Reviews

Worcester, Massachusetts
The Palladium
Downstairs
August 2, 2002


[Chris Elliott], [Stephen David Walter], [Brian Fairbanks], [Eben Hensby]

Review by Chris Elliott



Hi yall, I'm just shooting off a few (many) remarks for the curious... We
arrived at 2pm to wait in line and met many nice folks. A really
energetic, fun line, even through the pouring rain... Doors open, and most
of us who had talked outside wound up front and center, a couple rows
back.... Then the wait finally ended...

Bob emerged in all black, big black hat on his big head. The opening
acoustic songs were entertaining... nothing extradorinary for the Dylan
geek but solid.... Bob was restrained but generally into the music, NOT
looking miffed and haggard as he does sometimes at first... He grooved,
tore off a few fun and quite decent solos, and squinted and acted out his
favorite lines with eyebrows blazing.  I thought he looked great--trim,
cocky, and cool as hell... Ready for the silver screen, I must say.

My only criticism of the acoustic set was that the vocals were a bit rusty
at first... weak and lazy at times, missing words and syllables, with
rushed and vague phrasings here and there--good thing I know the words by
heart! But you know how just when you think he's sleepwalking a lyric,
he'll dig into a verse and blow the roof off... That happened in "Alright
Ma."

The energy exploded with "Tombstone", which featured a kick-ass groove
that's new to me... "Standing" felt tender but also jammed surprisingly
hard; the only downside was some overly loud dodgy guitar from Bob. But I
must hasten to add Dylan delivered some sharp, entertaining solos
throughout the night, and hardly ever stumbled in the way of his mates.

"Highwater" featured a new arrangement: no banjo and a slower, slinkier
groove. Absolutely kickass. Dylan really settled and dug into these
numbers. He was feeling it. Tonight he was just tickled pink by the
bad-ass, minor key, hard rock grooves. With the all-black garb, he really
looked like a happy dog in dirt, loving every minute of it...

Not to mention Tony, who smiled the whole show. Charlie sweated and looked
intense. Larry looked dreamy and peaceful and grinned now and then. And I
must say, I really like the new drummer. Kemper, despite all his subtle
skill and taste, bored me. George adds new spark and drive, youthful
energy, and a genuine desire to make the music come alive. Kemper to me
was a kind of blase, bland professional. But George's fills and
syncopations add so much to the jams. He radiates pleasure back into the
music. I think one reason Tony's smiling was George; I saw him look over
at George and they'd exchange glances, Tony beaming, George half-grinning,
and I think they were being tickled by the music and George's tough,
rolling beats.)

Can't forget "River Flow", and a stand-out jam with strong vocals; Bob was
way into it. Then comes "Masters", a sledghammer wrapped in velvet.
Perfect. And his voice was warmed up now Starting with "Tombstone", his
vocals really started sounding more focused, full, and fluid.  "Don't
Think Twice" was good as always, plus Bob sang the last verse in an
effective, brand-new phrasing. "Tangled" rocked, but nothing to
distinguish it from the hundreds of others, so I just tagged along.

Then "Summer Days", an absolutely mind-blowing jam. Both Larry and Charlie
were given much space tonight to show off. Charlie was showcasing a
remarkable metallic, chiming sound on his guitar that alternates between
scorching solo lines, plucks, and stacatto rythms. Bob sang this well, but
was drowned out a little.

Then the big surprise--a rarity for the hardcores: "Never Gonna Be the
Same Again." Between every verse, the band feel utterly silent for a few
bars. At first it sounded like a mistake, but they did the whole song
stopping and starting, with the empty spaces filled only by Bob's guitar
stabs and simple solo lines. Reminded me of Rolling Thunder in the way
they would deliberately pause for awkwardly long spaces. I enjoyed this a
great deal, though I'm not sure it completely worked.. After it, I heard
someone cry out "Thank you Bob!". Indeed.

With "Drifter's" and "Leopard Skin", the boys took the energy to another
level. Rocking versions, loud, loud volume, excellent vocals, though
occasionally overwhelmed by the volume. What can you say except that they
rocked? I loved how at one point while Charlie is wailing, Bob briefly
points at Charlie with his pick-hand and makes an "Oh Yeah!" expression.

