Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo Civic Center Arena

August 19, 2012

[Gene Senger], [A. Moraghan], [Craig Planting ]

Review by Gene Senger

In Fargo I kept having this vision of Bob and his scorching band coming
out of the west where the fire storms burn. Maybe they looked a bit singed
but they were a step ahead of the flames and heading east. Bob's vocals
were clear, sometimes crooning (Tryin' To Get To Heaven) to barking (LARS)
and growling (Tweedle Dum/Dee), soft (Sugar Baby) he did it all. Charlie
was ultra cool, looking unfazed as if it's nothing, I get the feeling he
can do so much more. Like a caged animal, pacing, glaring above the crowd
he never misses a beat, sharp and alert, in need of any breaks. Ultimately
he gets let loose and shreds notes fast and fiercely with a content look
on his face. Bob's use of the piano is interesting the way he jabs at the
keys, not going for precision, more for a dirty, muddy, rhythmic sound
that made the phrasing of the songs jazzier than I've heard before. Once
again, these songs look the same on a set list but once again, things have
changed when hearing them. I drove up from St. Paul and met others in line
from other parts of MN too as well as others who came from the Dakotas and
many other parts. The party began before 3 pm when we occupied the grass
at the Fargo Civic Center with lawn chairs, coolers, picnics, books,
newspapers and phones. The time went quickly and once we got inside it
felt like the party shifted, no more lackadaisical, breezy afternoon
outside, now we were primed, raring to go, waiting for the gates to go up
to watch this hot band, just in town from out west where the fire storm

Gene Senger
St. Paul, MN


Review by A. Moraghan

We arrived at the Fargo Civic Auditorium about 1 p.m.  There were
already about 12-15 people in line.  As the day wore on, we met
some very cool people in line, including a guy from California and a woman
from Germany.  At 6 p.m., there were separate lines that had formed at
four doors.  The doors then opened and the four lines converged into two
in the lobby, where we remained until 6:30 p.m.  The okay then was given
and what occurred next  can only be likened to the running of the bulls in
Spain, absent the bulls, people literally running for their lives to get
to the rail in front of the stage.  We made it to the rail and waited a
little over one hour before Bob and band took the stage.

Bob was wearing a dark suit jacket, white slacks and white boots.  Best of
all, no hat, making it much easier to see his face and myriad of facial
expressions that would range from what looked like pure satisfaction to
something resembling disgust.  One thing that immediately stood out was
that Bob looked healthy and vigorous.  Sitting at the grand piano for most
of the show has to be less taxing than standing night after night playing
guitar or, more recently, the electric keyboard.  And as he launched into
"Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat", out came this voice that can only be described
as close to as strong and good as I have heard Bob in the last 12 years.

The arrangements of the songs during the concert were tight and what I
would call restrained.  To my ear, there is more a jazz tinge to most of
the songs.  And it worked, at least for me.  There were only a few songs
that hit the old racing pace and it seemed like these arrangements allowed
Bob's voice to get in a nice groove that did not require him mid-song to
sprint like a runner trying to make up lost ground.  The enunciation of
the lyrics on most of the songs was clear and distinct and broke down only
occasionally on numbers like "Summer Days" and "Highway 61".  The piano
was definitely up in the mix.  Bob really goes for it and does not hold
back when it comes to his solos, which seemed to far outnumber solos by
either Stu or Charlie on the guitars.

This was the first time I had seen Charlie since shows in the fall of
2002, back when Bob gave the guitarists what seemed like a lot of latitude
and room to improvise.  There was not much of that on display in Fargo. 
Charlie appeared really, really subdued as he played.  Very little eye
contact with the audience, less than I recall from a decade ago.  But he
still sounds great, as did Stu.  Also noticeable, at least at this show,
was very little (obvious) interplay or better said, interaction between
Bob and Charlie on stage.  On the other hand, Bob often was locked in with
Tony and especially with Donnie, who again was positioned basically to
Bob's right on stage.  It looked like Donnie was consistently locked into
watching Bob's hands on the keyboard, at least when Donnie was on pedal
steel.  On one number, Bob and Donnie swayed or leaned back and forth in
unison very noticeably, and seemingly cognizant of each other's moves, and
then Tony joined in with the same movements in unison.  After that number,
Bob got up, as he often did between songs, walked around to the back to
look at something, and as he did Donnie smiled broadly in the minimal
lighting, held out his hand, and either gave Bob sort of a high five or
slapped Bob's hand anyway.

