Reviews

Cooperstown, New York
Doubleday Field
August 6, 2004


[Chuck Owen], [Paul McGarry], [Tom O.], [David Smith], [Steve Goldberg],
[Mark Shemet], [Peter Stone Brown], [Tom Karel]

Review by Chuck Owen



The temperature was 30 degrees below normal, but when Bob Dylan and his
Band started their set it didn't take long to heat the atmosphere up a few
degrees, as Dylan played on a very chilly summer night in Cooperstown NY
the energy from the stage whipped the capacity crowd into a frenzy. Bob
Dylan on his current summer tour will draw even more fans to his magnetic,
charismatic personality as an entertainer because he allowed children
under 12 accompanied by an adult in for free. I'm sure that many will grow
up to follow Dylan and admire his talents as a recording artist, as I've
done since the early 70's when I witnessed him live for the first time.
Dylan opened with a powerful version of " Drifters Escape " and I'm sure
that many fo the children there asked their parents who is this guy?
Dylan had the entire place rock'in and by the time he performed "Girl
From The North Country" he had them hanging onto every word of that
lovely ballad.Dylan and his band did a beautiful version of " Make You
Feel My Love". I'm sure by this time that all the youngsters got hooked
on the concert bug, and will grow up with fond memories of seeing a
true living legend like Bob Dylan. "Honest With Me", "Forever Young"
and " Summer Days" were a great selection of tunes to close the opening
set Dylan had the crowd mesmerized by that time.

For the encore Dylan did "Don't Think Twice It's Alright", "Like A
Rolling Stone" and a blistering version of "All Along The Watchtower". I
don't know what many of the children there thought of Bob Dylan but in
my opinion he is so far ahead of all the other entertainers of today
that there is absolutely nothing to be seen in his rear view mirror! 

[TOP]

Review by Paul McGarry



Hey, Just got back from Cooperstown.......we got scalpers tickets down
there at face value and proceeded to get inside the famous Double Day
field at about 6:15. The stage was situated in left center with the
infield totally blocked off and the sound guys had their set up just north
of second base, so it made for a kind of awkward seating for most. We were
not that close but we could see the whole stage most of the time. The town
of Cooperstown was bustling and the State Troopers were everywhere with
good intentions only.The fan base was all over the map, young (lots o
kids) middle aged and lots of older folks. The Hot Club of Cowtown was a
nice opening trio and did an excellent job, jump-starting the crowd.
Willie came on around 7:15 and played a nice hit filled medlyish type set
that lasted an hour, I thought a lot of the crowd was there to see him.
Rain was threatening all night and a few drops fell as we waited 45 min.
for his Bobness to appear (if the rain came, it would have been brutal)
Dylan came on like gang-busters with (not one of my favs- but now it is)
Drifters Escape, the guitar slingers Stu & Larry exploded with a dual
attack that left me speechless! They, I am sure awakened all the now
deceased Hall of Famers from their resting places with a Heavy Metal ( in
a good way) boogie that made my journey from Canada well worth it. Though
I am rather tired of Tweedle Dee, they brought life to it at the number 3
slot, but I was in for another great treat with Seeing The Real You!!!! I
have never seen it live and I waited for this one and they didn't let me
down.......as much as I liked Freddy, the new man Stu is a better mix with
Larry, these guys are like heavy weights throwing haymakers at each other.
Seeing The Real You was a rock and roll "Masterpiece", when you throw in
Cold Iron Bounds and Honest With Me rock and roll is still alive. I am so
glad I went down to where they invented baseball (I think) and  enjoyed
the whole Americana type atmosphere with residents having parties on their
front lawns and State Troopers standing on corners, joking with long hair
hippies. But it was Dylan that made me leave that night with the hope that
great music is still around, you just have to seek it out!!

[TOP]

Review by Tom O.



