August 20, 2008
Review by Brian Hassett
*Bob Busts The Copps*
Stunning. Blown away. Has he been this good all year? This was my first
show since the NY City Center tour-ending gig about 2 years ago (where he
debuted Ain't Talkin').
I'm stunned, I'll just tell ya straight-up. I thought Bob was on let's
say, not on an upward trajectory. I'd love it if any regulars who were
there and have seen multiple shows this tour can say whether if this was
an average show – or was this more "on" than usual? It was like – Wow.
But I'll try . . .
For those of you who weren't there – this is a fanfreakintastic venue! SO
much better a crowd and hall than the arena in nearby downtown Toronto.
For one thing, everybody on the floor stood up for the entire show! I
couldn't believe it. I'll go to a show at Hamilton's Copps ANYday over
one at Toronto's ACC.
It's like a baby arena – small floor, small sides, small everything. I
was front center floor, and you could run out of there, go to the
bathroom, stop and buy a beer and be back at your seat before one song's
over. Serious. Everything was that close. It was like being at a show in
Both myself and an old veteran stagehand estimated the audience at about
There were a ton of Dead shirts there – so nice to see – in fact the last
time I was in that building was on a very psychedelic couple of nights
back in the spring of 1990 seein' The Boys just before Brent Myland died –
including that awesome Hey Jude – Dear Mr. Fantasy medley. Anyway :- ) .
One Weird Thing: I had long conversations with about 30 different
Bobheads (from the Toronto-Hamilton area) and not a single one of them had
ever even HEARD OF "Masked & Anonymous". It's just SO bizarre how unknown
that great work is, even by fairly hardcore Bob fans.
One Funny Thing: This is Canada, and Hamilton is nicely off the beaten
trail, and, well, there were just PLUMES of pot smoke billowing out from
behind the side-of-stage scrims! I mean, it looked like a freakin dry-ice
smoke machine! Giant CLOUDS of it wafting slowly across the stage. It
was SO funny. It was SO loose. I mean, MSG ain't like this anymore. The
ACC in downtown Toronto is like going to a concert at your phuckin'
parent's house. But this is like goin' back to the '70s man! :- ) Total
time travel. Free-form everything everywhere. Loved it! No posing or
pretentiousness. Just wild uninhibited dancing, free-form smoking, and
beer flowing like crazy (but not a single obnoxious drunk spotted all
night long). It felt like a crowd-size circa 1966 – Before The Flood.
One Canadian Thing: Not only do the big white hockey rink boards go all
around the floor, but the freaking benches and penalty boxes are right
there too! And people are sittin' in 'em. And nobody thinks anything of
it. That's the beauty part.
One Guitar Thing: The "new" guy is just outstanding. I can't get over
it. I don't know whether he was really "on" or is simply this amazing all
the time. I don't know why I had doubts about this "new" band, but they
were just So spot-on. Maybe it's just me, but I think Bob & His Band just
keep getting better & better. How is that possible? The sound was
crystal clear, and Bob was annunciating every *syllable* of every word.
He closed Woodstock '94 with a transcendent "It Ain't Me, Babe", and
basically opened this show with one as well. Fantastic lyrical guitar,
and a long beautiful harp solo to end it. Then the rockin' Memphis Blues
Again with Bob on organ trading solos with the guitar. High Water was
just outstanding – so articulate and precise in both the vocals and
Rollin' & Tumblin' is such a wonderful live rock n roll dance song. What
a great performance card to be able to play any time you want. Then Tryin
to Get To Heaven was ethereal, and again, with gorgeous accompanying solos
by both the guitar and Bob's keys. Gawd, for a tape of this show! Then
this smokin' Highway 61, and, I know, he's played it a lot, but for both
this and the encores, I pretended like it was the first time I'd ever
heard these songs -- which was easy cuz for so many people in the room it
WAS the case – and people were just goin' bananas. It felt like one of
those "Rock n Roll Revues" of the late 50s early 60s – dancin' in the
country shed to the big rock n roll radio hit. Just SO much fun.
The total highlight for me was the song that I first "got" Bob -- "It's
Alright Ma" – somebody hit me back if you know where to download a recent
version of this song. It was so beautiful, so melodic, so rich, so
flushed out, so complete. Gawd bless the gawds n bawbs for guiding this
onto my flightpath.
And, just like Rollin' & Tumblin', how great a live song is Thunder On The
Mountain? A *born* show-closer. Those two songs can stick around forever
as far as I'm concerned. He ended with this trance-endental Ain't
Talkin', which reminded me of the way Neil Young sometimes ends shows with
Tonight's The Night. Haunting, mystical, lots of air & space,
transportive, trace-inducing medication . . .
Then of course the big party ending with thousands of people hearing Like
A Rolling Stone and All Along Jimi's 'Tower for the first time. Rock n
roll dancing pandemonium.
As it should be.
Review by Mick & Danielle Macdonald
Copps Coliseum was built for an NHL hockey team that never came, and
probably never will. No problem, since being built I have been lucky
enough to see some fine acts play this great venue. Tonight was
particularly great since I got to go with my wife to be (we are to be
married one month from today!), and this was our first concert together.
Show was very solid, good crowd and the sound was terrific. They set the
coliseum up in the "bowl" formation with curtains and no one sitting in
the upper part and it works well. Set list was typical for the most part,
and I got the Highway 61 I wanted. Other highlights for us were; It Ain't
Me Babe, Rollin & Tumblin and Deal Goes Down. Danielle called Rolling
Stone for first encore and she was in deed correct, no wonder we are in
love! I called Watchtower for second encore (As any fan knew was coming!)
and she said I cheated by looking it up on the internet! All in all a
great night, home at 10:30, bed by 11 back to work in the morning.......it
ain't like it used to be! and I love it!
