Reviews

Wallingford, Connecticut
Careerbuilder.com Oakdale Theater
August 17, 2003


[Cary Krosinsky], [Don Principe], [Ross Robinson], [Mark Gould],
[S. D. Walter], [Barry Klatzkin], [Debbie Fix], [Rick Pearl]

Review by Cary Krosinsky



Bob came on much earlier than he has lately tonight at Oakdale, around
8:30 or so, I'd say - not much more than 15-20 minutes after the Waifs'
excellent set was done.

Made one think that he or his band was in a hurry to get somewhere, and I
was concerned that the show might suffer.

Stuck Inside of Mobile was quite switched on, so concerns were quickly
allayed - band and Bob were together from the start in a good way.

Crowd gave big applause, and was quite appreciative throughout - quite
good to see.

Lay Lady Lay, however, was pretty much a train wreck - poor performance,
aimless harp, band lacked any dynamic and song ended awkwardly.

TD&TD - nice version with building, more interesting jams - Freddy badly
blew a line early on, but end of song was quite nice - would think this
song would benefit from less frequent play, but Bob knows best (I guess).

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight was well done - much, much better than the
Holmdel version, I thought.

Which led to one of those Things Have Changed's that is spot on, freshly
interpreted, and often leads to better things, which it soon did.

Highway 61 was on fire as it has been lately - that's not a negative -
this is one number this band nails quite successfully with regularity -
nothing wrong with that.

As Highway 61 was on fire, what else to follow but This Wheel's On Fire -
extremely well done, but why no Larry on back up vocals?  Larry seemed to
want to do it, but he obviously didn't get the 'okay' from the boss. 
Still quite nice indeed.

Watching the River Flow was a bit meandering I thought - not bad though,
just not as good as Holmdel, and certainly not as good as Hammerstein.

Wicked Messenger was quite nice though - Bob missed the 'Wicked Messenger'
line, but belted out the rest of the lyrics with a fury.  Tommy, who was
playing all night, was featured here - you could hear him quite clearly
jam away - no idea why Bob doesn't introduce him.  Song always seems quite
short, but this was better than average, I'd say.

Then, the special treat/bust out of Born in Time, sung tenderly and
delicately.

Followed by the Hard Rain of Hard Rain's.  Bob really soared here - taking
that New Orleans version as a base, and stretching even that fine version,
altering it, and finding new, possibly even higher ground - it was quite
spectacular, and the evening's highlight to be sure.

Honest With Me was quite well done - Bob changing inflections, clearly
charged up and not at all going through the motions on this one - very
exciting to see this song treated with unique versions lately - wish the
same could be said for old TD&TD, but there seems to be life in that (lord
knows he'll try!)

Simple Twist of Fate was quite nice and quiet, featuring Bob, much as the
Baby Blue did in the same spot at Hammerstein - not a great version, but
very nice.

The intros were quite bizarre - Bob apologised, apparently, for being
'shorthanded' and that he would 'make it up next time' - or at least
that's what it sounded like.  Was that a backhanded slap at Freddy?  Not
sure what that was all about.

He also did attempt to get a reaction from the crowd regarding George
Receli's being from Hartford a few times.  Little does Bob know that
Hartford doesn't raise much civic pride, I'm afraid.   Not to mention that
it's about 45 minutes away from Oakdale, and most Southern CT folks like
me don't relate much to Hartford - was fun to see him try to get a rise
out of the crowd, though. 

Then Summer Days, nailed - featuring Freddy, who was really on top of this
one - he's getting this one down - version was definitely on a par with
most of the better ones from the fall - much better than any of the Spring
ones.

Like A Rolling Stone was quite bizarre as well, so far as Bob not joining
the stage for about a minute, while the band played on - you think they'd
start a song once Bob was on stage - what was the big hurry about tonight?
Freddy again adding nice lead throughout. 

Watchtower of course - and very short - Bob jumped into his verses early
each time, and cut off Freddy completely on his first jam.  Just seemed a
few times tonight like the band wanted to be done with this show, even
though there were quite a few nice songs in the bunch.