I'm a baseball geek, so this pairing of Willie and Dylan--
the Geezer & the Wheezer--at minor league ballparks seemed like a
natural fit.  A leisurely drive up the NY State throughway, then over the
mountain behind Saugerties up to Oneonta--it's pretty mountain country up
there, dotted with great farm houses and small towns.  Doubleday was
nestled in a lush green hillside;  from the field, you could see church
steeples  among the trees and rooftops--it was very scenic.  It was also
unseasonably chilly--low 50's by showtime.  Because they banned booze, the
crowd was affable and well-behaved, with kids running around throughout
the show.  The show was also run very efficiently.  The Hot Club of
Cowtown played a brief, enjoyable set;  15 min. later, Willie was onstage;
because of his recent carpal tunnel syn., he relied less on his great
guitar playing (altho. he did play effectively, if tentatively).  However,
Willie's singing was solid--like Dylan, he's exploring the limits of his
voice, phrasing and working the lyrics well, esp. on a great "Bobby
McGee".   He played one hour with his usual Family band;  if you've seen
Willie before, it's like the first part of his typical show--he plays the
hits he's known for and stops to do trib. to a few fellow travellers, like
Kristofferson.  I could've used a bit more.  But he was off, and after a
35 min. wait, Dylan was on as the sky grew dark and a few intermittent
raindrops fell.  Maybe the cold air affected his voice--or perhaps my
healthy distance from the stage--but he sounded more strained than on
Wed.--what the wags call the "wolfie" voice was prevalent, as well as the
upsing that he's been working on the last couple of years.  Still, a
solid, enjoyable show--Dylan usually sounds good in the open air & clubs,
I'd reason--it's the arenas and stadia that I'd avoid from now on. 
Highlights for me were the chamber music version of "Girl From the North
Country" with chiming arrangement;  the new chord progression reminds me
of a slowed down version of some Dave Brubeck thing on "Take Five" but who
knows.  "Cold Irons Bound" was intense and clattery--just a tremendous
version punctuated with a great Bo Diddley beat ending.  A tender and
moving "Forever Young" (with a joint, one-hand keyboard/harp solo) and
"Don't Think Twice" were good too--a decent show improved by the sweet
surroundings and sharp support acts.  Unfortunately, the "let's play two"
hope of Dylan/Willie duets didn't materialize.  Dylan did, however, retool
Wed. night's joke for an apt baseball ref.  "Speaking of baseball," he
said, unprompted by anything, "Stu brought his wife downtown today for a
bat--that's got to be the worst trade ever made."  Is the Dylan joke album
far off?  Time to book him at The Sands, with Don Rickles opening.

Lastly, it's almost pointless to say this, but even as Dylan plays the
same 5 or so songs every night, it's amazing how he keeps reinvesting &
re-energizing them.  I never need to hear "Rolling Stone" or "Watchtower"
again, but both were stunning last night, part. a strong vocal on the
former.  How does he keep doing this?  Bring yr ball caps to the park, if
you're going, and get ready for the full 9 innings.

[TOP]

Review by David Smith



Just arrived back to the Detroit-area after a long weekend in Cooperstown
for the Dylan Show.  When Dylan and his band launched into an intense
version of the Drifter's Escape for their first song of the night, I knew
that it was going to be a strong electric show.  Stu Kimball is doing a
fine job on guitar and to my pleasant surprise, this change has given
Larry, it seems, a chance to take more solos himself, especially on Seeing
the Real You at Last and All Along the Watchtower (where he played the
steel guitar very effectively).  Despite being in an open-air baseball
park, the sound system was excellent, loud, and clear on both the electric
stuff and the more-or-less acoustic songs (Girl of the North Country and
Don't Think Twice--both of which sounded excellent).  Throughout the show
Dylan sang clearly and took several glances out at the audience.  I think
this tour of ballparks should be a lot of fun for the band and for those
who go to hear the great music that Dylan is making these days.  The show
started promptly, giving the Hot Club of Cowtown a good 40 minutes or so
for their set.  They are very excited about the tour (calling it their "22
days of Christmas") and put their hearts into the show--don't miss their
set.  It'll be interesting to see and hear what this leg of the tour
brings as Dylan and  his friends travel on to each of these twenty-odd
ballparks.  Be well and enjoy the show--

David Smith
Ferndale, Mich.

