Review by Peter Stone Brown
It may be Bob Dylan's goal to play every major town in Pennsylvania and
Reading certainly is one of them, or once was anyway. We took our time
getting out of Philly and arrived at the First Energy Stadium sometime in
the middle of Junior Brown's set. In fact we could hear him clearly a few
blocks away where we parked. Reading was mellow compared to the last
baseball stadium show I saw in Lancaster. The stage was a lot closer to
the stands but the lack of the Willie Nelson contingent of fans made a big
difference in the capacity crowd. People were downright friendly.
Jimmy Vaughan did an okay set of blues with cool little band, that would
have been a lot more effective in a bar. In fact it reminded me of the
great blues club in Austin, Antone's. It went by quickly.
At ten minutes after 9, a hatless Bob Dylan took the stage and I had
considered writing down "Maggie's Farm," but for some reason didn't and
they kicked into a not bad version of "Cats In The Well" with Don Heron
on fiddle and it was obvious Dylan was on from the start. "You Ain't Goin'
Nowhere" was just as much of a surprise with the first harp solo of the
night and then it was into a speedy "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum"
and then into "Lay Lady Lay" with gorgeous pedal steel from Don Heron.
After a high energy "Watchin' The River Flow," Don Heron picked up a
resonator-less five string banjo for a fairly wild version of "High Water,"
with Dylan snapping out the lyrics staccato fashion.
Then came the night's fourth surprise, a great version of "Not Dark Yet"
that was close in both feel and sound to the album version, with Denny
getting a tremelo sound on his start and also featured as did many of the
other songs a lengthy harp solo from Dylan.
There the next surprise, the highlight of the night, "Tangled Up In Blue,"
in a majestic version that started off with acoustic guitar and bass with
the full band kicking on the first "tangled," and then not letting go and
riding the song for all it was worth, with a little verse change with, "She
was working at the Tropicana and I stopped in for a beer/I told her I was
on my way to Atlanta.. " - didn't get the last part of the line.
Things came down a notch after that with "Make You Feel My Love,"
which was redeemed by a harp solo and into a fairly swampy "Highway 61."
It was obvious that Dylan who was quite animated throughout the night
was having a good time.
Then out of left field came "Lenny Bruce," which was going along fine until
Bob blew the taxicab verse, by singing that line too soon repeating it, and
then followed with some line worthy of "I'm Not There" or "To Be In Love
With You," but came back strong for the closing verse.
"Summer Days," did what it was supposed to do which is swing in a version
that reminded me of the instrumental interplay of Western Swing band,
Asleep At The Wheel as solos were deftly tossed back and forth across the
stage as opposed to the chaotic frenzy of a few years ago. It was a more
than fine show for a late august night in a forgotten town. Things are
starting to get interesting right about now.
Peter Stone Brown
Review by Joe Collins
Beautiful evening, low humidity, pleasant temps and clear sky. The total of
three opening acts was too much - two would have been sufficient. The first
two opening acts were terrific musically, visually and were unique. The
third band (a blues band) was horrible and should be fired immediately.
They had a real timing issue, the beat and musical coordination flailing all
over the place. There was no bass player (the organ player did bass lines
on his foot pedals - out of sync with the drummer) - the rythmn section was
awful. I wondered why there was even a hughe white Hammond B3 organ with
2 whitle Leslie cabinets. Besides playing out-of-sync bass lines with his
foot pedals, the organist did nothing more than do chord fills through their
whole set - not one lead break at all. The band's songs all sounded the
same - you only have to know 3 chords to be in that band. The lead guitar
player was underwhelming and extremely mediocre. The one song were the
rythmn guitarist played lead show that he was actually the better gutiar
The Dylan set was great - it took him about three songs to come-to-voice.
The first 3 songs sounded like an old man who just got up in the morning
before hocking into the sink. Fourth song and after were strong vocally.
He had nothing extemporaneous to say all night except at the end when he
introduced the band member. There was nothing spectacular about Bob's
staying at his keyboards all night, from where he never moved except to
reach for a harmonica. At least with a guitar, he moves around a bit and
walks a few steps here and there. The keyboards kept him enslaved in one
position and one posture the whole night without adding significantly to the
musicality of all the songs - his keyboards on a few songs would have been
right and musically interesting. Still, there he was in all his unique
Review by Ken Sherman
I know I'm still in the afterglow, but as a veteran of around 40-50 Dylan
shows over 30 years, I was blown away by the show last night in
Reading, PA. Firstly, kudos to Elana James and the Continental Two plus
Watt. Texas fiddle music, the brought high energy and dancing music.
