September 3, 2008
Review by Tony Anderson
Overall enjoyed the celebration of the fact bob is still out there
doing it night after night. I also had the thoughts that with the large
amount of Dylan product in the last five years that has flooded the market
& media, bob is a lot more in the public eye of the mainstream & the
curiosity of catching bob if you'd never seen is almost a little bit of a
freak show at this time. The women who eventually got in line in front of
us had paid her housekeeper from Brazil to hold her spot and showed up an
hour before doors.
I was there pretty early to get a seat, since I did not buy the
vip wristband out of principle. I was surprised at about 12:30 there
were already close to 20 people in line. The vip thing was kinda of a joke
and didn't even matter, because most of those people went right away to
the seats behind the floor or to the bar, which was perfect and I counted
four people in front of me from the rail.
Security was pretty lax. No pat down searches or emptying of the
pockets. Old school, but there was probably no incidents or problems
from the audience either. Tickets were not scanned, just ripped. My
friend commented when security is not scanning tickets, something might be
a little shady. The show was pretty packed, and my friend even thought
with ripped tickets that some fake tickets allowed some entry. I asked a
venue employee early in the day if the two classes of general admission
entry was the venues idea or Bob's people and he said the venue. He looked
like a ticket taker. Then later I asked a bigger head honcho security guy
at the venue the same question and he said it was Bob's people.
I don't mind the music being loud, but the overall mix was really
high for the room and Bob's vocal was super high in the mix imo, but
was not bad, but was still really loud all the way in the back where I
listened to the last three songs.
The pit down front is usually pretty fanatic and packed and for
once I thought it kinda detractd from the enjoyment, being
super-sardined down there. The girl next to me looked like she was
going to pass out..she wasn't even looking at the stage most of the
time and looked super worried, biting her fingernails most of the show.
Bob seems to have three faces at least up there. One is this
meandering almost sauntering swagger with a smoky look behind the
keyboard, which is substituted a major amount of the time by the meaner
scour squint look. Probably the one Charlie Sexton was referring to in his
song he wrote. The weird thing I hadn't seen since seeing bob two years
ago was this. The scour, squint was for only a second replaced by the "
sly grin " before going back to looking the usual serious bob. Like a
quick chesire cat thing. I thought it was kinda scripted and was sorta
fake, sorta like how bob was a mad jive talker in the early days. This is
his version of jive performing, at least with the facial expressions.
Stu ripped it up on lead on Highway sixty one and I thought the
roof was gonna fly off the place. All the band memebers look so scared of
bob, like if the f up one note they will be fired. My friend commented
during Nettie Moore from a seat in the back when all the lights were off
and only dusk lighting on the band, he thought he was watching a " Live
postcard. " He had a transcedental experience, but he had also enjested
some other organic substances.
When I moved to the mixing desk at the back of the floor for the
last three songs, it was still really loud, but the energy was amazing and
only there I could see people really having a good time and moving and
dancing and letting loose. I thought it would've been a little better if I
had moved away from the front earlier. Highlights for me were Ballad of a
Thin Man, Highway 61 and the arrangement on Beyond the Horizon. An
interesting show in a historic venue. On to San Diego and Santa Barbara.
Review by Roderick Smith
The Inconvenient Muse
Throw this show out the window. Throw my ticket out there too. What a
wreck in the old Civic Auditorium. Never mind the sound system, the
worst I heard in thirty years of dancing in the tent, but the throw away
quality of the songs themselves. Lyrics torn out and tossed aside. One
song heaped atop the other. The whole thing buried in a laquered mud. He
came out swinging though, dressed in his dark coat with yellow shirt and
piping, that West Point soldier riding off to war. He road hard and
reckless. The sound man was so far off the mark that the broken lyrics
never had a chance. But for those who are always concerned about his
"voice" rest assured he ain't lost nothing." It Ain't Me Babe." He meant
it this time. Knees kicking up as though he was climbing some ancient
mountain. On Highway 61 he let loose two voices side by side, scared the
hell out of me. One shrill and insistent, the other an old harsh voice of
an angry prophet. A voice I had never heard before. Like a demon in the
night. On and on he went the band playing one endless up/ down beat.
When he stayed in Mississippi that one extra day. I took a deep breath.
My ears were ringing like them heathen bells. But there came a moment
when in the din and imperfection of this show we saw the Lazarus gambit.