[TOP]

Comments by Steve Goldberg


My wife and I have been "on the tour" since before the NET, 1978 to be 
precise. This latest one drew a split decision. My wife thought it was a
very  good show. I thought it was wildly uneven. At least Bob was. The
band was great.  Stu is a big improvement over Freddy, even if "he did
make a bad trade when he got a bat for his wife", to paraphrase his 
Bobness. Dylans's vocals swung back  and forth between strong and raspy 
and incredibly irritating when he does that  "up" thing at the end of a 
line. For me, that little vocal "tic" completely  ruined an otherwise 
beautiful Forever Young, Dont Think Twice and a strong but  could do 
without Dee & Dum. The new Girl From The North Country is quite  beautiful, 
but with a completely new melody, why not just write a NEW SONG? The  care 
he showed in singing this song was really quite touching. 

Next stop Fishkill.

[TOP]

Review by Mark Shemet


Willie 's show was-"Willie light" or the casino lounge version of his real
show (witnessed in Texas)- his voice was solid  , medley's of all the
hits, etc but the "percussion" section was unbelievably lame- a snare
player , percussionist , and his 13 year old son - playing as Willie put
it "those things he knows the names of"-  sappy touches like a large rain
stick shaken every time you heard "blue eyes crying in the rain" or a
cheesy bird whistle (one of those water filled ones) when "Bird" was in
the lyric. A real Drummer (like the monster in Dylan's band) -would have
brought his show up a serious notch. 



Dylan ROCKED- his band was tight and the dynamics spectacular. Only
negative - the stage position of Dylan's keyboard, probably advantageous
for eye contact and communication to the players but terrible for anyone
watching from stage left- After playing keyboard and harp all night- as a
final tribute to his past it would have been a classy touch for Zimmie to
walk out with an acoustic and harp rack and do just one song- (masters of
war , etc) just to connect with those who have him burned in their mind
from the 60's.   

I last saw Dylan in 1993-94 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage
festival. Aside from him prowling the stage like chuck berry with his
Stratocaster and refusing to leave the stage - this show  was just as
powerful- even if  it was a cold raw night on Otsego lake.

Mark Shemet

[TOP]

Review by Peter Stone Brown



On the road leading into Cooperstown was a big wooden sign in front of
a house proclaiming: "We love Bob and Willie".  Maybe a
mile later a similar, more official sign: "The Cooperstown Fire
Department welcomes Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson".  Things have
changed in America.  30 years ago, even 20, this was unthinkable.

Cooperstown was in a festive mood, and the stadium was right in the
center of town.  Every house in town that wanted to was making lots of
bucks parking cars on their lawns.  The atmosphere outside the stadium
where people were forming several lines was pretty mellow.  Various
vendors selling food and of course the official Bob Dylan and Willie
Nelson souvenir stands.  The security people even let you behind the
barricades if you had to use the facilities and they even opened the
gates an hour early surprising the first-in-liners who'd been
there all day and had to rush their chairs and other provisions back
to their cars.

The gates open and people are literally running to the stage way on
the other side of the stadium from the stands and the two-hour wait
begins.  At exactly 6:30 and Hot Club of Cowtown, a western swing trio
from Austin took the stage and started playing.  And they were hot,
the guitarist playing some amazing jazz runs and the bassist slapping
out the rhythm like mad.  If they were nervous, and who
wouldn't be, opening a highly promoted tour for two American
music icons, they didn't show it.  After a set that
included a couple of Bob Wills tunes, some originals and ended with
"Orange Blossom Special", they ended their set precisely at
7 and Willie Nelson's crew started making sure everything was
working.  While that was happening one of Willie's crew comes
on-stage and tosses some Willie Nelson for president posters into the
crowd.  17 minutes later Willie Nelson and Family took the stage.  For
those who knew, the big question was would Willie play guitar.  But
after spending a couple of minutes waving to the crowd, something he
would do continually throughout his set, Willie strapped on his
ancient battered, early '50s Martin gut string, the one
on the verge of collapse with the big hole next to the soundhole, the
wood worn away by decades of picking.

