Review by T. Heyerdahl
It was a great night on stage, and a strange night in the stands of the
ScotiaBank Place in Ottawa. "Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like
a rhapsody... When I paint my masterpiece", Bob once wrote, and certainly
things were smooth on stage tonight, but there were plenty of lions as
well as girls pullin' muscles ...in the audience.
Bob started with the expected Maggie's farm, an altered, but
technically sound rendition. I felt it was a little bland. That
changed when they launched into "She Belongs to Me". I particularly
liked the rhythm produced by Bob's quick delivery of the words
"hypnotistcollector", I certainly at that point felt overwhelmed with
the sensation that Dylan's no walking antique. He had a strong
harmonica solo, which was very energetic, yet gave me concerns about
possible hyperventilating in Bob's alternating between two notes. Some
senior citizen! The second harp solo of the night (which was of the
more standard blues variety) came with "Watching the River Flow", in
which for the first time, I some some similarities with Leopard Skin
Pillbox Hat while I was trying to "name that tune". I enjoyed watching
Bob "squat" rhythmically with the "flow" of the music. It was
obvious, as he has stated that he feels comfortable with this band,
and I would agree that this is the best band I have ever seen him play
with (since the late 80's), but he says it's the best he has ever
played with, so who am I to disagree? "Just Like a Woman" started so
subtley, I mistook it for "Every Grain of Sand", until the
instrumental intro got to the chorus. I like the changes to this one,
as well as the sensitive retention of remains of the original
arrangement. I loved the four beat breaks between certain words,
particularly "makes love / beat/ beat/ beat/ beat/ justlike awoman",
"she aches //// justlike awoman", "I, //// just don'tfit", and "When
we //// meetagain". I also enjoyed the conjuction of "cursehurts". I
am extremely tired of hearing HWY 61, but it was tight, and the drum
work and guitar solo really stood out as superb. "Ballad of a Thin
Man" was an easily recognized by that familiar E minor chord, and was
responded to favourably by what seemed to me a pretty fickle and
apathetic, and therefore typical, Ottawa crowd. "Rolling and Tumbling"
just rolled along and was gone. Simple Twist of Fate was so beautiful
I forgot how many times I've heard this now live (8 or 9 times?), and
Bob delivered his 4th harp solo of the night. High Water was a stand
out. It was a kick-ass version that I would pay another 20 bucks to
replace the one on L & T. "You Go Your Way" became a raucous, almost
reggaefied 'Dear John' tonight, very fresh and upbeat. It is
interesting to hear a happy, content, and confident Bob sing what used
to be such a bitter and vituperitive dismissal in such a joyous
manner. TUIB started quietly with one guitar, and Bob's keyboard, and
got quieter while Tony grabbed some water, and Bob seemed to flounder
over the chords a bit. This one "went a little country" in a big way,
twice... and returned back.. Nettie Moore was stunning - really,
really, sweet. It was the best platform for Bob's voice all night,
althought his voice seemed a little worse for wear occassionally, The
violin was just beautiful. Then Bob pushed autopilot, and launched
into the predictable Summer Days, Thunder, LARS, and Watchtower. All
four of these were just fine, but WT was particularly good. I am very
content, nay, absolutely sated by his performance tonight. I wouldn't
dare whine about not hearing "Spirit on the Water", or "W. M.
Blues"... although I'd love to hear them live sometime. But I will
rail against the lions and "muscle pullers" in the audience (perhaps
the British term 'Wankers' would be appropriate here. Although I felt
the audience on the whole were drawn in by Bob's performance (damn it!
you'd have to be dead not to respond to that level of muscianship and
artistry!), I heard a lot of simpering about what tunes he didn't play
of his best hits, or that he didn't do enough of his new songs. One
idiot went on about how much better "The Who" show was. Give me a
break! I' m glad that Bob isn't prancing about in overly tight pants
with a bay window gut hanging out, and that rather he lets his
masterpieces speak for themselves.
