Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 09/17/99

Reviews

The Woodlands, Texas

September 17, 1999

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion


[Michael Forgey], [David Vest], [Ron Jordan], [Magnolia]

Review by Michael Forgey

Bob Dylan's set tonight at the Woodlands Pavilion in north Houston was excellent; as good as
any I've seen. (Well, except maybe for Rolling Thunder; but, that was in a galaxy far, far
away, and in time long, long ago.) Just thought I would follow up from the Austin review
with a few additional comments and observations. 

The Woodlands is an open amphitheater venue, and like other similar venues it provided
excellent sound quality. In fact I don't know how the sound quality could have been better.
But the view to the stage unfortunately was not as excellent; constantly having to adjust my
line of sight due to the head in front of me bobbing side-to-side most of the night. (As
Jerry Seinfeld might observe, "she was a side-to-side head bobber!") I just dealt with it,
and chose to enjoy the evening regardless. After all, she is probably a very nice person,
and just there to have an enjoyable evening like myself. 

For some reason Dylan and Simon did not make the usual opening/closing act switch from the
preceding show which they have been doing on this tour. Bob closed both in Austin and
tonight in Houston. Simon is supposed to close in Dallas which will be the last show of this
tour. 

The Bob and Paul duet was much better than the Austin show. If for no other reason than Bob
got an A+ for effort tonight. In Austin my impression was that he might of gotten a D-. The
improved effort was most noticeable on the first duet song, "The Boxer". Even though Bob
still seemed to have a problem fitting in with Simon's band on this song, his head was
definitely in it and he was trying to make it work. 

I'm not a music expert, but I think this particular song is not a real simple song (there is
more going on than just 3 chord changes); and maybe, probably they never put in the
rehearsal time needed to make this work better. Bob didn't seem to have the timing exactly
down, usually coming in a half beat behind Paul on the vocal lines. And then he had trouble
making his harp solo fit in well. For example, trying to play over the trumpet riffs in the
background seemed to be a problem. But all in all, it was ok. The rest of the duet connected
well with the audience; the good old rock'n'roll songs came off well; and "Knockin on
Heaven's Door" was very good also. 

Like I said, Dylan's set was just excellent tonight; he and his band were on in every way.
For me, there wasn't a low point at all. The set was the same as that played in Austin save
two; "Love Minus Zero / No Limit" was substituted for "It's All Over Now Baby Blue", and
"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" for "Girl Of The North Country". 

If anything from tonight's set is worth special mention, for me it would be the new song
"Not Dark Yet". Very haunting and deep. I thought, here is the song which should have won
the Grammy. But I suppose any Album of the Year SHOULD have many favorites. 

A great night and excellent show! 

[TOP]

Review by David Vest



A fabulous night for Bobís first show in Houston since 1995, with
pretty much a full house at the Woodlands Pavilion.  After a fine
set on the side stage by Alison Fisher and the Stella Verdes, Paul
Simon took the stage at 7:40 with his usual set.  I hope his sound
mix has been better at other venues, because it was all one big
raw blare for the first few numbers tonight.  Why does Paul Simonneed to be louder than The Who?  Keyboards and flute were
excruciating. It did get better.  Boy in the Bubble got a big hand
from the locals, and Slip Sliding Away was moving.  Did anyone
else notice Simonís pitch problems?  Paul had the whole place on
their feet for You Can Call Me Al.

Body language doesnít lie:  Dylan is OVER these embarrassing duets
with Simon.  I hasten to add that I canít agree with those who say
Dylan canít sing harmony:  his part on The Boxer was beautifully
worked out and professionally sung, although feedback problems
(twice) seemed to bother him.  Simonís bandís handling of Knocking
on Heavenís Door was like watching Bob take a beating, or show his
wounds like Coriolanus.  The minute it was over Bob turned his
back to Simon and headed like a bird dog for the wings.

Dylan wore the black suit for the duets and changed to the white
Beatle suit (as in Austin) for his set.  Now, Bob made a few
vocal/lyric flubs here and there, but I didnít buy a ticket to go
count mistakes.  Who cares, anyway?  It was a great show Ė Arena
Bob at his best, showing he can still get Ďem up and get it done.
He brought his dancing feet tonight too, from that patented
jingle-jangle step of his to that other old-bluesman
pick-one-foot-waaay-up-and-then-the-other thing he does lately.
Serious duckwalking, boys.

