September 7, 2012
Review by Larry Fishman
Mountain Park was the location of an old fashioned Amusement Park much
beloved for many decades. Situated about 100 minutes west of Boston it
could be the subject of an old Bruce Springsteen song (maybe a cross
between "Sandy" and "My City of Ruins'), a stage has been erected in a
clearing surrounded by a verdant forest, with maybe 1500 folding chairs
and then a large hill behind for loyal throngs to set up. It's was a
humid, dry night and a lovely place to catch a show from Minnesota's
favorite son. He was greeted by his usual crowd of Caucasian baby
boomers, 20 and 30 something discoverers of the genius all of whom were
largely appreciate and enthusiastic all night. Unfortunately I had a
couple of talkers sitting directly in front of me and after passing their
cell phone back and forth and laughing, I politely asked them to be quiet.
One neanderthal brandished his fist at me and after reassuring him I am
here to see a concert, he abruptly left to drink more beer and scratch
himself. Before the show, I chatted with 2 friendly security guards who
informed me that the half dozen mirror facing out from the stage were set
up to discourage photography. They told me that there were ordered to
never make eye contact with Bob and to not engage in conversation with him
unless he approaches them. They also said earlier in the day, Bob
received a 2 car police escort to the venue in his tour bus. When a crowd
converged, the bus was stopped and Bob was shielded into a police car and
hustled away. In the realm of rock star eccentricity that isn't quite as
bad as living in Neverland , removing blue m & m's or throwing TV's out of
hotel rooms, but I guess my spiritual advisor has his peticulars.
Bandmates Charlie Sexton, Stu Kimball & Donnie Herron were all in matching
tan suits with a black shirts, George Recille at the drums in all black
and Bob in a black suit, tinged in silver with his familiar white Renaldo
& Clara hat sat most of the night at his grand piano. The sound quality
was very good with Bob's vocal upfront & center and the piano prominent in
the mix. Al-righty then, onto the show;
1. Watching the River Flow. Exactly on time at 8PM, the house lights
were shut and the stage lights were shown blistering onto the crowd
blinding us as the band took the stage. It took a couple of minutes so it
was like staring into a copier with the lid off until we finally heard Stu
Kimball's guitar blasting out a blues guitar riff with the band kicking in
the opening thumper. He's been opening with this song quite a bit of late
and should continue. He likes opening with this kind of rocker and I
certainly prefer it to "Leopard Skin" as it clear out a couple of the
cobwebs in his throat.
2. Don't ThinkTwice, It's Alright. Performed in a snappy arrangement,
there was some great phrasings and nuance in his vocal delivery - I even
caught a little of that strange and wonderful nasal quality of decades
past that had me smiling and whooping already at song number two I knew
then we were going to get a great night.
3. Things Have Changed. Another peppy arrangement as this song benefited
from the new piano arrangement. I think Bob was channeling Roy Bittan or
Benmont Tench as he was really propelling this melody tickling the keys.
In fact, ALL of the rockers benefit from Bob's switch from the organ. It
was often difficult to hear the organ in the mix in past concerts, but
there is no mistake which musical instrument Mr. Dylan is playing now. I
fully admit that I am fan of Bob's slower songs - the slower the better I
say to remunate and think about those amazing words. However, I enjoyed
virtually everything on this night as the piano gave us something new to
4. Tangled Up in Blue. Bob began the song at center stage, but quickly
dashed to the piano after the first stanza to bash out this crowd
favorite. This was a revved up, James Brown inspired take performed with
passion and energy with Garnier's bass line pumping boom-bah-boom-boom.
While I have spent countless hours thinking about this song, I haven't
really enjoyed the live versions since Larry Campbell left the band.
This night's take was terrific as he massively rewrote the lyrics and I
was concentrating as hard as possible among the general hysteria and pot
smoke to pick them the new twists "..radio playing the news. He was
blasting through..." "I'm on the road, staying out of the joint...." Oh
5. The Levee's Gonna Break Nice straight forward take with Charlie
Sexton providing the accents among the two musical breaks, the first one
was a swing and miss but the second instrumental break simply kicked ass
and they knew it. I'd dub this the 12" club mix as they stretched his
one out for a couple of minutes.
