Reviews

Chicago, Illinois

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
Credit Union 1 Arena

October 30, 2019


[Bob Shiel], [David Moyer]

Review by Bob Shiel



At 78, Bob Dylan rolled into Chicago tonight and delivered his best 
performance here since 2014 when he did a three night stand at the 
Cadillac Palace Theater.  The superior acoustics at the Cadillac Palace 
were the only thing making those shows better than tonightís.  As 
good as Bobís voice sounded 5 years ago, it sounds much better now.  
Maybe itís all those American standards Bob has been crooning in the 
recording studio and onstage in the ensuing 4 years.  His enunciation 
and ability to punch a mouthful of lyrics is noticeably improved.

First, Bob Britt on guitar and Matt Chamberlain on drums are welcome 
additions to the Never Ending Tour.  Is Britt a better player than Stu 
Kimble?  Who is to say?  I, for one, was quite impressed with him.  
George Recile was more flamboyant than Chamberlain, but the band 
does not suffer one bit with Chamberlain behind the drum kit.  We all 
wish George well with his medical issues.

Unquestionably, all sorts of new sounds are coming out of the band on 
this tour.  For example, I heard what sounded like an organ on the opener, 
Things Have Changed, but no organ around, just three weird mannequins 
and a Romanesque bust, all befitting lots of Halloween orange and black 
lighting.  I think the organ auditory illusion was the interplay between
Donnie Herronís pedal steel guitar and the Fenders Charlie Sexton and 
Britt were playing.  Even though I have probably heard this song live a 
dozen times, it has never sounded better, melodically reworked and Bobís 
vocal high in the mix from the get go.

Bob, as he is wont to do, rewrote quite a few lyrics, notably when he 
gave a sentimental nod to Echo Helstrom in 1958 in Simple Twist Of Fate.    
Then, on the middle 8 in Canít Wait the reverb on Bobís hand-held 
microphone was turned way up with eerie results, as Bob gazed aimlessly 
into some far off place.  On When I Paint My Masterpiece Tony Ganier is 
adding soulful descending bass notes between verses, after the songís 
tempo is completely sped up about halfway through.  Honest With Me 
has become yet another of the countless entire makeovers of this song 
off Tempest.  On Pay In Blood Britt is given room to stretch out his 
guitar solo while Bob and boys treat us to a new rhythm and melodic shift.

Lenny Bruce was the show stopper.  Everybody in the 7 rows in front of
me sat down for the first time.  The last verse concludes every wound, 
as opposed to every victory, still hurts.  Bob had we the audience by our 
throats from this point forward.

Early Roman Kings has been reinterpreted into some kind of modern day 
blues classic, with the band sounding its best of the whole evening.  Not 
Dark Yet has a new, spooky melody, perfect for the Halloween season. 
Bob flubbed coming in on time on the last verse on Thunder On The 
Mountain, not that anybody really noticed except Tony, whose infectious 
smile was beaming away, and afterwards Bob and Tony had a little 
discussion about something or another before Soon After Midnight, which 
came off sensationally as the lovely quick step waltz it is.  Tonyís playing 
on Make You Feel My Love and Soon After Midnight featured a bouncy, 
thumping style I had never heard from him reminiscent of Rob Stoner.  
Loved it.

Then, Gotta Serve Somebody was quite the rocker highlighted by Britt 
and Sexton playing a descending guitar duet between verses that set 
Bob up in his wheelhouse to start the vocal of the next verse.  Finally, 
on Ballad Of A Thin Man it was a dinner invitation expected, not a check 
from a tax deductible charity organization, and It Takes A Lot To Laugh, 
A Train To Cry took us out on a slow blues chocked full of Britt and Sexton 
guitar solo punches an upright piano fills from the man we all came to see. 
 
 I have often joked over the years that my 61st Dylan show would be my 
 last.  Well, tonight was 61.   I especially enjoyed sharing it with Patrick 
 Boyle, a Blood On The Tracks fan at his 3rd show.  If it turns out to be 
 my last, because you just never know, it will be an unforgettable memory 
 of a fantastic concert, testimony to the fact that Bob Dylan is never to 
 be underestimated or deemed down for the count.  Just when you 
 wonder if heís knocked out, he loads his gun belt for another shootout 
 in the halls of musical Americana.  Bravo, Bob!

[TOP]

Review by David Moyer



Five Decades of Music

Bob Dylan's October 30, 2019, standout performance at the Credit Union 1 
Arena, Chicago, IL, featured a 49-year span of music ranging from "Girl from 
the North Country" from 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan to three songs 
from 2012's Tempest, Dylan's most recent studio album of original songs.

