page by Bill Pagel
Review by Jim Maynard
Now that my mind has cleared out most of that second-hand marijuana I
inhaled last night.. I will try to give a more detailed review of the
The Memphis in May "Beale Street Music Festival" has become one of the
most popular musical festivals in the country. This years festival sold
out every night.. over 175,000 tickets... Friday & Saturday sold out
several days before the festival.
Dylan was scheduled for Sunday night and had some stiff competition from
the Black Crowes and Sonic Youth. Willie Nelson performed at 7 PM and
Dylan at 9 PM so not competition there... I was surprised to hear so many
young people excited about seeing Willlie Nelson.. guess he is "hip". I
was afraid all the young crowd would prefer to see the Black Crowes or
Sonic Youth over Bob, but turns out Dylan drew a huge audience of young
people and I saw a lot of Dylan T-shirts (few males were wearing any
shirts.. but that's a different story...)
The festival had the feel of a Grateful Dead concert or Woodstock. The
hippie/deadhead/bohemian young crowd far outnumbered the older preppies,
etc... Lots of tie-dye stuff and the aroma of marijuana filled the air.
I wanted to catch the beginning of Willie Nelson's show before I headed
down to the Autozone stage at the other end of Tom Lee Park for Bob Dylan.
But, I had an outdated map that told me that Willie would be performing
on the wrong stage, so I waited and waited and no Willie.. until they
introduced Mavis Staples and I knew I was in the wrong place.. but it was
about 8 PM so I decided to head down to the Autozone stage and try to get
a good spot near the stage...
No such luck. Even during the Billy Lee Riley and the Sun All Stars show,
the stage area was packed. I had no idea who Billy Lee Riley was, but I
will say that I enjoyed the show.. great rock and roll from a legend I
never heard of, and someone Bob Dylan admires. ( I believe I remember now
that Dylan invited Billy Lee Riley on stage at my first Dylan concert in
Little Rock back in 1992.. he said he was one of his heroes and they did a
rock and roll song together)..
I got as close to the stage as I could... not as close as I wanted, just
in front of the left tower of speakers. As the sun went down over the
Mississippi River, the crowd grew with anticipation of Bob Dylan... 20
minutes to go.... classical music filled the air creating more
anticipation.... I was surrounded by very young people... 18-20 year
olds.. many of them drunk or high it seemed... some newbies asking about
Bob (what is he like, etc..) The the music came to a climatic end and
the lights went down... "Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Columbia
recording artist Bob Dylan"...
The crowd went wild. I was pressed on all sides as everyone tried to get
as close to Bob and they could...they wanted to see him up close. DUNCAN
AND BRADY started things off on a somewhat low-key note. I never heard
the song, and few others knew what he was singing. His voice was ragged
making it difficult to understand the words.. but it we made out the
lyrics which bob emphasized ("I've been on this job tooooo loooong!). Bob
warmed up quickly to the crowd and started cracking a smile early....
MR TAMBOURINE MAN was recognizable to everyone and was met with a loud
roar of approval. Dylan's vocals became clear and strong and people tried
to sing along... but Bob made it tricky to follow along with a very
different version. (I overhead a young guy after the show complain about
not being able to sing with bob because he changed his songs so much.. I
wanted to say "if you want to hear songs exactly the same as on albums, go
to the Backstreet Boys or Madonna...) Dylan did a lot of lead acoustic
guitar picking on this and all the other acoustic songs....
TANGLED UP IN BLUE got the crowed more fired up. Seemed like everyone
recognized it form the opening chords. I have grown tired of this song
because Dylan has sung it in every show I've been to, but this was better
than the others... he didn't rush it too much and put more emotion into
the words... I usually want the song to hurry up and get over with.. but
not this time.. then he went back to get his harmonica and with one hand
holding the mic and harp and the other waving to the side played a great
harmonica solo which the crowd loved as usual...
One problem I saw already.... a young guy and his drunk bimbo girlfriend
were making out right in front of me making it difficult for me to see or
concentrate. They carried on for several songs.. I would have moved but
there was no place to go and I didn't want to miss anything so I stayed
put hoping they would leave or stop.... which they eventually did... I
don't understand these young'uns...would they rather have sex or listen to
Bob ??? I guess they wanted to do both.... I just don't think of sex when
I listen to him :)
I have never heard THIS WORLD CAN'T STAND LONG.. .but recognized it
immediately. I'm an atheist and don't appreciate these gospel songs much.