This was a very good but not great show tonight, but I don't know quite
what to make of the chemistry of this band.  Freddy is quite good, but not
sure he's jelling with Bob.  I hope he keeps Freddy, and adds perhaps
another rhythm guitar/backup singer.  Bob may well miss the lack of backup
singing, which does limit the songs he can play with this particular band.

Also, this band does have a bit of a sameness after awhile.  And we get it
in small doses.  Bob's heard these guys night after night - it wouldn't
shock me if he made changes, only to keep it fresh for himself, especially
if he's tiring of Freddy.

Certainly the Nils show indicated what a great guitarist could do for Bob
- Freddy does pale in comparison to Nils, but then again, so do most other
players.

Overall, a very good show, spiced up by a Born In Time bust out, and a
Hard Rain for the gods.  Well worth getting the CD on this one.  One does
wonder if things will change after this tour, though.

Bob's 62 - and I think he sess the NET as his 'fountain of youth'.  If he
keeps it up, and it works so that he's still playing when he's 72 - that
would be fine by me.  So here's hoping he can keep finding ways to keep it
fresh for him and for us.

[TOP]

Review by Don Principe



I first saw Bob in 1980 at the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford CT, in what
I call his Jesus Saves period.   It was not what I expected but hey it was
Bob and Tim Drummond and alot of back round singers it was cool enough.
Fast forward to 1991 and the Tony Ganier/Winston Watson/JJ Johnson (?)
era...I knew this was the real thing. I have seen Bob 20+ times since
1980; as much as I can afford living in the Northeast and I really have
loved every show. Tonight was no different, but I never thought I would
really long for old GREASY KID STUFF Charlie Sexton. Oakdale is a great
venue. Sunday was a rainy T-Storm kinda night but a beautiful venue for an
indoor show.  Bob last played here in 97 and Danko (RIP) showed up for
Wheels On Fire and Knocking...Although alot of seats were not sold for the
gig, those who were there really enjoyed it.

I was stunned when they came on before the announced time (per the cheat
sheet near the sound board) of 8:30 pm.  No problem, we missed the "Poet
Laureate of Rock n Roll..." and sat after the first 30 seconds of Memphis
Blues. My first reaction was what is Fred Schneider of the B52s playing
guitar for the band?. Ok, it was a humorous point, but this guy was no
Charlie. I never had a great love affair with Charlie, as Larry always
kicked ass in my opinion, but this guy from the get go, was a step behind.
Not to knock his technical chaps, he was a player in THAT sense, but he
does not translate the soul, the groove that Charlie did. The band in 2002
was like a locomotive. This was not. Don't know how to say it any clearer.
Song selection was great: Memphis, Lay Lady Tweedle Dee all great
selections...but I missed the Charlie /Larry connection. And why is there
a need for some guy (I know who he is) in the wings playing rhythm? I
mean, bring him on stage or don't Bob.  I will take your bad solos Bob;
get Larry Bud Melman off the stage. Larry kicked ass with "I'll Be Your
Baby Tonight", an the obligatory "Things Have Changed". 61 was great as
usual but "Wheels on Fire" made me feel that we had something special
going on. River Flow was good and Fred was growing on me. Messenger was as
usual great, but "Born In Time" and "Hard Rain" really kicked ass. Bob 
(with what looked like really dark hair, hey I have seen this guy since
1980, it looked alot darker, I am sorry) sang with conviction and heart.
Honest With Me was great as Larry stole the song as usual. But the real
surprise was "Simple Twist of Faith" as Bob delivered the usual rushed but
emotional version followed but the obligatory "Summer Days" and the LIRS
an AATWT as encores. I have seen the man in several states; missed work
and pissed off the wife to see a show but I must say if it was not for the
song selection I would have left disappointed.  Bring back Charlie. Sorry
Freddie. I hope Larry sticks around but my take is he splits after the
Europe leg.  The NET will roll on, but it wont have the punch it did with
Charlie and Larry. None the less it was a great night of music as
always...thanks Bob. Donnie P.

[TOP]

Review by Ross Robinson



The Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford was shelter from the storm for a
few thousand fans who drove to the Bob Dylan show in a messy thunderstorm.
This was to be my 11th show since Freddie joined up and I'll say right
from the start this was a great show.  Sure, coming on the heels of the
twice canceled Hammerstien show, the lousy sound, poor playing and hideous
facility in Bushkill, we were due. Bushkill was as much a disaster as the
blackout.

