page by Bill Pagel
Review by Stephen Pierce
Since no one has "stepped up to the plate" yet, I would like to say a few
words about Sunday's performance at the Hoover Met. INCREDIBLE!!! Bob was
right on in his delivery from start to finish. The newest members of the
band have huge ears and nimble fingers and the rock solid groove layed
down by Tony and George was as usual, perfect. I could not have hoped for
a nicer playlist either. From the smokin' "Drifter's Escape", "God Knows",
"Highway 61" & "High Water" to the lovely & tender readings of "Love Minus
Zero", "Shooting Star" (maybe the finest harp solo I've ever heard),
"Tryin' To Get To Heaven" & "Boots of Spanish Leather" to the wonderfully
obscure "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine", it was one BEAUTIFUL show! What
an honor to be treated to all this in our local minor league park. Thanks
Bob. We love you.
Review by Wiley
Arise! Arise! Birmingham!
Birmingham, Alabama - birthplace of my dear beloved grandmother in the
year of our lord 1894. This was my first time back since I was 2 years
old. I thought of her often while driving to the show thinking that she
would not approve of the goings-on. She resembled Carrie Nation pretty
closely in visage and pretty exactly in moral compass. But, with the show
being on a Sunday, naturally Bob took us to church and I think she just
might have been smiling down upon the proceedings.
Through a weird, but ultimately fortunate, turn of events, I was able to
secure a spot on the rail between Bob and his harmonica stand, which also
still sports that real/faux (?) Oscar. The gentleman to my right was
sporting a pint of George Dickel, the entire contents of which he shared
with me in equal measure throughout the show. The sun was definitely not
chicken in Birmingham on this day and was a factor early on. It was
blazing hot. During the Greencards set a young woman behind me went down
hard and during Bob a young strapping twenty-something guy also went down.
Both cases looked to be from the heat. The Greencards were very
enjoyable. They did not bore me at all and could have played longer as
far as I was concerned. Willie was great as always. Same show but still
Bob arrived on stage hatless (carrying his white Stetson) in a very cool
black suit with no piping or bangles of any kind and with the jacket
completely open over a silver or metallic colored shirt. The band wore
what looked like western swing bowling shirts - black short sleeve shirts
with a white rectangle on the front from the sternum up to the collar and
stretching to both sleeves.
Bob was very serious tonight. Maybe he was tired on the third consecutive
night playing or maybe he was displaying a grave mien suitable for a
Sunday service. He did look like a preacher up there - very serious, even
somber. Very, very focused. Bob smiled at George once at the beginning
of Drifter's Escape and then did a couple of those moves where it looks
like he is smiling but is actually pulling his upper lip up off of his
teeth and, after that, I never saw a single expression on his face for the
duration of the show. He never looked at the crowd and never smiled.
Given the performance, I'm quite sure he was not bored but he clearly was
not in a playful mood. He displayed none of the usual rock and roll type
body moves or hand gestures (except during the center stage harp solos and
even then such was very minimal). He did nod once at Denny telling him to
take a solo. There were no real vocal gymnastics, just unvarnished but
strong singing. The band seemed very tight to me tonight. The sound was
excellent on the rail - definitely not what I was expecting. There were
five small speakers spread across the stage facing the audience. It
seemed like the nag was burning through the whole show, which was a good
DRIFTER'S ESCAPE bore no trace of being a warm up whatsoever. Bob and the
band tore right into it and it was a great rocking version.
LOVE MINUS ZERO/NO LIMIT was beautiful. Very nice steel guitar from
Donnie and Bob played a nice center stage harp solo.
GOD KNOWS was the first and maybe foremost highlight. This was my
favorite performance of the night; hard rocking and brilliantly performed.
TWEEDLE DEE AND TWEEDLE DUM was a solid rocker performed very competently
by the band. I did like Stu's playing on this and he and Denny traded off
some nice licks. Like most everyone else, I would still love to see this
one go away.
SHOOTING STAR was beautiful. Donnie played gorgeous steel guitar on this
and Denny played a very nice electric guitar part. Bob took another very
good center stage harp solo.
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED was a very intense hard rocking number, as always. I
never get tired of hearing this one and have never seen a bad version.
Stu was very good on this, I must admit.
TRYIN' TO GET TO HEAVEN was a slow gorgeous, beautiful version. Some
upsinging by Bob, but as has been mentioned elsewhere, this song is one of
very few that does not suffer from Bob's use of that particular vocal
HIGH WATER - I love this song live and the band smoked it. I've never
seen or heard a bad version of this song. Bob gradually took them down
very low at the end, leaving Donnie's banjo prominently closing out the
HONEST WITH ME was really enjoyable. The cartoonish riff that Larry
played on this song eventually made it seem like a novelty song to me.
This was a straight ahead blues rock version and was very good.
I DREAMED I SAW ST. AUGUSTINE was, obviously, another highlight. Just
SUMMER DAYS - Bob donned his white Stetson before this one. It was good
as always. It is a great live song. I'd love to see it replaced though.