6. Make You Feel My Love. A sweet, noble take, in its familiar quiet and
noble arrangement where we got our first harp solo of the night to big
7. Honest With Me. Another song that has greatly benefitted by the piano
as previously I used to grown when it appeared on the set list. However,
I found the song much more cohesive with the lyrics sung one after another
and nicely presented by the band. After nailing it, Bob spryly jumped up
from his seat just knowing it came off the way he wished.
8. Every Grain of Sand. Okay now, I get one of those amazing poetic slow
songs that I love so much. Oh yeah, man I just dig it. It was a stunning,
artful version sung with care + craft + soul + delicacy + art and then
sealed with a warm harp solo.
9. High Water Donnie Heron hiding in the background as always in the
background got to trade in his pedal steel for a banjo for a faithful take
of this country porch jig as they got the crowd jumpin' and dancin'
10. Desolation Row. Oh yeah, magnificent take on this opus with the
crowd hanging on every twist of fate. Bob sung much of the song in what
remains of his higher register which clears out as much of the grog in his
voice. Only flaw was a less than perfect piano solo, but I wouldn't want
to quibble as it was a damn good peformance on the song.
11. Highway 61 Revisited. Time to rock out and this was a better than
usual revved up offering. Mid song, Tony Garnier got a bass riff going
that would have shook the foundation of any house. Might be a good time
to mention that Bob was again a bit of solo hog on this Friday night.
Come on, man give some of the other guys a chance. Charlie Sexton was
largely caged, mostly accenting tunes and never having a chance to open up
and rip it,
12. Shelter From the Storm. Arranged with a funky backbeat and goove
with a stackato rythmn -- this was yet another show highlight in a night
of highlights. The band was tighter than swarm of june bugs at a texas
campfire (as Dan Rather might say) and oh those incredible lyrics and
narrative. Bob was on his game all night swiveling in his chair, focused
on the music and performing with all his soul.
13. Thunder on the Mountain. This one seems to get the crowd up and
dancing, but I guess for me it is simpy on too many of my bootlegs. There
was a jazzier music break and Sexton was given about 12 seconds for a
quick solo, but it more signalled to me that there were only a couple more
songs left on the setlist.
14. Ballad of a Thin Man The riff was like a small neutron bomb
exploding from the stage and Bob emerged standing at center stage to
absolute nail this one. He was commanding the throng, dancing, prancing,
preaching and acting out the vocal. There was a purposeful echo to the
vocal with each lyric bouncing about and finally ending with yet another
searing harp solo. There was no doubt that we all caught Bob on one of
those very good nights.
15. Like A Rolling Stone. Time to ask the audience how does it feel?
Pretty great, I'd say Gotta play this one for the newbies, I get that,
and we all got to revisit this one with a slightly more upbeat
16. All Along the Watchtower Preceded by the band introductions, I
always enjoy hearing this Jimi Hendrix song.
17. Blowin in the Wind. The encore song, peformed in a delightful, slow
and swingy arrangement. A satisfying closing number ending this night
with a warm good bye.
To hear those phrases, those words from the mind that thought them all up
always something that inpires. I'm ready for the next which fortunately
is tomorrow night.
