October 11, 2008
Review by Carsten Molt
On a rainy and chilly Thursday, i tagged along with my friends, John and
Jill for my 37th Bob Dylan show. No matter how many times that i see him,
i still get every bit as excited as i did the first time.
A little information about the venue: The Petersen Events Center is
the University of Pittsburgh plays its basketball games and like most
baskteball arenas, there is very little ambience. We had seen Dylan there
in 2004 and he had delivered a average show with few real highlights. Of
course, that did nothing to dampen our expectations for this show. For
once, we decided to try our luck in the bleachers as opposed to the
floor. Luckily, we managed to get our reserved seats in the first row of
the upper deck, center stage.
We settled into our seats as Amos Lee was starting his set. He played
about 45 minutes of his original material. It was pretty good, for the
most part. His drummer did get a bit overly zealous on his kick drum at
After a short break, Elvis Costello took to the stage with no
introduction. Despite performing solo with only his guitar to supplement
his vocals, he managed to both transfix and thrill the crowd throughout
his 11 song set. Highlights of his set were "Alison", "Veronica" and of
course, "(What's So Funny 'Bout)Peace, Love And Understanding?".
Then after another brief break, the Nag Champa was lit and after the
unfamiliar new intro music and the familiar introduction, the main event
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35- This was a strong starter and it got the
crowd in the mood. The performance itself was not overwhelming but it was
still a promising start.
2. It Ain't Me, Babe- i was hoping that this would be played since i
really like the new arrangement of the tune. Unfortunately, Dylan was
singing the song at one tempo while the band was playing the song at a
different tempo. Towards the end of the song, they all managed to get on
the same page and the song ended well.
3. Watching The River Flow- This was a very blues-tinged performance and
got the energy going with Dylan spouting out the lyrics. During the jam,
that distinctive sound of one of Dylans two note guitar solos emerged and
it was great to hear as he hammed it up a little bit before passing the
solo over to Denny Freeman before the last verse.
4. Love Sick- As Dylan abandoned his guitar and assumed his position
behind his keyboard, i was expecting "Rollin' And Tumblin" so this was a
big surprise. Only the second performance of the song this year but it
was very well done. The arrangement stuck close to the album version and
they nailed it to perfection.
5. Tangled Up In Blue- Nothing short of spectacular! Dylan started the
song with a short harmonica solo and then leaned into the vocals with
conviction. He was twisting his phrasing and vocal pitch from line to
line. He would sing one line in his upper range with a almost spoken
vocal and then sing the next
line in his lower range while stretching the words out like taffy. During
the instrumental break, he played another harmonica solo. It had long and
involved passages with quite a bit of experimentation. After he sang the
last verse, he ended the song with another impressive piece of harmonica
6. Workingman's Blues #2- i had high hopes that he would play this and it
was even better than i could have imagined. Dylan really inhabited the
lyrics and had the crowd hanging on every word. It was one of those
performances where Dylan seems to make time stand still. It got the
loudest ovation of the evening and deserved every bit of it.
7. Rollin' And Tumblin'- Anything would have been a letdown after the
previous song but they gave it a try. It was a smoking version and had a
very funky slide guitar solo by Denny Freeman. Dylan was putting a lot of
emphasis on the key lines and was dancing around a lot behind his
8. Spirit On The Water- It was a very relaxed, laid back version. Dylan
carefully floated the lyrics out with a almost tender approach as if
singing them too roughly or loudly would break the spell we has weaving.
Of course, when he got to the line, "You think I'm over the hill", the
audience got a chance to whoop and yell which got a big smile from Dylan.
He capped the song off with a nice, gentle harmonica solo.
9. Things Have Changed- In my opinion, this song has not aged well, for me
or Dylan. It was played and sung competently but there seemed to be a
undeniable feeling of apathy plaguing the song. It was not a overly poor
version but not very memorable, either.
