November 8, 2014
Review by Dave Moyer
The Voice!!!!!-Things have changed.
On Saturday, November 8, 2014, in Chicago, IL, Bob Dylan sang as well as I have
heard him sing since 1994 when I began attending shows. And, truth be told,
I cannot say I was expecting that. In what is approximately my 35th opportunity
to contemplate what I just experienced, here goes.
Marty Lennartz of WXRT welcomed us to the show for an "evening with Bob
Dylan," which all of us know could mean anything.
The set list was the same as it has been on this tour, and the first set was terrific.
The best band in the land complimented the Maestro perfectly. Throughout the
show, drummer George Recile appeared as his understated self and was a rock,
using brushes often, sometimes just in his right hand on cymbals, and appeared to
use tympani mallets on the second song, "She Belongs to Me". In that one he
pushed the band forward the way a drum major leads his troops into battle.
Bob played harp sparingly, though he did on that song as well as "Tangled Up in
Blue" and "Simple Twist of Fate". In the recent past, there were many occasions
when his harp blasted terse notes through the microphone that resonated and
accentuated the music. On this night his solos were more delicate and subtle and
complimented the arrangements more intricately.
For that matter, Bob did not play the piano all that much, either. The bench was
set up perpendicular to the piano, presumably allowing more freedom for him to
move around as he pleased. Mostly, he stood center stage and serenaded us.
However, when he did play, it was way more refined than in past performances.
When on keyboards, he sometimes provided depth or texture to arrangements or
added the organ to the mix. But tonight, he played piano admirably. The
nuances of his playing went well beyond filling space. There were several solos or
notable passages in songs that resonated and enhanced the arrangements. One
instance that stuck out occurred in the instrumental closing to "Tangled".
In short, the combination of the band and Bob's singing and presence were a
much better experience than one would assume upon making an assumption of
what this standard set list would yield.
The highlights for me were "She Belongs to Me", "Tangled Up in Blue", and
"Simple Twist of Fate". I don't particularly care for "Love Sick" or "Early Roman
Kings", but even they came across very strong to me due to the arrangements
and the overall performance.
One comment is that the sound of the band blends so well together, that it
seems unfair to single anybody out. However, my appreciation of Donnie's
contributions continues to grow, and with the sound they produce on this tour,
his pedal steel, banjo, violin, and whatever else he picks up are integral to the
overall product. And, as always, where would we be without Charlie, who is as
close to irreplaceable as it gets? Even when he is not ripping out unparalleled,
fire-breathing solos on songs such as "Highway 61 Revisited" or "Summer Days",
he continues to impress as he did tonight. Two notably examples were his work
on "She Belongs to Me" and "Duquesne Whistle".
The issue I had with this show was the second set. There just wasn't enough
variety-or enough punch. Too many of the arrangements were similar.
Audiences went from hearing no Tempest after it was released in 2012 to
practically the entire album. I like the songs, but why "Scarlet Town", for
example? Wouldn't five songs from Tempest out of 19 have been enough,
especially in light of the inclusion of "Beyond Here Lies Nothing" from Modern
Times and "Waiting for You" from Together through Life. "Forgetful Heart" was
phenomenal, but mired in the middle of the second set, its effect is less
A second minor criticism of the night is as follows. I love the songs "Working
Man's Blues #2" and "Long and Wasted Years". I mean, I really love them. So,
maybe my expectations were too high. However, they seemed forced. Bob
sang so well that that was unnecessary. I believe the song would have come
through better if he would have let it happen more naturally. All things
considered, this is a very minor criticism of strong performance.
To me, the least impressive offerings of the night were "Waiting for You" and
"Scarlet Town". Eliminate those, move one of the other songs up to the first
set, add a couple of rockers to close, and the mellow encores of "Blowin' in the
Wind" and "Stay with Me" work much better. It was a very, very good show.
With Bob singing this well and the band at the height of its powers, it could
have been great with a little refinement to the second set.
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