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Review by Jerry Tenenbaum
I see him every time he comes to Toronto.
The last time he was this brilliant, in my opinion, was in Jan. 74
(That's not to say he hasn't been good on many other occasions).
Tonight was something special.
Dylan was really into it. He was having a good time and it showed. Some
interesting selections reappeared.
Gotta Serve Somebody - punchy
Million Miles - smooth
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - true blues
I'm Not Supposed To Care - an unusual treat beautifully executed
Cold Irons Bound - it doesn't get better than this
Tomorrow Is A Long Time - heartfelt sensitive
Masters of War - venomous
My Back Pages - disarming and personal
Tangled Up In Blue - freight train powered/superb
Every Grain Of Sand - spiritually uplifting
Highway 61 Revisited - footstomping rock & roll at its best
Love Sick - soulbaring
Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35 - too much fun to miss
Blowin' In The Wind - a singalong with some lighters/flashback
Til' I Fell In Love With You - more soulbaring
It Ain't Me, Babe - finishes a theme with dignity
Dylan was at the top of his game.
Enjoyed the guitar and played well.
The mouth harp was stirring on both occasions.
I think he said hello to Hurricane Carter. (sometimes its hard to tell what
Review by Greg Denton
Dave Alvin didn't have a chance. The doors opened at 7:30 and he was
already on the stage by 7:40. The crowd was massing and milling. While the
band thundered and pounded with determination the audience seemed
preoccupied, not there yet. People were either finding their seats or their
pre-show drinks. In a bar, what was happening on stage would have been a
jaw-dropper. Here, in a sports stadium, with an audience that came for the
other acts and wasn't ready to sit yet, it might as well have been Alvin and
the Chipmunks up there. The gusto was lost and the band came off as near
anony-rock. A bit of a shame. These guys played a diligent and heartfelt
Joni Mitchell, on the other hand, was compelling from the moment she
took the stage. The audience was certainly there for her. She opened
soloing with her guitar. Though Joni says that she's an artist and not a
jukebox, she started with the crowd-pleasing Big Yellow Taxi, perhaps just
to get it out of the way. A little through she announced, "here's the verse
Bobby wrote" and proceeded to do a hammed-up Dylan impression to much
applause. There was no tussling with hecklers this evening. But still some
wry wit. At one point Joni tried to locate a friend in the audience,
"Killer, I know you're out there somewhere why don't you give a shout." The
whole audience responded. "No, no, no," said Joni, It's only one person."
She paused a moment. "I guess there's a lot of Killers out there." The
band, including her "dear ex-husband" on bass, had no fat. This was a lean,
toned, and fit machine, extending and flexing with finesse. They deftly
followed Joni through her set as she explored her range, by turns delicate
and fierce, ending with a splendid cover of the Billie Holiday classic
'Comes Love'. She torched up a cigarette for this one, reached down into
her well of hard knocks, and delivered a convincing dose of sultry theatre,
standing back between verses she sucked hard on her cigarette and feigned a
cool, seasoned aloofness. After this the audience was absolutely bought.
People were on their feet and howling until Joni returned for a
well-deserved encore. This meant the evening was going to go late and I was
worried that we would get a short set from Bob to compensate. But as the
man says, "Since every pleasure's got an edge of pain/Pay for your ticket
and don't complain". It turned out, though, that there was nothing to
The first thing we saw as the band took the stage were the white shoes
glowing out of the darkness. When the lights came up we saw the rest of the
outfit, the black suit set off by a white tie and a thin white stripe on the
trousers. The band launched into a raucous Gotta Serve Somebody. I
couldn't believe how spry Bob looked. The last time I saw him was in
Vancouver in 1993, and he seemed frail and barely able to stand then.
Tonight he was light-footed and freely hopping, playful and comic. The band
too was clean and robust.
The second song was a wicked rendition of Million Miles. If the
Vancouver rags described that 1993 show as a beffudling jazz kazoo concert,
Bob's voice was in fine form this evening. His singing was strong, engaged,
and clearly articulated. And this despite the annoying backslap from the
shitty arena acoustics.
