May 5, 2006
Review by Noel Mayeske
“I’m going to see Dylan tonight!” Ah, what a nice phrase to be able to say
in a given day, and one I won’t always be able to utter. Dylan will be 65 in
a few days. Who ever thought he’d be able to do it this long, and who
knows how many more years he can go? Based on his performance in
Atlanta Friday night, I’d guess that another 10 years seems reasonable!
I’d call the Atlanta show a standard success, with nary a set list surprise – as
we’ve come to expect on this tour – but with several startling reinventions.
First, a few words about the venue. There’s plenty to like and dislike about
Chastain Park. It’s a beautiful, intimate place to see major stars under the
stars. It claims a 6,700 capacity but feels even smaller than that, with stone
steps in the round leading down to a stage with great sightlines from any
seat. On the downside, people are allowed to bring in elaborate meals and
alcohol, so it has a reputation as a venue where great performances can be
obscured by the clink of dinner forks and chatty cell-phoners on hand for
the atmosphere more than the music. Fortunately, those two aspects were
reconciled nicely this night, because there seemed to be a preponderance
of real fans in the (full) house rather than vocal socialites. In fact, there were
more obnoxious fans at Dylan’s incredibly intimate 2004 Tabernacle shows in
Atlanta (3,500 capacity) than here tonight! This was my 12th Dylan show
and my wife’s second. My first was in 1989 at this same venue, and hers
was last year in Savannah with our then-one-year-old son, who didn’t
accompany us to this show.
Back to the music... have you ever noticed that, like a good short story or,
heck, an episode of ER, a Bob concert contains a handful of narrative angles
and plot threads, any of which could be perceived as the primary one by a
particular fan? This show was a 14-chapter story with several plot threads –
soulful pillow talk, ancient wild-eyed blues, populist fist-pumpers, internalized
nostalgic musings, and more. For me, the set’s center of gravity was the
three most radically-altered songs: “Mr. Tambourine Man” reinvented as
a sea shanty waltz, “It’s Allright Ma” transformed to a hulking, piledriving
blues, and one of my very favorite Dylan songs, “Cold Irons Bound,”
reimagined as a hallucinogenic, angular postmodern blues instead of a Bo
Diddley raunch. These three songs, especially “It’s Allright Ma” and “Cold
Irons,” were the center of gravity for this whole show to coalesce around.
It’s like they were the black hole and everything else was gently tugged
towards that center. They were certainly the darkest, most “difficult”
moments of a show that, like the Savannah show I saw last year, basically
eschewed the “difficult” stuff like “Masters Of War” or “Sugar Baby” for a
more populist route. Going with the basically crowd-pleasing nature of this
show and tour (crowd-pleasing in the sense of the average fan, not a
die-hard like me), there was also the soul-singer delivery of “To Make You
Feel My Love,” surprising me with how well that minor song can be delivered.
There was more pillow talk too in a nice version of “I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.”
As always, there was a sneer too, for whoever needed that distancing that
can reveal truth: “Most Likely You Go Your Way” and “Positively 4th Street”
make sure no one gets too close, even the fanatics who believe we really
know something about the man. “Lonesome Day Blues” and “Highway 61
Revisited” conjured weird, old views of America, of Pentecostal fire and
existential urgency. Especially after hearing Son House’s “Low Down Dirty
Dog Blues” recently -- surely Dylan’s source of loving theft for “L.D.B” -- this
cut rose above also-ran status to a gutsier place in my pantheon of Dylan
favorites. As for “Highway 61,” a lot of its power for me comes in its
setlist juxtaposition. I preferred it last year in Savannah, when “61”
followed a brooding yet coal-hot version of “Ballad Of Hollis Brown,” and
the rubbing together of those two illuminated each like never before for
me. By contrast, this evening’s “61” segue with the wistful, funny “Don’t
Think Twice” felt more crowd-pleasing than illuminating. Not that Dylan
could ever be accused of pandering to an audience’s basest desires.... or
even their noblest ones. “The best way to serve an age is to betray it” is
the quote Bono chose (not written by Dylan, but emblematic of him) in
profiling Dylan in a recent MOJO book. At the same time, populism isn’t
beyond him either: the semi-permanent placement of “Summer Days,” “Like
A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower” as show-enders in recent
years attests to crowd-pleasing sides of his famously curmudgeonly
The setlist was much more weighted to the ‘60s classics than I’d grown
to expect from recent years. Of his 14 songs, 10 were ‘60s tunes, and of
the remaining four there were two apiece from 1997’s “Time Out Of Mind”
and 2001’s Love And Theft. Zilch to represent the ‘70s, ‘80s, or even much
of the ‘90s!!
