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Review by Craig Warmbold
Buddy Holly Crashes into Assembly Hall:
The Dylan/Lesh Fall Tour of 99 is an ideal pairing. They are the only
two performers left, for me, whose musical evolution continues to intrigue
as it unfolds. There was no way I was going to miss opening night of this
tour. Sadly, I was disappointed. The performances were exceptional. The
presentation left something to be desired.
The individual performances on Wednesday were breathtaking and
awe-inspiring. Phil was phlowin and phillin groovy. Bob was ON. But early
indications that Bob would be playing with his band, and Phil would be
playing with his friends, were soberingly accurate. Maybe it is still early
in the tour, but for Phil not to drop a couple, thumping bass riffs on
"Memphis Blues," or throw in a verse or two on "Rolling Stone," is a letdown.
Phil looked a little stressed at the show, a little frantic. He and the
boys strolled out on stage while the lights were still up. I was walking
around the bowels of the arena at the time. If it wasn't for the howls from
down front, I would have assumed the guys on stage were the roadies. Phil
jumped right into a very ambitious Cryptical Envelopment just as the lights
went down. I don't know, man, I think Phil had the right intention, he just
executed it a little bit too quickly. Cryptical got off to a very rough
start, with Kimock switching guitar after guitar until midway through the
pre-Other One jam. I got the idea from where I was sitting (far stage
left...right in front of the STONEY-ONEY idiots) that Kimock was frustrated.
I would guess Kimocks problems were part technical, part structural.
The Little Feat addition seems like the most uninspired pairing in the Phil
& Friends series to come down the line. It should have just been Kimock up
there with Phil and Molo. Not to rip on the guys from Little Feat, they were
adequate. Three weeks ago, Little Feat was at the Copper Dragon in southern
Illinois, and they were great. They just seemed to be taking two different
approaches to the music.
I think the Phil and Friends ensemble got off to a great start in April with
Phish, and from there it got better and better. Little Feat seems a little
like a step back. At this point in the game I am expecting maybe Hornsby, or
Grisman (?!?). How about Leftover Salmon. Warren Haynes should be put on
the payroll full time. I look forward to his return in November.
The Cryptical came together fairly quickly, and a mellow 90 minute jam
ensued. Musically, all was well and good in the House of Phil...but the
sound was a major problem. I could have carried on a conversation with a guy
six rows away in a whisper. It seemed disrespectful to make Phil sound like
the warm-up act on what is supposed to be a double bill.
The Other One transition was skillful. Phil was beaming and handled the
vocals well. Kimock aggressively led Phil into a mean Smokestack jam. I was
a little disappointed that there was no vocal Lightning, but it didn't seem
to matter because…
When Kimock adopted the pedal steel, I knew. It was coming. The Pride of
Cucamonga, my friends, sandwiched in a Cryptical. The Dead would have never,
ever, ever* played a Cucamonga inside a Cryptical Envelopment. This is why
Phil rocks. I have been waiting to hear a Cucamonga since I first heard Mars
Hotel. I had my fingers crossed for the entire Other Ones tour. I was not
After the Envelopment, a beautiful and lilting Wheel ensued. Bass
dominating the musical construct. Phils vocals adding a new flavor to the
landscape of this Wheel.
Not Fade Away geared up as the noodelin Wheel jam simmered down. Paul
Berrere seemed more comfortable in NFA territory, and Kimock gave him the
floor. Steve Kimock is (unfortunately) forced to be a very generous musician
nowadays. NFA left a smokin crater, I guess Dylan must not have been in the
building for this one.
Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad. A grate way to end a mellifluous set.
Ultimately, Phil didn't just come out and sing a couple songs, so much as he
arranged a couple verses from his favorite rock and jazz movements and
constructed them in a 90 minute symphony. Next time, instead of an adequate
pairing like Little Feat, I would be grateful to hear to a singular Kimock
performance. The time has come.
After GDTRFB, there was a lot of movement and instrument preparation
going on. I could have sworn that I saw Dylan lurking in the shadows. I was
hoping that my Alabama Getaway prediction with Phil and Bob would come to
fruition. The lights remained low. Phil strolled out and delivered his
Organ Transplant PSA to an ignorant crowd of obnoxious hecklers and
"stoney-oney" morons. Kimock plugged in as Molo eased in behind the skins.
Phil threw up his arms ( or something to that extent ) and the lights came up
as Phil walked off stage. Thank you folks and have a good night.
I would just like to say that when a man is talking about removing organs
you should give him the floor. The idiots that rudely interrupted Phils
request should reconsider their self worth.
After a more than reasonable amount of time the lights dimmed and the Man
walked onstage. The voice of the announcer shattered the chatty silence,
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen...Bob Dylan!" The sound for his acoustic
performance made the Lesh set sound like it was played through a transistor
This was my first opportunity to hear Bob sing the Ralph Sparks/ Larry
Stanley cover "I Am The Man, Thomas." I liked it, for the most part. It
kept my toes a-tappin.' The sound was a little muddy, right off the bat, but
you could tell that Bob was ON.
A much more low key "Times A-Changin" followed. It was clean and crisp
and Bob was fresh and passionate. A very optimistic way to start a new tour.
"Its Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding." I have previously heard this song
live when Bob was not ON. Bob should not sing this song if he is not ON. He
was ON in Champaign. As "It’s Alright" unfolded before me, it revealed new
layers of meaning, and took on greater depth. The highlight of the acoustic
set, easily. The one or two flubbed lines were made that much more enjoyable
by Bobs determination to keep the song going with such a dedicated degree of
"One Too Many Mornings." I sure am glad that Bob does not do this song
electric anymore. Although, with the volume level of the band, it might as
well be electric. This is the type of song Bob needs to perform alone on
stage. A good version, though, of one of my favorite songs.