10. Beyond The Horizon- I was not looking forward to this as it is my
least favorite song off of "Modern Times" but i was REALLY pleasantly
surprised. It didn't have the same tepid, lounge sound as the album
version. It had a more jazzy feeling and Dylans playful phrasing added a
entire new dimension that is not in the album version. The band played a
soft and sparse accompaniment letting Dylans vocals carry the songs power
vocally which he managed to do quite well. A nice harmonica solo capped
the song off in style.
11. Hughway 61 Revisited- A shorter than usual version. Dylan was clearly
enjoying himself, He was doing a lot of knee bends and hip wiggling as
Denny Freeman played some scorching guitar runs and George Receli threw
himself into his drums with passion. Just as the song seemed ready to go
to the next level,
it ended. Very odd.
12. Nettie Moore- i was a bit disappointed as i was hoping for "Ain't
Talkin" in this spot. After getting over my initial disappointment, i
enjoyed the song as Dylan gave it a careful and deliberate vocal delivery
and Donnie Herron gave it a supple violin backing.
13. Summer Days- Still not up to the level of the Fall 2002 versions which
will probably never be bested. It was better than usual as the band
stretched the instrumental jam a bit and Denny played some sizzling guitar
runs. At one point, George broke one of his drum sticks and the broken
tip almost hit Tony in the face but Tony caught it in midair. Good
reflexes! Tony pretended to use the broken stick as if it were a bow on
his upright bass for a few seconds
before tossing the stick behind his amp. Dylans vocals were quite gruff
rushed on the verses but it seemed like he was hurrying to get to the fun
instrumental jam more than simple carelessness.
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man-Not one of my favorite songs but Dylan gave it a
better than average performance and dug down deep to belt out the lyrics
in a commanding tone and treated the audience to a raunchy harmonica solo
at the conclusion of the song.
15. Thunder On The Mountain-At the outset, the sound seemed a bit muddy
and muffled but as the song progressed, the sound improved. While not a
great version, it was well done and the audience really responded to it
with lots of cheering and applause.
Dylan then introduced the bad without incident.
16. All Along The Watchtower- We started to make our way to the door
halfway through the song but judging by the first half of the tune, we
were not going to miss anything special.
A. Dylans vocals were loud and clear most of the night with only a tinge
of gruffness here and there.
B, Denny Freeman has totally come into his own. His guitar playing was
exemplary all night long.
C. Donnie Herron watches Dylan like a hawk at all times. His pedal steel
playing was quite good and his violin was more audible than on past tours
but when he is on his mandolin, his sound is still too low in the mix.
D. George Receli was great on the drums, as usual. He made a good use of
playing with brushes on a couple of tunes which i don't recall seeing him
E. Tony Garnier was as good as ever. His tasteful, understated bass
playing is often taken for granted. He was dancing around a lot more than
i have seen him do in quite some time and he was sharing smiles with
George Receli all night long.
F. I am not really sure what Stu Kimball is doing or what his role is. He
mostly sticks to acoustic guitar and is usually inaudible in the mix. He
something to the sound on stage that is not audible in the audience.
G. The crowd was pretty good and not really a factor at all. The Petersen
Center will never be one of my favorite concert venues but it is alright
for what it is.
Of course, these are just my opinions and it is only the way that i
experienced the show. i apologize for any typos and for the length but i
tend to ramble, Any feedback,corrections comments (or copies of the show)
In Bob we trust,
Review by Rich Yanizeski
Thanks to my own stupid mistakes I got to the Petersen Event Center
around 6:30. I've never been there before. If you've never been there it
sits a top the aptly named "Cardiac Hill". This would be a great location
if we were a race of "goat people". If I had hooves and horns it would be
perfect. Is there no flat land to build an arena on in this area??? All
the buildings on this hill look like giant Jenga from all the times they
layered on additions and wings. But the facility is very nice. Clean and
accessible. Seats were kind of hard but the rows had enough room so your
knees aren't jammed into the people in front of you.