Well, I'm sure that Bob's spending a little time with Botticelli's niece
tonight.... even if the clergymen didn't notice.
Review by Matthew Crosier
It was Bob's third time visiting the cavernous hockey rink that is now
called "Scotiabank Place". And being only a few minutes from my home, I
couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity to catch a show with the master
even though the venue was far from ideal. This time I had tickets on the
floor, so some of the echo chamber effect of the rink was mitigated. After
waiting for the Foo Fighters to finish their set we found our way down to
the ice surface and settled into our folding chairs to await the strains
of "Fanfare for the Common Man". As the band shuffled on and the announcer
struggled to read the intro, we got up to cheer and rarely sat down for
the rest of the evening. Mind you, 65 year old Bob, was bouncing along
with his keyboard, and standing as well, so if he can do it, the least we
can do is join him.
He started off with "Maggie's Farm" and was in reasonable vocal form. The
majority of the crowd sitting near us, who were under 30, and were on
their cell phones and black berry's by the time Bob croaked out the second
chorus, but my uncle and I were having a good time anyways. He was puzzled
as to why people would spend $100 to talk to people on their phones and so
was I. But this is Ottawa "the city that fun forgot". The band was
lethargic at best and stayed that way throughout the concert. But Bob
seemed interested most of the time and that is what really mattered. "She
Belongs To Me", was much better and was one of the highlights of the
night. Vocals were strong, music understated and a great song, was allowed
to stand on its own merits. "Watching the River Flow" was hesitant at best
and "Just Like A Woman", started with a wonderful musical intro but
drifted off into music by the numbers. "Highway 61 Revisited" was one of
the worst versions I've seen. chipmunk vocals, sprawled over the Vincent
Price organ drone and backed by sub par musicians. Ballad of A Thin Man
had some strong moments, particularly when the noise level lowered and Bob
spit out the lyrics. We have plenty of Barry Goldwater wannabe's living in
this city, and I wish they could have heard this message.
Rollin and Tumblin was basic bar room blues but Simple Twist of Fate was
quite lovely. One of Bob's better vocal performances of the night. It
should be mentioned that although we did get Bob sans guitar, we did get a
lot more harmonica than we are used to. And some of it was quite
wonderful. "High Water" was very forgettable and the lead guitarist was
unable to play the turn-around on "Most Likely You Go Your Way". And Bob
was unable to pull off any real bluster on the vocals here. Too bad, I
love that song.
Tangled Up In Blue was much better than the last several times I have
heard it and Bob got into the lyrics as well. Slowed down a fair bit, but
still very fun. "Nettie Moore" was a big surprise to me. Much better than
I thought it would be and one of the best Bob vocals I've seen in many
years. I hung on every word and Bob had many of them in what was the best
part of the whole evening. We were no longer in a club, and had joined Bob
at the end of the piano in the Cafe Wha. Finally the moment we had waited
for and in typical Bob fashion it was a total surprise.
"Summer Days, Thunder on the Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone and All
Along the Watchtower". were candy floss to send us home happy with
Hope you can come back, if so please play the NAC or some place where we
are not sitting on boards, covering an ice surface. Maybe a cell phone
free show too, glad to see smoking indoors is gone, now let's get rid of
the phones. Or just donate your tickets to people who can't afford them
and actually want to listen to the show.
Review by Nicholas von Maltzahn
Three years almost to the day since I last saw Dylan. Much has changed,
again. The tour may be neverending; the mood and music have been
transformed. Dark days now to the fore and uncertain loves. The voice
seems that much more determined. It needs to be to master the big
sound that otherwise runs the show. Some longer and more inflected harp
leads, more vocal than before. Others will know better but I loved it all.
The great joy early was Watching the River Flow, for me also recalling glory
days. Some tense harsh work followed, including Ballad of a Thin Man and
Simple Twist of Fate, which subdued what was no lively crowd. But then
late a glorious Nettie Moore—what an amazing song—and this All Saints’
Sunday a real reaction to “Today I’ll stand in faith and raise / The voice of
praise.” Something was still alive; there were still listeners whom to tell.
