October 29, 2017
Review by Tom Burke
The promotional poster announces: Bob Dylan and His Band, In Show and
Concert!, Plus Mavis Staples; and advises: "Don't You Dare Miss It!"
While most of his contemporaries have either passed on, ply paeans from
and about their day, concoct their own eulogies, or sit idly waiting for
their obituaries to be sent up from the vault, Bob Dylan continues to
renew, reinvent, reinvest, and rearrange himself and his music. A satchel
full of Grammys, an Academy Award, A Presidential Medal of Freedom and a
Nobel Prize, give him the freedom to do so, and explains to a large degree
why he has been so recognized.
Touring with his usual low wattage stage lighting, Bob Dylan and His Band
gave a high voltage performance last night (October 29th) at the
magnificent IU Auditorium in Bloomington, Indiana. Streaming in from the
four corners of the Hoosier State as well as the from across the Midwest
and Mid South regions, the energetic full house was witness to a
satisfying mix of songs from the cutting edge years (Highway 61
Revisited, Desolation Row, Ballad of a Thin Man); classics (It Ain't Me,
Babe, Tangled Up in Blue, Blowin' in the Wind); lower profile nuggets
(Summer Days, Honest with Me, Tryin' To Get To Heaven); late career gems
(Lovesick, Soon After Midnight, Pay in Blood, Early Roman Kings); and,
classics from the American songbook (Why Try To Change Me Now, September
Of My Years, Autumn Leaves).
Splicing in the crooner classics between the more traditional rock/rhythm
and blues songs, Dylan and his band were able to establish a nice pacing
for the material and an enjoyable tempo for the evening.
The Dylan set list from recent years has remained fairly constant.
However, the Bloomington show presented up tempo, high energy, harder
edged arrangements than the versions of these songs played over the last 3
years or so. They sounded great. The show opened with Bob at the piano for
Things Have Changed and It Ain't Me, Babe both of which established the
tone of the show featuring high energy keyboard work from Dylan and
aggressive forceful drum playing by George Recile; themes and stylings
that would be revisited on many songs throughout the night. Singling out
Recile, is no slight to the rest of the band. This group, may not be THE
Band, But, THIS Band is simply fantastic. They are so focused on Dylan,
the music, and each other. Precise. Exacting. Mesmerizing. They nail both
the prose and the poetry in the music. They are a huge contributing factor
in the greatness of these Dylan shows.
Several songs seemed to benefit from the up tempo, ska tinged flavor with
which they were played; in particular: Summer Days, Honest With Me,
Trying To Get To Heaven (which included some great vocal work from Dylan
on the hook, "Before they cloooooose the doooor!"), and Tangled up in
Blue. As noted, Recile's drum work was much more in the front of the mix
and more forceful than in previous segments of the tour. Pay in Blood was
driven hard by his stick work as was an absolute balls to the wall version
of Thunder on the Mountain, which also featured Dylan taking his piano
playing up a couple of notches going all boogie woogie for a time in a
nice nod to the recently departed Fats Domino.
Bob Dylan and His Band. The road goes on forever and the party never ends!
P.S. Oh yeah, Mavis Staples was absolutely sensational in her
scintillating, sexy, soulful set which included her belting out Mavis
classics such as Build a Bridge, Ain't No Doubt About It, and Wade In The
Water. Also on the docket was a great version of For What It's Worth, in
which Mavis lead the audience in a call and response of the lyric, "what's
that sound, Everybody look what's going down." Timely and relevant to say
the least. Mavis finished her 45 minute set with the all time, all time
Staples Singers classic, "I'll Take You There." Last night she did. All
of us need to get there every night.
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