November 7, 2009
Review by Greg Denton
Following Dylan's recent set lists and noticing a generous peppering of
songs from Together Through Life, I was looking forward to hearing my first
concert performances of them. Of course it's always best to go to a Dylan show
with your expectations in check. The only song we got from the most recent
album (I'm excluding the brilliant Christmas In the Heart here) was Jolene and
it was locked into the middle of what seems his current standard encore set
between Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower. Still it was a
gorgeous show full of tender treats and raucous jams.
The show opened with a solidly grooved Cat's In The Well. Dylan stood to our
right, leaning into his keyboard, wide brimmed white hat, beige coat. Donnie
Herron sat on a riser behind Dylan, sawing his violin through the first tune and
surrounded by his own array of instruments: pedal steel, lap steel, electric
mandolin, banjo, and a trumpet lying idle on top of a speaker cabinet (I don't
think he picked it up once during the show). At the left of the stage stood Stu
Kimball, probably the most understated presence of the night, rhythm guitar,
always playing something interesting (acoustic or electric) to contribute to the
movement, texture, and flesh of the songs but never bringing much particular
attention to it or himself. Next right was Tony Garnier on bass. Above and
behind him was George Recile and his drum kit. Can someone tell me if he paints
his facial hair on? His eyebrows and mustache are so black and clearly
articulated against his face. It looks unnatural to me. Stage make up? Anyway,
he's a killer drummer and along with Tony Garnier they're one hell of a rhythm
section. Charlie Sexton held the center of the stage. I usually remark how
Dylan keeps his band very reigned in, the band rocks out but nobody ever really
seems to step forward into a clearly defined soloist role. But Charlie was
unleashed! As far as I was concerned, he almost stole the show. Aside from the
always elegant phrasing and the soaring, spitting, searing and dive bombing
solos he was just so fascinating visually. Tall, hollywood handsome, but very
gaunt at the same time. Nothing showy - no rock star antics or posturing. He
often crouched, I thought awkwardly, during his solos. I wondered if he was
adjusting the settings on his foot pedals, but a friend thinks he was maybe
trying to establish some deference to Dylan, trying to relinquish his
transfixing domination of the stage center.
Dylan has his own baffling and transfixing presence though and came out to
stage center to play guitar for Lay Lady Lay. A gorgeous, tender version
with pedal steel and Stu Kimball's acoustic guitar finding a perfect
textural voice beneath Dylan's singing. Dylan's shows are as luscious
visually as they are sonically. The band wore finely tailored matching
brown suits laden with sparkles. The stage was backed, floor to ceiling, by a
wall of dark solid curtain that was subjected to stunning projections of deep,
rich color and bold majestic patterns that sometimes dwarfed the band. For Lay
Lady Lay, it was like the stadium fell away and opened up to the firmament - a
deep star drenched sky. Other times, there was a nest of bold graphic slashes,
like Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock were made to stay after class to write
lines on the chalk board but fell into a battle of orgiastic drawing instead.
Sometimes it was just Dylan's mystifying jagged eye and crown symbol.
I thought we'd get Beyond Here Lies Nothin' in the third or forth slot.
Nope. With Bob back at the keyboard the band rocked through Most Likely You Go
Your Way and Million Miles. Bob's first tooting on the harmonica in the first
of the two.
A deep, stirring Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll followed. Tony Garnier
pulled out the acoustic bass, Stu Kimball played acoustic guitar, and Donnie
Heron played mandolin. Dylan reshaped the song beautifully to suit his gravelly
old man baritone - hard to think this is the same kid who wrote the song with
his nasally whine. But, if anything, the song bears a more marked disdain
towards William Zanzinger and his ilk, a heftier articulation of distrust and
indictment of the so-called justice system from Dylan's husky elder witness than
his youthful indignation could render.
The new version of Cold Irons Bound rocked! This is at least the third
distinct reworking of this song that I've witnessed live. Gone is the tangle of
feedback and bent guitar strings that has started the song in the past, and gone
too is the halting cliff face of chords that the vocal tumbles over in the last
versions I've heard. Instead the song just launched unceremoniously and bounded
along like a cast iron tumbleweed in a hurricaine. Dylan stood center stage
again, harp in hand, arms spread wide like a carnival hawker as he delivered
Every Grain of Sand was on my wish list of songs to hear. But I felt
unsatisfied with Dylan's vocal phrasing on this version. Sometimes he can
take a song to a very unexpected and refreshing place. Sometimes you just
pine for the melody.
