page by Bill Pagel
Review by Wiley
Shooting Stars Over Greenville
I don't have a ticket for this show and plan it so I'll get there just in
time for Bob. On the way, in the back of my mind, uneasy thoughts are
nagging at me: I'm getting there kind of late in the show. I've never
done that before. They don't keep the box office open do they? Why would
they keep the box office open that late? It doesn't make sense. So how
do I buy a ticket?
Well I arrive at the venue and park a long ways down a small country road
lined with other vehicles and then take a long walk to the stadium.
Willie is already off the stage. I arrive at the entrance to find a
shuttered box office. A shuttered will call. What the..? My heart
sinks. I approach the kindest most grandmotherly looking woman out of all
the people standing guard at the gate and state my purpose: I'm looking
to buy a ticket. "Well, we've already stopped selling tickets." My heart
sinks further. "So just go on in." Huh? Really? "Well no one told us
any different, so you're welcome to just walk right in." You know what
this means, right? THE BEERS ARE ON BOB!!!! BOB IS BUYING MY BEERS
TONIGHT!!!! OH, YEAH!!!!
In I go and grab two tall draft Rolling Rocks, on Bob natch, and head down
to the field where I make my way through the very laid back and
accommodating crowd until I find myself a spot on the rail right where Bob
will soon be standing. Sweeeeeeeeet!!!! Ok, so that last bit was a lie.
I start out 20 heads directly out from Bob but, through crowd attrition,
end up 12 heads back for about the last half of the show. And what a show
Bob dons his white Stetson as he's walking onto the stage wearing a
beautiful black suit with red piping down the pants and red strips topping
each pocket and ringing the collar. The hat stays on all night.
Actually, I think this is not a Stetson because the sides are folded up.
Correct me if I'm wrong. The boys are wearing white short sleeved silk
shirts with medium wide black stripes down each side (over each breast),
from top to bottom.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS: Bob is very serious again tonight, but not solemn.
No facial expressions, again but he moves a lot. Not rock and roll moves;
no, tonight Bob is a cowboy bebop hipster, grooving to the music. And the
band seriously has it going on. Even with steel guitar, pedal steel,
banjo and violin alternating in the mix, there is no country or bluegrass
left in this band. This is a down and dirty roadhouse rock and roll band;
yes, still capable of playing jazz, swing, marches, boogie, spooky, but it
doesn't play country. You'd better believe it.
Freddy is my personal favorite musician who has played on the NET by I am
officially eating my words on Stu. This band has come together perfectly
and I wouldn't have Bob change one thing about it (not that he's about to
ask me). Stu played with incredible finesse and nuance all night long.
Donnie played pedal steel on virtually every song. This seems like a big
change to me, isn't the steel guitar his mainstay? Nice change though
swapping the twang of the steel guitar for the stately elegance of the
pedal steel. No acoustic from Denny tonight. He played his hollow body
Gibson(?) on all songs except the last two where he played a white
Stratocaster. George was a monster all night, as usual. Tony was Tony,
God bless him.
The crowd was very subdued, with one notable exception. There must have
been a cable running directly from Stu's guitar to my ass. I was an
island in a sea of tranquility and I know I might have been totally wrong
but I sure was one dancing fool. I even danced during John Brown and
Masters of War, which seemed odd but I couldn't help it, really.
Actually, Bob was dancing during MOW too, bopping and weaving throughout
that song. The crowd was very mellow but appreciative, clapped a lot,
talked a lot, didn't pay attention a lot, but did seem to enjoy the show.
They were definitely not feeling it, though. Not reeeaaalllly feeling it.
TOMBSTONE BLUES: The band rips right into this one and I know we are in
for a great night. The band is smoking hot on this driving, chugging,
throbbing Tombstone Blues. Bob really nailing the vocals (as he did all
night). Stu takes the first solo playing some badass fat, wide and nasty
tones on his black Stratocaster. Then Denny solos on his hollow bodied
electric followed by Donnie on the steel guitar. Wows!!! all the way
THE TIMES, THEY ARE A'CHANGING: Very good. Bob sings it pretty straight.
We won't be in for a lot of vocal gymnastics tonight; just solid straight
ahead singing. Donnie on the pedal steel for this one and playing
beautifully. In the middle of the song, someone throws what looks like
wadded up paper directly at Tony and hits him smack in the chest. He
notices. Maybe it was a love note, or a request for THIS WHEEL'S ON FIRE.
