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Review by Greg Ellis
I trekked up from Texas and hooked up with my long time "Bob Buddy" Danny
Slydell for my only shot at seeing Bob and Paul this tour...We arrived at the
venue early and were treated to Paul running his band through "The Wanderer".
It was a treat to hear Paul callin out chord changes and to enjoy a rare
moment of spontaniety from Mr. Meticulous...The BoDeans were a good choice to
start things off. Apparently they are very popular in the Midwest. They got
the crowd in a festive mood which was their job. I enjoyed them...Paul was up
next. All this nyaah nyaahin' between the Bob and Paul camps is ridiculous.
Paul was great (tho I'm glad he opened). Highlights were the
incredible,atmospheric version of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" that started
his set,the one-two punch of "Mrs. Robinson" and "Me and Julio" that got the
crowd up in the middle of his set and the closing run of uptempo numbers
followed by "Still Crazy" which set the stage for the duets...I wasn't
prepared for how wonderful Paul and Bob sounded together--the slowed down
version of "Sounds of Silence" will be remembered as an all-time concert
highlight for me. Incredible to see those two icons facing off and delivering
such a killer version of an all time classic. The rock and roll medley was
great fun and "Knockin' on Heavens Door" with it's "Keep A Knockin'" ending
was groovy and fun.Plus, standing next to Paul makes Bob look like Shaquille
O'Neal ..After a quick set change the familar intro and Bob--lookin'
great--leads the band into "Cocaine Blues" and it sounded great. I wasn't
prepared for how good Bob was--the last time I had seen him was last Oct.
with Joni,also in Chicago, also w/Slydell. We both felt that set had found
Bob incredibly competent but just a tad uninspired. If you just looked at
Friday's set list you might bemoan the fact that it was relatively surprise
free. However, Bob was so ON that the set turned out to be one of the best I
have ever seen. The highlights were a slow, nuanced "Baby Blue", an
incredible "Just Like A Woman" with Larry's wonderful Cropperesque guitar and
Bob taking a page from the "George Jones Master's Guide to Phrasing", the
three guitar Lynrd Skynrd rave up on "Highway 61", and an incredible version
of "It Ain't Me Babe" with some Band-like harmonies from Larry and
Charlie...Speaking of Charlie-his role may seem small right now but he
offered some inspired guitar when called upon and the afore-mentioned
harmonies. And as Slydell always points out "Bob sure likes
Charlie".....Loved to see Bob playing harp again and his hand on the hip
stance while doing it is sublime. He must have heard the Chi Lites "Have You
Seen Her" before the show because every solo flirted with that
melody...Finally, THE JOKE. Slydell and I had been waiting all night and we
weren't disappointed. As he began the band intro he said "David Kemper on
drums. He was a cowboy previously(Dave was wearin a cowboy hat). Before that
he was a waiter,but he never took any tips. He was a dumb waiter." Worth the
Review by John Metzger
Thanks to John Metzger for allowing me to post the following review
which first appeared in
The Music Box, August 1999, Volume 6, #8
Poetry in Motion
July 9, 1999
Written by John Metzger
Both Bob Dylan and Paul Simon have had the type of careers that should allow
them to headline their own individual concerts. It's almost certain that they would
find themselves stepping onto the stage in smaller venues, but these more
intimate locations would much better suit their music than the spacious outdoor
amphitheatres that they are playing this summer. These days, though, the rule
seems to be "bigger is better," and concert promoters are feeding massive
monetary rewards to artists who are willing to jump onto these blockbuster tours.
Therefore, Chicago-area fans of both wordsmiths were forced to endure the
pitiful acoustics of the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park when the duo
dropped in to perform on July 9.
Of course, we're not talking about just anyone -- we're talking about Bob Dylan
and Paul Simon. While many artists have failed to connect genuinely with their
audience at the gargantuan New World Music Theatre, these two magicians
masterfully turned the event into an intimate party for 35,000.
Dylan and Simon are both veteran performers who for decades have managed
to defy the odds by not only continuing to create vital music but also seemingly to
improve with age. Their musical and lyrical genius is shared by only a scarce few,
and every time their critics have written them off, they've come back stronger than
Simon is in the process of recovering from his noble attempt to buck the system
on Broadway, where his short-lived musical was virtually ignored or unjustifiably
bashed by the status-quo press. His subsequent album Songs from the
Capeman is a solid effort, though it doesn't quite live up to the music on Rhythm
of the Saints or Graceland. For whatever reason, he chose to perform only one
song from the new disc, a beautiful rendition of Trailways Bus, which was a perfect
fit stylistically with his other recent material.
