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Review by Josh Leik
Tonight is the reason I go to ten Dylan concerts a year. What can you say
about this set list? And everything was stellar. First let me say that I
enjoyed Phil much more than the other night at Penn State. There was more
form and organization to the set and I prefer songs and melodies to 45 minute
introductory jams. I thought the best was "Just a Little Light." Warren
Haynes sounded so much like Brent Mydland I could not believe it.
Bob, Bob, Bob. What are ya thinkin'? Mr. Tambourine Man was just
beautiful. I swear his singing is still getting better. Visions of Johanna
had a light smiley feel to what is really a sad but pretty song. Ring them
Bells was one of my favorite performances in a very long time. Larry's pedal
steel made Bob weep this song instead of sing it. Tangled up in Blue was
good but, like Penn State, never achieved the heights that it sometimes does.
Again I think it was just a little slow. Maybe it was Bob's two note
harmonica solo. It just didn't get the place jumpin'.
And then came "Big River". Just the fact that he played it would be enough
for me. But he nailed it. This is an all-time favorite for me. And then
Joey, and then "Down Along the Cove". Throw in Tombstone Blues and Friend of
the Devil for good measure and you have yourself a great time and one of my
favorite shows ever. Other than Friend of the Devil fizzling at one point
and the band missing the first bridge (nobody knew) this show was great. He
really seemed excited to have Phil join him on stage and the extra bass was
Review by John Pruski
Oh my, oh my goodness, what a show!! I sure am glad we had great seats,
not that we nor anyone else sat down much last night. It was just a great
performance by Bob and Band, this on top of the killer set list below:
I Am The Man, Thomas @
Mr. Tambourine Man @
Visions Of Johanna @
Ring Them Bells @ (Larry on pedal steel)
Tangled Up In Blue @ (with harp)
BIG RIVER (Charlie on acoustic)
Down Along The Cove
Man In The Long Black Coat (Larry on pedal steel)
Like A Rolling Stone
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Larry on a Lap Steel ? on a stand)
Friend Of The Devil @ (Phil Lesh, electric bass; Tony, stand-up bass;
Larry on Mandolin)
Not Fade Away (Phil Lesh on electric bass, Tony on stand-up bass)
The past few shows that I've read about (but unfortunately not seen) seemed
to be introducing new songs to the tour and last night was no exception,
with by my count 6 songs new for the tour, or 7 songs if you don't want to
count Visions from the Oct. 26 Chicago club gig as part of the Fall Phil Lesh
tour. The six new songs were: Ring Them Bells, BIG RIVER, Joey, Down
Along The Cove, Man In The Long Black Coat, and Friend of the Devil. Of
course the killer for the night and tour was BIG RIVER. I see in TUITapes
4th ed. that the song (up to end of 1998 ) was played llive but once previously,
and off hand I can't remember it being listed for this year. But I don't know
that for sure nor have I checked, yet that is. Of course, for the very many
dead heads the highlight would have been Phil Lesh joining Bob's band
(another tour first) for the final 2 encores, with he and Tony given the
spotlight for some fine trade-offs and solos. And Bob applauding Phil's
playing was a class act, and their sliding five shake was too cute.
Speaking of Phil, his set was OK, good, great, whatever ... a nice flowing jam
(with more singing than I expected) that the audience ate up, so much so that
I had to wonder if they'd all split before Bob. But to my surprise, the house
was just as full for Bob's as for Phil's set, which meant nearly sold out, that is
except towards the back of the very top balcony of about 15-ish rows or so.
Also, to my surprise the cool blue $10 posters didn't sell out before the show,
but had seemingly been sold out after all was said and done.
Again, Bob's singing, playing, and set list were simply great. I'd sure like to
see a "Pure Heat" style boot come out of this tour, or better yet load up
bobdylan.com with some of the ever-increasing number of gems from this tour.
There were several songs new for me (Visions, Joey, and of course Big River :)
but the performance of these, well of all of the songs, is what also helped make
the night so spectacular. Perhaps I noticed Charlie taking more leads than in
the summer and Charlie's solos on Tombstone and Rolling Stone were great,
as was Larry's on Not Fade Away. Bob played from about 9:40-11:18 and of
course didn't play Hattie Carroll, but that song's mention of Baltimore shouldn't
be celebrated. As much as I hate to drive in and around DC, well make that the
entire northeast, I guess I've gotta do so in order to catch the Delaware show on
the 20th, which is my plan. Last show of the 1900's, right?!
John Pruski, Arlington, VA, 9 November 1999
Review by Tom Wible
the night started auspiciously when i crossed the street to the arena, and
there waiting to turn into the parking garage was my zydeco partner;-) this
was her 1st excursion into the dead's alternate universe, a dead-virgin;-)
shakedown street was in full swing on the 1st level of the
garage...american gypsies...strangers stopping strangers;-) after getting
thru the cursory frisk(males only, missed my waterbottle:-) we got to our
seats in the nose-bleeds, rear corner stage right...as is the norm in
terrapin, we upgraded to the bottom row, right above the mezzanine portal,
easy access to plenty of dancin space;-)
phil started ~7:45, very jazzy, really couldn't make out what it was until
the 1st verse...i can understand how some folks might feel lost;-) my
dead-virgin, though, loved it:-) they did a bluesy riff that got us down on
the dance floor, but it didn't last long enough for us to get into a
we jumped on and rode it for all it was worth...the ushers in their natty
uniforms finally gave up trying to hold back the tide & just told us to
enjoy...spin-stabilization works best when you've got someone to hang on
to:-):-):-) and unlike the short zydeco tunes that mercifully end just when
you run outta breath, the jams allowed us to rest on our feet;-) and then
playin took us on another intense ride, then another breather...yeow! just
a little light!!! sweet;-)
but wait! there's more;-) maybe the deadheads & dylanheads can try to love
one another right now;-) yeow!!! what pure joy!!! _THAT'S_ what it's all
about, why we need music to remind us of what we always knew but forgot
while passing 3 decades;-} it was like i'd never left, i was dancin like i
did when the tune was in the top 40, we could change the world...
