Review by James Strohecker
--> Very fine show, with the band and Bob sounding and playing very
--> Show began with Lenny Bruce, only the fourth time they've played
the song in the last five years, and never to open a show.
--> New Modern Times songs meshed and melded well with the existing,
long-time set favorites.
The first San Francisco show began with a surprise and a bang: Lenny
Bruce was an eclectic choice right out of the chute. And even better,
it was tight, crisp and well-toned.
Bob came out in a gaucho flat-brimmed black hat, wearing his natty black
suit with white-diamond piping on his pants. He also sported,
interestingly, a large diamond ring on his left hand ring finger. The
band setup was different than in the shows earlier this year - Bob was
in stage-center facing left as you looked at him, with Denny and Tony in
the corner across from him, George to his right, Donnie to his immediate
right (within a few feet) on his pedal steel guitars and other
instruments, and Stu about eight feet directly behind Bob.
The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is an interesting, aging facility, near
the S.F. City Hall. Over the years, it's held virtually every kind of
event - from the local NBA basketball team, the Golden State Warriors,
to the Grateful Dead in their heyday, including the 1984 NYE show. Like
the Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, there is a lot of wood in
the U-shaped balcony seating area that overhangs the floor, so the sound
is absorbed and doesn't ricochet around the room - creating a quieter
auditory experience. That is, you can hear the instruments as they're
being played. The crowd was mellow.
The band immediately followed Lenny Bruce with a quick transition to
Rollin' And Tumblin, which was fast and hot - with Bob's lyrics
dominant, not overshadowed by the guitars. A taut R&B sound.
Then, without fanfare, the band slid right into a clean, well-played
version of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power). There was simply no futzing
around - they had the set list down; and Bob really emphasized the
words, and sang (yes, sang) the song. Quite a difference than in years
past when he seemed to bark out the lyrics in his own poetic fashion; in
this case, Bob crooned with the melody and followed the twang of the
pedal steel notes that echoed in the Auditorium.
Like Senor, in I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, Bob crooned along well, then
cleaned up the end with some deft harp blowing, and some shaky-leg
action, bopping and weaving the harp melody into a twang-along to match
the pedal steel. They followed Baby Tonight with a predictable, though
strong It's Alright Ma that featured more individual jamming by the band
than in years past.
Next up was a nice, acoustic-sound laden, Don't Think Twice, It's All
Right. Bob's vocals were in tune and deft, and weren't overshadowed by
the guitars or pedal steel as in years past. Also, the group had a
unique set of lights that were about 15-feet up and encircling them -
which provided a unique sense of intimacy with the band. Or in other
words, when the lights went up, the volume (and crowd noise) went down.
An interesting, new dynamic to this tour's staging.
The band followed Don't Think Twice with a folksy, acoustic intro into
Desolation Row, a new twist on an old song, and one that gave it a bit
more breathing room. Donnie's mandolin licks augmented a toned, down,
interesting approach that was well played - to the point of meticulous
instrumentation and Bob's lyrics.
They followed this with a fairly scripted Tangled Up In Blue, with Bob
staying the course and singing it well. Tangled has lost the dominance
it had back in what Professor Reese calls the "Big Band Era," when
Charlie Sexton, Larry Campbell and even David Kemper were in the band,
and they were roaring on Tangled with ripping acoustic volume and
cranked up playing. Now it's a subdued, toned-down approach, albeit
Bob added some rockin-daddy harp playing to round the song out last
This was followed by an uneventful, solo-laden Highway 61 to round out
the set. Highway 61, though polished, lacked the individuality and the
"stall" bridge that the band built into the arrangement in the past
couple years. Instead, "61" rocked the crowd into a soulful When The
Deal Goes Down - a real gem from Bob's new Modern Times album. The
song, like Workingman's Blues #2 and Thunder on the Mountain which
followed it later in the show, was well produced, prepared and closely
mirrored the album version.
When The Deal Goes Down showcased this band's studio and stage
capabilities, and Bob seemed into the words. The song was not one of a
1,000 versions of one of his poems - so the words were soulful and sung
with meaning. The words and music matched well from the beginning, with
a crying pedal steel overlay that really gave the music quiet strength.