The acoustics in this room are superb and we were reminded of this
right away as  The Waifs gorgeous sound warmed the crowd.
 
Memphis Blues was a nice alternate to open with. The band sounded
sharp.  The sound in the theatre was warm like a studio.  I call this
incarnation the "louder, faster, harder" Dylan band.  Sometimes I just
wish it was '99 again. On a night like this though, the present moment was
gold.  The warhorses like Tweedle Dee and Highway 61 fairly crackled with
great rock guitar energy.  Such that everyone in the audience knew to look
up and pay attention.  Then things got heavy.  Typicaly, if I hear
something good from Blonde on Blonde like Memphis Blues perhaps along with
something like tonite's This Wheel's on Fire, I'm pleased. What followed
though is what George Clinton said would Tear the Roof Off the Sukka'.
Three songs: Born in Time, A Hard Rain and A Simple Twist of Fate were all
just sweet relief, beautifully played songs. The crowd was ecstatic.  The
encores rocked.  I was so high from this show that on the 2 hour ride home
the radio at one point played some Sanskirt chanting and I was digging it.
Wow.  See you at the show!

[TOP]

Review by Mark Gould



It was one year shy of the six-year anniversary of Rick Danko's surprise
appearance with Dylan at the relatively small Oakdale Theatre, and last
night's show seemed to have some of the ghosts from that performance, not
the least of which was a reading of "This Wheel's On Fire," which Dylan
performed with Danko at that memorable show back in August '97.

Last night was different, though, very different. Whereas that gig had a
much younger crowd, given that Ani DiFranco was one of the openers, last
night's was more typically Dylan, with most of the crowd a bit older, tie
dyed and blue jeaned,  and it was a more free-form performance. 

The Waifs, who opened for about 40 minutes, were spectacular. Dylan was
supposed to be on stage at 8:30, but the "Hoedown" intro started at 8:25.
I had an excellent seat to view him, eighth row, just off his keyboard,
which gave an interesting viewpoint for the way he conducts the show. He
remained there most of the night, occasionally venturing into the area
next to Tony and Freddie for a Dylanesque dance and finger snapping, but
not too often. He would grab harps from a stand behind him and leave them
on the top of the keyboard. A couple of those solos were nice, but nothing
Earth shattering. He really leaned into the keyboard, usually right leg
perched in front of the left, much as the way I remember him, like a
prizefighter ready for battle, as far back as the '74 tour with the Band.
Between songs, as the lights dimmed, he would rush out to Tony, announce
the next song, and Tony would relay it to Freddie and Larry.

Overall, I thought the performance was fairly good, although I would agree
with the other comments that Freddie is not Charlie. That is not
necessarily a putdown, given that he changes the band dynamics. The last
Connecticut show was in November at the cavernous Hartford Civic Center,
and the warmth of the smaller Oakdale did make for a more intimate show.
Freddie is tasty, but in a louder way than Charlie, and it makes for a
more rockin' band, in some ways. The highlights, for me, were the simply
breathtaking "Hard Rain," a strong "Baby Tonight," and a good opening with
"Memphis Blues." Bob seemed to be controlling his vocals fairly well,
pulling back at times after he would reach a bit too far and get a bit
Dylan-like hoarse. But, if you come to a Dylan show for the vocals, you
may have made a wrong turn. Nothing blew me away like "Johanna" in
Hartford last November, but nothing was more worse than a bit ragged,
either.

A cool little bit at the end, too, when Bob walked in front of the band
for the final bow, literally hat in hand, and feigned collapsing over the
loud standing ovation. He actually smiled, nah, smirked a bit, too. It was
a neat end to a good show.