Spirit On The Water followed. Song number eight in the set and the first of the
night from what I'd called Dylan's recent albums (which I guess means Modern
Times, since there was nothing from Love & Theft in this concert either).
Gorgeous. Tony on the upright bass again.
And then a haunting acoustic version of Ballad of Hollis Brown. Bob
standing stage center again, arms lifting with his vocals. Donnie Herron
played banjo on this one & Charlie squeezed behind Bob to go visit Donnie
for a little guitar/banjo jam in the corner. He seemed to have a little
trouble afterwards finding room behind Bob to get back to center stage and
had to wait for a diplomatic moment.
When The Deal Goes Down was spot on. And was followed by a wild version of
Highway 61 with Charlie Sexton unequivocally taking charge and turning out
some breathtaking, jaw-dropping monster solos. My favorite moment though
was when he approached Dylan at the keyboard, their instruments spitting
staccato musical phrases back and forth, a momentary locking of horns before the
song swept up into a maelstrom again.
Ain't Talkin was the third Modern Times song of the evening, followed
immediately by the fourth, Thunder On The Mountain. These songs are so
satisfying to hear, written in Dylan's "current" voice. Both he and the
band seem so at home in these songs and deliver them with such clarity,
precision and nuance.
The main set finished with Ballad of a Thin Man. Dylan brought his harp out to
center stage again. A hot mercurial jam. I have a hard time getting a grip on
the 68 year old Dylan singing this song though. It just seems so inherently to
be written from a youthful point of view and directed at someone older and
disapproving. In my imagination, maybe, it's just too bound up in those
combative 1966 electric shows. Hard to redress it's meaning in this context,
but still a song that rocks out.
I was happy to hear my first live rendering of Jolene in the encore. A lot of
bark and crunch in that tune. Like a Rolling Stone was a super jam to start the
final set, and Dylan's phrasing was spot on. The night finished with All Along
the Watchtower - this version started with some hiccuping guitar riffs that
pecked around the chord changes before grabbing them full on. A refreshing
arrangement that seemed to owe little to either John Wesley Harding or Jimmie
Hendrix but was still entirely recognizable. Dylan irreverently played with the
phrasing like he sometimes does, restructuring the vocal rhythm and pitch to
something that felt like you were trying to plod your way up the down escalator.
Hard to say sometimes if there's some expressive purpose or whether he's just
fuckin' around to alleviate the boredom.
All in all, it was a very satisfying show. A real treat to have Dylan's one
Canadian date this year in a small stadium in such a small city as Kitchener.
The Memorial Auditorium doesn't have a reputation for great sound, but from my
seat in the middle of the floor I found nothing to complain about. It was all
Review by Dave Ford
Nice performance by Bob and band. After seeing the varying set lists from
previous stops, I was expecting more Together Through Life songs - tonight's set
list seemed more like a Modern Times tour with 4 songs from that album. Bob also
went back to opening with Cat's in the Well versus Gonna Change My Way of
Thinking or Leopard Skin Pill Box. Highlights were Hattie Carroll, Hollis Brown
and Ballad of a Thin Man. Charlie Sexton's return has made a huge difference to
energy in show and mainly in Bob. Crowd was very appreciative especially on
Highway 61. After 30 plus times seeing Bob, the magic is still there - amazing
that a guy almost 70 can fill buildings and cross generations - I took my 12
year old daughter and she was quite impressed. She commented "I couldn't always
understand what he was saying, but I don't think it matters - it was Bob and
that is all that matters"
Review by Stuart Gilmour
Greetings Bill, we were fortunate to be part of the sold out, only
Canadian stop, crowd at the Kitchener Aud. The very best of the fifteen
shows we have attended. Great crowd. Up and on our feet from the first
bar and remained so throughout a beautifully arranged set. Our first
show with Mr Sexton. He's revitalized an already great band and in
particular Mr. Dylan. Mr Dylan was far more animated as other reviewers
have noted. He let Mr Sexton loose for the entire set which seemed to
motivate the entire band. Mr. Recile's percussion was crisp and
absolutely thunderous and pushed Mr. Garnier's playing to an
unprecedented level. Mr. Kimball actually appeared relaxed and his
playing complemented Mr. Sexton whether on acoustic or electric.
Favorite tune was Million Miles. A fabulous arrangement. Jolene was
featured in the second encore slot, harder and punchier than we've
heard. Wonderful. Thanks to the folks at Bobby O'Briens pub for the
great hospitality and map to the venue. Thank you Bill.