Unfortunately some of the subtle textures of Simon's performance were lost in the
sonic black hole of the amphitheater, but he did his best to overcome the venue's
deficiencies by allowing the grooves to carry the songs. Augmented by a band
that included four percussionists, two keyboard players, two guitarists, a bass
player, and a three-piece horn section, Simon fused multi-cultural cadences with
jazz and folk music. Since his work on Graceland, he has come to understand
truly the power and mysticism of rhythmic beats, and as expected, many of his
songs drifted into a whirlwind of drums and percussion.
Not surprisingly, more than half of Simon's material came from his three most
recent albums, and the audience latched strongly onto the material from
Graceland, dancing and singing gleefully along with the band. With as many
times as it's been played and heard, it's amazing that You Can Call Me Al still
sounded fresh and vibrant and was delivered with dynamic intensity. The
Cool, Cool River from Rhythm of the Saints, was the strongest song of the set
and built to a majestic climax while exploring an exquisite jazzy terrain.
In addition, Simon also reinvented several of his classic songs. Mrs. Robinson
drifted along a slower-paced country groove and contained a '60s surf-pop
synthesizer solo as kaleidoscopic images flashed on the screen behind the
band. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard benefitted from its driving rhythm
and its percussion interlude.
Dylan has been riding high since the release of his Grammy-winning Time Out
of Mind, and his recent concert performances have been solid affairs that touch
upon the dynamic range of his back catalog. A lot of hype had been made in
regard to the anticipated collaboration between Dylan and Simon taking place
on this tour -- so much so that it was impossible to not be a little skeptical.
Nevertheless, it succeeded brilliantly and at least appeared to be a true
partnership. Sounds of Silence was revamped, with Dylan providing an
acoustic guitar line straight from the songbook of Johnny Cash. Dylan's
Knockin' on Heaven's Door was refitted with a reggae beat á la the Jerry
Garcia Band, and this particular rendition was especially moving. The final
Grateful Dead concert took place exactly four years ago tonight in Chicago,
and after a quick glance through Dylan's set list, it's hard to imagine this
wasn't in the back of his mind. His song selection seemed to tend towards
those songs that the Grateful Dead or the Jerry Garcia Band had covered,
including It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, All Along the Watchtower, Tangled
Up in Blue, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, and even
a cover of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away.
I've seen quite a few outstanding performances by Dylan in recent years, but
this may have been the best yet. As usual, the gifted bard toyed with his
phrasing and recreated several of his most familiar songs, refusing to allow
them to become stale.
In addition, the recent departure of Bucky Baxter didn't seem to faze the group
one bit, and they managed to paradoxically straddle the fence between being
a tightly- and loosely-knit outfit. A few songs, like All Along the Watchtower and
Not Fade Away, seemed to be cut short -- most likely due to time-constraints.
For the most part though, the group pushed each selection for maximum effect
by stretching them out into lengthy, full-blown jams, anchored by the dependable
cadence of David Kemper.
Highway 61 Revisited raged as the dual guitar assault of Dylan and Larry
Campbell became a fiery tempest of unyielding energy. Their twin leads
intertwined and folded into each other, constantly changing the shape and
texture of the song. Likewise, Tangled Up in Blue simmered upon an
acoustic-tinged groove as Dylan peppered the jam with his unique harmonica
style. Even the leisurely flow of Not Dark Yet, the only song in Dylan's set
that was less than 25 years old, connected to a haunting and powerful
Dylan seemed unwilling to let the evening end, returning to the stage to scatter
five songs over two encores and blowing the venue's usual curfew by nearly 30
minutes. He finally relented after delivering a stunning rendition of his anthem
Blowin' in the Wind that brought the emotionally exhausting evening to a rousing
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box
Review by Diane Moody
Out of the ten or so times I have seen Bob Dylan, this may have been the
best. Based on the reveiws I have been reading and the set lists I have
been seeing, I wasn't expecting that much. But, when I got to the World
Music Theatre, the evening was perfect and I had a good feeling. Half the
crowd was already in their seats for the Bodeans. Even the lawns were
packed for Paul Simon. I'm not a great Paul Simon fan, but I got into it.
I had no idea what to expect. When Bob came out to join Paul, Sounds of
Silence was unbelievable. They were out of sync, but it didn't matter.
Bob's voice is so eerie on the vocals. Bob and Paul were having a great
time - they were smiling and laughing. By the time they did the Wanderer,
it seemed like they thought they were twenty years old. I could have left
right then and there and been happy. But, I didn't.
This was a crowd that came out to see Bob and he could feel it from the
beginning. He got into it. He was smiling and his band was smiling, alot.
I don't remember that from other concerts. Tangled Up in Blue, with a long
harp solo was incedible. Just Like a Woman, Masters of War, all of them.
