August 25, 2010
Review by David Sason
The best part about seeing Bob Dylan in concert in the 21st century
is exactly that – seeing him. That still-formidable thrill was enhanced
by the small venue size Wednesday night. Although the last-minute,
cash-only downtown show fell short of capacity expectations (the
venue was about 80% full at best), the “poet laureate of rock” and
his incredible band played a tight, focused 90-minute+ set that relied
surprising much on latter-day gems, including the rarity “Man in the
Long Black Coat” from 1989’s Oh Mercy.
This setlist choice made Dylan’s usual gruff, garbled delivery less
disconcerting. “Ain’t Talkin’” was much more enjoyable than the
preceding “Highway 61 Revisited”. Instrumentally, he certainly kept
up with his outstanding band, especially when his organ playing
dueled with Charlie Sexton’s guitar licks during a dynamic
run-through of “Thunder on the Mountain”, easily the highlight
of the show. By the closer “Like a Rolling Stone”, it was clear
that the Bob Weir cameo rumors were false. But judging from
the crowd going apeshit when Dylan merely grinned midway
through his classic anthem, it didn’t matter one lick.
North Bay Bohemian’s BohoBlog
Review by Steinar Daler
I ’m back home again in Norway after attending the concerts in Monterey,
Lake Tahoe, Oakland and San Fransisco. All of them great shows with good
variation in the setlists. To me, maybe Lake Tahoe was the highlight,
because the setlist had many of my favourite songs, a really good Taj
Mahal opening for Bob, and also the nice surroundings and the good
weather. But what I’m gonna write about here is the very much talked
about Warfield concert.
Me and my two travelling companions, Geir from Norway and Tim from
England, had expected another concert in the Bay area to be announced
when we ordered our flight tickets, so we were ready for one more show.
It took a long time before we knew what was going to happend, and of
course we had a lot of discussion about what we should do – lining up at
noon or turn up later and hope the que was not to long. Well, we all
predicted the concert would not sell out, but anyway we’re big fans, and
to be in San Fransisco when Bob’s playing Warfield and the fear of not
getting in, made us line up at noon with beach chairs , water, fruit and
more. We had about 25 people in front of us in the line – a few had been
there since 0630 in the morning – and even when they started letting us
in at 1745, it is my guess that only 800 people were in the line. But
did we regret it? No way! The weather was nice, there of course were a
lot of familier faces in the que – and all the once we did not knew were
friendly and in a good mood just like Dylan-fans usually are. A lot of
memories about the old days when we had to que like this came up and I
can not remember anyone complaining. A few felt it was to hot, but I
like the sun and in my beach chair down in Market street, I felt I was
on a really strange but friendly beach waiting for something great to
happen. We of course all talked about different roumors like Phil Lesh
or Neil Young turning up, but most of us predicted it to be just a
normal concert and had no expectaitions beyond that – except of course
to see Bob in concert in this beautyful and legendary arena.
There was a lot of interesting people in the que and also some passing
buy. One of them – who as far as I could understand did not intended to
attend the concert (or maybe could not afford it) was a guy who looked
older than Bob and who someone called one of San Fransiscos many street
poets. I talked to him just before we were let in, and it turned out
that his name was David Whittaker. The guy behind the famous “Whittaker
tapes” from the early 60’s and a friend of Bob and the other young
aspiering musicians up in Minneapolis in those days. It is allmost 50
years ago since they socialised in Minneapolis and in some way it is
interesting to think about how different a life two people like Bob and
David have to day.
David seemed happy, I hope Bob feels happy too. And that brings me to
the concert. I have seen 9 Bob-concerts this year (5 in Europe and 4
here in California/Nevada). And I can’t remember seeing Bob looking more
happy on stage. He smiles a lot, both to the guys in the band and to the
audience. Ho looks healthy and his voice is most of the time better than
in rescent years. The Warfield is a great music hall and I think most of
the audience had a good view of Bob and the band. We certainly had as we
were let in among the first ones.
You have all seen the setlist so I will not give a song by song review,
but just say some few words about some of them Rainy day woman is
certainly a good opening song, it sets the mood and makes the audience
happy. I will have to listen to recordings of the song to be sure, but
to me it sounded like he makes up some new lyric lines as he sings.
Senor is also a song that everybody knows, not played too often and as
well performed as this night – it was a treat that the audience loved.
To me, the next song Just like tom Thumb’s blues was one of the
highlights, maybe only because it is one of my favourite Dylan songs but
also because he always do great versions of the song. Simple twist of
fate was met by great applaus. It’s done in a very recogniseable version
and everybody loved it. Desolation Row also made a lot of the audience
going wild. To me and some others, it was great up til the two last
verses. Then he started his strange staccato singing. Very annoying, and
a way of destroying something that is really good. At least he returned
to the original melody for the last couple of lines in the lyric. The
annoying staccato singing has luckily appeared much more seldom this
year than the two years before, but when it happens I have to say I hate it.