I Am the Man Thomas may be Bobís greatest set opener in a long
while.  It had that old time Friday Night Opry high lonesome
hear-them-hound-dogs-keening sound.  Bill Monroe would have
grabbed that Gibson mandolin and joined right in.  Bob is not a
bluegrass ďtouristĒ Ė he can really do this stuff.

Bob played a little harp on Tambourine Man.  The song had the
effect of reminding the huge crowd just who he is.  The Voice was
strong tonight, and Bobís singing was consistently imaginative and
even daring in its phrasing. He has an unbelievable ability to
find interesting new seams in these deathless songs.  Bob clearly
seemed to enjoy singing tonight.

It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)  This new arrangement brings
out some aspects of the song that really hadnít hit me before.
Itís no longer the virtuoso show-stopped of bygone days.  Less
brilliance and more depth this time around, Iíd say.  It had a
cool bluegrass feel, too.

Love Minus Zero/No Limit was tonightís one ďsurprise,Ē though not
much of one.  Needless to say it was lovely, far finer than the
Unplugged version.

Although Iíve seen Bob six times now, this was my first Tangled Up
In Blue.  After hearing so many boots of TUIB over the past three
years, Iíd have to say tonightís version was (surprisingly, to me)
more about presenting the song than jamming.

All Along The Watchtower seemed almost perfunctory.  A number of
people (did they come mainly to see Simon?) left right after
TUIB.  None of them, as far as I could tell, hollered ďJudas!Ē
when he strapped on the electric.

At every Bob show Iíve seen heís done Just Like A Woman.
Tonightís version was my favorite, because Bob really found a
groove on the guitar.  It was like he was playing JLAW as though
it were Love Sick on the grammies.

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again rocked, but I
forgot all about it the moment Bob started Not Dark Yet.  The
crowd really dug this song, even those who probably hadnít heard
it before.

Bob actually made an effort to sing Highway 61 Revisited tonight Ė
not the tossed off vocals of some previous versions.  The volume
reached world-shattering proportions on this song.  I worried
about damage to the hearing of a very young infant I saw someone
holding down near the stage.  If we adults want to deafen
ourselves, thatís our biz, but people should know by now that
little kid ears canít take much high volume without permanent
hearing loss.

Like A Rolling Stone was adored by this greatest hits crowd.
Everybody was on their feet, all the way back up the hill.

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right contained perhaps the strangest
solo Iíve heard Bob do on harp. Sexton looked over as if he
thought Bob might have picked up the wrong harmonica.

I liked Not Fade Away better when it sounded more like Buddy Holly
and less like that other band, and better when Bob did all the
singing. But the crowd loved this version, and Iím glad heís
playing it in Texas.

Iíve heard people criticize Blowin' In The Wind lately, and itís
true Iíd like the harmony better if they sang it softly rather
than screaming it. But folks, this is one of the worldís great
songs by one of the worldís great poets.  When I first heard it, I
was living in Birmingham, and they were blowing up churches while
the law looked the other way.  Bob sang it right to my heart
tonight, and Iím so grateful. It made me think of James Byrd, Jr.,
and Mathew Shepard, and all the other hate crimes and school
shootings Ė and like we used to say back home, it gave me the
healing. How many ears must one man have?

I didnít go to the show hoping to hear Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,
but I can tell you right now I am DAMN glad Austin didnít get more
songs than we did.

[TOP]