So we get inside at 6:40 and it's empty. Virtually no one there. I mean to
the point we were thinking "Is this the wrong night? Is the show
cancelled?" But no, there was a souvenir stand and they did frisk us
(Because you never know when a Bob Dylan fan might snap!) so we found our
seat in the upper deck and we decided that no matter what the ticket said
the show must start at 8. We're an hour early. Well...no, at seven sharp
the lights go out and the first act, Amos Lee, comes out with no intro and
starts playing. The problem is with no bodies in the seats the arena is an
acoustic mud pit. There are echoes all over the place. You can't decipher
So Lee finishes his set and they break down his band's equipment and
they set up for Elvis Costello and with no fanfare or introduction a guy
in a black suit comes out and starts playing. By now the crowd, what there
was of it, had filtered in but the echo was still prominent. I actually
thought Elvis had someone accompanying him off stage but it was just
shrill echo. Maybe this wouldn't have been noticeable on the floor. And
again the lyrics were totally muffled. Now this doesn't bode well when
your feature act has a rough gravely voice.
So Elvis performs a good set but an acoustic set really needs to be in a
small venue. A club, not an arena. It needs intimacy.
So finally we get to the main event. Mr. Dylan. I had never seen Dylan
before and checking out the set lists on this site I was prepared that
this wasn't a "greatest hits" set. Luckily I have plenty of Dylan CDs,
including his last three, so I knew I'd know most of the songs in the set.
From the previous set lists it seemed he did "It Ain't Me Babe" as the
second song. I was disappointed when he didn't play it, being one of my
favorites, and puzzled when I found out the second song WAS "It Ain't Me
Babe". This new arrangement made the song unrecognizable to me.
I was most puzzled when Dylan put down his guitar after a couple songs and
played keyboards for the entire rest of the show. Dylan plays keyboards
for his entire set???? I'm confused.
The set was solid but not great and finished strong. I don't think he
spoke to the audience except to intro his band. Not a "Hello everyone" or
a "Thank you!" I knew what Dylan's voice sounded like these days and the
arena did him no favors but it was very ragged. He did get stronger as the
show went on but there just is no melody left to his voice. It was a
sharp contrast to the last "dinosaur rocker" I saw...Paul McCartney.
McCartney did an energetic 2 1/2 hours of hits and album cuts, diving back
to pre-Beatle days for songs. I wished I could have seen Dylan when he
could do something like that.
Beyond the poor acoustics of the arena the audience was horrible!! I
assumed Dylan would attract an older audience but being on Pitt's campus
the crowd was mostly students and of course all people that age apparently
have A.D.D. I'll never understand why people want to pay $50 plus for a
ticket and talk and play with their cell phones. The idiot in front of me
was playing soccer on his cell phone. STAY HOME!! Turn the cell phones
off. That bright glowing screen is actually annoying!!! And since the
arena was half empty people could not sit still. The three young co-eds
next to us would get calls and all three of them had to get up and march
out and then come back in and get another call and go back out. It was a
hive mentality in action. People came and went from our section all
night. Now I can see trying to move down but why would anyone sneak into
sec 208 in the upper deck??? Since the crowd was sparse there were no
ushers in the upper deck at all. It was pretty much general admission
seating and no matter where we moved three idiots would plant themselves
behind us and run their mouths.
