page by Bill Pagel
Review by Michael Smith
So many things were so different that it's difficult to know where to
begin. But I'll start off by saying that I had believed the rumors of the
end of the NET were true up until last night. Dylan played with such
energy and such a renewed sense of purpose that I left with the
overwhelming impression that he'll be playing live music for a looooong
time to come. Furthermore, his live sound seems to be only in the
beginning stages of transforming into something else from what it was; it
feels more like a departure than an arrival. Before I give a blow by blow
account, I'll make a few general observations about the show. First off, I
thought the electric piano was awesome. It's been a dream of mine to see
Dylan play the piano live, so I'm thrilled not only that he's doing it but
that it sounds good. It totally changes the dynamic of the band and adds a
new color to the sound. (There were several songs, for instance, that
featured only Charlie on guitar.) Bob played the piano last night in the
same inimitable, percussive style that you hear on his records. True, he's
no virtuoso but you don't need to be to play the songs that Bob Dylan
does. If you find his style charming, as I do, you're going to love seeing
him do it live. Also, Dylan's whole persona seems to be changing, which I
think is good. The entire show was fresh and unique. It's difficult to
compare to any of the other shows that I've seen (going back to '89)
because it was by far the most atypical. It had more of a bluesy, early
rock and roll feel and it struck me that Dylan is shedding the old-time,
country-gentleman layer of skin he's been wearing these last few years in
favor of that of a slicker, more rockabilly-type star. He had a whole new
set of dance moves and poses to accompany his piano playing (with lots of
pointing) that drove the crowd nuts. I think that, as ever, he's trying to
keep things fresh. And he's succeeding. And now the details . . . My
girlfriend and I got to the venue about 5 1/2 hours before show time.
There were probably 40 people in line ahead of us already. Fortunately,
there were a lot of Dylan poolers there and I had a nice time chatting
with good folks that I hadn't seen in a while (Arlo, Eben, Kait, Renee) as
well as meeting new people like Kiri and Wendy, which made the time go by
faster. We also were able to hear the sound check pretty clearly, which
included Quinn the Eskimo, an electric Maggie's Farm with someone (Bob?)
playing harmonica, It's Alright Ma and Tangled Up in Blue. When the doors
opened, we made a mad dash for the stage and ended up about ten feet away,
directly in front of Larry's spot. The anticipation and excitement level
was very high as everyone down front was wondering what would happen.
Would Bob play the piano again? Had the Zevon covers just been a one-off?
A few minutes after 8, the band came out and tore into . . . Maggie's Farm
- I probably can't evaluate this song very well because it was such a
shock to see Bob playing the piano for the first time. I couldn't take my
eyes off of him the whole song and had no clue what anyone else in the
band was doing. I thought he looked and sounded great. He was wearing a
western style suit but no hat. His large white coat had black flowers
embroidered on the shoulders and the overall feel was more 1950's Memphis
than 1940's Nashville, if you know what I mean. Just Like a Woman - A
great rendition, very faithfully sung. The ending was the best part as Bob
played the harmonica with his right hand and the keyboard with his left.
The crowd loved it. Tombstone Blues - A nice, snappy version. This looks
like it will become a "fixed slot". Accidentally Like A Martyr - A
beautiful song! Aside from Werewolves of London, I was unfamiliar with
Warren Zevon before this show. But he must be a great songwriter because
two out of the three songs of his that Bob covered made a very strong
impression, which isn't always easy to do with songs that are unfamiliar
to a live audience. The highlight of this song was when Bob belted out,
with much emotion, the line "I never thought I could BE/ so alone/ for
such a long, long time." Charlie and Larry sang along on the memorable
chorus, which included the phrase "Abandoned Love". Watching the River
Flow - Excellent. This is where the piano playing started to get fancy.
Bob was really pounding on the keys like Jerry Lee or Little Richard and
even played a few glizzandos! Brown Sugar - A killer and surprisingly
faithful rendition. I wonder what inspired Bob to cover the Stones for the
first time ever on this tour with this song but whatever the reason, it
was great. The crowd absolutely loved it and song along on the chorus.
