September 28, 2007
Review by Silverbird
Well it took nearly six of Bob's first songs to get me into his
concert...reason being Elvis Costello literally laid down the gauntlet for
His Bobness and the Boys in the Band...in brief Costello was hotter than a
$2 pistol...no one in the place wanted his set to end and when it did, the
lingering imagery of his music continued ringing in my ears...ringing in
the best sense of the word...
Around about Honest With Me Bob began to make sense of what he was doing,
up till then it was boring to say the least....but once he got it going
the concert was supreme...Honest With Me was near perfect, spot on...and
rambling onto Highway 61 and Ain't Talkin were rockin the way the first
should have been...
Timely Masters of War, albeit a little understated, but that led to the
somberness of the lyrics, as indelible today as when they were penned.
Crowd was 100% behind Bob and the Band...appreciative, spontaneous and
well behaved, not an 'asshole' in the place from what I could tell...
The night air was perfect, the venue has always been one of my
favorites...all told, a great evening...made so by the first time I've
seen Elvis Costello live...and he was worth the price of admission....
Seriously...there were a few seated near me and my son, Sam, who came just
for Elvis...I came for Bob Dylan but got the added treat of a master of
music in his own right, E.C.
Review by Peter Stone Brown
The first time I saw Bob Dylan play Merriweather Post Pavilion was in June
of 1981. That show was the last time I saw Dylan play new unreleased
original songs, from the forthcoming Shot of Love. Almost 20 years later
he returned to Merriweather in the summer of 2000 for a fully charged
show. This time around was marked by a 30 minute (at least) wait to get
into the parking lot, arriving in time to hear a terrific intense, highly
political and emotional set by Elvis Costello. I didn't get all of the
song titles so I'm not going to go into it in detail, but he brought the
crowd to their feet several times. He was great.
To new music behind the usual intro Bob Dylan and band took the stage and
launched into a not bad "Rainy Day Women," which was immediately followed
by a very good "Senor." Dylan's voice was undoubtedly rough but strong.
Then came one of the songs I was hoping to see, the new speeded up but it
works arrangement of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," with Bob taking a
couple of well Bob Dylan guitar solos. During the song he found some riff
he obviously liked and stayed with it and also handed a solo over to Denny
Freeman. From where our seats were it was hard to see the entire band at
Dylan then moved to the keyboards for "Simple Twist of Fate." The
arrangement was good, but the feel didn't come close to the one at
Continental Airlines Arena last November. During the song it became
evident that his voice was just not in great shape, but every now and then
a line would ring out, but overall I felt the song lost steam.
The energy returned big time however with a very hot "Rollin' And Tumblin"
with very funky slide by Denny on his Les Paul Gibson.
Then came what was for me the highlight of the evening, an exquisite
"Workingman's Blues #2" with Donnie Herron on electric mandolin. There
was no doubt Dylan and the band were treating this song with extra special
care. Not a note was misplaced, and Dylan not only sang, but almost read
the lines like a poet in a way that made each word stand out. It was
Almost immediately they went into a very strong "Desolation Row," with new
very nice Mexican flavored solos by Denny Freeman. Though the song
started with the usual rhythm, by the end it had taken on a distinctly
Next came another song I had yet to see, "Beyond the Horizon." But
something just wasn't happening. After an intro, that left me unsure what
song it was going to be they went into a kind of "Don't Fence Me In," kind
of rhythm - the same rhythm the Who use on "Soon Be Gone," but it seemed
to be abandoned pretty fast for something approximating the rhythm on the
album. It was almost as if they couldn't hear each other. Whatever it
was they didn't seem to be in sync, sort of coming together when Denny
would solo. Bob kind of saved it at the end with a harp solo.
A hard rocking "Honest With Me" came next with George Riceli playing very
loud drums. This led into "When The Deal Goes Down" with the waltz rhythm
at times a little too prominent, with beautiful guitar work from Denny.
A hard grooving "Highway 61" led another high point, "Ain't Talkin" with
Donnie on viola. Dylan's singing was great and intense letting certain
lines ("walkin' through the cities of the plague") truly stand out but
stumbled almost comically on superfluous, but then quickly getting it
A western swing meets rockabilly "Summer Days," let into a very powerful
"Masters of War," and for all his claims of what the song is supposed to
be about when he sang, "The young people's blood flows out of their bodies
and is buried in the mud," you couldn't help but think of Iraq.
