October 13, 2012
Review by Geoffrey Hahn
I went to see Bob Dylan at the Key Arena in Seattle, WA last Saturday
night. Now, before I begin, I just want to say that I've read many of the
reviews here on the current tour. I was very excited to hear the overly
loud piano and the simplistic playing that was being described. After
all, this IS Bob Dylan - what kind of fun is HE having on this tour?
So, I get into town and get to my seat. There was a very nice (and
pretty!) young lady sitting in the seat next to me, alone at her first
Dylan show. We struck up a conversation, and I found out she was a recent
transplant from southern Vermont. This comes into play at the end of this
review, so patience...
Anyway, the lights go down and Mark Knopfler takes the stage. A fantastic
musician, whose songs have absolutely no soul in them. Very self-absorbed
stuff from Mr. Knopfler. I was bored after the second song. Nice light
show, though. The crowd only got into his set at the very end when he
played a song from his Dire Straits dasy - So Far Away From Me. There was
a pleasant folk song in there, where supposedly one of the band members
was playing a ukelele, but you could have fooled me. Now, that set needed
a sound man who knew what he was doing. Oh, well.
During the set break, when Dylans set was being set up, I was wondering
"Where the heck are all these mirrors people are bitching about?" There
were maybe 6-7 mirrors, some very small, none very large, spread around
near the front of the stage. Nothing to complain about, but this is the
21st Century, and we have to bitch about something, don't we?
Then, the lights go down, and instead of the familiar "Ladies and
gentlemen...." thing, the band comes out onto the darkened stage, led by
one of the guitarists playing a bluesy lick. The lights come up, and
Dylan is at his electric keyboard, just nailing Watching the River Flow.
I could tell from the first chords this was going to be one of THOSE
To Ramona was, simply, beautiful. The piano works beautifully, there's no
simplistic noodling, and the mix is almost perfect. The levels could have
been brought up on everyone, but I'm not going to complain. I could pick
out each musician and here what they were playing, which was much better
than the opening act.
Things have Changed was just simply monstrous. The refrain - "I used to
care, but things have changed" came across in a snarl. I was in heaven at
When they started Tangled Up In Blue, my brother turned to me and asked if
he was playine Like a Rolling Stone, but I knew better. He's back to
playing it a little closer to the album version. The rhythm guitar isn't
capo'd at the fifth fret any more. I love that version of the song, but
this one was even better. I didn't take notes, so I can't remember the
new verses, but the articulation on this song, and throughout the show,
was absolutely perfect.
Cry A While was, again, simply perfect for the moment. And again, every
word was crystal clear to me.
Hattie Carroll - This song really took on a new life with the new
arrangement. The piano, again, was sublime. The new vocal rhythms are a
treat as well.
Hollis Brown - This was the first time I'd seen Dylan sing this song, and
I'm not at all familiar with it. I'm now a big fan of this tune. That
last verse is haunting, and he delivered it with the conviction of a
Mississippi - another first for me. I really like the second verion on
the bootleg album he put out with 2 or 3 versions, depending on how much
money you coughed up. This was completely different version (and why
not? A full band as opposed to two acoustic guitars), and extremely
Highway 61 rocks, and rocks hard with the piano driving the tune. Again,
lots of fire from the man. He seemed inspired at this point.
Rolling Stone - What can you say? It's only one of the greatest songs in
the rock and roll catalogue, delivered again with fire and great
Watchtower - You might think that Bob plays this song whenever he's in
Seattle, what with the Jimi Hendrix connection, but that's not at all
true. The very best version of this song I've ever witnessed was at the
Champs di Brionne winery (now the Gorge), when GE Smith was in the band
and they played it while the sun was setting. This version, though, was
pretty darned good as well.
Blowing In The Wind - This was almost anticlimactic after the main set,
but the rearrangement was still, to me, thrilling to hear.
And that girl I mentioned at the beginning of this review - after the show
was over, and as she was getting ready to take off, I asked her what she
thought of the concert. From a 20-something, I wasn't expecting "That was
FUCKING AWESOME!!!", but that was her review. Enough said.
Comments by Really Real
I think the uninspiring set lists are indicative of a bigger problem -
Bob's ego is out of joint for this tour, so far. How else explain the
problem with the mix, that Bob's piano is drowning out the band. And
with Bob's elementary piano playing, and the plodding arrangements of
some of the songs, this spells trouble for the concerts. There seems to
be something of that old repetitive three note solo slipping into some
of the arrangements. Perhaps the acclaim for Tempest has made Bob a bit
too overconfident for this tour.