It was in Ballad of Thin Man, I think? He leaned into his harp and
almost nothing came out. His eyes looked lost in a pale light. There was
a sagging feeling. Like the air had gone out of the room. It ain't as
easy as it looks, I thought. I was aghast. My faith is weak these days as
it is. I can't afford any doubt off the pulpit. He was almost on the
floor before he began a long climb back up with a soaring sound. His
white chrome fisted knuckles defiant as ever. It was a close call.
Review by Iris Seifert
Home Stretch show 1 in Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Almost home turf - just a one hour flight south yet in a completely
One person said: Mr. Dylan has not played this venue since 1979, the Slow
Train Coming tour. Another offered that this was a "back yard" venue. A
third was concerned about the sound issues this venue supposedly had.
Well, it did have sound issues. The elf that usually whispers into the
sound engineer's ear : "turn up the volume" must have said it multiple
times, because it was very loud. You could not help but think: this band
does not need volume with their quality of players. Changing location from
the seated area in the back to center stage near front did not yield much
sound improvement, and had to be abandoned due to heat and near
Despite the sheer mad sound mlange, it was possible to understand lyrics
(although one person said they could still not understand a word after
"Trying to get to heaven", which I heard just fine). It was definitely
clear this time that knowing the lyrics helps a great deal understanding
them, aside from the usual fact that some are really emphasized (best
example: the biting "i wonder if everything is as hollow as it seems")
versus the rest being just filler; changes in lyrics seemed to be there
(just intuiting) but the actual words could hardly be understood, as I
realized during "I don't believe you", where I was not familiar enough
with the lyrics, and could recognize it only after a bit by the refrain
chord structure (and knowing it had been played recently).
Mr. Freeman seemed fidgety with his guitar (or was it the suit), but
played some really wonderful solos, introducing some daring dissonances at
times (not all seemed to work in my ear..). Mr. Garnier's intricate bass
playing was unfortunately lost in the mix and just provided the dull
rumble on the bottom of the scale. Only a couple of times it was audibly
clear that Mr. Heron and Mr. Kimball were actually playing. Mr. Recile
kept it together; it seemed that this was a bit of work during the dip the
band seemed to be experiencing after about half to 2/3rds of the show.
Really stunning was the harmonica playing, though; especially this weeping
and heart-wrenching passage in "I don?t believe you", where it seemed that
the band practically stopped playing, like time standing still, and all
you heard was this harmonica ringing out. maybe it was just me.
Also, the organ was great, and people loved Mr. Dylan playing it and
giving smiles, dancing, and it seemed every move towards the audience
conjured loud response.
All in all it seemed that Mr. Dylan, and his band, gave it all they had,
and then yet more(in fact they did that every night that I was there), and
perhaps because of seemingly complicating circumstances they rose above it
all. This alone made it essential to have been there, aside from the
always enjoyable music that gives life;
Thank you all.
Review by Howard Mirowitz
I went to see Bob at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium with my wife, my
son and my son's girlfriend, who had never seen Dylan live. This venue
was the site of one of Bob's great Christian gospel rant shows in 1979
(the show bootlegged as "Madmen Running Loose"), so it has some history.
The hall has about 700 seats in the back and a large standing area in
front. For this 8:00 show, which was all GA, they had put on sale
extra-charge VIP "hot seat" armbands entitling folks to go to the front of
the line and enter early (at 6:30) before the rest of the hoi polloi (at
7:00). Unfortunately they hadn't made the "hot seat" option available for
the fan pre-sale through bobdylan.com, when I bought our tickets -- a slap
in the face for the real Dylan fans, in my humble opinion -- which meant
that we were too far back in line to get close to the stage, so we opted
for the seats, which actually ended up being helpful, because I take notes
during shows and that's difficult to do when bouncing around in the pit.
At any rate, we entered the auditorium to see Bob's keyboard set up in its
usual position on the right side of the stage in front of Donnie's pedal
steel equipment, with his Oscar sitting on his amp next to it. At 8:10
the nag champa was lit. At 8:20 the show still hadn't started, and they
dropped a kind of rope ladder from the ceiling and a tech started climbing
up it onto the stage lights to fix some kind of a problem, after which he
climbed down to great applause, and the ladder was retracted.
