October 19, 2010
Review by Francis King
I am a huge Bob Dylan fan, have enjoyed all phases of his long career
and have been to more than 50 of his concerts since 1974. Most have been
excellent, some good; occasionally, there has been a disappointment.
Last night’s show at the Municipal Auditorium, in Nashville, was
In 2002, Dylan started playing electric piano at his concerts. He was
actually very good at it, including lots of interesting technique. The
only problem was that the piano was sometimes not loud enough. And, his
band was tight and crisp as could be. There was great interplay between
Dylan on the piano and Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell on guitars.
Tony Garnier on bass and George Recile on drums tied it all together.
That band sounded like a well oiled machine. It was exciting to listen
to them. (If you went to any of those shows or have heard the tapes from
that period, you know what I mean.)
In 2003, when Freddie Koellla replaced Sexton, it was a smooth
transition, and the great energy of the ensemble continued through
Koella’s departure in late 2004. Then, in 2005, with Campbell also
departed, Dylan brought in Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman on guitars, and
Donnie Herron on steel guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin. That
combination worked pretty well in 2005 although not as well as the band
had sounded in 2002-2004.
Then, in 2006, Dylan started playing electric organ, and that’s what
he’s been doing steadily since then, except for a generally unmemorable
electric guitar performance on one or two songs here and there. One has
to admire Dylan’s attempt to pick up a new concert instrument some 45
years into his career, and, at times, his organ playing has been
interesting. However, much of it gets monotonous, it’s often too choppy
and it’s almost always too loud, drowning out much of what his band
mates are doing, especially Herron, who can hardly be heard at all, most
of the time. This has been a problem now, and increasingly so, for the
past four years.
In late 2009, Dylan brought Charlie Sexton back to the band to replace
Denny Freeman. I had thought this might reenergize the band, and some
tapes I have heard from 2009 and earlier this year have sounded o.k.
But, last night’s show in Nashville was so-so at best. Sexton played
very limited and sparing lead guitar, prowling the stage like a caged
animal hoping to be unleashed. There is no rapport on stage between
Sexton and Kimball, whose rhythm guitar playing is barely noticeable.
Herron, as noted, can hardly be heard. Gariner and Recile are steady, as
always, but the whole thing just doesn’t hang together as a cohesive
unit. The sound, last night, was confused and muddled. (Part of the
problem may have been the inferior sound system at the Municipal
Auditorium. One wonders why this show wasn’t booked at the Ryman
Auditorium, a vastly superior Music City venue.)
As for Dylan’s singing, I have long admired his unique vocal style
(styles, actually, as there have been many over the years). At this
point in his career, though, he is just snarling, growling and barking
to a point virtually devoid of tonality or melody altogether. While
that’s been pretty much the case for about the past 10 years, it is much
more so now, and as long as the band and the arrangements were tight and
interesting/energized, he could still pull it off, especially on the
rockers and on his newer material. Now, with the band meandering and the
arrangements lackluster, his “singing” does not hold up as well.
(Dylan’s harmonica playing at this show was wretched, and his one foray
into electric guitar, on “Memphis Blues Again,” was of no moment.)
As for the set list, “Modern Times” predominated with five songs
performed from that album: “Spirit On The Water,” “Rollin’ & Tumblin,”
“Workingman’s Blues No. 2,” “Ain’t Talkin’” and “Thunder On The
Mountain.” None of these measured up to either the studio cuts or other
live versions I’ve heard. “TOTM” is being overdone in Dylan’s set list,
has become too predictable and would be best shelved for a while. There
were two songs from “Together Through Life,” “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’”
and “Jolene,” neither of them performed very well. (“Jolene” was missing
its signature riff.) From “Blonde On Blonde,” Dylan opened with an
uninspiring “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat,” and offered “Just Like A Woman”
(awful vocal) and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”
(mediocre). From “Highway 61 Revisited,”an o.k. but sub-standard
rendition of the title song, a pretty strong “Ballad of A Thin Man” (one
of the better performances of the night) and a so-so “Like A Rolling
Stone.” The one 1970’s inclusion was “Tangled Up In Blue,” which was a
pretty good version. The rare “This Wheel’s On Fire” was o.k., but no
more than that. Only one song from “Love & Theft,” and that was a decent
version of “High Water.”
