Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Eagles Club
The Rave

October 26, 2019

[Stu Levitan], [Jerry Spanbauer]

Review by Stu Levitan

Another strong performance by a very animated Dylan for a very
appreciative crowd. Lights up with Dylan -- white dinner jacket, tuxedo
shirt with top button open, black slacks with white piping, white shoes
and belt -- center stage with guitar; vocals for a swampy, funky  Things
Have Changed strong but a little low in the mix.  Fixed in time for a
feathery Ain't Me, Babe. Stands at upright piano for a rocking Highway
61 rave-up. Piano and Donny violin (lots of it through the night), before
Bob to center stage for harp. Holds mic in right hand when singing (lots
of gesturing with his left), switches to left for harp breaks. Can't
Wait is urgent -- "I said I don't know!" -- and emotional; Bob with his
left hand up to his breast, doing a passable Sarah Bernhardt impression.
Very strong vocal.  Masterpiece is sort of spoken, with the new lyrics
from last year. Not my favorite arrangement of the night, kind of plodding
with no real purpose. Not the case for Honest With Me, featuring a
really sharp break from Charlie. Bob standing at the piano, shooting
smiles and playful looks all around. Heaven with a jaunty arrangement
totally foreign to its meaning; it doesn't sound like a Yom Kippur song at
all anymore. I could swear his sang Feel My Love directly to Charlie,
standing about five feet away. Not my favorite song, but a nice
performance. Little herky-jerky dance during Pay in Blood. Seated at
piano for Lenny Bruce, for which the crowd was unusually quiet (not a
big fan of Milwaukee crowds, but last night they were pretty good) for
beautiful, committed vocal. Early Roman Kings continues (for me) to be a
highlight; great vocal, lots of left-hand gesturing. BD smile and big
cheers on "bell sting rings!" Some really nice work from Charlie. Girls
around me scream for a slow and soft North County, piano and violin.
Something about the chorus now sounds like a Broadway musical that I can't
quite place. Maybe will figure it out by the Beacon. Not Dark Yet -- at
least THIS still sounds like a Yom Kippur song. That little pause and
knowing wink before "...but it's getting there" is brutal. Drum break is
back for sing-songy Thunder, which also has some nice work from
Charlie. Midnight was a big "eh," redeemed somewhat by another nice
break from Charlie. Standing at the piano for a rocking Serve
Somebody to close main set. Back center stage, mic in right hand, for a
very slightly reworked Thin Man ("did you expect some kind of a dinner
invitation?"), with Bill's best (longest) break of the night. Standing at
piano for the very bluesy Train to Cry, with another nice break from
Charlie. No band intros. Quick bows, then heading for another joint. 

Stu Levitan


Review by Jerry Spanbauer

What a pleasure it was to see an old friend tonight with some old
friends at the jam-packed Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee. This was my
33rd Bob show, and I attended with a friend who I had seen over 20
Dylan shows with. It was the seventh time we saw him at the Eagles
Ballroom alone, the last one being in 2005. We were joined by a
married couple (seated elsewhere) who were seeing Bob for the first
time and we saw a few other familiar faces in the crowd. As we waited for
the show to begin, we knew that the “Event Staff” were going to be
earning their pay and that proved to be the case. I’ve attended over a
dozen shows at this venue and this was the first time I’ve seen seats
there. I heard someone say that it was the first show EVER there with
seats, and let’s just say some people were having trouble finding them!
We were happy to pay less and be standing at the perfect vantage point
immediately behind the seats and near the soundboard.

I’ll leave the song-by-song analysis to others, but I’ll make
some general observations about the show.

-Bob really sang with a passion and fire that was hard to dismiss.
The common take is that he “mumbles” and you can’t understand
the words, etc. (which I think is overplayed) but that was not an
issue at all tonight. He enunciated well and stretched out words and
his vocals were very “Dylanesque” in the best possible way! Anyone who
predicted in 2010 that he’d be singing this well in 2019 would have been
called crazy. Say what you want about the “Sinatra trilogy” period,
but I think that phase had an amazingly positive impact on his vocal
approach. -As always, one could quibble about the setlist. It takes balls
the size of Rhode Island for Bob to have 10 of the 19 songs come from 1997
or later. You could easily list 50 songs he could have played that the
audience would have recognized more, but the performance was so solid that
it didn’t matter. It was just awesome to see a master performing at the
top of his game! He could easily go the Neil Diamond or Rolling Stones
(among many others) route of touring every five years and putting on a
nostalgic, crowd-pleasing "greatest hits" type of show in arenas where you
pay $150 to get a nose bleed, but he instead challenges his band and
audiences by constantly moving forward with unique setlists and
arrangements in venues of all shapes and sizes throughout the world. I,
for one, am thankful for this but it is part of the reason that many
casual fans don’t know what to make of him at times or leave the shows
disappointed. I didn’t see anyone leave tonight, and it took me two
songs to make it back to my spot after I relieved myself mid-show. Super
packed and very engaged crowd.

-As usual, the band was outstanding at provided the exact musical
backdrop that Bob wants and needs. Everyone of these players could
play jaw-dropping, virtuoso-type solos all night long, but the playing is
focused on amazing and subtle ensemble unity. I was super impressed by
what new guitarist Bob Britt brought to the table. He wasn’t afraid to
assert himself in a way that Stu Kimball never really did. There was some
great interplay between him and Charlie Sexton. Speaking of Charlie, he
really came to life in the second half of the show and there were some
great guitar passages all night long. Tony had a great thick bass sound on
the quieter piano ballad type of songs that really suited them well.

-It was our first time seeing “Lenny Bruce” (originally from
1981’s “Shot of Love”) and were not disappointed by the
heartfelt performance. Some of these slower songs bordered on “Bob
solo on piano and vocals” at points with the subtle textures of the

-My buddy and I both agreed that “Early Roman Kings” and “Pay
In Blood” were real highlights, and Bob sang both like his pants
were on fire. 

-As expected, the current take on “Not Dark Yet” was astounding! Pure
genius at work and worth the price of admission alone! “Can’t Wait”
approached the same territory!

-A couple of pipedream setlist choices I think would work well in his
current voice and sound: “Sweetheart Like You,” “Groom’s Still
Waiting At The Altar,” and “Dirge.” If they would replace “Soon
After Midnight” near the end with something like “Queen Jane
Approximately,” the show would reach epic proportions.

-The one, two, three punch of the ramped up “Gotta Serve
Somebody,” amazingly well-executed “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and
all-time fave “It Takes A Lot To Laugh (It Takes A Train To Cry)”
brought the show to an AMAZING conclusion. We didn’t want it to end
after those three.

-I am amazed that Bob is delivering like he is at age 78 after 31
years of the “Never-Ending Tour.” For 20 years I have read things like
“he should just hang it up” or “it was awful and I’ll never see
him again” and those folks truly don’t get Dylan. We should ALL know
by now that he can NEVER be truly written off. He has proven time and time
again that he will rise up and show his brilliance. The next step in that
process is at least one more legendary album of originals. How about it,

Jerry Spanbauer
Oshkosh, WI

legendary album of originals. How about it, Bob?!?


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