page by Bill Pagel
Review by Sage Vanden Heuvel
What a great show.
Got there two hours beforehand, heard them sound-checking “Silvio”,
decided to linger around the fair for a while. Knew something strange
was going on when I saw a bunch of old ladies in Spandex dancing to the
“Theme from Shaft” on the Pavilion’s center stage. Finally the sun went
down, the temperature cooled off, and my friends and I checked into the
grandstands where the show was. Quickly ditched our crappy seats in the
bleachers and went right up front, where everything was gonna go down.
Good vibes all around, except for a few front and center ticket holders
who didn’t realize that yes, people were going to stand in front of
Bob arrived a bit late but he wasted no time in getting down to
business. No hello, no hi, just “Humming Bird,” a good song to wake
people up. “Times They Are A-Changin” was beautiful, with an intense
get-down-on-his-knees harp solo, and suddenly we knew that he wasn’t
going to be mailing in any performances tonight. Last show of the tour,
no holding back. “Desolation Row”, “Searchin for a Soldier’s Grave”,
“Gotta Serve Somebody” (Bob wound up on acoustic although it looked like
he wanted the electric), “Tell Me That It Isn’t True”, and he was only
getting warmed up.
“Most Likely” was one of the best of the show, right up there with the
next song: “Masters of War”. Bob delivered as intense and vicious a
performance as I’ve ever heard (all the more relevant with Dubya in
office). “Baby Blue”, “Mama You Been On My Mind” -- was this going to
be a perfect show? -- “Hard Rain” (another song made relevant by Dubya’s
decision to drop from the ABM and test ban treaties), “Drifter’s
Escape”, “Everything is Broken”, then intros the “Best Band in the
World” while “Broken” is still going on, leaves the stage and gives the
audience a breather.
Came back out, delivered a greatest hits encore. Didn’t deliver these
songs like he’s done them a thousand times before, he made them fresh,
he felt them, he was telling it like it was something he wrote this
morning. Bob was chokin back tears on “Blowin in the Wind”! Shooting
his guitar at the audience like a machine gun during “Highway 61”,
invoking the ghost of dying gunfighter during “Knockin” while his
bandmembers hummed the chorus, smiled during “Watchtower”. Two hours of
transcendence by a sixty year old man. Wow.
Every song was well delivered, a few flubbed lines but nothing criminal,
the band was right on and loving it. This was as good as I’ve seen Bob
in the last couple years, my other favorite being Anaheim second show
March 10, 2000. What was great about tonight isn’t just the selection
of songs he played, but the songs he left off. No “Ain’t Me Babe”, no
“Positively 4th”, no “Rainy Day Women”, no “Tangled Up in Blue”, not a
single dud. Yeah, I’d love to see “Delia” or “Visions” or “Shooting
Star” or any number of rarities, but given the songs he likes to play
this was a great set. The tapes probably won’t capture it, but it’s
beyond that. You’d have to be there, you’d have to have seen it, you’d
have to have lived it. This was the real deal.
Review by Tim Whittome
Last night, Bob Dylan stopped off at the Antelope Valley Fair just outside
Lancaster on his way back from Las Vegas to presumably, home in Malibu.
At least, he had no other concerts planned until October, so this made
last night's stop-off the final night of what has been a long year already
even without the proposed autumn shows.
On the face of it, the Fair looked to be yet another of those strange
places that Dylan has been playing in recent years - middle of relatively
nowhere, surrounded by peripheral activities of no great shakes (and
certainly unrelated to the main show and my raison d'etre), probably way
too hot, with chaotic, mostly, unplanned parking and an overall sense of
organization that shows how little such places have ever had to cope with
stars of Dylan's magnitude.