All of the band members were into it, especially Bob. He did two encores -
the crowd singing along and the band and Bob loving it.
Actually, he did three if you count the fact that the roadies had put the
acoustic equipment away and Bob made them get it back after Rainy Day Women.
Bob stood on the stage and talked for a minute to his band and then all of a
sudden, the accoustics came back and he did one of the best Blowin in the
Wind's I've ever heard. He wasn't in a hurry to get off the stage. He must
have been up there three hours (counting his time with paul simon).
He even made a joke and kept coming back for bows, not just waves.
Great, wonderful, what can I say.
Review by Steve Frevert
Sorry it's taken me a few days to get around to this, and my apologies for all the
DylanChat folks who have already seen my review of the July 9 show in Tinley Park,
Illinois. I arrived late and missed the BoDeans opening set. Paul was better than I
expected, very lively and still in good voice; he even managed to hit Artie's high notes on
"Bridge." Paul introduced Bob towards the end of his set. Bob ambled out in his
shirtsleeves and duetted on "Sounds of Silence." I was grinning from ear to ear;
who would have thought even at the beginning of the year that we would ever
see a moment like this? Bob played acoustic, Paul electric, with no band. They
sounded better and tighter than I really expected. Joined by Paul's band, they
launched into "That'll Be the Day/The Wanderer." It was ragged but fun; they were obviously
having a good time. I realized that Bob was probably about the only person in the place who
had seen Buddy perform live. I thought "The Wanderer" was an ironic choice. At the end of
the movie of the same name, the early '60s streetgang member pauses in front of a
coffeehouse in NYC as a singer (supposed to be Bob, with his back to the window) plays
"Times They Are A-Changin'" to a rapt audience. He listens a moment, then walks on down the
sreet as "The Wanderer" starts playing. Nice twist, Bob- did he ever see the movie, I
wonder? The duet segment ended with a reggae-styled "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which
segued into Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knockin'" (NOT Little Richard's "Keep A-Knockin'") at
Bob was fully suited up for his set. He smiled and posed a lot and seemed to be having a
really fun time. "Cocaine Blues," the opener, was the only surprise in an otherwise
pedestrian setlist. However, Bob's performances were consistently solid, with no real
throwaways. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was a strong highlight, with excellent vocals. Too bad
his harmonica and guitar solos have become two or three note repetitions- he's certainly
capable of better. "Masters of War" was another solid version, and "Baby Blue" was lent a
nice country lament feel by the pedal steel. I'm always surprised that "Tangled" has
become such a major crowd pleaser, not that it's not a great song. Instead of the two
chord repetition after each verse like on BOTT, there was a chiming three chord part that
descended, then rose again- very pretty. "Watchtower" rocked but was fairly restrained. I
know Bob does it this way because he likes Hendrix's version, but I've always preferred the
foreboding sound of the original myself. "Just Like a Woman" is one of my favorite Bob
songs, but this version was pretty average, as was "Memphis Blues Again" which followed it.
Bob then introduced the band and made that terrible joke about the "dumb waiter" who
didn't take tips. Rimshot, please! "Not Dark Yet" was unfortunately the only TOOM song of
the night, and it was great. Bob's vocal didn't drop to a near whisper like on the album;
instead it had a real menacing quality to it, defiant instead of fatalistic. The first
encore opened with a roaring "Hwy. 61," the best version I've ever heard. I think Greil
Marcus refers to a Dylan/Band version in which they sound like they are barkers for the
best whorehouse in Tijuana; this night there's again an almost threatening tone-
outstanding. He remained in peak form for "Rolling Stone," with another great vocal
performance. "It Ain't Me Babe" had that slightly faster tempo he uses now, but when he
slowed the song down for his usual drawn out ending, it slowed down to the same pace as the
"Another Side" version and turned just plain magical. Bob was in his usual stance for the
harmonica solos- put the guitar down, hold the harp in the left hand, and put the right
hand on the hip like it's some kind of damned Hokey Pokey. Very entertaining to watch,
especially when he leans forward at times. "Not Fade Away" was a little sloppy but had
great spirit. Bob came back on for a second encore and launched into "RDW," which has of
course become merely a stoner anthem for far too many in the audience; I could have done
without it. The night ended with "Blowin' In the Wind," a very fine version. It struck me
that here we are, listening to the man who actually wrote this, a composition that has
entered the folksong canon every bit as much as "This Land Is Your Land." Sure, it's a
warhorse- heck, I'D rather hear "Spanish Harlem Incident" myself- but still.... If anyone
is sitting on the fence regarding this tour, don't waffle- go see the man. He's worth it,
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