[TOP]

Review by S. D. Walter



Nothing like a two-hour thunderstorm on the Merritt Parkway to prepare one
for a concert; not once did it let up, with blackened skies and pounding
rain all along the line.  Nerves frayed, we finally made it into the
Oakdale, I mean Careerbuilder.com, Theater, couched within a strange
barnlike lobby with something of the faux-ambience of a food court at the
local mall.  Large martinis poured by a sympathetic barman soon restored
our spirits, though, and it was then that I had my first look at the crowd
--  older, for the most part, and country-club casual in dress.  Suddenly
I flashed back on the Mohegan Sun concert in November '01, with its
horrid, inert audience, and experienced, mid-sip, a moment of deep
foreboding.  But then I took another, and it passed.

Come to think of it, we seem to hit foul weather just about every time we
go into or through Connecticut for a show -- the sound of a thunder that
roared out a warning?  Not about the performance itself.  Dylan was
incendiary tonight:  as with Hammerstein from Holmdel, what I heard in
Wallingford was almost a 180 degree turn from the previous show, yet
another alchemic transmutation that left me slack-jawed, reeling.  Once
again the band sailed together -- Campbell grinning, Receli smashing,
Garnier bobbing and weaving like a ferret on the prowl, Koella, well,
Koella-ing -- and Dylan helmed with confidence and ease, the distressing
signs from Bushkill almost completely in abeyance.  When he wandered the
stage tonight, it was for hand-clapping, jivin', and even, it seemed,
encouragement.

"Memphis Blues" opened, sung with wholly unexpected verve and humor,
probably more effective here than anywhere else in the set.  A calm,
shimmering "Lay Lady Lay" came next, followed by a group of standards -- 
"Tweedle Dee"; an "I'll Be Your Baby" with rollicking harp; "Things Have
Changed," easily the equal of the great Hammerstein version; and a
squealing, squalling, scorching "Highway 61" -- that slowly built what was
to be an unstoppable momentum once the set took off for parts unknown.  As
it did once that wheel started rollin' down the road.  I hadn't heard the
previous "Wheel's on Fire" from the Deadleg, and wondered how it would
come off without the backing vocals, but Dylan rendered them irrelevant
with an appropriately fiery vocal that scaled the heights without a slip,
the band his ropes and pitons, holding him up all the way.

Above-average versions of "Messenger" and "River Flow" brought me back to
earth before the next wild ascent, probably the best surprise of this tour
for me, and one of my most-loved later songs, "Born in Time," sung with an
piercing delicacy "like nectar that can drill through steel."  And just
when I knew I was gone, he came back, with a "Hard Rain" so
finely-controlled, concentrated and intense -- using the New Orleans
arrangement as a template but then throwing that template away -- that I
almost lost track of myself entirely, cast out into the distant reaches of
the American sublime.

Almost.  Why not entirely?  To explain that, I must return to the warning
in the rainstorm:  what did the thunder say?  Something about thousands
whispering and nobody listening, perhaps.  This was one of the worst
audiences for a Dylan concert that I've had the misfortune to encounter. 
At least in my part of the lower orchestra, the crowd was deader than a
colony of prairie dogs struck down with the monkey-pox.  Every
performance, however well-played, impassioned, or downright magnificent,
met with the same bemused indifference.  By and large, people sat
stock-still when not eating or drinking, and for many it seemed a
monumental effort even to put their hands together at the end of a song. 
One could not have judged from their behavior that they were anywhere near
a live performance; it was as if they were watching a reality show called
"Dylan" on their couches back at home. I don't really want to make this
another installment of the Never-ending sit or stand debate; people are
free to enjoy the concert as they wish, and like it or not, every section
has to come up with its own pragmatic rules --  usually, if I'm farther
back, I'm happy to do either, however it works out. That said, to see no
one standing in even the very front rows is an enormously dispiriting
sight.  No one rushed the aisles, as almost always occurs, and the few
brave souls who could no longer restrain themselves and stood up for a
burst of arm-waving or dancing were quickly sucked back into the gloomily
complacent vortex, never to be heard from anymore.

