October 5, 2007
Review by Fred Bals
Amos Lee opened promptly at 7:00 with a half-hour solid folk-blues set
that could have been improved by bringing down the thumping bass a bit for
his mostly graying audience. Three rows from the stage and directly under
the overhead speakers, we levitated from our seats each time Lee's drummer
hit the bass pedal. At closing Lee thanked the sparse early audience for
coming to see him, and turned the stage over to Elvis Costello.
"Oh, I'm in fine voice tonight," Costello laughed midway through his set,
and it was a good prediction for things to come. Armed with solo guitar,
Elvis marched through standards from his playbook, opening with a powerful
"Radio, Radio," blasting through "Watching the Detectives," crooning a
mournful "Alison," and leading the now much larger appreciative crowd
through a "do-d-oo-doop" call-and-response during a Van Morrison cover
And then it was the Cowboy Band's turn. The Verizon Center's lights were
dimmed, leaving only a small flood on stage lighting Dylan's "Things Have
Changed" Oscar; the recording announced the presence of the man who
forced folk into an unnatural relationship with rock, and Dylan and Company
launched into a pretty "Cat's In the Well."
Staging for a Bob Dylan concert: Song finishes, lights go down; Dylan
walks over to a playbook next to his Oscar, studies it; lights come back
up; band launches into next number. Repeat 16 times.
After "Cat's," came the only stumble of the evening, a raspy version of
"Lay, Lady, Lay" that was so difficult to listen to that I was frightened
about what the rest of the night might be like. Dylan seemed to be
struggling after the first verse of the song, seemingly realizing that it
had gotten out of his control. He tried different phrasing, different
timing. Nothing worked, and the song sounded as if an embarrassingly old
man was pleading with a 15-year-old hooker for a free piece of action.
Dylan looked as relieved as I felt when it finally finished. "Just Like
Tom Thumb's Blues" and "Positively 4th Street" followed. Both on-target,
nothing like the horror-show of "Lay, Lady, Lay" but not all that
But something happened mid-way through the fifth song, "The Levee's Gonna
Break," and the night just went golden from that point on. I'm still not
sure what went on. Dylan had switched to keyboards by this point and he
began exchanging sly grins with Donnie Herron, on pedal steel behind him.
You could almost see the band's energy rising as Dylan began to *attack*
the keyboard for each song that followed - there's no other way to
describe it - charging into it, shaking his hips like Jerry Lee, raising
his legs. I kept expecting him to break free from the keyboard and start
dancing around the stage at some point during the evening.
Great versions of "Spirit On the Water," Honest With Me," and a beautiful
rendition of "Beyond the Horizon," followed in close succession. And then
an extremely spooky version of "High Water." That, and an equally powerful
"Nettie Moore" following a blistering "Highway 61," had me thinking that I
*really* want to hear a commercial live Dylan album that includes songs
from "Modern Times." You have to hear how radically these songs have
evolved from the studio versions to understand what Dylan means when he
says that to really hear the music he has in his head you have to go see
"Summer Days" was next on the slate, and then came the old warhorse,
"Like a Rolling Stone." I have mixed feelings about hearing Dylan doing
this - my favorite song of his - these days. While I like, appreciate, his
having it still in his portfolio some 40-odd years after his writing it, I
can't hear it live without thinking of the blistering, acid-thrown-in-your-face
performances of the `60s. I always see ghosts on stage, battering
their way through the music, in defiance of everything, the audience,
the day, the world, young, old, while the contemporary Dylan weaves
among those shadows, performing his slower, near-waltz-like
modern version. But having said that, this was one of the best
contemporary live LARS I've ever seen him perform, fast tight, grooving.
Dylan was grinning like his own Cheshire Cat throughout the song, leaning
into the "how does it feel" chorus like he was cresting a wave.
"Thunder on the Mountain" began the encore, and a surprising and very
pretty "Blowin' in the Wind" ended it. Lights down for the final time,
and Dylan and Band walked to the front of the stage, where a visibly happy
Dylan gave thumbs-up to both the audience and band members.
Sixty-six years old, the man looked as if he could be in no other place or
time than where he was right at that moment.
Review by Andy Wilson
This was my 7th Dylan concert since 1997 and I'll confess off the top that
I was spoiled by the incendiary performance of Bob and his Band 11 months
ago in Portland, Maine. While this concert was sprinkled with interesting
surprises there was nothing approaching the sublime offering of
'Desolation Row' that particular night. The thrill of hearing long
anticipated gems 'Lay, Lady, Lay', 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' and
'Positively 4th Street' in succession in the 2,3 and 4 spots, was tempered
by the somewhat tentative renditions offered. I would agree with the
previous poster that Bob was really struggling to find his voice and a
workable tempo for 'Lay, Lady, Lay'. He did however offer a tasty guitar
lead, which was wonderful to see after not seeing him pick up an axe in 4
The whole band seemed to undergo a transformation for the first Modern
Times selection of the night, 'The Levee's Gonna Break'. The energy level
rose immediately, on the stage and in the crowd. Bob's level of commitment
seemed far superior on the 8 songs from his two most recent albums
performed this night. There was another big surprise in store.'My Back
Pages' in the 10 slot. While the band's arrangement was wonderful, Bob's
uneven vocal delivery and herky jerky phrasing took a little something
away from the performance in my opinion.
The highlight of the night for me followed in slot 11. A brilliant rocking
version of 'Highway 61 Revisted' brought the entire crowd to its feet.
This chestnut has been revitalized! The band was reigned back in for a
nice rendering 'Nettie Moore', then turned loose again for a rollicking
'Summer Days'. It was great to hear Bob lean into the signature organ riff
on 'Like a Rolling Stone', the anthem delivered with the urgency it
deserved. The encore kicked off with 'Thunder On The Mountain' as we knew
it would, and it rocked, to be sure. Then came one last surprise.'Blowin'
In The Wind', rather than the more predictable 'All Along the Watchtower'.
While that selection was another indication that this was a much more
reserved concert than the one we saw last year, one couldn't help be in
awe of seeing it brought back to life more than four decades after it
became the signature song for a generation.
Overall, a much more low key show than I'd been hoping for, but more than
enough curve balls to keep things interesting, and to keep me coming back
for more. He may be eligible for his Old Age Pension now, but for my
money, he's still the best show on the road. I also still contend that
this is the best road band he's ever ha Denny Freeman maybe not quite as
flashy as past lead guitarists, but he's the perfect fit for Bob Dylan in
the 'here and now'.
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