Review by Roger Catlin
It's been five years since Bob Dylan has released a new studio album - the
last came, ominously, on Sept. 11, 2001. That's maybe the longest lapse
between studio releasaes in his monumental career.
Titled like a Chaplin movie and looking on its cover like a film noir,
"Modern Times" came out today, the day he also happened to be playing in
Connecticut, in the next town over.
Not one to conform to conventional rituals of touring promotion, though,
he neither mentioned nor played anything from "Modern Times," an album
that continues the nostalgic swing of the last one though there are two or
three killer standouts.
Instead, he treated the rain-soaked crowd at the New Britain Stadium, home
of the New Britain Rock Cats, with selections from the breezier summer
fare he had been playing at the minor league ballpark tour.
The man often pigeonholed as a protest singer shied away from "Masters of
War," or any other songs of overt political import (unless you feel
"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" an accurate description of the current
When he sang "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," the line "even the
president of the United States sometimes has to stand naked" drew a cheer,
but it's been doing that the past eight administrations and counting.
Instead, he stuck to an almost willfully happy selection of song (despite
the constant drizzle), from the ever-agreeable "Tonight I'll Be Staying
Here With You" to kicking-back anthems of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and
"Watching the River Flow" and the still-emotional anthem for dads to their
offspring, "Forever Young."
Whatever angst he could conjure up came in the encore's "Like a Rolling
Stone," with an increased volume that kicked like '66, and its twisted
psychological twin, "Positively 4th Street," which still carries its
power, whatever the arrangement.
But it was a pair of evergreens from "Blood on the Tracks" that may have
had the most lift in the drenched crowd, in both "Simple Twist of Fate"
and "Tangled Up in Blue," in which the young woman in question no longer
works in a topless bar, but at "the Tropicana."
It wasn't the only lyric change all night. The closing "Rainy Day Women
#12 & 25" had a barrage of new rhymes including "they'll stone you when
you're driving in a truck" instead of "trying to make a buck" and what
sounded like a rhyme of "bumble bee" with "QVC," but maybe I've just got
TV on the brain.
Some thought Dylan was clever by playing "Rainy Day Women" to close out a
rainy night, but it was no more especially chosen for New Britain than the
opening oddity "Cat's in the Well" (from 1990's "Under the Red Sky") was a
sly comment on the Rock Cats' current standing in the cellar of the
Eastern League. He's been playing it just about every night of the tour.
But even if the set lists this summer have shown generally less variety
than previous tours, Dylan has a way of making everything sound fresh
nightly. Like Ray Charles before him, he likes to vary the meter of the
songs and sometimes spits them out counter the melodies - which are so
enduring and often carry as much weight as the vaunted words. This has the
effect of not only dissuading sing-alongs and the blind nostalgia that
leads to but it makes the word suddenly sound fresh again.
Still anchored to an electronic keyboard (which you could actually hear at
points, such as in one song, a kind of duet between the right hand on the
keys and the left on the harmonica - a call and response between his own
two hands!), he was surrounded by great musicians all road tested and able
to manage the hairpin turns Dylan sometimes leads them through.
The humble lead guitarists exchanging stinging leads, Danny Freeman and
Stu Kimball may be alone in rock to be standing the furthest back from the
stage in the band; Freeman was so far to stage left some must have had a
hard time seeing the guy handling most of the solos.
By now the addition of Donnie Herron (once of BR5-49) on pedal steel and
occasional fiddle is as crucial as Dylan's own cowboy hat and piping on
his pants in creating the scene. Especially on this night's set list, the
pedal steel added just the right comfort to those wonderful country-fied
anthems from the days of "Nashville Skyline."
The merchandising, from caps to posters, all stress "The Bob Dylan Show"
and it's no small distinction. In topping the bill of a nightfull of
entertainment, the headliner has carefully chosen the other acts to help
frame his own performance. Have you ever seen a bad opening act at a Dylan
The summer tour echoes with a wonderful Austin, Texas twang from the
turbo-guitar and down in the basement bass of Junior Brown to the muscled
blues guitar of Jimmie Vaughan, helped mightily by another soulful voice
from Austin, Lou Ann Barton. Even the opening Elana James and the
Continental Two set the tasty tone for the night with some nice fiddle-led
The rules at the ballpark tour meant that kids under 12 got in free and
while that still didn't fly in my house, the teenage daughter came and was
surprisingly receptive to the croaky singer and daddy's eccentric friends.
She brightened when she heard "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." "We sing that in
camp," she enthused.
