Review by Frank LoPinto
The Way Cool Wife and I drove down to Pittsfield, Mass in the Berkshires to
see the Bob Dylan show at Wahconah Park, home of the minor league
Pittsfield Mets. The current leg of the Never-Ending Tour is being staged in
minor league ball parks throughout the country including a stop at
Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY on September 2nd.
The linup for all the "Ballpark" shows includes Elana James and the Continental
Two (plus one), Junior Brown, and Jimmie Vaughan
First up was "fiddle" player Elana James and she smoked through a set of
Bluegrass, Texas Swing and Jazz with an energy that could have lit the
stadium. She has a sweet voice, is cute as a bug and can steal the Devil's
fiddle from Charlie Daniels. The highlight of her set was a driving "Orange
Blossom Special" that left everyone exhausted except Ms James herself: she
was quite ready for more. She's a rare talent that literally radiates from the
stage. If things are even half right with the world, she is going to be a
Next up was guitarist extrordinare, Junior Brown. With his tall frame, gravelly
bass voice that is a cross between Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, and his
unique hybrid electric/steel guitar, Brown was a real crowd pleaser, and the
audience loved his off-beat humorous lyrics (especially well received was "My
Wife Thinks Your Dead") and stunning guitar work. He lived up to his
reputation and its great to see he hasn't dropped a beat over the years.
These bands took up little stage-space and the setup I was checking out
before the show, it turned out, was for Jimmie Vaughan's band. I was
especially admiring the pure white B3 Hammond with the similarly ivory
colored Leslie's (two of 'em). When Jimmie hit the stage, I discovered what
they were for: keyboard player Bob Willis who joined Jimmie's Tilt-a-Whirl
band six years ago, a few years after I last saw Vaughan perform live. Bob
also uses his B3 to supply the bass lines for the band with a special lower
keyboard. But I gotta say, there is simply nothing like a B3 with Leslies in a
blues band. Jimmie and the Tilt-a-Whirls had the crowd up on their feet
After Jimmie, the roadies cleared the stage and loaded Bob's set. Now I've
seen Bob Dylan in concert maybe 15 or 20 times over the years since I first
saw him play with The Band back in 1973 and he's always different. And for
the past 15 years or so he's been constantly reworking his classics for stage
performance to keep them fresh. But even so, his shows have usually been
a mix of rock and folk. And he has always had an acoustic set in the middle.
This show was different even from that.
The first thing I noticed was the introduction For as long as I've been going
to Dylan shows he's been introduced with something like, "Ladies ands
Gentlemen. Please welcome to the stage Columbia recording artist,
Boooooob Dylan." This time, there was a short biography:
Next up...the poet laurette of rock'n'roll, the voice of the promise of the
60's counter-culture, the guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who
donned make-up in the 70's and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse,
who emerged to find Jesus, was written off as a has-been by the end of the
80's, and who suddenly shifted gears, releasing some of the strongest music
of his career beginning in the late 90's...Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan.
"Substance abuse"? Now that's different given how private the man is.
The next unusual thing I noticed was that the band was wearing "uniforms",
like an R&B revue: all were dressed in maroon suits with black piping and black,
bowler-style hats. Bob himself was dressed in back suit with a white shirt. And
many of his songs were retooled with an R&B feels.
The other thing was that Bob always played guitar in the past. In fact, in the
last few shows I saw before this one, Bob was even trying his hand at playing
lead. Not so good. This show, he didn't play guitar at all. Instead, he played
keyboards the whole show. And there was no acoustic set at all.
Review by Dave Read
these cats are doing well
Bob Dylan delivered as even and as excellent a show as you could imagine
Saturday night at Wahconah Park; it felt like this was a big deal for him rather
than another run through a list of old songs in front of a mass of faceless
people in another nameless town. It was a remarkable performance of a
predictable setlist; he's done so many shows that I'm sure this list was
predicted by someone's software program.
Here's how it broke down chronologically: middle, early, recent, early, early,
recent, early, early, early, recent, early, recent, early, early.
Mr. Dylan's voice rang clear over a rocking rendition of "Cat's in the Well,"
getting the show off to a fast start at 9:00, setting a tight, energized tone
that would carry throughout the hour and three quarters show. Following a
day off, the band were playing their tenth show in two weeks on this leg of
the NeverEndingTour - they were in perfect sync, seeming eager to do the
jobs they've got so much time, talent, and soul invested in.
