July 26, 2007
Review by Cody Boutilier
As usual, Dylan didn't disappoint at Thursday's Costa Mesa show.
All he forgot to do was set fire to the place as a parting gift.
He played widely known songs as well as ones which true fans
appreciated. One highlight was a very bluesy "'Til I Fell In Love
With You," a version in my opinion superior to the orginal recording
on Time Out Of Mind. As Dylan blew his soul out on the harp, he
seemed to be conducting the band with his free hand, lowering and
lifting it with the dynamics of the music. His keyboard playing was
top-notch, and his electric guitar work on the first four numbers
was much welcomed and enjoyed.
Danny Freeman ranks with Mike Bloomfield and Robbie Robertson as
one of Bob's best lead guitarists. I loved to see his fingers glide
as he played that Robert Johnson riff on "Rollin' and Tumblin.'" He
played several notable solos, especially towards the end of the
set. Dylan performed half the songs from Modern Times, each one a
thrill to hear. He delivered the poetry of "Workingman's Blues #2,"
"Spirit On The Water," and "Nettie Moore" with such grace. Everyone
yelled "No!" reassuringly when he got to the "You think I'm over
the hill verse." "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and "Thunder On The
Mountain" sounded like apocalyptic calls to arms from a man who's
nobody's house boy.
"It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "The Lonesome Death Of
Hattie Carroll" are easily two Dylan songs with the most immediate
lyrical impact, and he performed both of them. If I remember rightly,
he skipped the verse in "Only Bleeding" about political parties being
"social clubs in drag disguise," but that's all right: one line from
that song is plenty poetic brilliance.
One verse from the concert, however, which really hit me was from
"Spirit On The Water":
When you're with me
I'm a thousand times happier than I could ever say
What does it matter
What price I pay
I've heard those words so many times, but that night I realized how
truly beautiful they are. It's been that way with so many Dylan
lyrics. Even rediscovering a song for the twenty thousandth time
can reveal a little more of its perfection. As always with Dylan,
every song was pure magic. I enjoyed hearing "Summer Days" as much
as he enjoys performing it. "Ballad Of A Thin Man" was full of dark
portent. With Dylan's grandly disquieting keyboards complementing
Freeman's soulful guitar work, this 2007 version matched the 1966
Free Trade Hall version (with (most of) The Band) for sheer
hair-raising effectiveness. And of course, how can I forget about
"Tangled Up In Blue." Or "Lay Lady Lay." Or "Blowin' In The Wind."
The man once said that true love tends to forget, so if this wasn't
true love, then it must be something higher.
Cody Boutilier (16 years old)
Lake Forest, CA
Review by Ron Wells
It was a nice night at the County Fair. The moon was almost full, the
weather warm and comfortable, and the show for Bob Dylan was sold out.
Having seen three shows last year, this my first one of 2007.
Bob and his “Cowboy Band” came out dressed in spectacular fashion, the
band wearing gray suits, black shirts, and hats. Bob was dressed all in
black, his pants had a silver stripe down each leg, and he wore a hat
similar to his “Desire” hat.
With his Academy Award in place behind the keyboards, the fun began:
It was as near to a perfect show as one can get. Bob’s voice was
spectacular. It seemed deeper this time around and you could make out
virtually every word as he played with and manipulated the lyrics to his
Each song was a gift.
He played guitar for the first four songs, and then returned to the
keyboards which he has preferred for the last 4 years or so. Still, it was
fantastic to see him back with the guitar and really playing it,
especially on Watching the River Flow.
People have been critical of this band, but to tell the truth, I don’t
know why. They are tighter than ever. Stu Kimball doesn’t seem to do a
whole lot, and Donnie Heron watches Bob so closely it looks like he fears
the wrath of Bob if he misses a note, but Tony, George, Denny and all of
them do remarkable work. I might have preferred Sexton/Campbell, but this
band is about the tightest working band today in my estimation.
I might quibble and say Highway 61 and Summer Days weren’t that
special, but these are minor, minor complaints.
