page by Bill Pagel
Review by Christopher Oxie
It was a great night for a concert in small town America. It was sunny
and humid. The sun left for a while but the temperature was just right.
The ballpark itself is small, home to the minor league Michigan White
Caps. As we were in line to get in, a man walked up to the local band
playing the parking lot, Mike Moran and the Big One's, and announced that
the door's would open 15 minutes earlier than previously announced. Once
the doors opened, we ran down to the field and set up about 15 feet from
stage left, right in front of where Dylan would perform the set. This was
by far the youngest crowd I have ever seen at a Dylan show. Many young
people, in tie dyed clothes, knappy hair, and torn pants, all trying to
pretend that they were there from the beginning. A couple of rock and roll
grandma's were there as well.....
The Hot Club of Cowtown came on and blew everyone away. I don't think the
crown really knew what to expect but were pleasantly surprised by the
group. They played a very tight knit set that was highlighted by Willie
Nelson joining them for the last song.
After the HCC set, a heavy set man came out and started talking about was
everyone ready for Willie? He then announced something about Farm Aid 19
in Seattle WA. and invited everyone to come out there for it. He then
announced that Willie was running for President and tossed some "Willie
Nelson for President" posters out to the crowd.
Willie cam on and did a great set. From his own songs, to Merle Haggard,
to Hank Williams, to "Amazing Grace", he was in a great mood, smiling an
waving to the fans. He tossed is American Flag cap into the crowd.
Someone threw a black cowboy hat on stage and Willie picked it up and wore
it for the rest of the show before throwing that to the crowd as well.
At 9:30pm the Dylan theme music began and the "Poet Laureate of Rock and
Roll" speech started. Dylan came out in a black suit, a white cowboy hat,
and a burgundy shirt. He pants were darker than his coat, perhaps the
coat gray? Elana Fremerman joined Dylan for the first two numbers and
after the performance she gave earlier, it was well deserved. Dylan was
in a great mood and smiled and laughed throughout the entire set.
1. Down Along the Cove - This was a great song to open the show as it
allowed everyone to get in their place and not miss a song that they
really knew or liked. Elana Fremerman added a nice touch with the fiddle.
2. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - This was song that I personally hoped to
hear. Again, Elana added her fiddle and it added a new dimension to the
song. There were solos for Elana and Stu. Dylan repeated the last verse
again after the solo's. 3. Cold Iron's Bound - This was a great rocker.
The echo effect was bouncing off the seats behind us. 4. I Shall Be
Released - We knew this was coming. When Dylan took the stage, you could
see Willie's guitar in front of the drums. Willie, and his two sons came
out for this song. Willie and Bob traded lyrics, with Bob missing his cue
several times and laughing when she messed them up. Bob gave Lucas Nelson
the nod and he tore off into a short solo. When the song was over, Dylan
walked over to him and patted him on the shoulder as he made his way for a
hug with Willie. 5. Highway 61 - This song still rocks, night after
night. Due to age of the crowd, many people did not know this one until
they heard the long "Highway 61". The crowd was really into after that.
6. Mr. Tambourine Man - Again, many people were not into this one,
somewhat of a let down from the previous rockin number. Got a polite
response afterwards. Lots of strong harmonica playing by Dylan during
this number 7. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee - This was a bit rushed and
while performed well, it was not well liked by the crowd. "Watching the
River Flow, or Cry Awhile" would have been a better fit. 8. Girl of the
North Country - No one knew this song. It quiet during this performance
as people saw it as a chance to go get a beer or hit the bathrooms. 9.
This Wheel's on Fire - Another one like GONC. I think that Bob was
resting his voice as he went from the high pitched voice to the growl
several times during this one. "Senor" or "Moonlight" or "It Takes a Lot
to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry" would have been better. 10. Honest
with Me - One of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen. The crowd
did not really know this one, they were jamming to the rocking guitar of
Stu and Larry and then it happened. Bob jumped up, literally, from the
keyboard and danced over to the front of the drums. I said DANCED. He
then turned to face the crowd and started DANCING to the music. The other
band members were looking at each other and were laughing their heads off.
Bob really proved that white men can't dance. He would turn to each of
them and pointed with both hands and they would shoot into a short solo.
Bob did this for a short while and walk back to the keyboard. Definitely
the highlight of the show. 11. Masters of War - Again, somewhat of a
letdown here. I would liked to have seen another rocker come out, like
"Cat's in the Well", or "Lonesome Day Blues". 12. Summer Days - This song
is still one of my favorites on "Love and Theft". It got the crowd
jumping up and down and everyone got to solo a bit during this one. By
the time Bob Got to "I'm leaving in the morning, as soon as the dark
clouds lift", it started to rain a little bit. You could barely hear the
song over the screaming.
Once it was over, Bob came to the center and took his obligatory cheers.
He seemed pleased with the show and walked off.
14. Like a Rolling Stone - Nothing much new here. Bob forgot the words a
few times and when Larry caught him, Bob laughed through the next verse.
Bob walked to the center and did the band introductions. His best moment
came when he introduced the drummer by saying " next is a man that is a
great friend of mine and there's nothing I wouldn't do for him and there's
nothing he wouldn't do for me. That's how we go through our lives, doing
nothing for each other..."