We'll never know. Bob takes a center stage harp solo with knee bends and
free hand fingers spread out with the mic cord intertwined therein.
LONESOME DAY BLUES: Oh Yeah. Another highlight of many with Bob starting
the song: "Today has been a sad and looooonesome day; Today has been a
sad OR loooonsome day." Emphasizing the OR. And later: "I'm gonna
spaaaare the defeated...BOYS I'm going to speak to the crooowwwd." and
repeating and emphasizing the word BOYS in the next line too.
UNDER THE RED SKY: Good god this is gorgeous. Bob's singing is
spectacular. Donnie, still on pedal steel, shines with a beautiful,
stunning solo. And what's this then? Donnie immediately following his
own solo with yet another solo? WTF??? Hell No!!! This is Stu!!!! Holy
Fuck!!! Stu, playing an exquisite, gentle, tender, subtle, nuanced,
shimmering solo on his Strat and making it sound just like a pedal steel.
I could go on; I really can't say enough about that solo. It really was
that good. And you could have knocked me over with a feather. Denny's
brief following solo is a nonstarter after that.
IT'S ALRIGHT, MA: Great as always. Still swampy but different with Stu
and Denny creating a swirling, whirling, churning, dervish-like groove.
Donnie on steel guitar again. And Bob playing the western hep cat to the
tee. Bopping and jiving. Looking away from the mic and then suddenly
jerking his face into the mic to sing. Yeahhh, I do love this song.
"A question in your luuuuuurrrrvesss is kniiiiit!" Oh, I feel ya Bob, I
do. This ain't no easy song to sing. I've sung it many times myself. In
fact, this is THE song I chose to sing when a mutual friend let me play
ONE song and ONE song only on YOUR black acoustic Gibson, with YOUR
strings, and YOUR big fat pick, one side reading "It ain't me babe" and
the other reading "It is me babe, isn't it?" HAAAAHHHHH!!! Sweet lord, I
can still feel that guitar in my hands even after all these years. Yeah a
tough one to sing, indeed, and Bob's consistently nailed the vocals on
this one since the start of the millennium. Is he reading them? (Cause
he sure used to fuck it up on a regular basis when he was playing guitar
on it towards the end of the last millennium). It doesn't look like he
is, though. He's just really focused, confident and ON.
SHOOTING STAR: Exquisite! Brilliant! Sounds just like Mississippi at the
intro. Not even slightly marred by the upsinging. Donnie back on pedal
steel. A better version, I think, than Birmingham. Bob takes another
center stage harp solo. This seemed to really set the crowd reeling.
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED: Yet another great smoking version of a song
well-suited to this band. Stu and George were monsters on this. Stu
grinning it up. Bob totally serious.
JOHN BROWN: At first I think its Hollis Brown and am disappointed that it
is not. But that doesn't last long. This is an atmospheric, spooky
version that rivals those from late 1997. Denny on violin which was a
non-factor until his solo late in the song.
TWEEDLE DEE AND TWEEDLE DUM: Bob walked all the way over to Tony before
this, so I'm thinking something real special is coming. Shocked when they
started this one up. But I liked it. I sure did. This band with this
Bob could play this song (or any song) every night and that would be just
fine with me. Stu was very good, now on a white telecaster, though I wish
his Tele had been louder. Denny was OK, still a little clumsy on that
THIS WHEEL'S ON FIRE: Stunning, beautiful version. Bob center stage
again on harp. I'm trying hard to keep my focus but am delirious at this
BYE AND BYE: Don't much care for this song. Never liked it live before.
That changed tonight. This was beautiful. Bob sang so sweetly and
tenderly, as if he was in love with the song. "Poppa gone MAAaaaddd;
Momma, she's feeling SAAaaaad." Such gentle caring vocals.
SUMMER DAYS: Incredible! This was pure jazz. Did I miss something, or
is this not the first performance of this arrangement? If it isn't, I
must have been sleeping. There was no rock, no boogie, no intensity, no
jam really at all here. Nothing but jazz, and it was GREAT!!! Tony
walking up and down that upright bass. Getting way down the neck, then
back up, then way down again. It could have been Ron Carter up there, or
Percy Heath. And George was channeling Elvin Jones (I know, there will
never be another Elvin Jones). And Stu was playing beautiful angular
syncopated jazz riffs. Bob and the boys took us to Kansas City, 18th and
Vine, circa late 1930's and it was sweeeet indeed!
