November 2, 2009
Review by Don Ely
Bloomington was the first of four shows in a row for me as I threw my hat into
this Fall 2009 tour... and danced around it! As a faithful follower of setlists
I've noticed several on this run that have been nearly devoid of Together
Through Life material, so I've kept fingers and eyes crossed that by attending a
quartet I should be able to catch just about everything I want to see. The
stardust fell on Indiana this night, 'cause this gig was Knocked Out Loaded!
Driving down from Detroit, running late as usual, not helped by the clock in
that I didn't gain the hour I thought I had changing time zones. When I got to
Bloomington I had a little trouble finding my hotel, but I was able to check in
by 7:15, find the parking garage at Sixth and Dunn, walk to the venue, purchase
two bottles of water, and be escorted to my seat just after the start of "
Watching The River Flow ". As beautiful a concert hall as the Indiana University
Auditorium is, the sound quality was less than stellar, but it could have been
me not yet settled down and settled in, or it could have been that the mix was
not quite right. This distraction would disappear as the night heated up. " The
Man In Me ", normally a rarity, is a song that Bob favors and has fallen into
regular rotation on this tour. A pleasant enough number, I don't feel it's among
his best, but still enjoyed its inclusion as one of those songs I'd wanted to
see. The only other performance I'd seen was at Wappingers Falls in '06.
Then we got to the good stuff! " Beyond Here Lies Nothin' ", the first of five (
! ) TTL selections was served up hot off the griddle. Charlie's back in town!
Has it been seven years already since he's been gone? All that time blew away in
a puff of smoke as Charlie Sexton brought GUITAR back to Bob Dylan and His Band,
an elegant fire missing since the latter days of Freddie Koella ( yes, the
much-maligned Freddie, who'd proven himself worthy by the Spring 2004 shows ).
And how about Bob himself? He ripped a few leads tonight that indicated the old
guy can still handle his axe, arthritis or no. Or maybe he just made a deal with
Robert Johnson! " It's All Over Now, Baby Blue " was also a warm and welcome
return, a song that used to be a given in nearly any Bob Dylan performance, but
not the case any more. Then the second-ever " It's All Good " was bestowed upon
us, fresh from it's debut at the Aragon. Minus David Higalgo's accordion it
loses it's Louisiana identity as on the lp, but sounded great nonetheless.
As someone pointed out in an earlier review, " The Levee's Gonna Break " is this
band's signature. I never fully appreciated the song at the time it was captured
in the studio, but at this moment it has fermented into a full-bodied elixir.
Then Bob said, " Somebody wants to come up and sing a little song for ya. Tom
Waits! " No cheers could be heard from the crowd, but up to the mic sauntered
Tom - er, I mean, Stu - and damn if he didn't sound exactly like the San Diego
Serenader!! I was expecting to see windshield vipers crawl off of George's drum
kit....that Bob, what a joker! Later they tried to coax Willie Nelson out from
the wings, but he was having none of it ( Charlie did play a couple nice Willie
soundalike licks, though ). Then followed another TTL gold nugget, the
scarcely-played " This Dream Of You " as my luck continued to roll.
It was Time Out Of Mind revisited during the next two numbers, a
craftily-rearranged " Cold Irons Bound " that retained it's dark menace ( thanks
to the hands of Charlie Sexton ), and a lovely " Tryin' To Get To Heaven ". Bob
started to blow a harp solo, instead after one note found it wasn't " tuned "
right, and aborted, a wise move from grizzled ol' Bobby. " A Hard Rain's A-Gonna
Fall ", greatly appreciated by an appreciative crowd, was presented gracefully
late in the set. " Ballad Of A Thin Man " began as threatening as any version
I've ever heard, but at some point ran afoul of rocks, and while never
capsizing, sort of limped the remaining distance to shore.
All in all it was a perfect night in Bloomington, Indiana; had he been there
Hoagy Carmichael would've been so proud. A beautiful audience, a beautiful
evening, dry and not too cool for walking to and from the venue. IU is an
attractive campus, sort of an Ivy League school of the Midwest, in my
estimation, and Bloomington is an interesting town with lots of friendly people.
I enjoyed my visit there. And, a theory was not disproven: even in this digital
age, every college town worth it's weight in beer bongs has at least one good
record store. I found it, Landlocked Records, right on Walnut Street on the
square. Waiting for Columbus!
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