Forever Young - The first sour note of the night. It started off rusty and
then slowly pulled itself together - but it was too little too late. Bob's
guitar work was dodgy in the beginning and he sang most of the song in
short, clipped phrases. I've heard much better. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only
Bleeding) - One of the most pleasant surprises of the night. I thought I
wouldn't mind never hearing this again but it's a brand new arrangement
that sounds very fresh. Bob's piano playing has forced the others to slow
the tempo down and the sound is very spare until the end of each verse
where the tempo is picked up and all of the players engage in a bluesy
jam. Very cool. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Very bizarre. This one went
from good to almost-falling-apart and back again. Something went wrong in
the middle of this song and Bob was clearly pissed off. I think Receli had
trouble finding the tempo (he started off slowly and then got faster) and
Bob turned around and looked at him, which caused the drummer to try and
slow it down again. Bob looked at Larry and Charlie, frowned, then banged
out a few perfunctory and seemingly random chords on the piano. He then
stood up, picked up his harmonica and began wandering aimlessly around the
stage. Everyone looked uncomfortable. Bob waited what seemed like an
eternity before playing the harp but then blew a fine solo. It was really
weird because it was before the last verse. He then sang the rest and
instantly seemed in a better mood. Lawyers Guns and Money - I don't
remember much about this except it rocked hard. I'd like to hear it again.
A Voice From On High - My first time hearing this. A great song, with fine
harmonies and some tasty mandolin from Larry (who, incidentally, has a
new, antique-looking mandolin). Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) - The
absolute highlight of the show! I've been waiting years to hear this and
I'm glad I got to see it in such a great performance. This was one of
those special occasions where one of the band members truly outdid himself
and thus inspired Bob to push himself further too. Larry's fiddle playing
was outstanding. I've never heard this song sound so mournful. Bob sang
very softly and beautifully. He was obviously pleased with Larry and the
song ended with some great, spontaneous, jammy interplay between the two.
Honest With Me - The first Love and Theft song of the night and another
great surprise. It's the same arrangement as before but replacing one of
the guitars with piano totally changes the feel. It seems funkier and like
there's more space between the instruments. Bob played some more Jerry
Lee-like piano and cracked a priceless smile after "You say my eyes are
pretty and my smile is nice". Friend of the Devil - A good version with
some rough edges. Neither Bob nor anyone in the band seems to have a clue
if he's going to sing another verse or go into the bridge ("Got two
reasons . . ."), which leads to hesitant and awkward moments but this was
well sung and Larry's mandolin picking was great. Lonesome Day Blues - As
with Honest with Me, this sounded great and very refreshed. Mutineer -
Another highlight. This is a very beautiful love song and Bob sings it as
tenderly and sweetly as you could hope for. I get the impression there's a
certain amount of contrast between the absurd lyrics and the song's
romantic and yearning tone; this starts out with the somewhat comic
spectacle of hearing Bob sing "Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum" but then to
hear him sing, on the chorus, "You're my weakness and I'm your mutineer"
caught me by the throat every time. Ladies, this one needs to go on the
next installment of Hotter Than a Crotch. Moonlight - I've never heard a
version of this that I liked until last night and it was very good indeed.
Bob sang the whole song in a falsetto voice and hit all the notes. Come to
think of it, he sang in a soft, high voice for most of the night. This
ended with Bob playing the same note on the piano over and over again and,
to my ears, it was funny and charming. Summer Days - Astonishing. This has
turned into an even more intense guitar rave-up than when I last saw it in
February. The instrumental jam at the end was much longer than any I've
seen before and all of the guitars sounded great. Receli must have really
redeemed himself in Bob's eyes here because, at the end of the song, Bob
walked back to the drum Kit and gave George a high five! It was a very
touching gesture. Like a Rolling Stone/Knockin' on Heaven's Door/All Along
the Watchtower - The encores were all well done and the crowd loved them
all. I think a lot of the casual fans were relieved after enduring six(!)
covers as well as four Love and Theft songs. Bob introduced the band in
straightforward fashion before Watchtower, which was the only encore song
that sounded different to my ears. It featured a longer jam than its
incarnation from earlier in the year and there was a nice moment at the
end where the band got really quiet for a while and then slowly got louder
and more intense for the finish. Aside from that one moment in the middle
of Baby Blue, Bob and the band seemed to be in great spirits all night.
