August 22, 2012
Review by Adam Selzer
My first Dylan show in nearly two years, and my first in my old hometown
of Des Moines. I drove into town eager, but not busting-out-of-my-seat
excited at the prospect of seeing Dylan again. Sure, I was glad, but I
haven't been wild about the set lists this year, there wasn't must chance
of a surprise, and those august shows always wind up seeming like warm-ups
for the better shows in autumn.
BUt any doubts I had withered away when Bob launched into Pillbox - he
tore this one up, and it was apparent from the start that he was actually
SINGING THE SONG.
Now, I don't mean to say that he normally doesn't do that, but in the last
few years it's often seemed as though he wasn't really thinking about the
words he was singing so much as he was thinking about the noise they made.
He'd find a rhythm with the organ and build the vocals around that. It
worked very well - certainly more than the old upsinging - so I didn't
have much to complain about, though it worked better on some songs than
others (as with any other vocal technique).
Tonight, he seemed to be thinking about what he was saying again, telling
a story instead of building a groove.
Not to mention the fact that he wasn't wearing a hat.
THe wolf man growl was present, but not all the time. Some lines he'd
bark, and some he'd really SING.
After Pillbox it was center-stage for a wicked Long Black Coat and a nifty
Things Have Changed, followed by the new Tangled arrangement with a lot of
1984 lines. That was interesting to hear - wonder what made him bust THOSE
out? I wasn't loving the arrangement, though - the habit of breaking each
line into two with a big pause in the middle didn't work for me that well.
The set in the middle - with four Love and Theft songs, was a bit more
middling, with Bob plunking away on the grand piano. There are songs when
the piano really works, and songs where you wish it was a lot lower in the
mix. I was delighted to hear Visions of Johanna, though. I'm always
delighted to hear that one. I remember remarking after Nashville 2001 how
well he made that one fit in with the Love and Theft songs, and tonight,
too, it didn't seem out of place sandwiched into a block of four of those.
The highlight of the evening, for me, was the slow, burning, evil Can't
Wait. Loved it. The concert picked back up here from there, with a nice
Simple Twist (Bob's lone guitar work of the night, and it
was…interesting), a Thunder On the Mountain that never QUITE lifted off
the ground, a terrific Thin Man, and a Rolling Stone that, for the first
time in years, seemed to be telling a story.
10 years ago the song seemed a bit more sympathetic to me - in the many
times Is saw it back then I identified two styles of singing it - in one
he seemed like a street preacher coming across a drunk in the gutter,
listing off their sins with remarkable accuracy, and then asking "how does
it feel" without very vindictive. In the other he was like one of the
angels in Wings of Desire who knows everything about a person, except how
it feels to be them. In that one he seemed genuinely curious when he said
"how does it feel."
For the record: he sang ALL of the verses tonight, including the "jugglers
and the clowns" one that doesn't seem to have come up in recent years.
Tonight's version was vicious. Tonight he was the bookie sitting in the
little bar, laughing at you as come crawling in, having lost big one more
time in the middle of your attempts to double-cross him, laughing at your
misery and asking "how does it feel" right before he has some no-necked
guy kick the hell out of you as you sit there on the barroom floor.
Watchtower was GREAT and Blowin (with hat added) was a lazy river stroll.
All in all, a nice concert with definite highlights that suffered a bit
from the predictable setlist. Made me more optimistic about the november
Review by Marty Traynor
The drive from Omaha to Des Moines is around 130 miles of corn fields, rolling
hills, and windmills - not the romantic kind Don Quixote tilted at, rather the huge
white bladed kind that generate green power. It provided just enough time to
listen to some Dylan tracks to get into the mood for another show.
Upon arrival, I verified that The Wells Fargo Arena show had a poster - a sure
sign that this was a larger basketball arena than the one Dylan graced in Sioux
Falls last weekend. Our vantage point for this show was about 20 rows back,
on the aisle just left of center, which turned out to be a good place to see Dylan
and the entire band, with very good sound. In this review, I will skip observations
that repeat what I wrote about the Sioux Falls concert, with its song-by-song
From the start, Dylan was in decent voice, about as good as it gets these days.
