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Review by Tom Thomsen
We arrived early even though we had good seats, and I'm glad we did.
They opened the gates for the cars at about 5:00, and we parked and headed
for the walk-in gates. Mesa Del Sol is a brand new amphitheatre with
state of the art sound, and that sound is still excellent when you are
standing in line. They wouldn't let us in while because the sound check
was in progress, and I heard an outstanding "Somebody Touched Me" while
waiting. Amazing vocal. I knew we were in for something special.
I went to the show anticipating some of the songs that are on the recent
set lists that I haven't heard live (or at all, for that matter) like Rank
Strangers, Somebody Touched Me, Long black Veil, etc. It turns out that
Heike's right. On a night like this, the set list is practically
inconsequential. The list seemed to have more of a "greatest hits"
quality to it than some of his most recent shows, but Bob is more
comfortable singing these songs than he has been since before the Slow
Train Comin' tour. Nothing sounded obligatory; not even LARS.
The opener surprised me; I had it down to about four songs and didn't
expect Elizabeth Cotten's "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie". Bob came out in
his black suit with the stripe down the legs, a blue shirt, a white tie
and (what IS that footwear? Rattlesnake?) black and white boots. Where
did this powerful voice come from? The only version I had heard of this
song was from the performance page of bobdylan.com, and this was a much
tighter band and a rejuvenated Bob. Then came "Stone Walls and Steel
Bars" and again I'm struck by how tight the band is and how I can hear and
understand every word of Bob's uniquely phrased vocal.
Then the stunner of the evening came along. I couldn't have prepared
myself for such a moving rendition of "Masters Of War." This is the first
time that the audience took their seats, and the deadheads even stopped
dancing. Bob delivered this one like he just wrote it yesterday; it was
that fresh and he sounded inspired in singing it. I can't explain it, but
I was weeping by the time he finished singing. Again, the band hasn't
missed a lick and Charlie's dobro added a lot.
I was recovering during "Love Minus Zero" but his phrasing here gave me
chills anyway -- "no success like FALE - yerrrrrrrrr" -- and I finally
came down from Masters during the reworked and totally enjoyable
"Taaaaaaannnnnnngled Up In Blue." Bob played with the lyrics and the
pronouns here but it would take a much sharper mind than mine to keep up
with them all and report them back to you. Sorry. The last number in the
acoustic set was "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and I was delighted
to see Bob pull out the harp this early in the show. He played a jaunty
version of the familiar chorus on the harp, leaning and dancing one way
and then the other from line to line. Very animated.
The electric set opened with Country Pie, as expected. Not a favorite
of mine, but delightful phrasing again. I thought at this point we might
steamroll through a few numbers, but got goosebumps instead over a totally
unexpected, "If Not for You", "Down in the Flood" and then "She Belongs to
Me". Someone posted in an earlier review that the band seemed more adept
at backing off for Bob's vocals to shine through, and that was proven to
me in these three songs. I would say, though, that if there was a moment
where the instrumentation was less than perfect, it was in "If Not For
You". I think Bob lost his place on the guitar for a few seconds.
Then, BOB SPEAKS! I think I have this word for word. Bob comes to the
edge of the stage and announces, "I'd like to say hi to the president of
our territorial fan club down here, Miss Linda Lou." Then he can't find
her down front. Security has been sending people back to their assigned
seats all night. Bob continues: "Looks like somebody hustled her away.
I wish she'd come back!" (Big smile).
The band rocked the house with "Drifter's Escape" which I would have
never imagined would be such a burning rocker -- what a transformation --
before cementing their position as a great rock band with a fiery "Leopard
Skin Pill Box Hat." After the song, the boys stood, expressionless,
facing the audience for about a minute before leaving the stage. Then
Larry left first, followed by Bob and the rest of the band.
The first encore consisted of four songs, "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way
(And I'll Go Mine)". Again, the kind of phrasing that just tickles your
spine. A very professional "Like A Rolling Stone". Bob got out an
acoustic guitar and they went for "Mr. Tambourine Man" and I would not
have expected this song could move me after all these years, but Bob
almost whispers it, enunciating beautifully in what turned out to be a
highlight of the evening. Then a rocking "Highway Siiiiiiixxxxxty-one"
and again the band faces the audience for a minute, Bob expressionless,
but grins all around from the rest of the band. Larry exits. Everybody
follows. I think it might be over, but we try.
The boys return! We get an acoustic "Blowin' in the Wind" with some
excellent harmonies. This morning I contacted a few casual former Dylan
fans who I badgered into going to the show and they ALL were moved to
tears by this point in the show as floods of memories from their younger
days and old friends filled their hearts. This is probably a better way
to judge a show (and Bob's power as an artist) than by those of us who
still follow his every move. Absolutely heartwarming.
I like Phil Lesh. I really do. There is no way, however, that he could
follow Bob on this night. Even the deadheads stayed on their feet
throughout Bob's set after Masters, but twenty minutes into Phil's first
jam and most of them were seated and chatting amiably with each other
waiting for something credible to happen onstage. It did, after about 45
minutes we were treated to a marvelous rendition of the old Traffic
standard, "The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys" but it wasn't really worth
A night to remember. Thanks, Bob.
Review by Dewey Bjorkman
It's impossible to attend a Dylan concert alone. I drove the
370 miles to Albuquerque alone. Drove out to the great new Mesa del
Sol venue all by myself. Little did I know that I was about to join an
intense group of Bob fans......who were converging upon the scene from the
far corners of the country.......and the world.
