August 17, 2012
Review by Nick White
I flew up to Rapid City from Cleveland, OH for my 12th Bob Dylan concert
and first in the beautiful Black Hills of Dakota. The concert was located
in the unimpressive Barnett Arena and there were a few empty seats. It was
a little disappointing not to hear Bob's standard introduction, as I had
grown so used to it over the years. Pill Box hat was a little gruff and it
took me awhile to recognize it. As usual Bob's voice got better after the
first few songs. Tangled up in Blue started off great, but Bob's voice
become very hard to make out when he moved to the piano after the second
verse. The band seemed to be restrained on rockers like High Water, Tweedle
Dee and even Rolling Stone by the new piano arrangements. It would have
been nice to see Charlie go off on some of his great solos. The highlight
of the night was Desolation Row, which sounded great with the piano. Bob's
singing was clear and he played 8 of the 10 versus. The piano really adds
a different sound to the band and gives a lot of the songs a different
feel, which is cool to hear, but in my opinion is best suited for the less
upbeat songs like Love Sick and Feel My Love. Overall, it was another great
show from Mr. Dylan.
Review by Ken Steinken
What Dylan concerts lack, I like
I saw Bob Dylan when he was in Rapid City 12 years ago. But I wanted to see him
again. That surprised me because I’m not a huge Dylan fan and I don’t go to many
concerts any more. I don’t like the sky-high ticket prices or all the music industry’s
But in the words of a 31-year-old friend I saw after Friday’s concert, “It was
Bob-fricking-Dylan.” Right here in Rapid City. No road trip required. Just a mile drive
down Fifth Street from my house to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center parking lot.
“Rapid City is awesome,” exclaimed my 28-year-old nephew from Boston as we
turned left into the civic center without having to wait for any traffic.
Traffic was one of the many things that the Dylan concert didn’t have. Not much
of a crowd either. Even thought the Don Barnett Arena was draped off in its
smaller venue mode, there were plenty of empty seats.
The small turnout was a mystery to me. Why didn’t more people from the Black
Hills flock to see Bob Dylan? My wife says it’s because they have a “been there,
seen that” attitude that she’s observed with other big name entertainers who
have returned to the Rapid City with similar results.
I asked the guy who came in and sat down in the single seat next to me if he was
from Rapid City. “No, I’m from Denver,” he said.
Denver was not included on this Dylan tour, which started back in April in Rio de
Janeiro, continued through South America and Mexico before heading to Europe
then crossing the ocean back to Canada and swinging down to Missoula on the way
to hit other international hot spots like Fargo, Des Moines and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“I’m going to the concert in Sioux Falls tomorrow night,” the guy from Denver
added. I could have walked here if I wasn’t so lazy, I thought to myself.
Maybe lots of people were like my son and his wife, who saw Dylan just over two
years ago when he played the Buffalo Chip. “Why did we pay $160 to stand in this
dusty field and listen to a bunch of songs we don’t recognize,” my son said to his
wife during that 2010 Sturgis Rally concert.
I didn’t recognize many of the songs Friday night either. Part of it might have been
because I couldn’t hear the words. My wife said she could make out about 40
percent of the lyrics, which were about 30 more than me. It could have been the
sound system or the arena acoustics or my aging hearing.
But here’s the thing. Even with songs I thought I recognized, I wasn’t 100 percent
sure that it was the song I thought. Dylan’s concert renditions tend to vary
significantly from the studio versions of his songs.
That’s OK with me though. I figure since he wrote the songs, he can sing them any
way he wants. And he does. He’s not there to please the crowd. He shows up to
And that’s what he does. For nearly two hours. He comes out on a dark stage and
starts playing. No warm-up bands. No “What’s up, Rapid City? Are you ready to
party?” No blather between songs. No mention of “This is from our new album” in
an attempt to get you to buy his music.
During the two hour concert Bob Dylan played harmonica, grand piano,
guitar and organ.
He’s 71 years old and he’s released over 50 albums. Does he really care if you buy
his music? I don’t think so.
But if you go to www.bobdylan.com (like I did to find the Rapid City concert set
list complete with lyrics), you’ll find the industry hype. It’s run by people who do
care if you buy his music. They know Bob Dylan is a worldwide phenomenon that
can make them some money.
I was greeted by a pop-up promoting “Tempest,” his next album that’s due out in
September. You can pre-order just the album or the bundle, which comes with “
a Hohner Bob Dylan Signature Series harmonica and an exclusive 11 x 17 poster.”
You can also find a list of 10 Must-Hear Songs for New Listeners (and of course a
link to download each or all of the songs for 99 cents a piece).
But the concert had none of that foolishness. It was just about the music. And
that’s the way I like my concerts.
To be honest I was a bit disappointed on a few songs by Dylan’s less-than-virtuoso
piano leads. But when my nephew said (jokingly, I hope) after the concert, “If
this band got a new vocalist, they might really go somewhere,” I had to disagree.
He was singing the blues the way I like them – raspy, raw, real. And besides,
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