If you haven't heard this song, check out the new album and listen to
The group rolled up the set with a hot, loud, riveting R&B version of
Watching the River Flow that had Bob closing with a low-down and dirty
harp-a-doodle that was as gritty as it was good. The only flaw -
perhaps of the evening - was when Bob lost his way right around "Wish I
was back in the city/Instead of this old bank of sand . . . " and
dropped the rest of the lyrics but picked it back up on the next verse.
Not many people noticed, though.
Next, the band laid out a slow, sultry, dynamic version of Workingman's
Blues #2, which featured some up-toned organ notes from Bob and precise,
driven pedal steel, acoustic guitar and stand up bass action from around
the stage. This song is a keeper - and frankly, what other
songwriter/singer nowadays could even reference, let alone spell,
"proletariat" as Bob does in the first couple lines of the song?
They headed into the Encore with a no-surprise Summer Days, which
featured some good guitar riffs from 'round the stage and a breakout by
Stu on his hollow-body guitar. Unlike the past couple years, where the
Encore was a moot point, the band has new material to interject - and,
quite frankly, Thunder On The Mountain is an excellent choice to set up
the "anthem" (Like a Rolling Stone), and All Along The Watchtower.
Similar to the album version, Thunder On The Mountain featured a big,
loud, staccato intro that rolled into a rockabilly rocker that had the
musicians stepping up and laying out the riffs. Bob added some gusto,
as he got into the song and was "swiveling" at the keyboards
Thunder was a very good setup to the well played, though very
predictable Like A Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower finishers.
Both proved to be crowd pleasers and clean versions at this show. A
fine finish to a fine show.
In sum, Bob seems refreshed and enlightened and the band members also
looked like they were enjoying themselves, more than in the past. As a
couple Vancouver show reviewers noted, the Band is less-focused on
watching Bob for cues and direction. They seem to be, well, just
playing. And as a result, they're playing better individually and
together as a band.
The Sound they achieved was one they seemed to have been struggling to
find for the last couple years. It's like the old movie, "The Glen
Miller Story,'" when the trumpet player splits his lip and Jimmy Stewart
stays up all night rearranging the songs. And with that, the Glen
Miller band found "the Sound." Similarly, perhaps the addition of Stu
as a third guitarist and their new arrangements, including the Modern
Times funky Bossa Nova beat, was what this band needed to find their own
"Sound." Suffice it to say that their new Sound is much better than in
the past couple years when the transition from musical master, Larry
Campbell, to all new band members (including for a short time, Elana
Review by Alex Bennett
This was my first Dylan concert. I have been a fan since my senior year
in high school (71-72) when Steve Jobs sat me down one night and had me
listen to Desolation Row. There was no talking while the song played.
Afterward, I basically said wow. On another night, he sat me down to listen to
"Ballad of a Thin Man." I think at a later date he also played me "Stuck Inside
of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." I bought "Highway 61 Revisited"
within a couple years of that, and "Blonde on Blonde" a year or two later.
I didn't really follow Dylan much after that, with partial exceptions for
Blood on the Tracks" and "Infidels." I saw and adored the Scorsese
documentary. I don't know what was really on my mind recently, but when
I was invited to this concert, I was ready.
The concert was opened by Kings of Leon. They were very good, and I want
to buy their two albums. They said this was their first night opening for
Bob Dylan, and that this was the largest audience they had yet played for.
Bob's set opened with a recording played of some classical music, then a
voiceover that I could have done without about Bob being the poet
laureate of the counterculture, etc. Then Bob was onstage, and the band
After a few numbers, it was clear that the band rocked. They were just
plain good. It was clear they had rehearsed the set a lot. What is
amazing to me is that I have reviewed the set lists, and they keep changing
throughout the tour. How the band keeps up with this and stays so tight,
I ll never know. It felt like they had played this set many times.
I didn't really recognize the first four numbers. They all sounded good
though. Then, with the fifth number, I recognized "It's Alright Ma." I
was kind of amazed that he was doing it, since it is pretty old, although I
have since learned he does many older numbers. It was quite difficult to
recognize, but the line "those who are not busy being born are busy
dying" sliced through me.
