September 23, 2007
Review by Jeff Kurtzman
Having seen the Nashville, Atlanta and now Clemson shows, I think it is
fair to say that all the Denny Freeman bashing should come to an end.
While the power and rhythm of the Garnier-Recile duo is undeniable,
Freeman is the featured player in the band now. His sweet slide guitar on
Rollin' and Tumblin', frenetic fretwork on Watchin' the River Flow,
Highway 61 and Summer Days and grand magnificence on Like A Rolling Stone
show he can rock with the best of 'em. In addition, his subtle jazz
stylings are highlights on the slower numbers like Spirit on the Water and
When the Deal Goes Down. He may not be as explosive as previous
guitarists, but I'm guessing he could do that if that was what Bob wanted.
All in all, it's fair to say this is the only blues band and swing band
playing to large crowds around the country. Highlights tonight for me also
included a heartfelt Don't Think Twice and an ominous John Brown. Bob
definitely put on a great show for South Carolina. Elvis Costello was also
more animated and political for his "South Carolina debut" he noted. He
claimed he'd driven by the state before, but "no one ever asked us to stop
and play." The crowd was generally enthusiastic, except for a large number
of people sitting very close up on the floor who sat on their hands and
rear ends even during blistering versions of Bob's most well-known songs.
Come on people! You're within 10 yards of a legend who is working his tail
off and you can't get up the energy to clap, move around, stand up, any
kind of response??? Let's give Bob the same energy back and show him he's
appreciated for letting us see him in concert so often. I, for one, am
exhausted after four shows in five days, but what a week! Thanks Bob and
Elvis for four great shows!
Review by J. Matthew Martin
The truth is we all realize that someday the laws of physics, like the
chickens of upstate South Carolina, will come home to roost. The natural
order of things will eventually prevail. Someday, some awful day, our
Never Ending Tour will, inevitably, come to an end. It's reflected each
time we email each other like I did to brother Bob: "The man is playing
at Clemson, you never know, this might be the last time he ever gets this
close." He knows it, too, so when he shouts into the audience: "You
think I'm over the hill? You think I'm past my prime?", and the audience
roars back "NOOO," these aren't really questions, or even songs anymore,
but the literal defiance of father time. We are mutually reinforcing each
other, and I am here to tell you, there is no sign that the final signpost
is anywhere in sight. We may be whistlin' past the graveyard, but, by
golly, we are all whistlin', aren't we?
Brother Bob got caught up in a conflict and had to bail at the last
minute, so Bubba was very happy to oblige the ticket offer. This was his
fifth show and my twenty somethingth. Bubba said this was the best so
Clemson is a very pretty campus, sprawled across the Senator John C.
Calhoun farm in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bubba had been
there seventeen years before, and thus armed only with his photographic
memory and total recall, without a GPS device, we made it right to the
Littlejohn Coliseum, home of the basketball Tigers in the nick of time.
Amos Lee delivered a very rootsy set of tunes. Bubba was so enthralled,
he left to buy a cd from Amos himself and missed Elvis Costello. Elvis
was a disappointment. I had seen him twice before: once in Chapel Hill
with the Attractions and once also solo, but with a huge wheel with his
songs on it and audience volunteers spinning it for the evening's
selections. That was pretty nifty. Last night he was kind of flat and
his shout out to the Dixie Chicks fell on deaf ears in the upstate, I'm
afraid. The Clemson crowd was a pretty homogeneous mix.
The place was packed, sold out, like all the venues on this tour, I'm
told, and we weren't there to see Elvis or even Amos. We were there to
see the main event. His Band is so tight, so Professional, that just a
look, a wink or shoulder shrug from the Band Director completely moves a
song one way or the other. Only one true miss this evening, I would say,
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright. The voice wasn't warmed up enough. The
rest was primo, though, even John Brown, I song that has never been one of
my favorites. The Donnie Herron banjo on that was really creepy.
"Banjo's not s'pposed to be creepy," observed Bubba, "Banjo's supposed to
be happy." This was no happy banjo. I am struck that it would sound
equally as malevolent on Hollis Brown. Many of the songs began in the
dark, with that increasingly insistent ice rink organ showing the way as
the lights came up. The new songs all faired very well.
Were we really the ones whining about not playing enough old stuff, back
in the day? Now we want to hear all the new tunes. The maestro obliged.
Workingman's Blues #2 has enjoyed a lyrical revision, including a line
about "kicking me when I'm down." Danny Freeman is a virtuoso on guitar.
His finger work on Like a Rolling Stone simply banged me in the head. I
am still tapping my toes. And the encore---"Thank you, friends" (and we
are his friends), "I'd like to introduce the band..." After all along the
Watchtower, the lights went dark and when they came up so did the house
lights and there they were, front and center stage, Dylan in the middle,
hopping from one boot to another, a final bow and then gone.
Like nothing that's ever been before, frankly.
Lucky, lucky, lucky. We are a part of the Never Ending Tour. All of us.
J. Matthew Martin
Review by Robert Fishel
Bob Dylan and his band rolled into town this evening. My wife and I drove
from central North Carolina to attend with my sister and her boyfriend.
The show started promptly at 7:00, with Amos Lee delivering a fine set of
new and old songs from his catalog. For the most part, the seats were
fairly empty while he played, which was a shame as I feel he did a very
My sister, who had never heard of him, was very impressed. The heat
outside (and inside) of the coliseum was stifling, and during his set I
thought "well, they must be waiting until everyone comes in to cut on the
air." Unfortunately, this was not the case. Elvis Costello came out next
and played a solo set of acoustic and semi-acoustic/electric numbers.
This was unfortunately the low point of the evening for my wife and
sister, as well as her boyfriend. I myself am a big fan of Elvis, but he
only played four songs that I would describe as hits, 'What's So Funny
'Bout Peace, Love And Understanding', 'Alison' (with Suspicious Minds
tagged onto the end(!)), 'Veronica', and The Angels Want To Wear My Red
Shoes'. I had hyped him up so much to my other guests that it was a
letdown, as they didn't recognize any of the other songs. Personally, I
felt Elvis was in very good voice, and told my wife that it really took
guts for him to stand up there solo and deliver the goods. Oh yeah, and
the air conditioning *still* wasn't on during his set. Everyone was
semi-sweating, and the cramped seats at Littlejohn (even though padded)
were most uncomfortable. Also, there were constantly people walking
around on beer runs, which I have always found annoying at concerts. Get
your drinks, find your seats, and then sit down! I think some people only
go to concerts to get drunk and hook up with other people. Most
Anyway, Bob Dylan and his band came out next. I was shocked at
how loud they played. Who ever set up the sound system
last night should have been fired. My sister's boyfriend said that he
couldn't understand a word Bob was singing, and I agree... because the
vocal mike was turned up so loud it distorted everything. He has a killer
band, though, and they delivered some fantastic, raunchy blues and
powerful ballads. We did not stay for the encore, primarily because our
ears were ringing. My wife and I then drove back to NC because she had to
work this morning, and is now doing so on three hours sleep. Who comes up
with shows on a Sunday night (or the Super Bowl, for that matter), anyway?
You know, the working class have to work on Monday morning. It's what
makes the world go around.
So, overall I would give the music an A, the sound quality a D, and the
general atmosphere a C (due to the heat and constant beer runs). I've
seen Bob before and he puts on a great show, but I don't think I'll be
watching him play in a basketball arena again. Bob, if you read this,
please come back to Greensboro!
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