The encores were just icing on the cake. As a CD-R trader, I'm a little
burned-out on these songs, so there were no highlights here. Everything
sounded good, but Bob started sounding tired and didn't move around or
make expressions as much. "Watchtower" brought the enery back up and Bob
ended the show at another peak, dancing, grooving, posing, fidgeting, and
almost kind of smiling for an instant.

All in all, I'd say it was a very good to great show.  Bob looked at the
audience a lot, surveying the scene like a king with his squint. It took a
while for his voice to warm up, and he appeared a bit less than fully
interested through much of the encore. But he and the band really built
the show to a fever pitch and the crowd was buzzing with energy.  We got
one bonafide rarity that may be for the ages in the annals of Dylan
geekdom--a Rolling Thunder-style "Never Gonna be the Same Again". The
setlist didn't thrill me otherwise, particularly in the acoustic sets, but
that's just a matter of personal favorites not being played.

One more thing:  Bob, Larry, and Charlie harmonized around the microphone
for "Hummingbird" and then "Blowin".  Visually, it's a great effect. And I
liked how it "framed" the show with a rootsy, communal gesture.  A nice
touch.

Can't wait to see what he pulls out at Newport, though I won't be there.
Can't wait to see the setlist, I should say.

Cheers
Chris

[TOP]

Review by Stephen David Walter



Don't be late, or so I'm told.  Somehow that's always a problem.
I thought I left in plenty of time to make it up to Worcester.
An accident-strewn New York Thruway was a grim foretokening,
however, and from that point until the slow roll through Hartford
we were ceaselessly, maddeningly tangled up in cars.  Much of
that had to do with our driving along beneath the spine of a
massive thunderstorm that reduced visibility at times almost to
nil:  no passing shower, mind you, but nature's full ferocious
artistry painting the daytime black, save for the lightning's
trapeze work, which seemed to taunt us from every corner of the
sky:

 "Well it's sugar for sugar, salt for salt
 If you go down in the flood it'll be your fault"

