June 29, 2013
Review by Andy H.
I have to echo the review from Tampa of Bob Dylan's concert at Lakewood
Amphitheater on June 29th. I actually think his voice may have
deteriorated further from his Tampa show. Add to that the terrible mix
job with periods of over-amplification of Bob's poor harmonica playing (in
which he seemed to be in the throws of a bad case of emphysema), overall
the show needed help. I miss him on guitar since he is a troubadour, and
keeping him poorly lit on stage with no video screens psychologically
seemed to make the statement that he's in the sunset of his career.
I must admit it's been awhile since I've seen Bob. My last time in
Phoenix, AZ in the early 2000's saw a energetic and vibrant Mr. Dylan but
the obvious overuse of his voice since then has reached the point that I'm
afraid it won't return.
After hearing Wilco, Bob Weir and MMJ warm up I turned to my friend and
made the comment that Dylan's group seemed like a bunch of old men with no
energy just going through the paces. Another night to husk the audience.
My biggest angst at the whole thing is it's borderline fraud for Dylan to
trot himself out there and not give it a full show. If he's not in good
shape and can't deliver, stop. He seems to be just using his good name to
carry on and if his motivation is money (which I never want to admit is
his main driver) then he's ripping folks off.
I'm close in age enough to Dylan to almost have his soundtrack in my
genes. He's been one of the most influential people in my life over the
years and when it's all said and done, I'm probably sad for myself as much
as Bob, realizing that after all these years neither of us are the same as
in those glory days of the 1960's. But we both soldier on, aching and
sore but giving it our last try.
Review by Noel M.
Beautiful but sweltering late afternoon and evening in Atlanta... hard
rain looking imminent but never appeared. Great time for a big show with
my buddies Mark, Chuck & Al!
This is the biggest package tour Dylan has done in a while - maybe even
since the Van / Joni tour - though you couldn’t compare My Morning Jacket
and Wilco to Van & Joni. He’s done other multi-act tours recently of
course, but those felt different than this - partly because they gave this
tour has a “name” - the AmericanaramA Festival of Music Tour. And this is
really one of the first times Bob has toured recently with several bigger
Overall, the tour package is very fun, worth the money, and I had a great
time. But the surprise (perhaps) is that, musically, my favorite moments
of the night were mostly, uhm, Grateful Dead related! And I'm not really a
Grateful Dead fan. Yeah - Bob Weir’s set was wonderful, and I loved the
sit-ins with My Morning Jacket and Wilco (I Know You Rider and Dark
Star/California Stars/Dark Star, respectively) as high points musically of
Bob had his moments, but overall this was not a show for the ages. A few
key songs made it very memorable - the three-fer of Duquesne Whistle, She
Belongs To Me and Hard Rain - but overall it was a bit of a stale set
list, weak vocals (even I have to admit) and the issue of Bob being ticked
off with new guitarist Duke Robillard (more on that).
Bob now looks pretty old. We had second-row seats ("The Pit," actually,
which was standing-room only right next to the stage). His eyes look
squinty and aged. His hair, peeking out from his white tophat (he had a
white suit on with spangles going from the middle up to the shoulders)
looked pretty wispy. He looked absolutely tiny, like he doesn't eat much.
In the last few years he's gotten close to a spoken-word lyric recitation
than any type of singing. His vocals started out pretty weak, like a loud
whisper really, especially the first 2-3 songs. Later, he did get clearer
vocally, especially when he seemed more engaged with the song.
The band is really sharp except for some mistakes by new guitarist Duke
Robillard. Duke seemed to come in at the wrong time a couple of times,
especially on Simple Twist of Fate when he started a little solo right
when Bob was going into a verse or was about to blow on harmonica. He got
The Glare from Bob, and several times you’d see Bob talking to him and
gesturing between songs.
In Duke's defense: Bob is famous for not giving very clear directions
musically. But, I did notice that everyone else in the band - especially
Tony, Stu and Donnie - are locked in every second visually on the boss.