After a group of near identical shows as Bob crossed the prairies
earlier this month, I knew he was mixing the sets around again, and the next
few songs would be surprises. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues was our first.
It was a melody-less version as Bob tossed the vocal on this one, but only
this one. He even seemed to be reading the lyrics off the floor. The band
was on though, and made it well worth hearing. At the end of the song
Bob spoke, but from where I was sitting and with the noise of the crowd it
was impossible to hear what he was saying. A shame because it likely
explained the next song.
"I'm Not Supposed To Care" I have to admit I don't know this one. I
checked the song list at bobdylan.com and it isn't listed there as a song on
any album. I'm sure someone will enlighten me. Still it was a beautiful
performance, and Bob's singing was on again, sensitive and true.
What followed was a miasma of feedback, Tony Garnier's pumping bass
rising out of it. It was a searing version of Cold Irons Bound. This
Rocked. Bob is a crazy little man. He's got the head of an apple-doll
crowned with a wad of steel wool. Tonight that head was on top of a body
that seemed like a marionette meant to be Gene Kelly. Bob was sweeping the
floor with his feet, rolling his ankles, collapsing his skeletal frame, and
lurching up again. At moments he seemed to be dancing like he was trying to
lift his feet from a sticky floor, or walking on hot coals.
The Acoustic set started with Tomorrow Is A Long Time. A sparkling
version that had Tony Garnier playing the big double bass for the only time
that evening. Next came Masters of War. Bob skipped a couple of verses in
this one, you might not say he's young and unlearned anymore anyway. The
bass in this one gave a real sense of ominous menace.
My Back Pages followed. Bob pulled out the harp for this one. His
singing was spot on.
Tangled Up In Blue was brilliant. The band tumbled through it
beautifully and Bob was dancing again. I was about to burst with joy by
this time and half way through the song I was fighting tears.
Then we got another surprise. Every Grain of Sand. It was back to the
electric instruments for this one.
The set ended with Highway 61 Revisited. The band absolutely sizzled
through this one and Bob was doing some great vocal Bobisms, "Down on
Highway sixty- whaaaaaaaaaaaan." His impression of Bob Dylan is a tad
better than Joni Mitchell's.
The encore was predictable but still lovingly appreciated. Love Sick; a
rollicking Rainy Day Women #12 & 35; an exquisite acoustic Blowin' In The
Wind; back to electric instruments for 'Til I Fell In Love With You; and a
wonderful It Ain't Me, Babe to finish. Bob put down the guitar after he
finished his singing and picked up the harp again. He started slow, testing
the rhythm and teasing the audience. He crouched and moved like he was
stalking wild game in the bush, crouching, free hand outstretched as
ballast. Then he started wiggling like a cobra as be began to pick up the
volume, heavy accents on the chord changes. He let a few high peals ring
but he never really really let go of it. But it was such a hoot to see him
dancing, unencumbered by guitar. It was almost like watching some
overwrought pantomimed death sequence in a Shakespeare play. Bob is a funny
guy. You gotta love him.
Review by Shawn Pulver
To say I was excited to see Bob in my home town would be a bit of an
understatement. My expectations were very high after a great Detroit show.
Joni's set was again politely recieved but did not get much reaction from
the fair sized crowd. It was clear after Joni's set that the security did
not really care since they basically let anybody on the floor who wanted to
gather in front of the stage. I was able to secure a position directly in
front of the stage, five feet from Bob.
Serve Somebody: Similar to the night before, but a little difficult to pick
up the words due to some initial sound problems which were fixed for...
Million Miles: I was hopeing for a new tune in this spot, but it was well
performed and considering where I was, how could I complain about what he
played. Oh, Bob wore the identical outfit as last night. The rest of the
band had different outfits on.
Tom Thumb: A huge surprise. I haven't heard this performed with his new
band many times at all. It was a little too fast, but I, and the crowd,
loved every minute of it. After the song was over Bob mentioned something
about Gordon Lightfoot and how he might be in the audience. I had a
feeling what he would play next.