MASTERS OF WAR: Very good version. Bob's singing was incredible as it
was all night and he was dancing at the keyboards throughout this one.
Denny trades in his hollow body for a white Stratocaster. Stu
unimpressive once again on acoustic. I think the acoustic must be his
weakness. I've grown to appreciate, even love, his playing but I just
don't like him on acoustic.
LIKE A ROLLING STONE: For the first time, the crowd goes wild, really
erupts, for another fine version of this classic. Stu just goes nuts.
The band breaks it down in the instrumental break before the last verse
with George slapping out a wicked heavy back beat. Transcendent.
Bob then walks out front and center repeatedly thrusting his fists -
thumbs up - at the crowd. He must have done it 8-10 times. Bob steps
back into the line up, quickly turns to get the nod from George and they
are off into the hills of Greenville.
Well folks, that bit about the rail wasn't the first lie I told you.
There were no shooting stars over Greenville last night. No, there were
five comets orbiting a cosmic star in full blown brilliant super nova
nuclear melt down imploding down to an iron core and then showering the
crowd with blinding shards of sonic brilliance. Highlights? Every song.
Seriously, the whole show was a highlight. This was, in fact, the BEST
SHOW EVER!!! It really, really was. Follow my logic here, if you please.
Bob is the BEST EVER. At least in some context, right? That is
objective fact. You draw the boundaries, but you'd better draw them wide.
Best ever in modern western art, modern western music, modern
performance? Certainly you'd have to go beyond the sphere of music to
find any reasonable comparisons for his use of the written word. Whatever
context you want to place him in, he's the BEST EVER, as writer, singer,
performer. It's the whole package.
So then it follows that Bob doing his "thing" live must also be the BEST
EVER. And since Bob is consistently brilliant EVERY time he takes the
stage it naturally follows that EVERY concert Bob gives is the BEST
EVER!!! It's all the same thing, you see. Whether the space time
continuum happens to find Bob on a Monday in Munich or a Tuesday in Tulsa
or a Wednesday at Wembley. It's all the same thing. It's still live Bob.
And it's still the BEST EVER, every time. Ergo, any Bob show you are at
will be the BEST EVER and if Bob is coming to a town near you, you can
choose to witness the BEST EVER Bob concert, or not.
OK, I'm really not insane and I've seen enough live Bob to know that there
are lines to be drawn. But Jesus, people, these are very fine lines.
(OK, the wolfman voice was not a fine line. But the wolfman is gone. Yes
he was lurking in Clearwater - Love Minus Zero and Shooting Star. No
trace of the wolfman now though). FINE LINES people!!! Hair Splitting!!!
There is brilliance in our midst and it don't brook no complacency on our
part. Bob is really putting it out there for us. If you can only go with
an open heart and open ears, not wishing it was 1996 or 1988 or 1975 or
1966. It ain't none of those years. It's 2005 and Bob still has it in
spades. How much longer? (cue New Pony harmonies ;-)
Well, I'm three and out. In addition to my big mouth, I have three small
ones to feed. I'm forced to take that spike out of my vein and I knoooow
I'm in for some serious jonesin'. Somebody's got to carry this torch. I
beg you. I have some serious vicarious living to do. Come on people.
Get out and see Bob. DO IT!! DO IT NOW!!! This tour is so hot. You
won't regret it. BEST EVER!!!
Review by Joe Moore
Bob has done it againÖ finally; he has put a band together worthy of his
performances. The band is the best they have sounded since the peak of
the Larry and Charlie duo of the early 2000ís. It was a very nice
surprise. They band was tight, communicated well, and the violin and
pedal steel are a great addition. Even Dylanís piano playing is adding
something. Now to the real stuff: Bob sounded great. Iíve read many
reviews lately saying his vocals were strong: well they are. Other than
Bye and Bye and Summer Days, Dylan sang with power, conviction and
compassion. The highlights of the night were John Brown, Masters of War,
Under the Red Sky, and The Wheelís on Fire. Shooting Star was also
delivered well. Thank you Bob and the Band for a great night. And thanks
for keeping the set list so varied; it sure makes the experience more
mystical. I look forward to Saturday.
page by Bill Pagel
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