October 25, 2010
Review by Masked and Anonymous
This is my 18th Dylan show in about 14 years time and my first review of the
experience of being present for an evening with Bob and his always able Never
Ending Tour band. With that perspective I would like to present my take on the
concert(s) presented on 10/25/10 at the Overture Theater in Madison, Wi.
As a point of historic significance, I believe this is the first time that Bob
has played a early and late show. I have searched this brilliant site for
evidence to the contrary and found no instance of this having occurred before.
They even had a date the following night in East Lansing, Mi., so somewhere,
extra "fuel reserves" were found to make this a back to back 30 song evening
with Mr. Dylan.
The Overture Theater is a lovely, comfortable new venue with adequate acoustics
and first class mod-cons. If the band had accommodations on-site it would not
have surprised me, that's how complete this venue seemed.
The early show started promptly at 7:00PM and "Cat's in the Well" wet our
appetite for what was to come. It's important to disclose that I have seen five
shows that have featured the return of Charlie Sexton. The three nights in
Chicago 10/29-31/09 at the Aragon and now this "back-to-back" evening in
Madison. Therefore, I will be mentioning his impact on these shows in relation
to my previous experience with him last year. Comparing this band to the one
that included Larry Campbell and Charlie back in 1999-2002 is like comparing the
85' Bears to their 2006 Super Bowl version. The pure domination and invention of
the Larry and Charlie squad in 2002 vs. the current line-up - let's just say
that Bob picked up a significant free-agent who had history with the
organization. The ultimate player sans nostalgic redundancy.
Now that you know where I stand on the talents of Mr. Sexton, let me provide my
take on the two gentlemen that were required to replace Mr. Campbell. Donnie and
Stu are equally fine musicians and on this evening gave me no cause to feel
otherwise. Think of them as Bob's wide receivers to George and Tony's
"over-the-ball" front line. Bob has kept Tony and George because their function
is as important as the venue's tether to electricity. They have Bob's back in
all rhythmic matters. They instinctively know if Bob is calling an "audible",
and to my knowledge they have yet to fumble a snap.
Metaphors aside, let's examine this evening's musical selections and how they
resonated with me. They start with "Cat's in the Well". Bob on his "funk guitar"
laying down some grit to the lead lines in both "CITW", It's All Over Now Baby
Blue" and "Things have Changed". Yes, things have changed because I sincerely
thought Charlie Sexton's amp was unplugged. I was expecting some slashing
interplay, some guitar weaving with Bob, but no, Charlie was comping behind Bob
for those first three numbers. No harm, no foul, but it seemed to be a wasted
opportunity given his expertise.
"Just Like a Woman", Levee's Gonna Break", all competent arrangements showcasing
Bob's new found Booker T. Washington chops and sound. I'm hearing some guitar
flashes but it's coming from Stu Kimball not Charlie. I'm seated on the floor
and Stu's vintage Bassman amp is pointed in my direction. Charlie's 65 cab is
tilted up towards the mezzanine, so I'm off axis to his speaker cone. Still I
would think that the house sound would place him in the mix as the lead
guitarist he's billed as. The lead guitarist that had ripped through the Aragon
shows in Chicago one year ago. I'm willing to be patient and wait for
Lift off arrives not as a Charlie Sexton guitar line, but in a new arrangement
of "Tangled Up in Blue". I'm aware of this arrangement and it's impact on the
European tour, and the earlier American dates, but I was not prepared for the
brilliance of tonight's performance. All the emphasis was on Bob's plaintive
reading of the song, as it fit into the cadence of the new arrangement. This
must be heard to be believed. Transforming a Dylan song is a feat he's more than
capable of but this? Extraordinary. I site "Cold Irons Bound" specifically as a
song that has been molded like clay with each new reading. Incidentally, Charlie
and Larry Campbell playing the definitive version in "Masked and Anonymous" is
Of course, "Cold Irons Bound" followed "Tangled Up in Blue". Not for my
narrative convenience, but as part of the set list from heaven for this
evening's back-to-back shows.You can consult the set list on this site to see
that the following songs, built up to a Half-Time that needed no cheerleaders or
Springsteen medley. Bob even played three encore songs, and re-inserted "All
Along the Watchtower". Once again breaking the current tour's two song encore
and omission of AATW. At this point, I'm thinking that anything might happen.
To sum up the first half; less Charlie, more Stu, to solid effect. Bob was in
full sail and fine form on all instruments he touched. Donnie's somewhat audible
fills on pedal were perfectly mixed and mastered. I assumed Tony and George were
anxious for the "ball" in the 2nd half, and maybe thinking about dumping a
cooler of Gatorade on the coach sometime later.
