman approached the microphone and
pleaded with the audience to "enjoy the concert 'live and in person', not on
the small screen of a cell phone", the show was very 'connected'. I was
appalled at the number of people continually snapping pictures [stupidly with
flash even though they were 30 yards away] or recording video with their cell
phones held high. If that wasnt disruptive enough, the back half of the
audience barely acknowledged that there was a concert going on, enjoying
their $12 beers and talking the whole time. I only bought my regular concert
poster [$20, Bob? I guess the economy is not hurting some people] and sat
near the back of the lower center section.
The outdoor auditorium was a great venue if not for the overcast skies and
occasional drizzle. The individual seat were comfortable, though the crowd
stood the whole time forcing everyone to stand, which was fine but given
that 1/3 of the audience were in Bob's generation, I thought they would like
a sitting break in the hour and forty-five minute concert.
I was disappointed before the show when my research proved his set list was
fairly static. In the past, he's mixed it up far more--I've attended subsequent
concerts in different cities and heard only a handful of songs twice. But the
songs and set list was solid. A good mix of old and new; a tempo and tone
that ebbed and flowed, and a band that knew when to help and when to
let Bob take over.
I look forward to seeing him again soon.
Review by Jesse Jones
This is the show Bob Dylan has been working on since the late 1990’s. The
set list is purged of the classics known to all from the early 1960’s. Those
who have come to create their own photographic record of the iconic Bob
Dylan are told to put their smart phones down, and watch and listen to the
Bob Dylan at 71 leads his band through some great songs, songs that draw
on all of the great music of America, crafted by a man who always wanted
to be a singer-songwriter, and not a prophet. It has taken a long time –
surely the Never Ending Tour has set records – to get to this point, where
the audience is moved not by the familiar chords of songs they knew back
then, but by the music Bob Dylan is creating now.
Dylan sometimes uses staccato phrasing in lieu of singing the lyric. Still,
I think he is as engaged with the music and with his band as we have ever
seen him. He is singing the songs he wants to sing, and not the songs the
audience came hoping to hear. I always thought the electric keyboard got
in the way of his singing. Now, with him on center stage for much of the
show with no instrument other than his harmonica, he is more compelling as
a singer. Even when he is at the grand piano, he is making great music; the
electric keyboard always sounded like filler to me.
One thing we have always loved about the Never Ending Tour was the
incredible variety of set lists from show to show. And of course there
always has been such an incredible array of songs for him to choose from.
But admit it. We all have seen him flub lyrics, and even lose track of what
song he is singing. This is a great set list, and if its consistency helps Dylan
stay consistent as a performer, I don’t mind not being surprised by each
The venue had advertised, “Non-professional cameras are permitted for this
performance (35 mm or smaller, no detached lenses).” There were hastily
prepared letter-sized signs everywhere saying NO photography. Before
Dylan’s set a young lady on stage took the microphone and, I wish I
remembered her exact words because they were good, said something like,
you are here to enjoy a live show, so don’t watch it through a tiny box, and
don’t have your elbows and arms and hands in the air, there will be no
photography. Lots of people still took lots of pictures, of course, although
the security staff was pretty muscular in running to them and saying NO. I
am sure the mirrors on stage and the dim lighting are part of the plan to
discourage picture taking. I have to think that the picture taking was a small
fraction of what it would have been had there been no discouragement.
And once more, Bob got it right. The policy made it a better show.
There is no denying Dylan’s role in defining our culture of the last 50 years.
I look around and see the old folks like me and figure I know at least part of
how they feel. I see much younger people enjoying the music and reflect
that when I was that age there was no performing artist of 71 years whom
I could relate to in any way. I did spend time during the concert recalling
the first time I heard “Blowing in the Wind” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” But
I am not that person anymore, and neither is Bob Dylan.
We believed we were changing the world. We also believed that the music
was of our moment. Not many of us could have foreseen how that music
would last. Dylan’s music lasted, and, despite that, fifty years later, he is
able to make great new music.
Review by Jeff K.
Thanks as always for your website. There is a little profanity in this review,
but believe me Charlotte deserves it.
Bob was great as always. Everything about this tour is subtle---the lighting,
the vocal phrasing and the arrangements. This is not a rockin' band like
some other iterations on the Never Ending Tour. Bob apparently wants the
audience to lean in, quiet down and pay attention. The pre-show
announcement suggest no pictures and no video. I wish it specifically said
no talking because Charlotte fans SUCK on this note. I moved around from
the back of the venue to six rows from the stage and people in the
audience would not shut the fuck up! One of the greatest artists of all
time is on stage and you people think you have something important to
say??? Stay home! If you are in Bob's presence, listen up! High Water, as
always, was a highlight but unfortunately too many in the audience needed
to heed the line: As great as you are, man, you'll never be greater than
yourself. Thank you, Bob, for ignoring these ignorant, shallow, selfish
people. I hope to see you soon in front of a more appreciative audience.
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