After a fairly long break, they returned for "Thunder on the Mountain,"
and "Blowin' In the Wind." When I saw this arrangement in Atlantic City
in June, it seemed like they were trying for a couple of things at once,
sort of the Stevie Wonder arrangement meets Fats Domino, but this time
around it kind of settled down into a sweeter, softer and way more soulful
with Stu Kimball doing a cool descending riff, before the last line.
Dylan was truly singing like he meant it, with extra effort and at times
and definitely on the last chorus, at times the old voice, the one that
could effortlessly send chills down your spine emerged, and then for one
last time he reached for the harp for one last very cool solo to end the
Review by Dan Vitantonio
Bob can really be hit or miss, and during the show at Merriweather
Post was, our boy came through. The sound was fantastic, his voice was
great and he really sang out the melodies.
Also, a big improvement in the sound of his synthesizer keyboard... it
sounds like a jazz organ, or a "vox" organ, now from what I can tell,
rather than the old tackier higher-pitched organ sound he was using for a
while. This is WAY better... it worked perfect with the mix. Another big
improvement is Denny Freeman, who gave some of the most remarkable guitar
solos I have ever seen, and A LOT of them. I've seen Dylan play with this
band before, and Denny Freeman definitely did not play in the past like he
did tonight. He is a great, great guitarist.
Setlist was dominated by later material (lots of modern times). An
unexpected high point of was concert was the performance of "Beyond
the Horizon", a jazzy, upbeat swing rhythm, emphasized with nice
jazz-organ, very melodic singing to a range and rhythm that suited his
voice perfectly, and a kick-ass blues harmonica solo, one of the best
harmonica solo's I've heard from him. This song didn't stand out at all on
the album for me, but the performance was beautiful.
Also interesting was his new arrangement of "Workingman's Blues". The
words were almost completely changed except for the first verse and the
chorus. Beautiful instrumental backing on this one.
"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" was fantastic. He sang it loud and
clear, his voice was commanding. He played the guitar.
"Ain't Talkin" was done exceptionally well. Again, the whole
atmosphere of the song was crafted by his booming vocal delivery. Very
strong on this one.
"Simple Twist of Fate" was jazzy, slow, with a punctuated vocal
delivery that was more like a poetic recitation than singing. Very
quintessential Dylan here.
All the rest were very good. Instead of the regular 'cats in the well'
opener, he opened with a very cool "Rainy Day Women" and then "Senor",
both sung loud and clear. "Desolation Row" seemed like it took 15 minutes,
and had a lot of energy. "Rollin and Tumblin", "Highway 61" and "Honest
with Me" were pure rock-and-roll. "Summer Days" was strong.
He closed the set with "Masters of War", a version that is so
different yet carries the same energy and relevance as the original
version. The final "Blowin in the Wind" was absolutely gorgeous.
He was making lots of weird hand gestures and gyrations on stage. He
was doing his usual elderly dance, and at the end of the concert he
gathered his men around to the front of the stage, and stood there in the
center, held his arms out to the side and did some sort of wiggly dance,
and then walked off. He was dressed in a black suit with a white stripe on
his pants, a white ascot and a white top-hat. The band were dressed in
gray. It looked like something straight from the mafia.
Dylan really is a weird, crazy genius, and the crowd appreciated his
hip demeanor and the beauty of his performance.
Review by J.W. Mahoney
More complete concert descriptions are above, so these are sort of
added impressions... It’s a well-recognized phenomenon in Dylan’s
current performance style that, while old, famous material is often
recited in a hoarse monotone that only occasionally touches sung notes,
the newer, less familiar songs are usually actually sung. Last night in
Columbia was no exception. My band-mate John Mernit’s observation is that
Dylan’s constantly forcing himself to work against familiarity, the
audience’s and his own.
As always, each of these dear, old songs is also, darkly, forever
young. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. “Rainy Day
Women,” the opener, was raw and strong. He really meant it. “Just Like
Tom Thumb’s Blues, in its newer, Tex-Mex flavored incarnation, was
desperately fresh and hard. “Desolation Row felt flat and
stumbled-through. The pre-encore set ended with “Masters of War,” and
Dylan fiercely repeated the first verse at the end, calling out the last
line like a curse – “I just want you to know I can see through your
masks.” A killer line, in his closest concert this tour to Washington...
