August 9, 2008
Review by Carsten Molt
On August 9th, Dylan was the headliner of the inaugural New American
Music Union Festival in Pittsburgh. i was uninterested in most of the
acts that were performing so i decided to skip most of the festival and
only show up for Dylans set.
I drove to the Mellon Arena where they had shuttle buses that would
take you to the festival site, There was limited parking by the site itself
but the local television news said that it was full by noon today so i
didn't even attempt to look for a parking space there.
The festival was being held at the SouthSide Works which is similar to
your average block party in a urban residential setting. i arrived during
a pretty good set by the Raconteurs which gave me some time to hang out
and watch people dancing and one guy vigorously flossing his teeth.
Eventually, the Raconteurs finished their set and the crew started setting
up Dylan's equipment. At this point, i moved down closer to the stage and
found a good spot at center stage about 20 feet back. The Nag Champa was
lit, the lights went down and the intro started and ended as the lights
went up and with a quick nod to the band, Dylan led them into...
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35- This is usually a getting the voice in shape
warm up, but by the end of the first verse, Dylan was roaring the words as
the band limbered up and they managed to end the song in perfect sync
which is kind of rare for this tune.
2. It Ain't Me, Babe- Not a unexpected choice but it turned into a decent
version of the song. Dylans voice was reasonably strong and he was hitting
quite a few low notes.. During this song, there were a couple of flashes of
lightning off in the distance that kept happening once in a while during
the rest of the show.
3. The Levee's Gonna Break- This was a excellent version with both
guitarists getting downand dirty and Donnie Herrons mandolin playing nicely
turned up in the mix. This version of Dylans band had some growing pains
initially but has slowly transformed into a very tight unit.
4. Spirit On The Water- A very relaxed and easy flowing rendition. It gave
the crowd the chance to shout "No" on the "You think I'm over the hill"
line. Dylan ended the song with the best harmonica solo of the evening.
5. High Water (For Charlie Patton)- i was hoping to hear it as Dylan
always plays it well and this version was no exception. During the
interlude jam, Donnie Herron found a tasty rhythm line on his banjo which
both Denny Freeman and Dylan picked up on and they rode it for all it was
6. Tangled Up In Blue- Dylan was clearly having some fun with his phrasing
while the band pulled out all the stops on the instrumental jams and
broad smiles were abundant both on and off stage. It got the loudest
audience cheer of the show at its conclusion.
7. Honest With Me- It was done very well with George throwing in several
triplet rhythms in random places. The original guitar riff is totally gone
in the songs current arrangement which is kind of a let down since that
guitar riff was my favorite part of the song. Dylan either forgot a
couple of words or just mumbled them at one point.
8. Beyond The Horizon- One of the highlights of the night with great
phrasing from Dylan, gorgeous pedal steel playing from Donnie complimented
by shimmering guitar playing from Denny. i find the song lacking on the
album but it is excellent in concert.
9. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)- Thankfully, they have abandoned
the slow, murky arrangement of last year and the new arrangement is quite
staggering. The song starts strong and builds and builds as it progresses.
Dylans vocals were strong and had a fierce edge to them while Donnie
played a jazzy bluegrass banjo in the background. Denny played a pretty
nice solo during the bridge that fit the mood of the song perfectly.
10. Nettie Moore- i know that i am in the minority but this song doesn't
do much for me. It was well played, had some nice violin work by Donnie
and Dylan sang it with emotion but it didn't change my opinion of it.
11. Summer Days- As overplayed as it is, there are still nights where it
rocks. This version wasn't one of them but it came close at points. Dylan
was using some interesting and inventive phrasing. He'd sing one line in
a descending vocal pattern and the next in a ascending vocal pattern. i
don't know if it worked but it was a change of pace on this tune. Denny
played some sizzling guitar lines but overall, the song never really took
off like it sometimes does.
12. Ballad Of A Thin Man- Bob was still playing around with the phrasing
quite a bit. Donnie's pedal steel solo was long and excellent. Dylan
ended the song with another good harmonica solo. This was one of the
better versions of the song that i have seen in recent years.
13. Like A Rolling Stone- This song was its usual anthemic, sing-along
self. It featured a superb solo by Denny. Dylan was singing is strongly
and with more conviction than he usually does on this song.
A, It was a short set by Dylan. Judging by my watch, it was almost
exactly a hour and a half. There was a strict curfew due to the festival
being held in a residential section.
B. Dylans vocals were exceptional and he was really experimenting with his
C. The current line up of the band is playing really well and seem to be
comfortable in their roles. Tony had his stool by his amp but didn't use it.
D. The audience was a lot more respectful and attentive than i expected
from a festival crowd. On my way out of the site, i passed another guy
flossing his teeth. This may be a new concert going trend that i am not
Of course, these are just my opinions and it is only the way that i
experienced the show. I apologize for any typos and for the length but i
tend to ramble, Any feedback, corrections, comments (or copies of the
show) are welcome.
