Reviews

Gilford, New Hampshire

Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion

August 19, 2011


[Larry Fishman], [John Fabian]

Review by Larry Fishman



Venue:   I believe this is Bob's 2nd trip to the Meadowbrook Pavilion which is
an attractive amphitheater as far as amphitheaters go.  It certainly has an
attractive parking lots with nice wooden fences and non national chain venders
for those that care about those sorts of things. The first time around was Stu
Kimball's virgin performance and I remember the terrific Waifs were the opening
act as well.  But don't count me as much of fan of this part of New Hampshire
with it's non existent zoning laws - this is the state that has "Live Free or
Die" on it's license plates.  You have to be struck by its' beautiful rolling
hills, trees and lakes and then ones eyes are assaulted by signs touting Jet Ski
Rentals, charmless strip malls and run down boarded up gas stations....  

Leon Russell.  An inspiring choice as a touring partner and someone who has a
nice old Dylan connection and a fascinating musical legacy in his own right.  We
first saw him as the doe eyed, hep cat sideman to Joe Cocker (You can rent 'Mad
Dogs" on Netflix and it's one of the greatest rock tours that you don't know
enough about) and George Harrison, and now he has emerged in 2011 as a cross
between Cousin It and that Hagrid guy in the first Harry Potter movie.  To think
he ended up being married to Cher...no wait...that was Greg Allman.  Anyway,
they say if you are feeling heavy you should hang around fat people.  Well Leon
certainly makes our man Bob look like the formerly forever young Dick Clark. 
He's absolutely ancient and with a gruff, graveling nasally voice - I am talking
about Leon here.   Emerging on stage with a cane, and huge mass of hair and
beard, he launches into a non-stop 45 minute set of his own material and various
covers.  I think his interpretation of "Wild Horses" is definitive.  Anyway,
I've read a few discouraging words about him on this site and couldn't disagree
further.  I think he put on a great performance and is an under appreciated
national treasure.  

Bob and the Band.  Bob looked healthy and energetic in his white Stetson, green
accented black suit and matching white boots.  I think he's got a foo kind of
beard going or maybe it was just a non-shave scruff, I couldn't be exactly
certain.  I was seated close, but had a bad angle.  The band was placed bunched
up with Tony Garnier kind of hemmed in the back - the drum riser behind him and
then some monitors were stacked around him and in front of him.  The others all
dressed in some version of black, a couple of hats and all playing various
instruments.   

It has certainly been a brutal week from the stock market so I was certainly
seeking Shelter From the Storm.  I could have suggested a few appropriate songs
for the setlist:  "It's Alright Ma" for the "Money Doesn't Talk it Swears" line
or "The Times They are A Changin," but Bob never asks me for suggestions. 
Besides, I'd tell him to play the whole basements tapes from beginning to end. 
Anyway, the sound quality was pretty good so it's let's get to it;

1.    Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat.  Nice clean opener and the first of a handful
of Blonde on Blonde numbers that he seems to like to perform each night.  I
thought it was crisp, clean and strong.  A good opening lift to the gig.

2.  To Ramona.  A lovely performance with a swaying, braying waltz like
arrangement and Bobby's vocals sounding deep and warm.  Back in the 90's, it
seemed that he performed the song at every show I went to, now I wish he
performed it at every show.

3.  Things Have Changed.  If there was a song crying out for a new arrangement
it was this one.  It's not as if the original melody wasn't any good, it just
got a little stale after performing it non-stop for the last couple of years.  I
call this the "Lily and the Jack of Hearts" arrangement as it's now a texas two
step with a blistering harp.  And by the way, all night long Zim was stretching
out words in his vocals, on this one, it was a "looooosing hand." 

4.   Tangled Up in Blue.  With Bob shedding the keyboards on the last song, he
stayed at center stage for a decent stab at this signature tune.  He stretched
out "Mathematician" and "wives" for such a long time that I left out a huge
laugh.  It's all about the phrasing isn't it?

5.  Beyond Here Lies Nothing.   The sole tune from Together Through Life and I'd
write this one into the setlist a bit more frequently.  I seem to remember that
Donnie Herron used to play trumpet on this one, he didn't tonight.  

6.  Mississippi.  I go to all these shows because he changes the arrangements,
but while the new version is good - I think I like the original more.  However,
I'll gladly take this one to hear those incredible words again.

7.  Desolation Row.  Come now, this is simply one of the Bard's most
extraordinary songs.  For any other artist, it would enough for a career as it
jammed with such imagery that it makes my heart spin on every listen.  Is Dylan
the only person who can turn "row" into a four syllable word.  Or how about Maid
sung as "May-aid."  Talmudic beauty and fun stuff, from the guy who I call my
spiritual advisor.

8.  High water.  I thank you Bob again.  Certainly one of the highlights of my
night and not simply because he didn't perform Summer Days in this spot. 
Donnie's banjo was bit perfect, along with the big beats and great delivery this
is one to listen for when the bootlegs start coming out.