Willie's been doing pretty much the same set for 30 years (with
a couple of variations) opening with "Whiskey River" and
then right into all the big hits he wrote, "Funny How Time Slips
Away", "Crazy" and "Nightlife".  Then
it's tribute time to Lefty Frizzell, Ray Charles, Kristofferson,
Hank Williams, Merle Haggard with stops along the way into gospel, pop
and whatever else he might feel like singing.  Basically, as the
leader of America's foremost Western swing band told me a long
time ago, "Willie comes out and sings every song he
knows".  Well, make it the ones that fit into his set.  And when
he says family band, he's not kidding.  The same lineup has been
with him for decades and includes his sister Bobbie and piano and this
time around two of his songs Lucas, a pretty hot blues guitar player
who looked like he couldn't have been more than 14, and Michael
who was younger on percussion.  It's a pretty crazy band who are
both tight and ragged at the same time.  At Cooperstown they were
tight.  Nelson, asides from being the most relaxed performer
you're ever going to see on a stage rarely sings on the beat. 
He sings behind it, ahead of it, every which way around it and at
times you think they're going to lose it entirely, but somehow
they always come together on the chorus.

Some may find Nelson's little shenanigans, constantly waving to
the crowd, throwing hats back and forth tedious, but it works.  Unlike
the other performer on the bill, he lets the crowd know that he knows
they're there, and he does it an almost beatific way, yet never
loses sight of the song he's singing and playing.  At
Cooperstown, Nelson played exactly an hour.

About 35 minutes later Bob Dylan took the stage the usual fanfare and
announcement and ripped into "Drifter's Escape"
spitting out the words with a vengeance.  They then went into
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight".  The band was
incredibly tight, the song now more a country swing arrangement than
the blues shuffle of previous incarnations.  "Tweedle Dum and
Tweedle Dee" provided a rocking interlude before it was back to
the same territory with "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With
You" making me wonder if this was the first time this and
"Baby Tonight" were done on the same show.  Then came a
blistering “Seeing the Real You At Last”  with great
guitar work by Stu Kimball followed by the current arrangement of
"Girl From the North Country" with Larry finger-picking
and Kimball providing atmospheric country-tinged guitar fills obtained
by turning the volume knob on his Fender strat.  Dylan was singing
strong and well, and blowing lots of harp.  "To Make You Feel My
Love" came next and it occurred to me that this was the most
middle-of-the-road set I'd ever seen Dylan do, which was
verified by the next song "Forever Young".  The remainder
of the show maintained the intensity level, though it was a somewhat
mellow intensity level, with an acoustic "Don't Think
Twice" going right into "Like A Rolling Stone".  On
the latter song Dylan's keyboard was quite audible and I started
thinking he attacks the piano keys like a cat toying with a mouse.  At
exactly 10:30 the show ended, the major surprise being there were no
duets of Dylan and Nelson.

[TOP]

Review by Tom Karel



Having read a few fan reviews and the splendid review from the Albany
Times-Union, I'd like to offer my own thoughts on the show.  This was my
15th Bob concert.  I am 56 years old, but did not see him perform until
1994.  Since then I've more than made up for lost opportunities.

Cooperstown was a very good concert, but not spectacular, and had no big
surprises.  I guess the biggest surprise for me was that Bob and Willie
did not sing together.  I'm sure most of the people there were expecting a
few duets.  It was, however, one of the "nicest" Dylan concerts I've been
to - a very down-home, small-town-friendly atmosphere.  This concert was a
very big deal - a huge deal - for Cooperstown, certainly as big as the
annual Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.  I got the sense that this
was the biggest concert ever held in the town.  We saw signs in shop
windows welcoming Bob & Willie, and the Fire Department had a big welcome
sign in front of the station (the department raised a lot of money from
the sale of over 10,000 hot dogs and sausages that night, so they were
very happy).

