May 6, 2006
Review by Jody Pred
This was my tenth Dylan show, going back to 1989. This one featured
by far the best versions I've seen of several songs--including "Highway
61," "Like a Rolling Stone," "Watchtower," and "Blind Willie McTell." It
was a super great concert.
My opinion is: the longer the band plays, the better the show.
Still, I knew he's been sticking to 14 songs only, on this tour, so that
wasn't a disappointment and, besides, we got Merle Haggard, who was
excellent. He played "Okie!" And "Workingman's Blues." One song of his
brought tears to my eyes, maybe called "If I Had Wings." It was a pleasure
to get to see Merle.
Dylan's set list was great--first time I've seen him do "I Don't Believe You"
and "To Ramona." His new interpretations/arrangements are genius. The
version I saw two years ago of "It's Alright Ma," with Larry Campbell
playing the bozouki or whatever was untoppable, but this version was
completely different and just as good. "Tweedle Dee"--which I've never
cared for before, made total sense this time: a dance tune! It rocked!
They did an extended jam somewhere, I think on "She Belongs to Me,"
which was swinging. All the best solos of the night were Bob's harp solos.
He did some great chordy solo on organ, too...I forget where.
The overall band sound was tremendous; they were super good at
dynamics, coming down real soft a lot of times, even in the middle of stuff
like "Watchtower," so you could hear Dylan's voice, or his harp, or the
attentive silence of the audience. Let's give credit to George Recile, a
drummer who can play both soft and loud.
But here's what people have been missing in all the reviews I've
read so far: Tony Garnier is a national treasure! I'd still go to see
Dylan anytime, but the day Tony leaves the band--I dread! He is a groove
king and one of the all time best bass players. Next time you're at a
Dylan show, if you're not blocking someone's view too much, and if the
fascist ushers will let you, try getting up and dancing to some of the
more rocking or swinging songs, and focus onm Tony's playing. It's
actually a very good way to experience Dylan, and the band as a whole.
And Tony will transport you. Last night, he didn't look like he was having
too much fun...Please don't leave us, Tony! We love you!
Other than that I just wanna say: Stephen Solis' review from Birmingham
said it real well, what Dylan shows are all about. Oh, and "Masters of War"
was stupendous! And the set design/light show! Beautiful!
Review by Charles Eric Cicirella
Even the very best field recordings to have so far circulated from this
tour could not have prepared me for the onslaught I was to witness on May
6, 2006 in Asheville, North Carolina at the Asheville Civic Center Arena.
I have heard many opinions about Bob's band and how they currently sound
and per usual with Dylan fans it appears that those in favor of Bob's
current special brand of medicine are in the minority and perhaps that is
precisely why so many shows these days begin with Maggie's Farm, "Well, I
try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like
them. They sing while you slave and I just get bored. I ain't gonna work
on Maggie's farm no more." Which brings me to how Bob seemed anything but
bored this very night. Was he as 'in the pocket' as he was in Detroit, MI
on 4-12-2005 or as full of piss and vinegar as he was in Eastlake, OH. on
6-26-2005 well that's hardly the point because I believe Bob most
definitely lives in and for the moment and mixes his special brand of
medicine for us to share with him one on one - no partitions or borders
keeping us separated.
So Bob flubbed when singing Highway 61 well to me that just proves that he
really is human and like anyone of us sometimes gets ahead of himself. And
with as invested as Bob's vocal delivery was this very night a little flub
here or there is so inconsequential anyhow. Which brings me to Bob's
singing which I'd already been completely bewitched by when hearing some
truly gorgeous performances of She Belongs To Me from earlier in the tour
but nothing prepared me for the crooning I was to experience in Asheville.
Instead of burying a couple lines here or over there like he sometimes has
a tendency to do he instead was unburying whole stanzas so that songs like
To Ramona or Masters Of War sounded like hey Bob really did at one point
feel like this even though he may now only be a pale ghost retreating..
well there were no pale ghosts - no ghouls - not even a Vincent Price
doppelganger present in Asheville instead we got BOB DYLAN full throttle -
HIGH GRADE indeed with a band that really does deliver the goods and may
in fact define what the words 'future perfect' mean.
He tore words in half with his mercury mouth but then instead of only
delivering a portion of the word he made damn certain all the pieces and
parts were accounted for as he peeled back the outer reaches of his
subconscious and gave unto us real music from a real place no artificial
flavors or preservatives added / no truths divided.
