Review by Mike Stillman
Last night's Dylan show was at the Sears Centre, a new venue in Hoffman
Estates, Illinois, west of O'Hare Airport in Chicago's northwest suburbs.
It was built on land that once was the site of Poplar Creek Music Theatre,
an outdoor pavilion/lawn venue where Dylan played in the '80s.
Sears Centre, which just opened this week, is an indoor multi-use arena
that can hold around 8000 people for a concert. Though its acoustic
properties are nowhere near as good as any of Chicago's small theatres
that were designed with acoustics in mind, the sound was more clear and
less boomy than similar arenas in the area, such as Rosemont, United
Center, or the UIC Pavilion.
The Kings Of Leon played a high-energy opening set, retro rock with a '70s
flavor. One of their songs asked rhetorically, "Is rock 'n roll over?" but
the music answered no. A Chicago audience will generally give an opening
band a fair listen, giving them a chance to show their stuff, and the lead
singer thanked us by saying "We appreciate that you've been so
respectful." This band consists of three brothers and a cousin, and they
were synchronized with each other in a way that sometimes happens when
musicians have learned their instruments together from an early age. I
enjoyed their set, and I think that the Dylan organization has done a
great job choosing opening bands in recent years.
In the break between bands, I asked seven or eight people to predict Bob's
opening song, and none guessed LEOPARD-SKIN PILLBOX HAT which has rarely,
if ever, opened a show. During the past couple of weeks, Bob has been
varying his opening songs more than any other time in his performing
history. After reports of friction between Bob and guitarist Stu Kimball
in Denver, there were some who questioned whether Stu would be present at
all, but he was there behind Bob, strumming away. Rather than playing the
sunburst Gibson jumbo acoustic that he has played almost exclusively for
months, he was playing a hollow-body electric, one of two electric guitars
that he played for most of the night. Bob ended this somewhat uneventful
rendition with a harmonica solo, one of several in the evening.
The second song was THE TIMES THEY ARE A'-CHANGIN' for the first time on
this tour, though it has been a staple for much of 2006. Denny Freeman
played a couple of routine solos on his Stratocaster, and he would be the
only soloist all night. Next was STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE WITH THE MEMPHIS
BLUES AGAIN which was nothing special. Stu was back on acoustic guitar,
and Denny took two short solos in which he simply restated the melody. Bob
played a good harp solo at the end of the song, emphasizing the backbeat.
With barely time for Donnie to pick up his banjo, they launched into HIGH
WATER (FOR CHARLEY PATTON), which took the show to a different level than
the first three perfunctory songs. Bob barked the vocals with doom and
foreboding, and Denny played some bluesy riffs that were a little
different. Next was BOOTS OF SPANISH LEATHER, one of the evening's
highlights. Though Bob's vocals were marred by some "wolfman" hoarseness
at the end of words, this song about gifts of love was phrased with great
care and tenderness. Tony Garnier played the acoustic bass, and Stu was on
his acoustic Gibson. Denny took two brief electric guitar solos, and at
times he seemed to pick up on Bob's triplet concept from Lonnie Johnson
that was mentioned in Chronicles. During the final verse, Bob phrased his
vocals mostly in triplets ("so take heed"), and Donnie echoed the triplets
on violin. Bob ended with a harp solo that was also played in triplets,
still echoed by the ever-alert Donnie at his side. A strong performance by
Bob and the band.
Next was ROLLIN' AND TUMBLIN' on all electric instruments, a little faster
than the album. Bob's vocal timing and phrasing were excellent despite the
revved-up tempo. Denny played slide on his Stratocaster through some type
of effects box that seemed to overemphasize certain frequencies, and I
would have preferred a different sound, as every fill and most of the solo
sounded the same. Donnie was on the electric mandolin, and played some
different textures than he did on the album version. With the fine vocal
from Bob who still seemed a little irked at that "young lazy slut" as well
as economic conditions, this was another high point. Then came LOVE SICK
on which everyone played the same instruments as the previous song, though
Denny put away his slide. The dramatic pauses were a little more
understated than previous renditions, but George Recile did some drum
rolls during these pauses that were musical and enhancing. Denny played a
solo that probably went through a chorus effects box, doubling its lines.
