page by Bill Pagel
Review by Cary Krosinsky
This was an absolutely amazing concert - easily one of the best I've seen
of any performer. I include the legendary Talking Heads show in Forest
Hills in 1981, and the day Branford Marsalis showed up to play with the
Grateful Dead for the first time (I know many of you won't relate). Also
as good as any opera I've seen.
Am I losing coherence? Why should I be coherent?
This is why we all do this.
This is why we pay attention to the great one.
This is why, after an awful show in Holmdel, where one drove 4 hours one
way and 3 the other to see an absolutely hideous boring show, we show up
eager the next day, knowing full well that the odds are now in our favor.
What were the possibilities? A great show, a good show with some
highlights, a special guest to spark the flames, or Bob coming up empty
Enough of my babble - I can't help it. I'm not going to remember all the
details, but I'll do the best I can.
First of all, the Waifs were outstanding. I had heard their Portsmouth
show opening for Bob and was impressed but this was something beyond. Well
received, they were quite appreciative of the support and gave back
everything they had. I look forward to seeing them open for Bob every
Then Bob's taking his time coming on - about 9:10 - crowd is getting
restless, and you have to start worrying. There's an extra mike next to
Bob, and you're thinking Bob Weir again? Joan Osborne?
Finally, Hoedown, and the intro, and Bob tears into Silvio. Nice version,
few people in the crowd know it, those of us who do are dancing away. Even
sadder to think that of the 2300 people in attendance (was a sellout or so
it seemed), probably 1500 weren't serious Bob heads (yet), so it took the
crowd about 7 songs to realise something was happening, but they weren't
quite sure what it was. Eventually they would catch on.
I Don't Believe You (She Acts Lke We Never Have Met) follows, and Bob's
right on it. Not the best version of 2003, but very nice.
The prerequisite Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee followed, and it was a very,
very good version. Much as many of us tire of this song, it is growing as
it's played more - I think Bob's on to something, as the guitar breaks
were quite nice. Bob seems to have a feeling that certain songs will grow
and evolve - this must be one of them - I trust him now if I didn't before
as you'll soon see.
You started to get the feeling that these 3 songs were ian ntro to
something - that there was something was in the air. That something good
was hovering just beyond this moment. Angels dancing in the wind perhaps,
gathering to catch a legend about to make history, perhaps?
It Ain't Me Babe was next and it was a beautiful thing, long and jammy in
a quiet, elegant way. Bob emoted with feeling, and to great vocal effect.
Freddy and Larry played beautiful licks. Just before the song, Bob was
having trouble finding the harp he was looking for, which happened a few
times in the course of the evening, but no matter.
Then Tommy goes running to the right, behind stage, and carries back to
his normal position a white guitar with what we will learn is Nils Lofgren
trailing behind him.
The great Nils straps on his guitar, and thus begins what will surely go
down as the singular finest guest performance at a Bob Dylan concert.
Things Have Changed is transformed. Bob is soaring on the lyrics - belting
them out for all he's worth. There were some nice versions in the Spring,
but this was amazing. And just a warm up. Nils immediately clicks with the
band, sending little fills, jamming to great effect. Bob pointing at him
when he wanted him to 'go' which was quite often.
Then, Watching The River Flow, which has been great lately, and it really
rocks here. Lofgren, again, adding great effect, and energy. Jamming with
Bob - playing excitedly, but not stepping on any one (except Freddy, who
as a result, took more of a backseat on many songs - but he had his great
moments too at times).
When Love Sick started, the crowd finally started realising what was up.
This was a phenomenal performance of Love Sick. Nils filling holes that
no one ever realised were there. This song soared, the crowd loved it,
hollering berserkly at last, and Bob gave his one and only 'Fank You' at
Then Highway 61. Oh my god. How the jams soared. What electricity was in
the air. Bob was visibly excited like I've personally never seen him.
Words will no longer do justice to the rest of this show, I'm afraid. You
will have to get this show to see. There is someone out there who
recorded this. Tell me someone recorded this. A vcd is not only also in
order, but mandatory. Too bad this wasn't officially videotaped for
Make You Feel My Love was touching, Bob's frog throat coming out at first,
but he finds a way to work around it, and it's great.
Then Drifter's - a soaring, majestic, screaming version. Bob NAILS THE
LYRICS. The 3 way guitar interplay is incredible. A Better than Atlantic
City of this year. Nils, could you please, PLEASE join permanently? He
clearly knew all of Bob's material, or he's simply a genius, or both.