15. All along the Watchtower. This was the highlight for most of the
your people in the crowd who had been waiting to hear Bob do that Jimi
Hendrix song, as one kid said to me earlier. The song came off pretty
good. When it was over, the band took to the center and when they walked
off, we all thought we would get one more and the stage was lit for a good
long while, like they were really considering it. In the end, the lights
came up, the rain stopped. This was the very first time a concert was
held at this ballpark. I'm sure they were very happy they chose Bob to be
The "Bob & Willie Show" in Comstock Park, Michigan, at the Fifth-Third Ballpark, was interesting for
a lot of reasons. My wife and I were down front about fifty feet or so from the stage, and pre-opening
band, people were engaging in conversation about how many people were there for Bob and how many were
there for Willie. I was there for Bob, but Willie and the Family were, as far as I was concerned, the
best bonus anyone could ask for at a Bob show. Even better as a bonus was the great opening act The
Hot Club of Cowtown. I expected to be totally bored by whatever band was chosen to open for the two
headlining legends, but Cowtown completely won me over to the point that I actually bought their CD
after the show. I wish now I'd gone to get it before the very end, and maybe gotten some autographs
from them. They were a mix of everything I love about country music; not the so-called "young"
country-these guys were obviously cemented in their Hank Williams influences. God bless 'em. The
female lead singer, Elana Fremerman, has obvious Billy Holiday influences. Her two accompanists, Whit
Smith on guitar, and Jake Erwin on string bass were great, as well. They each traded off singing
duties, and Erwin's solos on the bass were just flat-out awesome. The first one he did garnered
enthusiastic applause and cheers, and was well deserved.
Willie came out to do a song with them toward the end of their set, and the crowd went suitably nuts.
Willie's set was good. I love Willie, but honestly, he seemed to be running through his songs in a
kind of obligatory way; to the extent that "Me and Paul" barely provoked him to change pitch during
his own lyrics. The crowd could barely care less. He brought everyone to a rousing enthusiasm that
stayed in place all through his set. Funny side-note: a woman standing close to my wife and I tried
two unsuccessful times to throw her bra at him, pleading with the security guy to retrieve it for her
from the edge of the stage so she could throw it (and miss) a second time.
I admit, I'm not sure what happened between Bob and his former lead guitar player, the indispensable
Charlie Sexton. The show I saw in 2002 at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan had a much more
blistering, rock-feel to it, and I sensed a less cohesive feel among the other band members because
Charlie wasn't there. The replacement, Stu Kimball, looks to me like that actor, Ron Perlman, and
played well, but he also seems like a "pocket" musician; largely a vet of the studio setting, but not
a firecracker like Charlie was.
They opened with "Down Along the Cove" from John Wesley Harding. Interesting for me because I haven't
heard him play it live at either of the other two Bob shows I've seen. Great how he changes and updates
his own material. "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" seemed, at times, to be borrowing lyrics from "Tonight,
I'll Be Staying Here With You". The fiddler from HCCT stood close to Bob and offered fills and a short
solo to the song, the first time, drawing a big smile from Bob, but not thereafter. The band really
took off on "Cold Irons Bound", with drummer George Recile adding great sonic percussion that threw the
song into heavy metal territory. Willie and his sons came out on "I Shall Be Released", and, by the
time Willie and Bob made it to the chorus, the fact that I was seeing two legends perform a legendary
song went right out the window. Willie's in his own world; he likes to mess with the way he delivers
the lines of a song, and it was throwing Bob, completely. To the point where the song went down faster
than an overfed albatross. "Highway 61 Revisited" sounded exactly like I've heard him play it at the
other two shows I've seen, to the point where I was actually returned to those other nights. Still
great. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was nicely re-worked. This is one I can't listen to in it's normal, studio
version anymore, and it's a credit to Bob that he can make such an over-performed song (usually, by
others) sound fresh. He did that, and doing so proves what a master he is. "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle
Dum" also sounded the same. As the band began, Bob wandered off to mess with his harmonicas and get a
drink of water, arriving late for the first verse of his own song. It didn't matter in the least.
"Girl of the North Country", a duet he originally performed with the late, great Johnny Cash on
Nashville Skyline, was a great addition to the set that I hadn't heard him play before. "This Wheel's
On Fire" was also re-worked; rocked-out. "Honest With Me" sounded tight, and immediately pulled
everyone back into the show, head-bobbing. It was like an adrenaline injection to the crowd that
worked instantly. "Masters of War", while being a great set-piece, seemed to falter. My impression
was that he was torn between doing a mellow version of the song, and a rocked-out version. That's
what I love about Bob, though; I never get the impression that he's coming out and "playing-by-numbers".
He goes where the song is taking him … at that moment; a truly inspiration-fed rendition of his material.
"Summer Days", like "Honest With Me", is a rousing rocker that never fails to get a crowd completely
into Bob's performance.
Unlike the other times, he only did one encore. By now, I'm getting it. He comes out, stands before the
audience, flanked by his band, and he gauges the enthusiasm of the crowd. If they're going nuts, he
gives them two encores (as he did the other two times I saw him). This time, (maybe because half the
crowd was there for Willie & Family), he only did one encore, and it held no surprises. He did "Like
A Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower", both of which he did in encores the other two times
I've seen him. Both rock, but it was clear Bob wasn't blown away by the audience's reception to his
performance. Still, he was very cordial, borrowing a joke from Ralph ("Oh, Death") Stanley's Live at
McCabe's Guitar Shop album: introducing his bass player, Bob said, "…there's nothing I wouldn't do for
him, and nothing he wouldn't do for me …and that's how we go through life-doing nothing for each other."
The crowd ate it up.
All night, rain threatened but never arrived beyond a few drops. Bob must have some really good pull
with the man upstairs.
Consistently, a great show.
page by Bill Pagel
| Bob Links
| Set Lists
| Set Lists