I was on my feet rocking and reeling from the very second Bob Dylan and
his chosen band walked out onto the stage and I did not sit down the
entire time these Bohemian Cowboys balanced on a tightrope for each and
everyone of us.
Charles Eric Cicirella
May 9, 2006
Review by Matthew Martin
Although we cannot be sure that the genesis of the Bob/Merle pairing was
Bubba, we have to acknowledge the possibility that he got the ball
rolling. Bubba and I saw Merle & The Strangers at Harrah's Cherokee Casino
in September of 2004, and, in typically gregarious Bubba fashion, shortly
after the show he had become friendly with Merle's road manager and
confirmed that Merle and Bob were, in fact, fast friends and "had each
other's private numbers." Bubba queried, "Why doesn't Merle tour with Bob,
sorta like Paul Simon did?" Next thing you know, they were. Coincidence?
Hmmm... So thanks to Bubba for germinating.
Next, we have to thank Brother Bob's able administrative assistant, Lynne,
who scored the tickets for all of us (including her and her friend) in the
pre-sale, while Bro. Bob and I were on the road. This worked out
brilliantly, because we had seats essentially backstage, off to the side
of stage left, so that Bob was facing us directly. The Asheville Civic
Center Arena is a dreadful, concrete bunker, and the City Council dithers
monthly about "what to do" with it, but you'll never catch me speaking ill
of it ever again.
Merle & The Strangers were lovely, really. Merle exhorted the audience,
growling that this was real "Country Music." And indeed it was. He played
the classic, "Mama Tried," and the shopworn satire "Okie from Muscogee"
along with several other of his many hits in a tight set. I particularly
enjoyed when Merle told the audience that he was going "to introduce the
Strangers," and they all commenced to shake each other's hands.
The set change was swift, and in about 20 minutes the patchouli scent
wafted up, and the strains of "Fanfare for the Common Man" began. From
our, essentially backstage seats, we could see the band come on stage from
about 25 feet away. Bob was kind of bouncing up and down and looking for
his cue to bound up the steps to the stage. He wore a double breasted
mourning coat with buttons running down both sides, very Civil War, and
topped it off with a beautiful coachman's hat. Everyone wore a hat except
for George and Donnie.
Immediately I was struck by Bob's voice. I don't hang on the blogs, but
something positive has occurred. Has he quit smoking? (As His Band
approached the stage before the encore, Tony was smoking a cigarette, but
I did not see Bob smoking, as I have in the past). His voice was very
smooth, and the ragged edge of the past decade or so was mostly gone. It
was amazing. He hasn't morphed into the "Velvet Fog" by any stretch of the
imagination, but he sounded like he did at least a decade ago. "To Ramona"
was great-I don't think I have heard that live since 1978. "Just Like a
Woman" had the best crooning of the night and "Blind Willie McTell" was my
favorite of the night. I am not sure that I have ever heard "I Don't
Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)" live before. It was
startlingly good. "Masters of War" drove the crowd into a frenzy-the
visceral effect of this song was amazing. It was as if the crowd needed to
As opposed to previous times on the keyboards, Bob is actually playing
them, not just plonking (I made this same observation in my Orange Peel
review, but it was more pronounced at this show). I noticed that, even
while blowing the harp, he held it in his left hand, and kept playing the
keyboard with his right. The sound was up in the mix and it really adds
something lyrical to the overall ambiance. Bro. Bob says it sounded like
circus music and lent a carnival vibe to the proceedings. I agree.
The encores were pretty straightforward, but not done on remote control.
As Bob and His Band took a bow center stage, I realized that, if I walked
to the edge of the seats, there would be no one between Bob and I as he
left the stage, and I positioned myself accordingly, holding out the
evening's poster and a pen. Bob saw me as he came down the steps, walked
over, smiled just slightly and took the poster, and pen. A moment later,
he had signed it boldly for me at the top and handed both it and the pen
back. I shouted "Thanks Bob!" over the cacophony as a crowd swarmed
towards us from behind me and momentarily knocked me off balance-but I
held onto the poster. As I looked up, Bob was being swiftly escorted back
behind the backstage curtain. Our encounter lasted all of four seconds,
but it was wonderful.
It was an exorcism for me of sorts of an old "what if"-in the late 1980's
I moonlighted for Show Pros, the security company started by my old pal,
Joe. So, once, during the G.E. Smith years, I found myself in a long,
concrete hallway with just me and Bob, and I had even thought ahead enough
to pack a paperback copy of Tarantula and a pen, but I was too intimidated
to approach him. I regretted that ever since, until last night.