However, I feel like such an idiot not having had a clue as to who Junior
Brown was before last night. At the time he finished, I was thinking the
bar has been set pretty high for Bob and Jimmie Ray Vaughn. This guy can
play, sing and perform in a class that I put very few performers in. The
variety of styles he displayed was breathtaking, reminding me at different
times of Cash, Waits, Hendrix, Hank and a little Boris Karloff thrown in, to
name a few. Run, don't walk, to catch this guy. He is a gem.
So I'm trying to manage my post Junior Brown expectations when Bob
kicks off. There is a pronounced country feel to the band to my ears,
much more so than I've heard with Bob live for some time. Overall, a
strong performance with some slight hissing on his vocals in the PA that
cleared up by High Water. I liked the pacing on the performances, not
too fast or rushed, but movin and groovin. The highlights were You Ain't
Goin Nowhere (shades of Basement Tapes version) and Watching the River
Flow, Lay Lady Lay, Not Dark Yet (almost pleading the lyrics, with a jumbo
jet's bright lights taking off behind the stage from LVI made it seem
particularly ominous), a nicely paced Tangled Up in Blue (sounding more like
the original than I'd heard live since the early '90s), and To Make You Feel
My Love. Lenny Bruce was countrified as well, sounding refreshed with
Bob seeming to put special emphasis on the last line "..he was the brother
you never had". It was the oddball choice
in some ways, a song about an urban legend played far from a big city.
Rolling Stone again had a little slower pacing and a country feel that made
even that old warhorse sound fresh to my old ears.
I don't know what Bob and the band are doing, but I hope they keep
doing it. Their musical expedition is clipping along in a very nice way right
now. Unfortunately now this tour doesn't get closer than 4 hours drive
from me or otherwise I'd be seeing more shows. I loved Larry Campbell
and all the people they played with. But Bob with this group is musically in
another realm. I can't wait to see them back in the Philly Spectrum in
November with the Raconteurs. Maybe a little "Ball and Bisect" reudx? But
as great as Jack White is, even he'd admit he's no Junior Brown!!!!!
Review by Mark Hallen
Well, it was unique. Especially given the recent set lists. Maybe the couple
of days off they got stuck between Washington and Reading with the
Pennsylvania Blues Again gave Bob some time to mess around with the list,
but suffice it to say, it was a work in progress, like so many performances
have been in recent years.
A little bit about the opening acts: Elana James & The Continental Two (Plus
One) were a perky little combo with a lot of heart and energy, and not a few
mean chops by Ms. James herself on the fiddle, not to mention her two
guitarists and upright bass player. A good crowd warmer, and they set the
C/W Swing tone of Bob's aesthetic. Though a little TOO perky for some folks
Junior Brown was.... a revelation. I had never even heard of him before a
mention Bob makes of him in Chronicles, but with his bizarre "guit-steel"
instrument and killer voice--like Merle Haggard crossed with Johnny Cash--
he was well worth hearing and seeing. His bass and snare combo sidemen were
very sharp, and as far as the man himself, well, you just gotta see him to
believe him. He had absolutely filthy chops, sometimes so comically over the
top riffs and gimmick moves that I found myself laughing and applauding at
the same time. And his Dick Dale medley tribute was both brilliant and
nearly out of control at times. Totally worth it if you go. I'm gonna get
some of his stuff.
After Junior, Jimmie Vaughn was a bit of a disappointment, actually. People
were still buzzing about the Eric Clapton guest appearance in Ohio, and not
a few wished it could be so in Reading, but alas. There was something sort
of....spiritually asleep about him and his set. He seemed bored, and his
female vocalist, who while totally competent, seemed to have had a shot of
novocaine from the neck down. I don't know if it was just a bad night, since
even some of his fans I talked to even seemed kind of unimpressed, but, all
I know is that I WOULDN'T want to follow Junior Brown. Vaughn's band was
sharp--especially his organist who it seems is capable of doing completely
convincing bass guitar emulation with his left hand as he does some very
worthy B-3 playing with his right. Why not give the guy a solo or two,
And now to the man himself. The Great Experimenter. Briefly: he seems
involved, in good voice, and as others before me have noted, having a great
time making this tour up as he goes along, keeping the band and the fans on
their toes-- a real test for even the most experienced musicians and
audiences. He seems very confident and relaxed, and very at home especially
with George and Tony as his lieutenants keeping things tight, rocking and
ready. Bob's organ playing was marginally audible, though nothing like the
previous reports of it being up front. Which is a shame, because very often
the band could use the fill at several crucial moments in songs. He blew
some decent harp, reminded me of some of Miles' solos at some point,
sustaining and repeating notes until they break.
