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Review by Alex Lehmann
Saratoga was an outstanding show. The packed audience at SPAC were
loose and enthusiastic, totally into Dylan, and the band fed happily
from the positive energy.
SPAC is in a beautiful, wooded and rustic setting, with a two tiered
amphitheater followed by an expansive lawn. Occasionally I looked up at
the balcony from our decent seats below and was psyched to see hundreds of
tie-died teenagers getting in to Dylan, every song greeted by thunderous
applause from the multi-generational audience.
In contrast to Saturday night’s show in Mass., the guitarists were given
more free range and they showed why they have earned their roles in the
touring band. Larry Campbell provided subtle and complex support on
multiple instruments and Charlie Sexton was huge on his many leads,
particularly a ripping jam on “Highway ‘61”. All three guitars exchanged
inspired improvisations on numerous tunes. Tony Garnier, as always,
provided the underling groove, this night wearing a cool purple suit.
However, Mr. Dylan’s vocals were the most impressive element of the
evening. He hit high notes that I (small mindedly) had thought lost to
him long ago and sang with amazing clarity and grace.
The acoustic set, while offering no surprises based on the past few
evenings, was full of energy and movement.
“To Ramona” was far more impressive to my ears than it had been in
Canandaigua, with a clear delivery and sweet playing from Larry on the
“Desolation Row” was brilliant! The country tinged version keeps the
clear vocal rolling with great, mellow jams weaving into the clearly
delivered vocal epic.
“Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” was a gem again tonight. Great vocal
The audience dug everything with the loudest applause I have heard in a
long time following each song, particularly at the end of the show in
hopes of a final encore after his already impressive seventeenth song
(compared to his last two East Coast tours), but this was not to be. Other
“Country Pie.” I love the sound of this tune. Upbeat, bright,
animated, as is the general feel of this tour. The band looked pleased
and Bob was full of smiles and bows and nods of the head to the
appreciative, hopping crowd.
“Positively 4th Street” was slow and contemplative. The more familiar
lines were greeted by attempted sing alongs and rousing hoots and howls.
We were treated to “Tombstone Blues” for the second time in three
nights. Rocking blues, which is all I could ever ask for.
My wife asked me what songs I would like to hear as we drove through the
hills of Southern Vermont on our way to the show. The funny thing is, I
don’t think she’s ever asked me this before, although I always think about
it. Anyway, my wish came true with a nice version of “She Belongs to Me,”
my first “favorite” Bob Dylan song.
“The Wicked Messenger” was once again, to use someone else's words,
Wicked. Bob blew hard rocking harp to the awesome lead work exchanged
between Larry and Charlie.
“It Ain’t Me, Babe.” (As a side note, I think I was confused in the
Canadaigua review when I mentioned harmonizing from this song on last
year’s tour; I didn’t hear it at all last year). Once again, a subtle
delivery with a focus on fine vocals. As opposed to the near whisper of a
few nights ago, some of the lines were sung with impressive force, the
band holding back during what seems like a perfect time to bust out some
heavy beats during the chorus, instead maintaining its steady, hypnotic
rhythm. Tonight, this control worked with precision as Dylan put away his
guitar, grabbed his harmonica, and slowly built to the rousing beat we had
been anticipating. Wonderful performance.
“Highway ‘61,” featured the most inspired vocal force of the evening.
Here, his voice reached for high notes and stabbed low notes with
beautiful control, nary a sign of a crack in the many varied tones that he
achieved. Sure I’m biased, but this was startling. Sexton’s blistering
blues offered the perfect accompaniment.
While I’m not sure that anything will ever bump my favorite show from its
spot in my memory (12/10/95), for reasons probably arbitrary and more
romantic as time goes by, this one certainly ranks among the best.
Review by Jeanne Davis
I always read the reviews here when the tour is too far from where I live
- makes me feel like I've seen the show - so I thought I should contribute
one. I traveled from NYC to Saratoga to see Bob - camped out at Moreau
Lake State Park, where there were a lot of other fans in town for the
show. And what a show we saw!
The venue is in a very pretty park. Because I was hanging out there early
playing tennis, I was lucky enough to hear the sound checks!
