Review by James W. Strohecker
Solid, well-played set, highlighted by an energized Bob at center stage.
Strong chord work all-around; band very polished.
New sound/arrangements really, really work.
Nice performances of This Dream Of You and A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
Bob seemed to be in a hurry (to get to NY?).
Where were the peeps?
The August 30 Salisbury Show was a concert you could’ve set your watch to
– a smidgeon over 90-minutes with every song immediately following the
previous. But the set was solid, well-performed, and with the cohesive,
enlightening amount of Showmanship, Musical Energy and Lyrical deftness
that Bob has demonstrated . . . well, since the start of his Never Ending
Salisbury is a sleepy little college town off the highway to Ocean City,
Maryland. The Wicomico Youth & Civic Center venue is a small auditorium
with good acoustics, so the mix was almost perfect. It was a little
“comico,” [sic] -- inasmuch as the auditorium vendors didn’t serve adult
beverages and the place was only half full.
The Band opened with their Tour Standard, "Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat," as
they have for the last month. Like most tunes during the evening, it took
people a while to recognize the song. Keyboard-strong in Leopard Skin,
Uncle Bob rolled into the show.
In second position was, “Girl From the North Country.“ And like 90
percent of the songs he’s been playing this Tour, has a new arrangement.
Instead of slow and melodic, the song was tight and fast – an amped and
rocked up version with a nice harp finish.
Next was an upbeat-rework of “Things Have Changed.” The song now sounds
more like a lounge-act version of the Dead's, "Jackaroe” -- bouncy and
boppy with a Django
backbeat. Bob’s voice and harp finish were as rough-and-tumble (and
tightly-performed) as the song. The stepped-up tempo and blues-jazz
riddled backbeat made it one of the better toe-tappers of the evening.
Bob and the band quickly followed “Changed” with “Tangled up in Blue” – a
song that’s now a crooner's delight. Strong backup rhythm guitar backed
the lead vocals. Bob plays this now with more emotion, voice and lyrics --
rather than the musical guitar-dominance of past versions. He interjected
a solid harp-a-doodle bridge solo and mixed the performance with some deft
Hokey-Pokey dance steps at center-stage, that were capped by his closing
staccato piano chords and vocals.
During the set, Bob hit the Piano like a cross between Chris Martin and
Arcade Fire's, Régine
Sometimes, he’s an up and down leg-kicking wild man, and sometimes he’s an
experimental crooner – using chords to emphasize the lyrics, his statement
and his performance. Also, as the person next to me pointed out, he looks
“very flamboyant. Like Salvadore Dali,” resplendent in his white pants
with a stripe down the sides, boots and blue blazer.
Next, “The Levee’s Gonna Break” was way-upbeat. Another
toe-tapper/finger-snapper that featured Bob playing “single-note theory”
on the piano (similar to how he used to play his guitar). Tight and fast,
“Levee” presented another be-bop blues go-round by the band that featured
Tony Garnier ripping a wicked up-and-down-scale bass solo. Heck, even Stu
surprisingly woke up from his stupor [sic] to move a little on stage and
play some licks.
The group quickly launched into, “This Dream of You,” which turned out to
be one of the best songs of the evening. “Dream” was slow and deep, with
Bob’s singing front-and-center, played with a Spanish/Mexican Cantina’s
band backbeat. Bob’s heavy piano-plinking matched the call-and-response
like a Spanish guitar. Well played. Worth checking out.
“High Water (For Charley Patton” was back to upbeat – built on the
combination of Donnie’s banjo and big Bob-pounding piano chord hits. Bang
– the chords changed the character of the song and added new life (a new
show-off skill for Bob – but certainly one that accentuates his ability to
re-work his songs and give them a radical new sound). The challenge for
“High Water” was not the song, but the abrupt end. This happened a couple
times during the evening – as if the band hadn’t yet polished up the
finish to these new arrangements. You’ll hear it in previous shows as
well. It’s not a big deal, but it will take you a little by surprise,
especially given the musician’s skill and musical flow of the songs
Next, “Sugar Baby” combined Bob’s soulful lyrics, scratchy voice with
Tony’s electric bow on stand-up bass. A nice accompaniment. “Sugar Baby”
used to have this echoing, entrancing melody that captivated and silenced
the crowd. Now the song as a bit more friendliness and piano-bouncy
rhythms that stepped the song nicely up into the latest set litany. "Sugar
Baby" was a song nobody recognized except the band and the select
bootleggers that Bob was calling out in his lyrics. Snow and melodic, it
added some Zen to the evening.
"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” was next. “Tweedle” now starts more like a
revival melody with big heavy piano and guitar chords, interspersed with
George Recile spanking the Tom-Toms for a rocking backbeat. The piano
chord bounce led the song, and surprisingly, both Stu Kimball and Charlie
Sexton held back on the solos. Both seemed to have low energy levels
during the show; but in this case, Tony, Bob and George combined to make
up for them. A good toe-tapper. Nothing special.
The band’s version of "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” was a slowed-down
ballad played with nuanced staccato vocals and refrain instrument solos.
During the song, Bob was leaning on his Baby Grand with one hand and
playing his piano solos single-hand/”Chopstick”-style. The version built
to a powerful, strong beat and climactic finish. Well done + most
excellent. Top song of the night.