Cat's In The Well-- of course everyone expected Maggie's Farm, just as much
as they had every right to expect All Along the Watchtower at the end. But
from this very first song, it was clear that all bets were off. I've
actually heard him do this a couple of times before, and this was adequate,
but it actually began to reveal what the real problem is with this tour and
has been all along: The New Guys. Most especially Denny Freeman. I have to
say his imitation of a deer in the headlights is convincing. But I digress.
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere--another surprise, and not an unwelcome one, but
after Cat's in the Well, it left a lot of people, especially the fans who
have been watching this tour closely, scratching their heads. Everyone else
who were relatively new to Dylan lately or at all, had NO idea why or what
this song was doing. Dylan played harp; his one note grooving
notwithstanding, well done.
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum--people have been bitching about the inclusion of
this song in numerous concerts, and while it has not been a favorite of mine
particularly, it has some kind of quasi-political post 9-11 edge (people
have referenced the hijackers as well as the ultimate TD & TD tandem, Bush
and Cheney et al ("a broke down sorry old man [and] one who'll stab you were
you stand").... which might be a reason why Bob leans on it. Anyway, it was
also the first song that made me really understand why it pisses people off:
Denny Freeman CANNOT PLAY THE CRUCIAL BASS STRING RIFF TO SAVE HIS ASS.
It was embarrassing. And there he was, so far over stage right it looks like
he's hanging with the Teamsters, staring over at the thin man behind the
keyboards who is forcing him to play this song almost every night and fail
miserably at it. I heard Charlie Sexton (or was it Larry Campbell?) lay this
thing down on tour in 2001 and 2002 and by god it was convincing. But this?
I kept hoping for ANY of the guitarists we had seen up to that point in the
night to come on and rip it, but, we only had the mercy of the sound man
TURNING HIM DOWN (which he did, thank god) to spare us from the carnage. And
Tony and George are over there on his side of the stage just sort of
ignoring him and hoping he falls off or something. By the end of it, I
actually felt sorry for Denny.
Lay, Lady, Lay-- the first song people seemed to recognize, and the first
one Bob leaned into vocally. And it gave Donnie his first real chance to
shine, though I have to say, positioning him RIGHT BEHIND BOB has the effect
of making him into more of an accompanist than a real independent musician,
like Bucky Baxter was on Unplugged (not to mention other very gifted pedal
steel players in previous Dylan bands, especially during the Rolling Thunder
Review, for instance.)
Watching The River Flow--another surprise, a fun one, and Bob's fun with it
seemed a moment of spontaneous inspiration for the band as a whole. The
bridges with people "who couldn't help but cry" or "were really shook"
resonated with the feelings of desperate people in desperate modern times.
High Water (For Charley Patton)-- Donnie's electric banjo gets wasted on
this one, which I know Bob feels prophetically connects with the flooding in
New Orleans, and he's right of course ( he played it at the N.O. Fest, which
must have been a very amazing moment for everyone.... And apparently there
is a "Levy" song on Modern Times.) But the above three songs, not to beat a
dead guitarist--uhh, I mean horse-- also featured totally uninspired Denny
solos.... I kept looking over at Stu, similarly tucked inside an array of
equipment like some roadie who's snuck on stage, and hoping he'd rip a
couple off, which eventually, he did.
Not Dark Yet-- this song has such understated heartfelt majesty and grievous
emotion in it, and the first of several this night where you really felt
something very personal happening between Bob and the song, and the
audience. For most of us in the infield mosh pit, as far as I could tell, it
was another "HUH?!" moment. Though, as I've covered this song myself, I
really appreciated it, and so apparently did the lighting guys, who bathed
the stage in a dark violet wash, very appropriately.
Tangled Up In Blue-- for many of us, the real start of the concert. Stu
contributed the very recognizable acoustic rhythm riff, and off we went.
Bob has constantly either improvised or re-written this song, changing
pronouns all the way through sometimes, but my favorite was: "She was
working at the Tropicana/And I stopped in for a beer/I told her I was goin'
all the way to Atlanta/ And she said 'Why not stay here?'" Brilliant! The
only problem with this song tonight: Denny's lifesucking solo. I literally
saw Tony turn away, like "Was THAT the best you got? It's friggin TIB, man!"
Make You Feel My Love: like Not Dark Yet, another very emotionally resonant
song, and while some have denounced it as treacle, I found and continue to
find it a performance of tremendous restraint and exposure.