There was a lot of interaction between them. At 21 songs Bob's energy
level was very high and if he was tired, he never showed it. I think this
tour is only going to get better and I would advise everyone to check it
out. If you think you already know what Bob Dylan is up to in his live
shows these days, you just might change your mind. And now, on to Red
Review by Dave Harper
Here I am in Eugene, down from Portland, for another
dose of historical entertainment, devout appreciation
and highest expectations on this new turn in the Tour.
Man, was I ready for this.
While the meat shakin mama next to me who could've
exploded any second wiggled and thrashed through some
of the absolute best Bob Dylan we've ever seen or
heard...I tried to soak this one up for a lifetime.
Here he comes cooly dressed in white with black slacks
and elegant, flaming leather boots, no chapeau, grey
in his rusty curls looking good to me, notice how he
slides into view and the roar of the house with the
grace only a handful of performers will ever know.
Billy Eckstein was like that, Roy Acuff had that as
First and most of all Dylan was in excellent voice.
The blues room tobacco throat whiskey howl he used so
well on Love and Theft was only there for the songs he
performed from that collection. The sound was vintage
Bob alright but stronger and clearer. Lyrics that
sometimes fly past your ears this time were given
better emphasis and musical phrasing. For instance
Friend Of The Devil which I'd heard by the Dead on
that very stage and maybe a few too many times
elsewhere from Dylan, took on more form and
expression. Maybe because it was Eugene and the
friendly crew down front but the song really worked.
This is really a refreshed and energized show.
George Ricelis drums are quicker and bangier for a
more hopped up delivery. Charlie Sexton has a fine
bunch of guitars and plays em perfect right to the
edge and never a lick over. The cat started great and
nows he's a lot better. Larry Campbell makes a
Telecaster ring like it can while keeping that
exquisite taste you'd expect with this work.By the
time Larry picks up the mandolin you realize some very
solid musics going on. Tony Garnier, what can you say,
check out that smile while he plays and Bob presses
on. This band is a lot better than it seems. Like on
Love and Theft it was so well recorded you dont even
notice the recording, it just happens on the realest
level. Clean and precise. No fluff.
Remember how well Mick Jagger recorded Like A Rolling
Stone? Well Bob Dylan does Brown Sugar even better.
Full backing vocals from the band were a gas. Dead on.
Maybe the show highlight if it weren't for so many
others. I thought of the new Odetta record when he
performed It's Alright Ma with a slow rolling blues
feel at the piano. This is a song you dont mess with
and I've always particulary liked Dylans powerful
rhythm guitar with it but tonight the electric silver
piano rebirthed it.
The three excellently sung Warren Zevon songs were
an important addition to the tour. This is such
Every song was reworked, some quite boldly and for
the better I'd say. Honest With Me and Lonesome Day
Blues were done like the album only three times
No point rambling on. This is a new Dylan show and
he's not wasting time.
Review by Arya Imig
So, did you hear about the Warren Zevon tribute band that played Eugene a
few weeks ago? No, it was actually that universal treasure, Bob Dylan and
his fantastic backing band.
What can one say about Bob Dylan that hasn’t been said already? Bruce
Springsteen said, “Dylan liberated the mind the way Elvis [Presley]
liberated the body”. Bono said “Dylan’s got you from the cradle from the
grave”. My favorite summary of Dylan’s imprint is “If he were to die
today, he’d be made a saint. If he were to live forever, he’d be made a
prophet. Dylan is it. There are no two ways about it.” Dylan’s impact is
immeasurable, and incomparable. In the forty plus years of his career,
Dylan has left an indelible mark on - not just music- but the world. With
that in mind, I piled on to a Greyhound bus on my 20th birthday and
traveled two and a half hours to see a man, a God, a living legend in
concert for the third time. Each concert has been more amazing and
memorable than the last. The first time was - the first time. Rose
Garden. 1999. With Paul Simon. The second time- seven feet away, on the
floor, photographs came out alright. This third time- on my birthday,
close friends, and come on, it’s Dylan. If you like him, then anytime you
see him will be amazing. Bob Dylan is a cool guy.
