page by Bill Pagel
Review by Nick Arp
It was Bob's first show in a couple of weeks, and his first back in the
States after having been in Europe for a good long spell. He appeared
rested and happy to be back in the Heartland.
For the crowd, it was the first cool day after about a month of brutally
sweltering heat and humidity, and we were all ready to enjoy a day at the
iowa State Fair and a good outdoor Dylan show.
With the neon midway spinning and tilting and whirling off to the right at
dusk, the band took the stage and launched into Oh Babe, It Ain't No Lie.
Bob's voice was husky and hoarse at first, like he hadn't used it much,
but he was relishing the song, putting lots of emphasis on "This life I'm
living's mighty…HIGH." The sound wasn't great, and never got too great
(being a grandstand not built for acoustics), but nobody cared.
A pretty To Ramona and a great Desolation Row, and then they switched to
the electric gits, pretty early on by my experience. About this time, I
moved right up front, to about ten feet in front of Bob-it was great to
watch the man's face as he thought and felt things through, and the band's
expressions, too, little knowing glances and smiles when Bob would do
something cool or quirky (isn't it all cool and quirky?).
Maggie's Farm got things rockin', and then came the first real treat of the
night: I Threw It All Away. According to Bill's database, this was only the
fourth time since the beginning of 2000 that this was played. Larry played
some very nice pedal steel. After Gotta Serve, it was back to the acoustics
for a fine Masters of War and a beautiful Love Minus Zero.
A highlight for me was the next tune. Nothing surprising about It Ain't Me,
Babe being played, but it was played so nicely. It felt like the first time
in the show where the music really breathed. Bob pulled out his harp after
all the verses and lulled that baby down to sleep real gentle and fine. A
'Til I Fell In Love With You was the only Time Out of Mind contribution and
was a big bluesy rocker, lots of fun. Just Like a Woman, with Larry on pedal
steel again, was more rocked out than I'd expected and quite tasty. Drifter's
Escape, of course, was blistering and psychedelic, and Bob rassled that sucker
down to the floor at the end with some good raspy harp playing. Then came
Leopard Skin as your basic set closer, always good fun.
His first three encore tunes were pretty standard. Country Pie, though, I
thought usually came earlier and was a rollicking little hoedown. LARS was
LARS in all its raging glory. Knockin' on Heaven's Door was acoustic, though
Charlie stayed with his electric axe.
Then, horror of jorrors, they left the stage! Oh, shit, this can't be! We
need at least four songs in the encore and even that would be skimpy by
But WHEW! They came back. Watchtower was fairly truncated and sloppy, but fun.
Then a very nice acoustic Forever Young, followed by Highway 6, which of course
smoked. There, that's better. Six songs as encores. All is well. Bye, Bob, thanks
again. We love ya, brother.
But wait!! He's coming back! The crowd is going nuts, they can't believe it!
The band strap on their acoustics and proceed to play a stunning Blowin' In The
Wind. My god, after all these years, to play it with that much passion and
conviction. Charlie's and Larry's harmonies were full and lush and strong.
It was very moving, and I'd always thought of that song as kind of a throwaway.
Just goes to show…
At the end of BITW, instead of the usual standing-expressionless-in-a-row thing,
Bob fairly ripped his guit strap off and beamed with this look of pride and fire.
He even bowed a couple of times to the crowd, all alone at the front of the
stage. The crowd was in a frenzy. It was perhaps the most animated I've ever
seen him toward a crowd.
The feeling was mutual, Bob. Thanks. Welcome back to the Heartland.
Review by David Bowler
Writing this after 1,200 miles and two days in the car so please excuse
the errors. This was my 7th show in three years (got back into Bob, after
a long absence, in 1999-but that's another story). Arthur (a good friend
and fellow Dylan fanatic) and I decided the time was right for a road trip
so we bid our families good bye and drove to the the Iowa State Fair from
New York -1200 miles each way. I'm glad we did as this was by far the
best show I've seen in the past three years.
Forget last year. This is a new Dylan show. No more acoustic first
half followed by an electric second half. While they start off all
acoustic they mix it up- not only acoustic songs and electric songs but
the instrumentation of each song is mixed with Charlie on electric guitar
and Larry on acoustic, and so on. And the arrangements are evolving, too.
It's great to see. Dylan can't (refuses to) stand still and the new shows
reflect that. I'll skip the individual song reviews and give you the
overall view. But check out that set list!
Reading the reviews as they came in from the first part of the European
tour I was a bit apprehensive as the Iowa date drew near. Those reviews
were mixed and the sets looked a bit un-together at first. But the last
two shows in Italy portended good things and after 12 days rest, the first
show back in the states, in a countified setting and with the very
American Heartland vibe of the Iowa State fair... well Bob and the band
looked and sounded as if there were no place they rather be than right
there playing for this crowd (although I wish the feeling were mutual.
There were far too many people who seemed more interested in getting beer
and destroying my view than paying attention to Bob but I wasn't gonna let
them spoil it for me after such a long trip).
Bob's voice was clear and sharp from the first note and the band reached a
new level of performance. There's been some discussion in the reviews
about Dylan and his guitar playing and I must admit I have been frustrated
at some of last year's shows with the amount of (not so great) guitar
playing from Bob-especially with those two very talented dudes on either
side of him. But we understand and put up with it. And while I won't go
so far as to say Bob is the new Clapton, he did the best job on guitar
that I've seen and he was playing off of and with Charlie alot during the
set-each inspiring the other. It seeems that Bob wants to be a guitar
player and fuck if he won't do it. And hat's off to Larry both for his
understated (but not under appreciated) role and his new Jesse James
outlaw look. Charlie, on the other hand, is like a racing horse at the
starting gate. You can tell he would take every lead if offered but waits
for his cue from the boss; probably the only boss this extremely gifted
musician would listen to, being the fan he is (just like we are) of Bob's
immense talent. David and Tony were especially good, setting the pace and
We were in a good spot-near the sound booth- close but far enough away to
capture the whole vibe. Dylan at 60-far from being burned out-is
entering his prime as a musician and performer. I mean, I love him but
who takes Mick Jagger seriously anymore? It's amazing what Dylan is
doing. And for $20 a ticket. There is just no rock and roller alive that
can touch him. In fact, calling him a rock and roller is only part of the
picture. It is fascinating to watch this great American artist evolve.
Every song was done with energy and commitment but the highlights for me
were It Ain't Me Babe with some of the most inspired and beautiful harp
playing by Bob, Till I Fell In Love With You, with it's great, new, hard
hitting 12 bar blues arrangement-awesome! And Knocking on Heaven's Door-
a first for me. But the real revelation was with the Greatest Hits
section of the show. They played LARS as if for the first time-same with
BITW-and anyone who has seen him play these recently knows that while
always good, they are not always the best part of the show. This night
they were. It seemed to me that the band itself was taken by surprise by
its own level of inspiration. Bob seemed to be truly enjoying himself and
his band mates. He was playful and energetic, smiling alot. At the end
of the first encore he was literally bouncing on the balls of his feet
while we clapped and screeemed. An historic show. I'd do it again in a
P.S. Saw Tony pull up in his car for the sound check and got to shake his
hand. I'm 46 years old and act like a 16 year old! Sheesh! And as for
the fair-you ain't lived until you've seen the world's largest boar. David
page by Bill Pagel
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