No need for me to rank this lineup among the various ones I've seen dating
back to 1975, here's what Dylan himself told Rolling Stone about them last
week: "This is the best band I've ever been in, I've ever had, man for man.
When you play with guys a hundred times a year, you know what you can
and can't do, what they're good at, whether you want 'em there."
In the same interview, he decried the state of music recording in these
modern times, which thinking may account for the inclusion in tonight's setlist
of two songs that came out of his 1967 Big Pink jam sessions in nearby
Saugerties with the Hawks (soon to be renamed the Band), "You Ain't Goin'
Nowhere," in the second spot, and, in the the eleventh, "I Shall Be Released."
The former could serve as a template for the whole set: really clear vocals
from Dylan, his keyboard fairly high in the mix, and a solid harmonica coda
(which, coincidentally, brought the huge diamond ring on his left hand to
everybody's attention), and notably tasty pedal steel licks from Donny Herron,
as every song had at least one star turn from the band.
Herron and guitarist Denny Freeman each had several, always augmented by
the brilliance of the rhythm section. There were exciting elements to the
arrangements throughout. For instance, the fourth number, "Just Like a
Woman," opened with something of a duet between Herron's pedal steel
and Dylan's organ and closed with Herron echoing Dylan's harp. In between
were sweet, sublime solos by Freeman and the audience's filling the gaps left
by Dylan for them to sing "just like a woman" before he did.
Vocal highlights included "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," which sounded
way better than we'd heard before. We may have been too quick to dismiss
it earlier because of the silly name and its surface cartoonishness, but upon
further reflection, it may be on a par with the mid-60s' ballads in terms of
substance, only that went unrecognized because his later song writing style
is spare where it once was florid. Anyway, Dylan sang it with relish, the band
played it with flair, and now I'm wondering what Christopher Ricks thinks
The soloing Freeman did on the next song, "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The
Memphis Blues Again," was apparently a highlight for Dylan because it had him
wiggling his eyebrows and waggling his tail, simple gestures that become
hilarious when done by this most stoical performer. A very cool reading of
"Million Miles" came next, sounding more like the official recorded version
than any song on the set list.
Having called the setlist predictable earlier, we ought note now that that
doesn't imply inferior, because any setlist that has "Don't Think Twice, It's
All Right" and "Desolation Row" back to back is a good one. And what a
great time to lay those gems side by side, with truly rejeuvenating and
re-revealing arrangements inspired by how charged-up Dylan is these days
and having these cats in his band.
The setup for "Don't Think Twice..." was semi-acoustic, with Tony Garnier
laying down a hypnotic, pulsing beat on the double bass over which Freeman
and Dylan interwove juiced-up melodic lines against which the lyric bounced.
(There were times tonight when Dylan's keyboard emerged from the mix
just enough to remind one of Al Kooper.) The song ended with a hot solo
by Freeman giving way to a cool one on harp by Dylan.
The arrangement of "Desolation Row" was simply spectacular - it was a sound
ballet. There was luscious acoustic work between Garnier and Freeman, laying
down swinging, jazzy lines and then doubling them. Geroge Recile was all over
his drum kit, making thunder and great brassy noise. And Herron pinned down
every phrase of Dylan's with hot rivets of electric mandolin; a wicked cool
By now these guys have got it all going on, they're deep in a glorious groove,
loosed from the bonds of gravity. Eight songs down and six to go. Dylan had a
blast singing "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight;" a purely playful number, a delightful
interlude before the freighted "Cold Irons Bound," another one off Time Out
of Mind. Tonight it had a crazy feel to it, dictated by Recile who crafted a beat
that sounded somewhat martial and/or reminiscent of a score from an old
We'd been listening to Time Out of Mind alot lately and are coming to think
that it merits placement in the upper echelon of Dylan albums, alongside
Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and Blood
on theTracks. It differs from those in its literary sensibility and is less complex
musically, but it is so audibly affable that frequent listening starts to reveal
subtle profundities - and isn't that what we're in search of, after all?
