Reviews

Seattle, Washington

Paramount Theatre

October 19, 2014


[Steve Rostkoski], [Mitch Rath], [Tim Whittome]

Review by Steve Rostkoski



Three nights, one setlist. I really can't complain though. Bob and the
band are presenting an excellent selection at these shows. Who would have
thought his sets would include only four songs even remotely thought of as
"standards" from his catalog ("Tangled Up in Blue," "Simple Twist of
Fate," "All Along the Watchtower" and "Blowin' in the Wind")? Or that two
soundtrack tunes ("Things Have Changed" and "Waiting for You") could
become mainstays? And instead of "Highway 61" or "Summer Days" as the
usual closing number, now the unlikely "Long and Wasted Years" takes the
slot perfectly. Such a program would have been unimaginable just a few
years ago.

After the Saturday weekend party crowd, Sunday's audience was polite and
relaxed. The musicians sounded more relaxed too, with Dylan pounding out
piano riffs even more forcefully than on previous nights. He frequently
repeated the notes on the piano, as if to direct the band by saying "THIS
is where I want the song to go." Of course the players masterfully
followed suit, which was fun to witness. "Duquesne Whistle" and "Beyond
Here Lies Nothin'" especially seemed to soar tonight. 

Three shows in, this tour is about digging the subtleties, rather than
expecting any big song surprises. Once again, Bob is challenging his fans
to hear him in a new way. Not as a greatest hits act, but as a current
artist proudly performing his later work.

See you next time somewhere down the road, Bob!

Steve Rostkoski

[TOP]

Review by Mitch Rath



Beauty Walks a Razor's Edge

In an exercise of powerful restraint, tight stops and starts, and a highly
practiced, and unchanging set list, Bob Dylan and his band, elevated the
art form of live music, once again, in Seattle this past weekend.

Bob and band could have blown the roof off the Paramount several times
over, and that moment came quite close a few times.  But the current show
being played is not about blowing roofs off, it's about quite the
opposite, it's more about listening for the nuances, and subtle artful
brilliance these days, it seems.

The subtleties of differences between song versions on different evenings
became more pronounced as the weekend unfolded. At one time on Saturday
night, either during "Soon After Midnight", or "Spirit on The Water", I at
least, heard a few licks reminiscent of Les Paul and Mary Ford's "How High
the Moon", but did not hear that again, or prior to Saturday. And Sunday's
version of "Love Sick" was unbelievably well phrased by Dylan, his facial
expressions and little body motions so emotive and so beautiful-sometimes
doing kind of half dance, half funky little sashay thing across the
stage--*artful*, you might just call it.

The stage lighting effects that folks have mentioned is rich and dramatic,
and obscures anybody from too much scrutiny on stage. Bob occasionally
kicked up his creme colored boots on Friday, his brown cowboy boots on
Sunday, and his two-tone shiny black and white shoes on Saturday, as he
emphasized piano licks or lyrics, and it is, like the entire show, these
small, measured gestures of emphasis that thrill, without any hint at
grandiosity or showiness-just classy, artful and spare movements.

His voice was at times so very strong and almost piercing, matching the
strength and power of several moments during beautiful harmonica
breaks-nearly causing a chill on my end several times over, the newer
Tempest material he has *mastered* so well (seems like part of the focus
on the single set list is mastery, in some way, of these particular
songs)-it's pretty damned astonishing.

One reviewer mentioned a bit of self doubt over the high spend on tickets
for these shows (horrific prices, true enough), and I can fully understand
that perspective (is it worth it??)-it *was* a ton of money to sit in
decent seats.  Tonight, there is no doubt that I could not have missed any
of those shows in Seattle; none.

The highest point for me, was after the first show, walking away from the
marquee area in front of the Seattle Paramount Theater, when I had asked
my sons, aged 17 and 22, what they thought of the show-both had seen Bob
once before, but not at a show quite as good as Friday night in
Seattle-their response: "that was amazing-The BEST!!".  These two boys are
musicians themselves, and they don't mince words, even to their old dad
regarding his favorite, Bob Dylan-this thrilled me to pieces....

It was a real high point having my family at some of these shows with me,
above all else-and we were very fortunate to have been able to attend-it
was a privilege, and a joy.

Thanks to the man who call himself Bob Dylan, and to that amazing group of
musicians- a nod to Tony and George for the strong backbone to that band.
Best, Fellow Bobcats!

Mitch Rath
Seattle, Washington

[TOP]

Review by Tim Whittome



Review of Bob Dylan at the Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Wash 
(Friday, October 17, 2014 and Sunday, October 19, 2014)

Given that all three nights contained identical set lists and that the two shows 
I saw - Friday and Sunday were virtually identical in their performance, it is 
perhaps just as well to combine my review of the two nights!

I had a seat in the further reaches of the beautiful Paramount Theatre for 
Friday and marginally closer for Sunday.  The setting for these shows was 
stunning -hard to believe that Dylan was last at the Paramount in 2005, which 
does not seem like nine years ago now, but unfortunately is. 