She knew a couple of other songs played too - "Like a Rolling Stone" and
maybe "Highway 61 Revisited," she said, but that may be only because she
heard the words "Highway 61" in it.
The songs that would have really jumped out of the campfire song list were
largely absent because the acoustic set that sometimes varied Dylan's set
is largely gone as well. Tony Garnier playing upright bass and Kimball
playing acoustic in the background of "Tangled Up in Blue" was as close as
it got. You don't need a weatherman to know there'd be no "Blowin' in the
And of course, none of the new album either, though it is the road band
featured on the 10 tracks, rehearsed over a couple of weeks in
Poughkeepsie before laying down the tracks in New York City last winter.
At once, the new tracks on "Modern Times" show the vivid power the band is
capable of performing - and the raggedness with which they occasionally
crash through changes.
Dylan's love for old swing and Americana, shown most broadly on his new XM
radio show, comes through in the album, but there are a couple of doozies
on there too that will stand with "Highlands" and "Things Have Changed" as
proof of Dylan power in the 21st century - chief among them "Thunder on
the Mountain" with its crazy references to Alicia Keys, "The Levee's Gonna
Break," an update of "Down in the Flood" that will be assumed to be a
Katrina paen, and the closing "Ain't Talking."
He and the boys will probably work them up come the fall tour, which
luckily plays these parts at UMass in Amherst with the Raconteurs Nov. 15.
For now, I'm looking to stretching out my own summer days with a second
helping of the ballpark tour in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Friday.
Review by Ed Huydic
Despite being a veteran of dozens of shows over the years it does not surprise
me that the excitement and anticipation is still there when in the moments
before Bob's introduction I am filled with the incredible thoughts of his timeless
music as I know what I am about to hear is legendary and encompassing for all
generations. And, as I panned the crowd in the moments before the show,
indeed, it was as if one were at an event meant for all ages as I saw and met
people from 2 to 72...but enough of that, for now.
The show, which featured the Band touted by Rolling Stone magazine as Bob's
best, progressed in an amazing and captivating fashion. With the soaking rain
falling steadily, one never sensed anything other than the magnificence that was
expected. The cast now five strong, as opposed to the "old" idea of the quartet,
supported Bob's vocals and play in an incredibly "tight" fashion. Dressed all in black
with black hats, including Bob, who did not wear the mysterious nugget sized
diamond ring he wore at Pittsfield, which prompted quite a bit of conjecture,
the entire cast was awesome.
Showing the evolution and adaptability that he has for years Bob shuffled his set
list from earlier American shows and established a great rapport using his music
with the crowd by stretching the time and instrumental limits to several songs.
The harp was out early and often and sounded as good as ever. Cat's In The
Well set the table. By the time Bob gave us Forever Young we all knew this was
a special night as the person standing next to me (we were about 30 feet from
the stage) stated that Bob "never sounded better." And, he was right! Not only
that Bob looked as healthy as ever with obvious weight gain and that ever
present glint to his eye.
One by one each song seemed to top the next. Simple Twist of Fate came from
the heart, Highway 61 rocked, Tangled Up in Blue in its new form created attitude,
and Summer Days primed the audience for two encores that brought the house
down....all this despite the fact that Bob seemed stoic and professionally focused.
To those who wanted some interaction with the crowd that would be for another
night. However, the lasting effects of Like a Rolling Stone and appropriately "Rainy"
Day Women sent all home with a natural buzz that lasted for hours to come.
In the final analysis one could not help but note that Bob's voice was crisp, flexible
and enduring. The band proved to be a major asset as Bob's direction of it kept
the members organized yet independent when the songs called for limits to be
stretched. And, the music, the Holy Grail of generations, proved to be as worthy
as any during this the Never Ending Tour.
Review by Eric London
What a difference a week made. It was a virtual mirror image of the
disappointing Frederick MD show I attended in New Britain, CT.
I panned the Frederick show, here, as uninspired and flat, bad vocals
marring the proceedings. Maybe it was the change in weather from a sultry
and humid 90 degrees to a cool and wet 60... maybe it was the stellar
reviews for the newly released Modern Times. Whatever it was, Bob and the
band were in top form, from Cat's In The Well through a welcome Rainy Day
Before the show Bob did his scales, or gargled with the blood of virgins,
because he hit every note perfectly. This was the best I've heard him
sound since some live recordings in 2001. I read great things about his
voice in earlier reviews this tour, and discounted them after Frederick.
But they were and are right... hopefully, he can keep it up.
The band was wonderful. Everyone was stellar, especially Denny Freeman.