So we part for 40 minutes. A brisk business at the ticket windows suggests
others were also convinced that the 2nd half would be a wide-open game and that
twice as much Bob was a good investment. Once again, check the set-list and you
can determine for yourself that this back-to-back show was a very special night
for everyone in attendance.
I should mention that the new vintage photo backdrops and real-time film of the
band that's projected, (where the "eye" usually keeps watch), is visually
appropriate. Imagine if Abel Gance asked Bob to score "Napoleon-The Later
Years", that was the overall effect. Bob's always thinkin'.
Musically, the shows were all one could hope for. Emotionally, I felt privileged
to be in the building for extended "overtime". We all left knowing that we got
to see Bob up and rockin' well past his bedtime. I slept great that night.
Review by Dave Moyer
What a Difference a Year Makes
Concert Review, Bob Dylan at the Overture Theater, Madison, WI, October 25, 2010, Early Show
"There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best."
Bob Dylan and His Band made its semi-regular Fall trek through the Midwest
Monday evening at the Overture Theater in Madison, Wisconsin. This overly
formal setting seemed a somewhat odd fit for everyone's favorite Cowboy
band, and the sound might not have drifted up to the upper level as
successfully as what was experienced by those with floor seats. Sound
quality aside, this band clearly seemed to be trying to accomplish something
different than the last time I saw them perform a year ago at the Aragon
The Aragon show was a powerhouse performance, where this show was
somewhat tame by comparison. The rendition of crowd favorite "Like a
Rolling Stone" was ordinary, and up-tempo favorites "Cold Irons Bound",
"Highway 61 Revisited" and "Thunder on the Mountain" were rather
uninspired, though the closer, "All Along the Watchtower" did rock out
Dylan came out and played guitar for three consecutive songs, "Cat's in
the Well", "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", and "Things Have Changed", and
his voice was not in the best form. Often, after a toss off opener or a
couple songs in, the voice warms up, but it was mostly hit and miss on this
night. Several years back in Joliet, I recall a show that started very poorly
but managed to recover about midway through. This concert seemed to
meander through without ever truly hitting its stride, though George Recile
was his stellar self on drums.
"Just Like a Woman" showed promise early, but wandered off into a curious
delivery about halfway through. Hope came in the five-slot with "When the
Levee's Gonna Break". Tony Garnier switched to stand up bass, Dylan's
delivery was crystal clear, the sound was perfect, and the band rocked. A
unique and enjoyable version of "Tangled Up in Blue" followed with Bob
serenading from center stage on harp. However, "Cold Irons Bound" came
next, and this scaled-back version packed little punch, and a promising
"Desolation Row" followed, but fell off even worse than "Just Like a Woman"
for the same reasons.
The oddest development of all was the neutering of Charlie Sexton. I
couldn't help but feel as if I was jogging by my neighbor's house and saw a
sign, "Electric fence, dog in training." I felt as if Charlie was enclosed by some
invisible boundary. When you have a maverick, let them run! When someone
can shoot, pass him the ball! Why hold them back? Instead, the organ was
turned up high in the mix. It is a sound that this listener doesn't necessarily
mind, but not at the expense of letting Charlie get his licks in.
Others might disagree with this assessment. There is probably someone there
who will say it was the best show they've seen, and that's the beauty of it.
Four of the five people I spoke with before the show were seeing Dylan for
the first time. As an unabashed Dylan fan, I think he gave us all his best effort,
but I just think he had a bad start. Over the course of 162 games, that's
gonna happen. Sometimes it happens the night you have tickets.
The Overture seats just over 2,200 people, and a second show was added,
leaving those of us who left the venue wondering if the boys threw a perfect
game in the nightcap. Like baseball, where there's always another game, with
Bob, there's always another show, and a little bit of rain could never keep me
away the next time around.
Review by S. L. Bauer
The first time I saw Bob Dylan I was driven to the concert by my parents. I
was 16-years-old, it was 1988, and to most of my friends at the time Dylan
was perceived to be an irrelevant relic from the 1960s.
On Monday night, I drove my 9-year-old daughter to her first Dylan show at
Madison's Overture Hall. Twenty-two years after my first Dylan concert, his
neverending tour continues to be just that. But Dylan's place in American
culture has been elevated over the past two decades to the point where going
to one of his shows is almost a reverential, religious experience.
In fact, during Dylan's 100-minute no-holds-barred concert, lead guitar
player Charlie Sexton acted like the acolyte praying at the feet of the
guru, frequently dropping down to his knees looking up at Dylan on the
keyboards. Sexton, a master guitar player in his own right, doesn't have to
genuflect to anyone. But this is Bob Dylan. And he owns the stage.
Dylan walked out shortly after 7 p.m., the first of two shows in Madison. He
didn't acknowledge the audience then or anytime in the night, other than the
requisite band introductions and the awkward farewell after the final
encore. No "thank yous," no "Hey Madison!", no nothing.