The cozy, creaky confines of Macarthur Court were packed to the gills, and
the house lights did dim- except that for a long time, they didn’t. From
where we were sitting, we could see part of backstage, and most of the
stage. Large speakers on the left of the stage sometimes blocked our view
of Dylan when he was at the piano. An electric Yamaha keyboard which he
hammered at most of the night. Unfortunately for us, he made his entrance
from the right side of the stage, so we were forced to just watch him from
behind as he walked around to that side of the stage and then sauntered on
with his band dutifully in tow.
Dylan generally opens with an old folk or gospel tune, but tonight it was
a standard that he’d actually written- Maggie’s Farm, in a mutated
unrecognizable form. Didn’t recognize it for a long time, but it certainly
rocked the house.
Next up was a very moving Just Like A Woman - beautifully done, bringing
tears to my eyes for what would not be the last time that evening. The
cartoonist John Callahan’s favorite Dylan song, its image is that of a
woman who can do so much but is essentially a child. I think it could be
applied to either gender. “He breaks just like a little boy”. As much as
Dylan gets pigeonholed for simply writing good lyrics and nothing else,
this is a fine example of a wonderful tune and good lyrics together. And
there are countless others in the Dylan canon. The music of Dylan, his
ability to provoke a mood, an image in our minds, a story for our
collective memories - timeless, priceless, peerless, limitless.
And he knows how to get down too. He followed Just Like A Woman with
Tombstone Blues, and it was really fun to see how much fun Dylan was
having on stage as he danced around and swung to his own rocking tunes. He
knows he’s got a good thing going. Tombstone Blues wasn’t that
recognizable either, but oh well. Dylan followed it up with the first
Zevon cover of the night- Accidentally Like A Martyr.
Warren Zevon is a singer songwriter who came up in the 70’s whose biggest
hit was probably Werewolves of London. He was diagnosed with inoperable
lung cancer a few weeks ago, and told he has months to live. Dylan has
often paid tribute to the recently departed or stricken- covering Johnny
Cash on his tour with Paul Simon at a time when Cash was in the hospital,
and playing Doug Sahm’s She’s About A Mover at concerts in the summer of
2000 after Sahm’s death in the winter of 1999.
Accidentally Like A Martyr was nicely done for a song which was unknown to
most of the audience.
Watching The River Flow followed with Dylan adopting the mouth harp for
one of the few times of the evening, and absolutely rocking the piano with
ripping riffs -true to his childhood dream of being in Little Richard’s
backing band. He’s come a long way. Lyrically, it’s a very interesting
song. “What’s the matter with me, I don’t have much to say” Ok, Bob, if
you say so.
I’m a hopeless bobcat, always checking the set lists from the night before
every morning, and reading the reviews, so I knew he would play Brown
Sugar. It was just a matter of when, and how good it would be. It rocked.
Dylan strapped on a guitar and joined in a great barnstorming rocker. The
searing guitar licks, the woos, the indistinguishable verses, with the
lamenting/joyful/questioning refrain. Brown Sugar, how come you taste so
good? Sung with an anguish that Mick Jagger could never emulate, Dylan
sounded genuinely curious and awed. One of the great rockers of the night
was to be part of a one two power punch.
He followed with Forever Young. On my birthday. I had the lyrics in my
pocket all day, and had sent them out in an email to friends the night
before. It was the second tearjerker of the night, and it really brought
on some waterworks. It’s one of the finest songs - not just of Dylan’s,
but of anyone’s. Nick Winterfeld says, “That song is a beautiful and
needed expression of sincerity and hope (and innocence maybe too?), in a
sea of pessimistic and cynical songs…It's a true testament to Bob Dylan's
talent.” I can’t say enough about how moving it was to hear him perform it
- on my birthday.