He made me forget Larry, with his rootsy, tastefully restrained leads.
And the song set was only disappointing in its lack of anything from MT...
more than made up for with Forever Young, Simple Twist and Tangled in the
As badly mangled Summer Days was in Frederick, that's how great it was in
New Britain. Bob loves that damn song, doesn't he?
The best part, for me, was Bob's gesturing to the audience during Rainy
Day Women, his smiles throughout whenever the band hit a transcendent note
(Twist, most notably), and his bows and sprinkling of imaginary petals on
the crowd at the curtain call. After years of scowls and stone faces, it
was a welcome change to see.
Review by Don Eli
Did somebody say "rain or shine"? The Lord brought the rain upon us all day
long in the Northeast on August 29, but at the end of the day Bob Dylan was
there with His Band to shine his light on everyone at New Britain Stadium!
For this BobCat this was the first of three shows I would attend this week, and
after driving around New Britain searching for The Super8 Motel That Wasn't
There I strolled into the stadium midway through Junior Brown's set. Now I was
interested in catching Junior, as I'd heard good things about him, and I really
wanted to like him, but the impression I'm left with is that he's just a bit much.
I like the twang, but I'd like it more if he were a little more relaxed and a little
less of a carnival act. I took to the field for Jimmie Vaughn and his Tilt-A-Whirl
Band, and though they were good, it was pretty standard county fair white
blues. The best numbers were the ones where Jimmie was joined by Lou Ann
Barton on vocals, herself a longtime veteran of the fertile Austin music scene.
Lou Ann worked with Jimmie's bro Stevie Ray as far back as 1979, so she's got
the chops. Between times I checked out the ballpark (home of the New Britain
Rock Cats, AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, themselves fierce rivals of my
beloved Detroit Tigers), sipped delicious Guinness Draught, made some friends,
and sampled the food offerings. New Britain Stadium has the best Italian sausage
I've ever had, quality meat without impurities and absolutely loaded with
peppers 'n' onions. The kind of sandwich that you need to hold a foot in front
of you so your belly won't catch what falls off, the kind of sandwich where
too many napkins can't be enough!
Sometime around 9:00 the real Rock Cats took the stage, and with "Cat's In
The Well" these felines were out of the bag. I'd been listening to "Modern
Times" since finding it at a record shop in Wilkes-Barre, PA this very afternoon;
surely Bob would debut some of his ace new songs on the day his first album in
half a decade is released? Bob Dylan and His Band played a stylish and satisfying
set that went back in time as far as "Positively Fourth Street", but forward
only as far as "Love And Theft". I guess he's savin' 'em for the Fall Tour! I
think no one but Our Man Bob would do that...as it was, the performance was
a solid one and I can't imagine anyone not going home happy. Probably the
least diverse setlist of the three shows I attended, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I'm always happy when "Forever Young" is included because it's a special
blessing from the heart through the pen of Bob Dylan, and you never can have
too many blessings. "Watching The River Flow" I would nominate as Best Song
of the Night; I've heard him play it as a half-hearted throwaway, but now it's
played with gusto, set up by a bluesy intro that takes it to a new level. I was
fooled into thinking "Simple Twist Of Fate" was "Shelter From The Storm"
(I fell for this again in Cooperstown), but it was another fresh take on an old
favorite. And of course there were instantly recognizable classics on hand like
"Tangled Up In Blue", actually not played all that often anymore, that in addition
to "Forever Young" and the encores, gave 'em their money's worth. I'm liking
Bob's keyboard sound more now; my only other opportunity to hear his calliope
was in Kansas City this past April, and I may have been seated a bit too far back
in the theater to gain it's full effect. It sounds as if he's got Garth Hudson locked
up in his musical box, and the thrills 'n' fills add a colorful nuance to the songs.
All things considered, a fine night for Bob Dylan and His Band, who drove the rain
away with their enthusiasm and romp through the Songbook of America
...as always, Thank You, Bob!
Review by Stephen Pate
“Tonight as I stand inside the rain” - Bob Dylan
“If we are lost, we are lost together” – Blue Rodeo
The rain in New Britain Connecticut could not keep 5,000 plus Bob Dylan fans
young and old from hearing the 65 year old Dylan perform 14 of his old songs
to new rock and blues beats. The night was a family affair with people from 6
months to 70 years rocking to Dylan who did not perform any tunes from his
new album “Modern Times”.
Although built in 1996, the New Britain Stadium is a fair weather ballpark. The
overhang is only for the rich and the few. Everyone else is subjected to the
elements which last night included a steady rain and a real downpour at points.