Review by Dan Chester
Rainy Day: at least it was out of the way
Ain't Me, Babe: really interesting arrangement/guitar line, basically a
whole new song and yet it worked, fun hearing him on guitar again
(especially the interplay of guitars) Watching the River: a Three Rivers
staple, played pretty well Love Sick: nice atmospherics, average tune
Tangled Up: servicable warhorse Workingman's Blues: maybe best performance
of the night, great sound, really good/inspired singing Rollin' and
Tumblin': pretty much rock filler, some energy near the end Spirit on the
Water: best song of the night (one of his all-timers), done with the right
amount of tenderness and gentle swing, this sound (like Workingman's and
Beyond the Horizon) is what this band does best Things have Changed:
again, pretty good mood, an average tune in his canon Beyond the Horizon:
just a fun, jazzy sound (love to see these kind of songs by this band in a
small club) Highway 61: every once in awhile the warhorses act like
Seattle Slew, by the end it was burning, after the song he sort of turned
to the crowd on the side with his palms up like "even I was surprised by
how good that was (how 'bout that?)" Nettie Moore: this was another
example of the acoustic/standup bass-kind of tune that is, well, tasteful,
he delivered a couple of the stellar lines in the tune really well Summer
Days: picked up by the end, maybe, though time to give it rest, sung it
pretty well Ballad of a Thin Man: another nice mood setting (OK, the band
does a few things well), still would love to hear other songs of his
Thunder on the Mountain: not bad, maybe play it earlier All Along the
Watchtower: has to play it, I guess, if he had ended with tonight's
version of Highway 61 he would had a whole lot of converts Good, not
great, show, one wonders what effect the hoop gym acoustics had on how his
singing sounded. Not a huge fan of the organ, can sound a little
funhouse-ish. With six members and different instrumentation, one thinks
they could have varied the sound palette a bit more. And what one wouldn't
give to hear him solo if only for a song. Grateful for the experience.
Review by Bart Donnelly
Dylan was fabulous last night. His voice was a little rough but hey
that's Bob and it got better as the evening progressed. The band was in
excellent form as was Bob on the Keys, Guitar and especially his harp
work. The highlights for me were Love Sick (I love Time Out of Mind)
Things Have Changed (disillusionment to extremes) and Tangled Up In Blue
had a superb melodic feel and content to it in the guitars and Bob's
superb harp work that was ethereal! At any rate the whole show was good I
was happy to see him draw the setlist from new to more recent material.
Ballad of Thin Man and a very rockin' Highway 61 Revisited where standouts
of the older stuff. Apart from Ain't Talkin' he hit all my favorites from
Modern Times and looked like he was having a good time in the process. A
Review by Mark D. Phillips
All I can say is it was a first rate performance. Bob started out a
little slow, it was obvious Bob and the band did not have a chance to warm
up, but by the time they got to the third song, "Watching the River Flow",
they where in sync. Highlights of the show "Highway 61" got the crowd
rocking and the best but unfortunately his last song "All Along the
Watchtower" where worth the ticket price. My only complaint, and very
minor, is directed to his road crew who set Bob and the band too far from
the front edge of the stage, there must have been 20 feet of stage in
front of Bob, he should have been set up in the middle of the stage at the
Mark D. Phillips
Review by Holly Turkovich
October 11th, the day before my birthday. This made my 5th Bob show,
probably not the best - but 4 stars. Well, were heading out semi-late as
usual. Stopped at a Starbuck's on the way, I heavily drank the whole
ride. We got some toffee almond bars, and the new DYLAN cd. So red, so
vibrant. Pretty cheap, too. I never really set out to get it, but right when
I saw it- I knew I needed it. It's a nice little mixed cd, without Knock, Knock.
Right when we got into Pittsburgh - the traffic was absolutely horrible.
I knew it would be, I have been to Pittsburgh so many times before. It
was officially the belly of the beast!
Funny, we saw a limo passing us in the city. We waved in hopes of it
being Bob, naturally. Listened to Things Have Changed going through the
tunnels or somewhere along the way. I said it would be so awesome to see
this live, I have never experienced it. One of my favorites, I'd have to
say. Apparently, one of Bob's too - because he ended up including it in
the set. When we got there, it was freezing to death. I had a tiny
button up cowgirl shirt on, with no jacket. I was so cold. We stuck the
camera down my uncle's sock & wrapped it around with tape. We hid
the scissors in a bush, so they wouldn't think we were trying to murder
someone. During the frisking, they actually touched it on his leg - but
never said anything.