A brief line up followed, Bob turned around to get the nod from George and
the band left the stage.
DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALRIGHT is one of my favorite songs. He could
play the February, 1999 Troy version for the entire show and I would be in
heaven. This was not good, though. Stu played some really mediocre
acoustic guitar. Donnie was good on steel and Denny was alright on a
white Stratocaster. But the major problem here was Bob; the song was
marred beyond any hope of enjoyment (at least for me) by Bob's upsinging.
I must admit that the Dickel was taking a toll on me at this point and
things were getting a little hazy. Maybe this really was good, I don't
know. I know the upsinging was there in full force though and it was not
LIKE A ROLLING STONE - When Bob left the keyboards before this and went
over to talk to Tony, I knew we would not be getting Watchtower. LARS was
a pleasant surprise and well done as always recently. I wish that
stop/start arrangement had stayed around longer though. The versions with
Freddie were absolutely killer.
Bob walked over and motioned George to stand up for the line up and then
stepped out in front, directed the two handed six shooter salute at the
crowd, stepped back into the line up, turned and got the nod from George
and they were off.
As I left the stadium, definitely dazed and shocked, a man walked up to me
and said: "You look like you need an egg roll." He then handed me a bag
with three egg rolls in it and walked off. I ate them in about 1 minute,
jumped in the conveniently parked truck and headed back to Atlanta.
In conclusion, I really loved this show (No shit, right?). Bob and the
band were great. It was a very straight ahead kind of show. Not much
flash on Bob's part to be sure but pure unadulterated genius in spades. I
wish I could comment more on the dynamics and arrangements of the songs
and the band, but when you're so close to Bob that it's like he's playing
in your living room, it's hard to have any thoughts in your mind beyond:
OH MY GOD! HOLY SHIT! IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING? and the like.
Review by Sam Garrett
The comments I've read this about Bob's new band prompted me to write this for the rest of you that
haven't seen them (and for those that have and aren't sure what to think!). This was the first
show I've seen without Larry and for those interested, Bob & His Band are doing fine, thank you!
The new musicians, especially Donnie Herron, seemed at home last night in the Baron's stadium. He
and Denny Freeman appeared comfortable and seemed to be part of a unit that's jelling quickly, imo.
Tony & George continue to hold down the rhythm section, and as my good friend John said, "That
drummer's really gotten a lot better over the years he's been with Bob!"
The "Sunday Specials" ("God Knows", "Shooting Star", & "Trying To Get To Heaven") were great to hear
but, of course, so was 'St. Augustine'! This was my first time hearing it live and Bob treated it,
as well as all the other songs in Birmingham, with great care when it came to his vocals. I noticed
the 'up singing' on one song ("Trying To Get To Heaven", I think) but thought he did an excellent
job with his vocals.
He started very strong with Drifters, sounded wonderful with Love-0 & God Knows. TD&TD is not a
favorite of mine but has grown on me - this band did a good job with it and the other L&T tracks
(except the light version of Summer Days that lost a lot when Charlie left). The new reading of
HighWater, with Donnie's banjo playing (always loved the banjo part) was the one I really loved
hearing. The next 7 songs (from Shooting Star through I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine) were very well
done, with some new arrangements and an obviously energetic Dylan & attentive band.
The encore was strong as Bob seemed to change the closer from the consistent AATW to LARS. As he
started the song and the crowd screamed, he held his head back and laughed. As this new edition of
the band finished up, decked out in their black & white patterned shirts, they lined up, accepted
their applause, & were gone again. Go out & see this rendition of his band - they're doing some
great 'reinterpretations' of his songs and don't seem to be hesitant or lacking in musical ability,
BTW - the GreenCards were very good (enjoyed them as much as the Waifs and HotClub) and Willie put
on a great show. They are well worth seeing but we traveled to B'ham on Sunday night to hear the
traveling rabboni, Mr. Zimmerman. May he continue dispensing the gospel, as he knows it.
Review by Philip Covin
Dylan never ceases to amaze me. Even with three new members in the band
since I last saw him a year ago, the Dylan performance last night in
Birmingham was an even tighter performance and larger experiment in
musical dynamics that I had witnessed then. Perhaps it had something to
do with the acoustics of this outdoor venue or perhaps because of this
particular set list which really satisfied me. Or maybe it's just the
fact that the last Dylan show I saw is always the best in my mind. This
would be my 9th Dylan show since I first saw him in 1997.
The show started promptly at 6:30 with the Greencards, a
"roots" band from Austin, taking the stage. I must say I really enjoyed
their 30-minute set. I love Roots, Americana, Bluegrass type music, as I
would guess most Dylan fans do. After all, this is the type of stuff that
Love and Theft so much reflects. The Greencards were a great band, and I
hope to see them again sometime soon.
After a quick set change, Willie and his band followed.