It was another good vocal performance from Bob, with only occasional
Next was HIGHWAY 61, fairly rote, with Denny playing a predictable
connect-the-dots solo and a hint of an organ solo from Bob. Then came WHEN
THE DEAL GOES DOWN, launched by Donnie's pedal steel introduction. Bob
sang the vocals extremely well and directly to the audience, seeming to
connect with many. He managed to avoid hoarseness altogether, enunciated
with care, and seemed to inhabit and inflect the words like he was
communicating something of great importance to someone that he cared about
very much. He wasn't just singing the song, but seemed to be living it.
Denny's first solo was the same as on the album, and his second solo
started on the lower strings like the album but then went to some
different places. It was by far Denny's most imaginative solo of the
night, perhaps inspired by Bob's tremendous vocal. Tony was on stand-up
bass, and Stu on acoustic guitar. I thought that this was the best song of
Then came TWEEDLE DUM AND TWEEDLE DEE, with Stu on a hollow-body electric.
Bob sung it well. It was followed by WORKINGMAN'S BLUES #2, which was very
well-received and well-recognized by the crowd. I'd guess that just about
everyone in the crowd owned a copy of Modern Times, and this song seemed
to be one of the favorites, drawing cheers with each repetition of the
title. Though some hoarseness returned, Bob sang it well, maybe a little
slower than the album. Then TANGLED UP IN BLUE begun with Stu's acoustic
strum, and the crowd remained on its feet. Bob jumbled the lyrics a bit
and had some timing issues, but by the final verse he managed to sing in a
kind of one-man duet, singing one line in a higher register then the next
line down low. Denny played a couple of good guitar solos with some
staccato notes that worked well, and Bob took it out on the harp.
Then came the main set closer SUMMER DAYS. Bob did a kind of organ swell
that was answered by Donnie and Denny, which I hadn't heard in this song
before. Stu just held his acoustic guitar through most of the song. Tony
Garnier's acoustic bass was the linchpin that held it together.
After a pause, the first encore was THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN, played a
little faster than the album. Denny was in his element here, with some
rocking guitar via Texas jump blues and Chuck Berry, and Stu was playing
the acoustic Gibson rather than holding it. Bob sung right on top of the
beat, leaning into the words, and the crowd dug it. Immediately after it
ended, they launched into LIKE A ROLLING STONE which had some good work by
Denny, but Bob missed some of the vocals, coming in late on one of the
verses with "--tricks for you." Stu was on electric guitar. Then came
ALONG THE WATCHTOWER, with nothing notable to report.
For me, it wasn't a great show, but it was a good one, and the venue
seemed to be well-managed and conducive to a stress-free concert
experience. The Modern Times songs were all highlights for the band and
the audience. I had some good chats with Chicago regulars Bob Shiel and
Michael Smith, and saw many familiar faces from the upper midwestern Dylan
circuit. I'm going back tonight.
Review by Michael Smith
Although I've seen Dylan many times over the last five years, I was
looking forward to last night's show with greater anticpation than
usual because of course it would be the first time since the release
of Love and Theft that I knew I was going to hear new songs live.
Dylan did not disappoint, delivering a fantastic performance that
leaned heavily towards newer material - 8 out of the 16 songs played
were off of his last three albums. I'd like to see The Rolling Stones try
The Kings of Leon were a great choice for an opening band. I was only
familiar with one of their songs (The Bucket, which received regular
airplay on Chicago radio a couple years back) but they were a very
likeable bunch of kids. They had kind of a retro-'70's arena rock sound
and gave the impression that they were up there having the times of their
lives, living out all their rock and roll fantasies. I wondered if they
had received a less than friendly welcome at some other stops on the tour
when the lead singer thanked the audience "for being so respectful". At
another point, he mentioned what a thrill it was opening for "Mr. Bob
Dylan came on shortly before 9:00 and threw the hardcore fans down
front for a loop by opening with something that was either going to be
Rainy Day Women or Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat. It turned out to be the
latter, which was a nice surprise, but the performance itself was only
so-so - although he ended it with a nice harmonica solo. The first three
songs all seemed like "warm-ups" but by the time they got to Stuck Inside
of Mobile, Dylan's phrasing started to become more playful and I began to
think that we may be getting a great show after all. By the start of High
Water, it seemed like all the cobwebs had been blown out of Dylan's voice
and he took his artistry to another level with a thunderous vocal
performance. Fortunately, the show would remain on this elevated plain for
the remainder of the main set.
