Reviews

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa
Event Center

June 22, 2007


[Peter Stone Brown], [Howard Weiner], [Brian Slattery]

Review by Peter Stone Brown



I think it was back on one of those minor league baseball stadium tours
that they started calling it the Bob Dylan show.  And while the concert at
the Borgata in Atlantic City was listed simply as Bob Dylan and his band,
what it was, was the Bob Dylan Show.  And so on well 21st Century level it
was as good a place as any to start the Bob Dylan summer tour of the USA. 

The Borgata sits alone in the marshlands before Atlantic City, an entity
unto itself.  It's huge, it's loud, and even though there's exit signs all
over the place you can wander around it forever looking for the way you
came in and it's designed that way on purpose.  

Inside the event center it's dark casino red and there's just this
slickness about the whole place and atmosphere that somehow jibes
perfectly with the you are about to see a legend music that's emanating
from the stage and seems to get louder and softer at key moments.  

And finally it gets to the fanfare and the lights go down and the band
takes the stage and there's that sliver of fear of what's he going to
sound like, and they're into "Cats In The Well" and he's back on guitar
and pretty much sounding like Bob Dylan  and it's sort of swing that's
slight rocking, or maybe rock that's slightly swinging and it's okay.  

And then it's "Don't Think Twice," and he's kind of messing around with
the vocal and the phrasing and having fun, and half taking, half singing,
half doing a parody and forgetting halves of lines and then turning around
and nailing others.  It was followed by "Watching the River Flow."  The
main purpose of this song has always seemed to be well we can use up six
of seven minutes with a cool beat and some guitar solos.

"It's Alright Ma," played in the same arrangement that was changed during
the European tour took things up considerably.  The arrangement built,
with Donnie Herron's becoming more prominent on each verse and Dylan
singing with authority dropping the word even on the president line.  

That was it for Bob on guitar and he moved to the keyboard for a
rearranged "Moonlight" that played up the lounge music aspects of the song
in comical fashion.  New stops have been added to the chorus emphasizing
"Won't you" and "Meet me." 

A speedy "Rollin' and Tumblin" came next in a version that ended up being
closer to rockabilly than blues complete with a train beat from George
Receli.  

The next song had an extended intro that sounded familiar but you couldn't
place it, and just when you thought it was going to be, "You're A Big Girl
Now," it turned into a dramatically, rearranged, slowed down, half jazz
version of "Shelter From the Storm."  The arrangement suggested a
waterlogged tropical storm.  This arrangement has the potential to become
something interesting, but Dylan didn't seem sure of what he wanted to do
on the vocal and resorted to some of his lazier tendencies.

Then it was pretty much on to auto pilot for "'Til I Fell In Love With
You" which featured a fairly hot solo from Denny.  

"Spirit On The Water" which simply should not be in the same set as
"Moonlight" was followed by a ho hum "Memphis Blues Again."  Things kind
of got back on track with "Nettie Moore," but it didn't have the impact of
the versions from last fall or even the recent ones from Europe.  It was
followed a typical Canned Heat boogie on "Highway 61 Revisited" where the
groove was more important than any meaning the song might have had.  

The set closed with "Blowin' In the Wind" in an arrangement similar to the
last tour, though perhaps slightly slowed down.  The arrangement is sort
of like the Stevie Wonder version meets Fats Domino and they go to jam
with Duane Eddy on the edge of some Ray Bradbury carnival at the collapse
of the world.  It served no apparent purpose except that the people at the
show would be able to say they saw Bob Dylan sing "Blowin In The Wind."

"Thunder on the Mountain" had the longest intro ever while a roadie did
something to Bob's keyboard.  Dylan seemed about to say something, like
maybe introduce the band, decided not to, and the band started the
atmospherics that led into a reasonably intense "All Along the
Watchtower."

There was nothing really to complain about, some highlights here and
there, and in the end, a show - and shows are one of the things Atlantic
City and casinos are about.

Peter Stone Brown
www.peterstonebrown.com

[TOP]

Review by Howard Weiner


I prefer to see Dylan after heís had a few shows under his belt on
a given tour. Tonightís show had some exciting highlights, and some
cobwebs. Seeing Dylan play guitar again wasnít all that thrilling. Right
now, heís at his best, leading his Cowboy Band from his keyboard perch.
The first four songs featuring Bob on electric guitar consisted of Cats,
Donít Think Twice, Watching the River Flow and Itís Alright Ma. This
segment of the show was lackluster. We can chalk that up in large part to
the beginning of the tour. The other problem I detected is that the band
doesnít jam when Bobís playing guitar. Itís like they are scared to step
on his playing. I was elated when he decided to slip behind his keyboards
Ė it was then that the ceremony began. 
   