But who needs it?
Dylan was all business, tearing into "Cat's in the Well," an unfamiliar
opener to many in the audience before going into the much-more recognizable
"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." It's all too easy to forget that one man is
responsible for so many songs. But Dylan spanned the breadth of his career
on Tuesday, playing "Things Have Changed," the song that won him an Oscar in
2000, "Jolene" off his most recent record "Modern Times," and for good
measure, what may be the greatest rock song of all time -- "Like a Rolling
It's a testament to that song's brilliance that even the sound board crew,
who are probably hearing it for the 100th time in the past 105 days, were
still bobbing their heads the beat. The audience, if any of them had ever
been to a Dylan show before, were also not hearing it for the first time.
But the response was rapturous.
The song lives. It breathes. And it rocks.
Much credit is due to Dylan's crackerjack band, led by Sexton. If there's
one flaw in the current makeup, it's that the old man doesn't let his
hot-shot lead guitarist loose as much as he could or should. Bob won't be
remembered for his piano playing, but he refused to relinquish the lead to
Sexton all night. If anything, Sexton is even more restrained than his
previous tour of duty with Dylan's band. That's too bad.
That said, at least Dylan no longer feels tied down to the keyboard. He
opened with three songs on lead guitar, but also wandered out to center
stage with nothing but a microphone and his harmonica. The stark stage
lighting made him look ghostly, almost like a vaudevillian performer from
another time. His white, wide-brimmed hat cast shadows on his face as he
stabbed the air with his hand to accentuate a lyric of "Not Dark Yet," or to
put emphasis on the fact that he was "heading for another joint."
It's a lot to take in for a 9-year-old, especially one who's never been to a
rock show before. But she clapped. She cheered. She bought a hat and some
stickers. And she even read a short, children's biography of Dylan to
prepare for the show.
"Daddy," she said as we walked to the concert. "I read that at one time
people didn't like Bob Dylan because he played with a band."
"That's true, some people didn't like that" I said.
"But they do now."
Review by Dylan Katz
Great weather for a Dylan concert and there was a ton of energy in the
building, in a theater which only holds 2200 people or so. I was sitting in
Row A of 'the Circle' all the way on the right, really close to where Bob
Highlights (for me):
- Cat's in the Well--immediately knew this was going to be a great show. No
Rainy Day Women or Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, just a terrific song from Under
the Red Sky. Bob was center-stage with his guitar and clearly enjoying
himself, as was the band. They were rocking out like none other, and the
crowd was into it, too.
- Tangled Up in Blue--Bob skipped a verse or two, but it was stellar
otherwise. He stood center-stage in front of the crowd and made
mildly-hilarious body movements the entire time. Regardless, he sounded
- Desolation Row--my all time favorite Dylan song, and the second time I've
seen it. Great version, sound was great with Tony on the stand-up bass, and
I didn't even detect a missed verse, which would be a shocker.
- Not Dark Yet--need I say more? Arguably his best song from the past 20
years, and brilliantly done tonight. Very, very true to form.
- Ballad of a Thin Man--Bob growled out, "Mr. Jooooooooooooonesssssssssssss"
pretty emphatically and I don't think I've seen him get quite so into a
song. The whole band was into it, moving around, gyrating and smiling...you
could tell they were having a great time!
Review by Dean Robbins
Bob Dylan has no voice, lots of heart at Overture Hall
At age 69, Dylan still has it going on.
Bob Dylan is in his post-articulation phase. Monday at Overture Hall, his voice
was little more than an ambient rumble. He can't sustain a melody anymore,
but rather reduces classic songs like "Desolation Row" to a series of short,
stabbing phrases. Reaching for a low note, he sometimes winds up in a gruff
register he shares only with Cookie Monster.
Nevertheless, the audience ate up Dylan and his five-piece band in the first
of two sets. Hearing canonical songs like "All Along the Watchtower" -- even
in outline form -- is thrilling. Our imaginations fill in the notes Dylan can't hit,
and we're happy to do it for him. Hey, think of everything he's done for us
over the years.
Plus, at age 69, Dylan still has it going on. He's not a museum piece, like
fellow rock legends the Rolling Stones, but an artist with solid new material.
The new stuff was the highlight of his show, particularly swinging up-tempo
blues like "The Levee's Gonna Break." Dylan brought real passion to these
songs, even coaxing a bit of life from his once-expressive vocal cords.
Dylan compensates for his frayed voice by playing to the audience more
than he has in recent decades. He used to let his genius as a writer and
performer speak for itself, remaining inwardly focused onstage.
Now, he's practically the song-and-dance man he once ironically called
himself. He crouches with his guitar; he leans into his organ; he sings to
the crowd with arms extended. That's right, folks: We finally get eye
contact with Bob Dylan after all these years. No wonder the Overture
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