So, finally, thanks Bob, for the show, the autograph and for being so
Review by John Sipowicz
Sacrifice was the Code of The Road
-A Cabin Builder's Journey to Asheville-
Starts with a fire under the ass, and a good reason for leaving town.
Fortuna was not going to eat my dreams. My fellow cabin-builder and
snapshot of a gentlemen, Bosco, got the ball rolling one stormy morn.
First off, we've had a tremendous work season thus far. Busy for sure, and
in the scheme of things--way above the red figures. So we could afford to
put our hammers and nails down and treat ourselves.
I was hesitant--it's a long journey--and I could wait until the new album
comes. But I had blood in my eyes for this one. I'd seen a couple
shows--heard some others--and without a doubt--it has been the best Bob in
at least two or three years--IMO.
We flew out of Salt Lake--landed in Brussels (actually NY). Stayed the
night with some family and split town at dawn. Driving 13-hours to Hot
Springs, NC to stay with one hell of a couple for the weekend.
The Drive down--no-sweat-just straight towards the sun at ninety-miles an
hour. We made it interestingly illegal. Had a cross-up in Greeneville--a
complete vortex--and almost thought about finding a cheap-and easy and
getting drunk in our funk--but we pushed on after we thought a MAP would
be a good ideer.
Met up with The Moonshiners at some sweet little bar-joint called
"Paddler's Pub." Hot Springs is a dry town except there. Nice bon-fire out
front--pool table--legs and cigarettes.
Our care-takers--Trapper and Mandy--live on what they call a "spit" inside
the 2100 miles of Appalachian Trail. Organic farmers whom share the land
with two or three other families. Tons of crops and
animals--moonshine--and smiles. If I could manage it--I'd put this place
on the wall and hang it. A true scenic wonder.
Trapper's from Tennessee, a boat maker at heart, and Mandy she's from
Memphis--and one hell of cook...although I passed on her white gravy.
Nothing against her...I just say No to gravy. Biscuits and bedsheets with
true country flavor.
Saturday morn came and went--before we knew it--PBR's were cracked and we
headed the hour into Asheville. Local radio around there boast "Over The
Mountain" a 11-7 Bluegrass show every Saturday. Trapper loves his
Bluegrass and N.P.R. I thought the "Boar or Bore" family was a good
Asheville, as Bosco put it--was full of the "tragically hip and dirty."
One local said something along the lines..."we have the highest per capita
of white folk with dreadlocks."
Anyhoo...The Mushroom place made a swell veggie-medley-pizza...and didn't
mind us double fisting Bass and Whiskey.
Made it over to the venue a little early...had some freebies to hand out
and vibes to jump off...makes for good conversation. We met a couple
creatures aside from ourselves.
Great seats from the Freeman side of the stage. We were about six or seven
rows back--right on the end--so we could get out and boogie or head up
toward the rail--when the granny's allowed it.
Merle came on two songs after his guitar player sung a couple
numbers...his Waylon voice was spot-on.
The Haggard set was solid again. I've seen Merle five times now...and each
time...I'm all about the country thunder and satin voice. Crowd loved him.
One gripe with the Haggard set...they needed to bump the volume up a tad.
The set change seemed much quicker than usual. Before the Nag Champa made
it around the venue...Dirty Santos was on the horn.
Bob hits the stage and we get the white Zorro hat and black suit. Bosco
calls the appearance..."very boyish looking.' I add that his puffy face
from Memphis is gone...
Maggies: Circus sound and all...Herron gets sweet undertones on this one.
Pretty solid Maggies.
She Belongs: Wasn't completely sold on this tour's version...but this one
was dynamite. His vocals...so damn confident. I know he's been
down-singing and all...but tonight...he was going down and up...not
up-singing...but high full-strong notes. I also noticed that the slower
tunes Dylan plays...don't come across that well on tape (even the best
sounding ones) compared to the live in person sound. More Herron pedal
spills. Harp playing was great throughout the night. Bosco deemed the
Bard's playing "significantly accurate."
Tweedle: You know I was kinda looking forward to Tweedle. Listening over
the Spring shows...the song seemed like it was improving, especially on
the band side of things. Bob sung the hell out the Trees, Breeze and
knees. Couldn't get the Harmony verse straight...but what's good for you
is good for me. Nice version.