And now Moonlight - very nice version - Nils adding frills and again, as
he did all night, bringing new light to the sound. Ends magnificently.
Crowd goes wild.
Then, Honest With Me - like it's never been played before. Easily the best
version out there without question, and it's finally clear why Bob has
been playing this so much. It soars, it's fabulous, how can this be one
thinks, as Lofgren adds an edge and a sound that drives this over the top.
Simply wild. You won't believe me, I know. But it's true.
And then Bob absolutely plastered me to the back of my seat, with a mind
blowing, calm and smooth and perfect It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. The
guitarists at first were just strumming silently in the background, giving
Bob the stage - it was all Bob and just incredible. One had to sit
silently and try to capture the moment. Perfection.
And it got better.
Fairly standard band intros followed, but adding something like 'and
sitting in with us tonight on the guitar, Nils Lofgren' to well deserved
Summer Days then, and what do you expect, other than a version on the
level of Charlie's days at last. They soar and jam extra long to make sure
they squeezed out every drop they could. Nils sat for this one, and played
his guitar like a Pedal Steel - this was largely the Freddy show and very
well he did indeed.
The crowd goes completely berserk for the 'lineup'. Bob seems moved.
Off they go, and return for the 'standard encores'.
Like A Rolling Stone is majestic. Bob belts it out for all he's worth -
the crowd is apopletic. Larry is beaming like a cheshire cat. He's
thinking - this is why I do this. This is why I tour with Bob show after
show, year after year. It's all worth it. And I feel the same. Simply an
incredible version. I can't find the words.
Watchtower too soars - it's great, it's all great.
You think maybe another song, but no. Bob cashes in his chips, and fair
It is about 11:30PM at this point.
The crowd is glowing and beaming.
Ecstasy on 34th street.
This is what it's all about.
The NET may have just reached it's peak tonight.
And 2 more nights of this run remain to go.
Review by Owen Plotkin
I was near the stage on the left side about 30 feet from Dylan.
What a show! It Ain't Me Babe brought a tear to my eye..Dylan's
phrasing was so astoundingly good. Bob Dylan.
Nils Lofgrin came out and played the whole rest of the show!
I loved, Highway 61- Dylan sang in full rocked out voice and the
guitars were blazing - and Drifters Escape? was an exploding supersonic
orgiastic riff rocking tour d force and It's All Over Now Baby Blue a
lilting melodic rocker. I thought Love Sick was another gem. Bob was
inspired , I thought, all night. You know I think great guitar players
really just knock him out. His dark red silky outfit -no hat- was very
happenin' and he rocked the keys all night, jus'like a real garage rock
hero. Did I say amazing? And when he played the wrong harp and cracked
up? And danced with the guitar players? Lofgrin had some startling
firey deep soulful solos too! Moonlight was sweetly done and Summer
Days felt like Benny Goodman's big band had caught fire and exploded,
streaking across the broken New York Skyline. All the guitar players
were outstanding. Was that a good show or what?! Like a Rolling Stone
and Watchtower - forces to be reckoned with.The rhythm section was a
locomotive blowing black smoke all night. Whew, O.
Review by Susan Phillips
Aside from when he played Duluth, Minnesota, I think tonight was the best
Dylan concert, ever! I hadn’t seen him perform in nearly a year. And
perform he did. He laughed, stood in the middle of the stage and danced,
asked the guy who hands him his guitar to play along with them. I never
saw him that jolly before. Some new guitarist that was fabulous joined the
band, and they were cooking. I think it was in part the venue, which
seemed packed beyond sold out. The Hammerstein ballroom is a stunning
historic restoration, and the entire main floor is standing room only. I
personally hate sitting during a concert, and this was like a big party.
The set list was rocking. Silvio, Summer Days, Highway 61, Honest with Me.
Like a Rolling Stone, and then my favorite, Make You Feel my Love.
The Hammerstein Ballroom is in fact the exact size of the concert hall in
the Duluth National Guard Armory, the building so many Dylan fans have
been trying to save from demolition in Duluth, Minnesota, because it is
the exact spot where a then 16 year-old Bob Dylan saw Buddy Holly perform,
days before he died in the fatal plane crash. In 1998 Dylan spoke about
that Duluth National Guard Armory concert while accepting the 1998 Grammy
award. However trying to restore it and getting it on the National
Register of Historic Places is the reason that I haven’t had time to even
see Bob. And then to serendipitously be in New York for meetings and get
to see him in a concert hall that was the size of the Armory in Duluth was
… what does the man say, “Take what you can gather from coincidence.” Bill
Pagel helped us clean - as in sweep floors etc. - at the Armory in Duluth,
so I wanted to send him this review, but I gotta go to bed, and wake up
with another show to look forward to tomorrow. I hope he plays Forever
Young, and Masters of War. You should fly out, Bill. These concerts should
not be missed.