In the fifth spot, Moonlight was an unexpected delight. Bob served
up some new lyrics during one verse. Denny Freeman uncorked sublime jazz
guitar leads that are his forte. Rolliní and Tumbliní was an uplifting
chaser to Moonlight. The stage was then set for a poignant Shelter from
the Storm. It was a sweet as Tupelo Honey, yet typically, a creature void
of form. What Iím trying to say is that it was fresh and rearranged, like
it is every tour. Bob sounded like he was in mid-tour form, on top of his
game. On this night, Shelter had a nice easy pace as Freeman peppered some
nice solos between Bobís gripping vocal interpretation. By the way, was
that still Donnie Herron still mastering the multi-instrumentalist role?
With all his new facial hair, he looks like a member of the Beatles after
they were influenced by Dylan. 
   
Till I Fell in Love with You was performed in a solid, similar
manner to the way I had seen it in fall 2006. Spirit on the Water was
boring. I have distaste for these strange concert moments where everybody
in the crowd roars at a certain line. In this song itís the, ďYou think
Iím over the hill/ you think Iím past my primeĒ portion. I flat out donít
like this number live, Freemanís excellent solo non-withstanding. Iíve
seen Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again many, many times,
but tonight, Dylan pitched a wang dang doodle. He was on every line,
seemingly striking a pose after each one. It was an unexpected
development, seeing the man who changed pop culture and the world of
songwriting reconnecting with one of his most brilliant songs. Once again,
Mr. Freeman elevated his game delivering quality rock and roll guitar
leads. 
   
That miraculous devil of a song, Nettie Moore, ensued. Music is my
religion and this is my favorite spiritual. Dylan botched some lyrics
during the third and fourth stanzas, but just imagine if you had to
remember all these words. Heís an amazing individual. Highway 61 was
brutally brief. Bob; letís put this one on the shelf with the pitchfork. I
saw a version from Portland on 11-09-6 that rocked me down to the very
marrow. The last three or four times Iíve seen 61, itís been painfully
short. Unleash the beasts, let the Cowboy Band jam! 
   
The concluding number was an old friend dressed up anew. I hadnít
seen Blowiní in the Wind in awhile, so it was fun seeing a funky version
that was almost danceable. I liked it a lot. The encores were Thunder on
the Mountain and Watchtower. During Thunder, Bob sang, ďSheís got the pork
chop I got the pie,Ē pretty kinky. Thatís right folks, no Rolling Stone,
Summer Days or band intros on this night. The 15 song set was a song or
two less than I expected, but this is opening night. After many years of
touring I know how he operates, and all things considered, this was a
strong beginning to our Summer of Love. The crowd was relaxed, it was a
surreal atmosphere. I donít know what it is about the Borgata Hotel here
in Atlantic City. Dylan seems to really like this place; Iím expecting a
barnburner tomorrow.
   
Howard Weiner
www.visionsofdylan.blogspot.com

[TOP]

Review by Brian Slattery



Somewhere around the time I was reminded how you canít win with a losing
 hand, I began feeling that old sense of anticipation and energy I felt
before my  first Bob Dylan concert back in 1994.  There was electricity in
the air, and as I made my way to meet up with  fellow fans Nina and
Charlie, I wondered what was in store.  Being the first show of a new leg
of the  Never Ending Tour, the possibilities, while not endless given
recent patterns in  set lists, were numerous.  Would Bob  play guitar? 
Would he play more  songs on guitar than he did in Europe this spring? 
Would he be playing new songs?  Would he be featuring as much Modern 
Times material as he did on the two tours since its release?  Would he
surprise us with an obscure  song?  As we enjoyed our pre-concert  drinks,
speculated about the possibilities of the upcoming show, and drew our  own
conclusions on the wall, I felt the anticipation build.  And as we
expanded our circle to include  two fellow fans who had been sitting
nearby, time ticked on, bringing us nearer  to our imminent and intimate
encounter with the man himself. Finally it was time to do what it was we
came to Atlantic  City to do:  see Bob Dylan do what  he has done for
nearly fifty years and continues to do better than anyone else  out there.
 We made our way to see  Bob Dylan perform live in concert.   After
agreeing to meet after the show for a post-show  drink and discussion, our
new friends Julie and Jamie made their way to their  seats, and we made
our way to ours.   When the strains of Fanfare for the Common Man filled
the concert  hall, I felt my pulse quicken.  Here  it was.  We were
minutes away from  Bob taking to the stage and gracing us with his
presence.  Time ticked on but seemed to slow down  as we waited fifteen
minutes for the lights to go down, Hoe Down to start, and  Bob and the
boys to take the stage.  Finally, the moment arrived, my heart skipped a
beat, and I took to my  feet, joining 3,699 friends and other strangers in
cheering for the slight man  strapping a guitar on in the semi-darkness of
the stage. What came next came fast.  And it was almost too much to take
in at once.  Bob was center stage, playing a guitar,  and his voice was
clear, strong,  and powerful, and he was making up new  lyrics to Catís
in the Well, and the crowd was cheering, and people were  laughing, and
Bob seemed to be smiling, and the band was with it, and a new leg  of the
Never Ending Tour had begun. What came next was a mix of set list
standards and a few songs that  appear less frequently in recent years,
but more important than the set list was  the power behind the delivery of
each song.  Donít Think Twice, Itís All Right  followed Catís in the
Well and kept most of the crowd on its feet  throughout.  I saw Think 
Twice in New York City this past  fall and thought it was one of the best
versions Iíd ever heard.  I would have to hear tapes of this show,  but
if my post-concert memory serves me well, this was equal to that  version.