Phil played for almost two hours, and then Bob and the band sound checked
around five. They played a lot of country influenced instrumentals
(complete with what sounded like violin), part of an "Oh Babe it Ain't No
Lie," and an excellent Chuck Berry style rave up that was stopped a few
bars in and restarted at twice the speed. There was also a sort of joke,
"Charlie's got a new toy, actually it's an old one; it's even older than
his guitar tech. That guitar tech is old - he's got to be the oldest
guitar tech in the world." No indication of what the toy was though as we
could only hear them! We also heard him lay down the gauntlet for the
evening with the declaration, "I've seen a lot of good shows here, I tell
you, yes I have." One of the other band members replied back to him,
"Have you?" and the affirmation came back, "Yes, I have, I sure have." It
felt like eavesdropping on a lot of fun, especially since they checked at
half the volume Phil did, but it was also something like a warm up for the
many fans who were lying on the grass outside the stadium listening and
looking up at the beautiful clouds amidst the pine trees. What a gorgeous
The show was really packed, and Duncan and Brady was a good opener, but
for me the second song really moved everything into high gear - To Ramona
felt like an old fashioned waltz in a ballroom, and even Bob was dancing
to it, swaying back and forth.
I'd been hoping beyond hope to hear Desolation Row live and was not
disappointed - it was beautiful, clear and fun and the music felt like the
whole spirit of the place was being pushed higher and higher.
The people around me finally got up for Tangled Up in Blue (as usual); why
do people wait until the fifth song in to finally give Bob and the band
some love? The musicians put out such strong energy it seems only polite
to try to give some back to them by dancing and having a good time.
Anyway, I don't wait for everyone else, because it would be impossible not
to dance to Bob (sorry to all you fogeys who want everyone to sit down
when you don't recognize the song). We got a fantastic extended harp
solo, and Tangled really rocked.
Soldier's Grave was interesting, but Country Pie was amazing - I love it
on the album, but it was even better live, just a rock out jam. Bob had
some great guitar solos throughout the night - I realized during this show
that the reason why some people rag on his guitar playing is because he
doesn't play standard licks. He takes chances with the phrasing, even
during his solos, sometimes coming in during a measure rather than toward
the beginning of it like most rock guitarists do. He played a lot of
lower note riffs tonight and it really fit the whole fifties rock feel
that underlines a lot of the songs.
Positively 4th Street, and especially It Ain't Me Babe (later during
encores) seemed reworked - lots of people didn't recognize them. Both
were excellent, as were all the other songs in the set. The standards had
tons of rocking energy with some heavy hitting drums, and we got a total
of three (three!!) harp breaks.
I could swear he changed the lyric to Things Have Changed saying something
like "I'm not Jim Carrey, I'm out of range, I used to care but...things
have changed." He was really in a silly mood, sort of hopping up and down
as he went back to change guitars, definitely enjoying himself and the
crowd. He even primped during the formations!
All in all an amazing set, a great time and a glowing feeling 24 hours
later. I'm so happy he's out with such a good band, playing so often.
Looking forward to my next two shows (Jones Beach and Stanhope).
Review by Doug Hatler
No play-by-play here. Just an some observations. I haven't seen Dylan
live since 1988, and what I witnessed was a man reborn. A man filled with
confidence and renewed faith in his audience, his talent, and his music.
Dylan may not put out music comparable to his golden era anymore, but he
is out doing it live every night; showing his audience what is and what
isn't rock-n-roll. He is reminding us all that it's not hit songs, record
companies, and a hip image. It's about the music. It's about getting up
there on stage and pounding it out with your comrades. Twisting the
audiences ear giving it new insights to old songs with new melodies and
new vigor. I witnessed a survivor unlike Hank Williams, unlike Janis
Joplin. You may not like the whole ride, but there are times when the
view is just breathtaking. This was one of them!!!