They are too preachy and often plain stupid. But I must say I did
*somewhat* enjoy this old Roy Acuff tune.... the main chorus being "this
world can't stand long.. it's too filled with hate" which I can agree
with. I didn't care much for the "don't wait too long" part.. wait too
long for what??? I don't get that "born again" stuff... and I don't think
the stoned kids around me cared much for it either... they were waiting to
sing "everyone must get stoned." But Bob and the band sounded great...very
much like a bluegrass band.. and they harmonized on the chorus very well.
CRASH ON THE LEVEE opened the electric set.. they crowd tried to sing
happy birthday but were drowned out by the guitars before they could wish
Bob happy birthday... hope he heard it. As Bob sang the song I realized
why this song would be a great companion to This World Can't Stand Long...
"a crash on the levee.. a flood....destruction of the world...)
The crowd roared when we heard the distinctive chord intro to JUST LIKE A
WOMAN... the couples in front of me started hugging and kissing... yuk...
anyway, Bob really sounded great on this song... (you make love just like
a WOOOMAN.. but you BREAK... just like... a Little giiiirrrrrllll).... I
think it was on this song that Bob really wiggled his legs and would you
believe it... did the Elvis pelvis thrust a few times! It was too funny
to be sexy... kind of like watching the old man in the audience with his
chicken legs and knee long shorts dancing around like he was 18 again...
but very moving all the same...Bob was wiggling and Jiggling and thrusting
his pelvis at the pretty girls in the front I guess....
I wanted and finally got to hear STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE WITH THE MEMPHIS
BLUES AGAIN. I've seen Dylan eight times in Memphis, and this was only
the second time I go to hear this song. The crowed cheered the Memphis
Blues chorus of course...
Then to slow things down a bit.. one of my favorites off of Oh Mercy..
'WHERE TEARDROPS FALL . Not many recognized it or knew it... but they
were listening carefully to the words and the lovely melody... relating to
the shedding of tears...
A loud wall of sound preceded COLD IRONS BOUND. I have not h eard this
song off of Time Out of Mind live, but have been reading about it on the
newsgroups. It almost sounded like a Pink Floyd song at first... lots of
loud guitar noise... but making it very difficult to hear Dylan... and
Dylan sings the song kind of fast and strains to yell the words... it was
not easy to hear the words and if you didn't know the song you wouldn't
know what it was. But we were all enthralled by the noise the band was
making.. while we tried to make out what Bob was singing... Not my
favorite song on TOOM... i like the words...very powerful and moving
lyrics, but the sound is like fingers on a chalkboard to me.... I'll
have to get used to it... It's a very painful song to listen to.. but I
guess it is supposed to be painful..."I'm 20 miles out of town and cold
The drum beat of the unmistakable RAINEY DAY WOMEN (Everybody Must Get
Stoned!). The crowd was ecstatic... now they could light those joints up
and sing their anthem.. even if they didn't realize that the song had
nothing to do with what they were smoking! Dylan still loves this song..
I would be sick of it if I were him.. but the message of getting "stoned"
for being true to yourself and your beliefs seems to be an important part
of his contribution to music and performing. He even make up new lyrics,
but I cant remember them.. something in the last verse about not ducking
Now the formation....Dylan runs to the back of the stage and runs back out
with a black hat on... pulling his collar up and prancing around... very
funny... then they leave, with thunderous applause... anticipating the
inevitable encore.... after what seemed like an eternity they return to
the stage. Then I noticed the shinny statue behind the band... Bob's
Oscar! Had it been there the whole time??? I don't know... but there it
was... and of course the first song of the encore would be THINGS HAVE
CHANGED. The crowd recognized it.. maybe from the Academy Awards.. maybe
they actually saw Wonder Boys.. but they loved the autobiographical song
of the 60 year old gray haired legend on the stage. Things sure have
changed for Dylan....No longer the "spokesperson of a generation" long
passed its time.. not longer the rebellious rock star selling millions of
albums with songs on the top 40 radio stations.. or leading protest
marches, the young punk was not an old wise owl. He had been through it
ALL. There was nothing he has not endured or experienced in his life. No
longer interested in being "hip" or "cool" or changing history.... just
"standing in the gallows with his head in the noose" waiting for all hell
to break loose, but "you can't win with a losing hand."