Band notes: George’s own contra-beat fills sometimes seriously,
consciously work and sometimes don’t, and he wasn’t listening enough,
pounding past a lot, playing “Thunder” far too fast. “Summer Days” was
awful for everybody. It’s great to hear so much more of Stu, who’s really
keeping the backbone straight, and it’s good that Mr. Herron’s fine work
is more audible. Tony’s always there, behind it all, mercifully. Mr.
Freeman’s single-note leads are getting too isolated, as he also looks on
Dylan performs in a certain trance, in which he never seems to want to
know how the next line will come out, only that he’ll probably know what
words are coming. Sometimes only the words are there, no notes at all.
In the conflict with the song he knows in his head already, he’s often
scatting against the beat, coming in well before or well after it. In the
newer songs, the newness itself draws him back to the melodies. Even
“Honest With Me” was radically surprising, his perverse syncopation sharp,
the song unaltered in its bite.
The beauties lay in the songs from “Modern Times.” “Beyond the
Horizon” was clumsy, but Dylan loved the song through, “Rollin’ and
Tumblin’” was undeviatingly nasty down-home, and both “Workingman’s Blue
#2” and “When the Deal Goes Down” were melodically present in all their
ambiguous glories. Nearly cried through Workingman’s, it was that tender.
“Thunder on the Mountain” rocked the way “Summer Days” was supposed to.
The crowning performance of the evening was “Ain’t Talkin.’” Columbia was
the first time Dylan’s repeated the song on a subsequent night, having
played it in Charlottesville the night before. Sung, no lost verses,
“superfluous” flubbed, but so what? It’s as fundamental a statement as
“Like a Rolling Stone” was. The idea that a recording artist is getting
paid for embodying a myth is still alive, but what myth is Bob Dylan
offering us, in this song? He presented it fully, in all its glorious
ambivalence and ambiguity, and every word was audible.
A vast, insistent mystery, as these times offer us all.
In the recorded early performances, Bob Dylan’s persona was that of an
awkward child, eager to please. As an older man, he exaggerates his age,
becoming the ancient ringleader of a swindling crew, a worn-out riverboat
gambler, with quick-stepping feet and carnie-beckoning hands, an aged,
broke-down veteran from a nearly-forgotten war. It’s still working...
Review by Jonathan Katz
The show started with RDW with Bob up front on electric guitar, and I was
in heaven. The song is not one of my favs, but I was excited just to be
seeing him again, so I'm not sure how well he and the band pulled this one
off. Other reviewers played it down, but I was happy just to be there.
Second up was Señor, one of my all-time favs. I think his D.C. area shows
are always political. This time the lyrics of Señor were particularly
apt: "Señor, Señor, do know where we're headin'? Lincoln County Road or
Armageddon? Seems like I been down this way before. Is there any truth in
that, Señor?" Another fav "Just Like Tom Thumb" was next in a new
version. "Simple Twist" seemed to loose its way, but the show picked up
with an awesome version of "Rollin' & Tumblin'" with some good slide
guitar. "Workingman's Blues" brought us back to another political
statement. Elvis Costello said it between songs - Dylan let his songs do
the talking. "Desolation Row" was good, but I did not care for the
Mexican flavored solos by Denny Freeman. Other highlights for me were
"Honest With Me," and "Highway 61 Revisited." The set closed with a
blistering version of "Masters of War." It cannot be an accident that
this was on the set list so close to D.C. and it was the last time that I
saw him in Bowie, MD. The encore closed with a very emotive "Blowing in
the Wind." I'm not ashamed to say that "Masters of War" and "Blowing in
the Wind" choked me up. Of course all that the press talked about was how
bad his voice was. I remember Steve Earl saying a long time ago that
those that complain about his voice just don't get it.
I don't like this band as much as the ones with Larry Campbell
[particularly the one with Charlie Sexton], but George Recile on drums
really drives the band, not to mention his partner in the rhythm section,
Tony Garnier. When I've heard Donnie Herron in the past he was great, but
this time he was down in the mix [from where I sat]. I don't like Denny
Freeman's lead guitar as much as previous musicians that have sat in that
The song selection, including those mentioned above made the concert more
than just a bunch of songs.
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