Next up was the loveliest version of Boots of Spanish Leather I've
ever seen live - a beautiful, beautiful performance that saw Bob
carefully caressing the words in that soft, gorgeous voice that he can
still muster on his best nights. What really put this performance over the
top though was the interaction between Dylan's keyboard playing and Donnie
Herron's violin playing. Dylan was playing triplets on the keyboard and
Donnie was watching Bob's hands very closely and replicating those same
three notes on his violin. This went on for most of the song, including
two whole instrumental breaks. At the conclusion of the song, Dylan used
the same three note pattern as the basis for a very effective harmonica
solo. Anyone who thinks Dylan was bullshitting about the Lonnie Johnson
part of Chronicles should listen to this performance to hear exactly what
he was talking about.
The main set continued the trend of alternating between slow,
introspective songs with uptempo, party-time rockers when the band
tore into a supercharged version of Rollin' and Tumblin'. The crowd
seemed to both recognize and love the song, which was played much
faster than the album version. As on the album, Donnie played electric
A tremendous version of Love Sick followed - as good as any I've
heard. Dylan's vocals were big, bad and authoratative and the empty
spaces between the other instruments allowed his keyboard playing to
shine through. Denny Freeman played a nice, tight solo on this as
well. In fact, Denny was the only guitar soloist all night, unlike
other performances in recent years where Stu or Donnie (through the
effects box on his lap steel) would alternate with him.
The inevitabe Highway 61 Revisited was next and was also quite good.
It was the same arrangement they've been doing for the past several
tours (with the BAM - BAM - BAM part three quarters of the way into
each verse) but Dylan took a keyboard solo(!) during the final
When the Deal Goes Down followed and was another highlight. Dylan's
singing was melodic and strong and even when he deviated from the
original melody, his voice ended up going in all sorts of interesting
directions that made this every bit as good as the album version. This got
a great reaction from the crowd.
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum was next. I know a lot of people hate this
song but, for some reason, I never tire of it. I don't care if he
ripped off the melody from a Johnny and Jack song, this sounds to me
more like something Captain Beefheart would have cooked up - one of
the more bizarre things Dylan's ever written. I love the cryptic,
menacing lyrics and the weird guitar riffs.
Next up was another highlight - a masterful version of Workingman's
Blues #2, my favorite song off of Modern Times. This was slower than
the album version. Dylan's singing was less melodic than on the studio
recording and yet the way he talk-sang through the song was riveting!
Whereas the album version sounds like a defiant call-to-arms, this live
version was more elegiac and mournful but no less gorgeous. As with all
the Modern Times songs, this got a big reaction from the crowd. There were
lots of cheers when the song started and after every chorus. Hopefully,
this kind of reaction will embolden Dylan to play even more MT songs. A
final note: Dylan changed the lyric from "nightbird" to "songbird" - a
shoutout to Willie Nelson perhaps?
A truly bizarre version of Tangled Up in Blue followed. The whole
energy of the show seemed to come down a notch when it was obvious
that Dylan was having trouble finding a way to sing the song,
including lots of off-rhythm phrasing and garbled lyrics. Then,
somehow, he hit on a strategy that worked: for the final two verses,
he sang every line by alternating between two different voices. I've
never heard him attempt this kind of vocal style before. He literally sang
the first half of a line (e.g. Now I'm heading on back to her . . .) in a
high-pitched voice and then dropped his voice WAY down to its lowest,
gutteral level for the second half of the line ( . . . I got to get to her
somehow). It sounded as if he was duetting with himself - hilarious and
A very solid version of Summer Days closed out the main set. The
performance really picked up steam in the second half when, for some
reason, Dylan instructed Stu Kimball to stop playing. At this point in the
song, Dylan really started going crazy at the keyboard. He would sing a
line and then play a single chord on the keyboard, which he would sustain
for a really long time. Donnie picked up on this and started embellishing
it with little flourishes of his own on the pedal steel guitar and they
had a nice little jam.
It was great to hear Thunder on the Mountain open the encore. This
featured a lot of nice, rapid-fire Dylan phrasing and it sounded
different from the album because, from my vantage point, Stu's
acoustic guitar seemed to be the loudest thing on stage. Donnie played lap
steel on this but I could barely hear it. Dylan changed the lyric "The sun
keeps shining . . ." to "The sun keeps BURNING . . ."
The final two songs were standard issue and nothing to write home
about but were well-received as always. At the end of Watchtower,
Donnie started cracking up about something and had an animated
conversation with Bob as they were leaving the stage. All in all, it
was a great show. The interaction between Donnie and Dylan all night
long was priceless and the most exciting thing to watch for me. I'm
really glad that Dylan has a player in his band who seems to be so in tune
with him, who can complement his playing so sympathetically and translate
his musical ideas so well.