To Ramona: Great Vocal. More upbeat than previous versions. Stu's off in
East Jesus land looking like a stooge playing acoustic. Poor Stu.
Till I Fell In Love: "Like What?" Another rich and ragged vocal delight.
George seemed to be using more bass drum.
It's Alright Ma: Again more the High Strong full voice notes. I like what
Denny does on fiddle after his solo more than during. I will say that his
solo was different than his usual one during this tune. The band sounded a
lot like it was 1978 at points.
Just Like A Woman: Really long intro. The band has this one down.
Everybody sounds good. What makes this performance transcend is Bob
nailing the lyric. The first verse he accomplished that. The following not
so much...the band carried the rest of the weight. sweet subdued harp to
end. Highway: Great stuff before the flub..then the song just didn't do
Blind Willie: Always good to hear. Nice guitar and Banjee work. Nothing
spectacular but good
I Don't Believe You. I can't understand...this one let me down. The
Albuquerque one set my hopes too high. It really wasn't that bad.
Masters of War: Spooky funeral organ. Crowd ate this tune up. Worked well
Summer Days: The last song I wanted to hear. I thought this tours Summer
Days officially marked a beauty that decayed. Hoping for Cat's or Rainy
Day. But it managed to keep my pants warm. Bob seemed somewhat interested
vocally and the band was trying boogie. I still don't think they need to
slow it down THAT much before they swing. They lights fall...they
LARS: Bob stumbled mid-way through the second verse. Bosco doesn't
understand how he can flub a lyric to a song he plays every night. But
Denny Freeman plays one gem of a solo. Made that shit sing at the end of
Watchtower: Standard issue.
Line-up and history.
Bob exits stage right...signs a few autographs for the young bucks in
bleachers. and splits.
From what I've seen and heard...this Dylan show, right now, is some fine
baked brownies. There's committed, passionate performances from Bob( for
the most part), and the band is getting their own sound finally. A new
On a side-note--Al Santos is such a dick. It's a shame, because I hear his
voice about twice a day. I've seen him be a douche-bag to good Dylan
people on more than once occasion.
And Floor seats got to go...people shouldn't be sitting at these shows.
Review by H. Reaves
You got to like Merle Haggard. 45 minutes of legendary
tunes. Okie from Muskogi; I'll Just Sit Here and Drink;
You Got Money Honey I Got the Time; Mama Tried. He looked
scruff and sounded great. Could make out pretty much every
lyric. His old timer band, well, they were some damn old
timers in there. Think they'd all been round the block w/
Hag several times or two. But they tapped and strummed out
the honky tonk pedal steel twang. Am guessing the grey
haired drummer who lightly tapped was no match for the drum
pounding and foot stomping that was the scene in downtown
Asheville nearabouts Haywood Street hour or so prior to
Good crowd in the coliseum. I'd say a solid 3/4 of the way
packed. Couldn't help but notice that dylan seemed tired
during opener Maggie's Farm. He didn't move much, just
singing the occasional triplet of lyrics. The first four
rows on the floor remained seated during opening number.
Was thinking Bob may not take the insult kindly and was
not sure what to expect. But he seemed to ease into the
show, and think it took awhile for the crowd to get used to
his rougher voice and the sound of the band; however, the
crowd grew pretty loud and appreciative as the show
progressed. Highlights from the set included Just Like
Woman; Blind Willie McTell; and Masters of War, which was a
dark scary rendition. Crowd louder and louder between
songs. Was very loud applause prior to and after the
encores. Was pretty incredible thing to witness,
especially in light of dylan's age.
I saw dylan here in 97 when he was 56 yrs old. I barely
got in that sold out show, and thought it would be his last
stop in NC. I think everyone else did too. I never would
have even come close to imagining I would see him here
again in 2006 at age 64, and thought of that still blows my
mind. Can't help but wonder what makes him keep wanting to
do it, why he continues to perform night after night, these
same songs, most written around 1965. This was his 3rd
show in 3 nights, w/ another one to go tomorrow. The
thought of that sounds exhausting; no time to enjoy the
mountain scenery or the eclectic town. You sense he has to
be tired, but there is still magic to be found in the bob
dylan show. A lot depends of what you bring to the show.
I know the fans were glad that this legend happened through
their town one more time. The posters sold like crazy. I
think everyone sensed the historical something about the
show. As Jerry Garcia might say, there were time travelers
from the future at the show. Bob Dylan at age 64. It was
worth the ticket.
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