Review by Brent Warren
I have spent the last few weeks touring the US willy nilly, visiting
various states etc. I have now decided to contiune my tour following the
Dylan Tour for the remainder then come back to Europe and follow the tour
all around europe. Anyway I turned up at Saratoga without a ticket but
managed to get one without any trouble, I was right side of the stage near
the front, anyway dylan and his band came on and began with Duncan and
Brady followed by To Ramona , Desolation row, Frankie Lee and TUIB, this
was a sililar opening to the show in Canadaigua last week but the
difference between the performance and audience response was night and
day. Dylan and the band were definatly up for this performance with lots
of solo's smiles!!! and a general good vibe coming from the stage, the
audience seemed to apperciate this also and the crowd were very responsive
throughout the show. An intresting fact was that Dylans right boot had a
massive chunk missing from the sole, you'd think he'd be able to afford
new boots!!! also his white socks were showing through the boot!!!! The
acoustic set ended with Soliders Grave, then Country pie began the electic
set as usual. Positivly 4th St followed in a new arrangement which half
the audience did not recognise, in fact the guy next to me kept telling
his wife/girlfriend it was a new unreleased track which he was playing for
the first time. The rest of the show was pretty much the standard set of
the last few show's but with a better performance level, thoroughly
enjoyable!!! Hope tonight's show in Scraton is as good
Review by Vic Jones
The day was beautiful, the sun was shining. We made it up from Brooklyn
in record time, the parking lot full of smiles as the Bob and Phil show
was in town. I knew from previous postings to be sure to get in on time
to catch Bob from the first note played. And boy was it worth it. From
Duncan and Brady sounding off, there was a grin on my face that still just
won't leave for days now. It was my first time hearing this song - sadly
it is too short; I wished it would go on for longer as it is so upbeat and
a great opening song. To Ramona was a pleasant surprise which then led to
a wonderful Desolation Row ( "was that some kind of joke?" ... YEAH!!!
Sing it, Bobby!!! ) revealing new truths, layers not aparent to me before
in his ever changing interpretation of this masterpiece. Ballad of
Frankie Lee and Judas Priest was a nice treat, as was Searching for a
Soldier's Grave, but it was the TUIB sandwiched between the two which got
the lazy people who love to sit at concerts (I just don't get it, do you?)
up on thier feet. Gotta keep on keeping on, and Bob and the boys sure did
with Country Pie which rocked the house more than I've seen the band do in
quite a while - the guitars were loud and sweet. Positively 4th was the
truthful song which we've all come to know and love and Tombstone Blues
lightened things up a bit after. The real knock-out of the night followed
with She Belongs to Me: Hauntigly beautiful, full of texture, brought me
close to tears. Man, I just love that "she is a hypnotist collector, you
are a walking antique" line. The Wicked messenger sounded almost a bit
too rockin', but it was a good kick in the pants to get the crowd into the
hilarious Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. They took a break and came back out
for the encore, starting with Things Have Changed and then Like a Rolling
Stone which, let's face it, everybody loves. I am no excpection. During
It Ain't me, Babe the beauty of the lyrics struck my friend and he
couldn't believe what a genius Bob is. Folks, we have yet another
convert! It took my pal Dave a while to arrive, but he's here. 61 was
what you expect 61 to be and Blowin' gave us in Saratoga one last serving
of great harmonies from our friends. At the end, Bob and the boys stood
with dignity on the stage, letting us shower them with love and
appreciation for a job well done. And it really was quite amazing. Thank
Review by Kyle Holbrook
Bob Dylan and Phil Lesh
Goin Down the Road On Tour Forever
Bob Dylan opened his set playing an acoustic guitar and didn't pick
up his electric until Country Pie, the seventh tune. I scanned the
previous weeks set lists and this much acoustic playing is more than
usual. In my opinion he was trying to be more mellow or balladic if you
will. Even on some of the tunes where you expect and usually hear his
band get loud, they stayed soft, playing with a quiet dynamic that allowed
Dylan to sing a little more soulfully on 'Desolation Row' and a lot more
emotionally on 'Tangled up in Blue'. His renderings of 'Duncan and Brady,
'To Ramona', and 'Searching for a Soldiers Grave' seemed mellower, more
lyrical enforcement, less instruments drowning out that snarly voice.
Two reasons for this were evident in that his band was cut back by
two persons since the last time I saw him(1998). In my opinion this band
complemented Mr. Dylan's artistry as songwriter AND music maker. Bob took
many solos during this 17 song set, including some lengthy ones that
really soared on Positively 4th street and Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat.
Guitar phenom Charlie Sexton and multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, led
the charge with Bassist Tony Garnier anchoring the bottom. Sexton brought
out the passion in many of the songs with screaming but tasty solos,
dueling it out with Bob on a re-worked 'Positively 4th Street', and with
Campbell on 'Wicked Messenger'. It seems that Bob has re-interpreted many
of his tunes and is presenting them with more lyrical intensity while
letting the other players truly explore the tonal spaces between 3
guitars, bass, and drums. This new band really worked for me as well as
the audience who danced and smiled during most of the set.