If tonight's show is half as good, I'll be very satisfied.
Review by Henry Bernstein
The show opened with a bang to what I initially thought was Rainy Day
Women 12&35. Much to my surprise and delight it was Leopard Skin Pill Box
Hat, a gem from Blonde on Blonde. The band was really cooking and
whatever drama there was between Bob and Stu didn't really seem to be a
factor....yet. The brand new Sears Centre in the suburbs of Chicago was a
small arena with a lot of the seats blocked off. We were right up front
in Section D row 11. The crowd seemed really into it. We stood and
rocked out the entire time. Bob slowed things down with a beautiful Times
They are a Changin' next, in which he did the "Senators and Congressmen"
verse twice! No one seemed to mind, and everyone thought it was sort of
funny. Whatever, he has thousands of songs to remember the words to so we
cut him some slack. Anyway, he went right back to rocking with Stuck
Inside of Mobile. Denny was absolutely sick. His solos and fills are
amazing, and this band can definitely rival that of the Larry
Campbell/Charlie Sexton era. Bob was all over the blues harp tonight,
playing on at least 4 songs. High Water was up next. I've seen this song
played live several times and it gets better and better. Donnie's
versatility as a string musician is really underrated. His banjo fills on
the song were perfect. This song rocks way harder than the album version.
The band really seemed like they were having fun, with Bob doing his
little dancing and squirming around at the keys. He even cracked a smile
several times. Boots of Spanish Leather was nice. Some really perfect
harmonica playing, and some decent singing. Bob's voice is just one of
those things you accept. It depends on the night, the song, and the
verse. He growled a little bit, but overall his voice was pretty good.
The wait for some Modern Times songs was over as the band went right into
Rollin' and Tumblin'! Wow! You can see that bob LOVES playing the MT
songs. What a great blues band. Denny was again absolutely perfect on
this. The riff in between verses seemed to get louder and louder on every
verse! Bob then shocked everyone with LOVE SICK! I was not expecting
this, and feel extremely lucky to have heard it. He only plays this one a
couple times a tour, and I always hope I'm going to catch it. One can
really get an appreciation for Bob's arrangement and musical prowess in a
song like this. He's a very good organ/piano player. I think that fact
gets lost sometimes. Highway 61 was great, not much else to say about it.
Some great solos with Stu and Denny actually trading licks, and the crowd
went crazy on every, "back down on Highway Sixty Oooooone!" When The Deal
Goes Down came next. It's amazing that at 65 years old Dylan is putting
out albums with songs like this. The best part was when I wasn't the only
one that gave out a big cheer at the line, "I heard the deafening noise, I
felt transient joys." Bob's voice was very beautiful on this one as well.
Tweedle Dum rocked. I think there were some mic problems because Bob was
definitely singing into the mic, but it didn't pick him up on the first
few words of some of the lines. Workingman's Blues #2 was next. I have a
confession: this is not one of my favorite's from the album. I think
lyrically it's incredible but musically it's sort of repetitive. I was
wayyy off when it comes to the live version. Great song! I have to say
something about the crowd. During this song I was explaining to my buddy,
who was a Dylan show virgin, a little about Modern Times and Love & Theft.
Then this guy TWO rows up leans back and asks me to be quiet and stop
talking because he can't hear the lyrics. WE WERE AT A ROCK CONCERT NOT A
LIBRARY! Not a huge deal, but just a very unchill thing to do at a
concert. The people next to me and in front of me didn't seem to mind but
somehow this guy did....At this point in the show I thought we weren't
going to get Tangled up In Blue. This is my #1 favorite Dylan song and
the 5 or 6 times I've seen him he's either not played it on the tour or
I've missed it by a show or two. From the first note the tears started
welling up. THANK YOU BOB! He was totally on with the lyrics (which I
know sometimes he mixes up) and his harmonica playing gave me goosebumps.