Review by Tim Whittome
The Saturday night concert at Seattle's Key Arena was notable for two
things - one global to Dylan concert going and one personal to me within
In the global Dylan-sphere of concert watching, this show has to be considered
to have been noteworthy for the amazing version of Lonesome Death of Hattie
Carroll that lit up the arena like it was written yesterday and in the hands of a
performer eager to bring it to everyone's attention for the first and not the
hundredth time or more across the decades. Maybe it could have been the
thousandth but it sounded like the first - fresh, alive and vital. Very powerful
and effective and perhaps a political call to arms by Dylan?
This freshness also extended to a stage prowling Things Have Changed
and - amazingly - to an incredible version of Ballad of a Thin Man which has
probably been played this way for a while now but nevertheless the first time
I have heard it played like it was. Stunning! Hard to believe that this was
probably the thousandth time of playing the song since its 1965/66 inclusion
as a regular part of the touring repertoire. The echoes were very interesting
and now I can see why it is sometimes much more important to see these
shows before just looking at the set lists and harking on how boring they look.
I think that this was my 50th Dylan show in 25 years of being a Dylan concertgoer
and it was certainly memorable because on the personal note alluded to earlier, for
the FIRST time in those 50 shows, I actually got to hear and see Dylan perform
one of my favorite songs - Visions of Johanna. I have yelled for him to perform
this ever since the 1990 London Hammersmith shows when I was at the
peak-before-the plateau of my enthusiasm for all things Dylan. I think I can be
heard yelling for the song on one tape. Am much mellower these days with my
roars reserved now for Seattle Sounders games and it was nice to hear such a
great song, despite it not being that memorable a performance of it. Couldn't
go away thinking that Bob had topped the one 1976 performance of the song
let alone the 1966 ones!
So was this overall a good show? I think so, yes. Do I still think the sets need
revamping? Yes, I do. With the exception of Thin Man stuffed in with the last
five songs - Thunder on the Mountain, Rolling Stone, Watchtower and Blowin in
the Wind, Dylan probably needs to look into whether these performances need to
be scrapped and/or reevaluated for staleness and lack of commitment. None of
them was memorable - except for Thin Man - and in the case of Blowin', Bob was
clearly already thinking about his next gig, meal or hotel bed. Much like the
proverbial image of the doctor who still communicates something to you whilst
standing in the doorway thinking of something or someone else.
Also forgettable for the most part were performances of To Ramona but on the
upside, thankfully we did not have to endure either Honest with Me or Summer
Days - both of which have become stale, rushed and repetitious in performance.
We did get a rare version of Mississippi which was nice and a version of Hollis
Brown, so short, it made Subterranean Homesick Blues seem like a Homeric epic
by comparison. Not that it was a bad version by any means but it was short and
if you blinked or coughed you would have missed at least half of it so it seemed!
No Tempest songs, though, which has now reached the level of odd. Since the
opening night's version of Scarlet Town, no audiences have been treated to
anything since from Dylan's brilliant new album and this IS a shame because
some of the songs would work really well live. I was fully expecting that Early
Roman Kings at the very least would have become part of the sets by this point
but seemingly not. On the basis of the first night of the current tour, I was also
anticipating that Scarlet Town would be a regular fixture by the time the tour
arrived in Seattle - the 2001 Sugar Baby if you like of the current sets - but
We can all speculate as to why not and of course the leading answer would have
to be that Dylan is very much his own person, always has been, and in so being a
complete maverick, it would be totally within his prerogative and past history to
fully ignore the new album - just like in 1979, he totally set aside his older material
in favor of the new Slow Train and then unreleased Saved material. Why not
reverse this and ignore the new in favor of the old? It's not as if the old is bad….
But to set aside this good an album of new material? Coming after an interview
with Rolling Stone Magazine in which Dylan refers to wanting songs to sing that
he could perform with this band on tour? Does seem odd. My new estimate is
that by the time this tour hits the Santa Barbara-Los Angeles-San Diego area that
Tempest songs will be making an appearance in the sets. Pity for us here in
Seattle, though, and in remarking how Dylan has earned the right to sing what
he wants to these days given his huge body of work, age, and longevity as a
performer, it is also fair to point out that legions of his fans have followed him for
decades and are probably just as entitled to at least remark on the omissions as
well as the inclusions and to reflect on how this effects the overall experience of
the shows they eagerly line up to watch and hear.
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