Next, was the $6 beer - can you believe it? Some brand I have never
even heard of, but it was pretty good. We headed to 6B to see Elvis
while we still could. The seats were great, so close to the floor - I
can't believe my tickets were for the back of the floor. The view was
great up in front - I walked down there during 'halftime'. Next year,
that is where I will be - no matter what! Right before Bob came on, I
decided I needed another beer. I had my uncle go get it, while I sit and
waited. He opened with - crazy enough... Rainy Day Women.
I have never seen a Rainy Day Women, and I was really stoned. It was
absolutely perfect, great experience. Which, I have footage of. The
cops and staff security people were getting a little too cozy with me.
The guy in front of me kept taking pictures with his double flash. It
was just bad, we were talking - people said we were talking too loud. It
Ain't Me Babe came on and I was pretty happy. I saw this in Uncasville
for the first time with the guitar. I was impressed, but this time it
was even better. I started to get ready to tape when a guy walked by.
Looking dead straight at me, started yelling at a guy beside me for being
on his cell phone. He didn't even acknowledge me at all, or know I was
taping. I was just like , eh - it ain't me babe. Perfect song for the
We started to walk away on Watching The River Flow. I've heard this
song more times than I could count and the people were annoying me.
For $162 I wasn't in the mood to deal with them, really. We went up to
the balcony, and it was wonderful. Peace and harmony, at last. The
sound was great too, and I could still zoom in - I just wish now I would
have went back to 6B later on in the night. Love Sick was unexpected,
I've only seen it once & that was in Fairfax. This version was WAY better,
not a tired out Love Sick, It was full of energy! The video is good of this
too, lots of purples and greens. Great sound!
Tangled Up, I wasn't too happy with. Even though it WAS really good.
He got all the words right and everything. I just have sentimental value
to the Fairfax version I guess. I like when he sings lower baritone.
Workingman Blues was #2 best moment on my list. Great song live, GREAT.
Never heard it before and Bob really put his heart and soul into it! I
have listened to Modern Times alot, and I just knew it was about to kick
in HARD. I was right, Rolling & Tumblin' - Spirit On The Water. It
just seemed to never end, I remember saying - 'Get out of the Modern
Times!' You know? Then it happened... Wow, Things Have Changed.
Yes, Bob - they have. Wow, this was intense. I have never even heard
this song , ever. I couldn't even believe it. The video for this is
outstanding, semi-professional and great sound. I suggest everyone to
see it when I put it up. Next, Beyond The Horizon I was very happy with.
I have never heard it and I really like when Donnie plays Pedal Steel. This
song was real good quality - just a little repetitive. Then, Bob hated me
& played Highway 61.
Then, revived himself for the last FINAL straw, and played the best
Nettie Moore I have ever heard in my entire life. The crowd was into it,
he was into it. Everyone was digging it. Bob was at his prime, it was a
beautiful sight. I didn't record it, if half of you don't remember the 9
minute Nettie Moore from Fairfax. This was great though, I hung off every
word, and felt them so intensely. Wow, what an experience - touching
Summer Days, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Thunder On The Mountain,
Watchtower. I was done with the show at Summer days. I knew that it
was all going downhill from there. Good first half though! Thanks for
comin' back to Pittsburgh Bob!
This Bob's for you!
Review by Stephen Trageser
It seems like just about everybody who was at this concert has already
checked in, but I’ll try to present some slightly different observations…
The Peterson Events Center, as it was designed for basketball, has
acoustic issues, but is nevertheless a comfortable place to see a show.