His harp playing is amazing at these shows - passionate, loud, frequent, and
energetic. He certainly doesn't have breathing issues. That's a big plus. The
mix at Des Moines brought out Donnie Herron's steel guitar very clearly and the
positive role he plays in songs like Tangled Up in Blue and simple Twist of Fate
was obvious. Speaking of TUIB, these days it's the "he" version.
Highlights started with Man in the Long Black coat, the second song, with Dylan
at center stage, singing well and playing great harp. Although many songs were
talk-sung, there was virtually no chopping up of lines it individual words or
syllables. Other songs I particularly liked include Sugarbaby and Visions of Johanna.
Can't Wait has a great arrangement, the piano leading a very moody sound.
Charlie Sexton did some really great work supporting the harp solo at the end of
Thin Man. And as we were walking out I overheard two guys talking about
Dylan's piano playing "…Like Thelonius Monk..," one said. At first I thought, no,
not really, but there is a kind of jazziness and urgency to Dylan's playing on some
songs that the comparison is not as crazy as it seems at first.
As to lowlights, well, on Tweedle Dum/Dee Dylan's piano was great but Stu
Kimball just didn't seem to be able to squeeze out the guitar runs right, so the
song fell flat. Later in the show, Stu played so well on Ballad of a Thin Man that
he redeemed himself. Also, Dylan's vocals alternated lines that sounded very
sharp with lines that were almost inaudible. I guess he was singing the Dee
part and then the Dum part.
Dylan oddities included a spot during Things have Changed where he put his
left hand into his pocket and posed for a second as if to act out the "I used to
care, but…" line. The "some of these bootleggers…" line in Sugarbaby came out
loud and clear. It seems to be his little in joke with tapers. At the end of
Summer Days Dylan ended the song abruptly by standing up and putting his
hands in the air, like a traffic cop saying "stop!" On the band intro, there was a
strange reversal from Saturday night, when Charlie Sexton clearly played more
leads and yet was described as playing rhythm guitar while Stu Kimball was on
guitar. In Des Moines, Kimball played more leads and was described as being on
rhythm guitar while Charlie was on guitar. Go figure. Finally, Dylan was hatless
until the encore, donning a white hat for Blowin' in the Wind.
Finally, the crowd was boisterous and loud, much more so than in Sioux City.
The floor area was standing and dancing for the whole show, whereas the
Sioux City crowd sat for most of the show. Unusual difference in that the
Sioux Falls show was on a Saturday night whereas the Des Moines show was
on a week night.
We returned home to prepare for Tempest, the Omaha show in November,
then Madison, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Chicago, and beyond.
Review by Dale Smith
Tickets on the floor were sold out which appeared to have about two
thousand people, with the lower seating areas having maybe another 1,500
or so in attendance. About the only positive thing I can say about this
performance was that Mr. Dylan was well dressed and looked good. The
sound was not great, the band did not seem tight, the arrangements were
unappealing (those that I stayed around for), and Dylan seemed not capable
or inclined to make an effort to sing. After staying away from these
concerts for several years I was very encouraged after seeing youtube
videos of some of the 2011 tour and I was close by so it seemed foolish to
pass it up. Oh well, some people liked the concert it seems, and I've seen
enough great shows from Bob Dylan that I'll take the stinkers in stride.
But wow, several of the songs that I've heard in the past that alone were
almost worth the price of admission came off flat, with
garbled/hurried/shouted-not-sung lyrics that it became depressing. I left
a little past midway into the show because it seemed pointless so maybe
things did get better. But by that time I had been roaming the concourse
hoping the sound might be better from different vantages but no dice.
I've traveled pretty far and wide to see him but now it's just too risky.
I'll drop by if I happen to be close and will retain the memories of some
fantastic times and of course the records. You never know - I'll still
bet my money on him in concert over anyone else anywhere near his age and
think only the best of his genius and have to respect tremendously his
dogged efforts to bring his music to as many people as possible throughout
the world. None other like him before and probably forever.
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