Bob did two more songs on  guitar, finishing the guitar portion of the show 
with a driving, forceful,  powerful, amazing version of Itís Alright, Ma
(Iím Only Bleeding),  spitting out lines faster than he has in a while. 
Personally, I prefer this reworking to  the swampier, bluesy versions from
the past couple years.  I donít know how he does it, but with  this one
in particular, he seems to reach back through the years and capture the 
spirit, sound, and ferocity of the original version. Bob then turned to
the keyboard where he played several songs that have  become standards in
his more recent shows along with a few songs that shook up  the set list a
bit.  Bob did a  superb version of Moonlight, adding a short but sweet
harmonica solo at  the end.  He played a moving,  beautiful version of
Shelter from the Storm, and even though he seemed to  mix-up or forget a
few lines, it was a great rendition of one of my personal  favorites.  The
arrangement was  totally different from anything Iíve heard before.  It
was much slower than even recent  versions of the song, reminding me a bit
of the current arrangements for Girl  from the North Country and Boots of
Spanish Leather.  íTil I Fell In Love with You was  funky, Stuck Inside
of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again was strong and  driving, better
than other recent versions Iíve heard, and Nettie Moore,  despite a
missed half of a verse, was majestic.  You can check the set list to see
the  exact order of the songs and the songs not mentioned here.  Their
absence in this review donít speak  to any weakness or lack of musical
craftsmanship.  Itís simply that it is not my intention  to give a play
by play but rather share my observations and convey the over-all  feel of
the show. To end the main set, Bob has forgone the entertaining but
over-played  Summer Days.  Mind you, I  enjoy this song, but I feel it is
good when Bob mixes up his opening and closing  numbers, as well as what
comes in between, of course.
 
Tonight, Bob ended the set with  Blowiní in the Wind, which I thought was
ac beautiful rendition of a song  as powerful today as it was when he penned
it all those years ago.  And maybe it is just my reading into its  use to
end the set, but it seems Bob is making a point with this song.  They
didnít even put the lights up to  show Bob and the boys walking off the
stage.  The song ended, and they left the stage  in darkness.   I donít
know if  this is to add to the solemnity of the song or not.  I am curious
to know if he did the same  thing when ending the set with Like A Rolling
Stone this past spring  tour.  In any event, he took to the  stage a
couple minutes later for the predictable encores.  What was unpredictable
was the technical  difficulties at the beginning of Thunder On the
Mountain.  The eye logo had dropped, the band had  started the intro to
the song, but something was amiss over by the keyboard,  causing the band
to jam for a minute while one of the techs came out and fixed  the
problem.  Following was an  energetic version of Thunder, no band
introductions, and the showís final  song, All Along the Watchtower.
Overall, it was a great show.  There were some tentative moments in a
couple songs that held it back  from being excellent in my estimation, but
they did not detract from the  over-all energy and power of the concert as
a whole.  Leaving the show, meeting up with old  and new friends and
fellow Bobsters again, I couldnít help but think that we are  lucky not
only to live in the same time as Bob Dylan but also to be fans of this 
poet, prophet, and outstanding performer.  We get it.  We understand, as 
much as anyone can understand genius.  It is not some special power we
possess, simply a desire to open our  minds, hearts, and ears to truly
listen. Thank you, Bob, for giving us the chance to listen once again. If
you have any comments or just like to talk ĎBob,í feel free to get in 
touch with me at dylanfan522@aol.com
  
Keep On Keepiní On
Brian J.  Slattery

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