Reviews

Norwich, Connecticut
Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium
June 21, 2005


[Steve Pate], [Bob Meader], [John Piurek], [Don Ely]

Review by Steve Pate



Just got out of the Norwich, CT concert of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
Wow ­ it was the best yet. Sorry Greencards, we missed your bluegrass
pickin'. We gut stuck in traffic from Lancaster, PA to Norwich, CT.
Traffic on Route 22 just stopped for an hour before Allentown, which is
not falling down contrary to Billy Joelčs proscription. We finally turned
around on the median. Again on Route 22 outside Bethlehem. There must be
two seasons in PA: winter and construction. I wish I owned a cement
company building one of those great multi-million dollar highways. Then we
get stuck in the drive home traffic from New York City to New Haven. A
five hour trip in 9 hours. At least I could sing and play Dylan tunes for
my girl as she drove. We arrived in the middle of Willie's set. It seemed
flat but picked up before he quit. 

As pre-arranged, I left my girlfriend in the stands and made my way, Bud
in hand, to the area front of the stage. A young couple stood back to
front. A tallish man in his 50čs was talking to his wife about the
significance of a song. Two boomer women to my left wanted to talk Dylan
so I obliged. How long have you been a Dylan fan? Since the revolution.
Right on ­ since 1963 The new band is terrific. Youčll be rocked. Sing
something for us. No, wait you'll here me sign before this night is over.
I let three young fellows in front of me and they reciprocated in kind. An
Italian girl to the left was smoking alone with her boyfriend who asked me
if I had children. Five. Why? I wish my dad would come to one of these. A
young guy in dreadlocks asked for a toke. The band moved into position and
Dylan shuffled to his keyboard, The band started into "Drifter's
Escape" and we rocked. "Love Minus Zero" was mesmerizing. I thought
"Shooting Star" was "Mississippi" ­ nope just a cool new arrangement. The
master has his touch.

Too bad Larry et all are gone but the new band is terrific. They have new
skills and new sounds­ the drummer is smoking. The lead guitarist mellow
and crunchy. The rhythm solid and textured. The slide ads that emotional
tone that reminded me of Daniel Lanois last week in Toronto, especially on
"Standing in the Doorway" which seared through my heart. "Highway 61" had
us screaming the last line of the verse. The crowd was wild. The acoustic
"John Brown" with banjo was very arresting, so exciting to hear that song
live.

We rocked. We swayed. We grooved. Bodies touched back through the music.
We went inside ourselves and outside at the same time. The music built and
built, song after song. Dylan was grooving, relaxed, smiling broadly to
the band during the break on "Memphis Blues." 

The curly headed boy walked right past us looking for his friends. Youčre
friend missed you. Oh no, no problem. He's only our ride back to Boston.
Could you take us? No problem: I thought you were gonna ask me for
something hard. You're cool man.

Tired and hungry, I took some fries and Pepsi to my girlfriend back in the
stands. Only I couldnčt find her along the first base line, until I
remembered she was on the 3rd base line. I joined her in time for Dylan to
launch the right-on "Masters of War."  I just started doing this song
again in public in May. The arrangement was new, the lead guitar more
menacing than the "Real Live."  After introducing the band Dylan closed
with a great "Like a Rolling Stone."  I heard echoes of Mike Bloomfield's
lead from 1965 in the final break before the close out sequence.

My girlfriend says this was the best one yet, She is right and now really
interested in Thursday night in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I am writing
this while she drives back to the hotel. I have to find the tapes for
Lancaster to Pittsfield. These concerts are awesome.

[TOP]

Review by Bob Meader



What a great night at the ballpark! Perfect weather, blue skies and cool,
with a full moon rising behind the stage during Dylan's set. 

The Greencards were a good warm-up band, their bluegrass was fun. 

Willie gave the fans a little extra, playing for about 90 minutes and
running late. Willie played more guitar leads than last summer, his wrists
must be feeling good. 

Bob and his band can out rocking and blew most of the crowd away. Bob and
the band seemed very focused and proceeded to put on a fine show. The
setlist included a nice selection of tunes: his band rocked out, did some
blues, folk ballads and swing. Highlights included TWO anti-war songs for
CT (big defense industry state): John Brown and Masters of War, a great
Love Minus Zero No Limit and a jammed out swing version of Bye and Bye!
Rockers included Drifter's Escape, Cold Irons Bound, Highway 61 and Like a
Rolling Stone. 

Great sound system and performances to match! 

About 5,000 people attended the concert, according to estimates.

The ballparks are perfect venues for this tour. I can't wait for the
Pittsfield show at historic Wahconah Park, built in the 1890's.  Bob in
the Berkshires on a beautiful summer night...

Any Willie or Bob fan should not miss this tour.