On the other end of the spectrum, as mentioned in the Fargo Forum's review
of the show, Bob very noticeably stopped playing on a song towards the end
of the concert and put one elbow on the piano as the others continued
playing.  It immediately seemed apparent that Bob was not happy about
something and there was no effort to conceal it.  Moments later, Bob
motioned Tony over and said something to him.  After the show, the
speculation was that Bob was dissatisfied with something he was hearing,
and that it had not been Tony who, by the way, sounded great all night and
looks thinner than I remember him from the last show I saw in the fall of

All in all, it was a highly enjoyable show and very well attended.  The
Civic Auditorium reportedly has a capacity of 3,500 and only a few seats
appeared to be vacant.  Another nice feature about this tour is the height
of the stage, which definitely is lower than the stage I recall from the
larger arenas in the past.  While it presumably will not be to the fall
tour before Bob performs any of the new material from the upcoming
"Tempest" album, this is yet another tour that is well worth seeing.


Review by Craig Planting

ďWhat was it you wanted? Tell me again so Iíll know.  Whatís
happening in there? Whatís going on in your show?Ē Of all of
Dylanís bands going back to when I first saw him in 1989, my favorite
line-up is the one with Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell. After those 
guys left I still enjoyed the shows, but missed having a great soloist to
kick  the music into a higher gear.  

For this Fargo show, I was looking forward to finally catching Sexton
back on lead guitar. The concert began and I realized I wasnít going to
get what IĎd been hoping for. Sexton sounded good, but he was laying 
back, playing mostly rhythm and fills. It didnít sound as if he was
going to be tearing into any white-hot guitar solos. You know, after
almost thirty Dylan  concerts, I should remember that Bob doesnít
deliver what youíre expecting. The key, once you get past your initial
disappointment, is to stay open and really listen. The surprise for me at
Fargo was that the hot soloist Iíd longed for turned out to be, not
Sexton, but Dylan himself. Throughout the show, the band would begin a
new song as  the audience was still hollering and settle into a blues
shuffle. Dylan would sing a line (his singing more percussive, than
emotive) and then lean towards the audience and give a smile as if he was
sharing an inside joke.  Iíve never seen him look so happy or smile so
much.  I donít want to speculate about his personal life, but he looked
like a man smitten by a new romance.  After the first verse (or sometimes
the second) Dylan would begin experimenting with the music. Heíd play
these almost-bizarre, three-note (three-chord?) repetitive, ďAlladin
Sane-styleĒ notes on his grand piano which moved against what the rest
of the band was playing. That unique, vertical Dylan-logic was at work
and what he played almost made sense in the same way that ďthe
motorcycle black madonna two-wheeled gypsy queenĒ almost makes sense. 
A few times the music broke down, but most of the time Sexton found a
chord progression or a run that bridged what Dylan was playing to the
rest of the band. At that moment, Dylan would give a nod of approval and 
then, as soon as the next idea struck him, go off in still another
direction.  Iím not even sure if what Dylan was doing was soloing. He
was creating entirely  new music on the fly and it was compelling. It felt
like alchemy. What Dylan was creating spontaneously was more satisfying
than if heíd fulfilled my  expectations. Thereís just no one like him,
right? About halfway through the show Dylan gave Sexton (who  looked like
an emaciated, hipster, car-jacker from the future) the nod to take the
big guitar solo. Sexton took a little startled step forward and began to 
solo, but just two or three bars in Dylan cut him off with his piano.
Sexton looked unfazed and immediately went back to playing the riff. A
few songs later, when Dylan was center stage, playing his harp, he gave
Sexton an appreciative  slap on his shoulder. I donít know if this had
anything to do with the aborted solo, it was just obvious that Dylan was
in complete control. There was no holding him back from playing whatever
he felt like playing at any given moment.  When I arrived at the show
(Fargo, if youíve never been  there, is a northern, railroad town with
saloons, clean sidewalks and well-kept, brick buildings) Dylanís bus
was parked on the side of the arena. A dozen fans were hanging-out and as
I walked up they excitedly informed me that Iíd just missed him. Our
hero had exited his bus, crossed the sidewalk and entered the arena
through a side door. One young guy with a beard told me that after the 
sound check Dylan would probably reappear so he could have dinner on his
bus before the show. I understand what it is to be a Dylan fan and of 
harboring the secret fantasy of somehow meeting him, hitting it off and
becoming his friend. But it didnít feel right to stand around on the
sidewalk outside his tour bus. I didnít want to hassle Dylan whoís
just trying to work and Iím sure he doesní t want fans calling to him
while heís eating. So, I didnít wait around.  I moved on. Itís
unlikely that I (or you?) will ever meet Dylan, but if I do,  Iím not going
to ask him for a picture or an autograph. Iím not going to ask him for 
anything. Heís already given us all so much, right? 

Craig Planting 


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