Highway 61 Revisited--very kick ass, and a very clear example of Bob being
unafraid to give himself to the lyrics, especially the eponymous refrain,
with abandon and fun. This song was also a moment of real fun with the
audience, as he did his jerking torso dance, even looking out and mugging
for the audience during the very rocking transitional rhythm in the 12 bar
Lenny Bruce-- a total shock to me. I had read of recent inclusions of Blind
Willie McTell, a song I reverence as a masterpiece, but no one expected
this. And sung and played with such authority and mastery by Bob. It's
actually a long song, and requires a kind of emotional and technical sustain
that in the hands of ANY other musician would allow it to descend into a
kind of incomprehensible mush. But he SO delivered on this very rare song.
Another masterpiece. Unfortunately, this song was lost on most of the crowd,
whom not only have never heard it before, they have no ^#&^@ idea who
Lenny Bruce was in the first place.
Summer Days-- for the regulars, a sort of Shelter from the Storm of this
concert, which had unpredictably raging storms on rolling seas. And it
seemed a comfort for the band as well, since it has ended virtually every
set. Though as others have noted, it is nowhere near the mastery of the
Campbell/Sexton days and it also featured one of several sort of
characteristic "up for grabs" solo moments, where Bob pounds away head
down at the organ, George and Tony smash it up brilliantly, Denny noodles
meaninglessly over in his corner, Donnie wonders whether or not Bob has
thrown it to him, and Stu wonders, "why the hell ain't I the lead guitarist
of this band!!??"
Like A Rolling Stone-- like we didn't know this was coming, but after the
surprises so far, it was not a foregone conclusion, as we were to find out.
However this was the moment where I lost ANY compassion for Denny. It's
LARS, man, the most recognizable BD rock song ever, the #1 Rock Song of All
Time. DO SOMETHING. By the end of yet another of his "paint by numbers"
solos, it had sucked the song dry, and it was like Bob and the rhythm
section almost had to start all over again. I mean how bad do you have to be
to kill off this song? Junior Brown, where ARE you??!!
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35--Bob introduced the band right before this, my
favorite: "George Recile on the Guns" and then Bob seemed to actually call
an audible of sorts, and off they went into the very familiar blues lick
that begins this song. It was fun. And at the end, thank God, Stu got one of
too few chances to let it rip.
Who knows what the Song 'n' Dance man is up to? Not resting on what has
been, or is expected will be. It takes courage and soul to be up there with
him, and it's not for the faint of heart either onstage or in the audience.
So whether he relies on the familiar or the reversal, he's going to be
inventing, facing his core, Tony and George, nodding over to whoever else
has the guts to listen or play their way out of the corners he puts himself
and them in. "Why don't you break my heart one more time, for good luck?"
Review byTrent Schneider
A foul wind blew across Highway 61 into the First Energy Stadium in
Reading PA, ironically right during an energetic performance of Highway 61
Revisited, but it was not from Dylan and his Band. In a show with more
surprises than not, Dylan rocked the stadium with a re-tooled set list
that once again proved you cannot predict what you might hear at one of
his shows. He is not falling into any routines, even late in the 2006
Dylan and his band effortlessly served up a great collection of his
rocking classics and smooth melodies, all played with power and purpose.
Right from the outset, Dylan proved unpredictable - he had opened the
previous 8 shows with Maggie's Farm, but chose Cats in the Well to get the
night started on an upbeat swing note. Alternating between melodic
favorites and up-tempo rockers was the theme of the night - a beautifully
done Lay Lady Lay transitioned into a bluesey and powerfully rhythmic
Watching the River Flow, a soulful Make you Feel my Love rolled into a
hammering version of Highway 61 Revisited.
Other favorites got the crowd cheering, Tangled up in Blue reminded
everyone why we fell in love with Dylan in the first place and You Ain't
Goin Nowhere took a lot of us back a couple of decades. If there was a
low spot (besides the garbage truck smell that took over the stadium late
in the gig) it was a funky version of High Water that took a while to
recognize (but was still enjoyable). For me, Dylan more than made up for
it by following that up with a terrific rendition of Not Dark Yet off the
same album. An interesting choice late in the set was Lenny Bruce, I had
never heard that one played live before. I wonder what Dylan was trying to
tell us with that one... Summer days continues to work well as the
closer for the main set, and was one of the few predictable moments in the
show - the band must love playing it as much as we love hearing it live,
they really get into it and so does the crowd.
Having suffered enough under the persistent odor that came in on song #10,
and feeling satisfied with what we had heard, my 9-year old son and I left
during Like a Rolling Stone to escape the odor and beat the traffic home.
I'll leave the encore details to another reviewer to catalogue.