Yet, for all this, we keep on turning out at such places and if the
Antelope Valley was in the middle of relatively nowhere and way too hot at
well over 100 degrees when we arrived at 4.30 pm, it was still a very
American venue through and through. Plenty of bbqs, lots of other food
and other such peripheral fare. In the midst of this, Amy and I and
other Dylan fans arrived for the 'event' of the evening that was both
paradoxically a part of and yet, at same time, outside the other things
The concert began about 20 minutes late - for the previous 45 minutes I
had watched the stage being prepared in a somewhat relaxed fashion - the
centerpiece being either the original or a replica of Dylan's Oscar that
began the evening in clear view but which gradually as the evening
unfolded disappeared and was not subsequently referred to. Prior to the
concert, it sat on the stage looking like a miniature Buddha.
When Dylan finally emerged to rapturous applause and cheers, both he and
what I shall dub the 'Kings of Rhythm' (Larry and Charlie) (a la an
earlier entourage that Dylan once played with back in the 80's) launched
into a lovely version of 'Hummingbird'. Dylan seems to like jaunty upbeat
openers these days and this was no exception - gets everyone into a good
mood, settles the evening.
Next was 'Times' which was 'Times' until a spectacular harmonica solo at
the end lifted the performance and the song into the stratosphere and sent
the crowd wild for more.
'Desolation Row' was good but nothing spectacular before 'Searching for
the Soldier's Grave' rounded off the first acoustic portion of the show.
An energetic electric set of four songs followed with 'Serve Somebody' and
'Till I fell in love with you' being for me the highlights. I was
noticing, however, that Dylan seemed to be more speaking his songs to an
energetic wall of sound than to be actually singing them. Maybe, he can't
as much with the length of the touring increasing with what has been an
increase in the number of songs performed each night. 19, 20, 21 songs
per night cannot be easy at Bob's stage in life and with the time spent on
the road that he does. Nevertheless, this said, there was a trembling
beauty and even humor to the way he was approaching his material which was
interesting even if it didn't make for soaring vocal range and nuance and
subtlety. The 'trembling' and cracked nature of these vocals for some
reason had me thinking of some of the more fragile performances of my
other performing idol, Judy Garland. Where Judy used a tremble in her
voice to convey the emotion of her performances, so too did Dylan last
night (and presumably on other nights too) use a cracked tremble in his
voice to deposit the emotional range of his material before his adoring
fans. Some lines were almost spoken as questions - hurled out to the
Anyway, the next acoustic section bore witness to further highlights - an
outstanding harmonica at the end of 'It's All Over Now', and a superb
version of 'Masters of War' that seemed to me to be a veiled sideways look
at the Bush administration's defensive shield umbrella for the United
States. Dylan's repeating of the opening verse suggested that he might be
none too impressed at the idea - like most of America that is steadily
becoming more politicized and divided with each passing day of President
Bush's extended holiday and parade of follies.
'Hard Rain' was similarly outstanding and urgent - another song largely
spoken but not any less effective as a result. Very clear delivery,
positive and full of power. Again, an oblique reference, perhaps, to
The final electric set of 'Drifter's Escape' and 'Broken' rounded off the
main set in raucous, powerful fashion and then Dylan was off, having first
introduced his band with his only comments of the evening.
The six song encore brought more work for the 'Kings of Rhythm' on
'Knocking' and 'Blowin' in the Wind' and they made effective use of their
combined talents on both these old chestnuts. The opening 'Love Sick' was
excellent and oddly looked forward to the new album in a few week's time.
'Rolling Stone' was nothing spectacular but an obvious crowd pleaser and
much the same could be said for the final 'Highway 61'. I had hoped for
'Cat's in the Well' as a final round off to this mini tour before what
will hopefully be the promotional tour for the new album come October.
All in all, Dylan, his voice apart, looked or acted as if he was feeling
reasonably well and healthy, bending and even sort of dancing at various
points. This augurs well for those anxious on such points. The band,
however, looked kind of bored or tired but probably a little of both I
thought. Maybe, things had not gone well in Vegas the night before?!
Larry's most alive moment of the evening came when he kicked a balloon
back into the crowd, but beyond that, no one stepped out. Hopefully,
things will change come the fall and Dylan will have rehearsed some new
songs into the set to revitalize both his and their interest and in the
process keep us all happy and content.
page by Bill Pagel
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