The other Big Pink number "I Shall Be Released," notable for the interplay
between Freeman and Herron, set the stage for the set closing "Summer
Days," which first we loved and then grew tired of, and tonight got a whole
new appreciation for, as it was done, as everything tonight was done, in
The stage went dark for a couple minutes before Dylan and his Band returned
for the first encore, "Like A Rolling Stone," a great celebratory rave-up that
featured Herron's steel guitar riffs sounding like Al Kooper's Hammond B3 on
the original recording.
Dylan then responded to the riotous applause with "Thank yahhh, I'd like to
introduce my band ..."
The show ended with "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35;" despite a longtime
predilection for a variety of stoning substances, this has always been among
my least favorite songs, but, tonight - you guessed it...totally fuggin
Everybody just got goofy, including Dylan, who had Recile cracking up on
L.A.R.S. and who, himself, was cracking up on the closer, doing his little
boogie-in-place and exhorting the fans on the rail. A swell night it was in
Review by Cary Krosinsky
The major minor league roll Bob is on, reached the Berkshires last
night, and a full house at legendary Wahconah Park truly had a ball last
The expected chill in the air was easily negated by the warmth of bodies
pressed close together, eagerly anticipating the presence of the legend of
Warm up acts were all at least very good - Elana's new group is
excellent and high country swing energy, and was well received, Junior
Brown is simply awesome, and Jimmy Vaughn puts on a nice show. All good
to see and added to the excitement to come.
Cats was a solid opener, a single hit up the middle, a warmup in
You Ain't Going Nowhere was rock solid and even Tweedle Dee was very
good (always a good sign).
The show started amping up with an excellent version of Just Like a
Woman, but it was at Stuck Inside of Mobile when things started getting
really interesting. Just before the song, Bob was shaking his head, as if a
fly was buzzing around him, or something was bothering him. I think now
it was Bob becoming literally possessed, or entered a trance-like state, as
the rest of the show was at a truly supernatural level.
Bob sang Stuck Inside of Mobile (and most of the rest of the night) in
shocking command of his voice - he sing wistfully, clearly, rasply/wolfly
by choice, only when he wanted to.
Million Miles out of nowhere - hit right out of the park - Bob sings it
like a champ, and his keyboards here were absolutely perfect and enhanced
the song. The band found an improvised groove here that was perfect. Bob
& Donny as they also did on many songs tonight, played off each other to
great effect. Best version I've heard live or on tape.
Don't Think Twice, a song Bob's been butchering as an encore for the
last year or so, was masterful and thrilling - a must hear.
Desolation Row - also perhaps the best version I've heard - certainly
one of them - did he sing all the verses? he certainly sang them with
power and style and quality.
Then an odd choice, perhaps - Baby Tonight - but, trust in Bob - he
performs it well, and the band finds this unique, new groove at the end -
Cold Irons Bound - a song that's been great all year - had Bob featured
front and center - vocalizing uniquely and strongly - wonderful stuff.
I Shall Be Released - again sung masterfully - truly perfect.
Summer Days - absolutely red hot - the band finds a great new jam - Bob
can do no wrong.
Rolling Stone - very well done - not mailed in at all
Rainy Day Women - was truly unbelievable - one of the best encore
performances I've seen - Bob improvising on the vocals - the band
featuring big grins all around (as they were through the second
half of the show, more so now). Bob hamming it up - pointing his
"pistol finger" at the audience more than once as if to say "gotcha"
yeah, Bob you sure did.
They come out for the lineup, Bob front and center - beaming like a
Cheshire Cat - enjoying the crowd going completely, justifiably nuts.
See this tour.
Review by Stephen Pate
He can heal the sick
Cure the dead.
He will set you right,
Settle your dread
The lame will walk
The dumb will talk.
Hurry up before he goes
Get down to the show.
After seeing three Bob Dylan shows in a row last summer I hadn’t planned
on seeing him again until my girlfriend suggested it. Cool, let’s go. So with
little planning and we headed to the border at Calais, ME. Friendly border
guards wished us a good time and they were bang on. Last year they
called us Dead Heads which was highly complimentary.
We meandered through the White Mountains for two days and arrived in
Pittsfield , MA just about supper time. Getting tickets, beer and sausages,
we missed Elana James. It sounded like Les Paul and Mary Ford with the
syncopated swing and odd-ball harmony.