I've seen Willie a few times, and this set list was pretty similar to
those shows, but he has such a nice voice and some really fun tunes to
listen to that you just can't go wrong at a Willie show. Whiskey River,
Angel Flying to Close to the Ground, Always on My Mind, Night Life, Poncho
& Lefty, On the Road Again, Beer for My Horses, Will the Circle Be
Unbroken/I'll Fly Away, and a few others make for a great show. My only
complaint would be that they turn his mic up a little, as at times Willie
can get a little too quiet. Anyway, on with the show.
Dylan's performance lead off with a blazing Drifter's
Escape. I've heard Dylan play this one a number of times, but it works so
well in this arrangement which is quite different than the original album
version. I actually like this upbeat version much better; they really
rock hard on it.
Next we were treated to a beautiful Love Minus Zero/No
Limit. This was one of six personal "firsts" for me for the night (yes, I
keep track of it on all in a spreadsheet). I really love this song,
although I have to confess I have no idea what the title means. The line
that always sticks out to me is "She knows there's no success like
failure, and that failure's no success at all".
God Knows followed (another first live version for me), and
this is one that I don't know very well. Quite apropos for the Lord's Day
though. God knows we all have our own interpretations of Dylan's songs
(ha, ha), but this song for me simply means that God knows all our
troubles, worries, and aspirations, and that we have to know that we are
able to rise above them.
I will agree with other reviews I've seen that Stu's guitar
needs to be turned up on Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum. That lick that
follows every verse is tough for some guitarists like myself to even play,
so if you can do it, let it ring! However, the dynamics of this
performance may be on purpose as there are definitely other times in the
song where Dylan's band would go almost completely silent to provide more
emphasis on the lyrics, and it really kept my attention on the song.
Shooting Star is just a wonderfully written song, and I had to
go back and listen to it several times in the car on the drive home to
Atlanta after the show. I was very happy to hear this song live.
Highway 61 rocked as always, and I think Dylan really loves to
belt this one out. Someone goofed and forgot to turn Dylan's microphone
up at the beginning of the song though, and we missed the first couple of
Before this show, I had seen Dylan perform (at one time or
another) seven of the eleven tracks on Time Out of Mind. I will always
love this album, and I was so excited to finally hear him do Tryin' to Get
to Heaven which is a personal favorite. I know Dylan has personally
denied that this album has much to do with death and dying, but this song
really reflects to me the need to settle down and hold tight to those
things that mean the most to you while you can. Regardless of Dylan's
inspiration, it means that to me, and that's really all that matters about
a song, isn't it?
High Water is one of my favorites from Love & Theft. I
really love to crank this one up at home right from the beginning with
that banjo entrance. Great imagery and storytelling by Zimmy on this one.
Nice live version and a good bit different vocal phrasing keeps it
Boots of Spanish Leather is one that I have been dying to hear
on stage ever since he released the live version as a B-side on the Not
Dark Yet single. A different arrangement from that version, but it tells
such a sad story between two lovers which most of us can relate to. I
love the fact that it was written as a dialogue between the two, and that
they almost get into an argument because he only wants her steadfast love
as a gift and nothing more. Thank you, Bob, for playing this one.
Honest with Me is a great song, but I am a little surprised
that it and Summer Days have hardly left the rotation since the album came
out almost four years ago. Both are rockers though and a lot of fun live.
I was so blown away by the next choice in Dylan's set. John
Wesley Harding was the first Dylan album that I ever owned, and I'll admit
that I bought it mainly because I had heard how big of an inspiration it
was to Jimi Hendrix. In fact, I remember that Hendrix had almost recorded
I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine for an intended release, but instead did All
Along the Watchtower, although a little worried about it because he felt
like it belonged so much to Dylan. I cannot get this song out of my head,
and I'm sure I've listened to it five or six times since last night. The
first person character cries at the end of the story, and it makes me
teary-eyed as well. Wonderfully sung by Bob, I treasure seeing a rare
performance of this song.
As I mentioned earlier, Summer Days is a rocker, and it is
definitely a crowd pleaser. I think the band really lets loose on this
one, and it never seems to tire. I can't help but dance to it.
For encores, Dylan chose Don't Think Twice and Like a Rolling
Stone, omitting the oft-heard All Along the Watchtower. Don't
Think Twice is such a smart, well-written, bitter, yet funny song, and I
was very pleased at this version and Dylan's handling of the vocals. In
fact, I thought Dylan was in great form all night. He seemed to have more
dynamic control with his voice last night than at other times which I've
seen him, and I was very pleased with his voice and the overall mix of all
the instruments. I was especially happy for my girlfriend Michelle that
we got to see a great performance up close about 20 feet back with great
set choices on a wonderful night in Birmingham. I think Like a Rolling
Stone was the icing on the cake for her, and I must say it works so well
as a closer. I couldn't have asked for a better set, and I thank Dylan
and his band for a wonderful time yet again. As always, looking forward
to the next show!
page by Bill Pagel
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