The only one who really didn’t watch Dylan - to his peril, perhaps - was
Duke. Avuncular and genial, but possibly prideful enough to not sublimate
himself to Bob’s decree, as must be done these days. These are not the
days of Robbie Robertson ripping out a jagged solo - or even the days of
Freddy Koella being given tons of space to solo circa 2003. Things have
Let's talk setlist. I was a bit bummed to see the first 5 songs are
unchanged from Spring 2013, when he replicated the set list almost
nightly. But there were some surprises, especially those middle three
songs, which made the whole concert worthwhile for me. Duquesne Whistle is
a real pleasure to hear live because a) it sounded sprightly and great
(big smile from Tony Garnier), b) only the 3rd time it’s been played live
and c) the feel of it just fits a tour called AmericanaramA.
She Belongs To Me was this night's gem. Weird, slow, stately, almost regal
arrangement - it really works, you can hear every perfect word, and Bob
and the band knocked it out of the park.
This was my first Blind Willie live and it sounded great. Hard Rain was a
surprising high point - Dylan was committed and spot-on with the vocals,
the arrangement was nice, really wonderful all the way around.
Very cool. Big burning pyres of fire on each side, like a deck heater,
burning the whole time. Three gilded-frame mirrors along the front of the
stage - 18” x 24” or so. And pointed back at the crowd. BRILLIANT. I love
the idea of referring the crowd back to itself.
Another nice touch: the lights behind the band are stage-set or movie-set
lights. A perfect, impish balance to the mirrors. He wants the crowd to
not adulate him and “look at themselves" - but still has a stage set up
like you’d see in old-school Hollywood, with a Star at the center.
This was the first Dylan show I’ve ever seen where someone came out to
verbally announce it -- not the over-the-speakers canned announcement they
did for years, but a young woman who came out to ask people “to enjoy the
concert in real time, not through the tiny electronic window of your phone
or cell phone”. Amazingly, most of those in The Pit obeyed. Great call.
Wanted to note how tastefully “proper” the arrangements have gotten. Very
understated - any guitar solos are little peals of color, like a small
bouquet. No Highway 61 raveups (thank goodness; glad he’s giving that one
a rest). On drums, George used brushes almost exclusively. Tony is the
bedrock of the band, switching from electric to mostly standup acoustic
bass easily. But really the key to the band’s sound might be Donnie
Herron, hiding out behind Dylan there, watching every move, adding those
colors that give it a more Americana than rock feel - the banjo, the slide
No guitar at all for Bob tonight; lots of time at stage front. Plus lots
of plinky grand piano; tons of harmonica. Especially when he and Duke
weren't interacting well, Dylan responded by honking loudly on his
harmonica to alert all I Am Now Soloing.
It’s interesting; internecine band problems have often fueled great music
and great performances (Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, etc), and you’d almost
hope a little friction might get Bob out of his late-period comfort zone,
but not so; he just mostly seemed irritated by Duke, not more motivated.
The usual uniform of suits and (mostly) tophats. (Donnie goes hatless, and
George and Tony both wear berets instead.) It’s a good move. Dylan
struggled with stage wear for a while, even doing that crazy hot-pink
outfit in ‘95/’96, not to mention of course the fingerless gloves and
padded shoulders of the ‘80s.
In Dylan show reviews, you often see references to “Bob looked like he was
having fun, dancing around and stuff” - not really this night. Tonight it
was more a combo of ticked-off, spacey (several times he seemed to be
searching to remember the lyric; he doesn‘t use a teleprompter), toddering
older man, or even a bit bored. And, hot - pouring sweat much of the
night. He did also smile at the crowd a few times, but not much.
One more note about mood: I’ll give Duke credit as the only band member
who smiled much. A 2013 Dylan show is a pretty arranged set piece - a bit
regimented, really. But like my friend Mark says, it’s more like getting
to see The Declaration of Independence rolled out in person; a bit
academic; not as visceral as it used to be.