Shortly thereafter the lights came down and the band launched into "Rainy
Day Women." The sound over the venue's PA system was pretty atrociously
muddy, but the crowd didn't seem to mind, as it sang along on the chorus.
The guitars sounded strangely like the Byrds' old sound with McGuinn's
Rickenbacker, and Bob's organ was very audible in the tune's start-stop
rhythm. At the end my wife observed that of all the songs she'd heard at
all the Dylan concerts she'd been to, no song had ever sounded as
recognizable to her as this one did.
Next was a new blues-rock arrangement of "It Ain't Me, Babe," with Bob
actually singing a little bit on the chorus, accompanied again by the
crowd. Bob played a very bluesy cross-harp solo on this number, but it was
unfortunately badly clipped by the sound system.
The applause was still going on when the band began to play "Stuck Inside
Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again." Bob was very animated and growly
here, bobbing and weaving behind the Yamaha as he delivered the lyric, and
Freeman played a creditable lead that garnered a cheer from the audience.
Then Bob pulled out "Mississippi," which I'd never heard live, in an
arrangement with a pulsing, walking beat with a lot of energy and a big
organ sound. Bob seemed very committed to the lyric, kind of emoting the
words without really singing them, but nevertheless putting them across
fairly effectively. This also got a big cheer from the audience.
In a nod to Hollywood, "Things Have Changed" was next. There was really
nothing memorable about this song at all, and I took the opportunity to
recycle some beer.
When I got back to my seat, the band was just starting to play "Spirit On
The Water," and the song was basically unrecognizable, transmogrified into
yet another blues-rock number that lost all the subtlety and nuance of the
crooned original. Tony was on string bass, but the electrified wall of
sound from the guitars and George's jackhammer pounding on the drums
overwhelmed everything. Freeman tried to save it with a guitar lead but
failed as Bob blasted out with his organ. Again, the audience didn't seem
to mind, as they responded to the "Think I'm over the hill?" and "Think
I'm past my prime?" lines with loud shouts of "No!"' At the end, Bob
tried a harp lead, but it was an ear-splittingly loud parody of the
beautiful soft lead on the album version, and he cut it off short.
"Rollin' And Tumblin'" suited the band a lot better, with its heavy
rock-blues motif. The band played with a lot of energy and a good back
beat. Unfortunately we couldn't hear Donnie at all, which was true
throughout the night. Also unfortunately, the muddy sound system made a
clipped-up mess of what was really a pretty good slide guitar lead by
Next was "Tryin' To Get To Heaven," which was played to a hard rock 4/4
beat just like everything else in the set. Bob rushed through the chorus
without the usual pauses, singing
"Tryin-to-get-to-heaven-fore-they-close-the-door." Here again Bob was
emoting the lyrics instead of singing them, but it wasn't as effective a
delivery as it was in "Mississippi," perhaps because this song doesn't
take being turned into a blues-rock number quite as well.
Then the band segued into "I Don't Believe You" with the same 4/4 beat.
This was distinguished at the end by Bob picking up what appeared to be
the wrong harp for a cross-harp lead and then faking around the problem
until he found a combination of notes that seemed to work.
"Ballad Of A Thin Man" was next, again with the same 4/4 beat, and this
song seemed to energize the crowd, which sang along with the chorus - "Do
you, Mr. Jones?" Bob's harp lead on this song was really kind of spooky,
like a banshee wailing, and his organ fill was actually somewhat effective
in establishing the song's atmospherics. Denny started to play a lead at
one point and then just kind of stopped . very strange.
On "Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee," Stu played the guitar lead. There was
nothing particularly unusual about this rendition.
At this point the band lurched into "Beyond The Horizon," in a new 3/4
arrangement that evoked images of a wheezy circus calliope sinking on the
Titanic, like something off the Doors' "Strange Days" album, with Tony
rocking his string bass back and forth, and Bob sounding like Jimmy
Durante. I guess blues-rock doesn't go very well with waltz time.
But Bob and the band managed a nice recovery with "Highway 61 Revisited."
This is the kind of song the band was built for, the only kind of song the
band can really carry off well, and the crowd really got into it. Bob
down-sang the end of each line in a very low voice, but it didn't detract
from the performance. I think he was just having some fun with it.