After leaving the audience wanting more, they came back and did a
five song encore ending with some patented Harmonica playing during
'Blowin in the Wind' It was during this song that I reflected back
on all the tunes he chose to play and the dozens he did not, and got the
feeling there was a purpose in the order of presentation, a hidden
"theme" possibly. Of course, if there was, only Bob would know, because
he couched his more recognizable stuff in with the other tunes to create a
perfect musical message highlighting the lyricism and beauty of his words
balanced by the tasteful back ground performances.
I've seen Dylan many times and feel particularly lucky to witness
this performance. Between the choice of tunes, the tasty playing, and the
sweet acoustics inside the SPAC it made for a wonderful set up for Phil
Lesh and Friends.
Phil Lesh and Friends
The set change was longer than I thought it should have been, but the
moment Phil and Friends, Paul Barerre(Guitar), Robben Ford(Guitar), Billy
Payne (keys), and John Molo(drums), hit the stage they were fired up.
Opening with about eight minutes of jamming, adjusting levels and feeling
out the stage, the band cranked in to a high stepping version of 'Viola
Lee Blues' emphasizing the lilting melodies and hitting the down beats in
unison, generating smiling appreciation from the audience. The reading of
'Crazy Fingers' with Robben Ford singing lead was near inspirational.
This rendition of the tune recalled all the tenderness of the way the
Grateful Dead would gently place it in their sets as a treasured jewel.
The mellow tonalities of this tune were absorbed by the crowd as they
danced and swayed, immersed in the energy of remembering the spirit of the
Dead conjured up for them on this night by the Bass Sage, Phil Lesh.
The 'Mirror of Thalassa' is a powerful tune sang with an eerie vocal. This
tune has a much more structured song cycle than the usual jam qualities of
the Dead's material; still a good tune, and I enjoyed the playing of the
entire ensemble during this number. The next four songs pulled the
string from the balloon and sent it careening around the Saratoga
Ampitheater with frenetic musical virtuosity. 'Cosmic Charlie', 'Dixie
Chicken', in to 'The Wheel', in to 'Morning Dew' had the crowd dancing
ecstatically. Each tune was showcased perfectly by the players, Mr.
Barerre lead the band through 'Dixie Chicken' with unabashed pleasure,
handing off solos to Ford, and Mr. Payne skillfully guiding the rhythm
section through the southern boogie romp. The lead-in to 'the Wheel' was
a little messy, but the band recovered in time to sweep the dancers off
their feet with the enchanting call of the lyric, "every time that wheel
goes round, it's bound to cover just a little more ground".
Morning Dew is one of my favorite Grateful Dead tunes, often played
as the closer of a show, it has special significance to many
Deadheads. The soulful ballad begins with the soft crying of a baby and
ends with the wailing of a full grown man exemplified by a barrage of
searing guitars and keyboards, screeching to a halt like an old train with
the definitive ending, "It doesn't matter anyway!" This performance of
those tunes was remarkable for the setting. Sure, it wasn't a Grateful
Dead show, and it wasn't three hours of Dead music, not even all tunes
were Dead songs. The essence of Phil Lesh bringing his various friends on
board this musical experiment seems to be reaching for the soul of the
music, an attempt to find the inner voicings, re-examine the content-or
intent- of those old songs. By throwing them out there for the ensemble
to play and the crowd to enjoy, Phil has given us Deadheads a chance to
hear our favorite tunes with a new twist, and that's what Rock and Roll is
supposed to be about.
Bob Dylan (played first): Duncan And Brady*, To Ramona*, Desolation Row*,
The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest*, Tangled Up In Blue*,
Searching For A Soldier's Grave*, Country Pie , Positively 4th Street,
Tombstone Blues, She Belongs To Me, The Wicked Messenger, Leopard-Skin
Pill-Box Hat, E: Things Have Changed, Like A Rolling Stone, It Ain't Me
Babe*, Highway 61 Revisited, Blowin' In The Wind* *=Dylan on Acoustic
Phil Lesh and Friends
Jam -> Viola Lee Blues -> Crazy Fingers -> Mirror Of Thalassa ->
Cosmic Charlie, Dixie Chicken -> The Wheel ->Morning Dew, Encore:
Eyes Of The World -> Viola Lee Blues Reprise
MUSIC IS LOVE
KYLE A. HOLBROOK
877 LUV MUSIC
Live Music Adventures
FAMILY TREE PRODUCTIONS
MUSICAL PRESERVATION SOCIETY
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