Say what you will about New Jersey audiences, but they're almost always
wildly enthusiastic for Dylan; sometimes too much so, especially if the
bar's been open awhile.  Same for New York, and even Pennsylvania:  the
Bushkill crowd was on its feet all night, even at times when that might
have been construed as an overly generous response.  What is it about
Connecticut, then?  Seems like every show I've seen there has been
infected by this sheeplike torpor.  There's a difference between
"well-behaved" and apathetic, and try as I did to ignore it, the lameness
of the crowd became steadily more oppressive, scream-inducing, almost
suffocating in fact --  much more so, ironically, than being wedged in at
the Hammerstein Ballroom like a clown inside a VW Bug -- to the extent
that, at the outset of a particularly rampageous "Honest with Me," we
decided to flee our good seats to seek some breathing-and-moving room in
the back, avoiding the officious exertions of the staff as best we could. 
What followed was yet another revelation, a gently-swaying, richly-hued
"Simple Twist" that would have been the evening's highlight had there not
been so many others.  Finally some rows got out of their seats for a
soaring "Summer Days," but by no means a majority, and by then it was too
late.

The lesson of this concert, however, is:  scratch the "energy-bonding"
theory.  Not that it never happens, just that it's thoroughly
unpredictable and thrown off by a hundred other factors.  Dylan clearly
intended to deliver an excellent performance from the get-go tonight, and
that's just what he did; whether he worked even harder to win the audience
over, or reacted to the sluggishness with a classic f***-you, and built a
Heaven in Connecticut's despite, is open to discussion.  Doesn't matter, I
suppose. But here's an instance -- and this is something I feel very
rarely -- where a good-quality recording may prove more enjoyable than the
actual experience.  At least that's how it seemed to me.

What a mind-warping tour it's been so far, no?  Almost as unpredictable as
the early NET.  These night-to-night transformations have been little
short of miraculous, thrilling and disquieting in roughly equal measure. 
Last night was nearly on a par with Hammerstein on Wednesday, much more
adventurous in terms of song choice, and given the context, even more
inspiring.  Dylan didn't give an inch to that sterile, Lexus-driving,
nacho-slurping, hand-sitting, spiritually-lobotomized Connecticutuckian
audience; he measured to the hour its solitude, was the single artificer
of the world in which he sang, and opened up a wild cathedral evening in
my soul.

But I'm never seeing him in Connecticut again.

[TOP]

Review by Barry Klatzkin



Talent will only take musicians so far.  After that development comes only
through knowledge.  Some of the best, the most knowledgable, rock music is
being played nightly to audiences of only a few thousand lucky people.

Shame on the few thousand luckies at Oakdale last night.  Even my father
was guilty, I admit.  The "I-paid-my-80-bucks-I'm-gonna-sit-my-ass-down"
attitude yielded such low energy that Bob Dylan mentioned it.  When
introducing George Recile, Dylan announced that he was from Hartford.

I have heard more emotional response from golf announcers.  Dylan couldn't
believe it.  "He's from Hartford.  Come on."

Nothing from the crowd.

"You're from Hartford, right?" Dylan asked.

"Yep," said Recile.

Dylan laughed to himself and told a joke, "George is the best drummer...on
thisstage."

That made me think about David Kemper.  Everyone else, I am conviced was
thinking about their checkbooks. But what else could be expected at the
GiveMeMoney.com Oakdale Theater? After all, two large glowing signs
hovered on either side of the proscenium toremind us all of
BuyMyCrap.com's sponsorship of this otherwise super venue.

Facing an audience that did not live up to its responsibility, it took a
few songsfor Bob Dylan and his Band to hit their stride.  But when they
did, God help those nostalgic heathens.

By the time "Things Have Changed" began, the band was smoking.  I was
happy to again hear that polyrhythmic break after the "pointed over with
his gun" chorus of Highway 61.  It really stands as an example of Larry's
and Freddy's brilliant abilities to manipulate time.

Hard Rain was better than I have ever seen or heard it.  Dylan was dead on
withthe staccato wordplay that makes up the bulk of each verse.

By "Honest With Me" the crowd stirred in spite of itself.  After a respite
intolethargy for the band introduction, the now-standing Connecticutians
redeemed themselves from "Summer Days" until the standing ovation that
continued through the encore and until long after the house lights were
up.

Complaints aside, the audience was not the story tonight.  I am sure that
Bob Dylan would play well with an entirely different band behind him, but
I am glad that he doesn't.  Garnier (who finally gets to show off as a
bassist during"I'll be Your Baby Tonight"),  Recile, and even the hidden
Tommy Morrongiello are as good a rhythm section as you will ever hear.