The man in the long black coat – rearly played as it is – also went down
well by the audience, but in my opinion it is missing something – maybe
the mystic mood of the original recording. By some reason – I don’t know
what – Bob does not play many songs from Together Through Life, but at
least this night we got My wife’s home town. We also got a rarely played
and very well performed Ain’t talkin. Bob was giving his band mates a
lot of smiles at the end of this song and seemed to be very satisfied
with the performance. So were we!
Ballad of a thin man was fantastic as it has been on all the concerts
since the autumn last year. I was with a couple of old friends from SF
who had not seen Bob in concert the last year and they were highly
impressed that he is still able to do something like this. The kind of
performance like this is really something you won’t forget, and it is
confirming Bob’s greatness.
Everyone seemed very happy after the concert – and because of the
queing, the legendary venue, and maybe more real Dylan-fans than usual
in the audience – and of course once more a solid performance by Bob and
his great band, this concert will go down in history as one of the
concerts you should have been to. I luckily was there!
Thanks to Geir and Tim for beeing great travvelling companions, and to
all the other old and new friends we met. A special thanks and hello to
Lesley, Danny, Mark and Joyce.
Review by Trevor Townson
He is not so much singing as sermonising:
his tragedy perhaps is that the audience is preoccupied with the song
So the bearded boys and the lank haired girls, all eye shadow and undertaker
make up, applaud the songs and miss perhaps the sermons.
They are there
they are with it.
But how remote they really are from sit in’s and strikes and scabs and life.
The Times They Are A – Changin’ sings Dylan, they are when a poet and not a
pop singer fill’s a hall”.
Lets Look Back.
Bob sure was sermonising when he played at the Warfield Theatre in November 1979
taking only two nights away from the pulpit in what was otherwise a solid
fourteen night stint. The full Slow Train Coming track list was performed every
night with the only exception, according to the set lists, being the missing out
of Precious Angel from the number 6 slot on November 14th making this date a 16
song set and probably a mistake.
Almost the full Saved album was performed every night too the only missing songs
being A Satisfied Mind and Are You Ready probably because it wasn’t ready at
the time? Bob also threw in the hymn Blessed Be The Name every night as well
with one extra song Ain’t No Man Righteous, No Not One being added on the
final night of November 16th making that show the longest set at 18 songs.
Just goes to further prove that there is absolutely no consistency with Bob as
even his set lists can at times be the same. He did however juggle around the
two songs Saved and In The Garden swapping their position between slot 14 and 15
from November 10th onwards so phew, all is not lost as Bob must have cracked
suffering under tedium thereby having to include at least a little variety
Something that I found quite amusing under comments for the Slow Train Coming
album on Bobdylan.com was where someone had wrote under the title Good Crazy
“I think it (the album) is more enjoyable now because we all know that Dylan
got out of his born again phase and is back to being normal”.
Well Hallelujah Bob, glad to have you back in the normal world with the rest of
My first day on arriving in San Francisco I decided to visit the Beat Museum
which is a kind of shop on all things Beat with a museum attached mainly
revolving around Jack Kerouac and his book On The Road. Walking up Grant through
China Town there were Chinese guys sat on the street every few yards playing
strange instruments of a type only Donnie Herron would recognise or know how to
play. At one point there is a six piece band, five guys and one lady and they
were playing a tune which made me think “Hey that is quite good” I then
realised why. You know how Bob is always rearranging the way he plays his songs,
well this was yet another arrangement that you could have almost perfectly fit
the words of Maggie’s Farm to but their rearrangement was giving us more a
kind of Maggie’s Hong Kong Style King Prawn Farm in the word spacings.
At the end of an alley named Jack Kerouac there is a strong smell of Bob’s
concert incense in the air as the Beat Museum on Broadway comes into view.
Around and surrounding the Museum to add to the Bohemian flavour of the area I
guess is The Roaring 20’s which advertises itself as The City’s Sinful
Speakeasy, the Condor Topless Bar with an Adult Cinema to it‘s side, the
Hungry Club with girls outside enticing you in from the pavement whilst across
the street is the Garden of Eden which promises (a taste of paradise).
Having eventually got around the museum there was nothing too much to send a
penny postcard home about but they did have a large choice of really old Play
Boy magazines for sale in the gift shop for any of you into Nostalgia. Nothing
on Bob really and rightly so as he follows on after this period but there was
the odd picture of him for sale in the gift shop and it was Bob’s music
playing over the speaker at the time but strangely they were songs from much
later periods as they were from the Desire and Slow Train Coming albums.