Somebody with too much in his bloodstream was shouting "Rolling Stone" all
night and finally got his wish ....the other song they were waiting
for... LIKE A ROLLING STONE. The lights came on over the crowd and every
arm was raised cheering the anthem of their parents generation... "how
does it feeeeeel? To be on your owwwwn... like a compleeet unknown.. like
a ROLLING STONE!" They were dancing and hugging and loving Dylan's
signature song.. one he will always be remembered for and not someone else
doing a cover of it.. not one has topped the original one yet... not even
That Old Man was not tired yet.. the band fired up even more... HIGHWAY
61. Charlie breaks out on the electric guitar and Bob tried to match
him.... we get a two (three counting Tony on base) guitar formation.....
one legged bob ... smiling and enjoying performing rock and roll.
My ears were ringing... they soothe my eardrums with KNOCKIN ON HEAVEN'S
DOOR. Charlie and Larry step to the mics and begin the harmonious vocal
introduction... Bob steps up and calls out for Mama to wipe the tears form
his eyes.. he sees the dark clouds.... I wonder does he really feel like
he's Knocking on Heaven's Door ? Charlie would put his hand to his ear
and left is eyes in anticipation of "Just like so many times before.." and
shake his head.. very funny! I was impressed by not only Charlie Sexton's
guitar playing, but how well he blends in with the band and Bob... he
seems like part of the family now... and he seems very comfortable playing
side by side with Bob Dylan. (I hope Charlie Sexton makes a solo comeback
someday.. but not until Bob is no longer touring!) As Bob said in the
Biograph notes..if there was any justice, Charlie Sexton would have been a
superstar. But he's still young and talented and hopefully reap the
rewards of his hard work and ability... and Dylan surely helped his growth
as a performing artist.. the "next bob dylan" ??
OK... there has not been any introduction of the band... and they do the
formation... bob grabs the hat again and comes back to join the
formation.... they stand and leave...
They have to come back.... bob has not introduced them yet! The crowd
yells and shouts... begging for more... oh boy they come back out...
grabbing electric guitars.. and the crowd goes wild when they recognize
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER... not as fast and hard as usual.. but very
powerfully performed.... the message once again is the wickedness of this
world.... there must be some way out of here... but where?
The answer was BLOWIN IN THE WIND.... as we never heard it before....
dylan sung the words softly and tenderly... emphasizing the last syllabes
of each line with a higher note... how many times... must the cannon balls
fly.. before they are forever banned (maybe dylan is thinking about the
start of a new cold war with the Shrub in the White House and the military
industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about gearing up for Star Wars
"Missile Defense").... how many years must some people exist.. before
they are allowed to be free... cheers from the audience and heads shaking
in agreement...how many years... how long will it take... when will people
understand... the answer is Blowing in the wind.. Bob Charlie and Larry
sing the chorus in loud harmony.. and the crowd agrees.. but we wonder,
what does it mean. ??? Was the Pope right? was it the 'holy spirit"? or
is it our common humanity... and ability to change the course of the world
if we wanted to.. if we did our part to make a difference.. if we stand
together.... tell us the answer Bob.... there is not simple answer....
For Bob Dylan.... he has spent his whole life asking the question and
searching for the answer.. and he has returned to where he began... the
old time music... God.... The Bible.... folk music....country
music...blues... NOT politics, not a political party... don't follow
Maybe the answer is in a song he never performs and one I want to hear in
concert.. TRUST YOURSELF....
Still no band introductions... did that mean they would do a THIRD
encore.. we waited in hopeful anticipation.. cigarette lighters signaling
Bob to come back...... Lights on.... and Yankee doodle dandy playing ????
Guess that meant something...
It was a long walk back up Beale Street to my bus stop. I didn't hear any
conversations about Dylan.. but I wish I could have heard what they
thought... I thought it was one of Dylan's best performances in Memphis.
Great selection of songs.. even if it was mostly "greatest hits".. but
these are songs we all want to hear.. especially those newbies who needed
a good introduction to Bob Dylan... he was the poet/singer composer of
Blowin in the Wind, Knockin on Heavens Door, All Along the Watchtower,
Like a Rolling Stone.. who still found more hope and directions to life's
road in the old time music of Roy Acuff, Woody Guthrie, Hank Willliams,
Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley.... a distant place from modern rock and
Review by Mad Max
The Beale Street Music Festival is a wonderful music festival right on the
waters of the Mississippi River. I came down from Chicago for the show to
visit a friend of mine. The afternoon was nice and sunny and the festival
grounds were very crowded. My friends and I wondered over to the AutoZone
Stage where we found many many people already their and staking there
claims to seats. We moved our way up about a third of the way to the stage
and anxiously awaited Bob. Bob's pulled up on the outskirts of the stage
and they went into
Duncan and Brady: I like this opener a lot. You could tell right from the
beginning that Bob had a lot of energy and this song had a lot of feeling
on the vocals from all band members. Not many people in the audience knew
Mr Tambourine Man: Another great selection. Bob and the band were
harmonizing very well on this one. The sound at the show was great which
made it very easy to hear Bob's every word.