All in all, I’d say Bob should ditch the organ, go back to the electric
piano, put Kimball and Herron out of their misery and beseech Larry
Campbell to quit Levon Helm’s band (unlikely) and rejoin Sexton with
resurrected guitar prominence in the arrangements. Otherwise … and I
hate to say this…. maybe Bob is getting to the point where it’ll just be
time to hang it up.
Review by Jack Penfold
During one of Mr. Dylan's most recent stops in Nashville, surprise guests
included Elvis Costello and Jack White. It seems like I've seen almost
everyone who's anyone in concert (not really), but had never seen a
surprise guest except Bob Dylan himself when he showed up with Willie
Nelson at the taping of CMA tv special. This time in the Music City; no
surprises guests, even though many of us expected there would be.
From a muscian's point of view, some observations on my very first Dylan
show. You'll probably not see another band who keeps their eyes so riveted
on their leader as this one does with Mr Dylan. Springsteen's band never
knows what will happen to the setlist and has to be extra vigilant between
songs, but with Dylan, the band never knew what he'd change, or how and
when within each song. Fascinating. I have to agree that Charlie Sexton
could have really turned it loose, but it almost seemed that no one wanted
to upstage Mr Dylan. Almost like what I used to see with the Buddy Rich
band back in 1970. Don't tick off the genius; but perhaps my imagination
runs wild here.
I thought the sound at Municipal was fairly decent. The sound man for Yes
told me nearly two years ago that Nashville's incredible Ryman is a tough
room to handle sonically. The Municipal was just fine and it seemed to fit
the almost sinister sound Dylan seemed to want to cultivate. There are
very few peple who look cooler than Charlie Sexton on stage, but man can
he work his axe and effects to set a mood. Really special. The texture
achieved on Ballad of a Thin Man and Beyond Here Lies... has stayed with
me. I don't think I've ever seen a show with zero harmony vocals and where
the leader says absolutely nothing outside of the lyrics, except for band
intros at the end. These guys didn't fool around...very shortly after 8 pm
the announcer gave the intro of " the poet laureate of rock n roll who
came to know Jesus in 1970" and it was off to the races. I though "PillBox
Hat" sounded good--nice tempo--good opener. "Just Like a Woman" was so-so,
but other wise, most all the songs were good. "Tangled" had a nice feel to
it and several of us really enjoyed the "Modern Times" heavy setlist.
Others have complained about Bob's keyboard work--but I was surprised he
was that good. I had no idea..yes, he fat fingered a few keys here and
there, but he seemed to play effortlessly without looking down at the
keyboard. Poor Donnie Herron was indeed completely lost in the mix about
90% of the time. His banjo work stood out and sometimes you could hear
steel. Bass and drums worked together very, very well. They played busily
and really boosted the songs and helped supercharge them. The rhythm
guitar player was all business--he did his job perfectly and sought no
spotlight, not unlike an NFL offensive lineman.
Some have complained about Mr Dylan's vocals recently. I just didn't see a
huge difference between live and what's recorded on Modern Times-less
melodious and more spoken maybe, but anyone who's expecting Mel Torme may
as well save his money and stay home. I saw a man who put plenty of
physical effort, expression and passion into this show. I had good seats,
but binoculars revealed that he worked up a good sweat too! I expect
youngsters and newbies to gripe about the vocals--but not veterans.
This is a VERY good band with an exceptional lead guitar player and a man
who was Blessed with extraordinary creativity at the helm. I've been
listening to him since the early 60's and after all this time, he exceeded
my expectations on the first show!