And so he followed it with It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), a
fantastic, wordy, scathing song filled with a very different kind of
advice from Forever Young. It too was a testament to Dylan’s talent. It
was a really well done rendition, with Dylan having moved back to the
piano, and had a very filled out arrangement. And we cheered when he said
the president of the United States must have to stand naked.
Dylan’s band is really outstanding. The film star looks of Charlie Sexton
on a slew of guitars, Lord of The Rings escapee Larry Campbell on various
instruments, Santana double Tony Garnier on electric, acoustic, and stand
up bass, and George Recelli on the drums. Campbell played the violin, the
cittern, the pedal steel, the lap steel, and the slide guitar. Garnier has
performed with Dylan more than any other musician.
The familiar lap steel “Catch a falling star” opening of It’s All Over
Now, Baby Blue was recognizable to me from last year’s Corvallis show.
Don’t believe what you hear, Dylan really is a great singer. He can turn a
phrase, hit a note, twist his vowels, and stretch his syllables. It’s
fantastic to hear him play his songs these days. The song turned into a
bit of extended jam with Dylan stepping away from the piano for awhile and
moving around the stage a bit, before he grabbed a harmonica and blew a
sharp piercing solo which seemed to hint at another Dylan song, I couldn’t
figure out which one, and it seemed like Dylan was thinking that it
sounded familiar to him too.
Followed by a steady, humorous guitar laden Zevon song, Lawyers Guns and
Money. And then - finally- the acoustic gospel number. A Voice From On
High. Kind of nice to hear the boys relive their choir days.
Campbell picked up a violin for Señor (Tales of Yankee Power), which was a
nice rarity for the evening. It’s funny that Dylan played six covers over
the night when he has a lot of hidden gems like this tucked away.
Honest With Me with Campbell on the slide guitar, and Dylan returning to
the Yamaha, was next. Fantastic song off his last album. Clever lyrics, a
burning guitar lick- solid rocker.
Well, it was Eugene, so I guess he just had to pull out a Grateful Dead
song Friend Of The Devil, which I didn’t recognize.
Lonesome Day Blues was next. “Love and Theft” is an excellent album, a
really fantastic encapsulation of music. It’s like Dylan’s a professor of
musicology and we’re his students.
Third Zevon song ‘Mutineer’ followed, before a beautiful performance of
Moonlight. Killer song. Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight all alone?
Won’t you? And then, to cap the first set, Summer Days. Fantastic
swinger. Consummate Dylan rocker. He knows a place where there’s still
something going on, and you’re in it. It can’t be said enough how much
And the crowd is rocked. The house is swinging. The foundation of
Macarthur court is teetering. And Dylan stops. He keeps his guitar on,
holds it to his side, and bends down. Bows. The humble entertainer. He’s
singing just for us. The band leaves the stage, and we have to shake
everything in the building until they return for the encore.
Like A Rolling Stone. Sure, he plays it at every show. But can you deny
that it’s a great song? Unequaled. Like its author, it is a song that
stands as a monumental force in music. And then a little acoustic number.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. Heard of it? Opening ooo’s. Harmonies. Some
nice acoustic guitar jabbing from Dylan. Beautiful song.
Dylan must have felt he had to pull out some hits, because he played All
Along The Watchtower to close. I have heard nothing that rocked as hard as
this did. It can’t be described. Like much that is worth experiencing, new
words would have to be invented to communicate the experience of hearing
I may be at a loss for words, but I’m sure Dylan wouldn’t be. More of the
bowing to the audience, he couldn’t leave the stage, he stood with his
band. In Corvallis, last year, it was like he was mad at us (It was the
day they started bombing Afghanistan), but this year, Dylan was in high
One of the simplest, most evocative lines in all music has to be “Yonder
stands your orphan with his gun, crying like a fire in the sun.” Can you
see it? The fire crying in the sun? It can never hope to match the power
of the sun. We are the fire to Dylan’s sun.
page by Bill Pagel
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