Just when I think I am completely sick and tired of getting "Tangled Up
in Blue" I hear Bob kick out a kick ass version. No exception this evening.
My only complaint, the acoustic set ended a little too early. And "Tangled"
is a predictable indication that Bob is trading in his old acoustic gee-tar
for an electric rock and roll contraption.
No complaints about the first electric tune, though. "Watchtower" was
the bomb. A song that Phil Lesh, incidentally, is familiar with from the
Dylan and the Dead tour. It would have been a good time for Phil to pop his
head in, is all that I am saying.
"This Wheels On Fire" was interesting. The harmonies were way off in the
beginning, but the band got their act together about half way through and
delivered a poignant version.
"Memphis Blues." Bob really sunk his teeth into this one. Of course, I
gotta say, at the risk of sounding redundant... in my opinion, Phil Lesh is
the musician that best characterized the bass line in Memphis Blues. Phil
could have made a cameo, that would have been cool.
New song time: I, personally, really like Bobs new stuff. Lyrically,
some of it is watery, but on the whole it perfectly fits Bob in 1999. "Not
Dark Yet" is no exception. I think this must be the first time I heard it
face-to-face with Bob… it was entrancing. A moving moment in the concert,
really. I think he is playing up the apocalyptic angle a little too much
nowadays, what with the bumper stickers and whatnot, but nevertheless, "Not
Dark Yet" was an engaging moment in the set. Bob appropriately utilizes,
what some consider to be, the raspy shortcomings of his voice in his new
songs. His new material, in general, exhibits this quality. In addition,
songs like "Not Dark Yet" seem more appropriate in a live setting, than on an
album. I just wish he would pull out "Dirt Road Blues." ( I bet Kimock
could add some tasty licks to it).
"Highway 61" rocked, as usual. It was nice to see the new guy take
charge and deliver the goods. He ripped into this song, handing in a
searing solo before closing the set.
The "Love Sick" was faithfully played, although it seemed overplayed.
The "Rolling Stone" was delivered and received well. The only way it
could have been better is if Phil maybe dropped in for a verse or two.
"It Ain't Me, Babe." Wow. I don't care how many times I hear this tune,
when Bob nails it, he nails it. It included one of the best harmonica solo's
that I have ever heard live. The solo, much like the flow of the song,
started out intimate and personal, before suddenly adopting a very intense,
but not overdriven, finale. My biggest complaint with Bob and his band is
that they sometimes sacrifice loud, for intense. "It Ain't Me" was perfect.
The Grateful Dead community was treated to not one, not two, but three of
Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away"s on Wednesday October 27th. Bob Weir with
Ratdog, closed the show at the Fillmore in San Fran with NFA (and opened with
GDTRFB); Phil played NFA into the set closer (GDTRFB). Two hours later,
Dylan played a perfunctory "Not Fade Away" that had everybody I was with
looking for Phil. Was this supposed to be a reprise? It seemed a little
repetitive. Apparently, Bob must have been helicoptered in moments before
the announcer called his name. Don’t get me wrong. I like Dylan doing "Not
Fade Away," and so did the crowd. This was the first time I ever saw the
crowd at a Bob Dylan concert boldly clap the traditional, Dead-style NFA
rhythm in unison for an extended period of time. I just thought that it
would have been a great opportunity for Bob and Phil to come back out and
Oh well, maybe next time we’ll have to chant.
On a side note: The "No Taping Policy" is bullshit.
Review by Louis Rice
The Lesh set (90 min) was less than I expected, having seen the set lists
from shows last week. He had an excellent band with him, including Bill
Payne and Paul Barrere from Little Feat. And Phil himself was in fine form
on 6 string bass. Previous set lists showed an abundance of Dead AND Little
Feat tunes. For example last Friday's show in Denver included St. Stephen,
Dark Star, Fire on the Mountain, Friend of the Devil, as well as Mr.
Tambourine Man and Dixie Chicken. Saturday's show included Box of Rain,
Watchtower, Willin' Don't Bogart that Joint, Playing in the Band and Morning
Dew. Last night I recognized "The Other One" and "The Wheel." Then as the
jam rumbled along, I thought I recognized the "shave and a haircut - two
bits" rhythm from "Not Fade Away." Sure enough, that's what it was, melding
into "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad." A show stopper for sure, got the
crowd going wild. And appropriately ended the set. I would have probably
been more satisfied had I not seen the previous set lists. But, to be fair,
last night Phil and Friends were the opening act and for the previous shows,
they were the main act.
Dylan's set was as follows:
I Am The Man, Thomas (acoustic) (song by Ralph Stanley and Larry Sparks)
The Times They Are A-Changin' (acoustic)
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (acoustic)
One Too Many Mornings (acoustic)
Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic)
All Along The Watchtower
This Wheel's On Fire
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Not Dark Yet
Highway 61 Revisited
Like A Rolling Stone
It Ain't Me, Babe (acoustic) (Bob on harp)
Not Fade Away
He's always had a knack for putting together a first rate band, and last
night was no exception. He had two guitar players, one of whom doubled on
pedal steel, a bass and drums. During the acoustic part of the show, the
bass player played upright acoustic and the drummer played with brushes.
During the electric set, they flat out rocked. One of the best "Highway
61s" I've ever heard, using the pedal steel to great effect. "Watchtower"
also incorporated pedal steel effectively. And throwing in "This Wheel's on
Fire" was an unexpected bonus. Great backing vocals by the band on that
number. Interesting that both Lesh and Bob closed with "Not Fade Away."
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