A couple technical notes. The sound was pin-drop perfect -- louder than I
expected for Chastain (some of the guitar blasts were really quite bracing,
especially on “Cold Irons”with its brittle-steel sound of cold fusion) -- and our
mid-priced seats were at the perfect acoustic location. Anyone with a
recording device could have gotten a great bootleg. Dylan’s vocals were
mixed quite “out front,” which I like partly because it denied the naysayers
who declare he’s not singing at all or not caring. You could clearly hear almost
every word the whole night. It wasn’t a champion vocal effort, but it was
Dylan played a bunch of great harmonica solos which got a great response
from the crowd. It’s always been interesting to me how well people react
to his craggy harp solos and how badly they react to his craggy voice! I
don’t see a huge difference. I liked his keyboard playing tonight. It was
all organ, no piano! I loved the organ sound -- it gave a swirling retro,
psychedelic-soul feel to the music, eschewing his rather clunky plonking
As usual, the only non-musical words from Dylan came near
the end, when he clearly and genially said “Thank you, friends” and
introduced the band. He and bandmates were dressed to a T, Dylan in a
white western suit with black cowboy hat with the band in stylish gray.
As the last notes of “Watchtower” faded, the stage lights went dark,
and it was like we’d been watching one of those old-timey arcade games
where you put in a quarter to see the marionettes dance. The quarter’s
time ended, the “dancing” stopped, and there was an almost eerie stillness
where life had been. It was a ghostly moment, like we’d been visited, then
“the man in the long black coat” departed like he’d came.
A minute or so later, lights came back on and the 6-member band returned
to receive the applause. Then they all kind of turned on a dime, in an
old-fashioned, almost military gesture, and strolled off in single file, like
privates after a briefing from the general. That had a cool, crisp poignancy
to it too, achieving a subtle balance between the “song and dance man”
Dylan claims to be, performing in the snowglobe of our dreams, and the
reality that once the show is over, they’re not ours anymore – they’re on
to the next hill in their journey. They’re gone.
Catch this fine show while you can. Even a fairly workmanlike show like
Atlanta’s will linger with you long into the future.
Review by Jeff Bridges
First of all I'm reminded of John Mayall on one of his earlier albums.
When you go to a Dylan show you don't go to hear an old record.
I saw this lineup about a year ago in Savannah. Last night's show was
very different..... starting with the setup. Bob has moved closer to
center stage and Donnie is up on the riser with George. For most of
the songs... except Don't Think Twice, which is pretty much the way
he's been playing it for several years now.....the syncopation (sp) of
the vocals have been revamped. They are not delivered on the
expected beats. The first line before and the last line after where they
would normally be. As my friend Dash stated on the way out, it will take
a little while for this one to really sink in. I thought the newly arranged
Cold Irons Bound was spectacular. Other highlights for me were
Lonesome Day Blues, It's Alright Ma and Hwy 61. I really enjoyed the
new presentation of Watchtower also. Bob teased the crowd again
before leaving the stage, making several false starts to the mic with
harmonica in hand. I noticed that George remained on the drum riser
and my hopes were lifted that we might see a second encore.....but
alas Bob quickly turned and walked off stage left with the band in single
file behind. Bob did speak to the crowd last night, however briefly it was,
saying before the band intros "Thank you friends"!! I must say Denny
Freeman plays one hell of a guitar and Donnie Herron plays a sweet
pedal steel. As usual, I'm glad we made the effort.
Review by Mike Tiemann
This was my third Dylan concert over the past 10 years, each one in a
different city and each one with a very different band. This show may not
have been the most innovative, but it was a truly pleasant, enjoyable
evening. It had a "greatest hits" feel, in the best possible way. Bob
seemed to be in a particularly good mood, perhaps feeding off of the
romance-and-candlelight feel at Chastain.