They rolled into “Highway 61 Revisited,” heading up and down the scale /
lyrics and refrain. "Highway 61" was a sing-song be-bop rendering with
piano, bass and Charlie-driven chord-comeback downbeat, combined with a
few riffs from Stu Kimball, who awoke (temporarily) for a few solos. Bob
even managed some Jazzy single-note theory from his piano -- seemingly his
new preferred method of song delivery. This evolved into a hot ripper
rockin' ending, filled with Charlie's guitar driven chords and Tony's
lugubrious bass. Nice finish.
The group kept moving quickly – now into the final third of the show, with
“Forgetful Heart.” Again, Tony’s electric bow and down-low tones
shadowed Bob’s solid singing and lyrics. The person next to me thought
this was the best song of the evening – and it certainly didn’t
disappoint. The audience was captivated and they soaked up every word
“Thunder On The Mountain” was next. Frankly, when this song first was
released (to radio airplay) and Bob started playing it, the crowd would
instantly recognize the lead-in and jump to their feet. Now the lead-in is
a little more psychedelic; but the crowd still jumped to their feet and
re-energized for the show’s final songs. Upbeat and bold, with Bob’s
call-and-refrain, it’s still a “statement” song that showcases all the
band members’ talents. “Thunder” was capped with some jam-ripper playing
by Charlie. Nice.
"Ballad of a Thin Man" was a little tired -- the “Thin Man” himself was a
little pensive. Plus, his reverb on the lyrics was a little spooky. Decent
harp solo wrapped up the song, but it was probably the least
well-received/understood arrangement of the night.
Even the next song, “Like a Rolling Stone” (LARS) is dressed differently
this Tour: Charlie led off with a short-riff intro, followed by El
Bobbo's launch into the vocals (with mix emphasis on Bob's vocals) and
banging the keyboard. The song is much more subdued now with
turned-down guitar volume - combined with Bob spitting out the words
over his piano playing. It’s a good new arrangement of a Classic song.
They concluded with "All Along the Watchtower" and “Blowin’ in the Wind."
“Watchtower” surfaced as a well-played showcase of Charlie's guitar riffs
-- combined with Bob's Baby Grand chords. And “Blowin’” was a fine sendoff
on this night.
In all, this was a good show and a showcase of what to expect in future
shows: piano-plunking and moving around the stage – from center stage to
the Baby Grand now dominates Bob’s approach in this version of the Dylan
tour. Top song performances and occasional musical nuggets are still the
norm. Bob's center-stage crooning, guitar single-note theory and
achy-breaky leg action bring new soul to the performance. I like the new
sound. It works.
I realize that some long-time fans, including friend Uli in Germany,
haven't fully embraced these new arrangements. But the Band’s sound – and
style – are light years ahead of the lounge act that dominated the
mid-2000's. Overall rating (scale 1-5, with 5 being high): 4.25. You
probably won’t be surprised by any new songs from his new album, or
out-of-the-blue songs on this Tour. But the music sounds great. Check it
out. See you at the West Coast Shows.
Review by David
I'm not going to go into details about the set list, because each person
will have a different view of each song.
I recently finished three shows in three nights in three different states.
It was really fun. At the Salisbury concert, I ran into Tony Garnier and
George Recile at the hotel I was staying at. Both were very nice and
cordial. Tony was actually getting on his motorcycle (apparently he brings
his motorcycle with him- it is probably stored in the trailer attached to
the band's bus). I think Bob travels in his own bus. I told George I was
dead tired after three shows, and I don't know how he travels like that.
He laughed and said now you now how we do it. He was a really cool guy.
Bob's bus and the band's bus was parked at the hotel. Do not approach the
buses! (I didn't- it is like someone coming to your front door to ask you
for your autograph). The buses are basically their homes while on tour.
I had great seats for each concert and had my binoculars ready so I could
see the interaction of the band. Watching the band members through
binoculars really shows how talented the musicians are. Tony just rips
the bass. His finger movements on the bass are unreal. George is awesome
on the drums. You can also see the Oscar Bob won on his piano. Some
interesting things about Bob was he actually sits sideways on the grand
piano (literally) and looks at the audience while playing. He also lays
his head across the piano at times, almost like he was bored or his back
The really cool thing is the band turns on an echo effect during Ballad of
a Thin Man. I liked it. Bob would bark out the lyrics, and then you
would hear the echo effect. it was a nice new touch. Bob was very
animated and actually dances a lot. Bob also finished playing one song
and bounced off the piano literally three feet back. It was really funny,
Bob and the band were smiling throughout the show. Tangled up in Blue is
back as the fourth song in each show. The band starts on time, which is
such a nice thing (as you know many bands show up late). I appreciated
The downside was the cameras. As you know, Bob doesn't like camera shots,
and now I know why, It was too much. Everyone was talking pictures, and
the security would flash their lights in any direction to see who took the
picture. The security would actually come over and scold the person, but
that interrupted the show. As far as musicians, I think the constant
flashing gets annoying.
Some of the different things that happened on my short trip was how many
people thought Mark Knoplfer was opening. I also hear comments about
Bob's voice, but I actually like it with the growl. Also, some audiences
stand from the first song, and some audiences sit. I don't know why that
happens. The stadiums were very small and half filled.
I would definitely recommend seeing this tour, and bringing your
binoculars so you can see some of the intricate details of the band and
especially Bob's expressions when he sings. To me, his expressions
actually add to the meaning of the music. There were no large displays so
if you sat in the back, I don't think you would see the band very well.
That is it. I hope you enjoy your next show.