Bob Meader

[TOP]

Review by John Piurek



On a bright,blue sky New England first day of summer we sent out for the
north country on highway 95/395 under a red sun to a baseball field on a
hill.it was "if you build it he will come" and sure enuff the Bobmaster
was there.The drive up the one lane road took forever....the tee shirt
scalpers loved it as they ran from car to car with their wares.The venue
was the home of the Norwich Navigators minor league team and wally the
alli-navagator was there running around.....I'm sure for some it might
have been  a sight from what they ingested before the show.Under a full
moon,clear star lit skies Willie finished his show and at 9:10 Bob
appeared.To me a slow start but soon the chill in the air left as the band
rocked the house.every song had a new arrangement....many from
Love&Theft....maybe in honor of the summer solstice....especially
SummerDays that went on an extended GreatDead jam....Cold Irons Bound was
downright spooky as Bob leaned over the keyboard and growled out the
lyrics over a dire bass beat........two anti-war songs JBrown/Masters
really got me as I began my teaching career during the Vietnam War and end
it in five days during another war....only thing is looking around and
wondering as people chatted and laughed if any knew we were at war????
Anyhow Bob was in great form....laughing with george and Stu....the band
watching Bob's every move......Bob with harp down on ONE knee wailing
away....Bob pointing like Wild Bill Hickok in his Western garb and
mimicking a six gun pointed at someone in the audience.A fun night under
the stars for all!!

[TOP]

Review by Don Ely



So this time the ever-lovin' Never-Ending drew me to the Northeast for two big shows, plus one in Ohio
on the way back home. I've always wanted to go to New England, so I left it to my personal travel agent,
Bob Dylan, to give me the best reason to finally get there.

The first show was unveiled at Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut. Usually the 
Norwich Navigators, Class AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, take the field here, but tonight 
the hits were supplied by two of America's heavyweights, plus some hot prospects up from the bush 
leagues. Directions I had printed out indicated the stadium was located within an industrial park, but 
rather than endless boring sheds the area was quite wooded and easy on the eye. Sean Penn read aloud 
"Chronicles vol. 1" on my cd player as I waited in traffic to get into the venue, and all was relaxed 
and friendly. The Greencards had begun their set as I walked up to the gate, and their authentic 
version of American roots music (with none of their Aussie/Brit roots showing) sounded excellent, a 
fine way to kick off the festivities. I enjoyed a dog 'n' suds as I settled in and The Greencards 
rounded out their portion. 

I walked down to the field and prepared for Willie Nelson and Family to take the stage. It was a 
perfect summer evening, not at all hot or humid, and the crowd was laid-back and outgoing. I had 
arrived in a mood to kind of keep to myself, but began striking up conversation with various folks 
and soon I was outgoing too. I started talking to a guy wearing a Pixies shirt and went from there. 
Willie and his downhome crew played just about every song the average fan couldconjure, from the 
way-back ("Crazy"), to the yet-to-be-released (Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come", from Willie's 
new reggae album "Countryman"). One after another, Willie and his band won the crowd over with 
their blend of standards, country, and blues. Little sister got a turn on piano, and son Lucas 
played some not-bad solos on guitar. Willie sailed several hats into the audience, a few lucky 
patrons snatching the souvenirs out of the air. There's something very appealing about the sound 
Willie squeezes from his old guitar, often off-key, that blends well with the other instruments
to form a sound all his own. Although this was the first time I'd ever seen Willie Nelson perform, 
it felt so comfortable as though I'd been seeing him for years. Comfort that reaches into your 
soul the way Neil Young or Bob Dylan does.

The show moved along quickly, and around 9pm it was Dylan's turn to shoot off fireworks. The band 
was in great form tonight, energized and "on". I stood to the right of the stage with a clear view 
of Bob,but until folks fell out and I could slide in closer, Stu was the only other musician I 
could see. The sound, though, was top-notch, something that seems common to these minor league 
ballparks, as I'd first noticed in Sioux Falls and Fargo in 2002. "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" began 
a string of stellar renditions that included "Lonesome Day Blues" and "Shooting Star", and a 
particularly beautiful "Standing In The Doorway" that might have been best song of the night.
"Highway 61 Revisited" was unlike any other I've ever seen.  Early on Stu played a poor solo that 
went absolutely nowhere, so lifeless that it threatened to actually take the song down. Rather 
than pilot a sinking ship, Bob and the band compensated with jazzy improvisation that instead of 
limping to port, brought the song home with flying colors.
 
For whatever reason, Elana Fremerman is no longer with the band. That makes this spring's shows 
unique in Dylan's touring history, similar to when Suki Lahav played violin for Bruce Springsteen 
and The E Street Band in 1975 or '76. I'm glad I got to witness three of them. Her energy and 
presence are missed, but this is still one great band without her. "Mississippi" and it's new 
arrangement was presented as the tenth song of tonight's show; I hadn't seen this one in a few 
years. It was interesting to hear, but eventually wore a little thin and I much prefer the 
earlier renderings. The band did lose steam during "Bye And Bye", which definitely would have 
benefitted from having Elana's fiddle, and there was a palpable feeling of "when will this song 
be over" among the crowd, but again they rebounded with a nice jazzbo take on "Summer Days". 
Certainly not hard bop, nor jazz lite, just a nice groove you could snap your fingers to. Who'd 
have seen Bob Dylan as a jazz cat? 

Earlier in the day I had visited the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival, at Hurd and 
West Shore Roads in Bethel, New York. Walking around one of rock'n'roll's most significant holy 
grounds in the afternoon, listening to Robert Allen Zimmerman tell the story of "John Brown" in 
the evening. Man, it really doesn't get better than that. As I remarked to one of many friendly 
folks, "this is the best show I've ever seen in Connecticut!" On to Pittsfield!

Don Ely
Rochester,MI
kingsnake78@hotmail.com

[TOP]

page by Bill Pagel
billp61@execpc.com

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