Provisions for disabled access are poor but the staff makes up for the designer’s
flaws with great accommodation, if you ask.
The Bob Dylan Show could best be called a musical review. It’s like Rolling
Thunder without the cocaine. Dylan headlines and a changing guard of blues
and country performers entertain before him. Last year he had Willie Nelson,
no small act himself, and this fall the Foo Fighters will join him for a west to east
swing. That should be interesting.
Alana James and the Continental Two, a Texas swing band, are growing on me
after the third time. She sings well, plays the fiddle to beat the band and swings
her tunes with verve. They don’t vary their set which is ok if you don’t realize
that Dylan fans attend more than one concert. Do they know anymore songs?
Junior Brown also grows on you. He can swing, he was not slurring his words and
music and his set ended with some Duane Eddy and rockabilly material. All right.
Jimmy Vaughn seemed to get his groove tonight. The music had everyone
swaying. The R&B sound was solid. LouAnn Barton started sounding decent and
I waited for each line of “Natural Born Luuver” and “In the Middle of the Night”.
Lou Ann is working on her raunchy performance. She makes me want to see Etta
James again. Why does Jimmy Vaughn not play and Stevie Ray Vaughn material –
that’s what you’d expect. That would have driven the crowd wild.
By the time Dylan came on at 9 pm or so, the crowd on the field was wet, slightly
cold and getting tired. Nonetheless, the field was full of people, with more
enduring the rain up in the stands. These people are tough.
Dylan opened his set with a rocking “Cat’s in the Well” as he has for the past three
nights. The crowd roared, thanking him for showing up and performing. About half
the songs were repeated from the previous two nights.
“You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” is a fun song from the basement tapes which brings a
smile. The 65 year old security guard was singing along with Dylan to “Positively 4th
Street” “What a drag it is to see you.” Dylan’s delivery had less invective than in the
60’s and more ennui tonight. It’s great song from the past we rarely hear.
He sang “Forever Young” with tenderness, the sadness of age. It’s another great
song that I try to do whenever I get the chance.
“It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) has a rocking arrangement that kicks the song
into high gear. This is much better than the acoustic version which was used as late
as the 30th Anniversary Concert. The acoustic version is too long and doesn’t hold
your interest. What he missed last night is the pause after “Even the President of
the United States must stand naked.” The crowd may have roared, on cue, but
he kept pushing forward.
“Simple Twist of Fate” was played effectively as a medium waltz. A couple was
dancing in the upper deck where we had collected under a canopy. It had that
feel, a love song.
“Highway 61” is one of the great rocking blues songs Dylan does and he punched
it out tonight with energy. No repeated verses, just rocking. Where on Route 61
can I find that those people: Louie the King, the 2nd mother, Georgia Sam, and
Abraham? Easily done: get on down to Highway 61. Yeah.
When Stu Kimball started those familiar chords on the acoustic guitar while the
stage was dark, it sent chills up my spine. I thought for a second we were going
to get an acoustic song like the old days. Then the band breaks into a rocking
“Tangled Up In Blue” Oh well, this one is great too. I’m going to bring that song
forward on my set list: people really dig it and it’s a super song.
The crowd roared as Dylan ripped into “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Rainy Day
Woman”. Those are two great songs to end the night. “How does it feeeeel?”
Somebody wrote that “Everybody Must Get Stoned” is not righteous. Maybe.
Let’s face it: everybody does get stoned: some people on drugs, some on booze,
some on smokes, some on religion. Everybody wants to get outside themselves.
And the references to Biblical stoning, well that’s just the way it is in this life.
Besides it’s the best party song ever and if you want to get the crowd on your
side play it.
The band and Dylan came out one more time for the line up and bow. The crowd
milled out to the parking lot to wait 30 minutes in the traffic. My girl was tired. We
talked and listened to “Modern Times” She complained Dylan called someone a
“slut” in “Rollin and Tumblin”. I reply weakly “Dylan never curses on his records.”
“Well isn’t that a curse word? He sure has women on his mind.” The cars edge
slowly to the highway as itinerant vendors sell tie-dyed Dylan t-shirts car to car.
The music and the night fade away as we drive off in the rain.
Review by Bill Graham
The last time I spent this much time standing in right field was summer of 1964;
my coach placed me where I could do least damage to our team's chance of
success. At that time Bob Dylan was singing alone with an acoustic guitar and a
harmonica, but dreamed of something better as well.