Then he did "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "Desolation Row," "
Tangled Up in Blue," and "Highway 61 Revisited." I don't even know what to
say. My girlfriend kept saying it was time for her to get up and go to the
bathroom. I was like "wait until you can tell he is not doing an amazing
Given the verses of "Desolation Row" he does on the "Unplugged" album,
this is a nicely different set. He emphasizes the grittier verses earlier in
the song, like the one about Dr. Filth. "Tangled Up in Blue" came off
rather like the recorded version (which was a plus for me). "Highway 61
Revisited" was done in a pretty zesty way (also a plus). At that point, let's
just say I was eating sunflower seeds out of the palm of his hand.
For the encore, he went right from "Thunder on the Mountain" into "Like
a Rolling Stone." I knew it was becoming, and recognized it practically
from the first notes. I was stunned that he did more after that -- "All
Along the Watchtower." After that, what else could he play?
The concert ended with the band lining up on the stage, except for Bob,
standing in front. He was shuffling around, holding one of his hands in
another, while the audience applauded. It was so weird. My girlfriend
said that he was one quirky dude, and her thought was that he just plain
didn't know what to do with himself, that he felt awkward on stage.
I feel there was some truth to this, but something deeper was happening.
Here it is, 2006, and you are the man who wrote the songs I mentioned
above. What do you do when the audience applauds? I saw Paul McCartney
about a year ago. He raised his arms and acknowledged the audience. I saw
Tom Petty very recently, same thing. That kind of response seemed so
inadequate (and I would venture to say that Paul and Tom knew that too,
but figured that is what they had to do to please their audiences).
But Bob seemed mystified or uncomfortable or humble or -- God knows
what. I couldn't really tell. Or he was just playing with us. But somehow it
seemed right. If I had written any of those songs, having challenged God,
I don't know how I would have felt accepting the applause. Yes, it would
have been necessary to acknowledge the applause, but perhaps I would have
only felt like I had channeled divine inspiration, and somehow the
audience was misplacing their applause, so I would have felt ambivalent
the way Bob did. What a moving moment.
Review by Nick Catera
The Bill Graham Civic was packed in contrast to Dylan's last SF
appearance at the Grand Ballroom last year. Dylan was dressed like Zorro
as all his band-mates, except one (the steel player), wore long black
coats and black hats. My only complaint was that Dylan never faced the
audience and instead had his keyboard turned towards the drummer so at
best you got to see only the side of his face. He had three guitarists -
one who doubled on pedal steel and the other who alternated on acoustic.
The band was surprisingly sloppy as the drummer missed his cue for the
songs ending a couple of times. The "Lenny Bruce" opener was something
of a surprise though and I believe that the "Rollin' "n" Tumblin' from
the new CD made it's live debut. I wonder what the folks who own the
rights to the Muddy Waters catalog think of this one? Dylan and band
went through the songbook which on this evening included: "Senior,"
"Desolation Row," "Tangled Up in Blue," and "Watching the River Flow,"
in workman like fashion before going into the new material. The songs
were all given very bombastic readings, perhaps too much so. The sound
was overly loud and booming and Dylan's vocals ranged from loud to
muffled to entirely indecipherable as he reworked every song while
standing at his keyboard where he delivered mostly organ sounds. There was
a brown Strat and mic stand at front stage center that went unused the
whole night. That said, there is something very odd hearing Bob sing "It's
All Right Ma" while hunched over that keyboard. Bob Dylan is enjoying a
resurgence right now as the large crowd that turned out on a Monday
night proved. Go figure. He's had much better bands and has sounded a
whole lot better but somehow Bob Dylan continues to reinvent himself to
public acclaim. I think that this may be the last time that I see Bob
Dylan again for a while as my own particular taste prefers the acoustic
troubadour and guitar slinging rocker not the keyboard playing
rambler that refuses to face his audience until the final bow.
Review by Mark Stevens
Odd show, first half really strong, second half shaky with rough
endings and wobbly dynamics. At this point in the show Mr. D wasn't very
happy with his feedback-prone microphone and/or monitors, and for the
first time in my 18 shows I saw a flustered Bob drop some lines or stop
singing outright. During one of the brief periods when the stage lights
were full down I could clearly see him gesticulating in exasperation, arms
out to each side with palms up, to one of the chief crew members.
