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Review by Nick Miller
"putting the radio in the refridgerator"
This is the first time I'd seen Dylan in the US and some some 9 months since
I'd seen him (with Patti Smith as support) in Australia where I'm from - but
am currently living in Tucson, Ariziona. The Blockbuster Desert Sky is an
impressive venue - right on the outskirts of Phoenix in the middle of
no-where (glad I managed to find it!). Most of the seating is covered and
there is an extensive lawn section at the back. I was at the back of the
seats under the desert sky - the sun just fading and the near full moon and
stars appearing as Dylan took the stage at 7.40 pm. From the sparse stage
set-up plus double bass, and the alternating of who starts on this tour, I
knew Dylan would be first up and had managed to get my mind around this but
was pleased the segment with Paul Simon would be backed by Dylan's band.
The crowd was mostly young with a healthy smattering of those a bit older.
Unlike inside venues with the lights down and suddenly Dylan is on stage
with our favourite announcement, it was nice to see Dylan and the band
saunter on stage in the desert heat - Dylan wearing his usual formal attire.
Everyone seemed in the mood for a good time and from the outset of "Cocaine
Blues" we had a great night to remember. On the recent Australian tour the
sound for the first half dozen or so songs wasn't great, but from the start
in Phoenix the sound was chrystal clear as was Bob's diction. He also was
hitting notes in all parts of his range making for a superb performance.
Back to "Cocaine Blues" - this really got everyone in a great mood and
rolled along nicely. Then a truly beautiful (slightly reworked) version of
"Mr Tambourine Man" with a brief but well received and passable harp solo.
Dylan then launched into a near perfect rendition of "Desolation Row" - I've
heard it before but never have the words sounded so good and the music so
transfixing. In fact rotating "Desolation Row" and "Highlands" in this
number 3 spot would make for great concerts! They both tell a long and
interesting tale with music that just wants to go on forever. From my seat
Bob was a distant figure but he seemed to be having a great time, with more
and more of his unique dancing (not quiet the right word - struts?) plus I
could view him on one of the many huge screens on the back of the cover and
to the sides of the stage - sometimes I'd look up and he'd be everywhere!
Song three and the price of admission had been repaid 10 times over, but I
better not ramble too much.
Dylan then did a great version of "One too many mornings" with Larry playing
slide guitar followed by "Tangled up in blue", which even if you've heard
many times is ceratinly a crowd favourite and tonight like almost the whole
performance lifted to near perfection.
Then out with the electric guitars - except Charlie who joined a bit later -
for a thumping "All along the watchtower" - Bob and Larry having a wild time
with the change of pace, though tonight the band was certainly not loud
(Paul Simon made the ears hurt a lot more). Then "Make you feel my love"
which if you have to be picky was the weakest song on the night, but
nonetheless enjoyable. The tempo picked right up for an inspiring and fun
version of "Watching the river flow" - a real unexpected highlight.
At some stage Bob told a joke! It took me by suprise and many others so it
was the one thing I found hard to hear. He said he's been talking to Neil
Young yesterday and the punch line was to put your radio in the
refridgerator - I think in response to Neil asking if Bob has heard any cool
music recently...no comment!
Back to the show - with the sun well and truly down and the stars shining (I
thought Bob might have played "Under a red sky" but not to be) he launched
into my favourite song off "Time out of mind" and one I desperately wanted
to hear live - "Not dark yet". The song live just makes all the words seem
so much more real, and the music so much more potent, as is the case with
many TOOM songs. Another real highlight and I hung on every word -
especially the great way he sings of going to London and Paris. The band
then cranked it up for a wild trip down "Highway 61" and after the
obligatory walk off stage for an even more up-tempo and totally fired-up
"Like a rolling stone". Then as only Dylan can do he slowed the music down,
went acoustic but somehow intensified what was already an amazing night with
an absolutely heart wrenching version of "Don't think twice, it's alright".
I was simply emotionally blown away and totally in awe. During this Dylan
did an extended harp solo which reminded me of the sound off "Real live".
At just before 9pm and after 12 great songs Bob introduced the diminutive
Paul Simon who seemed slightly uneasy next to the totally fired-up Bob. I
had no preconception of how their duets would sound but from the begining of
"Sounds of silence" was pleasantly surprised by how good it was - probably
because Bob was dominating the sound and his band was playing back-up. They
raced through "I walk the line/Blue moon" (in fact their duet only lasted
some 15 minutes) before Larry picked up the fiddle and they did a really
enjoyable "Knockin' on heaven's door."