Nettie Moore has become a crowd favorite and Bob really enunciates the
words, causing a hush to come over the sometimes boisterous crowd. It’s
like everyone just sits back in awe and wonder at the power of the man and
Highlights? Too many. Everything. We go from a raucous Rainy Day Women to
a peace inspired Blowin’ in the Wind, with stops everywhere in-between.
His harp playing was thoughtful and inspired, adding depth and texture to
After one hour and forty-five minutes, it’s over. Bob and the band
stand facing a crowd of old timers and first timers, all on their feet
screaming and applauding, lit up by the outdoor amphitheater’s lights so
Bob can look out on his congregation. He holds the mike stand in his left
hand and slowly points two fingers at the people in the front rows as he
takes in the adoration of the crowd.
Then he ‘s gone. The Church of Bob slowly empties under the smiling
moon. If you miss him, it’s your sin. Not his.
“Thunder on the mountain, and there's fires on the moon
A ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
Today's the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow
Well, there's hot stuff here and it's everywhere I go”--Bob Dylan
Review by Howard Mirowitz
OK, so I went to the show in Costa Mesa with my wife last night and we
ended up seated right behind the sound control booth, about halfway back
in the venue from the stage, which meant that the mix was perfectly
balanced for our specific location. I've never been at a concert that
sounded this good, technically speaking, although at certain points they
had Donnie and Stu, who was playing an acoustic guitar all night, down so
low in the mix that they were difficult to hear. Bob came out in a black
suit with white stripes running down the sides of his pants legs and a
white flat-brim hat. The Pacific Amphitheater, with a capacity of about
8,000, was sold out for this engagement, Bob's only visit to Southern
California this year. The audience was very enthusiastic and supportive
throughout the show.
The crowd shot to its feet as he came on stage and gave him a warm welcome
as the band cranked up a lurching, uneven version of "Rainy Day Women"
with Bob on electric guitar that ended up putting everybody back in their
seats, Bob making up new lyrics on the spot as usual - "They'll stone you
when you slam the door .". Bob's growling voice was like an ancient
temple trying to sing, but the show would get better.
Next was "Lay Lady Lay," which brought another round of cheers and
applause from the crowd. Bob was still on electric guitar for this, and
Donnie was undoubtedly doing excellent pedal steel work, except you
couldn't hear him, which was very unfortunate. The arrangement kind of
booped and brumped along into a nice outro, with Bob singing down low,
"Lay across my big brass beeeaaaaaddd."
"Watching The River Flow" followed, with Bob still on electric guitar.
His voice suits this tune well, and the band was really together for the
first time in the evening, playing the song with a bit of a New Orleans
lilt as Bob growled out the lyrics. This was a very good rendition that
got a good portion of the audience up out of their seats.
The new arrangement of "It's All Right, Ma" was next. This started off
sounding a bit like "High Water" used to sound, with the band plunking
away on one lead-in held chord. Bob was still on electric guitar and
Donnie was on fiddle, which added a lot to the band's presentation. Bob
really got into this vocally, pushing his delivery ahead of the beat while
Denny contributed a Bob-like 3-note lead. I'd rate this version
Then the band began to play the familiar descending chords of
"Workingman's Blues #2" as Bob switched to the keyboard, where he remained
for the rest of the evening. Denny pulled together the first really good
guitar lead of the night for this one. The lyric's political bite ("The
buying power of the proletariat's gone down ." seemed to resonate with the
audience, which repeatedly cheered throughout the song, surprisingly for
politically conservative Orange County. Bob essentially talked his way
through the tune instead of really singing, changing the lyrics: "I don't
want to be forced into a life of continual crime." I prefer the piano
keyboard sound of the album version to the organ sound of this
arrangement, but the song was well-executed and the organ did not detract
from the performance.
Next, Denny's energetic slide guitar intro signaled the beginning of a
very good, rollicking version of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" with Bob really
getting into the song. His organ was somewhat down in the mix, which was
good. Donnie was mixed down too, though, which was not good; he was on
electric mandolin. But you could hear everyone, and the band was honking
and rocking and people were standing up again. I was skeptical of Denny's
slide chops before this, but he definitely impressed me; his lead in the
break was really outstanding, moving all over the neck, combining slid
notes with fingered ones.