Review by Ron Jordan



           On a cool late summer evening Bob Dylan proved once again why he 
is so important to many people across the world by delivering one of the 
tightest and most impressive sets of music this town has ever seen. From the 
opening chords of I am the Man, Thomas to the last chord of Rainy Day Women 
he had 10,000 plus at the woodlands in the palm of his hand. The initial and 
overwhelming and impression all night was that these guys are having a lot of 
fun playing together and it is just a matter of time before everyone else is 
going to be smiling about it as well.
       Around 7:40 Paul Simon opened his set looking casual and well rested 
and won over the crowd with some old hit's and some more recent expansions. 
>From my perspective it seemed that this was tuogh crowd for him that 
responded mostly to his covers of Me and Julio and Mrs. Robinson and missed 
out on what was a tremendous run through of Graceland and Further to Fly with 
the large band and African rhythms giving it that third world feel he was 
going for on that album. To be fair about it the audio mix was a little weak 
and by the time they got it together for him it was time for the encores and 
Bob came out for The Boxer and the That'll be the day/Wanderer medley they 
must have down to an art by now. Then Bob did Knocking on Heavens Door with 
this larrrrrrrge band (lots of production value) and that was it for Paul for 
tonight. Some of this crowd came to see him but there was no doubt it was 
there mostly to see Bob.
      After the crew got rid of all those drum kits and reverb machines and 
broke it down to the sparse, by comparison, stage set that has always been 
Bob's style it was time for the main event. Dylan had changed from the all 
black Bob-tux into some kind of all white Bob-suit with white boots and black 
stripes that looked like somebody had stayed late one night at the noncona 
factory to make just for him. From the sound of it these guys have really 
taken to the bluegrass style because I am the Man sounded like they have been 
playing in the hotel rooms a lot. Lot's of smiles from them as they tried to 
get that Clinch Mountain twang in the chorus.
       On a purely personal, reflective note Mr. Tamborine Man was the 
highlight of the night. Maybe it is because I remember Bob saying a long time 
ago "I'm just a song and dance man" but seeing him pull out the harmonica and 
do a little dance step as Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton ripped into their 
guitar riffs made my hair stand on end.He was doing this before these guy's 
were born and it's like he was saying to them "don't forget this one boy's." 
Anyway, it was a great thing to see and the crowd ate it up. He got standing 
o's all night.
        They tore thruogh It's allright ma, Love minus zero and Tangled up 
befor the strats and the pedal steel were brought out and lit into 
Watchtower, Just like a woman, Mobile, Not dark yet, and Hwy 61 before taking 
a short break for the encores. 
     After Rolling stone they hit the sweetest groove of the night on Don't 
think Twice. Maybe it's because Charlie is Texan but it fell into the 3/4 
time twang of honky-tonk rhythm and they kept it there grinning at each other 
the whole time. Tony is one great bass player by the way. Solid and obviosly 
a lot of fun to play with. These guys look like they are having a ball and 
Bob looks to be in good health, playing to the crowd and giving it the Elvis 
knee and generally having a helluva lot of fun. They ran through Not fade 
away and Blowing in the wind until the crowd begged for one more and they 
came back for Rainy Day. And just tore it to peices. What a bunch of talented 
pickers!!. God bless you boy's. You made a lot people very happy for a little 
while. "Don't look out your window cause I'll be gone."

Ron Jordan

[TOP]

Review by Magnolia



Hey 
Bob closed again.  Oh yeah
At around 27 shows (wish it was more like 200 + 27 shows)  this was among
the top 5. 
Bob was in great form. The amphitheater was beautiful, definitely
properly named.  It was 
nestled in a very wooded area.  Really pretty, and the sound was superb,
at least for Bob's sets.  Anyway, a nice setting.  I had seats close up,
but I did wander to the back grassy area to take in the view of the whole
pavilion.  Although I asked quite a few locals who the heck Cynthia Woods
was/is, no on seemed to have a clue.   I figured maybe she was someone
who had done something stellar for the Houston community.  But maybe not.
One guy guessed that she was just the wife of some
 guy who had a lot of money.  At least she put up a nice venue.
Bob just kept playing on this night, came back again and again.  I feel
sort of guilty when he comes back for the second time, shirt soaked with
sweat, yet still we ask him for more.  Sorry, Bob, it just doesn't seem
possible to get enough.  Speaking for myself, I am insatiable. 
If there was another life, I would like to come back in this time frame
and be Larry or Charlie or especially Tony (who is awesome and doesn't
get the accolade that he deserves.  
He is very gifted.  A catalyst.)  
Bob looked very handsome in the black suit, but just dazzled the eyes in
the white one, black 
piping swirls on the outer seam of the pants. Hottie.
The set list speaks for itself, and most of it was primo. But It's
Alright Ma was as good as I've ever heard it, and I've heard it a bunch. 
It's the stuff you go again and again for.  
You know -Timmy rarely even glances at the frets on his guitar when he
plays.  It's like it's become a part of his body.

Yet again, thanks Ray.  Woody'd be proud.
Magnolia   

[TOP]


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