While standing in line to be let in......those of us that
were early overheard the Band sound check "Pass Me Not, Oh Gentile Savior"
and "Somebody Touched Me." I was among the first to find my seat, front
and center.......about 40 feet from Bob's mic. Charlie was still sound
checking and did so for a good ten minutes as I looked on with my
binoculars. As I scanned the stage........my lenses fell upon the stool
which Charlie was standing next to.....and lo and behold.......sitting
upon the stool was Charlie's copy of Dylan's Magnum Opus........Lyrics. A
huge volume indeed..........resembling a lecturn Bible upon it's appointed
pedestal. As great an artist as Charlie is in his own right......the
thought ocurred to me that it is such a tremendous honor for him to
perform with Dylan and to digest Dylan's musical legacy. Charlie's wife
was with him the whole time.....and a dashing couple they are!
As people arrived......two men came and sat to my
left......we strike up a conversation.....and I find out they have come
from Florida. The man next to me has an Aussie accent.....and tells me
with great joy that he had seen Dylan at the Isle of Wight in '69. Soon,
two more people sit down in front of me......and they over hear our
conversation. They are from Phoenix.....and one of them has been to over
100 Dylan concerts including the '65 Newport Jazz Festival fiasco. See
what I mean? It's impossible to attend a Dylan concert alone! Now it's
time for the music.......
As Dylan and the Band come on stage Dylan appears, stoic, dead
pan, and without affect. So what else is new?! I expect Somebody Touched
Me for the opener.....but the Band moves into a solid version of O Babe It
Ain't No Lie. Just a few measures into the song I
smile..........appreciating the great sound system at this amphitheatre.
Dylan has his black cowboy suit on...with gray shirt, white tie, white
boots. Dylan's voice is strong.......and he convinces all of this that
Bob has come to attend to business tonight. I fail to identify the second
song.....Stone Walls, Steel Bars but it is pure Americana......sounding
like something off Good As I Been To You or World Gone Wrong.
This Master's of War rendition highlights the lyrics........
and the astonishing instrumental backing that I had heard
two months earlier takes back seat to the Message. I think to myself:
who is writing songs like this today? I can't think of anyone! The Band
moves into a wonderful Love MInus Zero, No LImit.......and I do not jot
down anything remarkable in my notes.....cuz the entire song was
remarkable. The usual Tangled, with the usual awakening of the crowd and
building of energy. Bob is not yet in his groove.....but a normal,
average Dylan song still flies high and satisfies. HIs Don't Think Twice
finds Dylan going "all the waaaaaaaaaaaaay down the road" yet one more
time. The transitional Country Pie cuts our eye-teeth on some electric
vibes and Larry begins to come out of his acoustic doldrums. Is it after
this song that Dylan looks a few rows into the crowd, off to his left and
says something like,"where's Little Lu? I hope she comes back." ???
Bob's phrasing is sharp tonight.......as he moves through If
Not For You and confesses "I couldn't even see the floor!" dropping his
voice on the word floor, creating an altogether new feel for this line.
Songs nine, ten, and eleven were for me the highlight of this
concert. Down in the Flood's new arrangement which I had heard about in
these pages from Bob's European tour this Springs was a killer. Charlie
and Larry scream and Bob comes alive in the middle of this song.......and
for about a half of a minute I was mesmerized by the oneness of this
group. How far they have come since that opening concert in June of 1999
when Charlie joined the fray! She Belongs to Me was sterling........Dylan
leaning on every word. Then came the new Drifter's Escape......OMG! Tony
pounding.......and watching Charlie and Larry perfectly melded together to
the point that even with binoculars I could not discern where one artist's
music began or left off. Amazing!
By now.......after Drifter's I was content and considered any
further treats to be pure abundance. And Bob did not disappoint. Charlie
carried Leopard Skin while the Deadheads on the grassy knoll boogied in
delight. I expected the standard Lovesick as the first encore.....but we
got instead a veritable romp of You Go Your Way (And I'll Go
Mine)......the best presentation of this song that I have ever
heard.......with Bob's delivery conveying his supreme confidence in his
decision to go his own way.........what could be more Dylanesque?? Then
followed LIke A Rolling Stone, Mr Tam, and another piece of communion
between Larry and Charlie as they ripped off a thundering Highway 61. The
concert ended with Blowin.......and our beloved Bob strolled off the
stage.......with the crowd wanting more. But Bob is a long distance
runner........he will save some for another day....and another and
What an Artist! Dylan wins a grammy for Best Album of the
year in '98....and he gives us a concert that does not have one single cut
from TOOM....and we could care less! Nine classic songs......and all 17
As I walked out of the amphitheatre I tried to give my
nice seat to a Deadhead on the grassy knoll......but no takers! I love it! As
I got into my car to make the trek back home.......I knew I would not be
alone during the ride back home. The art of Bob Dylan, and the joy of
those of us who love his music, go with me......all the waaaaaaaaaaaay
down the road!
Comments by Lynne
have seen many shows since late 70's, when i interviewed
bd for trouser press mag. was witness to early days of neverending tour
(which seems to have peaked on this leg...finally!) except for alb,nm show
in 96, had not seen any til 7/3. wow! band incredible and bob singing like
he was 20 again! took my 18 year old daughter (big fan) who had never seen
the man live...her comment sums it up though i know he would HATE it.
"mom'" the budding actress commented, "he's the consummate entertainer!"
and yeah, at this late date, i have to agree. bob's got bob down! best
wishes, keep it up!
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