It was just as I dreamed it would be. Then before we even had a chance to
realize how many songs he had played, he went right into Summer Days. I
forgot how fast his shows go by, but I really can't complain. So normally
when I'm listening to live shows I skip over Summer Days, cuz he plays it
every night. This was arguable the best performance of the night. Dylan
was boppin' all over the place. At one point he looked over at Stu, who
then sort of stopped playing halfway through. He just stood to the side
bopping his head to the music, took a drink from his black, plastic Solo
cup, and took his guitar off. Not sure what that was all
about...Meanwhile Bob and Denny were trading solos! Bob soloed on the
organ. He really is a great musician. I had never seen that before where
bob and Denny would trade licks. They really know how to put a great show
visually and musically. Thankfully the break wasn't long, and they went
right into Thunder on the Mountain. I think Modern Times fans went home
satisfied, with FOUR songs. There was barely a pause before they went
right into Like a Rolling Stone, which is always fun. Bob now gets the
crowd involved by turning up the houselights during the chorus and waiting
for everyone to sing along. Nice "Thank you friends" and band
introduction before Watchtower. Strange start to Watchtower. It seemed
like someone was playing on the wrong key. They did they're usual intro,
but some one's instrument was off. Couldn't tell who but not everyone was
playing in the right key. They corrected quickly, and by the time "there
must be some way..." started they were all on the same page. The non-bow
at the end was delightfully awkward. My friend pointed out that they
looked like the crew from Reservoir Dogs or something. Great show, pretty
good venue, good crowd. I can't wait to see what he has in store for
tonight, and then in his home town on Sunday.
Review by Bob Shiel
I took my friend Crystal to her first Bob show tonight, and she had some amazing
responses. Like, she said she couldn't understand a word he said, but that she
had several spiritual experiences, moments during which she imagined Bob was
just singing solely to her. She also picked up on the oneness of the audience, a
community of musical fans and humans on the life path coming together for one
live unrepeatable evening.
And that it was. Bob was so on...as was the entire ensemble.
The evening got off on a concerned note as the newly constructed venue, The
Sears Centre, which was innaugurated by Duran Duran last night, a slightly smaller
version of the Allstate Areana about 20 minutes down I-90 where Bob played in
'02 on the Charlie farewell tour, appeared to have not-so-great accoustics. And
Kings of Leon aren't my musical style (somewhat late 70s punk-inspired), though
I did enjoy their drummer.
And then Bob started with rather pedestrian versions of Leapard Skin, Times, and
However, High Water really got the evening cookin'. Then when Spanish Boots
was hauled out I felt much like Crystal did as my eyes teared up, I sat down, and
just wept. I guess I needed to let go of something...like feeling shitty lately! As
though Bob was serenading me.
Rollin' and Tumblin' really rocked and was up tempo from the album. Bob's
phrasing was outstanding as usual. Love Sick was the absolute best version I've
heard live and we're talking probably a dozen or so times. Highway 61 had me
dancing even though I usually run for the men's room during that one. When
The Deal Goes Down had much of the 10 rows in front of me sitting down and
my best unobstructed views of the stage. I would judge that all the new songs
are better live, especially Workingman's Blues. Denny Freeman's work was stellar
all night, though he still lacks some of the casual virtuosity that Larry possessed.
Sorry Denny, you must get fed up being compared to your predecesor. Killer
Tangled Up in Blue which had the house up and dancing. I really felt
connected to the 70s during Tangled.
Bob's power chords playing off of Denny during Summer Days really worked and
rocked. Stu, as some recent reviewers have noted, seems superfluous standing
behind Bob, lacking eye contact with most of the band and with Bob entirely.
Hearsay is that Bob told Stu to "Stop it" during Spirit on the Water in Nebraska
Wed. night and that Stu left the stage in the middle of the song. It's a shame,
as I always enjoyed Stu's style when he had a more prominent role in the year
or so after he replaced Freddie.
The encores were good, but nothing special.
Highlights for me were Spanish Boots, Love Sick, When The Deal Goes Down,
Workingman's Blues, Tangled, and Summer Days.
The usual oustanding performances by George and Tony. Donny doesn't stand
out, yet his fillers are essential to the mix for sure.
It ended up that the accoustics were not great, but not a problem either.
Security was lax, so I'm sure numerous boots will surface. For those in the area,
if you read this in time, tomorrow night's show won't be sold out as tonight the
place was only about 60-70% full. So check out Bob on the heels of a terrific
new album and a nice phase with this band.
As the boys walked off stage, I felt Bob's powerful magic having altered the state
I walked in in. One cool dude indeed.
I have pretty much decided not to attend tomorrow night's show, choosing
instead to relish the memory of a perfect, even transformative, evening with a
lovely young lady and not overdo it (quality not quantity), risking watering down
the power of tonight.