Comments by Susan Cantrell
I have been to Dylan's shows since 1963. I have seen him singing like an
angel, and I have seen him drunk. I thought he was the greatest. But, the
Nashville show was sad to me. I had great seats, third row, right in front of
Bob. It was loud, it was music, but it had a worn out feel to the show. Sort
of like, been there, done this lets hurry and get off stage. I could see his
face and it looked completely blank. I have loved his voice since the first day
I heard it, but for this show he did not sing, or growl, or groan. He spoke
the words. Maybe that was what made me sad. He looked so old and worn out.
The band also was not the greatest. I thought they were sort of confused
watching what Bob was going to do. I saw him two or three years ago at the
Ryman. The show was great. I danced for three hours. The band was
outstanding. What happened to him in three years?
Review by Jay Young
I am a big Bob Dylan fan and I was very excited to go see him for the first time,
but I was very disappointed. In fact, I feel like I was ripped off and I wish I could
get my money back. Bob, hear that? Please send me my 50 bucks back.
The problem with Dylan now - he doesn't even TRY to sing anymore. And I
didn't pay money to watch Dylan "not try to sing". I paid to hear him SING.
(He's a singer / performer right? that's what you'd expect.). But, instead, all he
does is speak words or grunt words and you can't even tell what he is singing
half the time. He was almost half way through "Tangled Up in Blue" before I
realized what he was singing. I read some of the other reviews - and people are
all saying the same thing.
I guess I enjoyed some of the show. He opened up with Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat
which was fairly good. Got me all jazzed up. And I really loved This Wheels on Fire -
Bob was EXCELLENT on harmonica on this. In fact, I do have to say that Bob
kicked ass on harmonica whenever he played it - all night long.
Which brings me to the band. Charlie (whoever), etc, I mean who cares who is
on stage with Dylan? Seriously - I want them OFF the stage. Get them the hell
out. I just want to hear Bob Dylan play some songs on guitar and play his
harmonica and SING. Doesn't he realize he can do this? - doesn't he realize people
would LOVE him if he TRIED to do that again? Even when he plugs up - which is
fine - keep the band low-key - focus on Dylan. ( which for the most part
happened at the show - it's just that Dylan didn't deliver - so then you have a
crappy band and crappy vocals - which doesn't go over very well if you ask me.
Some people are saying he should retire, but I think he could sing well if he tried.
He just doesn't care about his fans enough to do it. And that makes me sad &
pissed off. I mean, Paul McCartney - he can't sing well anymore - but he doesn't
grunt into the microphone and expect you to applaud. He actually sings his heart
out for you.
3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (Bob on guitar) - terrible.
4. Just Like a Woman (Bob on keyboard) - terrible.sp; terrible.
5. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on trOh yea - that's right.
He did good on this song - actually had good vocals on this one. I love these kind
of songs with a slower tempo and a simple melody.
6. Tangled Up In Blue (Bob center stage on harp) - I love this song - but it was a
3/10. as a 3/10.
7. Rollin' And Tumblin' (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin) - terrible.
8. Spirit On The Water (Bob on keyboard and harp) - Fairly good. ( I guess ).
9. High Water (For Charley Patton) - terrible.
10. Workingman's Blues #2 (Bob on keyboard then center stage on harp)
same thing, I love this song - but this was average. nothing special. is song - but it
was a 3/10.
7. Rollin' And Tumblin' (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric man12. Ain't Talkin'
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on viola) - terrible.
13. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard) - terrible.board) - terrible.
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage on harp) - Incredible on harmonica on
this one and I give this 7/10 I g15. Jolene (Bob on keyboard)
average. The girls were dancing though ( but this is because they were happy
the show was almost over ). was almost over ).ed me, he hacked it up so bad.
12. Ain't Talkin' (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on viola) - terrible.
13. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard) - terrible.
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage on harp)
Incredible on harmonica on this one and I give this 7/10 I guess.
15. Jolene (Bob on keyboard)
average. The girls were dancing though ( but this is because they were
happy the show was almost over ).
16. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)
He botched and hacked this up so bad it made me feel sick.
In my opinion: the world needs another Dylan. Someone without a band at all - who
will get on stage and mesmerize the audience the way it should be done. I love
Dylan on CD - but I'll never pay to see him in concert again.
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