They make Dylan better, and they support Larry Campbell and Freddy Koella
unfailingly.  As I said after Hammerstein on Wednesday, this band would
steal the show away from anyone but Bob Dylan.  The two guitar players are
able to play inventively and effectively all the time.  They cannot
receive too much credit for their play.

For his part, Dylan was great.  His energy was considerably lower than it
was at Hammerstein, but that only detracted from the spectacle.  His
vocals and piano were great.  Harmonica was a little loose, but it did its
trick.  He did movearound on stage quite a bit by the end of the show, and
that is always fun to watch.

[TOP]

Review by Debbie Fix



I am an usher at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, Ct.  I've seen Bob
Dylan 3 times now, in concert.  To tell you the truth, I was NOT looking
forward to this concert because of the past.  I always thought the music
was bad and the crowd was worse.  I always wanted to hear, Lay Lady Lay
and he never played it.   I was ready for a bad evening. The evening
started off with the Waifs.  After 1 song I realized what a great band
they are.   It was nice for the lead singer because her mom had flown in
from Austrailia to see her in concert.  The music got better and better.
They received a standing ovation.  I'd buy their CD any day! Bob Dylan
came on and I expected the crowd to start with the usual stuff we see at
the Bob Dylan concerts.  What a shock!  The crowd was great.  I enjoyed
the music!  I couldn't understand one word Bob said but the music made up
for that.  It was fun watching the crowd enjoy themselves.  They truly
enjoyed the music.  Everyone stayed seated watching the concert, which
surprised us.   A few scattered people got up to dance and we moved them
over to the left side of the theater into the empty seating area so they
wouldn't be standing in front of people who wanted to remain sitting. 
Towards the end, everyone was standing but they were so good, just
enjoying the music.  I have to say, the music and the crowd made it one of
the most enjoyable concerts I've been to in a long time!  I think Bob was
better than I've seen him in the past.   Unfortunately he would have
stayed and continue to sing after 1 encore, but the crowd got up and
started leaving.  He was on stage and stood there and watched.  When he
saw they were leaving, he decided to leave too.  What a shame!  It was a
great show.  If all of his concerts this tour are this good, I think every
Dylan fan should make an effort to get to the concert nearest them.  They
will NOT be disappointed.

[TOP]

Review by Rick Pearl



Much has been written about the lack of enthusiasm from the audience at
the Oakdale Theater for this show.  Much of it is deserved, but as a
25-year veteran of Dylan shows I have come to learn that the crowd doesn't
necessarily drive the performance.  An enthusiastic, "with-it" audience
certainly helps, but I can attest that Bob's performances can rise above a
lukewarm (some would say "civil") reception.

Such was the case in Wallingford, CT.   Since the complete set has already
been given a thorough review elsewhere on this page, I will focus on a few
main points/songs.

First, I thought the acoustics for this auditorium were phenomenal.
Perhaps it was because the crowd was so quiet.  However, Bob's performance
on such lyrically challenging songs as "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" was as
good as it gets.  Some reviewers have mentioned that they couldn't
understand Bob.  Admittedly there are venues where acoustics are muddied,
the mix is low on the vocals, or Bob just mumbles.  But to see him
snarling and spitting out lyrics such as: "I met a young child beside a
dead pony, I met a white man who walked a black dog ... etc." with such
clarity was truly inspirational.  In addition to the vocals, Bob's piano
seemed to be up in the mix, as I could hear it quite clearly on most songs
(unlike the Fall 2002 tour, when he might as well have been pounding
pillows for all I heard).

Secondly, the rendition of "Simple Twist of Fate" was beautifully done.
Again, Bob's lyrics were strong, and the band supported him perfectly.

Finally, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" in the number four spot was a welcome
pleasure.  Larry did great work on the pedal steel and the whole effort
was rendered with more TLC than some previous versions I have heard.

As crowds go, this one was a bit polite/restrained.  Perhaps it was the
venue - those cushy seats and movie theater lobby may have led some into a
false sense of calm.  But there was enough to like about this show
musically to make all of that just an asterisk.

[TOP]

page by Bill Pagel
billp61@execpc.com

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