This was primarily a long weekend family vacation for us, with the 
concert as a wonderful bonus.  Since the whole family was not 
enthused about the concert, we had only purchased 3 tickets.  My 
eldest daughter (a Dylan fanatic who has seen Bob at least 25 times)
couldn't make this trip, but my son and other daughter accompanied me. 
They had each seen Bob once before, on the Paul Simon tour.  My wife
happily bailed out and stayed at the motel (which was on a nice small lake
near Oneonta).  We drove into the town - a village, actually - around 4:30
and parked (for free) within walking distance of the ballpark.  A large
mass of people was congregated in front of the gates and was being let
into the park earlier than scheduled.  We got in line and a few minutes
later we were in.  We then had about a 90-minute wait till the show began,
but it was fun to sit and watch the people arrive, and we got a few hot
dogs, etc.  The stage was set up in deep center field and the outfield
grass in front of the stage was already filled with people by the time we
got in.  We sat in the bleachers on the third base side, with a decent
(but distant) view of the stage.  It was quite chilly, almost cold, up in
Cooperstown; I wore a jacket and a cap most of the evening.  We were a
little concerned about rain - the sky was thick with dark clouds all
afternoon and evening, but we lucked out.  The only rain that fell was
very light, right before Bob's set began, and it only lasted for a few
minutes.

The crowd was very interesting.  I'm sure there were many die-hard 
Dylan fans in attendance, but most of the people there were from the
greater Cooperstown area and probably came simply because it was an Event.
 If anything, it was a Willie Nelson crowd and I saw many people who even
looked older than Willie!  There were families, cowboys, aging hippies,
and little kids (who got in for free).   I saw one 10-year-old boy wearing
a Dylan t-shirt.  (there seemed to be a lot more Willie shirts, however). 
It was a very nice, happy mix. No drunk or obnoxious fans, for a change.

The opening act, the Hot Club of Cowtown, played for about a 
half-hour and were also very nice.  A young woman with a fiddle, a 
guy with a guitar, and a guy with a stand-up bass.  Their excitement about
being on this tour was pouring out of them.  The woman said that this was
the most exciting night of their lives.  By the time they had finished,
the entire ballpark was filled, except for those sections of the stands
that were closed off or that had a bad view. The outfield area was packed
with people on blankets, though most of them stood during Willie's and
Bob's sets.

After a short break, a local guy jumped on the stage and loudly 
introduced Willie Nelson ("Cooperstown wants Willie Nelson for 
President!!"); I was afraid that he would also try to introduce Bob 
(he didn't).  Willie and his band of 6 or 7 musicians came on stage 
and launched into a very enjoyable 60-minute set.  He sang a lot of 
songs - probably all of his hits included - but most of them seemed 
very short.  The highlights for me were two covers: "Me and Bobby 
McGee," and "Georgia on My Mind."  He talked a little bit between 
songs, and at one point early in the set he threw his white cowboy 
hat into the crowd.  He played the remainder of the set in his famous red
bandanna.  At the end of what would be his last song, he stopped singing
and began waving like crazy to the crowd.  The band kept playing and
Willie wandered off the stage.  And that was it.  He was done.  No
encores.  Either that's a normal kind of finish for him, or maybe his
hands were bothering him.  Or maybe he was worn out; he hasn't toured for
a while.

Then there was a long break, almost 40 minutes, until Bob took the 
stage.  I braved the line at the men's room and still got back to my seat
in plenty of time.  Raindrops began to fall, the sky got pitch black, and
the crowd was starting to get restless.  I had told the kids that a lot of
people would probably leave after Willie's set, but I was wrong.  The
place was still packed when the familiar lead-in music began.  My son and
daughter enjoyed the new, long introduction, then the crowd roared when
Bob appeared.  He plunged into a loud and lively "Drifter's Escape" and we
were under way.  And it was loud!  Willie's set, and the Cowtown group's,
were a lot softer and their vocals were stronger in the mix.  I thought
Bob sounded good and I could make out most of the words, but I think the
crowd wasn't prepared for the explosion of sound from his band. During the
second song, a very well-sung "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," I gave daughter
number one a call.  It was impossible to talk, of course, but it was fun
letting her hear a snippet of the concert.

