Missoula, Montana

Big Sky Brewery

August 14, 2012

[Steven Thwaits], [Steven King], [Fred Robinson]

Review by Steven Thwaits

Just a few impressions of last night's excellent show in western  
Montana. I made the journey all the way from home in Seattle, nearly a 
thousand miles under my wheels in two days. But I suppose that's not  far
compared to the distance traveled by Jose from Bilbao, Catalonia,  whom I
met on the grass before the show. Bob clearly inspires some  effort.

I liked the new band entrance, Stu first, already playing, followed by 
the other guys and finally Dylan. Very dramatic; it was a thrill to  see
the great Bard step out from behind the curtain, in the bright  glare of a
low sun, joining us once again. He wore reflective shades  against the
light and a broad brimmed hat, a dark jacket, white pants.  
 From the first moment he was entirely present and communicative. It  is a
myth that Bob does not interact with his audience, just because  he does
not banter with small talk. He communicates a great deal with  gesture and
subtle facial expression. Open hands show appreciation and  camaraderie,
smiles and bemused eyes show his good humor. And this is  in addition to
the art, the reason we came, the deep communication of  the songs. Under
the wide Montana sky it is clear that Dylan is happy  to play for us, and
excited to jam with his stellar band.

As for those songs: Lately there has been a discussion on the boards 
about the darkness in the music, as if it is anything new, or as if it  is
a defining characteristic of the man himself. But since the  beginning,
Dylan has tinctured  hard truths with a bitter humor: back  in '64,
teasing the crowd as they laugh at the intro to "Gates of  Eden,"
chuckling, saying "yes, it's a very funny song!" Bob has always  twisted
the dark strands of culture — greed, violence, vanity — together with
light – sometimes romantic, sometimes spiritual. In an  age of celebrity
it is easy to conflate the man with the lyric. But we  simply don’t know
where the character of the song ends and where the  singer begins. But if
I had to guess, I’d say he’s in good cheer. On a  summer night in the
west, he offers once again his beautiful and  desolate tales for our
consideration, and often laughs.

A couple of the lovely dark bits: "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum." The 
piano has worked a wonderful transformation on this song. I wish I  could
describe it. They jam a very tight sinister jazzy bluesy thing,  Dylan
really leaning into the vocals. I close my eyes and see Romney  and Ryan
skewered together on Dylan's shish-ka-bob. Take your pick  though of any
evil twins you can imagine. It's a non-partisan critique  really. The band
just winds so tight you can see the smoke.

"John Brown" is a grim one he's played for 50 years now, and I can't  say
that tonight's version is a true standout, but I enjoy watching  him
center stage with harp, growling out the grotesque tale one more  time. A
parent raises a soldier for her own sick glory. I don’t need  Dylan to
write another protest song to prove that he is anti-war, anti- jingoistic;
this one will do fine, and he plays it often (you might  say

The band and Bob enjoy all the rave-ups, "Thunder on the Mountain," 
"Highway 61," "Summer Days," and so do I, the piano also a great 
change-up on these tunes. If only he would get the damn organ out of  the
way so we could see his hands better on the keys. If you stand far  right,
perhaps you can, I'm not sure.

The slow songs don't mean as much to me in these iterations, although 
"Simple Twist of Fate" is sweetly played by Dylan on guitar, and  "Spirit
on the Water," a song I am never excited by at the opening,  won me
completely by the heartfelt singing Bob puts into it, and the  hypnotic,
jazzy rhythms. This seems like a song Bob wrote for someone  he really
loves, and anyone doubtful of Dylan's capacity for joy  should listen and
watch closely to the current live rendition.

Okay, you get the idea. Worth the thousand miles for me. I love seeing 
Dylan in a field in a smaller town. After the show I was entranced by  the
happy faces in the dispersing crowd: beautiful sexy young women  with
their lovers, old hippies, just regular people with hearts split  a little
bit open by the great artist and his band. Looking at all of  them on a
beautiful breezy night in western Montana, my own heart felt  a little
broken, I don't know exactly why. I think Dylan, through the  last 35
years (I'm 52), after I see him again live, brings out the  youth in me,
the vulnerable soul, the longing. His music, dark and  light, tears open
the mundane and routine fabric of life. All the  loveliness and loneliness
and sad beauty of the world pours in. “Heart  burnin’, still yearnin’ . . . “