"Hattie Carroll," the next tune, was one of the highlights of this show.
Bob didn't sing this song so much as emote it - "She carried the dishes
and HAULED out the garbage" - almost as if Mark Twain were telling the
story. The song got a huge cheer after the closing verse. What Bob seemed
to be doing with the band was using them for fill, talking the lyrics
instead of singing them, with the instrumental backup working itself
around his oration kind of the same way a jazz band's pianist plays fill
around a lead instrument. It sounds boring, but it was very effective and
Bob really put the song across.
It took me a while to recognize the next song - a surprise, "Till I Fell
In Love With You." George pounded away at this one with a triplet - "bam
- bam - bam" - at the end of each verse, but the arrangement was kind of
plodding, although Denny threw in a nice blues lead and Bob added a little
bluesy riff on the harp.
Then the band began to play a two-chord pattern that sounded exactly like
"Ferry 'Cross The Mersey," but it was the intro to "Tangled Up In Blue."
This was well-received by the audience, which began to light up cigarette
lighters and wave cell phones in the air. Denny played an interesting,
syncopated lead while Bob made up some new lyrics: "She was at the
Tropicana / Told her I was going to Atlanta / Said 'You can stay right
here.'" In the outro, Bob played a harp lead that sounded for all the
world like an ocarina playing the "Sailor's Hornpipe." The arrangement
was interesting, but I miss the tremendous acoustic Larry Campbell -
Charley Sexton version.
The next song was another highlight - "Spirit On The Water." Bob actually
sang this one instead of talking his way through it, and he crooned it
perfectly, hitting all the notes. Denny played a superb lead with great
chromatic modulations that got him some nice applause and cheers from the
crowd. Bob's harp lead at the end was just like the one on the album
version, only shorter. The crowd really got into it, responding to Bob's
"You think I'm past my prime?" with a huge "No!" and cheering at the end
of "Let me see what you've got / We can have a whoppin' good time."
The band then wound itself into "Highway 61 Revisited," and this old
warhorse got a standing ovation from the crowd, largely due to an
echo/reverb effect on Bob's vocals at the end of each verse - "Have it out
on Highway Sixty-One/one/one."
The crowd quieted down and the band went into "Nettie Moore" with Donnie
on violin. Although this song usually has the audience spellbound and
quiet, this rendition produced a lot of crowd response, with cheers in all
the usual places ("They say whisky'll kill you but I don't think it will,"
etc.) and then some, especially from the back of the amphitheater, where a
pack of totally beered-up yutzes were yelling indecipherable words of
encouragement to Bob on practically every verse.
"Summer Days" was next and although Tony gave his standup bass a desultory
twirl, this song was a shadow of its former self. Nobody was up dancing,
although the audience seemed to enjoy the tune and yelled its approval at
Bob closed the main set with "Ballad Of A Thin Man," picking away at the
organ and upsinging most of the last verse. The song cried out for the
missing piano lead so well remembered from the album version. But he
saved the song at the end with a nice harp lead.
The crowd, standing, roared its approval as Bob and the band walked off
stage, lighting cigarette lighters and cell phones again and waving them
until they returned for the usual 2-song encore. This night, it consisted
of "Thunder On The Mountain" followed by the new arrangement of "Blowin'
In The Wind," sadly interrupted by a Coast Guard helicopter flying low
over the amphitheater. But all in all, it was not a bad show. The band
has improved greatly since last year, although it's not nearly as good as
the celebrated Campbell-Sexton lineup. Donnie Herron didn't really have a
mandolin or pedal steel lead all night, which I would have liked to hear,
especially on "Lay Lady Lay," but on the positive side, I didn't think
Bob's organ playing was all that bad. There were no really transcendent
moments, but the performance was workmanlike and a good value for the
money, something one gets to say about fewer and fewer things these days.