Review by John & Cindy
Great performance -- with Bob's voice strong and clear and even melodic at
times, like his absolute crooning of the chorus of "Desolation Row." All
songs tonight sung from the piano, except a keyboard stance of "Watch the
River Flow," and finally, FINALLY coming to the front of the stage with
just a mic for "Thin Man" -- where the echo now employed makes the song
feel even more like the beginning of Mr. Jones' bad trip. I've seen Bob
only seven times during the past 15 years -- with six of those shows in
the past four years. Remarkably, and without a doubt, he is getting
better -- and this show was one of the best I have seen. God bless this
man and his band. I cannot do justice to a review of the Maestro, but let
me tell you about the Desolation Row scene down at the front of the stage,
in what turned out to be a colossal failure to control the venue or
provide a suitable, staple situation in which to enjoy the show. Abysmal
venue -- MOUNTAIN PARK IN HOLYOKE, MA. The "Security Wizards" Company was
providing stage security for Mountain Park for the first time at this
concert. If justice, and the venue's insurance provider, have any say, it
will be their last time. We were in the first row, off to the right. We
were doomed from the start, because Bob's piano had been placed 3/4th of
the way towards the back of the stage, and between us and Bob was
literally a wall of amps & other equipment.
Not just us, but more than 100 people who should have been able to see
the stage and bought tickets for the same prices as the folks front & center
with unimpeded views of the performance, were suddenly at a radio
broadcast rather than a show you could see. It was downhill from there.
Despite the fact that front & center could see clearly, an obnoxious woman
kept asking if people could come up and stand at the barriers. A little
prick of a guy with a raggedy white pony tail, the man in charge of the
Wizards, equivocated, so when the house lights went down, the rush
forward hit those barriers like a tsunami. My wife & I quickly did the
calculation (shall we watch the backs of people who jump in and stand
between us and our obscured view or do we hit the barriers too) and
grabbed our piece of the rail. For three songs, and one of the coolest
moments of my concert-going life, we were as close to Bob as we'll ever
be. Not breathing down his neck, but close enough to watch his grimace as
he worked the baby grand. We could see the pattern in his cowboy boots,
and the way he lifts his left leg before pounding those piano keys again.
Beautiful. Someone from Dylan's stage management stood directly before us,
reaming out the pony-tailed Wizard boss, telling him, "You've lost control
of the house. As soon as you let this crowd go, you lost control, and
that's it. Let it go. You won't get it back." Amen to that. An usher
grabbed me from behind and told me to return to my seat -- and I said,
"OK, but what about the other 200 people up here?" Usher man slinked
away. My wife had a similar experience, except a red-haired bushy-bearded
clown began poking her in the chest while telling her to move. Thug. We
stayed where we were because literally no one in the crowd at front had
moved an inch. Then -- and all this while the performance continued -- the
Holyoke police do a "sweep" of the front, telling people to "Get moving!"
Ok, ok -- we're going, like everybody else -- for three seconds. We
dutifully sat back in our worthless seats, while people streamed up and
around us, flooding the area again with standing bodies. The Security
Wizards, having surrendered the ground to the pushiest drunks,
concentrated on loud, frantic efforts to stop people from taking pictures.
Pony-tail was almost literally diving into the crowd to confront
photo-snappers, and all the scared, hapless Wizardette cadets were doing
likewise, making a challenging listening experience even more disrupted.
Meanwhile, Holyoke's Finest - a sad testimony about that town -- came
through with another, half-assed sweep which amounted to the
barrier-crowders parting the waters so the cops could wade through. We
continued to sit dutifully, watching parades of eye-level asses shuffle
by, attached to drunks from the back rows come down front to hang while
having a beer and shooting shit with friends.
And the band played on.
Incredibly, while Bob & the band heated up and just got better and better,
the scene down front continued to careen downhill. At a certain point,
you mentally give up the fight against the gawkers stepping into your
sliver of a view. Let it go. But then I realized I was staring at the
back of the head of an usher, a curly-haired blond wearing a black kilt
(if you need clues of who to fire) was standing, clueless, in front of us,
apparently having quit the job that got her in the gate. Another Security
Wizard made it a point to allow a man on crutches -- but over 6 feet tall --
o get down in front to stand where my view was, so he could snap a photo.
It was, without a doubt, the worst management of a concert I've seen. Not
quite Altamount, but it had the potential. I have not declared myself done
with attempts to see again this musical giant, while he and I see walk the
earth together. But I do declare, right here and now, that I will NEVER
GO TO MOUNTAIN PARK AGAIN!