Desolation Row: I was very happy to hear this song. I had heard it at
Madison and Chicago in the fall and this was another great version. Bob
really loves this song and it is very apparent in the way he sings it each
Tangled Up In Blue: I love this song every time I hear it. Great harp solo
by Bob and the band was very tight throughout. The extended jams in this
song are great. No cheesy yellow lights on Bob like in the Fall when he
sings the chorus which I was very happy about.
World Can't Stand Long: Bob slowed things up on this one. Not my favorite
Down in the Flood: On to the electric portion of the show. This set the
tone for the remainder of the show in which the band would display sheer
prowess in there musical work.
Just Like A Woman: The first time I had heard this song live and I was not
disappointed. The vocals from Bob were spoken with much emotion.
Especially on the "I just don't fit part".
Memphis Blues: Crowd pleaser and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. This
show had more of a younger audience then at most shows and was very into
Where Teardrops Fall: Slows things down again and lets the band and
audience catch there breath
Cold Irons Bound: First time I heard this version of this song. It is a
little slower than the album version. I liked the old version a little
better but this has a different feel to it which is also nice.
Rainy Day Women: Crowd pleaser and I have heard it too many times but this
version was played very well. Bob and the band took the song out a little
bit and were very in sync.
Things Have Changed: I like this song a lot. Much better version than what
he played on the Oscars. Crowd was not familiar with this song and since
most of them had heard there showstopper song during Rainy Day Women they
already had there highlight.
LARS: Another crowd pleaser for the greatest hits encores. Well played
version. Crowd tries to sing along however Bob sings it his own way which
is great. I love how Bob does not let the crowd sing with him. New
audiences try to sing with Bob but learn very quickly that he wants no
part of it.
Knockin: Cools things off with a very well played version of Knockin. I
thought that might be the show but was very happy that they came back.
Watchtower: The greatest hits continues. Bob and the band were letting it
all hang out here. The last show of the tour and they wanted to leave with
a bang. Tight solid playing.
Blowin: Sent us off with the beautiful played Blowin. A slight wind
started blowing on the crowd when this song was played. Bob comes out with
his cowboy hat for the crowd and off he went. Overall a great show. Bob
had more energy than I expected. The band is as tight as I have ever heard
them. I really think they are very comfortable playing with Bob. The
Memphis Festival is very well organized and I look forward to coming back
in the future.
Review by Andrew Edgington
Can it get any better than this? You're in Nashville. A packed crowd of
all ages, relishing the warm evening. The Cumberland River flowing by.
Bob's on stage; the show is stunning. You've got the best view in the
place - slightly left of centre 30 ft back and raised above the melee below.
'Where Teardrops Fall' begins. And then a resplendent paddle driven
riverboat glides directly behind the stage, visible through the rear screen.
You ask yourself 'Have I passed away and gone to heaven?'
I wanted to write a review, but, hey what could I possibly add to Joe
Cliburn's? Not only was he the best possible travelling buddy across
Georgia and Tennessee in Mr Truck, but also he writes great reviews.
Djeaux is quite categorically a top bloke.
So here are the additional impressions of an Englishman who took some time
off to eat grits; biscuits and white gravy, and to follow Bob around the
What an experience! Americans couldn't understand what it's like for a
Limey to visit Nashville and Memphis, twin capitals of music, linked by
the 'Music Highway'. The very names send a thrill down your spine.
What great company! The guys and gals from STATW sure know how to enjoy
their headcuttin' and possum BBQ's - and secure 'prime real estate' in the
best places to see Bob and the boys. Nashville hats off to them all.
What a slick and professional crew! The slim guy in the black T-shirt
who sorts out Charlie's gear; the heavy set guy with the grey pony tail
who lights the joss-sticks; the main man who plays occasional riffs to
tune 'em up and tease the crowd. Three nights in a row, and no glitches
Q. What's the most unusual place you've ever seen a 'Beware of the Dog!'
sticker? A. On the back of Bob & Larry's guitar rack. Curious or what?
Does Bob let his dogs that close? Surely not!