One by one the options disappeared:  no, we won't have time to
check into the hotel, but still for drinks and food; all right,
we'll skip the dinner and just find drinks (you can see where my
priorities lie); no?--well, we'll hit the Palladium's bar with
time to spare; oh Lord, we are completely screwed.  We are not
going to make the show.
 One more tie-up and we wouldn't have ... not most of it anyway.
As it turned out, we missed the first two songs only, and nothing
too remarkable I hear (though one drunken dolt identified the
opener for us as a "Jimmie Rodgers song," the very thought of
which ["Blue-eyed Jane"?  "Blue Yodel No. 9"?] tormented me until
I could find a proper setlist).  Jammed ourselves into the rear
of the tight-packed, stinking-hot cauldron to the familiar
strains of "It's All Right, Ma"--sung with considerable bite--and
our first glimpse of the original troubadour, clad in black from
head to toe (really, how does he not pass out, in those outfits,
on those stages? ... ice water in his veins, I guess).
 Let me admit right now that I had high--dangerously
high--expectations for Worcester; much more so than for Newport
the day after.  I had thought, or rather, let myself believe,
that the long hiatus and musical endeavors of a filmic variety
were going to lead to some serious upheavals in live performance.
That I realize the futility of such expectations never seems to
prevent me from actually _having_ them, you see.
 Well, not only was the setlist pretty well unchanged, as anyone
can see, but also the show was, I have to say, quite weak by and
large.  Rough edges are to be expected of a warm-up, to be sure,
yet this one seemed rather more like a slow night mid-tour:  few
risks taken musically, vocals largely noncommittal ... just an
over-arching lack of engagement with the material at hand.  All
those interesting developments "off-stage" hadn't had the impact
I'd hoped they might (poor pitiful me) on this somewhat
less-than-thunderous return to the road.
 There were exceptions, of course, and promising ones at that.
For your reading convenience I will asterisk them as I go along.
"Ramona," last of the first acoustic set, was delivered in its
now-typical sprightly yet somehow too-glib way, with long
sardonic vocal slides at the end of lines a la UK 2000 (much
preferable to the now-notorious "sing-songy" upturns but still
not deserving of an asterisk).  The electric set began with a
fairly blistering "Tombstone Blues," always a welcome addition to
the set, though one that needs at least a few performances to
come into its own, for band and singer to get a bead on its
intensity, that characteristic blend of hilarity and mortal
peril.  On the other hand, "Standing in the Doorway" (*) was
already just where it needed to be, from the sultry harp intro
all the way through to the end, with husky, pleading vocals and a
musical urgency lacking in many versions I have heard.  Very glad
that he hasn't let this one drop entirely, because I have always
felt it had tremendous live potential, and that the more they
worked on it the better it would get:  that it could someday
attain a kind of majesty similar to, say, the greatest live
renditions of "Just like a Woman" or "Simple Twist of Fate."  Ití
s getting there.
 "High Water" sans banjo.  I don't know.  Put it back, I want to
say.  Maybe I wouldn't had the vocals been fiery enough to
sustain the all-electric treatment, but that didn't happen
tonight, at least.  In fact Dylan's voice seemed frequently
submerged during this one, no fault of the sound system as I
wasn't too far from the board.  Perhaps the new arrangement threw
him off course, but more likely it was something else, some
twitching of the internal mechanism, because what followed was a
run of four songs remarkable for their tepidity and lack of
focus.  "River Flow" was inoffensive unless one counts the boring
of one's pants off as an active insult rather than a passive
quality more or less inherent in the song.  But the acoustic set
that followed made me somewhat less forgiving:  less at the "1998
Special" selections than at what I felt was an extremely
indifferent treatment of the songs by their author, all of them
inherently _great_ songs (albeit overplayed) in contrast to the
previous one, and requiring only a modicum of commitment to draw
out elements of that greatness.  Suffice it to say that even that
small amount was not forthcoming here; these were the least
impressive versions of "Masters," "Don't Think Twice," and
"Tangled" that I personally have heard in ages.  The whole set
passed by like one extended yawn.
 (Must we conclude that those wonderful acoustic experiments from
the now long-gone Europe run--Senor, Masterpiece, etc.--have
vanished never to return?  Lord, I hope not.)
 The downward spiral introduces its own excitement, though, of
the somewhat perverse, whistling-in-the-dark variety.  Next song
he'll pull out of it, one tells oneself (knowing he may never);
or one chastises one's own ear (knowing that, for good or ill,
it's the same as it ever was).  Tonight, mercifully, the former
hopes were answered, spectacularly, by "Summer Days" (*), as fine
as it's been since the outset, which is to say very, very
fine--better even, maybe, with this new bandito behind the kit
imparting an funkier edge, waking up the house right quick with a
clatter and a bang, Sexton mixing fluid with staccato and
bouncing notes like super balls around the room.  Exhilarating
stuff.
 Then, the doozy.  At least we got one, and at a time I'd least
expect.  I have to give "Never Gonna Be the Same" (*) its
asterisk even though it may not be entitled to it on the merits
of the performance alone.  No, it earns one for sheer
outlandishness and daring, those very qualities that make the
live Dylan experience so thrilling and which were, on the whole,
in short supply this evening.  The stop-start arrangement--and I
mean _long_ breaks of near silence between verses, punctuated
only by the softest caressings of guitar--were just divinely
crazy, there's no other way to describe it.  What would have
pushed the version completely over the top was a truly soulful,
inspired vocal reading a la Louisville '96, but that we didn't
get, alas; Dylan wrapped the package brilliantly, but seemed just
a little too muted, hesitant, and at times unsure of the lyrics
to top it with a bow.  If this one gets played more, though,
watch out.
 No more asterisks to dole out, I'm afraid.  The rest of the show
was perfectly competent and respectable, from "Drifter's" through
to the encore set, which hasn't changed one bit except to be, for
now at least, thankfully shorter.  Not to be snobbish.  I realize
that many have not had a chance to grow weary of these
songs--even at a warm-up club date, I suppose--and that for those
of us who have, well, that's nobodyís fault but ours.  And
sometimes I do still love to hear them myself; it's just that
there isn't anything left to _say_ about them.  Half an asterisk
(halfterisk?) to the one-mike bluegrass harmonies on "Blowin' in
the Wind" ... as if to say, Oh Brother, I'm right here.  Didn't
sound great but was certainly delightful to see.
 I mustnít forget to compliment an audience that was, with the
exception of a few college kids and sloppy drunks--considerable
overlap there--extremely attentive and wired-up to the music,
even at its worst.  So grateful I made the show.  Even a middling
performance from Dylan was worth the torturous drive.  Welcome
back, to the same old place that you started from (great, how
long am I going to have that in my head now).  Hope you can
resist the seductions of the silver screen henceforth, and give
us some more great years out there.