George and Bob were eyeballing each other really closely to get
through this part of the set, and during "Hwy 61" George seemed
aggravated and tried to kick up the energy a few more notches (he
also seemed to mouth the words "Oh Come On!" near the beginning of
"hwy".) The gentleman handling the on stage mix also seemed to be
getting a loud earful from what I presume was Bob's manager or road
I stopped by the soundman's enclosure afterward just in time to see him
get the worse of some nasty verbal abuse from an intoxicated audience
member, at which point I asked him (the soundman) "is it a full moon or
something?", to which he replied "it must be". I then asked if something
was up w/ either Bob's mike or monitors,to which he responded "yeah, we
had some weirdness in the second half" trying to lighten things a bit I
quipped "you can't live without weirdness" to which he bantered back
"especially on the west coast". "Lenny Bruce" was beautiful, "Rollin'" was
great fun, not a BAD show by any means, just kinda weird and loose in the
last half-I've seen enough concerts (over 300 by all sorts of artists
since 1979) to know this sort of thing happens every once and a while, I
just felt bad for Mr. D and the band having to struggle to keep the ship
afloat. Tuesday will be completely different, I'm sure (longer soundcheck,
Comments by Regina Bannon French
It was great to see Bob Dylan last night, Monday, 10/16,2006 at Bill
Graham Presents in San Francisco. I had not been to see him live in 24
years! Too bad I forgot my binoculars as it would have been good to see
him since the sound was so bad!
I see on the list of songs performed that the 4th song was "I'll be your
baby tonight" I had no idea that song was sung! That is one of my
favorites. I did recognize the 10th & 12th songs from his new CD, When the
deal goes down & Working Man Blues , which were just barely recognizable.
It was fun to be in Bobby Dylan's presence and to be with so may fans my
age (46) and older and great to see so many young people in their 20's
rockin out to Bob!
Thanks for listening.
Review by Nat Canyon
Downtown San Francisco. Crushing poverty, mental illness, health crisis,
wealth, power and Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan. The Bill Graham
Civic is a fine old building, with many acoustic improvements over the
last few years. Kings of Leon were loud, tight and on, with a mix of pop
punk. I enjoyed them, and the crowd was generally appreciative. Bob came
out looking trim and fit, starting with the obscure Lenny Bruce, a sure
sign that tonight was going to be an interesting set. It was. The new
material is just great, with a fresh energy. Thunder on the Mountain was
a great romp, with a few lyric stumbles at the start. Rolling and
Tumbling was likewise fresh and rumbling. Here is the only beef: I have
seen many, many Bob shows, with each of his bands from the late 70s to
date. Some great, some not. I sort of like his current band, but those
guys, and especially the guitar players (hello, Denny) are not doing
ANYTHING that is inventive. They are going through the motions, giving
solos that are, at times, embarrassing. Over and over again Denny's solo
work reminded me of Bob's own off kilter noodling. While I would be happy
to have Bob play guitar again, I do not miss his lead work. Now, there is
absolutely nothing inventive, exceptional or interesting in terms of
fretwork. That is too bad, because Bob remains a vital and interesting
interpreter of his own work, it just seems that this band is not willing
or able to offer their own inventive interpretation of the well worn, or
even new, material. That said, I am going again tonight, and looking
forward to it!
Review by Chico Enorme
Close, but really I mean very, very close to your neighbor on the floor of
the San Francisco Civic but thrilled to be near the stage. The City might
have been the inspiration for a homey, inspired, creative and spontaneous
set from our Roberto. As if Bob and the band were playing in your living
room for fun. Never mind the dropped lyrics and the odd hesitant stop or
start to songs. Informality and comfort were the rule of the nite. Who
knows what the new songs will mean three, five or ten years from now. Tony
Garnier seems to have an idea - searching the crowd for some sing-along
during Workingman Blues, hearing only a little - still it is undeniable
that during decades to come we will be able to say we were there in the
day to hear him play and sing these songs that endure. He doesn't have to
write another song nor play another show and yet lives at the creative
frontier that live performance affords. Inspiring stuff.
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