November 5, 2012
Review by Ken Sherman
Bob and the band blew into the Veteran's Coliseum in Madison Monday
night sandwiched in between two nights off full of energy and with a
twinkle in his eye. His pacing on some of the early like "I'll Be
your Baby Tonight" (the only song I remember him playing the electric
keyboard on) and "Hard Rain" was a little hurried. But he gave a mock
"surprised" look when he faced the full crowd before the solo mike leading
into "Man With the Long Black Coat" and over time the tempo of the songs
really found a groove.
This being the eve of the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, I was
wondering how he might work the theme behind that story - weak and
downtrodden versus privileged and enriched - into the show. Perhaps
Mr. William Zanzinger? Even better - my first "Chimes of Freedom"!
The anthem for the confused and misused. It really rang out through
the air in one of those "only Bob can do that" moments. It is why we
keep going to shows all these decades later even though sometimes it
feels so "been there, done that" to others. The other rarity which I felt
had some election overtones was "When the Deal Goes Down" a song of
empathy and humanity compared to hard hearted self reliance and "I've got
mine" philosophy popular with so many this day.
Bob speaks! During the band intro he said something to the effect of "I
heard you had some visitors today so we sure tried to play good tonight",
referencing the rally that morning in Madison with appearances by
President Obama and intro and songs by Bruce Springsteen. Obama stayed in
the Sheraton across the street from the Coliseum the night before in
little old Madison in this amazing day. After that I think he said "Well
he's still president today, and I think he'll still be president
tomorrow...in a landslide" or something to that effect which got a mixed
reaction. Such is life in a swing state.
Finally, I had always wanted to hear him play more acoustic piano,
which make this tour a real treat. Songs like Rolling Stone and
Chimes really ring out when he wants them to better than with the
electric keyboard. It brought me back to the '70's shows that
featured accoustic piano with the Band / Richard Manuel, the "Vegas"
and the gospel shows, which are some of my favorite live performance
Roll on Bob!!
Review by C. T.
To be honest, this was a rough show. Bob was animated and focused, but the
new M.O. that he has adopted for these shows and this band aren't going to
yield the kind of fireworks that are a real concert draw. Things have
certainly changed. To state a personal bias, I favor the
Campbell/Baxter-era and Campbell/Sexton-era bands as they brought a great
mix of rock, blues, country and bluegrass. This new group is more stately,
more swing-oriented and mostly toothless as a unit. The problems start
from the beginning. This is a smaller arena but it wasn't sold out by a
long shot. Most of the upper deck was empty and half the arena was closed
off to make it seem a bit more peopled. This was the wrong venue for Bob.
Too big. Of note, Knopfler and his band were very good. The music is on
the surface, a bland mix of folk, country blues and hints of jazz. It had
a pronounced Celtic and English folk vibe not that dissimilar from '60s
and '70s groups like Fairport Convention or Pentangle. Pleasing and
peaceful. Dire Straits was always a bit of a blah arena group for me, but
Knopfler and his band's performance likely won over many in the crowd. If
you were looking for some serious musicianship and some instrumental
pluck, they delivered. It was a strong performance. His guitar playing in
particular rode the waves of moods and led a strong ensemble sound that
offered a touch of the exotic to this nostalgia showcase. Dylan, however,
would have none of this. He was lively and engaged but seems to delight in
discovering new musical motifs in front of the audience. Bob was like a
child fingerpainting on top of the band's sensitive recreation of
masterworks. Bob as piano man and Bob the dodgy singer insured nothing was
what you'd hoped it could be. He'd play over the top of all the musicians,
missed cues and ran rough shot over the show with little rhyme or reason.
As a result, the band was as mousy as I'd ever seen them and it was
definitely one of the more uneven shows I've seen. What happened to the
intro? Not heard that it was discarded. Did the soundboard guy retire?
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" was nice. Bob was very growly but the band
locked into a groove. It wasn't country. A greasy Americana slide through
the song. Bob was on the organ and near the end, locked into a good groove
that Tony and George quickly cut off just as it was going somewhere. "Man
In The Long Black Coat" was dark and mysterious. Knopfler's guitar was
high in the mix and nicely prettied up the growling and creeping tones.
"Things Have Changed" was a mess. Stripped of it's melody, it was just Bob
racing through the words and changing the cadences with little reason
behind the choices. Not fun. "TUIB" was closer to the original arrangement
with Stu on the acoustic guitar and was a good groove, but nothing
exceptional. Hard to conceive of "Tangled" as being unexceptional. "A Hard
Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" is where problems
became really apparent. Bob kept trying to audition new melodic phrases
and it just mucked up "AHRAGF." A descending piano refrain that finally
worked clicked in during the last few lines of the song, but this was
after Dylan had overriden much of the rest of the song with failed
experiments. Bob's guitar solos were often ridiculed in the old days, but
his piano/organ playing is much less nuanced. If he wants to experiment,
why not hire a pickup band like Chuck Berry and save some dough? Charlie
Sexton had a nice guitar solo in "Chimes Of Freedom" I think, but he gave
some gesture to Bob that I think suggested he was going to cut it short.
Other than that and some dropping to his knees for a couple of seconds,
Charlie could have been one of the lighting rigs on the stage. As it was,
it was Stu's night for soloing and every lick he tried to break out with
in "TD & TD" was thwarted by Bob's mashing on the piano. He dutifully
played on anyway. Finally, Stu seemed ready to fight for that paycheck
after sleepwalking through most of the shows I've seen with him. Bob
missed one cue for "When The Deal Goes Down" and was saved by a lick from
Charlie. He also was a whole verse late for "Ballad Of A Thin Man" as he
looked for the right harmonica. A weird echo on Bob's vocal mic echoed the
last phrase he growled and it reverberated around the arena. When "LARS"
hit, a lot of people headed toward the exits. It was so odd. You pay all
that and then bail during the song you likely have been waiting all night
for? It was a low-key performance and unlikely to pull them back in.
"Watchtower" was good but free of any passion. George hit the drums a
little harder during the build up to the end and that woke a few up from
this Bing Crosby, bouncy spell. As for Dylan's quote, it came literally in
the middle of "Blowin'" Most people had tuned out. And then he started
muttering and it was very sincere statement. I only heard part of the
quote. I heard: "At least I think he's the president. I think he still
will be president. Don't listen to the media, it's gonna be a landslide."
This isn't rock'n'roll. This was a '40s music revival. It was a sad turn
of events. Are we paying just to see Bob in the flesh? Like the carnival
shows that so impressed Bob in his youth? Or does everyone not hear what's
happening on stage? If this were any other band in the world, the
musicians would pull the frontman aside and talk about his antics and
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