The people in Pittsfield are great – the food at the park is awful. I love
Wahconah Park: it has that older ballpark nostalgia. The crowd had a family
feel to it: aging hippies, middle aged business types, people who shave
every day, twenty/thirty somethings, teenagers and kids. Kids under
12 free – great idea. Lots of beer, less weed than Canada. Things are
different south of the border.
Junior Brown came up to the mike and garbled “Is this thing on?” and
proceeded to run through his set like he needed to be somewhere else.
Perhaps he did. I was glad when he got off and wondered what kind of
management was allowing him to go on.
Jimmy Vaughn knows all the standard blues licks and guitar leads. He can’t
sing and his act sadly needs a good vocalist. He can swing sort of and the
whole set was like bar blues. He did bring out a female singer – sorry no
name – who made me wish for Etta James. She had some of Etta’s
phrasing without the sexy swagger. Passed the time.
They give Dylan this amazing intro. Aaron Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring”
and “Rodeo” are played over the PA. They Dylan is announced as the poet
laureate of the 60’s counter-culture, chemically dependant, cured born-again,
washed-up has been of the 80’s and now back better than ever. Wow,
bare your soul Bob.
Then the Man came out with his band. You can read the set list. It was
rocking. It was blues. It was the best thing that happened since last year.
The band is super tight and rocks constantly. Dylan is still the king of his
material, even when he re-interprets it. Dylan is Picasso re-painting the
nude one more time. You have to admire the beauty and the passion. His
words are the catch phrases of the last 50 years. They the American
experience. His voice is full of emotion, color, timbre. Only once did I regret
his approach: I like “I Shall Be Released” as a torch song. He sang it with a
somber emotion. Hey, he’s the artist.
He did at least four harmonica solo’s. Each of them pleased the crowd. They
were fresh sounding and powerful, especially the upbeat coda to Don’t Think
Twice It’s All Right. Dylan plays harp like a lead guitar solo.
The concert was long, exhausting. I stood in the mosh pit until my one good
leg gave out and had to go back to the stands with my girlfriend. I belted
out “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Rainy Day Women” at full voice. It was ecstasy.
My girlfriend said he was better than last year. She also said she like my version
of some songs better than his. She is getting good: she can recognize some
tunes just from lead in. Is she a keeper or what?
Leaving the ballpark, the cops squeezed our car behind the band’s bus going
out of town and through the traffic we came alongside Bob’s bus, you know
the one pulling his motorcycle. This realization came into my mind: I am going
to meet Bob before I die. Why? What will I say? How to act cool and not like
a fan? I let those negative thoughts go and just cruised along in the night on
the inside lane. The bus was dark and shinny, its wheels glimmered. We
pulled into our motel in Lenox and the bus rolled over the next hill and into
(temporarily in Manchester NH)
Review by John P.
When you go to Wakconah Park wear boots.
The parking is free (cool), but you have to walk through a wet field to
get to the park (very old, has character, looks like something from "The
Natural"), so I had wet feet all night. Glad the rain held off. Nice mix of happy
relaxed people. No problems on a Saturday night in New England.
Elana James was just great! I didn't like Junior Brown. Jimmie Vaughn was
OK. It must be hard to be the brother of a legend.
Bob was in great form. Much stronger voice than when I last saw him in
Norwich, CT in June of 05.
Highlights for me were, Cat's in the well, You ain't goin nowhere, Summer
Days, and Like a Rolling Stone.
I didn't like this version of Cold Irons Bound. When he did it in Norwich
it stunned and blew me away. I listened to the CD on the way home to get it
out of my head.
I hate Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 but I didn't hate this end of show
version. Very bluesy.
Next show for me is New Britain Tuesday. I hope I see the Maggies Farm,
See Bob whenever you can. This American legend is still touring and
constantly changing at 65 and accessible to families. The new album is
great! I got my vinyl version yesterday from Sony (not CD yet).
Review by Bill Wessling
On this thing they call the never ending tour, to quote Johnny Cash it
seems I've been every where man....." and i've learned following Dylan
around these past few years a lot of every where is in my own back yard...