I always love hearing the dramatic rearrangements of the old songs, but
every time I see Dylan, my favorites end up being the new ones.
Emotionally, it's great to hear songs like Rolling Stone and Watchtower -
or even something totally reinvented, like Mr. Tambourine Man - but the
new ones were written for his current voice. They just fire on all
cylinders. Musically, they are the most compelling even though they're
also relatively close to the album versions. I had hoped to hear some new
songs, but it seems Bob is waiting to introduce them until the album is
finished and released.
About the venue - I was pleasantly surprised that most everyone seemed
focused on the music. Chastain is a fantastic place to see a show when
there are no distractions, and I very much appreciated the ability to
bring in our own food. The sound was excellent and clear... and loud
enough that talking wasn't an issue.
Mr. Tambourine Man - total thrill to hear this live... cool new
arrangement, too. Bob may have added another (lower) octave to his voice
since the last tour. Lonesome Day Blues - close to the album version, but
wow, did this rock. No need to reinvent it! Make You Feel My Love/I'll Be
Your Baby Tonight - these worked well together - romantic and delicate.
Cold Irons Bound - haunting new beat and guitar riff. It's a shame these
excellent versions don't get captured on official releases! Don't Think
Twice - always a treat to hear this. The crowd loved it. Girl of the
North Country - compelling new arrangement, with an outstanding bass/steel
guitar riff between verses. I also liked the phrasing: "If you're
trav'lin'.......... to the North Country Fair where the winds"
Most Likely You'll... - cool opener, but the vocals were almost completely
monotone. Positively 4th Street - too slow. With Bob's clipped delivery,
there was no continuity to the lines... and you missed the lyrics. It's
Alright Ma - not a very imaginative blues riff, and the tempo made the
lyrics unintelligible. Which, with this song, is really a shame. Loved
the Campbell/Sexton arrangement of it in 2002.
Other notes - George Recile (sp?) is a truly fantastic drummer. I can't
wait to hear him on a full Dylan studio album! Steel guitar was fine, but
pretty badly out of tune in places. Electric guitarists were strong, but
none of the solos particularly stood out either. It took me a while to
figure out that the cool organ I was hearing was Bob's playing! I thought
he would be jabbing some electric piano chords here and there, based on
reviews from previous tours... but I thought the organ sound added a lot.
Lots of harp solos... all of them were excellent. No one can play harp
like Bob. It's unpredictable and soothing at the same time.
Great show... always such a thrill to see the man in action!
Review by David Bilodeau
This is my first review. The Atlanta show was the best Bob Dylan concert
I ever saw. I travel to see Bob Dylan about 10 times a year and have been
doing that for over ten years. Let's just say it is a hobby of mine-
really no different than someone going to see the Yankees ten times a
year, but when you do it to see a musician, people tend to think you are a
bit crazy. Ok, maybe it is a little crazy, but it really is a great way
to see America, and is always an adventure.
I won't get into the song list, but really just have to tell you about Bob
"Bling" Dylan. I kid you not that Bob wore three large cluster diamond
rings on one hand, and one large cluster diamond ring on the other hand.
He also had diamond clusters on his shirt collar and around the brim of
his hat. He was smartly dressed in a white cowboy suit with Black boots
with white stripping across the front. Bob also was smiling and
bee-bopping like I never saw before- he really seemed to be enjoying
himself. His voice was very very good, and the band seemed really
together- Tony was smiling and just rips on the bass. I also love the new
Organ sound Bob is playing.
The venue had to be the strangest venue I ever saw- where you actually
bring wine, candles, table cloths, flowers, etc. and have a major spread.
For most folks there it seemed to be more of a social scene- who could
have the best table spread. Everybody seemed to know everybody. Atlanta
is also a great city, and my fiancé and I really enjoyed spending the
weekend there. The people are super friendly. We also had a nice lunch
in the tallest hotel (Westin Atlanta) in the Western Hemisphere (72
stories). The elevator is on the outside of the building! What a ride to
the top that was. I definitely will go back to Atlanta.
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