9.  Spirit in the Water.   You gotta give the man credit, this is a damn long
song - and how the hell can he remember all the lyrics.  In fact, I think there
are as many words if you add up Desolation Row and this one as Billy Joel wrote
in his entire career.  I welcome this tune, but I think most of the people in
this crowd don't have this song on the iPod playlist.

10.  Highway 61.  Speaking of pleasing a crowd, nary a night goes by where they
don't haul out this serviceable rocker.  And so I don't forget, I think Bob
largely put the muzzle on the band on this night.  Most of the solo's were Bob
Organ or Bob Harp solo's - I was expecting Charlie Sexton to launch into orbit
and he was quite restrained.

11.  Simple Twist of Fate.  A sweet, slow take that was wondrous to hear.

12.   Thunder on the Mountain.  Not a personal favorite of mine, buy man oh man,
did they crank this one up.  At it's completion, the woman next to me said, "If
that don't wake up the dead, nothing will."  Good job lads.

13.  Ballad of a Thin Man.  Punctuated with two harp solos, and sung nicely.

14.  Like A Rolling Stone.  What's there to say about his mighty monster.  It's
got to be performed for those newbies but I don't mind.  

15.  All Along the Watchtower.  I was able to surge to the stage for the final
song and caught a good glimpse at the Oscar Statue.  I can tell you definitively
that the darn thing is tiny - maybe ten inches tall.  You get one at a souvenir
store on Hollywood Boulevard for $2.99.  Anyway, an authoritative end to the
night.  A good show and looking forward to the next one.

Larry Fishman
Larry@thebigstockbroker.com
www.thebigstockbroker.com  

[TOP]

Review by John Fabian



I attended the Gilford, New Hampshire, Dylan concert on August 19, 2011 with my
good friend who was seeing Bob live for the first time. Here are my impressions
of the songs sung.

1. The band and Dylan sleepwalked through Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat. It was rote
and played by automatons. Is this a sound check substitute? 

2. To Ramona. Closest performance of the evening to an original recording. Very
interesting considering this version was electric. My personal favorite of the
night.

3. Things Have Changed. A highly contrived performance acted out in a cringingly
vaudevillian way.

4. Up singing, down singing, voice lowering, stretched words and phrases beyond
endurance or patience of the audience or band, Tangled Up In Blue became tangled
up it what to do new with it.

5. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' except growls and a quick rendition. If we had known
in advance, this would have made a good potty-break song.

6. Mississippi. I so love this song that if Bob squealed a balloon into the
microphone and barked the words in one quarter time, I would still bow down and
pay the homage to the man. This version was not much different from the original
in phrasing, although Bob did not follow my lead and stop singing when I did,
well, it's his show. I swayed in my seat loving each beat.

7. He is over playing this masterpiece, constantly trying to rephrase each line.
Is he bored with himself? He should back up a step and look out tonight from
Desolation Row.

8. Sometimes an instrument upstages Bob's lyrics. Usually it is Bob's harmonica
playing and other nights it is Bob commanding the universe playing lead guitar.
Tonight it was a banjo: clear precise, relevant, engaging. The lyrics were
forgotten in High Water.

9. Spirit On the Water moved my mate to breathless wonderment as she heard it
for the first time. I was in awe of her reaction and Bob's ability to move
people. Until she squeezed my arm and said, "I LOVE this!" I was thinking it was
just filler.

10. Next came a rote performance of Highway 61 Revisited. Big rocking' sound to
contrast the sweet performance before. Predictable.

11. Searching for new phrasing and a way to sour a beautiful love story, Bob
succeeded right up to the end where he muffed a longer keyboard and harmonica
ending forcing the band to cut the song off. Maybe for the best.

12. Thunder On The Mountain. A beautiful musical rendition for a complex and
surly lyric. I never understand why he uses the music he does for this song. And
for those in the know it's the beginning of the end.

13. Ballad Of A Thin Man. The surprising highlight of the night for me. Bob's
vocals were a glorious reminder of his abilities from years ago. I would rather
hear Bob Dylan perform one song in good voice than sit through a season of
growls  and pay the same amount! His voice exuded confidence wafting in and
out, up and down. His voice tremoloed in a way I had not heard in years. He took
my breath away.

14. After a very short intermission, lights out, lights on, Bob returned,
introduced the band and launched into a rocking' rendition of Like a Rolling
Stone. The crowd liked it and stood, shouting, singing, and thrusting arms in
the air. All the things a crowd should be doing throughout a rock concert. But
Bob isn't rock, he isn't folk, he isn't blues, he isn't country. Bob is Bob. We
stood and clapped and cheered too. Lemmings happily at the edge.

15. All Along The Watchtower followed the thundering end to Rolling Stone
keeping up the frantic pace and delivering a visceral end to the evening. Lights
out. Goodnight.

Overall I was not impressed with the performance. It came across perfunctorily
with vocal gimmicks and gestures, like all the songs had been played a few too
many times. I am jaded. I have seen Bob forty times over that number of years.
My friend on the other hand reveled in Bob's uniquely diverse musical sound. I
honor her opinion and know I can learn from it. 

Keep plain' Bob, I'll keep coming.

John Fabian
Hanover, New Hampshire

[TOP]

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