October 18, 2016
Review by Tim Staley
My last Bob show was in Albuquerque in 2009. Back then he was playing
unassertive keyboard in a carnival-like manner. Last night in El Paso
things had changed.
When the lights went down and the silhouettes of band members appeared on
stage, Bob was the last man out. Seeing his shape and strut made me
emotional. Perhaps that’s worth the 100$ ticket right there. I knew I
wanted to be in the room with him one more time, and there I was. When I
bought this ticket I knew it would be my last show of his. My first was
1989 and it’s a been a good ride, more or less.
He’s a slight fellow, sort of hunched over, in a black suit with gold
trim down the arms and legs. He stands with his legs spread wide at the
microphone, as though he’s sitting on a fat, invisible horse. He plays
with his hair some. I think his stage moves have gotten less dramatic over
the years. Many times he had his hand on his hip, as if he was tired. The
transitions between songs was fast, with hardly anytime between tracks.
Charlie seemed to have something wrong with his guitar rig the first half
of the show. He was speaking with the crew and fiddling with equipment
often. It distracted my wife, but I just kept my good eye on Bob.
During the first song “Things Have Changed” I was listening hard.
Really hard, and I only understood 68% of what he was saying and I am very
familiar with that song. However, in “Don’t Think Twice, It’s
Alright” he was easier to understand because of the understated
arrangement. One clear improvement from this show and the 2009 show, is
Bob’s piano playing. He’s traded a keyboard for a piano. He playing is
deliberate and turned up in the mix. In the same way his voice and lyrics
have always been a counterpoint to mainstream music, his piano playing is
often in direct opposition to the rest of the band. This is intentional
and often successful. He pushes syncopation to the breaking point and it
was really cool. For example, in “Desolation Row” there was a piano
solo that was striking in the way it pressed the song into the opposite
direction as usual. Everybody knows he rearranges songs, but perhaps
he’s found new ways to breathe tension into them. Bob was the most
animated during “Desolation Row”, he was sort of dancing at the keys.
Touching his right toe to the stage, wiggling around a bit, shoving the
piano bench, inch by inch, further away with his leg.
“High Water” was clearly enunciated and powerful. I heard this summer
in Europe he was doing a Hawaiian arrangement of this song. It seemed like
it was back to being an Americana scorcher, which I enjoyed. “Tangled Up
In Blue” was really good as well. He sang the first verse with a measure
of space between each line. Everybody recognized this song and that was
cool. Sure, in Willie Nelson fashion, he cut several verses from the song,
but it was still good and he captured the song’s intention. There were
shows in the early 90s when you couldn’t even tell he was playing
“Tangled Up In Blue,” so I appreciated the deliberateness of this
“Make You Feel My Love” was another highlight. George was playing the
kit with his hands. The dynamics were great and Bob’s voice was tender
and clear. The set closer “Long And Wasted Year” was really good.
There’s some great poetry in there!
The song that I enjoyed the most, and I’m shocked to be saying this, in
the Sinatra tune “Why Try to Change Me Now”. His handling of that song
was compelling, plain and simple. During the chorus he was Nashville
Skyline pretty with his singing. And the words are simple and expansive
and perhaps personal.
Why is this my last Bob Dylan show? Well, I guess I should never say
Review by Kathleen Hudson
Let the tuning begin...as it did before each song on the Bob Dylan
performance on Oct. 19, 2016 in El Paso, Texas, at the Abraham Chavez
Theatre. Each instrument started up, one at a time, as we waited for
Bob. The same seven big lights adorned a rather dark stage, scenes in my
memory from two shows in Spain in 2015, and one in Austin. The news of
his Nobel Prize in literature was fresh on my mind as were the memories
of many Bob shows spanning the continent and including Montreux,
Switzerland. I was in a center seat in the 4th row, number 22, a seat I
purchased at the box office about 5:30 on the day of the show. I had
been at the venue since 3:30 so I could glimpse the folks that gather at
the bus. Two young men were there. One only wanted Charlie Sexton, Bob's
lead guitar player from Austin, to sign an Archangels T-shirt. Small
crowd for all the fences and security set up. We did have a "Bob"
sighting as he walked into the theatre and back to the bus covered in a
green hoodie and not looking around. We three just watched. Back to the
stage: Bob walked in, dressed in a black dapper suit with white stiching
on the arms and legs, sans white river gambler hat, new coiffed hair in
place, took hold of the microphone, placed his left hand lightly on his
hip, posed and sang, "Things Have Changed." Yes, Bob, we got that! The
rest of the show, full of classics in new rhythms, was delivered as a
message from Bob. I saw that from my new 4th row vantage point. I saw
his eyes gleam, his mouth grin with whimsey, his stance at the piano,
and his careful posing. Engaging in many ways, Bob delivered this set in
ways new to me. I had seen him in Las Vegas several years ago in a small
venue. I watched him invite Flaco to join him in Montreux, Switzerland,
at the Jazz Festival, from the front row. I had a second row scalped
ticket in Oakland when he was touring with Merle Haggard and Elana
Fremerman was touring with him on violin. And this night in El Paso felt
sweet. I am the kind of fan who loves ALL he does, and the fan who loves
his voice and delivery. So for me to even feel a difference is
interesting. Noticeable. The evening ended with an encore, of course.
"Blowing in the Wind," with a new tune and rhythm as Bob played piano
(no guitar in the show), and then the final message from Bob: "Don't Try
to Change Me Now." Yes, my brain that sees patterns saw the word CHANGE
as a set of bookends for a flawless show. I loved the atonal tuning
before each song, sounds that slowly coalesced into a song. I loved the
rock nature of the performance, and moved in my seat. Some rather
unthoughtul people HAD to stand and dance on "Tangled Up In Blue," on
the second row. I understood the urge, as I had it too, but did not
appreciate the enthusiasm blocking my view. A rock version of this song
had these two jumping out of their skin. Seemed the song was a special
one for them. And the love songs! Again, a couple in front of me, both
tall, had to kiss incessantly while Bob sang, "Make You Feel My Love."
Maybe I was jealous, but they also blocked my view. This night on the
border, where the Rio Grande separates two worlds I love, I heard and
witnessed a performance by a man who deserves the Nobel prize in
literature, a man who has documented our culture, influenced our
society, and led us down paths exploring our inner world.
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