This evening he shared with those stalwart enough to brave the soaking rain,
fourteen of his signature compositions from the last 40 years. The band was in
good form and Bob seemed to be having a good time, moving about in his special
way and mugging from stage left for those close enough to see.
For this listener, several renditions stood out: You Ain't Going Nowhere, Forever
Young and It's All Over Now Baby Blue were especially well done and anchored the
middle of the show. I really enjoy the liberties Bob takes with phrasing, timing and
intonation; making the songs new each time he performs them.
Highway 61 and Tangled Up in Blue were real crowd pleasers, with many joining
the refrain on TUIB. H61 is a personal favorite, in part due to the original guitar
work by Mike Bloomfield, and in part due to its nod to a great story of faith from
the Bible; H61 grabbed the attention of a teen youth group I led on a mission trip
this summer. And the youth were plentiful at New Britain; what an encouragement
to see Bob's vision crossing the generations. Those who grew up with Bob, can
feel at peace that our legacy will be written by him and will endure, far beyond our
own meager capacity to leave a mark here.
Bob and the Band encored with LARS and Rainy Day, two great classics recast but
still infectious and striking, compared to what passes for popular music today. What
other artist would not promote a new CD the day it came out, but stay on message
with his greatest offerings. Bob Dylan is alive and well and creating new and
transformed music for our times. What a wonderful treasure he is for all of us to
appreciate; and what a great ambassador for America to share with the world.
Go see him (again); you will always cherish the memory.
Review by John P.
Bob's voice wasn't as strong as Saturday night in Pittsfield but boy did
he make up for it. Tonight's versions of, It's Alright Ma, You Ain't Goin'
Nowhere, Highway 61 Revisited, and Tangled Up In Blue sent chills down my
Before this show my best concert was Bob Seger in 1980. Then maybe The
Stones in '81.
I got there just as Jimmie Vaughn was starting and I must admit I liked
him a lot better the second time around.
The rain fell though most of the show but it didn't matter, remember no
umbrellas, bring ponchos.
Review by Dweezil
The weather was miserable all day with rain coming in waves. The first
opening act of Alana James was ok. The bluegrass stylings of her band
were nice but nothing especially exciting. Next up was Junior Brown. A
great guitar player and good back up band but no direction. The tone of
Junior's guitar remained constant and his extended solos made the set
seem like one long song. A dissapointment really. Jimmy Vaughn came on
next and he was what you'd expect. Bending the blues as his brother did
and doing it well. Lou ann Barton adding vocals was a nice touch to
shake up the set. Overall though having seen Bob many times before I've
seen many better openers. (Willie Nelson, Phil Lesh, Merle Haggard to
name a few) Finally it was time for the main event after hours in the
rain. Bob Dylan arrived on stage with the usual fanfare and
announcement. Having seen Bob 33 times before I was looking forward to
seeing something either new or different. I didn't get to hear anything I
hadn't heard previously but was surprised anyway. Bob's delivery was
sublime. The highlights of the set included a great Positively 4th St.
and an amazing take on It's Alright Ma. Most poignant for me was having
Bob play "Forever Young" which Bob wrote for his son Jakob. It just so
happens that I brought my son Jacob for his first Bob Dylan show. A tear
to my eye to say the least. Overall another good show to increase my
total to 34, my first born son's total to 5 and a first for my youngest.
Review by Jason Polanski
It was a rainy night in New Britain at the Rock Cats stadium. The local
station was actually giving away a jersey signed by Dylan. The openers
sounded great, especially Junier Brown, but of course Bob Dylan was the
I think a few thoughts come to mind about this show which some of the
more casual concert goers said was the best they've seen Bob. In
contrast to last years Connecticut show in Norwich, this one was better.
Last year, it seemed that when Bob played it safe, things were amazing,
but when Bob took chances things didn't always work. Now that this band
has some experience, it seems that Bob does and can take those chances
and they do work. So the show may not be the best ever for me, but it
was most certainly a high quality performance of a master.
It's Alright Ma - my favorite of the night, lyrics were belted out, the
band on all cylinders, Dylan himself considers this song a masterpiece
and this was most certainly a perfect reading
Simple Twist Of Fate - my first viewing ever of this, and heartfelt,
though maybe a bit unrehearsed. Seems that they dropped the jazz
arangement from the fall tour
You Ain't Goin Nowhere - the most playful phrasing of the night. Bob
would sing one line high and drop down low for the next line
Tangled and Rainy Day - so much fun
No Modern Times
Hope all of you are enjoying these shows as I have and hope we get some
new songs soon!
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