October 19, 2012
Review by Tony Casteel
It was Bob being Bob once again last night in Santa Barbara. For most that
might mean I'm glad I stayed home as I'd rather listen to the records
instead of hear an old legend mumble through reworked arrangements and not
even attempt one song off his new album. For me all I can say is I'm glad
I was in the 3rd row and close enough to see the "play within the play".
At this point I would say the Dylan show is more vaudevillian at heart
with a crack band providing a sometimes sonic but more often brooding
landscape for Bob to play a spooky carnival barker right out of some Roger
Corman B-Movie. His singing style, for lack of a better phrase, is almost
now a call and response where he phrases the lyrics more like a rhetorical
question than a committed declaration. He spends pretty much the whole
night behind the keyboards now only to pick up his harmonica for a splash
in an introduction or to punctuate the end of a song. The stage is stark
with no backdrop and there are mirrors strategically placed to cast
reflection on anyone trying to snap a picture which are strictly
The set list leans heavily on his popular sixties material and until he
sings the chorus most fans are guessing to themselves exactly which
sixties classic this might be. The highlights for me were "Chimes Of
Freedom" in which he kept the arrangement as close to the original as he
will allow and concentrated harder on making sure we understood the great
lyrics. "Things Have Changed" was Bob being the goofy grandfather who got
into the hooch a little early on Christmas morning and decides to delight
the family by dancing a jig in the living room. As often happens in these
situations he impresses himself more than the family. I for one found it
amusing but not sure I'd want to see it replayed every Christmas. "Ballad
Of A Thin Man" might have been the highlight of the night for me as Dylan
enlisted a bullet mic enhanced by an eerie echo when he spoke the words to
this song. While not one of my big favorites over the years this song
fits perfectly with what Bob brings to the stage these days, a sense of
muted apocalypse with a hint of P.T. Barnum. "High Water" was another
highlight where Dylan and the band rocked in time together and Bob's
keyboards shone as brightly as his voice. Nothing left to chance on this
one as they nailed it as a unit. A rousing "All Along The Watchtower" was
surprisingly effective and for as many times as I have heard it I thought
this version sounded tight and worthy of Bob's earlier electric versions.
I guess at this point it is hard to say why I go see Bob Dylan at 71 years
old other than I still love watching him be Bob if not always hearing him
be Bob. I sort of liken it to a day at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs.
The product on the field may not always be what you want, but given all
the other places you could be that day what happens on the field isn't
necessarily the most important thing. The question is, did you have a good
Review by Scott Eisner
Saw the Dylan show in Santa Barbara last night. Probably about the 40th
show I've seen and I never would consider missing him.
1. The grand piano set up is superb. The mix is very high on the
2. Man in the Long Black Coat and Mississippi were very well done
along with Hard Rain which is always well done.
3. The appearance of Freddy Koella was indeed a treat.
4. The venue is amazing.
5. The real question however is why do we have to endure the last 5
songs starting with Thunder on the Mountain and continuing through Blowin'
In The Wind each and every night without getting the NEW Songs from
Tempest. Tempest is an amazing effort and absolutely should be heard
LIVE. If I never hear Like A Rolling Stone or All Along the Watchtower
again my life would not be considered incomplete. However, the songs on
Tempest are amazing and Bob owes it to us to perform them LIVE. One can
hope that this Friday at the Hollywood Bowl Bob will fulfill my hope.
Long live the Never Ending Tour and Long Live Bob Dylan.
Comments by Roderick Smith
“Baby Blue on the Baby Grand”
The whole show swirls around the black baby grand that parks like a
Cadillac on stage. The band is orchestra. The strings become brass. Lined
up in a wide semicircle they stay glued to their chairs. Its Duke
Ellington at the Cotton Club. The little magician spins around the piano
out to center stage and back to the keyboards. Its pure magic. The sounds
so playfully simple. Watch the orchestra take off. Watch the cowboy reel
them back in. Over and over. A strange music box. Animated and unworldly.
The voice growling into a roar.