Not Supposed to Care: Of all the performances I saw in the three shows on
this tour- Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa - this was the most stunning. He
pronounced each word with tremendous care. I was taken back by each line he
sang. The audience, which appeared to be knowledeable of the song, also
seemed stunned by the beauty of the performance. Just perfect!!!!
Cold Irons: The bass at the begining was breathtaking. Really cooked.
Tommorow is Long Time: After hearing him play it in January I said that he
could never play a better verison. I was wrong - this was even more
heartfelt and beautiul. Rememeber the other great Toronto performance of
Tommorow is long Time at the O'keefe in '90? By this point I knew that I
witnessing a legendary performance. Something about the Maple Leaf Gardens.
Ie the great '74, 76, and 78 shows that took place in this legendary arena.
Since the Garden is being replaced, this will be, in all likelihood, the
last performance by Bob in this arena.
Masters: Similar to the night before. It is great how the song builds
untill the last verse where it seems to just explode.
Back Pages: Sounded like Hattie Carroll at the begining. A great
performance which featured some great harp. Some great Elvis like poses as
Tangled. It couldn't match the soon to be legendary Auburn Hills
performance. It was good nonetheless and got most of the fans off their
Every Grain: The night before I had been yelling at Bob to play this.
Although I screamed I and I before he began the electric set, I was
definetely happy with Bob's choice. Not the best version I've ever heard,
but it is the first time I have ever seen him play this live. There was
also a very long instrumental. I realized that anything after this point
was just a bonus.
Hwy 61: Always fun. Bob really seemed to really be having fun.
Lovesick: The Usual good perfomance.
RDW: I love the fact that Bob at least does not end on this song. Always
fun for the crowd.
Blowin: Some of his best singing of the night. The crowd even got
involved in the chorus and began singing along. A touching moment and it
is clear why Bob has decided to play this so much lately. It almost felt
like being at the Barcelona '84 when the crowd got into the song.
Till I Fell: The one bummer performance of the whole show. It never got
going and it is a weird spot for the song in the show, IMO.
It aint me Babe: Great picking from Larry and some sincere singing and harp
from Bob. One problem throughout the show was that I could hardly hear
Bucky's mandlolin in the mix. A Minor point to be sure. It appeared that
Bob might be coming back, but that was it. I thought I saw Rolling Stone on
the cue sheet, but it went unplayed. All in all a very special night.
Something about Bob and Toronto I guess. Thanks for reading!
Review by Peter Tangredi
Earlier this year I went to Bob's Valentine's day concert in Cleveland.
I thought it was a solid concert, and I was happy to see that Bob seemed
to be in good spirits and was connected to what he was performing. That
concert, however, pales in comparison to what I witnessed in Toronto.
The band that Bob has gathered around him has blossomed into a killer
unit. The guitar inter-play between Bob and lead guitarist Larry
Campbell, was a huge bonus. In the Cleveland show I could not really
distinguish between the two because of an inferior sound system. In
Toronto the sound was close to perfect (from my vantage point), and
allowed me to observe Bob's playing close up. Bob of course does not
take the conventional route on any of his instruments (guitar,
harmonica, voice). He tends to build his soloing slowly and often seems
to be grasping at straws. I was standing there thinking to myself
"This guy can't play guitar...no, wait a minute...holyshit that's
great!....nah, he can't play....no, wait, wait)." Lets say, Bob likes to
experiment and innovate, which was great to me. It was truly a thing of
beauty to see a band searching for that perfect soulful moment instead
of just playing the same old cliches. Larry Campbell is definitely no
slouch on guitar but he is not a stage hog either, like many lead
guitarists tend to be. He often was just tastefully accenting Bob's
meanderings. On Highway 61 though, Larry ripped out a solo that was
reminiscent of Mick Ronson, circa Ziggy Stardust, that brought down the
The real highlight of this show though, had to be the sublime sound
that was conjured when Bob and Larry went acoustic along with Tony
Garnier on acoustic bass (sometimes standup) and Bucky Baxter on
mandolin. This was used to great effect, especially in beautiful
reinterpretations of some of Bob's older classics. My Back Pages,
Tangled up in Blue, Blowin' in the Wind, It Ain't me, Babe, Masters of
War, were all incredibly brilliant, and had the tears flowing.