In Bob we trust,
Comments by Matt Woak
Dylan was ON for every song he did. Normally with two hours to play he had
only 90 minutes and he definitely did not disappoint. Starting out with
Rainy Day Woman to get the crowd pumped then going into another classic
"it ain't me babe". He then played two from the 2006 album 'Modern Times'.
Then in my opinion played the highlight of the night with ''High Water.
All and all the show was GREAT.
Review by Dan Chester
Let's Rank 'Em (Pittsburgh Aug 08) (criterion: selection,
performance, timing, magic): 13) Beyond The Horizon: messed with it a
little too much. 12) Rainy Day: voice was working out kinks 11) Honest
With Me: man, he has about one hundred and seventy tunes better than this
(though played pretty well) 10 and 9 (tie)) Nettie Moore and High Water:
sound was muddled and why aren't the banjo and violin featured a little
more once you introduce them 8) Ballad: played well yet didn't have the
stellar phrasing displayed on recent versions 7) Like a: came strong with
the stellar phrasing in the second half of it (loosely defined as brand
new rhythm and accentuations in a song you know well) 6) Tangled:
inventive and fun 5) Ain't Me, Babe: mighty fine arrangement (start of the
stand-up bass vibe) 4) Spirit: maybe play it later to let the whole thing
(the show) sink in first, call it Canonical 3) It's Alright: fun and
inventive and energetic take on it (banjo works so well) 2) Summer Days:
had the vibrancy of a...summer day 1) Levee's Gonna Break: without
question the tune he's performing best right now Fairly low-key kinda
thing, sound was outdoor-sy, singin' kicked in at a lotta points, wishin'
for one solo minute ("You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome...?), some really
melodic/rhythmic leads, the organ sounded great on a couple songs.
Review by Ann Bourine
There’s something happening here and you don’t know what it is, do
you, Mr. Jones? That describes the crowd at the Dylan show in Pittsburgh.
They were all Mr. Jones. Talking loudly, playing with their cell phones,
not really listening to anything other than what they may remember vaguely
in a song; they were clueless. They were all probably from England, too. I
ran into a guy on the street who claimed that the lead singer to some band
going on right before Dylan was a genius. I think he got that one wrong
too. They wouldn’t recognize a genius if he explained the secrets of the
pyramids to them. The whole scene was wrong, except for Dylan who came
out playful and alive with Rainy Day Women, who spoke about a love gone
wrong with It Ain’t Me Babe, who intermixed swinging ballads like Spirit On
the Water and Beyond the Horizon, with masterpieces like It’s All Right
Ma and Ballad of a Thin Man. But this young hip-less crowd of wanna be
rock and rollers only came to hear lines like the president of the United
States must have to stand naked; now that relates somehow. It must have
made ‘em feel like real Liberals. Liberals or not, it made them put
down their cell phones and shut up for a second. Dylan and the band gave
an excellent show in spite of the crowd. Let’s get back to the Stanley
Theater, or since it’s gone, some other place where people actually come to
Review by S. J. Trageser
Bob Dylan is my favorite artist. As a performer, he’s a magician, and even
when the voice is not up to par, his band usually bails him out. I’ve
enjoyed him “warts and all” numerous times before. Last Saturday’s
performance at the American Eagle sponsored New American Union festival on
Pittsburgh’s Southside, however was disappointing, not in the least
because he and his band were outshone by 5 other bands on the program
(including the 2 that performed the previous night.) It was a team effort;
an off-night for star and band. And although I enjoyed the Black Keys,
Roots, Gnarls Barkley, Spoon and Raconteurs immensely, I nevertheless
wanted so badly for Bob to kick ass [and take names – whatever the hell
that means.] But it was not to be. Rainy Day Women started things off, and
while [true to the studio recording] it’s supposed to sound ragged, this
rendering was off the charts brutal. It also was not helped by someone’s
poor tactical decision to lower the speaker volume from the
just-below-the-threshold-of-pain level that juiced The Raconteurs
performance, to an only moderately loud volume for Dylan. To top things
off, there was some clown standing next to me (a “real jag off” in the
local parlance) who was loudly critiquing the show, and laughing at
Dylan’s voice non-stop. I was torn between crying and punching this guy
in the mouth, but fortunately did neither. The songs that followed were
largely an uneven mix of recent songs (better overall) and reconfigured
classics (not so hot.) The arrangement of Tangled Up In Blue was
interesting, but compared to the show-stopper it was earlier in this
decade, this version pales. After enduring this show’s rough patches, the
feautured-in-every-show-since-2001 Summer Days
was welcome, but like the rest of the show, suffered from not being loud
enough. The set concluded with nearly straight arrangements of Ballad of
a Thin Man and encore Like a Rolling Stone, which were the high points of
the evening for me. (I know this sounds pitiful to those of you who’ve
heard these once too often, and are on the way out to beat the traffic,
but so be it. They made it worth sticking this one out.) The show ended
with a cheesy little fireworks display opposite the stage during LARS
that was apropos for the performance.
I’m positive this was just an off night. Truth be told, this festival was
a great value, and very well run. The lineup put together by festival
curator Anthony Keidis, was very strong, Hope Bob gets invited back next
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