Review by Ray Padgett
It would have been hard for my day up until the show to get much worse. I
hopped a bus from Dartmouth to the Manchester airport at 12:30pm, getting
ready for a 5:22 flight. The plan was already tight: I was going to get into the
O'Hare at 6:50, Steve (Disco Stu) was going to pick me up and we'd head to
the show, hopefully in time for the start of the Kings of Leon set, but perhaps
not. However, anyone who's ever relied on an airline to make a tight connection
knows very well how that tends to go. Yup, the plane was delayed. An hour
and a half.
Cue me freaking out. Near-mental breakdown in the airport. This trip was costing
me (or, really my family; it was a birthday present) several hundred dollars, and I
might not even make the show. The delay was taken down to an hour, and my
blood pressure lowered a little. I called Steve and bailed from my ride, and spent
the whole flight praying. I got off the plane and sprinted through the airport,
shoving children and little old ladies out of my way in my mad dash towards the
taxis. I reached the taxis, and saw a line for them. A several-hundred person line
for them. I got in it, starting to panic again, and realized the simple fact that if I
waited in the line I'd probably miss the whole show. Trying to grab a taxi before
it made it to the line didn't work; the guy in charge spotted me and was not
pleased. So I went to the front of the line, put on my best little-orphan-Annie
face and asked the guy if I could cut him. Success! His kindness probably made
the difference between me seeing Bob and not.
The taxi driver had no clue how to get to the Sears Centre, even when I gave
him the address, so I had to make a quick call home to have my mom mapquest
it. We made it there right at 8:30, when Bob was supposed to go on, but the
ride was so obscenely expensive that I had to pay with a credit card...which he
screwed up when he scanned it, only charging me $40 instead of the $70. He
said he would need to call in and cancel it and try again, so I just threw $30
cash at him, signed for the 40, and sprinted away.
As I dashed into the Sears Centre, I heard something that made me very
happy...nothing. No music. It was 8:40, and I was overjoyed. I ran to my chair,
took my backpack off, and the moment I sat down: "Ladies and gentlemen, will
you please welcome..." The timing couldn't have been better. Thanks random
guy in the taxi line!
I was expecting "Absolutely Sweet Marie" or "Cat's in the Well" as an opener,
either of which would have been fine, but the moment it started I knew it
wasn't. For a second I wondered if it was Maggie's Farm, but no, clearly not that
either. Then the riff for Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 began, and I figured it out.
But it seemed a little different..."Well, I see you got your brand-new leopard-skin
pill-box hat." Excellent, I wasn't expecting to get this one. Now, it's not one of
my favorite songs by a long shot, but he did a decent job of it. Clearly a warm-up
song for his voice; it was almost all wolfman. Wasn't expecting a harmonica solo
either, but it was a nice one.
Next up was "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". Without Maggie's preceeding it,
I wasn't expecting it, but it was nicely done (and only my second time seeing it
live). Still a warm-up for the old vocal chords, but Denny had some beautiful solos
in there. Though his soloing is getting quite good though, he's simply doing it
too much. During many songs he had four or five solos, while Don and Stu, both
competent players in their own right, had none. The man, though he's getting
good, is being way over-used.
As far as war-horses go, "Stuck Inside of Mobile" is usually one of my favorites,
but as he started it seemed limp. The band was decent, but not particularly
inspired, and Bob was just mailing it in with full wolfman. About halfway through
the song though, bam, the warming-up ended and he kicked into high gear,
really having some fun with the lines. I had been worried about his voice, as it
seemed worse than I'd remembered it, but the Bob I knew and loved finally
I figured, well, it's about time for the Tweedle Bros, and was really glad to hear
High Water instead. Of all the Love & Theft songs, it has aged the best and is
just a powerhouse every time. Earlier this year I was worried he'd retired it, so
it's nice to see it back in the rotation. Denny had some solos but, as the first
sign of a continuing problem throughout the night, they were hard to hear.
They sounded great on the quieter songs, but on the rockers you could only
sometimes make them out. For better or worse.
As Stu started playing the intro to the next song, I really hoped it was Boots of
Spanish Leather and not Girl of the North Country. And it was! I'd only seen this
one once before, in West Lafeyette '04, and it still ranks as one of the best
performance I've seen. Tonight's wasn't far behind though. It seemed kind of
short though. I'm not sure he did all the verses.
Finally, the first Modern Times song. As expected, Rollin' and Tumblin'. And it sure
tumbled, in a Jack and Jill down the hill sort of way. It just didn't see to have
much going for it. Bob would belt out one line after the other and, once again,
though Denny looked like he was doing cool solos, they were hard to hear.
