Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

SaskTel Centre

July 14, 2017

[Jim Nelles]

Review by Jim Nelles

Treated myself to a Bob weekend. I’m close to Edmonton, but Bob’s showing
up on a work night so I decided to do a road trip to Saskatchewan for a
weekend double concert retreat. Saskatchewan is the easiest Canadian
province to draw, maybe a bit more challenging than drawing Wyoming and
even Colorado, but not by much. In fact, if you stacked those two states
with New Mexico and trimmed off the almost Mexico bit, that’s what
Saskatchewan looks like. Except in winter, when you can’t find it because
it is covered in snow. Which is fine, since it is so cold why would you go
in the first place? Ah, but it is now in the summertime and time to be
with Bob. Bob is multi-task touring; this time jumping from a jaunts
across Central and Western Canada with dips across the border for the
Outlaw Tour thing with Willie Nelson. They get the short set, we get the
full deal. First show is at the SaskTel Centre, in Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan. They have an affinity for the four letter combo ‘Sask’. When
I googled it, it was all theirs; even Sasquatch goes with the ‘qu’ over
the ‘sk’. The venue was easier to get to than a fast food drive thru off a
highway exit, and my motel was ‘this’ close to the venue I could walk
there. Second show was a short drive as I took a getaway place close to
the highway. The Mosaic Place is just off downtown Moose Jaw, not that the
distance is very far. Apparently, Al Capone used to run liquor through the
tunnels here where at other times Chinese families tried to survive
through the head tax years. They apparently lived in the tunnels. There’s
murals in town too, with a walking tour detailed on a convenient map for
those strollers out there. My seats were not shabby; I was 9 rows back in
Saskatoon and 5 back in Moose Jaw, pretty much center for both. I was
thrilled with the Moose Jaw seat because I had an upgrade! Once the VIP
sales closed down, the unsold tickets emerged at regular prices and I
scooped one of them by trading up for a whopping $2. Both venues serve as
home base for their respective hockey teams, which is serious business in
these parts. Chairs were put out over the covered floor about halfway down
the length of the surface from the stage. I don’t remember how full it was
in Saskatoon, but in Moose Jaw, it was about half full, if that. No one
was in the back seats. Of course, the setlist was the same at each show.
It is what Bob does these days. Stu sauntered on stage strumming a
pleasant tune, something familiar but unknown to me; seemed part Wild
Mountain Thyme, part Shenendoah. In the dark, one could see George slide
up onto his drum seat and Tony then appeared and Charlie was next and the
crowd responded with applause. From my vantage point I didn’t see Donnie
till he stood up at some point in the show. Then Bob comes on to some
louder applause and we are right into ‘Things Have Changed’. After the
opening few notes, everybody sat back down and pretty much stayed that way
for the rest of the show. This was especially noticeable in Moose Jaw
where I think I was the only one to stand at any point during the concert,
save the encore routine. Now I’ve been to my share of Bob’s shows, but
this was a muted audience. The people I chatted with, in the seats around
me were all newbies to a Bob show. They were mostly around my age, boomers
but there were enough of the younger set to say it was a mixed crowd,
age-wise. In Saskatoon, I didn’t get a chance to ask what they thought
because I had maneuvered my way up to a front seat by the time the encore
started. In Moose Jaw, one fellow told me there was no promotion of the
concert which he said accounts for the empty seats. He said he had friends
who would go but they didn’t know about it. Let me back up a bit here,
about in this front row seat, a VIP one I would assume, and one could not
see over the lip of the stage whilst seated. Especially with Bob more
mid-stage than front of stage. There was nary a soul standing at ‘the
rail’ because they were all still sitting down. And that was the show that
had more crowd interaction with the band. If the band was hoping to feed
off the crowd’s excitement, they would have all lost weight. The songs
themselves were great to listen to, especially Summer Days in Moose Jaw
and I liked Ballad of a Thin Man from Saskatoon. One of the reasons I
wanted to go was for the chance to hear Bob sing ‘Stormy Weather’. On the
CD, I like how the opening mirrors an approaching storm and it translated
ok in the show; I suppose I wanted something that sounded even more
ominous, not that I was disappointed, far from it. Bob was doing some
funny singing on Desolation Row where he would go up the scale as he sang
a line. Not sure how I feel about it. The opening choices were terrific
too.  I usually try to find a local newspaper to see what
kind of press Bob was getting. Didn’t see anything in the Saskatoon paper
and in the Moose Jaw paper they did have something, an article entitled
“Ten reasons Bob Dylan is a legend”. It is because of this article, I now
know what the good citizens of this town are called Moose Javians. I
wonder now if those in the other place are called Saskatooners?


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