He opened on guitar for "Things Have Changed," the 2000 Oscar winning 
song from the movie Wonder Boys and closed on piano with a rollicking 
version of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry."  In between 
there were four songs from 1997's Grammy Award winning Time Out of 
Mind ("Can't Wait," "Tryin' to Get to Heaven," "Make You Feel My Love," 
and "Not Dark Yet"). 
 
The Time arrangements were intriguing, especially "Trying to Get to 
Heaven," which featured a sound similar to the classic arrangements of 
"Desolation Row."  Every day I get older, this song seems more poignant 
("I've been walking through the middle of nowhere/Tryin' to get to 
heaven before the close the door," among other lines}.  And, well, who 
hasn't covered "Make You Feel My Love?"

Bob's piano was aligned perpendicular to the audience stage left.  When 
not playing piano, Bob moved to the center of the stage, and frequently 
teased the audience going to the stand to get and/or pretend to get 
one of his harps (a gag that never gets old).  His harp playing was 
sporadic but well received.  On several songs he migrated to center 
stage, collapsing back into the fabric of the band, drawing attention to 
the sound and not himself.

It's really difficult to explain what happened on this night.  The crowd 
ranged in age from three to about 80.  I know there was a three-year 
old there because just after the opener, a couple carried her right past 
me.  I sat next to a woman who danced on stage with Bob during "Like 
a Rolling Stone" at the same concert I attended at the Eagles Ballroom in 
Milwaukee in 1996, when the show featured a decidedly country twist.  
That concert included a strong version of "Simple Twist of Fate."  Last 
night's version of "Simple Twist of Fate" was, in and of itself, worth the 
price of admission.
 
I would say it was the highlight, except that "When I Paint My 
Masterpiece" was so good, "Lenny Bruce" was amazing, and "Thunder 
on the Mountain" rocked hard.  During "Masterpiece," the band quietly 
supported Bob on piano, allowing him to make indelible impressions on 
the audience, but, as was the case all night, ebbed and flowed with 
Bob's voice until it ultimately rocked out the end of the song.
  
New band members Matt Chamberlain on drums, who has performed 
with prominent artists too numerous to mention, and Bob Britt on 
guitar, who can best be described as likewise, seem to have afforded 
Bob yet another chance to re-create.  Though Chamberlain was mostly 
complimentary throughout the evening and George Recile is a tough 
act to follow, Chamberlain drove "Thunder" and "Gotta Serve 
Somebody", and, I, personally, loved his traditional grip!  Britt took a 
few licks here and there, but blended in masterfully as if he had been 
playing these songs for decades.  Both are obviously true pros.

But, decades being what they are, was this the 30th Anniversary of 
Tony Tour or the 20th Anniversary of Charlie Tour?  It was surreal, 
macabre, poignant, relevant, classic, contemporary, and reverent all at 
the same time.  The staging and lighting resembled the 2003 movie 
Masked and Anonymous.  I was in the eighth row, and I do not know 
why three wax figures were staring at me from the back of the stage, 
though I assume the sculpture at the front of the stage had 
something to do with Bob's fascination with playing "Early Roman 
Kings" since it debuted on Tempest.

Charlie Sexton's guitar was other-worldly as always.  His musicianship 
is amazing and completely lacks pretentiousness.  He is just damn 
good.  And I assume has no problem getting a date.  If only I had 
aged that well.  Tony Garnier is just plain having a blast, moving from 
stand-up bass to electric, dancing the Tony dance to all of his favorite 
songs.

And then there is Donnie Herron.  Whether it is his pedal steel, lap 
steel, or violin (or even at times banjo, mandolin, or whatever Bob 
says he wants), he fills all of the spaces with such grace, that any 
genre, be it country, Americana, blues, rock, swing, bluegrass, jazz, 
rockabilly, Dixie, gospel, et. al., meld into one perfect vision of what 
Bob wants to do on any given night.

Majestic.  And, yes, for those of you who might find this hard to 
believe, Bob sang the hell out of every song, and sounded damn 
good.

When the circus comes to your town, don't make the mistake of 
being somewhere else.  I have been to 47 shows.  I can count a 
handful that were absurdly good.  A dud or two here or there, and 
many really good and enjoyable shows.  I would say that this is 
among the second group of five or six show that were truly amazing.  
Bob is an artist who is still in his prime.  As unbelievable as that might 
seem, it is true.

Dave Moyer
lifeandlifeonly22@gmail.com

[TOP]

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