___

Stephen David Walter
S_D_W_@msn.com

[TOP]

Comments by Brian Fairbanks



I just wanted to add something to the review of, yes, a "very good to
great" show. Although everyone recalls the roar of the '74 crowd when Bob
sang "Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand
naked," it was even more powerful tonight. Then, it was a given that
everyone was pissed off at Nixon, but when Bob sang "It's Alright Ma"
tonight, and many in the crowd screamed their approval, it was probably
one of the most (welcome) surprises of the evening. And also: I don't know
if this had been pointed out at previous shows (if this isn't the first
time he's done so, that is)... but on one of the amps sat what could only
be Dylan's "Wonder Boys" Oscar statue. Hmmm... and no "Things Have
Changed"?

--Brian Fairbanks

[TOP]

Review by Eben Hensby



         Anticipation and excitement were running high as we pulled into
the parking lot just across the street from the Palladium in Worcester,
Massachusetts.  I had never been to a smaller venue show before and the
Palladium was to have a capacity of 2200 or so.  Also, starting with this
show, I was going to get to meet a whole bunch of Bob fans with whom I had
been chatting because Worcester and Newport became the shows to see.

         Anyway, as the car I was in pulled into the parking lot, I 
immediately recognized a
bunch of people whom I had been looking forward to meet.  I won't go into
the details of all the gatherings and whatnot here (I'll write this in a
different place called the "East Coast Tales"): I'll save this space for
my concert review.

         After waiting in the GA lineup for several hours through sun and
rain, we were let in. The lineup had been horribly managed as we tried to
run in through the doors.  Finally we got in, down the stairs, past some
rails (which I almost ran into), all in the dark (they didn't turn the
house lights on until Bob starts the performance...figure that out).  The
next thing we know we're crammed in like sardines.  We were all soaked
from the rain just before we were let in and because of our mad dash, we
hadn't left enough room between one another.  Also, the air conditioning
had broke down a few weeks ago, apparently.  Some people told me later
they gave up the madness and left the floor to go sit in the GA seats on
the balcony.  Some were worried they were going to pass out - we just told
them that things would be ok because there's no way they'd hit the ground.

         Soon, we were drenched in sweat.  Karen, a woman who was next to
me during the show, later told me that it looked as though I had taken a
shower.  I believe it too.  Anyway, suffice to say that the Palladium
didn't have the best atmosphere.  But although I complain about it now, at
the time, I was too darn excited to care much.  After all, I had managed
to get 4th row or so, the stage was lower than most stages (I could see
the checkered floor), and it was a smaller venue.

         Before the show started, I chatted with some folks around me,
finding out one was someone with whom I had made several trades in the
past.  I also noted that the Oscar is back on the amp.

         After waiting inside for an hour or an hour and a half or whatever 
it was, Bob and the band came out.  It was great to see George Receli back 
behind the drums.

Humming Bird: I've never cared much for this opener because no matter how
many times I've heard it I can't pick out the words; it seems to me like
Bob mumbles a lot of them.  It was interesting though because although
Larry and Charlie had their mics as usual, they leaned in on Bob's for the
vocals.  It was pretty cool to see them all leaning in on one mic and I
hope someone got a photo.  It didn't sound too good however as that mic
isn't designed for three people.  Larry, who was on electric guitar,
played a very cool lead part in this song.

My Back Pages: I'm glad whenever we get a song with the fiddle on it and
this is a great song to hear anyway.  Bob started getting into it with his
left leg wiggling around as though it became detached from his body.  This
version had great phrasing and it almost blew me away (which was aided by
the thought that I was seeing Bob in a small venue and that he was pretty
close).

It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding): The way Bob sung "hatred" and 
"lonely" (like
"lonelyeyeyeyeye") must be heard again, as he pulled out a powerful
version of this song.

To Ramona: Bob, above all, nailed the second verse with great 
phrasing.  Also the way he sung
the word "ring" was memorable: it was very 'rough'-ish in its delivery.

Tombstone Blues: When this first started up, I thought it was the electric
Maggie's Farm he had done on the Spring 2002 tour, but it turned out to be
a newly-arranged Tombstone Blues. It rocked hard but was nothing too
special in my opinion.