"Nettie Moore" was next, with Donnie on fiddle; you could see him, but you
couldn't really hear him. Bob's emotive spoken vocals normally work well
with this lyric, but the sound system was so poor that he just sounded
like he was gargling nails. Or he may have blown his voice out on the
sequence of hard-blues-rock numbers preceding this one.
The main set wrapped up with "Thunder On The Mountain," another good
rocker styled for this band. This song is essentially the new "Summer
Days." Unaccountably, Stu played it with an acoustic guitar. It got the
crowd pumped up and cheering for the encore, which was "Like A Rolling
Stone" and "All Along The Watchtower."
All in all, it wasn't a bad evening of entertainment - there were some
genuinely high points, although the sound system problems were annoying,
to say the least. But there is no way that this incarnation of the NET -
especially the band - compares favorably to prior lineups. The band's
scope and range is too narrow and constrained to the blues-rock genre, and
Bob's voice - although it is seemingly more suited to blues-rock than to
anything else these days - can't withstand having to sing at those volume
levels throughout year after year of constant touring. Within the band's
area of specialization, they're very competent, but they make nearly
everything they play sound the same, and that robs Bob of something
incredibly valuable, something that he used to get - for example - from
the Campbell-Sexton lineup; it robs him of command of the wide variety of
musical styles that really showcase all the influences that go into his
music and that display his talent in the broadest possible way in live
performance. It's time for a change in the band.
Review by Lee Lucas
Since I really love seeing Bob outside in the summertime, I was hoping for
an outdoor venue in the Los Angeles area. But we decided to get tickets
for the Santa Monica show anyways since it was right down the street from
us, and much easier than the drive to San Diego. The venue's sound and
lighting were sort of like seeing Bob at the high school auditorium,
although the sloping floor was cool so you could see from wherever you
were standing on the floor. I never saw security, and people were smoking
weed the whole time. Nice relaxed vibe, with people just enjoying the
show. We were about 3/4 of the way back from the stage, near the bar and
bathrooms but still on the floor. The show was good, but seemed to build
up and then get SLOW repeatedly...I would have preferred a bunch of upbeat
songs in a row to keep the energy flowing. Highway 61 was awesome, and had
a heavy beat on the drums that was killer. It was easily the best song of
the night for me, along with Ballad of a Thin Man, Like a Rolling Stone
and All Along the Watchtower. Any chance to see Bob is great, he seemed in
a good mood, and we got the usual "Thank you friends"...which cracks me up
every time. I would never put up with so little audience interaction from
any other performer...but of course it's Bob..... so he can do whatever he
damn well pleases and it's fine with me. I'd love to see him at a fair in
the L.A area before the nice weather is over though...since there's
nothing like Bob, a cold beer and warm summer night.
Review by John Hopper
Its taken some time to sift through the Santa Monica Civic experience.
Luckily, I had a thousand miles of coastal breeze, painted desert and
mountain air to derive a sensical overall image to convey what happened
this evening in my old hometown stomping grounds. Mr Dylan & his band
kicked straight to life opening with a loud & swaggering Rainy Day; The
audiophile in me was immediately set on edge as the mix struggled to find
clarity and balance. It was as if the Civic was roaring back at Bob for
taking a 29 year hiatus from the venue (or, I can hear why Bob hasn't
played there). As the set list lumbered in a blocky, oddly
syncopated rythm thru It Ain't Me, Stuck..., Mississippi, the veil of
distortion began to fall and the band seemed to settle into a groove of
agreement with Things Have Changed. As smoothly as the following 2 songs
were performed, the performance and sound quality coalesced at what seems
to have been the crest of the evening during the meat of the show. This
being during a reverant rendition of Trying to Get to Heaven, a 'bent but
not broken' version of I Don't Believe You..which included some of the
most diligent harp-work I've witnessed Mr Dylan perform and the striking
masterpiece of the night, Ballad of a Thin Man. This particular tune turned the
civic into a bookstore! It was like our collective jaws were dropped. The only
stage lights on the band were footlights which threw a coffee stained
yellow din from foot to brow only and accented profiles and shadows
magically. The crowd quieted, the lyric and timing keen.
Snapped out of the bookstore with TDTD and Beyond the Horizon the
crowd grew restless and it seemed the sound quality began to decay.
Hwy 61 and Thunder on the Mountain made for a spirited outro to the evening.
Thanks for bringing it all back home Bob!
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