Review by Scott Eisner
Although the drive took 2 hours and 40 minutes from Los Angeles to
beautiful Costa Mesa and the wine was excellent before the show in the
parking lot of the fairgrounds, something was lost. Last night was my
29th Dylan Show dating back to Tucson in 1978 and tonight will be my 30th.
I am a fan and will travel to see my hero. I thoroughly enjoyed all the
Modern Times material but felt that Bob and the Boys in the Band lacked a
bit of enthusiasm. This band has none of the beauty of Larry and Charlie
backing up Bob on vocals. I also feel that they take no chances in trying
to mix it up a bit. I was hoping for Friend of the Devil or any other
seldom played gem, but got a tried and true set list with little
variation. Here's hoping that Paso Robles proves to be a wilder ride.
Review by Gary Osterbach
It was a beautiful, warm summer night in SoCal as Bob began the final
three shows before his journey Down Under to Australia and New Zealand,
and from the moment he hit the stage with his five gray-suited bandmates,
the heat was truly on. Dressed in his black suit with the white stripe down
the legs, and shedding his cowboy hat for a topper which was part Rolling
Thunder, part Amish, his Bobness looked and acted the part of-well, of Bob
Dylan, and he played it to the hilt.
Opening with Rainy Day Women, and ripping through Lay, Lady, Lay,
Watching the River Flow, and blistering Its All Right Ma, the first twenty
minutes were mind-blowing throwbacks to the 60s and early 70's,
especially as Bob was on guitar for each one. While of course the songs
now sound nothing like the originals, nor do they sound like the screaming
of Before the Flood, but are now finely nuanced song-poems that play to
the strengths and limitations of Bob's 66-year old voice. Moving then
into Modern Times, my favorite from this album, Workingman's Blues was
stunning, and then straight into the boggie of Rollin and Tumblin - the
filled Amphitheatre was rocking. Besides the 50-something graybeards like
myself, with their wives by their sides only because they love us, there
were 20-something "teeny-boppers" dancing in the aisles, as Mr.
Zimmerman attracted some probably the same age as his granchildren.
Then, for me, a bit of a lull for three songs - Hattie Carroll (nicely
phrased, though), 'Til I Fell In Love With You, and Tangled Up in Blue -
which while still always fun to hear live, especially never knowing what
words he will change, what verses he will leave out, was rather rushed.
The band, however, was great throughout, and made the "Tangled"
chorus have some real punch. Bob's harmonica also shone on this.
Then, into the last third of the show, and I have to say each song brought
a momentum to the next one, with a sweet Spirit on the Water moving
into a revitalized Highway 61, then a beautiful, plaintive Nettie Moore,
a rollicking Summer Days and a truly spectacular Ballad of a Thin Man - Mr.
Jones looking as much a fool today as he did in 1965.
When playing keyboard on his most recent tunes from Modern Times, Bob
was actually moving, shuffling his feet, rotating his shoulders in an odd sort
of "dance", looking like he was feeling the music throughout his body. He
actually smiled briefly several times, and all in all, he sure as hell looked
like he was having a good time and was in sync with the excellent band.
His encore was what he has been playing at most recent shows, Thunder
on the Mountain (how can such a new song become such an instant
classic, to the point where the opening chords already send a chill up the
spine of the true Dylan fan), followed by a full, not-rushed Blowin in the
Wind, which for me was a wonderful switch from the Watchtower/Rolling
Stone finales of years past. Just beautifully done, with a long intro, and a
full minute harmonica riff to finish it off.
Bob and the band stood in the spotlight for about 20 seconds, taking
their bows, and Bob raised his hands as if he were going to announce
something, but never did, just held his hands up and then faded off
into the night, headed for another joint.
This was my seventh Dylan show since 1974 - I would rank it better than
the 80's and 90's shows, about equal to 2001 and 2003 shows I saw
(also at county fairs), and even more amazing now that he has five
additional classics or near-classics in the repertoire. Amazing.
One more thing. Sitting on a speaker next to his keyboard, directly
facing the crowd, sat Bob's little friend Oscar - as in the Academy
Award. A tribute to L.A? Wow, things have changed...
Thanks, Bob, and safe travels.
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