After song 3, "Tweedle Dee", I noticed a steady stream of people 
starting to leave.  Either this was not the Bob Dylan they thought 
they'd hear, or they heard him and decided that they had heard 
enough.  The exodus continued through the rest of his set, but the 
crowd down on the field stayed pretty intact - and enthusiastic - 
till the end.  I suspect that a much younger crowd was on the field. Some
of the fan reaction around me then became both annoying and amusing.  A
group of middle-aged folks a few rows behind us just couldn't deal with
Bob's voice.  When "Tweedle Dee" ended, to loud and long applause, a guy
remarked, "Well, somebody must have been able to understand what he was
singing."  A woman tried imitating his voice and kept laughing until the
next song began.  However, in the row in front of us, an older couple was
really into Bob - the husband was wildly bopping his head to the song and
the wife had her binoculars trained on the stage much of the time.

The first unexpected song came next, "Tonight I'll be Staying Here 
with You." (I didn't know until later that he had sung it in 
Poughkeepsie).  Bob sang it very well - one of the highlights of the
night.  However, the folks behind us didn't see it that way - "I can't
stop laughing" - "the band is good, but his voice sucks" - "he never could
sing."   The next two songs, "Seeing the Real You at Last" and "Girl from
the North Country" were also gems, and marked three in a row that I hadn't
heard him sing before.  "Cold Irons Bound" was another sound explosion,
with that muted echo effect, and the crowd responded well to it.  When he
started singing "Make You Feel My Love" my daughter said, "I know that
song,"   It was her first familiar Bob song of the night.  Next was my
favorite song of the entire evening, "I Don't Believe You" (and another
first-timer). The musical intro was very confusing - it sounded like the
band was testing out a couple different songs - but when Bob started
singing it all came together.  His voice was strong and clear and melodic
and the song sounded terrific.  "Honest with Me" was good loud, wailing
rock and Bob's voice got lost a bit in the noise.  More people were
leaving now, and some of the lights in the back were turned on for a while
to illuminate the dark walkways.

Then the show, in my opinion, finally really jelled and Bob went out with
a strong finish.  I'm sure most of the crowd enjoyed the last 5 songs. 
"Forever Young" is always a fan favorite, though Bob ruined it a little
with his bothersome "up-singing" at the end of most of the lines.  "Summer
Days" sounded great, but it seemed a little early in the set - only the
12th song by my count.  After a short break, the encores began and Bob
could do no wrong.  "Don't Think Twice" was very well received and was
well sung, though the version he did at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia
in March was better.  The segue into "Rolling Stone" brought a roar from
the crowd and this was one of the best live version's I've heard.  Bob was
enunciating clearly, spitting out some of the lines, and jumping around
behind the keyboard.  Then he spoke for the first and only time of the
night. After a loud "Thank youuuuuuuu!!" (which the kids found hilarious)
he began introducing the band.  When he mentioned Stu Kimball he said,
"Speaking of baseball - Stu went downtown and got a bat for his wife.
(pause) It was the worst trade he ever made."  Except for the "tossin' a
baseball bat in the air" line from "Honest with Me," this was the only
baseball reference of the night.  I had been hoping for a rare performance
of "Catfish," but I guess that probably won't happen on this tour.  At
this point I thought maybe Willie Nelson would return for a song or two,
but the band began the ominous "Watchtower" music and the usual encore
pattern continued.  At the end, the stage remained dark for a long time
and again I thought that Bob and Willie might appear, but that didn't
happen.

As we left the ballpark we heard a lot of positive comments from the
younger people in the crowd.   We walked back to our car, cold, but very
happy.

Tom Karel,
Lancaster, PA

[TOP]

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