Apart from Bob's story about Neil, he said a few "Thanks ladies and
Gentlmen" and "Thanks everybody" plus said during the band intros that Larry
is one of the greatest guitarists in America. It seemed strange to sit and
wait for Paul Simon after such an exhilarating hour and 35 minutes. I
stayed for most of Paul Simon who was OK in a pretty clinical way, but
anyone who needs three drummers...maybe that's why the tickets cost so much!
(the venue was pretty full but certainly not to capacity). I just had to go
and shake Simon's sound out of my head so I could relive Dylan's great night
in Phoenix for a bit longer until the joys of parenthood shook me back to
This was certainly one of the best Dylan concerts I have seen since my first
in 1978 and from the last time I saw him in Wollongong some 9 months ago -
only 4 songs were the same (One too many mornings/Tanged UIB/Make you feel
Apologies for the length (and any Australian spellings too!) but hope it
helps paint a little picture of the night which deserves to be remembered as
a great night in the desert...and please contact if you have a tape.
June 28, 1999
Review by Ian Parfrey
bob opened last night....stepped out on the stage about 7:40 with little
warning....some friends of mine missed the opening song, which was "cocaine
blues", a song i only know from jackson browne's dreadful version....bob was
singing well, better than when i saw him last year, and the band was mostly
tight tho the drummer was shaky at times. he did a beautiful "mr tambourine
man", arranged kind of like a time-out-of-mind ballad, with a lot of weird-ass
phrasing and a harp solo at the end. then "desolation row", only six
verses....we had been expecting "masters of war". "one too many mornings" and
"tangled" rounded out the acoustic set...."mornings" was glacially slow,
probably the set's lowlight, and "tangled" was excellent, though in new york in
nov.98, it was several cuts above excellent. the elcetric set opens with a
kick-ass "watchtower", a serviceable "feel my love", then "watching the river
flow", which was surprising as hell....i thought it would be "from a buick 6"
by the intro, which would have been even stranger....then "not dark yet", sent
shivers down my spine....bob seemed in a strange mood, hardly spoke at all, and
sometimes seemed to be fucking with the crowd....(several extreme slowdown
endings, etc) he got a very bad reception here in '79, maybe he remembers
that...."not dark yet" kind of shut up the crowd, which was mostly paul simon
hippies....it was a coldly beautiful kind of feeling. "highway 61" ended a
somewhat schizophrenic electric set....this was much tighter than i remember
last year, and the crowd ate it up....he played it long, three instrumental
verses on the end i think.
the encore was fucking fabulous...."like a rolling stone" was amazing, there's
a lot of songs i'm surprised to hear...."blowin in the wind" was the same way
last year, that he would play these songs with such feeling 30 years
after....thank god we've got the mellower happier bob, ehehe....and he ended
with a lengthy "don't think twice" (nothing like the mike ness version, i
wonder if bob's even heard that) where he played the harp again. did i mention
the encore was fucking fabulous?
then simon came out, and they did a terrific "sounds of silence"....bob on harp
again, but the rest of their set together was not too good....i don't think bob
enjoys this too much, and i don't pretend to read paul simon's mind....the
medley was by-the-numbers, and "heaven's door" is one song that should probably
be left alone, it's become a little redundant, and no one's ever improved on
the original, the 30th anniversary version with clapton's endless solo might be
the worst, and the little bits of lyric filler are quite unamusing...."i hear
you knocking but you can't come in"...."knock knock, who's there"....ugh.
simon's set was fine i suppose if you're one of simon's dancing
hippies....there were hundreds, security kept breaking them up to no
avail....simon's set unfortunately ignores his excellent work with garfunkel
almost entirely, and what songs were played seemed obligatory...."troubled
water", "mrs robinson"....he opened with "troubled water", then did three
one-chord african-rhythm numbers, "can't run but", "the coast", and something
else....his stage presence is pretty annoying...he wears a guitar but doesn't
play it much, his only move is to raise both arms exhortation-style....the
capeman song was lyrically laughable, "robinson" was good if slightly slickened
from the original....then "me and julio", several more rhythm-of-the-saints /
graceland stuff...."further to fly" bored even the hippies, closing the set
with "diamonds", "call me al", and "slip sliding away". my problem with simon
is that he gets into james taylor territory with some of the songs....overly
earnest and boring as hell....dylan is a bluesman, and i don't know what simon
his encore started with "late in the evening"....i left, most of the hippies
stayed....there were other disgruntled early-leavers, but not many....i talked
to a girl in the parking lot who said she came to see dylan, she looked about
16, and as i left i could hear "still crazy after all these years"....i think
he closed with "the boxer" and i wish i'd heard that but oh well....it made me
sick that dylan played an excellent show to a simon crowd, maybe a 75-percent
simon crowd (and there is a such thing, it was a partisan crowd....i started
calling for bob midway through paul's set and i heard other people doing it
too, whereas some of paul's crowd sneered at bob's set during "'feel my love"
and again when he left the stage)
i wonder if it's been like that other places, and what bob thinks of it, like i
said he seemed out of sorts last night, and i noticed his set was unusually
short, he played only 12....he usually does 13 or 14 i believe.