Standing In The Doorway: This song was considered a highlight by many.  I
didn't think it was all that great but it was during this song that I
suddenly realized how hot and tired I was, so maybe that took away from
it.  But I also had an excuse like this for not thinking this same song
was a highlight when others did in Newcastle...perhaps I just don't care
for the way he does it?  The harp intro was a nice touch.

High Water (For Charley Patton): It was very exciting to hear this song
start up when there was no banjo and no slide guitar.  It's hard to
compare the two versions because this one rocked harder than the other but
I like the different instruments on the other version.  I guess both are
interesting in their own ways.  One interesting lyric variation I caught
was instead of "make a strong man lose his mind" he sung "make a blind
man"...I'm not sure what that was about.

Watching The River Flow: This was a surprising highlight for me because I
don't usually care for live versions of this song.  It opened with a
wonderful harp solo and then it was very lively and rocking.  At one
point, he started stretching out words which worked very well.

Masters Of War: Bob started the second acoustic set with Masters Of War,
which didn't really stand out or anything to me.

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right: The last verse stood out because Bob
sung it with determination. His voice went lower at the end of each line. 
At the part when Bob sings "ain't no use in callin' out my name babe" the
guy infront of me and I both yelled out "Bob!".

Tangled Up In Blue: This wasn't a very good version of Tangled.  Bob
forgot a lot of the words, even having some lines not rhyme.  And it just
wasn't sung as though he cared about it.

Summer Days: This is such a great concert song.  The instrumental jam just
seems to get better and better each time I see it.

Never Gonna Be The Same Again: Here came the big surprise for the evening:
Never Gonna Be The Same Again!  He had last done it in '99, but the
biggest surprise was how he did it at this show!  After each line, the
music stops entirely except for Bob who plays some notes on his guitar. 
The first time it happened, he looked over at George and about three
people (including me) said "oops!" out loud because we all thought the
song had fallen apart or something.  But then it kept going!  I just stood
there in silence, almost stunned, unsure if I was enjoying this or what,
but it was most definitely interesting! I could hear Karen beside me and
she was in hysterics, probably from disbelief.  Every time the music would
die down except for Bob who would play different notes and riffs on his
guitar.  It was really quite something.

Drifter's Escape: I think we were still recovering from Never Gonna Be The
Same Again as Bob launched into Drifter's.  I love the end harp and prefer
it to the intro harp he has been doing recently: he often gets much more
into the end harp, as does the crowd.

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat: This is probably my least favourite set-ender
songs because it doesn't have much jamming for whatever reason and it just
seems old to me.

encore:

Like A Rolling Stone: Before this song started, Bob or someone else was
playing some riffs and stuff and I leaned to Ryan who was by now next to
me (we continuously shifted around throughout the show - the audience in
constant flux) and we were trying to figure out to which song that riff
belonged.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it sounded familiar.
Unfortunately, they just went into Like A Rolling Stone.  It was well
done.

Honest With Me: Another standard encore song.  Nothing too special here
for me, except that it was performed well.

Blowin' In The Wind: Like with the show-opening Humming Bird, Bob with
Larry and Charlie tried to sing into just Bob's mic.  Whereas it had sort
of worked on Humming Bird, it didn't at all work on Blowin' In The Wind. 
One could hardly hear them sometimes.  The only thing that was good about
it was it looked real cool.

All Along The Watchtower: I always hope to hear this one at the end - can
I get tired of this?  I don't know, but it rocked hard again tonight as it
always seems to do. I just love it.

         The show ended and we slowly made our way out of the sardine tin
known as the Palladium.  I'm sure Bob and the band were affected by the
temperature of the place too: how could they not be?  Nonetheless, the
show had been very good.  Some were praising it as being super great but I
must admit I was a bit (only a bit) let down.  Bob's phrasing didn't quite
seem to be as good as on some of the more recent tours.  I'm not saying I
didn't enjoy the show because I did.

         We got into our vehicles and headed out to Somerset to get rest
and prepare for the big event tomorrow: Newport Folk Festival.

http://web.uvic.ca/~ehensby/worcester.html

- Eben Hensby

[TOP]

page by Bill Pagel
billp61@execpc.com

Current
Tour Guide
Older
Tour Guides
Bob Links
Page
Songs
Performed
Set Lists
by Date
Set Lists
by Location
Cue
Sheets