At all three shows the ground was a carpet of beer cans and water bottles…
the air was a fug of illegal perfume…… a heady mixture which will stay
with me forever.
Nice varied lighting - not too fussy or obtrusive - just how I like it.
But what damage to the moths of the three cities - drawn to the lights,
singed to death and spiralling down onto the stage. At least the last
sounds in their dying ears - if indeed they have ears- was Bob!
Fifteen minutes of Beethoven - was that the 5th? - preceded the shows.
It made a neat break from previous acts and added a certain drama to
The set-lists were well suited to the open-air, summer festival settings -
lots of real crowd-pleasing rockers to get you going and keep you right
Bob's oh-so-familiar jaunty walk onto the stage, and that little nod all
round. All the boys watching him carefully to see the visual cues…. 'You
now'….. 'me now' …….. 'that's enough of this song'…..etc
THREE harp solos in the Atlanta show. I thought the third was a bit dodgy,
but maybe it was my ears. What a joy to see him caressing the tunes out,
crouching there with his right hand out to the side. At Memphis, one of our
crowd - the delightful Julia (all the way from Rio) held up a sign :- 'Bob -
give me your harmonica'. Of course Bob would never see it but Charlie did,
and blew her a little kiss - Magic!
The fake Oscar stood on one of the rear amps. It made its appearance every
night. I checked it out out through my binoculars - was it fake? Have I
ever seen a real Oscar? No, of course not, so that one will do for me. It
was a lovely touch.
Bob's beautiful yellow guitar - don't think I saw that one last September in
Birmingham - had 'Bob Dylan' written along the frets. Another justification
for taking binoculars!
So now to the platform on which Bob's performances are grounded. I just
adore the sound of that band. I don't miss Bucky's pedal steel - I found
it far too obtrusive when it went on for song after song. I like David's
drums - I think drummers should be heard and not seen. He's got soft hands
and I think he pushes and guides the songs along rather than dragging them
from out front. His glasses are green-tinted by the way.
Tony was enjoying himself at all three shows, lots of that waltzing around
behind Bob, smiling and laughing. His only panic was when Bob agreed to a
second encore at Memphis. For a minute he was stood there flapping and
waving at Charlie to come back!
Charlie took up his new position on Bob's right and there was a lot of
interplay between them. Some of his leads on H61 and LARS were simply
sensational. It may be me seeing it wrong but can anyone else alternate
between conventional play with a pick and that style when he tucks the
pick into his hand and plays with his thumb and little finger? I'm glad
Bob doesn't let him let rip on every song - you hear enough of that stuff
on the tapes of the shows with Mick Taylor and I find it a bit irksome.
No guitar legend is bigger than Bob, in my book.
IMHO Larry is the foundation of the distinctive sound the band is making
these days. Everything that Bob and the others lay on, for example, Mr
Tambourine Man is made possible by that magnificent guitar figure that
he lays down on this and other songs. You can hear it but watching it
is a marvellous experience. There's such certainty about his playing.
I thought he looked at a bit remote at times - he was gazing out into
the crowd. I wonder what he was thinking? I wished they'd played
'Soldier's Grave' like they did in Birmingham last year - that mandolin
intro is the best.
Bob's playing was 'regulation' at Atlanta and Nashville but he was really
accurate, clear and focussed at Memphis, particularly in the first half of
the set. He played with all of that wonderful understatement. You don't
have to blast it out all the time - let the audience fill in some of the
gaps! But I have to say it does sound better when he resists the
temptation to mangle some of the notes.
Bob's concentration at all three shows was great. Again, watching him
through the bins you can see the effort that goes into it. His eyes kind
of glaze over focussing on something in the middle distance. His head
leans this was and that. The sweat flows. The facial muscles tense.
You can see the concentration on the phrasing. He takes all those risks
with the lines. First he runs them into each other. Now he chops them
up. For a moment you panic - will he get back and finish the line? Of
course he will!!
This is what performance should be all about. None of that over-relaxed,
familiar tune, singalong, know the phrasing, over-rehearsed, slick
performance and idle friendly chat to the crowd. Bob gives you the songs,
especially re-invented for you on that day in that moment. He's oh so
right to say there can be no definitive performance of any song. Each
one is a living thing that must be allowed to grow and change.
So there we are. What more could an Englishman ask for? Nashville and
Memphis in May. The mighty Mississippi. Highway 61 (yes we got lost in
Memphis and crossed back over it!). Bob on stage ………. And a riverboat!
page by Bill Pagel
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