Review by Jeffrey Johnson
In stark contrast to His understudy's scripted, carbon copy "shows" in
the swamps of Jersey, tonight there were no acrobatics, no picture-posing
theatrics, no histrionics, no didactic homilies and, best of all, no
audience shout alongs!!! For as long as His tour never ends, we will be
blessed with the antidote to "our plastic culture, with its philistine
tastes and hunger for novelty."
(Not a plagiarized "Confession of a Yakuza")
Tonight His crusade came into sharp focus; He's simply "breakin' down
the distance between right and wrong."
The Maestro was dressed in burgundy and good spirits. The band departed
from their normal uniforms. The Hammerstien Ballroom is one of the few
venues worthy of the Maestro, stunning acoustically and above the norm
Tonight's set list contained no surprises. The ultra-short Dead set
list Greatful[ly] was gone. Starting with Silvio, Bob's voice boomed
with clarity. The band rocked the house. The vocals were way up the mix
as never before!
I Don't Believe You - Booming vocals drown out the band.
It Ain't Me, Babe - What was He looking for? So many times He left His
piano for? It must have been a camera because Freddie was playing
acoustic. Last seen at the Atlantic City shows, Freddie then seemed
uncomfortable with acoustic instruments, holding them as though they were
a baby in a wet diaper. Actually, this was the start of night-long
Things Have Changed - nice Euro-style curtain show unfolds. SOY BOMB with
a shirt emerges, wandering around the stage mostly unnoticed by the band.
Watchin' the River Flow - New band member, Freddie's understated
manner dovetails nicely with His still-not-quite-the Greatest Band in the
Land. But Freddie ranks as even more befuddling than Bob. Watching
Freddie is surreal; it's as if your neighbor's weird father suddenly
appeared on stage, and he's being showcased.
Love Sick - for once, with all those guitars, this was the time to step
away from the piano.
HW 61 - just the right band and just the right booming vocals.
Make You Feel My Love - the rock version survives translation well.
Drifter's Escape - He stayed at the piano and wasted several harmonicas,
trying to get one to function. This song is better than a drum solo.
Notify the message board if you disagree.
Bob threw in a solo dance around here, looking almost choreographed for
the press corps, but there was no press corp.
Moonlight - everyone started out playing their own, different song; then
everyone converged. The show started late and there were occasions when
chaos enveloped the stage. It Ain't Me, Babe also started out as a
train wreck, then got on track.
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - A bit breathless; the possible
showstopper of the night
All Along The Watchtower - the band and the booming vocals were just right
on the finale.
Early on, exchange student Nils Lofgren slouched nearby the Meastro,
copiously taking notes. Then, Nils joined/lead the band all night. One
hopes, that he will report back to his Boss.
After the show, unread newspapers strewn everywhere served as a reminder
of Elton John's lyrical observation: "and the New York Times says
˜God is dead". Amongst reporters, "don't criticize what you
can't understand" is honored only in the breach. Tomorrow's reviews
will reflectively report under the trite byline, "Positively Fourth Rate."
QED: "Where there is no belief, there is no blasphemy."
Anyhow, thinking back now on His understudy's "show" in the swaps of
Jersey, perhaps much of the angst was just fretting about not getting
Live from New York, Hammerstien Ballroom #1 of 3, August 12, 2003
Review by Michael Binetti
I was actually rather disappointed. This turned into a complete
shitstorm by the end of the first set. First off, Bob played keyboards
the whole show. You couldn't even hear the keyboards. And I really enjoy
Bob's guitar playing. I know he's not one to listen to fans on what
instruments to play, but I'd like to have heard some guitar.
Then, Nils Lofgren from The E Street Band shows up. He ends up staying
for about 75% of the concert. That guy is awful. He knows one style of
guitar where as Bob and the boys are well versed in several styles with an
enormous arsenal. Hell, Lofgren was all but imitating Hendrix burning his
guitar on stage..during Moonlight, one of the slowest and most ambient
songs in Dylan's repitoire. Between his monotonous guitar work and his
dancing around at the front of the stage, I just about lost my lunch.much
less my $90 for the ticket. Finally, to make things seem like they
couldn't get any worse, one of the roadies actually picked up a guitar and
started playing behind Nils. I thought I was in a Dr. Suess book.