John & Cindy
Review by Harold Lepidus
No calm before the 'Tempest' as Bob Dylan plays Holyoke
It may have been the birthday of his inspiration Buddy Holly, and his high
school ambition may have been to join Little Richard. However, last night
in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Bob Dylan invoked the spirit of Jerry Lee
Lewis, as he pounded the eighty-eights of a baby grand for close to two
hours. (Never mind that Lewis is still around. I'm on a roll here.) The
keyboards have been Dylan's instrument of choice for about a decade, but
the sound never gelled the way it has since he went "acoustic" earlier
Bob Dylan and his band played outdoors at Mountain Park, and gave an
inspired, energetic performance, just days before the U.S. release of his
new album, Tempest. Dylan spent the night preening and posturing, playing
with wild abandon, having fun while still multitasking, entertaining the
crowd and simultaneously leading the musicians on stage.
There were other differences as well. At the front were mirrors of all
shapes, sizes and angles. Was Dylan trying to be metaphorical? Were the
songs a reflection of the audience? Could they see themselves? Maybe it
was something more practical, a way to stop people from take flash
photographs? Who knows? Maybe he's been watching True Blood, and was
trying to keep vampires away.
The show did not begin with the usual introduction, but guitarist Stu
Kimball playing a blues riff before Dylan and company launched into
"Watching The River Flow." It was interesting to watch the band members
all facing Dylan, as the audience saw only profiles.
Dylan rocked most of the night away, with some songs like "Things Have
Changed" and "Honest With Me" played at break neck speeds. While there
were reports Dylan has rewritten "Tangled Up In Blue" yet again, there
were also some subtle lyrics changes here and there, including something
that sounded like, "I didn't mean to treat you unkind" in "Don't Think
There were multiple moments where Dylan clearly felt extra inspired. He
inhabited "Make You Feel My Love," riding a hard "T" at the end of the
word "yet," followed by softening his voice on the word "wrong"; the
descending melody of "Every Grain Of Sand" foreshadowing the line, "Like
every sparrow falling"; and during one verse in "Desolation Row,"
emphasizing and up-singing the words "hole,""soul," and "blow" to great
Another highlight was "Ballad Of A Thin Man," with Dylan front and center.
His voice was embellished with an echo effect while he posed as Elvis and
Ali, even playfully pushing the shoulder of guitarist Charlie Sexton at
In addition, we got the tour debut of "Shelter From The Storm," the fourth
watery song of the night, after "River Flow," "The Levee's Gonna Break,"
and "High Water (For Charley Patton)." The arrangement of "Shelter" was
new, with a choppy, almost reggae feel.
It was interesting to hear the tone in Dylan's voice throughout the night.
While rough, especially during the opening number, it often felt
conversational. Conspiratorial, even. Like he wanted to share with you the
thing he's seen, the secrets he's heard, the lessons he has learned.
But the star of the night was not Dylan. It was not his voice, it was not
his songs. It was the baby grand, and how it was played. It was often in a
rockin', honky-tonk style, which added an energy and authenticity to the
proceedings. Sure, at some points Dylan make a few mistakes, but it did
not stop the flow, and it would make you hang on to your seats, waiting
for the train to get back on the tracks. It was something real, something
At this stage of the game, there are very few models still around for
Dylan to follow. Bob and Jerry Lee are both still rockin' their lives
away, with Dylan now apparently stealing some of "The Killers" signature
moves, including abruptly standing up and facing the crowd near the end of
certain songs. Dylan was having a blast, mugging and making exaggerated,
sarcastic facial gestures that reminded me of The Joker.
It was such a rewarding sight, seeing an artist that has gone through so
much, someone that has dusted himself off time and time again, still being
able to create magic that most performers half his age couldn't even begin
Keep up with Bob Dylan Examiner news. Just click on Subscribe above, or
follow @DylanExaminer on Twitter. Harold Lepidus also writes the
Performing Arts column for Examiner.com. Thanks for your support.