Having the Bob Dylan show touring about your space is similar to having
house quests from far away lands visit your home...whom some how inspire
you to take them around to the tourist places you have not been to in
along time and others you have never considered visiting...on the current
tour, i've been to Meadowbrook in the lake region in New Hampshire, a
place the folks took the family to summer, Its taken me to Pittsfield in the
Berkshire hills, a mountain bikers heaven that makes you glad you mastered
some g.p.s skills.. i got to revisit some of the schools my Boston University
football team played when i was in college, like u mass and u.r.i..... when it
hit Brockton, Ma i got a chance to hangout in the hometown of my
boyhood idol middle weight boxing champ Marvin Hagler and my very Italian
grandfathers idol heavyweight boxing champ Rocky Marciano..
I swear the way Dylan balanced, bounced and shuffle stepped his way back to
the Brockton stage that night for the encore he became in spirit one with
those champs.... i also got to see a show in a pub avalon just a spit
away from the green monster at fenway park... i was one of the drunken
goons that night, please forgive me but green monster demons are real, i
can never forget my first trip to the fens when i was just a kid going to see
my main man number 8, good old yaz, if you think Dylan got the treatment in
Newport you should of seen how red sox nation treated yaz in 1968... it
made a team of little leaguers cry...
On the current tour, i jumped on and off a plane and i landed in
tampa..a lot cheaper place to visit than going to cape cod for a weekend
I took in the Salvador Dali museum by day and Dylan by night... Dali's
self portrait as a child will linger with me for the rest of my life.....
Dali as a child had autism mannerism... he was frightened to death of
insects... his peers who noticed these traits devised a cure for his
phobia of insects... a simple one, they dropped insects down young Salvador's
shirt then crushed them against his body... Dali's self portrait as a
child can best be described as the body of a grass hopper with an upside down
iron attached for a head. who is sitting alone at a picnic table... a
spirit crushed.. a child who would always be on the outside looking in.... and
when Dylan played lay lady lay that night he became that child....
Now that i have been to Pawtucket and seen Dylan play there, the latter
is all OZ, Pawtucket is where the wizard landed....
Pawtucket, R.I that lays within the Blackstone valley, the birthplace of the
American industrial revolution, that's what my hotel brochure said....
while i was doing the forty five minute trek from my pad in waltham, Ma to
my hotel in Pawtucket,RI, this description the birth pace of the american
industrial revolution... conjured up images to me, a place having old mill
factories where a character like Charles Dickens poor shoe man toiled away
in his forgotten shoe factory ...or Dylan's line from time out of mind...
i'm walking thru streets that are dead... when i got there, however i
thought Pawtucket during the American industrial revolution must of been
more like the chinese shanty village in the t.v. series dead wood....
.....anyway i did arrive in pawtucket... which is just a shout away from
I got to mccoy in time to see jimmy vaughn, i loved his antics..its
been along time since i've seen a behind the back guitar solo... i wished
he twirled around while doing it so i could see some string picking...while
i stood around waiting for Bobs set.. i shared a smoke with some local
pawtucket kids... whom never had seen dylan before to them it
was just an advent that was going down in there home town, i could tell
there was no way they paid for there tickets... the next thing i remember
we were listening to Copeland's fan fare for the common man.... the kids
seemed perplexed by it ..dylan opened with cats in the well, then i think, u
ain't going no where... during this time i think, i watched the kids more than
Dylan.... they seemed transfixed,confused but focused.....Dylan 's voice
very much the loudest instrument on stage only slightly beneath his own
keyboards...... i don't care what tunes he was playing, it was cool
watching the kids watch Dylan... thru i'll be your baby tonight... into the next
tune ... then i remember tangled up in blues... i think he turned his
band loose on that one... he wowed those locals .... they were saying wow
out loud..... then i thought there is no way those kids would' ve sought
out Dylan on there own.....isn't that what its all about... like when buddy
holly played a small minasota town giving bob the chance to see him...
becoming mythological and held up in a certain way to young bob...
that's what's cool about playing every where....backwoods, home cooked
Elliot Roberts, who was Dylan's booking agent many moons ago said to
dylan, think about it, meaning touring like you think about Jesse James..
there were a lot bank robbers back then, a lot of jail breakers, a lot of
hold up men, train robbers,,, but Jesse James is the only name people
remember...you don't play the same towns every year...
you don't rob the same banks twice.....bob dylan played in pawtucket , R.I
do you think those kids will ever forget that? i know i won't....
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