Review by Willy Gissen
It's not often in the past couple of years that I've had to write a bad
review for a Dylan concert, but honesty compels it tonight. Listen, the
poor guy had a bad night. Dylan started off good with a great version of
"Silvio," but after that he was never quite able to shake the hoarseness
out of his voice. I'm not talking about the Dylan wail which pierces to
the heart in his usual compelling manner. I'm referring to actual
hoarseness in his voice from too much singing, hoarseness which gets in
the way of his trademark sound. He had it through the whole concert
tonight. Generally, he's able to shake it off after a few songs.
Dylan seemed in a good enough mood, but his act did not click. He was
constantly stepping away from the keyboards either to adjust some sound
level or to take what looked like cough drops or voice spray when the
stage lights were low in between songs. The coordination with other
members of the band was poor, and Dylan also missed cues to resume singing
after the chorus or to play a harmonica solo.
But that's par for the course in being a Dylan fan. It's understood by all
longtime fans that Dylan is not consistent. When he's on, he's
unbelievable, but the catch is that he cannot hit that level at every
I went down to the concert with a relatively inexperienced Dylan-ite who
last saw him play when he was still doing lead guitar instead of the
keyboards. By the time we got to the Manhattan Center/ Hammerstein
Ballroom at 6 PM, the line had already started to form and was growing
rapidly. My friend kept our place in line, and I went scrounging for some
food to bring back while we were waiting. I found a gourmet deli on the
corner of 34th Street and Ninth Avenue and got two slices of chicken parm
pizza with bottled waters. While we were eating, I met someone I had
talked to at Sunday's Dylan concert in New Jersey with Tom Petty. 17,500
people there and 3,450 tonight, but for the true fans, it's a small world.
The line to get in was curling around the block and heading toward Eighth
Avenue before the doors finally opened slightly after 6:30 PM. With
general-admission floor tickets, we got within about 20 feet of the stage
and had a prime location for the night. I advised my friend that we should
sit on the floor while we were waiting for the warm-up band, the Waifs, to
take the stage because it would be a long night on our feet before the end
of the evening.
The Waifs were good; I had heard them warm up for Bob Dylan before in
Atlantic City, and I like their country-rock style. For some reason, the
two lead women singers, who are sisters, did not tell the audience that
tonight. The brunette played some good harmonica solos, and they closed
with their trademark song about wanting to be buried at home when they
die. The audience reaction was generally positive, and the Waifs did an
appropriately short act, since, of course, everyone was there to see
Dylan wasn't all bad. He did a passable version of "Highway 61" and "The
Drifter" and was occasionally able to shake the cobwebs off his voice. But
even though he was in a good mood vis-Ã -vis the audience, he just wasn't
able to excel tonight. Even "Summer Days," the conclusion to his main set,
was shorter than normal.
With all that said, the encore was pretty good, "Like a Rolling Stone,"
and "All Along the Watchtower." Dylan did a harmonica solo in "All Along
the Watchtower," which I've never seen him do before. He was obviously
eager to please, but, as they say, the spirit was willing, but the voice
was weak. I'm hoping tonight was just the warm-up for tomorrow and
Review by Brian Slattery
Bob took the stage at 9:11 p.m. He left the stage at 11:09 p.m. In
the short span of time in between, Bob and the boys gave one hell of a
performance for this New York crowd. I heard someone before the show
wondering whether Bob ascribes any special meaning or significance to his
New York appearances. That got me thinking. This year alone, Bob is
scheduled to play 96 shows. (I think my counting is correct.) Multiply
that by the number of years Bob has been performing, and, while I'm not
going to bother to do the math, it's fair to say that you get an amazing
number of live performances for this traveling troubadour, who, as the old
song says, has been all around this world. Of all those shows, there is a
small percent that have been held in New York, usually smack in the middle
of a 20 city tour. With that said, I think Bob does feel something
special when he's in New York. After all, this is where it really all
His post-9/11 concert at the Garden was phenomenal. Last year, his
tribute to 'the biggest Bob Dylan fan' and fellow Willbury George
Harrison, was one of the most moving concert moments I've ever seen.