However, he was quite animated, doing several high kicks (ok, they were more
like old-man, bent-knee, not-so-high versions of high kicks, but give him a break).
Not horrible, but somewhat underwhelming for my first MT tune.
The moment the first chord to this one was played, I flipped out. Love Sick was
on my very short list of songs I wanted to hear live...that I might actually have a
chance to hear live (ie. not Lily, Rosemary). And not only was it a personal debut,
but it was a GREAT version. Bob made the lines creepy, haunting...but kind of
fun too in their anger. I was singing along the whole time (quietly, don't worry)
and he nailed each line just like I wanted, staying close enough to the original to
be powerful, but adding his own flair periodically. A killer performance.
As I was still recovering from Love Sick, the band kicked into Highway 61
Revisited. One thing I don't expect at a Dylan concert is a lights show, but this
had one and it really made the song. These white, patterned, ghost-like lights
covered the background during the verses, and then started flashing on and off
one by one during the instrumental breaks. It was insanely cool, and actually
made me glad I wasn't closer (I was maybe thirty rows back on the floor). The
big picture here was key. Oh yeah, and the band played well too.
I heard Donnie noodle with the opening riff of When the Deal Goes Down a bit
as the lights were down, and just thought "I hope...hope..." And that's exactly
what it was. A gorgeous version, very close to the original. The band stayed
comfortably in the background while Bob crooned the lines for all he was worth,
and nailed every one. Best Modern Times song of the night. [Side note: Halfway
through the first verse, a couple, maybe early 40's, in front of me started
holding hands and cuddling, and it was adorable.]
"After that," I thought, "Bob can just go ahead and play Tweedles." Be careful
what you wish for. It was a decent version, although my legs were hurting from
standing so I took part of the song to catch a much-needed sitting break.
I thought, since When the Deal had come pretty late in the set, we might only
get three new songs tonight, but luckily that was not the case and the guitar
starts into the intro to Workingman's Blues #2 (no piano intro, surpise surprise).
A nice version for sure, but nothing ground-breaking. Nowhere near the quality
of When the Deal Goes Down, but I enjoyed it more than a lot of other people
I talked to. I found it pretty moving hearing him sing those words live.
The familiar intro to Tangled Up in Blue was a nice surprise, as another song I
hadn't seen live yet. And we heard a lot of that intro, Stu just playing it over
and over, Bob not coming in for quite a while. Tony and George started cracking
up about it as Stu just kept going and going. Bob finally did come in and delivered
a nice version. He garbled some of the lyrics (he had a tendency tonight to skip
the first line of verses) but got better as it went on. As noted elsewhere, the
trick he did where he sang one line in one octave, and then the next in a deep
growl an octave lower was nice. Now I've seen three Blood on the Tracks
songs in two years, which I think is pretty good. If I get Simple Twist of Fate
sometime I'll hit four.
I'm always bummed when I see Summer Days on a set list (which is, of course,
basically every night), but always enjoy it live. And tonight even more so than
most. I think it's gotten better as of late and tonight it rocked and rolled just
like it should. Everyone was dancing around in the aisles and it made for a great
scene. Stu, however, wasn't much part of that scene as after the first few
verses as for whatever reason he stopped playing, except the riff between
every few verses. He just stood there awkwardly with one hand in his pocket,
occasionally taking a drink of water or wiping off his sweat-free face.
I find it kind of funny that what sounds like just noodling on the intro to
Thunder on the Mountain is actually the orchestrated introductory guitar part,
which Denny (I think) played note-for-note. That led the way to a very faithful
version, but one that was great nonetheless. Bob got into every line, barking
them out one by one just as they should be barked. I'm not sure I'd agree with
those who say it's better than the album version, but that might only be
because I like the album version more than most. Either way, it was great...
...and led right into Like a Rolling Stone. I generally think LARS is mailed in, not
done with any inspiration, but it was very fun tonight. Some nice soloing from
Denny, and the crowd went nuts (as they always do) when the lights came
on them during the chorus. Being on the floor for this song is always fun just
to see everyone going crazy. I've seen a lot of renditions of this song, and this
was one of the best.
Whereas All Along the Watchtower was one of the worst. It didn't jump, it
didn't swing, it just sat there. I don't know if there was something wrong with
Denny's guitar or the mix, but after George did his big drum into...nothing.
Just quiet playing, the familiar riff hard to find in the mud. It never really took
off and I feel like Bob may have rearranged it slightly, and not in a good way.
