October 30, 2019
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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