Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tuscaloosa Amphitheater

July 3, 2013

[Dan McKay]

Review by Dan McKay

Since no one from Alabama has written a review of the Tuscaloosa concert,
and their newspaper writer was good enough to tacitly admit not knowing
enough about Dylan to criticize, let a Loosiana man take a shot at it. 
This was a great, mostly laid back collection of musicians with "the band
of every genre" My Morning Jacket choosing a hard rock collection for most
of their songs.   As I believe on this entire tour, the Richard Thompson
Electric Trio led off and set a nice tone to get everyone in the mood,
followed by MMJ, then Wilco.  Wilco was great and I became a fan of all
three of these groups I have to admit not being familiar with
before--except by name.  These younger guys have been around awhile though
and I've started thinking about who could take up the torch if the Never
Ending Tour ever ends.  John Melencamp, somewhat older, could fit this
bill.  He appeared with Dylan on his last venture into (parts of) Alabama
in July 2009, to my surprise with a large following of mostly younger
fans, along with Willie Nelson.  Willie is 80 now and still at it, so I
have great hope the NET will continue many more years.

Dylan was much better than he sounded that night in Orange Beach in 2009,
but at both of these Alabama shows there were too many people who came for
the opening acts and, not being familiar with Dylan, just do not get it.
Many fewer walked out on the Tuscaloosa show and Dylan sounded better this
time, but this is the reason for walkouts.  Just as I was not familiar
with the younger acts, their fans are not familiar with Dylan and therein
lies the rub.

Bob spent alot of time on harp.  I always love that and he played it like
he meant it but it is never enough for me.  Charlie Sexton, supposedly on
"lead" guitar, was relegated to the opposite side of the stage from Dylan,
unlighted, and so far as I could tell, played only cords.   Overall, this
was one of the best sounding Dylan sets out of 18 I have heard, but not
nearly the best.  Charlie was completely misused.  I would very simply
like it better if Dylan would make an effort to enunciate the words, as he
did on a couple of numbers including Blind Willie McTell.  He can do it if
he wants to.  Beyond Here Lies Nothin' was completely unrecognizable and I
did not hear a single word he sang.  It could have been anything.  This
song has good words and a pretty clear story line.  It could be a mainstay
and apparently will be at least for this year.  The highlight for me was
the last song in the main set where Dylan clearly sung, "outside in the
distance a wildcat did GROWLLLL!  Two riders were approaching, the wind
began to HOWLLLL!"    

Much of what I'm saying is drawn from what other reviewers have mentioned.
I don't get what is going on at the lead guitar spot, but I believe
Charlie Sexton is the best man for the job.  Nothing against the others,
it's just that Sexton has the experience, knows Dylan and can duel him
with no fear of missing a song's direction, even when Dylan takes a weird
turn.  Dylan said not a word to the crowd and for the only time I can
remember did not even introduce the band.  I told my wife Dylan was going
to do another encore song after Thin Man because he still needed to do
this, but it was not to be and I couldn't help wondering if that man
hidden in the shadows was really Charlie or yet another guitar player. 
Was this why Dylan did not intro the band, I asked myself.  Watchtower in
fact seemed to have its words mixed up, and there are only a few.  Someone
said the song is meant to be read backward, like time in reverse.  I don't
know if that's so, but you got me and the sound it was so true.  I'll
forgive all because I was revved up by the time I left and wanted to party
all night.  I had gotten up early, spent an hour at work, did some
packing, drove about 6 hours and checked into a hotel, getting to the show
after the Richard Thompson group had started playing.  It was after 11PM
the night before the 4th of July when the show ended and I was energized.

A few general observations.  It had rained alot that day, but a line of
storms on radar showed them moving out.  Not so fast--most of us were
relegated to wearing the $5 disposable panchos they were selling.  I put
mine on and took it off 10 times before Dylan came on, and then it did not
rain anymore.  The Sun had even come out a few times including while we
rode to the show.  This was a good crowd, rocking along even while getting
continually showered.  The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater is new and follows the
design of other modern outdoor arenas I have visited, starting with
Albuquerque in 2000, convenient to concessions, a nice slope and you can
see and hear from outside the seating area.  I developed a great
appreciation for those with a movable cover overhead that this one lacked,
as seems true of all the newer amphitheaters.  Security did not act like
the goons I have run into at other concerts, but there was one guy roughed
up by the police and taken away.  I would like to know more about that-he
had approached some "event staff" right before this and it seems had been
persistently trying to get closer to the stage, but that's just a guess as
to what the beef was about (this was well before Dylan went on).

Dan McKay


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