Review by Mike Brady
I have been to probably 20 Dylan shows since 1986, so I understand what to
expect, and have seen the change through the years. Not a big fan of the
piano, which to me sounds out of tune, but Dylan does his own thing and I
The Santa Barbara Bowl makes everyone sound better, but I could understand
Dylan a lot better than the last few times I have seen him. Usually I need
to interpret Dylanese to my wife, but she easily made out the set list. To
be true at times his songs were spoken and not sung, but he did a great
job. Even got up to act a few of the lines out and dance about.
Man with a long black coat, was great (such an under-rated song, kind-a
like dark eyes). Sadly nothing really surprising to the set list.
I was in the cheap seats, high up in the bowl, with mostly Knopfler fans.
Some were extremely pissed, like they thought they were going to hear
“highway 61” like they hear it on the album?? Yeah I wish…you could tell
they expected to hear a Dylan from 40 years ago, and some were getting up
and leaving and being vocal and jack asses (just leave and shut up).
However, the people down front, (probably Dylan fans in more expensive
seats) stayed through the show (packed house). Just for the record I have
never seen Knopfler before, would have preferred more Dire Straits stuff,
but he was damn good.
Liked to have seen stuff off the new album :(
Review by Andy Carroll
Last June, I did the Santa Barbara Bowl and Pacific Amphitheatre and
since then, things have changed. I've read all about the baby grand piano
but didn't realize what a major difference the instrument has made on
Bob's performance. He seems revitalized. I don't know a lot about music
but it seems to me that Dylan's piano is often used as a lead instrument
as he duels note for note with guitars during musical interludes. I
really noticed this phenomenon during the new arrangement of "Mississipi"
as Bob traded notes with Stu, who has become a more than adequate
replacement for Denny at the far left of the stage. Oh yeah, Charlie's
still there, but he's toned down his showmanship substantially. I never
saw him flip his guitar cord once. Of course the big news is the return
of Freddy Koella. It was probably just a guest appearance, but strangely
enough, I was just thinking about Freddy before the show. He replaced
Charlie, and I can't recall the year (maybe it was 2003) but I remember a
couple of Austin Backyard shows, and it was Eastertime too, when Charlie
showed up, Austin being his hometown. We could see him from the front
row, backstage in the shadows, but Bob didn't let him come out and play.
Freddy seemed to be excited about something. And it turned out that Bob
let him play a fiddle that night or maybe it was a banjo. Back to Santa
Barbara. So Bob comes out in black suit with thick white stripe and the
grey Renaldo and Clara hat. Opens with a rousing "Watching The River
Flow" on his regular keyboard and never returned to it the rest of the
night. Moves to baby grand for "Man In The Long Black Coat." He
alternated between center stage and the piano stool the rest of the
night. "Things Have Changed," ironically, is the one song that hasn't
changed much and has the same jingly jangly sound as last year. And of
course Freddy played on it. Bob is really the showman as he stutter steps
back and forth with a bouncing gait. At the beginning of "Tangled Up In
Blue," Tony was coaching Freddy, talking in his ear, then Freddy started
strumming away. Fun song, great performance. "Cry A While" rocked hard
and fast. "Hard Rain" and "Chimes Of Freedom" bookended "Highwater." They
both have that sort of chanting, reciting vocal thing that Bob does. I
knew "Highwater" was coming when I saw Donnie pick up the banjo, and it
did not dissapoint. It was one of the better songs of the night along
with "Cry A While" and "Mississippi." You'd think the rest of the set
would be predictable, but we got another highlight with Bob's song and
dance center stage for "Ballad Of A Thin Man" with echo effect and a much
better than average LARS. After a strong AATW, Bob and band did the
traditional lineup and left the stage to rousing cheers and applause. For
the BITW encore, Bob hit some really good notes that made me smile. They
stood center stage again for a minute, Bob looking out at us. He gave
Tony the nod, and they were gone. The baby grand is a nice addition and a
good change. As we know, our Bob, "Like A Rolling Stone," gathers no
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