Bob Dylan Examiner
Review by Don Ely
Much of the appeal of travelling to Bob Dylan shows lies not only in the
performances themselves but in the folks you meet along the journey. From
the checkout girl at the grocery store to the clerk at the hotel, to the
citizens on the street, little vignettes of life occur at any moment, to
be recorded and added to the panorama of memory and recalled for enjoyment
in times to come. The shows themselves offer an endless array of such
moments, especially outdoor gigs, where people tend to be looser and more
open while basking in the glow of a warm summer evening.
The New York State Thruway received much too much of my hard-earned bread
as the most direct route from Buffalo to Massachusetts was the turnpike. I
arrived with more time to spare than last night in Lewiston, and so didn't
have to rush to the gig. Mountain Park was located off Route 5 as were my
lodgings, and just a short ride up I-91. Upon getting there I strode up to
the box office ( or box table, as it were ), purchased a rather expensive
lawn ticket and headed inside. While in line I struck up conversation with
other fans, most notably a middle-aged ever-so-slightly odd East Coast
Dylan Geek ( closely related to the middle-aged ever-so-slightly odd
Midwestern Dylan Geek such as myself ) and we continued our conversation
into the beer line. My plan as usual when holding a lawn ticket was to
seek a spot at the top of the hill in order to survey the entire
proceedings, and I noticed the guy from several paces behind had followed
me up. Our talks continued, mostly about Bob and music in general, and
when they turned to Blues another guy sauntered up and joined in.
Eventually the first guy left to get another brew, not to return, and then
it was just me and Andy, aged 65 ( but looked 50 ) and from Connecticut, a
veteran of Woodstocks '69 and '94 ( he had just seen Dylan at Bethel Woods
) with many a tale to tell.
Mountain Park is a beautiful venue, a former turn-of-the- 20th century
amusement park though I saw no firsthand evidence of that. The stage was
set up temporarily, and the " pavilion " patrons sat uncovered. The lawn
was big, wide, and inviting, unlike the tiny plot last night at Artpark.
It wasn't at all crowded and rolled on past our positions up to the
treeline, with mountains keeping close watch over us from beyond. Sound
quality was wonderful, and the ability to fill your lungs with clear,
clean air eliminated any need to be closer. Andy and I shared a smoke as "
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right " played, and he regaled me with
anecdotes of his adventures spent in California in the early 1970's.
Sometimes at Dylan shows you just want to stand in rapt attention and
marvel at Bob's mastery; this wasn't one of those nights. " The Levee's
Gonna Break " and " High Water ( for Charley Patton ) " both served as
backdrops for our mutual tales of travels in the Delta. It wasn't all
conversation, though; " Make You Feel My Love " and especially the words
of " Desolation Row " quelled both of our desires for words of our own.
The former has never been a personal favorite, better served as table
scraps thrown to the likes of Garth Brooks, but in my opinion has reached
it's apex in the arrangements of recent years. His Band were, as is true
more often than not, at the top of their game, and I'm so happy that their
boss chose to showcase their talents on his brand new platter. Andy
predicted Tempest would shoot to no. 1 on the hit parade, and without
having heard the record, I predicted he was right. Given our setting "
Thunder On The Mountain " took on more resonance even though a hard rain
was never gonna fall this night. And what would perfection be without
jewels like " Shelter From The Storm " and the magnificent " Every Grain
Of Sand ", whose lyrics I will have distributed at my funeral. Count on
it. But not yet.
You can go to Mohegan Sun Casino and bet your life that Andy and I will
never cross paths again, but it's the people you connect with even
momentarily that add splashes of vibrant color to the canvas you're given
upon entering this world. At Mountain Park on September 7, 2012 there
could be nothing finer than swapping stories on the high ground while the
best music in the world unfolds before you. It's what life is all about,
and there's still one show left...
Don Ely Rochester, MI
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