Comments by Tony Pace
I have never wrote a review before but I was at the show and may I say if
anyone has a chance to see Bob and his band I strongly encourage you to do
so. This was my 14th show over the past 31 years and this show was right
up there. Dylan was so into it and his voice was so clear. The band was
tight and electrifying and having Charlie Sexton was a needed change. He
is a great guitar player. Thats all folks!
Review by Mike Hodnett
Kitchener is a town of 200,000 about an hour west of Toronto. Those of us
in the greater Toronto area would only know of the show through this
website, or through the official website. Last year, Bob played in Hamilton and
Oshawa (similar towns and similar distances) and again there was no notice of
the shows in Canada's largest market. It seems that they rely on the most
dedicated aficionados to ensure a good turnout. Bob's management company
should send you a case of liquor at Christmas, Bill!
As a result, there was large amount of hard core fans in attendance in
Kitchener. The crowd seemed knowledgeable about relatively obscure songs
from the recent CD's and whether or not it was intentional, we were treated to a
bunch of rarely played tunes. I haven't heard "Most Likely" live since the 70's
and I have to admit, I didn't recognize "Every Grain". I'll have to dig out
"Shot of Love" and refresh my memory. "Million Miles" and "Cold Irons Bound"
were welcome additions. I was surprised that apart from "Jolene" in the encore,
there was nothing from the most recent album, but you can't have everything.
One point: Everyone seemed as into "Ain't Talkin'" as I was. However, I
really love the version on "Tell Tale Signs" which features Donnie on pedal
steel, rather than on viola and as he plays the steel most of the time anyway, I
think that is the best way to play the tune.
I agree that the band seems more animated with Charlie Sexton, although I
had enjoyed Denny's work. It seems that "Highway 61" is the choice of this
segment of the tour to get everyone up and moving.
All in all, a show as great as we have come to expect.
Comments by Wolfman
Alright- having Sexton back is tremendous and Bob sounds renewed, and as if
newly inspired. But saying that, the Kitchener hockey rink (a.k.a. auditorium)
is more like a bomb shelter than an arena. Set list was leaving a thing or two
to be desired. Nonetheless excited about the restored band.
Review by Dan T. and friends
We drove from hamilton ontario to kitchener saturday evening for the bob show.
Great venue. Good parking great crowd. Bob openend with cats in the well. His
second number although not my favourite lit up the audience. Him on his guitar
with a great backdrop, delivered lay lady lay, not missing a beat. He played
some vintage songs for us saturday. Hattie carol, Hollis brown, not to mention
the melodic hammering version of everygrain of sand. Then came the rockers.
Thunder on the mountain, Highway 61, then candid, up close and personal version
of ballad of a thin man. It was great to see him out front with his harmonica
delivering. He lit up the crowd with his usual three oncores. Standing ovation
thats right standing o. Great show Great night.
Dan, Glen, KK, Mike, Barry and Rosco
Review by Daniel Maoz
This being the fifth Dylan concert I have attended since moving to Ontario in
2000 (including shows at Toronto and Hamilton), it was also the first floor
level vantage I have enjoyed. I never imagined it could make such a difference.
I realize that it is possible that no matter where I sat this was still going to
be by far the best sound I have ever heard (even considering past concerts in
Chicago, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto from the 70s, 80s, and 90s). I felt
that Bob was actually enjoying himself on stage as opposed to the classic
duty-bound introverted performances I often ascribed his past shows to be. Also,
it truly was a show as well as a concert. Dylan convincingly acted out the role
of "king" that he forcefully sang out in his encore song, "Jolene." Whenever he
took centre stage - microphone in one hand and harp in the other - swaying and
hand gesturing as if in a vaudeville act - I couldn't help but recall his
interviewed-reference to Caruso that Pennebaker captured on film in the 1967
documentary, Dont Look Back. 'Every bit as good as Caruso,' I thought to myself.
And it may have been the influence of actually seeing Dylan's blue eyes through
the binoculars I brought with me, but I also imagined hearing the fine crooning
of reincarnated blue-eyes himself at times. Local critics, I think,
misunderstood the relative silence of the near-capacity arena crowd. For my
part, it was a silence of awe that did not want to not miss a single reinvented
sound coming from the master of mystic anonymity. Whoever he has been in the
past (and I loved every one of his former expressions), the Bob Dylan of
November 7, 2009 channeled an amazingly powerful presence. And to think I would
ever be able to walk from my house to a Dylan concert only a few blocks away!
Thank you, Bob Dylan, for choosing Kitchener, Ontario, Canada for one of your
stops on this year's tour!
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