Tonight, with guest guitarist Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band, Bob and
the boys took the first Hammerstein show to another level, soaring over
the skyscrapers, above the New York City skyline, and into the
First things first though. The Waifs came on promptly at 8 p.m. and
did a 40 minute set. By this point, I had been standing for about an hour,
but with their performance, I forget all about the discomfort, enjoying
their songs and getting ready for the main event. They definitely
realized how special it was to be performing in NYC, and, on top of that,
opening for Bob Dylan in New York City. Bob may come from a country they
call the Midwest, but I think it is safe to say that Bob is as much a New
York boy as he is a Duluth/Hibbing one. I'm not a New Yorker, so I'm not
trying to make Bob our own out of some New York pride. Simply, I think,
and you can tell me if you disagree, that when people think of Dylan, they
also think of NYC, just as Bruce and Asbury Park are so connected. As Bob
said in 2001, "you know, most of these songs we're singing tonight were
written right here in this city, written in New York City, and the ones
that weren't written here were recorded here. So nobody has to ask me how
I feel about this town."
Anyway, after the Waifs finished, the roadies quickly set the stage for
Bob's entrance. At 9 p.m., the spotlight was focused on the banner with
the Eye, which had been absent at most recent shows, according to a few
reviews I read, and if my memory of the A.C. show serves me well. In any
event, the stage lights were off, but the house lights were still on and
"Fanfare for the Common Man" blared through the speakers, exciting the
crowd, and letting those who have been to other Dylan shows know that it
was almost time. Maybe because it was NYC and all those things I'd been
thinking about Bob's connection to this city, maybe it was that I'm just a
big fan, but whatever the case, I felt some of the old feeling I used to
get at my first few Dylan shows in the few minutes right before the house
lights dimmed. My heart was beating a little faster, and I was feeling
restless, wanting to move, wanting to shout, wanting to cheer, waiting and
wondering what Bob would do tonight. Then, at 9:11 p.m., I found out.
The house lights went down, "Rodeo" went on, and Bob and the boys took the
The first four songs were solid, with Bob nailing the lyrics, and the
harp solos, despite the fact that someone must have moved his harmonicas.
Once he found the right one, Bob did some good harp work on "I Don't
Believe You" and "It Ain't Me, Babe," which, again tonight, could have
been "You're A Big Girl Now," although this time I figured it was "Ain't
Me." If I'm not mistaken, it was on this one that Bob delivered the first
line, turned around to get a harmonica, and then came back to the mic, not
restarting, just picking up where he left off. Oddly, it did not detract
from the song, although some people may disagree, especially those whose
reviews are less than favorable for this show. It kept the momentum
going, and made for an interesting moment. It was well-played, and
Larry's cittern sounded pretty good in the mix, punctuating the song after
a nice harp solo. So far, so good. The show had started nicely, and was
moving along at Bob's own chosen speed, which seemed to be a steady, if
not frenzied and inspired, pace.
After a newly-arranged "Ain't Me," Bob made his way behind the drum
riser. As the lights came up, and the band launched into "Things Have
Changed," Bob was still behind the riser, making his way back to the
keyboards. Tommy Morrongiello held a guitar, which had me guessing that
he'd be standing in the background, as the set lists from previous shows
had listed, playing along. But wait. Someone comes from behind the drums
and straps on the guitar. Who is that? Was it another roadie? For
"Things" this mystery man stands a little in the background, and I hear a
lot of people wondering out loud who it might be. Figuring he was just
playing on the one song, I guessed we wouldn't find out, but when the
lights went down and came back up for "Watching the River Flow" he's still
there, and during this one, he steps out in front. I hear someone say
from behind, "Nils Lofgren, E Street Band." They were right, and for the
rest of the night, we were treated to a guest appearance by an amazing
On several songs, after getting the nod from Bob, Lofgren stepped up and
took some great leads, really nailing the songs, even dueling with Freddie
and later Larry. He sat in for the rest of the show, including the
encores, and many times would turn and face Dylan, eliciting what looked
like smiles from the sometimes sullen, mostly stoic, often enigmatic and
hard to read Dylan. Bob even laughed after more harmonica hi-jinks and
troubles during Drifter's, laughing and shaking his head after the song
ended. (The first harp he brought to the mic wasn't the right one, and he
had to go back and find the correct one, with Morrongiello's help.)
In perhaps the most playful action I've ever seen Bob perform, during
Summer Days I believe, when Nils, Larry, and Freddie were all together,
really wailing on the guitars, Bob walked from behind the keyboards, doing
his little dance/walk across the stage, and then very jokingly put his
arms out and leaned in front of Nils, blocking him from view, as if to
light-heartedly acknowledge that Nils had really stepped into the
spotlight tonight. I don't think Bob minded. In fact, I think his little
maneuver, with a smile showing on his face, was to show that he felt it
too. "Summer Days" really rocked, with Morrongiello adding to the power
with a fourth guitar, albeit staying in the background.