The rock solid rhythm section of Tony Garnier and David Kemper, also
lent themselves admirably to the new material. The loping bass and
rock-steady drums on Cold Irons Bound was particulary impressive.
I spent some time studying the band, because at first, I was thinking
that they seemed a bit impassive and were nothing more than hired guns,
But as the night progressed, after each song became more impressive
than the last, Larry Campbell would break into a brilliant smile that
told the real story. Near the last half of the set Tony Garnier would
start sneaking toward the middle of the stage behind Bob, and I could
have sworn that at one point , he looked right at me, with my idiot
grin, and smiled, as if to say, can you believe this! The rest of the
audience seemed just as enthusiastic as dancing was breaking out
everywhere in the Gardens. To the left of me there was actually a guy
pogoing. What was truly wonderful though, was the demeanor of Bob
himself. Although smiling and laughing are not his forte, you've got to
figure the guy is busting a gut inside. Bob has unusual stage antics to
say the least. He does strange little duck walks and marionette dances
that get you giggling to your self. The most entertaining moment though,
had to have been his wiggly harmonica dance on the last song of the show
"It ain't me Babe". I was cracking up. For a guy that has garnered the
reputation of taking himself to seriously, this show was a revelation.
In closing, I just have to say, that if you have the chance to see this
band play...do it! It was truly a memoralble experience.
Review by Edwin Yee
Maple Leaf Gardens is the last of the old time hockey arenas, built
during the depression with cheap labour recruited from the relief lines
and soup kitchens. It is as far removed from the modern, bloodless
arenas with their luxury boxes, cappuccino bars and cushioned seats as
one can imagine.
The Gardens shows it's age as one sees lineups outside both men's and
women's washrooms while negotiating the cramped concourse areas
behind the stands. What it lacks in comfort, the venue more than makes
up for in character and history, with memorable shows by Bob and The
Band in 1974, Rolling Thunder in 1975, and the Street Legal tour in
1978. After 20 years, Bob is back in the Gardens.
I manage to set myself on the rail after Joni's set, directly in front
of Larry Campbell's mike. Concert security asks that we move away from
the railing, that only those with first row tickets are allowed at the
front. They make a half-hearted attempt to check tickets and request
that people move back. They are politely ignored and everyone gets to
The incense pots are lit as the stagehands scurry back and forth with
last minute preparations. Around 10:15, the lights dim and we hear the
familiar "Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome.....". The
crowd rises to the strains of "Gotta Serve Somebody" and most of thoseon
the floor of the hockey rink will remain standing for the duration of
the show. Days after, a friend who had come to see Joni, and who
wouldleave after Bob's acoustic set, said that he was most impressed
with the almost "tribal loyalty" of the fan reaction during the concert.
I took that to be a compliment.
Looking at Bob's outfit, one can easily imagine him stepping out of
Lansky Brothers onto Beale Street circa 1956, having checked out the
latest fashions of the Memphis clothier. The outfit is all-black save
for a white stripe on the side of his pants guiding your eyes down to
the floor to view a chunky pair of impossibly white loafers. A white
tie completes the outfit, not dangling free but carefully tucked into
the shirt just above the waist. While the clothes speak of Mystery
Trains and Memphis, the trademark tangle of unkempt hair would probably
have been met with cold, hard stares of disapproval from the same
Whereas the spring and summer Bob of 1997 revealed a slight paunch
under the southern gentleman outfits he was sporting at the time, the
current version appears trim, without any sign of excess poundage.