We seemed lucky to get an encore, so much of the energy had been on
stage. The singer and his band drove it home, of course, and he did the
big finish on “what any of it is worth.”
Bob looked sharp in what may be a double-breasted Union outfit, renegade
hat. If you’re still buying tickets for these next weeks, go for the left side
as you face the stage. Grohl and Foo Fighters are very worth the early
start, have a real following.
Review by Peter MacIntosh
Dylan was in fine form in Ottawa. I made the sojourn from Nova Scotia, and
this marked my 15th time being at a Dylan show, dating back to Hamilton,
Ontario in 1988. Moreover, it was one of the best concerts I can recall.
Dylan's band is superb - Tony Garnier is an amazing bandleader. Garnier's
experience and musicianship shine through, and overall Dylan seems very
comfortable with this ensemble. Those who pine for Larry Campbell and
Charlie Sexton should get over it. Part of what makes Dylan both appealing
and intriguing is his ever-changing musical persona and demeanor - why
would we expect or want his band to be mired in stagnation?
I had to laugh during "Most Likely You Go Your Way" (the only weak
performance of the evening) when Dylan seemed obviously distraught at his
keyboard. He repeatedly poked at the instrument, to no effect. Eventually
a roadie appeared and turned the keyboard back on! Bob must have turned
it off by mistake!
On that issue, Dylan's keyboard playing is improving all the time, or at least it
is more audible. It is definitely clearer and crisper than a year and a half ago
in Boston and even last spring in Atlanta, when he had the instrument
turned down low. His more pronounced playing on the current tour,
combined with vocals that are more to the forefront, made this a very
Dylan-centered concert (well duh, as it should be). His vocals on "Nettie
Moore" particularly were superb. Then again, I think his singing on "Modern
Times" far outstrips the vocals on "Love and Theft."
My friend and fellow Dylan-devotee Conrad made the astute observation that
Dylan plays the keyboard like he plays the guitar - coaxing sounds out of the
instrument not so much to sustain or carry the melody, but instead to serve
as a non-jarring counterpoint to the principal melody line.
All in all, a fun time in the presence of the Master.
Review by Bill White
I’d been anticipating this show for so long, watching the set lists and
reading the reviews – and maybe my good friend Paul (who bought our
tickets) has the best idea of all – just go into “set list shut down mode”
before all of that information discolours the actual live experience all
I guess it would be easy to be a little disappointed as my fellow CKCU-FM
alumnus Matt Crosier seemed to be (see above). The review in the Ottawa
Citizen, hack job though it was -- and painfully bereft (inevitably) of
any serious insights, thanks to an apparent appalling lack of research –
whined about the band lacking energy… Maybe the guy wanted something on
the level of that absolutely amazing Neil Young Show here earlier this
year. Even worse, said critic complained that Bob wouldn’t “speak to the
crowd” by calling out “How are ya, Ottawa?”...! Laughably, the review
closed with an audacious “PS”, calling for people to send in their cell
phone photos, because, as it turned out, security was tighter than a drum:
not even newspaper snappers were allowed anywhere inside. Which is kinda
new too, but then who cares? Certainly not Bob, who doesn’t need the
As usual, the Main Event began with Fanfare for the Common Man and then
the now long-winded narrative intro. Frankly, this intro is getting really
old. Besides, with the crowd going nuts for Bob, you can hardly hear the
words, so perhaps it’s time to dump it and just go with “Please welcome
Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan”.
Typically as well, the sound was a bit muddy at the gitgo, but that
cleared up for She Belongs to Me, the first of a handful of tunes that
ended with harp solos. I have to admit that I’ve heard way better versions
of Watching the River Flow and Highway 61 from the previous band.
