page by Bill Pagel
Review by Fred Robinson
The highlight for us was Man in a Long Black Coat. Janet especially loves
this song, and I had said that I doubted we would ever hear it live.
What a great surprise! The black, starlit, background to the stage was
especially effective with this song. I was also pleasantly surprised to
hear Visions of Johanna, Queen Jane Approximately, My Back Pages, and New
Morning. I don't believe any of these songs would have worked if Bob had
not been in good voice (relatively). Last night, Johanna and Jane were
particularly beautiful--and understandable. Bob seemed stronger last
night than in Great Falls, and he even smiled a few times. The band did a
rockin version of High Water with Donnie on banjo. Although banjo was
central to the song last night as it was on the album version, last
night's version was electric rock and a bit contrary to the generalization
I made after the Great Falls show that this incarnation of Bob's Band is
more "Nashville country". Actually, I don't think I know a good term for
categorizing Bob shows. When Charlie and Larry were the guitars, I loved
the "traditional country type" openings like Wait for the Light to Shine
and other traditional gems sprinkled in like Looking for a Soldier's
Grave. I cannot see this current group doing "traditional" songs, but
then I did not think I would ever hear Man in a Long Black Coat live
either. Anyway, maybe its the pedal steel, or maybe its the uniform suits
on the band members, but it seems Bob is definitely exploring a different,
more "conventional?" country sound now. That said, to prove me wrong, the
show's closing All Along the Watch Tower was as powerful an apocalyptic
rock-and-roll statement as you will ever hear. Honest with Me was also,
and not surprisingly, a rock burner. George really shined on this one and
Watch Tower-not that he wasn't great on the others as well, but on these
two songs he really set the pace and controlled the feel with Tony's bass
in sync. I did not get very good looks at Donnie or Denny (or Tony or
George, for that matter) last night because speakers were in the way, but
they sounded great. Now, on to Missoula.
Review by Jascha Herdt
I had the opportunity to see Bob Dylan and his band play an exciting
and intense set of songs from the third row of the Brick Breeden
Fieldhouse! To say that was an incredible time would be an
understatement. It was more like venturing through time and watching
a master at work, seeing him at the top of his game, and most
importantly, witnessing the enjoyment that he and his band were having
on this summer evening. The set kicked off with a rousing rendition
of "Maggie's Farm," and as the show progressed, the songs went from
being soulful ballads such as "Lay, Lady, Lay" to high octane rock and
roll heard in "Summer Days," and many others. As with all of Dylan's
sets, there was a fair share of great nuggets, and a number of
rarities comprising the music heard in the show. This is something
that I have always found enjoyable about his performances. Simply
put, there is always something for every listeners taste whenever Bob
digs into his eclectic bag of Folk, Blues, Rock, and even Swing. The
music was top notch, and the band was on fire during the show. Bob's
vocals and harp playing were very strong and straight to the point.
On a rare occasion, he smiled to the other members in the band,
indicating that he was truly enjoying himself. His harmonica often
brought him to the center stage, and he moved with emotion to whatever
sounds he coaxed out of the instrument. The other members in the band
played brilliantly. There were firey guitar leads from Kimball,
Freeman, and Herron, and the Garnier-Receli rhythm section pulled out
all of the stops throughout the night. Seeing this performance was
once again proof that real joy resides in music when it is live, and
straight from the heart. Once again, Bob was able to share his craft
backed by a great group of musicians. The show had that indescribable
special vibe that will always keep me going back to his shows whenever
he's on tour.
Review by Mike Stillman
"Warning: Many visitors have been gored by buffalo. Buffalo can weigh 2000
pounds and sprint at 30 miles per hour (three times faster than you can
run). These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable, and
dangerous. DO NOT APPROACH BUFFALO." - Sign in my motel room
The Bob Dylan concert tonight at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman,
Montana, was just as wild and unpredictable as the local buffalo. My head
was spinning as Bob pulled out one rare gem after another, and remarkably,
the performance was every bit as good as the setlist. I can't remember the
last time that Bob and the band so exceeded my expectations.
Warning: I've always tried to be part of the Realist School of Dylan
reviewers, but I'm afraid that this review is going to fully qualify me
for the Ecstatic School. Be prepared for some unfettered superlatives. I
still can't entirely believe my own eyes and ears, but right now I would
rank this show in the Top 3 of the 50+ Dylan shows I have seen since 1978.
The concert began a little after 8pm with MAGGIE'S FARM, and it sounded
great from the acoustic sweet spot of Row 17. Bob's voice was strong and
clear, mixed high above the band. Stu took the first solo, then Don on lap
steel, and then Denny on guitar. Near the end of the song, Bob actually
took a short piano solo that wasn't bad.
Next was TELL ME THAT IT ISN'T TRUE, which broke the pattern set by the
Amazon setlist ten days ago. Don played some fine pedal steel during the
opening and closing riffs, as well as a solo. Denny took a melodic solo,
and it was apparent that the soloists were going to be in better form than
in Great Falls, which was carried by Bob's vocals.
The third song of the evening was WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW, launched by
Don's descending riff on the pedal steel. The band seems a little more at
ease these days, and this rendition could be described as rollicking, 7.5
on the Rollick Scale, with impassioned vocals by Bob, who leaned into the
microphone and tilted his head slightly to one side. Don took a pedal
steel solo, then Stu on guitar, and then Denny took a well-phrased solo on
guitar. Bob strolled out to centerstage with his harp for the first time
of the evening, and that always draws a cheer.