And yes, it’s on the hideously steep Cardiac Hill. But now, thank God,
there’s an escalator to take you up to the seating area, unlike the days
when Pitt Stadium occupied this site, and you’d risk bursting your lungs
making the climb on foot, with a biting wind in your face. This is the
site where the University of Pittsburgh played a snowy 1938 football match
with the powerful Fordham team (including one Vince Lombardi and the other
“Seven Blocks of Granite”) that ended in a scoreless tie (my Mom was there
and remembers it well.) I’m pretty sure hardly anyone misses the old
stadium, but this is after all, where Ditka, Dorsett, and Marino (and some
lousy ‘60s Steeler teams) played, so for sports fans this is sacred
ground. By the way, I still carry a piece of Pitt Stadium with me,
wherever I go - quite literally, I’m afraid, since it’s a chun k of wood
splinter from a rotting bleacher seat that pierced the back of my leg when
I stupidly tried to slide over to make room for someone at a football game
30+ years ago. Unfortunately, the turnout for this concert was
disappointing despite features in both local papers on the day of the
show. On the bright side, though, as someone mentioned, there were plenty
of open seats available if you didn’t like the one on your ticket.
Speaking of which, the pre-sale password for this show was “handgun.” It
made me laugh, but it would’ve freaked me right the hell out if this show
was in Philly (not that Pittsburgh is that much safer these days.) I went
to this show with my friend Phil who turned me on to Dylan back in the
‘70s. He had never seen Bob in concert before, so I tried to prep him a
little for what not to expect. It’s a dilemma that I’m sure many of you
have faced before me. On the one hand, you try not to over-sell it,
because even if you spend 10 hours talking, you can’t adequately explain
to a newbie just what it will be like to be there. But you also want to
tell why you keep coming back. However, if you still remember your first
Dylan concert, you kind of want them to be prepared to be shocked and
awed. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried; a comment about “not
hearing the words clearly” notwithstanding, he enjoyed the show and would
go again to see Bob. He gets it. Opener Amos Lee was entertaining. He
hails from Philly and I hear a couple of his songs a lot on ‘XPN. I liked
the other songs he performed a lot more. He’s supported by a capable
backing band, and, for the record, also appears to be very tall. Elvis
Costello was next, and though I like him, my preference would be for him
to perform with his band. Nevertheless, it was different to see him solo,
and he did an interesting selection of songs. And the living Elvis wore
some wild sequined shoes! A funny thing which occurred to me later in the
evening, was that his closing number What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and
Understanding?, is “his” song, though Nick Lowe wrote it, whereas Dylan’s
closing number All Along the Watchtower, which Bob wrote, belongs to
Hendrix in the minds of many. I was hoping for Rainy Day Women to lead
off, and got my wish. Nice to see Bob with a guitar again, albeit for only
3 numbers. Love Sick was a surprise and so was Tangled Up In Blue turning
up so early in the set. Did anybody else hear Bob say “…and we’ll have a
fuckin’good time” during Spirit On The Water on the verse after “… they
say I’m over the hill?” We did, and it was awesome. By the way, Things
Have Changed was an especially appropriate choice for a Pittsburgh show,
with Bob’s Oscar perched on stage. Like it or not, this is the Oscar song,
from the film Wonder Boys that was set in Pittsburgh, and filmed a short
distance away (though I think it was mostly shot nearby CMU, not Pitt, but
I could be mistaken.) Anyway, whether planned or not, it was cool to hear.
Overall, ladies and gentlemen, The Voice was running a little rough
tonight, but that’s what you get some times. Maybe Bob has that crappy
cold everybody seems to have gotten. The sequence and pace of this show
were just right. Fast-slow-new-old-blues-rock-swing-ballads-anthems,
coming at you. True, the band was more confident on some numbers, less so
on others, but what can you expect when the set list varies from night to
night? And variety is a good thing; it is to me anyway, and if that’s the
price, so be it. You can’t say these guys are goofing off; they’re intent
on watching bandleader Bob like he was going to turn into a tiger right
before their eyes. Denny Freeman, you’re the man. You can play that Les
Paul like its namesake, and then turn around and turn our brains into
butter on Highway 61. Some day, but hopefully not for a long time yet,
they’ll be lamenting that “…things were so much better with Denny in the
band.” Even though it’s now an old warhorse, All Along sounded great
closing the show. Bob gave a grin and a thumb’s up, and blew a kiss, and
was off Ypsilanti, MI . In summary, a solid show and I’m looking forward
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