A BIG THANK YOU to whichever genius (I am being sincere) came up with the
idea that kids should get in free. My son has always enjoyed Dylan in the
car, and now has been to his first but not last I hope Dylan show. I plan
on taking my 12 year old daughter to the State College show as well.
Equally as sincere, a BIG F..U (and I am speculating here) to the carting
company a few blocks down who decided to hose their 20 garbage trucks out
right in the middle of the show, they nearly ruined what was a great
night. Fortunately Dylan and his crew were good enough to overcome it and
the show goes down as another excellent one!!
p.s. Jimmy Vaughn was a blast too, a great opener! You won't be
Review by Michael Hendrick
It was a pretty good episode of The Bob Dylan Show.
Just like the poster said, All New Lineup! Folk! Rock! Jazz! Blues! A
perfect evening of weather didn't hurt either.
To start, the presale tickets worked and I got just the seat I wanted,
sitting with feet on top of the dugout roof. The opening acts started on
time and there was not too long of a breather between acts. With Alana
James & Co doing a bit of Texas swing and Junior Brown and Jimmie Vaughan
both hailing from the longhorn state, our host showed us some of the
things that make living in the same place as George Bush tolerable.
All three openers were great. Alana James reminded me sort of the
Squirrel Nut Zippers except when she did bluegrass. It is always nice to
hear Orange Blossom Special. Junior Brown's set seemed kind of subdued. I
was waiting for him to do some Hendrix licks but they never got played. He
did some newer material mixed with greatest hits like Highway Patrol and
My Wife Thinks You're Dead. Hung Up was a nice demonstration of what he
can do with the guit-steel.
I have to admit that I can't name a song that Jimmie Vaughan played. I
remember a few of the Double Trouble hits. Maybe it was that funny cookie
that I ate. It was a good solid set and he was as good as he was with
Double Trouble 20 years ago. I can't remember which songs they played
then, either. A few reviews panned Jimmie Vaughan's set but I liked it. No
long solos. Nice and tight, hard blues.
Good old Bob came out and I could only see he was in black. I didn't
expect to see too well in a general admission situation, anyway. I was
there to listen and had my eyes closed for a few songs. The band and the
voice were both in fine fettle.
Cats In the Well has been a personal favorite since I first heard it and
it is a perfect song to open with. I was expecting either Stuck Inside of
Mobile or Maggie's Farm. I hope they leave it in as a setlist standard.
It's such a rocking good song.
Then came You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. It was goosebump city for me. Bob's
voice was clear and cohesive. He stuck to the original arrangement. Same
goes for Watching the River Flow - another gem from Greatest Hits, Vol 2.
Before that, though, came Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum. This song has a lot
of potential but has been a disappointment since 2001. This was the first
time I ever heard it performed and enjoyed it. I think some of the extra
energy was siphoned off of Summer Days. In between was Lay Lady Lay..nice,
Another treat was High Water(for Charlie Patton). The fact that Love and
Theft was released on 9-11 and Modern Times on the first anniversary of
Katrina is an odd coincidence but the water IS high lately and we should
Next, as the last remnants of daylight slipped away from the nighttime
ballpark sky, Its Not Dark Yet. Another excellent selection. Then came the
part of the show all the kids wait for. Tangled Up In Blue set off a
frenzy of pot, patchouli and deadhead teenagers with no dead of phish to
follow dancing and twirling in tie-dyed bliss.
My least favorite moment of the show was To Make You Feel My Love. I
blame that on Garth Brooks and Billy Joel and will leave it at that.
Naturally, as the ballpark (known as Baseballtown) is located on Rte 61,
Highway 61 Revisited got a lot of cheers and people waving at the stage
with cellphones in hand.
Lenny Bruce was a real surprise. I don't think a lot of people knew how
many excellent renditions of old chestnuts they were being treated to in
Summer Days...wha happened??? The song has been a sonic blast, burning
holes in the ozone since it first hit the stage. I remember hearing how
fast and furiously the band took the song up and up and up until it seemed
like the roof was gonna fly off and just laughing maniacly in response.
This was Summer Days on valium. Still, the vocals were strong and the band
was in tune but the intensity was gone. Somehow I didn't care because of
Cats In the Well and all the fine songs which preceded. I still think they
took the extra energy and plugged it into Tweedle Dee to even both songs
out. Who knows?
I am in the habit of skipping the usual encore but I bet it was a great
time for the uninitiated. Maybe he will have a new encore in November,
when he comes back to the area. I hope not. I like beating the crowd. Am
listening to the new CD as I type and looking foward to the next time
around. Again, like the poster says,
Don't You Dare Miss It!
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