May 20, 2008
Review by Annie
Driving onto a bridge with a height restriction -- "hauteur restreinte."
This seems to me a good thing to restrain. I giggle. Wonder
if the Bobmobile came this way or had to take a road with higher
clearances. The entry to town is a huge motor mile, car dealership after
dealership. It turns into Main Street: a likely-looking pub called the
Old Triangle, a less likely looking joint called the Lonestar Texas Grill.
Stu Kimball, in hat and glasses and what looks close to stage gear,
crosses the street while I'm stopped at a light. I don't honk. Park and
explore. La Tour Aliant is made of cement, put up in 1971, 127 metres
high and unpleasant. Pleasant are the little Econo-roules that are the
local government cars for the city -- tiny Smart cars. The Old Triangle is
indeed worth it. The owner's a huge music fan but isn't going to the
show. He loved Neil Young and The Band, and I sense national pride. He's
also glad that Bob keeps coming back to Moncton -- for a long time they
didn't have concerts in the hockey arena, which the coliseum chiefly is.
"He'd never get recognized here. By me, yes." The concert hall is another
flat hockey bowl, pale blue seats like Yankee Stadium's, another metal
roof that turns out to be super for acoustics. Old blues are the pre-show
soundtrack and I sit and listen this time. It's like Theme Time Radio
without the commentary: blues and old mountain tunes. Wicked good fiddle
playing and blues guitars. Red Sails at Sunset, Matchbox. I sing along
to myself, "Then I held her in my arms and told her of her many
charms...." The friendliest security guards on record. I spend a long
time hearing about local gal Anne Murray's sold-out show here from one of
'em. They spend quality time on us; we're in the first row at the aisle.
Presale rocks. Rampantly varied concessions. The only beer for sale looks
to be Moosehead. No, wait -- there's Alpine, too. Kids are buying shirts
and changing into them on the spot. The only cd for sale is Modern Times.
The male to female ratio is about 30 to one. No lines at the ladies'
room. At 7:15 there are still rafts of seats available but it's starting
to fill -- about 2300 for the show, I'd say. Roadies scurry around the
stage. Oscar's guarding the harmonicas. All is well. And Cat's in the
Well. Cameras are flashing like strobes, and no one stops them. The
band's in black, Bob in black with blood-red trim. Same hat. Same
lower-register voice soaring up when you don't particularly expect it to.
A whiny wah-wah start to....what can it be? We start playing name-
that-tune and all win at the same time as we recognize It Ain't Me, Babe.
Bob leaves off the spat-out "babes" at the end of the refrain lines. He
puts a sweet rise-and-fall to the lines: "Someone who'll die for ya"
flies up, and "and more" falls down again. Donnie follows -- why, I start
to wonder, is he the only one without a hat? He's ALWAYS had a hat.
Loved him in hats from the old BR-549 days. Then from my vantage point I
get it right: if he wears a hat it's going to look for the whole show to
everyone front & center as if Bob's wearing two. Theory, or reality? Cool
boots Bob has on, and flashes 'em with that little left-toe-
grinding-out-a-cigarette-butt move. The reek of stage incense makes me
feel like I'm at Mass. I sorta am. As Bob plays his eyebrows arch, and
even a smile, not a grimace. He crouches and bends low over the keys.
Rollin' and Tumblin' goes on for awhile, but it's good. Tangled Up in Blue
is great. He shifts from I to he, sings the "destroyed" line for New
Orleans, "don't tell me but I guess I know your name," "She started ta
laugh in my face." He picks up the harmonica and then puts it down, nods
at Denny, who takes to solo. "Some are truck drivers' wives." Levee's
Gonna Break is all right; at the end Bob's long thin fingers shuffle the
set list and he and Tony consult during the blackout. Because of the
keyboards light and Oscar's little spotlight you can always see him. Slow
going, then George lays down a beat, and the name of that tune is
Mississippi. Beautifully donw, with a long swinging beat that soothes
like a rocking chair. The keyboards drive the song. When Bob sings
"things should start ta get interesting in here right about now" the
audience agrees with him. At the end, he smiles. John Brown's not a
smiling song. Audience very quiet. Donnie's banjo is superb. Honest With
me is too loud -- Bob's words get drowned out too much. He drags out
words: "baaaaaaaseball bat in the air." In the middle of the song, he
takes his hands off the keyboards as the others play, adjusts his lapels,
flicks his fingers through the hair at the back of his neck. He looks
like royalty. Then, tongue out for a moment, crouching and slinking
behind the keyboards, he plays. Donnie's watching his hands like a hawk.
Just Like a Woman is grand for the shifting lyrics, the harp solo. It's
Alright Ma is crystal clear, every word, but the band's raggy on it. I
just now notice, concentrating on his voice, no tie or ascot tonight --
open-necked shirt. His throat is white and fine and the sight of it makes
him look younger. Honky-tonkin and crooning through "Beyond the Horizon"
-- and something makes the band start laughing. Apart from the humor
value in the song itself, the lounge-lizard delivery, what could it be?
The roadies are rushing to fix something. The stage-right sound system
suddenly goes dark. Hmm. But no one cares, because Bob is outright
laughing now, and so is Donnie, and suddenly we in the front crack up too.
They everyone laughs a good long time. Bob takes a good long hang-out
with Donnie before the next song, and he's still laughing when it starts,
even though it's Highway 61. Between the Howard and Louie verses he has a
good solid guffaw. The crowd is delighted to see him delighted. It's
sorta anticlimactic for many reasons when Spirit on the Water ensues.
Summer Days is okay, but Masters of War is delightful. Bob pretty much
takes the first verse himself, and the band comes in fully on the second.
Thunder on the Mountain, first encore, and Rolling Stone, second --
something old, something new. Both solid and what the people wanna hear.
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