The fourth song was again LAY LADY LAY, with some strong vocals by Bob,
and two fine solos by Denny, who had an exceptionally good night. Next was
HIGH WATER, propelled by George's tom-toms and Don's banjo behind Bob's
portentous vocals. Stu took a solo that was supported by a cool Denny
riff, then Don took a banjo break of sorts. Denny played a solo in which
he seemed to be consciously reaching for some unusual ideas, and then the
entire band except for Don slowly faded to quiet while the banjo plinked
away. The band returned to full volume for the finish.
The first five songs were all fine, but the show began to reach another
level with QUEEN JANE APPROXIMATELY, which was as well-played and
well-sung as any rendition ever. Bob enunciated with precision and
inflected with emotion, and the crowd was hushed to the magic in the air.
Don took a sweet pedal steel solo, and it seemed like Bob didn't want the
song to end, as he took a long left-handed harp solo that went on for at
least a verse and a chorus, maybe two verses and two choruses. On this and
the other gems to come, it almost seemed like we were in a parallel
universe where rarities are always played incredibly well instead of
sloppily. It's hard to explain, but on a ten-point scale, I give it more
than ten points.
Next was TWEEDLE DUM, of which very little needs to be said, but I was
amused to hear a woman scream ecstatically as if it were her favorite
song, and I appreciated the extra effort that George put into his drumming
behind Stu's solo.
After the Tweedle interlude, things got back on track with MY BACK PAGES,
which has been played only a handful of times in recent years. I saw it in
Milwaukee in '99, but this incarnation may have been better. There was
upsinging in the first couple of verses, but the upsinging actually
worked. The final word of the first three lines was upsung to cause a
restless feeling, and the verse's final line was downsung to the root to
bring it home (traps, maps, and brow went up; now went down). Stu was on
acoustic guitar, and Don took another fine pedal steel solo. Bob migrated
to centerstage for a strongly rhythmic harp solo, which inspired the guy
next to me who said nothing else all night to say, "Go, Bobby, go!" The
crowd was really glad to hear this song, and so was I.
The ninth song was HONEST WITH ME, which is not a particular favorite of
anyone I know, but this was one of the stronger renditions since Larry
Campbell left the band. Some tight ensemble playing.
The curtains parted to a backdrop of blue stars as the band played the
first notes of MAN IN THE LONG BLACK COAT, which has made only one other
appearance on this tour, and it was well-played and thickly atmospheric.
Don played a steel riff that worked well, and Bob ventured a well-placed
descending run on the piano while he sang the "every man's conscience"
verse. Denny played an eerie little solo, and Bob played some harp from
behind his keyboard. Yet another compilation-worthy gem.
Next was I'LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT, with Don opening on pedal steel, Stu
taking his best solo of the night, Denny with another strong solo, and Don
closing with another pedal steel statement.
The concert could have gone downhill from here and it still would have
been a successful show, but the stratospheric level was maintained with
VISIONS OF JOHANNA, which was almost overwhelming to me after all that
came before. I thought that Bob had already exceeded his masterpiece quota
for the night, but this knocked it off the charts. Many of us were stunned
by how well Bob sang this song, one of his very best, which appears only
two or three times each tour. At one point Bob glanced over at Stu between
lines, and Stu nodded at him as if to say, "You're doing great, boss. Keep
it going and we'll follow you anywhere." Stu was on acoustic guitar, Tony
on acoustic bass, and Don was playing electric mandolin. This performance
was almost unreal in its brilliance, the best of all the Visions I've seen
including the Park West show a few years back. When it came time for a
solo, Bob nodded to Denny, who played an oblique but emotive solo that was
perfect for the song. When Denny has time to stretch out, he is capable of
some first-rate improvisation, developing ideas and twisting them into new
shapes, and this solo was a fine example. Denny is such a cerebral player
that you can sometimes almost sense the brain waves emanating from his
forehead, but this solo was well-balanced between intellect and emotion.
Near the end of the song, Don took a mandolin solo that had much more
sustain than you expect from that instrument, and he may have been plugged
into the same fuzzbox that he uses with the lap steel. Bob was hitting
notes at the low and high ends of his current range, and phrasing with all
the care that this song deserves. The band seemd awed, and so was the
audience and this reviewer.
I'm almost embarrassed to be raving this much, but the parallel universe
feeling continued with NEW MORNING, which has been played only a handful
of times since 1970. The first few renditions this year were tentative and
didn't do the song justice, but tonight Tony walked all the way over to
stand in front of Bob's keyboard and look him in the eye to make sure they
were in sync, and the rest of the band followed Bob and Tony. This extra
effort resulted in some powerful ensemble playing, and it was yet another
Bob put on his cowboy hat to play SUMMER DAYS, the final song before the
encores. This had its good and bad points. Don took a good lap steel solo,
and Denny played an unusual riff that worked well, but there were a few
inexplicable lulls when the bottom dropped out and no one stepped forward.
The four Love & Theft songs were sort of average tonight, common stones
among rare gems, but the high points were so high that it didn't matter.
The band left the stage to a well-deserved ovation.
I must cut this review short so that I can grab a bite to eat before
tonight's show, but the first encore A HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA FALL was also
exceptionally good. The final verse built in intensity with Bob singing
right on top of the beat, which caused some spontaneous applause from this
laid-back crowd. If you were to cut up the entire show into ten-second
soundbites, this moment would be the best of them.
It ended with wATCHTOWER. This show was just impossibly great. I still
can't believe it. Have a good night, and don't pet the buffalo.
page by Bill Pagel
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