Moreover, I think Donnie was supposed to be taking a solo during the second
solo break, but you couldn't hear him at. You just heard more muddy,
texture-less background noise. For what's usually one of my favorite songs of
any concert, I found it very disappointing.
Cut out of there and got a ride back with Steve (thanks again man!). Until
Review by Jim Kitzmiller
My first Bob concert was in 1966. The show at Sears Centre on October
27th was in my opinion the best Bob concert I have attended.
The opening act The Kings of Leon sang the same song for about 45 minutes;
the lead singer thanked us for being respectful, and honored his mom by
thanking her for being there.
Highlighted by Boot of Spanish Leather, Bob’s show was tight, his voice
was clear (by Bob standards), and the song selection a lot of fun.
Going in, I was a little concerned about the setlist. In the previous
concerts on this “Let’s all go out and buy Hats Tour”, he had been doing
some of my least favorites (Joey, Under the Red Sky, Masters of War, A
Hard Rain, and Seňor). But I was very pleasantly treated to some of
the best Bob available.
I mention the year of my first concert to make this point: I believe Bob
is at the top of his game. I enjoyed this concert with this band and this
Bob more than any other over the last 40 years. (I do miss Buckey Baxter,
We were on the left as you face the stage (stage right?) with front row
tickets. We only go to about two concerts every year, so we make a point
to sit no farther back than Row 3. The Sears Centre is a big new block of
cement without character or style, seating about 11,000. My estimated
attendance to this show was 7,000.
Three from Modern Times, the best Bob Dylan collection of songs ever
recorder: When the Deal Goes Down, Workingman’s Blues # and Rollin and
Tumbling #2. Tangled was a treat from the past along with The Times, Pill
Box Hat, and Memphis Blues. Although I’ve been a fan since my first
record in 1962, I rarely play the old stuff. The new stuff is just
better. It has just enough think factor, flavored with the best music,
tempered with the ages and Bob’s single malt voice.
I came away with the recognition that Bob elevated Thunder on the Mountain
in the encore to his most recognizable hits – LARS and Watchtower.
Review by Andrew Young
This was my 13th or 14th Bob Dylan show since I first saw him at Alpine
Valley in 1990 and I have been looking forward to this one for quite a
while since I hadn’t seen him in concert since 2004. The vast majority of
those shows I attended came between 1995 & 2002, so I feel pretty good
about being able to judge his performances. And going into the show on
Friday I can without a doubt say that the best performances of his that I
have attended were the shows in support of Time Out Of Mind and Love &
Theft. Feeling that he puts a little bit more into it when he is
supporting an album, I was very excited about this show. Unfortunately,
he fell way short—but it wasn’t all his fault.
Problem #1: The current band. While they played a nice set and played
it nicely, it is far less adventurous than the recent “hey-day” of Larry
Campbell & Charlie Sexton back in the late 90’s & early 00’s. I hate to
compare eras, but I had to do it. The current lead guitarist never once
went out on a limb musically and the band (except Tony Garnier & George
Recile) performed like they might get fired if they screw up. The only
songs that seemed invigorated were the ones off Time Out Of Mind, Love &
Theft and Modern Times. To read in Rolling Stone that Bob Dylan thinks
that this is his best band is baffling. It's obviously his right to feel
that way and that’s cool because it’s his band, but the evidence is in the
Problem #2: The set-list; specifically the encores. Closing the set with
“Summer Days” and then playing “Like A Rolling Stone” & “All Along The
Watchtower” to end shows is getting very old. For a guy who has made a
career of not repeating himself, playing those 3 songs night-in/night-out
for a few years running is not going to produce anything exhilarating.
And it didn’t this night.
Problem #3: The Sears Centre. I’m guessing he was paid rather handsomely
to play out there, but the place was way less than half-full and I can’t
imagine that Saturday night’s show was much better attended. He could
have played somewhere in Chicago like the Aragon Ballroom, Arie Crown
Theatre or Auditorium Theatre and filled it each night with the number of
people that actually showed up in Hoffman Estates.
Having said all that, I’ll just say that the show was okay. “High Water,”
“Love Sick,” ”Boots Of Spanish Leather” and all of the Modern Times songs
sounded good. But without a doubt, “High Water” was the show’s greatest
moment. On the whole it was just disappointing for me because I expected
much more based on the many concerts of his I have seen in recent years.
Oh well, I’ll still check him out next time he comes around.
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