What else is there to say? So much, of course, but I think I'll save it.
I could go on and on about any Dylan show, even if not the most inspired.
This one, one of the more inspired I've seen, could have me writing for
days. Given that there are two more shows (and a lot more standing up)
these next two days, I won't drain myself, and bore you, by doing that.
Instead, I'll say that the standard encores of LARS and AATW were
well-received, and phenomenally played, and, while most of us wished that
Bob come out and do one more, seeing him with his jacket and cowboy hat in
hand took away that hope. Besides, the blazing AATW, with a very
structured harp solo, would have been hard to top.
In closing, I hope that if you haven't seen Bob play live, you will now.
While Lofgren is off to Chicago for a show tomorrow, who knows what Bob
has in store for us? For those who didn't like tonight, while I'm having
trouble understanding why, I hope that you are fortunate enough to see him
tomorrow and that it is an excellent show for you, as tonight's was for so
many of us. I know that I'll be happy just to be there, whatever Bob has
Anyway, if you have any questions or comments about my review, or just
want to talk "Bob," drop me a line at email@example.com.
Brian J. Slattery
Review by Tom Ostoyich
As for the first Hammerstein show: Nice room, if a bit remote--big dance
floor with the seats way back at the rear; VIP seats, you might want to
note, are on the side boxes, at least 50 ft from the stage--if you want to
be close, stick to the floor and get there early. I was able to get a
good spot close to the stage left, looking across at Dylan's keyboards.
Could feel the heat from the stage lights, hear the musicians tapping
their feet. With the long wait, I passed the time yakking with other
Dylan geeks and watching the myriad things Bob's crew does to get the
stage set--even scrubbing his mic with a toothbrush. I could even see the
announcer backstage, getting his corny introduction ready.
Now the goods: Dylan's duds last night were first rate--red lame cowboy
shirt with smile pockets & matching pants (not lame), black cravat--he
looked like he was wearing silk PJs or better, had wandered in from some
silent Western. Being close you notice a lot of interaction between the
players--cues and nods, but also what's working--& watching Larry or Tony
break into a wide smile as the band soars, you know they're having a good
time. It's a dynamic band--you hear them listening to each other, playing
off each other, prompting each other. This probably doesn't need to be
said, but when you're close, you can really see how fine this unit is.
As for the show, it started off very average--his voice was clearly shot &
it sounded like the frog croak was going to be all he had. So the band
bailed him out ably, but even "I Don't Believe You" didn't get me. I
still am not a fan of the latest arrangement of "It Ain't Me, Babe"--I
thought the intimacy of the venue would rescue this (as it got lost in the
cavern of the PNC Center), but it still doesn't grab me. Plus the frog
rasp, which lacks the tenderness this song can have with his decaying
voice (check that Tramps performance from '99). Dylan, by the way, seemed
distracted throughout the start, repeatedly turning around to check
something behind him or search for a harmonica, forcing the band to vamp.
I should add that his harp playing was, ahem, unfocused (even in Jersey on
Sat. he took strong, confident turns at it). It seemed it would be a
below- average show.
Then Nils Lofgren sneaks onstage and the vibe changes instantly. Maybe
N.L. has limiltless energy from playing with Springsteen, but he provoked
Dylan--it looked like they were playing to each other for much of his
stay. He bobbed-and-weaved around Dylan's keyboards and Dylan responded
by pushing himself vocally and musically. "Things Have Changed" was
splendid, Dylan's voice suddenly finding a middle range, milking the lines
and punchlines well. Another good "River Flow" and then a smoldering
"Love Sick". Lofgren keeping up nicely (if overly a rock guy, but more of
this later). The version of "Highway 61" was pummeling--this was like ZZ
Top on a speed binge and it truly sparked fire in Dylan's delivery.
Scorching, brutal, glorious.