But it can still be visceral to those paying close attention; just not in
a cheery way. I noticed this night how truly dour most of the songs played
are; a bit relentless, actually. It’s all “sick of love,” "early Roman
kings... They're lecherous and treacherous," “a hard rain will fall,”
“nobody sings the blues like...” and such. That’s partly why “She’s an
artist, she don’t look baaaack” was such a relief - a real bright spot. So
was “Summer Days."
The Bottom Line
So, lots of mixed reviews here, I know. But I’m always glad to see Bob and
his band live, and I know he has the hard job; we have the easy one, just
reviewing. This is my 16th time seeing my all-time favorite musician, and
even a show like this will reside well in my memory, especially in those
future days when Bob doesn't tour at all. Catch him on this tour and judge
the show for yourself!
Review by Tampa Steve
Hey, the "ripening" of Dylan's voice is no secret. He has grown froggy, we
all know that. But the singing I witnessed in Atlanta was some of the best
I have heard in my 30 or so Dylan shows. I really loved it, and I am
certain he was being expressive and completely in the moment during pretty
much every song.
Rewind to 5:35 pm. Bob Weir, fresh from some kind of cryptic rest period
over the past weeks, played a handful of his best-known Grateful Dead
songs, including, to my amazement, part of "The Other One" and a jammed
out "Playing in the Band". I did not think he had this in him at this
point, and I'm really glad he did. Deadheads will want to hear this short
My Morning Jacket, while full of youthful vigor, made such a barrage of
sound that they might as well have been U2. When bands forsake dynamics in
favor of a giant blur of sound, they really become generic. There were a
couple of exceptions to this when Jim James would bust out a quieter
guitar and the band would give him some breathing room. Weir came up for
a sprightly "I Know You Rider" that added huge value to their set.
I've been a Wilco fan since day one and an Uncle Tupelo fan before that.
Live,these guys never let me down. Nels Cline has been a bit too noodley
on a couple of studio tracks, but I love his angular and dissonant playing
as a foil to the simple songs. These guys have it down. They put together
a set list that included plenty of "hits" and an equal measure of
lesser-known songs, including, with Bob Weir, a just-this-once version of
"Dark Star" > "California Stars" > "Dark Star". After the dust had settled
from that slice of insanity, Jeff Tweedy said, "Wow. I didn't see that
coming." Obviously, he did see it coming, because it was rehearsed just
enough to make it spectacular. We are the ones who would never have
guessed. Find it. Love it.
I was mildly worried that after all of that, I (and about 10,000 other
people) would not have the patience for a less-than-great Bob Dylan show.
I predicted most of those in attendance would leave after the second song.
I was wrong. Dylan and his band are on a marvelous, artistic high right
now. Listen not to the negative reviews of Tampa and Atlanta. Those folks
need to get their ears in gear. This band is smoking. As in recent
previous tours, the show is more about textures than showboating, but now
they have it down to a science. The chemistry is undeniable. No other band
plays like this. Their work is so complimentary. This kind of ensemble
miracle only happens when the stars align personality-wise, and/or with
years of work. I sense that both are at play here. Every song benefitted
from the sublime interplay between band members. I always say George
Recile is my favorite drummer, and I'll say it again. He is supernaturally
cool. Having Duke Robillard on guitar is an enormous blessing. Stu Kimball
opened the show with acoustic guitar figures that wove into "Things Have
Changed" and he stayed mostly on that instrument, adding sparkle and
unique voicings. Tony Garnier was his usual magnificent self on whichever
bass he picked up. And Donnie Herron kept the fringes occupied with his
choices of just the right instruments and flavors. Dylan himself was
better at harmonica and keyboards than ever. He seems to finally recognize
his limitations and works a bit more within them. This allows him to focus
on his parts as equals to his mates, and he holds up his end of the deal
more than I have seen (heard) before. I was amazed. I won't go into the
set list because it speaks for itself. Suffice it to say that even my
least favorite songs played ("Summer Days") had me jumping in my brain, if
not on my feet.
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