There is more movement, little skip steps, shuffles, and duck walks,
which, while part last year's choreography, reveals a newfound level
of exuberance that easily spills over to the rest of the band. After
missing his rendez-vous with Elvis, Bob is obviously taking better care
At the rail, you can hear the instruments coming directly out of the
small suitcase amps set out on the stage while the vocals and drums are
miked through the bank of overhead speakers. Were it not for the floor
level mikes placed in front of the amps, the minimalist stage set up
could make one could easily forget about the concert venue and imagine a
casual rehearsal for the band in Bob's garage.
As the opening song comes to a close, it's clear that Bob is pumped.
He's already making eye contact with the people in the front and
enjoying himself tremendously. The vocals are a still a bit muddy.
There would be some improvement as the show progresses. As we later
learn, there was no time for a sound check before the concert.
"Million Miles" is next up and Bob obviously has an affinity for TOOM
tunes. With Larry laying down the supporting licks, Bob steps back from
his mike and goes into his lead guitar routine, complete with a full
range of facial expressions from pursed lip frowns of concentration to
intense staredowns with members of the audience up front. There is a
very definite comedic side of Bob which can only be experienced up
close. Previous reviews have made the point but the live "Million
Miles" is so much more dynamic compared to the TOOM version.
"When you're lost in the rain in Juarez...". Wasn't expecting this in
number 3, but surprise immediately gives way to appreciation. Bob is
nailing the vocals. Larry and Tony are constantly breaking out into
large grins, both at each other and with those in the front, sensing
that something special is happening. "I started out on burgundy but
soon hit the harder stuff...". Not tonight, Bob. Unless you're
holding it much better these days.
If ever there is any doubt as to whether Bob considers a setlist with
a particular city or occasion in mind, the next number should put such
doubts to rest. Before "You're Not Supposed To Care", Bob dedicates the
song to its writer, long time Toronto resident and friend Gordon
Lightfoot. It is a tender, almost delicate performance, giving a hint
of what was to come for the rest of the night.
On the darkened stage, Bob and Tony are conferring. Will Silvio be
making an appearance across the border tonight? Alas, it is not to
be. Still dark, we hear a lone guitar note which trails off into a
thudding bass line. The bass is now joined by staccato riffs of Larry's
guitar. Of all the songs on TOOM, the near anthemic nature "Cold Irons
Bound" makes it a perfect fit for arena venues. Bob and the band put on
a searing performance, each verse building in intensity over the
previous. Dark at the beginning, the stage once more is dark, as the
song draws to a close to a thunderous ovation.
Stage hands rush to and fro, exchanging acoustic guitars with Larry
and Bob. Dimly, we see Bucky strapping on the mandolin, taking his
place next to Tony, who steadies his double bass. We make out some
tentative opening chords. The strumming stops and faintly, you can
hear Tony counting off the song. One. Two. Three...Music. Lights.
Another surprise. It was only the previous night that "Tomorrow Is
A Long Time" was performed in Detroit. Exquisite harmonies from
Larry and Bucky.
Song over, Bob ambles to the back of the stage and picks up a harp,
along with a blue bullet-shaped mike. The harp is held over the mike,
guitar is pushed to the back, neck pointing towards the floor, Johnny
Cash style. But Johnny never played the harp like this. Bob knows
harp. And it shows tonight. The harp intro to "My Back Pages" is
incredibly moving, seeming to go on and on. Bob would hold a note,
facing the crowd with his knees bent, his free hand stretched out to the
side. If he gets any lower, his knees would touch the floor, making for
a great impression of Al Jolsen.
"My Back Pages" closes with a harp solo, soon followed by the
familiar chords of "Masters Of War". The song has been a common
staple of past shows and will doubtless be so in the future. The
fact that one never tires of this song is a tribute to its timeless
power as it gives voice to those who are perceived to have neither.
There is an understated rage in Bob's vocals, almost spitting out the
lines with disdain "...'til I'm sure that you're ..DEAD".
The applause gives way to the faint sound of Bucky's mandolin.
The guitars and drum quickly kick in and before you realize,
we are almost halfway through "Tangled Up In Blue". Bob is
setting a blistering pace with his vocals, almost like he is trying
to outpace the band. This is definitely the fastest TUIB in
recent memory but the lines are delivered perfectly. Extended
solos from everyone. I'm thinking the song is winding down but still
no cue from Bob so the acoustic jam continues. Finally, Bob barely
glances back at David, and with the most subtle of nods, brings the
song to a rapturous finish.