Rock on through the Midwest and the East, Bob! See you in Seattle in 

Steven Thwaits


Review by Steven King

“The weather was hot, nearly 90 degrees“. Actually it was 91 when we
pulled in to the Big Sky Brewery to wait in line around 4:00. But it was
cool on Bass (think Tony’s) Creek at the Larry Charles Campground, our
name not theirs, by Stevensville. The night before we’re camped at Upper
Red Rock Lake. In the line, we were sandwiched between folks from Coeur
d’Alene & Boise. We’d come from eastern most Idaho so the Spud State was
well represented. Very pleasant crowd, we caught up on the Canadian shows
and exchanged our Dylan tales. Gates opened at 6:30 and in we went and
found our spot. The lot behind the Brewery was flat, stage facing south,
plenty of space, no chance of running out of beer, with a nice breeze.
Around 8:00, Stew came out first and starts playing and the rest of the
band with Bob appear and they’re right into Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. No
opening act, no poet laureate intro, no Fanfare to the Common Man. Bob is
decked out with a white pants, white shirt, no tie, dark jacket trimmed in
red, gray western hat, and gold rimmed aviator sunglasses, which is good
because he’s staring right into the sun. He’s looking pretty sharp and
casual pounding it out on the electric piano. Good rocker to get things
going. Next he switched to the grand piano for Love Minus Zero/No Limit,
first time I’d seen it live and it was a very uplifting, heart felt
deliverance with some great harp. Loved it! Bob then comes center stage w/
harp & mike for Things Have Changed. He was really animated and into it
for a hard driving version. He laughed when he sang that Hollywood would
be better then Missoula, I don’t think he believed it. Then he follows
with Tangled Up In Blue, still center stage, solid version, always fun too
hear this one. Much different arrangement, shorter with new words for me.
Something about “coming down alone“. Mid song he move to the grand piano
(doesn’t play the electric again) which he did several times during the
night. Start in one place and move around to another. Just looking pretty
comfortable with the grand piano as an anchor. He follows with Tweedle Dee
& Tweedle Dum, a light rocker that sets us up for Visions Of Johanna on
piano. All time favorite and I’m thinking this set list is sweeeeet ! No
museum verse, but listening and watching Bob blow his harp into the
setting sun was a highlight for me. He follows up with a low key,
enjoyable, rolling along version of Summer Days. Next is Spirit On The
Water on piano with several harp breaks. Bob’s been smiling and laughing
all night but when he delivers the “you think I’m over the hill, think I’m
past my prime” line with a big smile, the irony is just a crackup. He
ended up center stage playing harp with his hand on Charlie’s shoulder.
This is followed by a good up tempo Honest With Me with a driving bass
drum throughout and Charlie‘s mean guitar. The suns down and the shades
are off and here comes John Brown! Donny on banjo, Bob center stage with
harp. Wow…… From there it’s Highway 61 on piano and we’re off in another
direction, thank you. There was this fun interplay between Charlie and Bob
that happened a lot in the closing numbers where they’d trade licks on
their instruments, a great effect. It kind of started on this one. Next
Mr. D straps on the Stratocaster for…… Simple Twist Of Fate. Just
wonderful, 3 different guitar solos, loved it , highlight #2. Very cool.
He follows this up with a up tempo Thunder On The Mountain. We’re dancing
in our spots again. What a great crowd, everyone standing all night, no
shoving or crowding, everyone can see, we’re all just moving to the groove
like one organism, everyone’s in their personal Dylan paraphernalia, the
band’s laughing, Bob’s smiling, good thing. Then Ballad Of A Thin Man,
Bob’s got the echo machine backing him up, fairly surreal. Great harp and
piano, great song. He seems to like playing it nightly. Must have a
favorite message in it. He follows this with Like A Rolling Stone, Charlie
has the big white Gretsch style guitar and Bob’s on the grand and they’re
playing off each other. Good one, what can you say about this one, #1,
with a band and a magazine named after it and it still works. Yikes. At
the end, Bob says, “ Well , thank you friends” and introduces the band.
All Along The Watchtower is next , good as ever. There must be some way
out of here but not yet. There’s a short break and he leaves us with
Blowin’ in the Wind. Bob’s on the grand, the band circle is tighter,
Tony’s playing a Stratocaster, and Bob didn’t just run through this one
for the thousandth time but he was on it like it’d just been written
yesterday. Beautiful. Thank you and thanks Missoula. They’re off and we
head into the night back to the Larry Charles on Bass Creek. 		


Review by Fred Robinson

I have little  to add to the already posted reviews, but I enjoyed the
concert so much that I have to hand you my nickel and dime.   This was
Bob's 10th Montana and 4th Missoula show.  I find this statistic
incredible.  Nobody with anywhere near his stature as musician,
songwriter, band leader, or cultural icon  has paid anywhere near such
attention to  this state or the other less populated regions he regularly 
visits on his North America tours. So don't  tell me he is aloof.  He
cares.   And if there was any doubt, on Tuesday evening, Bob was animated,
smiling, and appreciative.

There may have been even less frills, other than beer, than his already
austere past Montana shows-no introduction, no logo curtain-but Bob was
there to perform, and the band was there to play.  Who needs frills.  What
a great show!  The set list had no surprises (except maybe John Brown), 
but the arrangements were all fresh.  What stood out for me was the
prevalence of the grand piano on several of the numbers-even All Along the
Watchtower and HW61.   Bob took AATWT back a bit from Jimmie Hendrix, I
think, with this version.  Maybe because of the emphasis on the piano
there may have been a little less spontaneity to the show but the results
justify.   Other highlights for me were  Donnie's fiddle on Blowing in the
Wind and banjo on John Brown.  And there was the echo on Ballad of a Thin
Man-pretty cool, not to mention haunting.  The fiddle on BITW rendered the
song soulful and longing-my new favorite version I think, although I loved
Charlie's and Larry Campbell's harmonies in the version played for Bob's
first Missoula concert.  I anticipated that BITW would be the encore and
was not sure I liked the idea-let down?-but it turned out to be an
appropriate wind down-not let down-from AATWT.  Although I always want Bob
to play more, the show felt complete with such an ending.

The band really seems to be in sync with Bob-and that seems like it would
be a tall order with the ever changing arrangements and the leader
switching around from piano, to keyboard, to harmonica, to guitar.  Or
maybe that's why they are in sync-I don't know I guess. Whatever,  their
sound has a complexity and richness that you don't often hear in a 6-piece
travelling rock'n'roll band..... but I like it.  Those guys are good, as
they say.

Bob Dylan Forever.

Fred Robinson


Click Here
to return to the
Main Page

page by Bill Pagel

Tour Guide
Tour Guides
Bob Links
Set Lists
by Date
Set Lists
by Location