Mick & Danielle Macdonald
Review by Howard Gladstone
This was Bob's only foray into Canada on this tour. The show was in
Hamilton, about an hour away from Toronto. Copps Coliseum is a hockey
rink- still the sound was very good overall. It seemed to take a couple
of tunes for Bob's voice to warm up. The early tunes "Cat's In The Well,"
"It Ain't Me, Babe" and "Stuck Inside of Mobile" suffered as a result.
By the 4th tune, "Girl From The North Country," Bob was in fine voice,
and the sound was just right. This version of the song was a beautiful
re-arrangement, almost baroque, exquisitely played and sung. From there
on, the show was magnificent. "High Water", "Just Like a A Woman" and
"Moonlight" in particular benefited from careful vocal treatment, and an
insistent band. Tony Garnier on bass and George Recile kept everything
moving along perfectly. The lead guitarist Denny Freeman was laid back
and tasteful. What was a particular treat was to clearly hear Bob's
keyboard so prominent in the mix - not quite Garth Hudson, but adding
color and texture to the arrangements. The main set ended with four
amazing and powerful performances, with the band hitting everything just
right "It's All Right,Ma" , "When The Deal Goes Down", "Thunder on the
Mountain" and "Ain't Talking." For the encore, the mandatory "Like A
Rolling Stone" was tasteful and controlled. What I did miss was an
acoustic set in the show, and to hear Bob on guitar. But that's minor - a
Review by Jeremy Schneider
Pulling into Hamilton a waft of unpleasant air greets the senses. This is
steeltown, Canada`s answer to Pittsburgh. Here in Hamilton, the Stelco
blast furnaces forge two million tons of steel a year. Smokestacks
dominate the waterfront, filling the sunset with soot and clay.
With metropolitan Toronto just an hour`s drive away, a satellite city
like Hamilton won`t get shuffled into the booking schedule with any
regularity. And so, it`s been 16 touring years and two Gulf wars since
Bob last played these parts. Business was brisk at Copps Coliseum. With
no NHL team decamping to Hamilton anytime soon, the venue only gets
filled on a night like this.
Leading off with a rollicking CAT’S IN THE WELL, he looked trim and fit in
the black suit with the yellow stripe down the pant that matched his shirt
and the buttons of his vest. He wore a dapper off-white hat. The mix was
a jaggedly over-amped in the opening number. Denny`s tone was muddled,
and Bob`s phrasing curt. The extended opening sequence of IT AIN’T ME,
BABE gave soundboard the opportunity to tweek the dials down. With legs
splayed behind that keyboard, he growled through the tune. The mechanics
in his voice grew stronger with each passing verse. By the time they dug
into MEMPHIS BLUES, the cowboy band moved the energy up a notch
accordingly. Dylan was hitting the lyrics of the chorus with gravel in his voice.
Oh-h, ma-a-ama... GIRL OF THE NORTH COUNTRY came on sweetly.
The guitars were lush and light and moved the arrangement along with an
element of grace. With Tony thumping on the standup bass, Bob brought the
song to its crescendo with a sage burst from the harp.
Batting fifth was HIGH WATER; a personal fave that I`ve been jonesing to
see live again since he unleashed the electrified version back in 02. Bob
is full of emotive power here -- in a tune that sounds doom. His voice
is low, spinning core of the planet low. JUST LIKE A WOMAN was just what
the audience wanted to hear; a familiar standard that brought about the
evenings only sing-along moment during the call and response chorus.
With the evenings playlist thus far dipped with 60s material, the balance
of the set was crafted for neophyte fans, drawing heavily on tunes from
the three straight masterworks: TOOM, L&T, Modern Times. The band
dropped into blues with a dirty version of ROLLIN’ & TUMBLIN.’ With
Donnie plucking on the electric mandolin and Denny churning out fat riffs
with the slide, the guitars were biting on this number, evoking Muddy
Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and other Chicago bluesmen. TRYIN’ TO GET TO HEAVEN
came next with Bob conjuring the voice of the aging highwayman coming to
terms with his own mortality. The downbeat reading was slow and
deliberate, reminiscent of a somber funeral dirge full of mourning and grief.
HIGHWAY 61 continues to kick ass. Stu moved right behind Bob for the
number, and took a more pronounced role by laying down chunky blues
rhythms. Donnie provided a liquid, yearning sound on the pedal steel with
smooth bending chords and complex riffs. It was back to light and sweet
sounds in MOONLIGHT. Donnie was on frill detail here, tossing in phrases
that brought out the tenderness and color of the ballad. Bob’s crooning
vocals were crisp clear and the spot-on harmonica solo brought to the
number to a tranquil end. In the 11th spot was ITS ALRIGHT MA which
swung. A mainstay in the playlist and still as relevant as the day he
penned it, the band seems supremely confident with this arrangement.
Bob was on every word here, relentlessly pushing the band forward, while
Donnie’s fevered banjo licks flavored the proceedings. WHEN THE DEAL GOES
DOWN was appropriately subdued, and served as a reminder to passive
concert-goers clamoring for more mid-sixties nostalgia, that his new
material is as layered and dynamic as ever. THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN got
the crowd in rocking party mode to set up the dramatic closer, the piece
de resistance AIN’T TALKIN. For this long-playing murky reading, the
stage lights were taken down completely. The musicians were bathed in a
flat orange filter that seemed to be emanating from the foot of the stage.
Conjuring up visions of the world’s end, Bob took the mood significantly
downbeat and left the stage. He gave the Hamiltonians the mandatory
faves in the encore; LARS and WATCHTOWER. Overall a quality show, rich
and textured, though not a bootleggers dream.
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