A suprise with "Make You Feel My Love" (I've never heard this live, so a
bonus) with much stronger harp and then a shambolic "Drifter's Escape"
which smoldered again, even if the ending was botched (Dylan laughing at
Then, after Larry starts playing "Floater", the outfit calls an audible
and they switch into a nice "Moonlight" marred by Lofgren's inappropriate
rock star solos (he may've played with Neil & Broooooce, but he' s limited
in his range--makes you appreciate the scope of Larry and Freddie all the
more). Still, a minor complaint considering that Nils is learning on the
spot. Another sharp "Honest With Me"--seeing Tony tap out the changes for
Nils was nifty--hey this part goes up, this part the riff goes down. The
guitar breakdown still thrills me, and Dylan, teetering over to the (now)
three lead guitarists, was laughing and clapping like a little kid. Real
sharp. "Baby Blue" reappears and it's decent and then another scorching
"Summer Days" with Nils playing some steel and the regular boys milking it
for what its worth. Tony again, lofting the bass up off the floor and
then pretending to hurt his back--he's becoming the comedian. And for you
Tommy Morrongiello fans, Dylan once again commanded him to a guitar, but
let him stay in the shadows by the drum kit. It's a puzzling addition.
So I think the Nils experiment paid off by firing Dylan up & fuelling the
rockers; he single-handedly sparked what might otherwise have been a
sub-par night. Not much to say about the encores --it's getting a little
too predictable, but he's still pulling them off well & it gave everyone
nice turns in the solo spotlight again (Lofgren really working the
Hendrix-isms); Nils even sang on the "Rolling Stone" choruses. Let's
hope Dylan stays fired up for the rest of the run.
Review by Shepp
What a show! Blistering! Nils was terrific. What a treat. Nils had
just the "spark" that was needed to raise the playing level of Bob and
especially Larry and Tony. Larry and Tony seemed to be having a great
time. I was able to get within 12 feet of the stage directly in front of
Bob's piano setup.
Let me dismiss right here and now all those reviewers that have stated Bob
disappointed. Are they kidding. Ridiculous. This was about my 18th show
and it was THE BEST. Nils, man. I can't wait to see him again in Chapel
Hill in September with Bruce on the UNC campus. Now I know why the first
non-Beatles album I ever bought was Neil Young's After the Gold Rush.
Yes, it did take me until 1974 to understand Bob's place in my musical
Carol the first reviewer got it all RIGHT!
I had just seen Bob in ATL with The Dead, so I too was looking forward to
a extended Bob setlist. Bob's choices were totally perfect for Nils to
pry his trade. This band "rocks". Reminds me of the "Under the Red Sky
album, or even dare I say some of the really good G.E. Smith electric
power performances, like the Princeton McCarter Theater show I caught in
'90. I really think we are on the verge of some awesome power renditions.
How I would have liked to have heard "Handy Dandy or God Knows" with Nils.
Born in Time, 10,000 Men, Cats in the Well, On a Night Like This, Changing
of the Guards...
Just for the record, Nils did provide some limited backup vocals on LARS.
Nils made some of the best eye contact with the band members and Bob that
I have ever seen. He really made an attempt to "join the band", if you
will. And, was humble about it.
The "non-Nils" highlight again for me was IAMB which was even better than
the ATL performance. Bob is playing a very foreboding piano sound in
it...very dark. Menacing. Awesome.
Lovesick and WTRF were my highlights for "with-Nils". Lovesick was
Wish I could be there for the next two.
God Bless You Bob Dylan. I appreciate all you do. Stay the inspiration
Review by Peter Brown
It was a reasonably mellow scene both outside the Hammerstein in line and
inside. Of course there were the typical hassles that come with any
standup general admission show such as the 7 foot human wall in the grey
Springsteen shirt with a 7 on the back who wouldn't let people who he
could easily see over stand in front of him, but so it goes. However then
I happened to meet a couple of very nice guys, one named Israel and I'm
not sure if I got the other one's name and they invited us to come and
stand with them.
The Waifs came on around 8 pm and delivered their usual excellent set and
they know just how to keep it short and sweet but interestining at the
Bob Dylan and his band took the stage around 9:15, Dylan wearing a dark
red almost maroon western suit and started into the current version of
"Silvio." "I Don't Believe You" was an okay surprise, but then "Tweedle
Dee and Tweedle Dum" followed and it seemed like it was going to be a
typical show with the new "It Ain't Me Babe" following that. I was
spending a lot of time trying to find a clear line of vision but then the
curtain with the Egyptian eye lifted and someone walked on stage though it
was hard to tell who. There was a guitar player standing in Tommy's
space, but I couldn't make out at first who it was.
"Things Have Changed" started and this guitar player tore into it in
such a way that the song was lifted energy-wise 100 percent. At the
end of the song there were shouts of Nils and I managed to get a better
view and sure enough it was Nils Lofgren and they went into "Watching The
River Flow." Nils was starting to move out of the corner next to Dylan
and doing his Nils thing of moving around and interact with the other
musicians and then he started to play his Strat directly to Dylan.