Walking back from the museum I pass a lady with paper cup in hand sitting on the
pavement by the junction of Broadway and Columbus. She was holding a brown
cardboard sign on which was written the message in black marker pen “Travling
Broke & Hungry, Please Help”. This was absolutely appalling I thought, it
really angers me to see things like that, someone in support of her cause should
tell her that there are actually two l’s in travelling and there should also
be an e after the v.
Heading further back towards Market Street there is another person sat on the
street but this time it is a guy and he has also made a sign following the same
basic format and construction techniques by employing brown cardboard and black
marker pen but his message reads “Need Cash For Alcohol Research”. Now that
is a worthy cause and quite impressive really having done a bit of alcohol
research myself to find that he had managed to make such a good sign. From my
own experience of doing alcohol research it is not really all that conducive to
sign writing so as worthy entrant he took my five dollar prize as winner in my
San Fran Street Sign Competition.
MAN ON THE STREET - Now this guy did not have a sign but if he had of had a sign
it needed to clearly say HELP. From what I saw he did not need a sign to tell me
that but certainly nobody else was getting the message as they just walked past
him or stepped over him on the pavement. A few concerned looks from passers by
but from most you just got a sense of their annoyance at the personal
inconvenience he was by making them suffer. From the museum I was making my way
back to Market Street to a coffee shop but on arriving at the junction of Ellis
and Powell there I came across this guy flat out on his back spread almost the
full width of the pavement and if not dead he was certainly as out cold as you
can get. He looked to probably be a street person but it was not possible to be
sure however there were no signs of alcohol but it could not have looked more
serious to me who ever he was or his state of habit.
I thought something should be done but getting down on the pavement with him to
assist did not seem the thing to do so I decided to walk along the block where I
have sometimes seen police cars parked but there was none there at this time.
Taking a different route to that originally planned I land on Market Street and
see a short way in the distance two police cars with lights flashing so I head
in their direction. There are lots of cops there dealing with an incident with a
guy who had turned violent and some of them were wrestling with him on the
street. There was another cop standing back to the side I assume in a back up
support role so I approach him and tell him of the inconvenience lying on the
street on the main tourist route at the Ellis Powell junction. The policeman
thanked me through his shades and gum and further said that they would take a
look once they had dealt with the violent guy.
I went off for my coffee thinking that at least I had done all that I could and
should probably have done. Anyway as I was walking back after having my coffee
there was a police car parked at the junction and the pavement was clear for
locals and tourists to walk on again. Whether it was eventually due to my tip
off and how serious things actually were for the poor guy who knows but at least
he was no longer inconveniencing anybody and the tourist busses and street cars
could once more look in that direction without him causing them any offence.
It had been announced that line-ups will not begin before noon on the day of
performance then again they had also said that it had been almost twenty years
since Bob last performed at the Warfield which is why I joined the queue at
round about 11.30am.
There was already a short queue at that time but it must be said the queue was
slow to grow throughout the afternoon and no sign at all of any hype or chaos as
you could be forgiven to be expecting at such an intimate venue in central San
Francisco. May be advertising does pay off and the ticket agents that some love
to hate do play an important role in the money making machine of the music
industry. I had never thought this was going to be a special show other than the
small venue and ticket arrangements. A repeat of the ‘79 set list would have
been fantastic but that was never really going to happen at this stage in
Bob‘s career so was there anything special for me?
Some say all Bob’s shows are special but that would just be a play on words as
to how this show was billed.
A previous reviewer however had said words to the effect that just the fact that
Bob was stood there after such a long and chequered career made it special
enough and with that I totally agree. I was stood watching Bob Dylan in the USA,
yes The Bob Dylan, The Original Bob Dylan in the USA stood as large as life in
front of me and playing on his guitar whilst singing Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues.
How special does it get.
Most of the audience tonight were not so remote from sit in’s and strikes and
scabs and life as it was an older end crowd who had been lucky enough to journey
with Bob through life and so they knew both the songs and sermons and were there
to applaud not those things but to applaud the man who is Bob Dylan.
Well The Times They Are A - Certainly A - Changin’ if this particular poet and
popular singer cannot fill such a small hall but you know, it was not full,
never even felt like anywhere near full.
Barrowlands Glasgow has always been the smallest and most intimate Bob Dylan
show that I have attended at a published capacity of 1900. The Warfield is
published at 2250 capacity but you know with only (say) 80% capacity taken on
the night that equates to 1800 and therefore makes The Warfield the most
intimate Bob Dylan venue that I have ever attended to date. Plus it must be
added, with (say) at least one hundred forged tickets for Barrowlands some of
which may have got through the ticket check it is obvious why it was such a
struggle for me to hold onto the rail that night on the 24th June 2004.
The Warfield in San Francisco was billed as a special show and for me it was
just that by being the smallest and most intimate Bob Dylan show that I have
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