Electric instruments are plugged back in and Bucky takes his place
behing the pedal steel. Very soft guitar chords can be heard. Whatever
the next song is, it'll be a slow one. "In the time of my
confession,...". I don't believe it. Never thought I'd ever hear
"Every Grain Of Sand" live. Somehow, the song seems lost on most of the
crowd up front because there isn't much reaction other than my own
shouts of approval. The vocals are clear and unrushed, a perfect
lead-in to the rousing finish to come.
Bob and band in full tilt boogie mode for Highway 61 Revisited. ZZ Top
can learn a few tricks from these guys. Again, it may have been my
imagination but Bob's vocals seem faster on this Highway than on others.
Everyone on stage is in overdrive. Beneath his white Panama hat, David
looks too cool to be laying down the ferocious beat in support of the
dueling guitars of Bob and Larry. Another backward glance to cue David
and the song comes to an end. Off come the instruments, bows and waves
and Bob and the band head off stage as the lights go down.
In the darkness, We see Larry coming back first, cigarette dangling
from his mouth. Before he straps on his guitar, he takes one final drag
and hands the cigarette to a waiting stagehand. Still dark, we hear the
distinctive echoing chords which introduce "Love Sick". Bucky's pedal
steel really stands out in mix. Bob is relatively sedentary during this
song, perhaps saving legs for the stretch run to come.
When "Love Sick" ends, the lights come on and stay on for "Rainy Day
Women". Every time I hear this song, the vocals seem to be getting
shorter and shorter. Soon, I expect Bob to dispense with lyrics
altogether and make RDW a full instrumental. After the first extended
jam, Tony moves from his place on stage beside Bucky and places himself
between Larry and Bob. Bandleader Tony leans over to Larry and shouts
"LOUD!". They both have huge smiles as Larry cranks up the volume on
I look up to the seats in the reds and grays and everyone is up on their
feet. I know a lot of concert regulars are tiring of RDW but Bob seems
to be having a great time. Bob, we grant you this indulgence. We get
the complete repertoire of moves. Deep knee bends, small stutter steps
front and back, then side to side, Bob's face occasionally breaking into
We see stagehands readying the acoustic instruments at the back and RDW
finally winds down to a tumultuous ovation. The audience is treated to
a mellow version of "Blowin' In The Wind" and it responds with a very
nice effort in a singalong during the chorus. "Blowin'" is a standard
encore number for this hockey arena leg of the tour Bob's performance
completely allays my initial concerns that the song might be a pander to
the nostalgic yearnings of the "Greatest Hits" portion of the crowd.
After a short, almost perfunctory pause as Bob and the band exchange
acoustic for electric, they steam into " 'Til I Fell In Love With You".
For the last electric number of the night, everything is falling into
place. Great playing from everyone and there is just a hint of the
Daniel Lanois reverb mix in Bob's vocals. I'm guessing it's on a song
like this that the two mikes, a regular and a bullet shaped, come into
For the closing acoustic number, the opening chords are repeated over
and over, and for a moment, I thought we were going to unexpectedly get
"Girl From The North Country". Someone behind me said "Scarborough
Fair", which Bob used for musical inspiration on a number of early
tunes. No surprise tonight, however, as Bob launches into very melodic
"It Ain't Me, Babe". I've listened to live
performances which were more spoken than sung but not tonight. More
inspired harp playing from Bob. There is an almost evangelical fervor
in his playing, and when Bob crouches lower and lower as he leans into a
note, I half expect himto fall on his knees.
At the end of the song, the instruments come off and there are bows all
around. Everyone leaves the now darkened stage as the applause
continues to build. The lights remain off and for a split second, the
delusional part of my thought process takes over, and I hold out the
faintest hope of one more song. It was not to be as the house lights
come on. After such a performance, however, no one can feel short
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