Meanwhile Dylan's singing was getting clearer and clearer and this low
gruff voice he's been using wasn't nearly as much in evidence as it was at
Holmdel. They then went into "Love Sick" and there was no doubt that
Lofgren was pretty much blowing both Larry and Freddie away and I think
they're both fine guitarists. But this was excitement and it became quite
obvious how much this band has been in sleep mode since Charlie Sexton
A rather supersonic "Highway 61" came next and the songs are getting
extended because of Lofgren and it's clear Dylan is having a blast and not
caring whether the songs are ending right or not because the music is so
"Make You Feel My Love" came next and was followed by one of the
craziest "Drifter's Escapes" ever. At the end they just kept
alternating solos and Nils just wouldn't stop. Bob went for the harp,
wrong one, he cracked up and got the right one, and then Nils just kept
going and going and would not stop and finally the song ended in a way
that wasn't typical and Dylan just exploded into hysterical laughter.
Then the band started to play "Bye and Bye" and then stopped. Instead
they played "Moonlight" and all three guitar players are alternating solos
and Dylan is really singing it and taking chances. In fact it may have
been the best live version of "Moonlight" ever.
This was followed by a re-energized "Honest With Me" and then "Baby
Blue" with Larry on steel and Nils singing on the end of the chorus
right at Dylan.
Then "Summer Days" with Nils sitting on the drum riser with his strat on
his lap and playing slide.
This was a show where the setlist didn't matter, the songs didn't
matter. It was all about the performance. Lofgren was beyond
phenomenal, but his presence reminded the band what it was all about
and most important of all he inspired Dylan to give what was quite
possibly his best performance this year.
Review by Jeff Dellin
Bob Dylan brought the full-on Rock And Roll Review to The Hammerstein
Ballroom for the opening night of this generous three night stand. Bob
seemed happy to let guest guitarist Nils Lofgren steal the show. Bob
appeared content just to lead the band into major jams without adding too
much to the music. He was having a tough time keeping up with the band on
the keys and the harp so he pretty much kept the playing minimal. He
reminded me of Paul Shaffer (who was probably in the house somewhere) as
he bounced up and down behind his key board leading a massively talented
band obviously pleased with the way the band was playing. The songs almost
seemed secondary tonight as the three guitar attack was back with a
There was little subtlety, (with the exception of It Ain't me Babe and
Moonlight) to Tuesday's show which was actually nice, a welcome surprise.
Even Make You Feel My Love seemed heavy. Bob came to rock, and once Nils
hit the stage the gloves were taken off. No lightweights allowed.
I have to say that there's nothing more wonderful than walking to a Bob
Dylan concert, especially given the nice job The Hammerstein staff did
last night. Walked right in the door at 7:30pm, no line, unlike The Joe
Jackson show over at he Roseland where there was a line around the block
at 7:00pm. Anyway, I opted for first mezz seats for the first show and I
was glad I did. I found a nice seat a few rows up on an isle. The mezz
didn't fill up until 8:00pm. I met some nice folks who had come a long way
for the show. The sound was good up there and there were no crowds, no
lines for restrooms or the bar.
Anyway, enough about the venue. As I said before this was a straight ahead
rocking show, even more so than some recent shows I've seen. They
obviously kicked into high gear when Nils hit the stage. Nils did
everything right. Never totally stepped over any boundaries although it
looked like Bob was happy to let him.
Best song of the night was Honest With Me. I've seen it so many times, but
this version put all the others to shame. Nils slide work was phenomenal
and it lit a fire under the rest of the band. Amazing.
I was dying to hear It's All Over Now, Baby Blue and got a "pumped-up"
version which was nice. Baby Blue has a tendency to meander but this one
did not in any way. I was surprised that he played something between
Honest With me and Summer Days. This was a good choice since much of the
set prior was made up of relatively "recent" or less than "classic" songs.
Not that I want a greatest hits show, but the song selection up until that
point avoided all of my favorites (not complaining -- they were all well
Another big highlight was the surprising Like A Rolling Stone encore. It's
such a great song to hear live especially after Bob hasn't played it too
often recently. The song hit anthem-status last night. It rocked and Bob's
vocal's were incredibly passionate considering he's played the song 1000
times or more. You wouldn't have known it from last night's version. It
seemed fresh, it was focused, and it was fun.
Anyway, those expecting a intimate, subdued evening in Bob's former home
town did not get one. Bob was ready to rock. He keeps us guessing which is
amazing after all these years.
page by Bill Pagel
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