Ballad of a Thin Man was about the first time that we could hear Bob’s
keyboards. From this point on, I noticed that these sounds bore a strong
reflection of Garth Hudson’s tutelage: did anyone else hear a swirling
three-ring circus? At the conclusion of Thin Man, my friend Paul and I
agreed it was time for a new song and as if on cue, Bob delivered the
goods. However, Rolling and Tumbling literally rolled and tumbled: the
band raced forward, with Bob valiantly trying to keep up with the words.
Simple Twist of Fate was an unexpected treat and then the band blew out
the stacks with High Water: for me this song, and that awesome version of
Nettie Moore were this concert’s highlights.
I suppose there’s a fairly good argument against putting Bob in these
massive hockey rinks, but then again, it’s hard to find a decent sounding
joint that only holds 10,000 people, especially in this town. Besides, Bob
and his band know that they have to slow down the pace on songs just a tad
for the bigger arenas – and songs like Nettie Moore are perfectly suited
for such venues.
And he seems to be satisfied with the core of his sets for such places:
Maggies’ Farm and She Belongs to Me open the show, which closes with
Nettie Moore and Summer Days, with the “new trio” for the encore.
So, fair enough, he plays a good gig that seemed to satisfy the vast
majority of people there, whether it was 7,000 (according to reviews in
both the English- and French-language dailies here) or 10,000 or 12,000.
Perhaps the attendance estimate was based on the volume of beer sales, but
And it’s a really good, clean presentation. My wife Anne preferred the
previous concert with Larry Campbell, but was singularly impressed on this
night with the stage setting and clean white lighting… vast spaces between
the musicians who were all elegantly dressed and – with the exception of
the pedal-steel player behind Bob – all sporting a hat of some nature. The
light show was similarly understated in an elegant way – as opposed to the
Foo Fighters’ light show which was all sizzle and entirely bereft of
syncopation with either the mood or the rhythm of the music.
In fact, “Foo Fighters Acoustic” was somewhat of a lie. The only acoustic
elements were the very young woman playing violin and the axe in Dave
Grohl’s hands. The rest was rock and roar. Their set started well,
reaching out into some nice dreamy atmospherics.
After only three songs, the band sank into the murky waters of
self-indulgence, punctuated by Grohl’s adolescently empty lyrics (“Skin
and Bones” was nothing more than, well, skin and bones), his incessant
between-song babbling, and a Johnny Carson/ Ed McMahon back’n’forth
routine with the drummer who introduced (with much showbiz bravado) a song
that he wrote especially for the Foo Fighters. As Bob once said in Talkin’
Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues: “Whoopee.” Pearl Jam’s drummer, Matt
Cameron, has written much better material, particularly on PJ’s Riot Act.
The keyboard player seemed to be playing some other gig; firing of notes
in another key and tinkly runs that went off madly off in all directions.
In a word, then, “yikes”.
But Foo Fighters did manage to attract a sizeable youth quotient, most of
whom stuck around for “the master” as Grohl called him, except for the
small clutch at the very last row of the floor seats, who I suspect were
hauled out by security for stupidly hauling on some stinking hydro at the
beginning of Bob’s set.
Whether Bob’s current backing band will last as long as the Larry Campbell
line up – obviously – remains to be seen. I thought this outfit was much
better with Elena Fremerman in Buffalo in 2005, but then perhaps it was a
case of the band being in a smaller venue and still jazzed about exploring
the tunes and getting to the spine of the things. Nowadays, it seems just
a bit of old hat for Stu Kimball and the other fellah stuck way off to
Bob’s left. Stu was positively wailing away in Buffalo but this night in
Ottawa, it was a case of getting through another gig and a little
sloppiness didn’t seem to bother him much.
But Bob isn’t so easily cowed. Our friend Mr. Richards managed to score
front-row centre tix from a buddy of his who (unbelievably) couldn’t go.
Mr. Richards reported that it was fascinating to watch the expressions in
Bob’s face contort with every syllable. Now, the effort didn’t necessarily
translate completely through the sound system to the corner where we were,
but then again, come to think of it… yeah, it was there and to quote an Ed
Vedder line (There He Goes): he’s still strong.
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