July 30, 2009
Review by Brian Jordan
We had great seats right down front for a good solid 5 hours of a graduate
level class on great American music.
Much has already been written about Willie's ability to connect with the
crowd with his smiles and pointing, and it held true this night, everyone
around us had either gotten a smile and wave or a hat or headband from
Willie. He's a pro and knows how to make you love him.
I was not expecting to enjoy John Mellencamp's show as much as I did. Very
solid rock and roll from a tight band. Dylan came out just after dark after it
had started to rain a little. He played the first two songs, Watching the River
Flow, and Don't Think Twice on guitar and his Dylan/mathematical formula
ltriplet thing eads actually worked well for these. He took his place behind the
keyboard for the rest of the show. Lonesome Day Blues was next, followed by Hard
Rain. It was on Hard Rain that the new formulation of the band seemed to have
some trouble following his arrangement of this song. Stu and Denny kept their
eyes locked on Bob for any sort of clues, while Don Herron used his vantage to
study his hands on the keyboards. The band seemed very stiff and careful on
several songs, it was later, when they got to some of the more frequently played
songs on this tour that they seemed to loosen up a little and play. When they
found the groove, or felt comfortable enough that Bob would approve, they let
their considerable abilities shine. Bob's vocals were largely intelligible.
Some of the blame could probably fall on the mix, but I would imagine it's hard
to find a good mix for a growling rusty baritone sax. It works in the studio,
as evidenced on his last few albums. High Water was a high water mark, band and
Bob sounded great, Po Boy was nice to hear and Bob seemed to have a lot of fun
with this playful song. Tweedle Dee seemed to go on forever, and it's hard to
imagine that our greatest repository of amazing songs would chose to perform
this one, but the band played it well. Workingman's Blues worked. Highway 61
got the crowd on it's feet once they recognized what it was. It was a far cry
from the more blistering versions I heard with Charlie and Larry playing, but
maybe I should just give the new lineup time to figure our how to play with Bob.
Ain't Talkin' and Thunder on the Mountain were the last songs before the
encore, and the latter rocked, the guitarists seemed more comfortable with their
roles for this song and let loose. Rolling Stone and Jolene followed by
Watchtower of course for the big finish. Watchtower was strange, Bob was
evidently feeling playful as he did this strange sing-song thing to the lyrics.
He was obviously amusing himself as he was smiling broadly, and actually broke
into a laugh between verses. I guess if I played the same song for as many years
I would do what I could to have some fun with it to. All in all, a very
enjoyable night. Great to see Bob after a 3 or 4 year dry spell. Look forward
to seeing them again after the band has had time to coalesce.
Review by Duncan Hume
The atmosphere of the Verizon Amphitheatre in Alpharetta Georgia was akin to a
recently disinfected hospital wing. I’m sure the design looked great on paper
but this tribute to stone walls and steel bars was not the best place to
witness the amusingly named ‘”Bob Dylan Show”. Ticketmaster did their best to
screw things up by printing an 8pm start on a concert that commenced at
5:30pm. There was no convenience charge for the error. Throw in some
overzealous blue shirted ticket checkers who managed to check my ticket seven
times before I made it to my seat. Add to that their much more important
yellow shirted, look at me I’ve got a microphone strapped to my head so you
just watch it colleagues. They wandered around trying to look purposeful
without any purpose. Stir in the gentle waft of burger fat. Add a generous
chunk of two people in front of me who, as they parked their considerable
frames, decided to embark on an inane content talking competition. Stir well
and bake for a few hours minutes. I was set to see another show.
The Wiyots opening act were fun, doing a fine job of Blind Willie’s Dying’
Crap Shooters Blues. Willie Nelson galloped through his hits including a very
acceptable Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground. Mellencamp was high energy,
tight shirt, sock down the front of his jeans act well received by the crowd.
Bob took the stage around 9:00pm. Usual garb. Black Hat night tonight.
Watching the River Flow meandered here and there, going nowhere special and
was followed by a pretty dreadful Don’t Think Twice, Bob playing lead but
seemingly getting his fingers all in a knot. Lonesome Day Blues ground along,
“wish my mother was still alive” long since dropped. Hard Rain is a tough one
for the part timers. I saw a few head for beer and burgers as any initial
excitement generated by his mere presence slowly ebbed. High Water (For
Charley Patton) continued the wet weather theme. Donnie’s Banjo was not
audible. Maybe he was told to mime as part of the “show”. He did a fine job.
It started well enough but seemed to run out of steam a little towards the
end. I’d not heard this new arrangement of Po’Boy. Bob is not trying to cram
the thick lyrics into something that doesn’t quite fit anymore and it’s much
the better for it. Tweedle Dee made an unwelcome appearance but seemed to
re-energize our man if leaving the crowd a little more confused. A lovely
intro to Working Man’s Blues was complimented by a focused vocal delivery of
this very fine song. Highway 61 the usual load romp with lights up and the
motionless band almost moving from their spots. All night as I looked on that
line “fools standing around like furniture” kept haunting me. They’ve clearly
been asked to stand still. Very still. And they do.
Ain’t Talkin’ chugged along with Bob delivering the lyric more clearly than
he’d done most of the night. Thunder on the Mountain announced the close of
the main Together Through Life free set. I was fortunate to have seen the
Aberdeen show last week, where I witnessed a quite stunning Forgetful Heart.
Not tonight though.
Like A Rolling Stone is no longer belted out and towards the end of the
song Bob visibly lost interest in the event, resting one hand on the organ and
the other dropped by his side, glancing over at the band with bored blue eyes.
Jolene appeared as expected. It’s a good place for this album filler. A fan
made an attempt to reach Bob and Baron darted out to prevent an altercation
but he wasn’t needed as the local security got there first. Then Watchtower.
I’ve seen more of these than I am prepared to admit and for the most part
while enjoyable they generally are a signal to find which pocket I stuffed my
car keys into. Tonight was different. Very unlike any version I’ve heard.
Part way through he decided to adopt a kind of Phantom of the Opera type
delivery, smoothly SINGING a line with menace and repeating the melody in
the next, over and over. I never thought I’d say hunt down a live recording
of a performance of Watchtower…but do. Hunt down this one. Towards the end he
switched back to his usual delivery and glanced at Tony with a little smirk.
It’s these moments that make a “Bob Dylan show. “ Moments becoming more
fleeting with the passing of time but moments to be enjoyed and not taken for
granted. Nothing is Never Ending.
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