i think in some ways going out with simon was a mistake....their styles are too
different....dylan's set has a lot of blues and guts to it and simon is more of
a crowd-pleaser. i'm sorry i missed dylan and van morrison, i'm sure they
complemented each other better....joni mitchell was with him in 98 and she was
kind of a non-factor. madison square garden is a little too big for her kind of
i'd like to see dylan with tom waits, or with neil young though i probably
never will. imagine dylan with crazy horse, it would be like dylan and the dead
only it would sound good....i think even if you like the dead that's a hard
record to like.
---ian parfrey (email@example.com)
Review by Bill Sigmon
I Just got home from my home town show here; bob was on and happy.
Picture 110 at start, cooling to about 109 at end. And with my wife, 8
months pregnant, good thing Bob opened.... Bob opened and Paul finished.
Maybe odd, but bob did the paul songs (same as has been) after his show;
i figure he split to get to msg for the clapton thing. anyway, it was
The way he can rework the songs to make them fresh is amazing; looking
at the past buncha shows, it appears this one was unusual for some.
Opened with Cocaine, which i've never heard him do live(i always loved
it since i first heard jackson browne do it on "running on empty") .
Then 3 reworkings: Mr tambourine man- similar, but still reworked yet
again, one too many mornings- amazingly different; i mean from "Hard
Rain" to this is night and day, mellow and larry on slide added
something special too, and desolation row- entirely different than i
have ever heard it, he's somehow turned it into a song of hope,
melodically taking us through each and every verse with mirth. Tangled
up in blue is still one of my fav's, and i personally can't hear it
without thinking of it as a jerry garcia tribute song for bob now; oh i
know blood on the tracks, but this was one of jerry's favorites to play
live, and bob seems different on it the past few years. That was the
"acoustic set" and it was great. Watchtower, at 3:55, was the shortest
i've ever heard, and maybe the temperature was to blame, next cam make
you feel my love, one of my favs from "time out of mind"; it was tender
and sincere, and boy how bob loves to play from this one-not dark yet
was sweet too, which was later on, anyway, watching the river flow came
next, extra peppy too, like a country jamboree the boys played, and this
one too has been reworked masterfully. Throughout, bob spoke a bit,
"thank you ladies and gentlemen", etc, and did a band intro, but at this
point he actually told a joke: i couldn't get it verbatim, but to the
best of my and my wife's ears, it went: "Hey, i spoke with neil young
the other day, yesterday to be exact, and neil told me he had heard some
really cool songs, i asked him if his radio was in the refrigerator";
hey that'd be a good enough joke for letterman or leno i suppose, i just
was shocked at his looseness with the crowd. toward the end of the show
he also said something like "you are all very kind" -mellow crowd but
hey, it was hotter than hell for sure. Going on with the show now, next
cam not dark yet, as touched on earlier, then highway 61. I love this
song, and really am glad it's become a nightly staple; bob likes it too,
and seems to get most rowdy during it. Only 2 encores: Like a rolling
stone and don't think twice, both just dandy Then out comes paul simon
for the standard 4 they've been doing. IT's neat to see them together.
Paul's show was quite good, and different enough from bob's to really
make a great accompaniment show. most notable of the songs was sounds of
silence; i like art singing with paul better than bob to be honest,
though "Silence like a cancer grows" is much better with bob singing it.
I wish they duetted "Boxer" since bob has covered that one, but what the
hell. I walk the line was great too, i believe that's a johnny cash song
and these guys did well with it. They just seem a bit scripted with
these 4 songs at this point, and i hope they broaden there selection
before the tour ends. all in all it was well worth the cash, and here's
hoping our hero's never ending tour continues long into the millennium.
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