Friday night also had the important distinction for me of being 27 years since I 
first saw Bob perform live. It was October 17, 1987 and the setting then was 
Wembley Arena, London, and the last night of Bob's Temples in Flames tour 
with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Less than a year later, he would arrive 
in Concord, California, and kick off what has been the most incredibly touring 
show of any artist that most can recall. The Never Ending Tour is now 26 years 
old, but still young enough to be on its parent's health insurance, but no 
longer in the all-important 18-24 demographic.

The shows in Seattle were the first nights of a new American leg of the above 
Never Ending Tour and as always there were some hope that Dylan might 
decide to freshen up the sets with new old or recent material. He has largely 
been performing the same nineteen songs since 2013 with Workingman Blues 
being about the only new twist in the past 130 odd-shows (with more still to 
come for this year). I still feel that Dylan ignores many important gems from 
the 1970s and 1980s in his live shows.

Friday night also marked the return of rain to Seattle after months of warm 
sunshine and largely cloudless days. It was still a warm night though but the 
clouds swept in with Bob's tour bus. A small group huddled close to the railing 
to see Bob step out. One guy had been waiting for two hours and still was 
not sure if he had seen Dylan or not. I used to do this once - the London 
Hammersmith shows from 1990 being the last time I think. It is often a fruitless 
endeavor but can bring rewards on occasion.  On Sunday night, I sat near to a 
taper of the show - a guy who first saw Dylan at Wembley Arena on 
June 8, 1989 and then at Hammersmith on February 5, 1990 - both shows I 
had been present at. Such wonderful shows - nice to compare notes  A 
woman and her husband were confused on my other side and appeared to 
lose each other all night long, failing to hear the lost sounds of the other. 
A leather coat was left behind.
The shows began super promptly on both Seattle nights I went to, and with 
no sonorous introduction this time.  Later, Dylan would return the favor by 
not introducing anyone either - the band is now anonymous which they seem 
to accept.

The band arrives, attempts to tease us with some unknown opening riff, and 
then Dylan emerges clinging to Things Have Changed. I have always liked this 
song and have yet to hear Bob not do it justice. It is not quite as urgent these 
days as it used to be when I first heard it.

She Belongs to Me follows - a clear-as-a-bell stunner of a version and the rest 
of my two evenings followed in the same vein with Dylan displaying clear and 
powerful singing, rousing piano work - the best I have heard him do - and 
resolute harmonica playing. This was an incredibly polished show with standouts 
including the aforementioned She Belongs to Me, Workingman's Blues, Pay in 
Blood, Tangled Up in Blue, and Love Sick from the first set, High Water, Simple 
Twist of Fate, Early Roman Kings, Forgetful Heart, Scarlet Town, Long and 
Wasted Years from the second set, and even All Along the Watchtower to a 
certain extent from the encores. Waiting for You, Spirit on the Water, Soon 
After Midnight and Blowin' in the Wind did not work as well being either overly 
tired (Blowin' in the Wind) or sounding strained by comparison with the 
highlights. At least that is how these appeared for me.

The audience listened spellbound and rapt on both nights and of the above, I 
have to say that Forgetful Heart was by far the performance of the evening on 
both nights I was there. I have not heard Dylan sound this clear and fresh for 
years. The acoustics were amazing and even the now-infamous "intermission" 
worked to everyone's advantage! I have not seen one of these at a Dylan 
show before. To the best of my knowledge, at a solo Dylan show (i.e. one 
without the Heartbreakers or some other artist performing), there has not 
been an intermission since 1984. Even then, that was for only one song! 
There was the one-off show at Toads in January 1990 when Dylan came up 
with a staggering 50-song set over an entire evening, but for most of the 
Never Ending Tour, intermissions have not been present.

Yet, here, now, and in Seattle, 2014, the newly installed intermission really, 
really worked! I am sure that Dylan's voice benefits no end from having this 
after nine songs or so. It is not short either, but feels like half time at a Seattle 
Sounders game with folks trooping to restroom or bar before scrambling for 
their seats again in the plunging darkness.

American audiences seeing this latest incarnation of Dylan live will not be 
disappointed if Bob's voice and stamina hold until the Beacon Theater shows 
in New York City. The use of residencies in select cities should reduce the 
fatigue factor and the intermission will of course help preserve the voice, but 
I do remain concerned at the effect of playing unvarying sets from 
night-to-night. The 1978 shows had more variety than this across 115 shows 
and Dylan watchers then used to say that the sets were boring because they 
did not vary that much. They were wrong then, but they would not be 
wrong now. This is not to say that the artist is not fully engaged with the 
material but we are referencing a performer who is fully capable of performing 
any combination of the 600 songs or so that he has at his command. That 
said who are we to judge.  We do not "own" Dylan, anymore than he "owns" 
our expectations.  We exist through the media of a cheerful dance as the 
man himself once said.

With that note, thank you for coming once again to the Emerald City and no, 
we do not think you are "over the hill" or "past your prime!"

[TOP]

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