August 5, 2009
Review by Karl Garcia
The much anticipated day of show finally arrived. We left McAllen at about 10:30 a.m. The
150 mile trip went by quickly. After checking in to the Best Western on Shoreline, we
freshened up and headed out. We arrived at Whataburger Field at about 3:30 p.m., an
hour before early admission ticket holders were allowed to enter the stadium. We were
about the 15th family/group in line. The guy who was first had arrived at 3:00 a.m.! I could
hear a few instruments being played during the sound check as the local news station i
nterview several attendees including my wife.
My nieces joined us at the front of the line just before the gates opened. Being among the
first to enter at 4:30 p.m., we headed for the seats in the shade along the third baseline
directly behind the visitor's dugout. It provided a good view of the stage out in centerfield.
The ballpark is located within walking distance of the bay and a cool breeze was blowing
through the stadium. Unfortunately, my brother, my nieces, and sister-in-law who set up by
the stage were not given much of a respite from the clear skies, mid-90 degree temperatures,
and high humidity.
The Wiyos took the stage and joked about being the warm-up act as they poured sweat.
Their entertaining brand of Texas swing was easy on the ears as the sound crew fine-tuned
the volume. They reminded me of Asleep at the Wheel, but there is no substitute for Ray
Out past the left field barricades you could see Willie's bus with colorful, air-brushed artwork
of a Native-American warrior on horseback. The crowd roared when he took the stage and
launched into a series of songs. His guitar and vocals were easy to hear. At one point
someone handed him a big sombrero, and he donned it for a good part of the set before
launching it into the crowd. The extended version of "Nightlife" was the highlight of a set
which included and a great version of Tom T. Hall's "Shoeshine Man" and his sister Bobbie
Nelson's piano solo of "The Yellow Rose of Texas".
Temperatures began to cool as John Mellencamp took the stage. The crowd sang along to
a number of his best known songs, and the full moon began to rise quickly as he played
"When the Walls Come Tumblin' Down". He explained to the audience that he had wanted
to cancel his performance because he was feeling "sick as a mother****er." What a trooper!
Then he picked a guy out of the crowd to come up on stage. He said he had chosen him
because he had noticed that he was singing along to every song, and he needed him to sing
"a song I don't usually do." He handed over the microphone and the guy named "Mike"
sang karaoke-style as the band played "Hurt So Good". The crowd was laughing, cheering,
and enjoying the spectacle as Mellencamp chimed in for this final number.
My 17-year old son decided to join my nieces up front, and when twilight faded and shadows
grew, Dylan and his Cowboy Band took the stage and opened with a rocking version of
"Watching the River Flow". The sound was loud, but clear as Bob's lead guitar cut through
the night. The band immediately segued into an introspectively melodic arrangement of
"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right". Bob's voice and guitar were distinct as the song clipped
along to the tempo of Tony Garnier's upright bass.
After the song was over, the stage went dark, and when the lights came up Dylan was
behind the keyboard as he began pleading through " 'Till I Fell In Love With You". Moments
into the song, Bob picked up his harp and walked toward center stage delivering a haunting
solo, and continuing to play a few notes to punctuate each line of the song. Next, the mood
simmered as "Spirit on the Water" floated on the breeze. The band sounded tight, and my
eldest daughter delighted to Dylan's whimsical voice and harp as they wove through the
song's extended musical interludes.
The band roared into "Rollin' And Tumblin' " with Denny's slide ripping from the stage leading
the Texas-style boogie. Bob fearlessly laid into the keys, howling each verse into a fever pitch
as the band tried to keep up with his pace. Everyone managed to catch their breath as the
band loped into "Workingman's Blues #2". Dylan admonished the audience with the delivery
of each word as he lashed out each line… "bring me boots and shoes!" The mix grew louder
as the sound began echoing off the stadium walls when they began "Tweedle Dee", one of
my youngest daughter's favorite Dylan songs. The atmosphere was lively as many of the
Tweedle Dums began leaving the show early.
We decided to brave the field and get a closer view. It could not have come at a more
opportune time as the somber strains of "Ballad of A Thin Man" crept upon us. The sound
mix sounded much better closer to the stage, and you could see the subtleties of the lighting
effects creating blue-hued auras and jumping shadows of the band members against the
ink-black backdrop that fluttered softly in the breeze. At about 25-30 feet from the stage,
Dylan loomed larger than life. The song was stunningly eerie. As Bob toyed with keyboards,
the musical concepts compounded themselves as we journeyed into a snarling "Highway 61
Revisited". It was comforting to be standing next to my wife and children as the stark music
revealed itself. Suddenly tiny speckled lights flooded the stage as the themes of the previous
songs coalesced themselves into a timeless version of "Nettie Moore". Dylan sang effortlessly
and the words mirrored the ethereal tone of the song. It was so honest; it was very difficult
"Thunder On The Mountain" exploded from the stage, and as we returned to our seats in the
stands I realized the music was louder than before with the sound booming against the stadium.
I had to lightly press my forefingers against the flaps of my ears for most of the remainder of
the show to prevent pain. I worried that I had contributed to my family's permanent hearing
loss! The song would have sounded fine without the unnecessary volume….."shame on your
The main portion of the program concluded. The crescendos of applause and cheers quickly
brought the group back on stage for the encores. Bob appeared to be enjoying himself
during a rave-up mid-tempo rendition of "Like A Rolling Stone", the bluesy rhythms of "Jolene",
and a truly cathartic version of "All Along the Watchtower" in which Dylan said, "Thank you,
friends" after he introduced the members of the band. As the moon glowed high in the
summer sky, Dylan and the group returned to the stage and stood there in the dark for some
time, seemingly pondering….something. While they stood on the darkened stage, Dylan
appeared to quickly toss something small off to side of stage as they appeared in the final
We all me
t in a central location after the show and started trading perspectives of the show. We
headed over to the local IHOP and had a late night meal as we began to piece the
experience back together.
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