and then cr&s!!! that was the tune that turned me on to the dead when i 1st
heard their 1st album;-) whatta way to close the set, ~9:10...after an hour
of intense dancin, what amazed me was that i wasn't at all winded!;-)the
sound was excellent: the keyboards came thru cleanly, and the jammin' was
intense... thank you 4 a real good time:-):-):-)
bob started ~9:40, and i was totally blown away! again;-) hey,
mr.tambourine man!!! again i was 17 years old, celebrating with 1 hand
waving free;-) visions was a wonderfully mellow breather...the great thing
about zydeco is you can do it fast or slow...i plan on doin' it 4 another
and then big river!!! yeow!!! waytago, bob!!! the rest of the set all blurs
into a dream, just riding one wave after another... the musicianship was
probably the _best_ i've _ever_ heard, one intense excursion after
another...they just didn't quit;-) and then like a rolling stone!!! it was
as if i had never left, that 30yrs were just a dream:-)8-O;-)
but wait! there's more;-) everybody must get stoned!!! need i say more;-)
and then fotd!!! incredible!!! reminded me of the time i heard the band do
the weight...best i've _ever_ heard;-) and everyone sang along...nfa was
almost anti-climactic(almost;-) since they cut it off cleanly, with no
sing-along, ~11:40...but i think most people were dancin by then...idunno,
i had my eyes closed >90%;-) if they weren't dancin they were clinically
dead;-) these 2 tunes, with phil, brought it all together: making the
alliance official...whatta show for a dead-virgin;-);-);-)
now if i leave right now, i can make the philly show...
Review by Peter Stone Brown
Baltimore's a nice town and I'm starting to like it. You can park for
free not far from the venue if you try and at the venue itself the
ticket-takers are friendly telling you to enjoy the show, leading you
right to your seat and even letting you go outside for a cigarette
without any hassle whatsoever. I was amazed.
But not as amazed as I was when Larry Campbell started playing the intro
to "Ring Them Bells" on his pedal steel. My mind was saying could it
really be, and as the band picked up the tune I knew it couldn't be
anything else. The other songs, even "Visions of Johanna" seemed like
just warm-ups in comparison. (And like some other people here so I've
heard for I have yet to check out RMD today, the thought crossed my mind
that Dylan or someone very close to him is reading this group.) Dylan
sang it carefully, clearly and caringly, totally into it, totally
shining that special Dylan light that just cuts right through you and
into you, into your heart, your body, your soul.
But little did I know that was just the beginning of a rocking, reeling,
rolling ride that in surprise factor alone would equal perhaps any Bob
Dylan show I've seen.
And in Baltimore Bob Dylan was full of surprises, one after the other
like the master magician he truly is. The next surprise came right
after "Tangled Up In Blue," when the band started this very funky bluesy
riff that sounded awfully familiar. And I'm saying to myself, what is
this, but I'm thinking Bob Dylan songs, not all songs, and given Dylan's
penchant for playing with his material it could've turned into any
number of his blues based songs and so when he sang is just about as
strong a voice I've seen at any '90s show, "I taught the weeping willow
how to cry cry cry," and it turned into "Big
River," probably my favorite Johnny Cash song of all time that I even
play myself, my mind was echoing one huge blasting Holy Shit!
And then the band played the intro--though sounding new and different
probably because of Larry's input--to "Joey" which at times was a little
hard to concentrate on due the couple who was doing some kind of waltz
on the walkway in front of me, that was not a typical Dead dance. I
contemplated leaning over and saying, "Are you aware you're waltzing to
a song about a mobester getting his head blown off in a clam bar, but
Again the band was into a familiar blues riff I couldn't quite place and
again Dylan blew my mind when he started singing "Down Along The Cove,"
and Lord Have Mercy Mama what a version it was with killer solos all
along the song.
And then from out of nowhere "Man In The Long Black Coat" appeared,
spooky as can be, marching to the crickets chirping in the shadows that
may not really be all that far from the cove.
And then yet another nasty blues riff and wham you're transported to a
whole other place a whole other time of bald wigs and reincarnated
horses sounding a warning all mixed up in some insane historical
funhouse mirror with Charle Sexton scorching and searching, summoning
the original Mike Bloomfield licks.
And what song could Dylan possibly do after that but "Like A Rolling
Stone?" Was there anything left to say?
So at last he brought out Phil Lesh and unified this crazy anything can
happen tour that's sadly been laden with rumors.
In one monumental, too-quick set that went by like some roller coaster
dream, he touched on every decade of his career, almost all of his
greatest albums and left me both happy and amazed.
"Where the angels' voices whisper to the souls of previous times."
Peter Stone Brown
Review by James Cho
Without question, this current tour of Phil Lesh & Friends opening for Dylan
is the best all around tour I've seen (of a total of seven shows spanning
three years). I must admit I am biased. I love the free flowing, improv
based musical style which Phil Lesh & Friends perform. I won't make
specific comments about the setlist about the opening act. Instead, I will
provide general comments. Their 90 minute set featured various musical
styles including bluegrass and blues. Warren Haynes and Derrick Trucks
trading guitar solos should spark any music fan's curiosity let alone Allman
fans. As for the band, when they were "on", they were mind blowing. They
seemed to suffer, however, with confusion where to take the music a little
too much. This comment is only minor because I'm sure with more experience,
they'll be able to feed off each other quicker. In summation, Phil &
Friends are a must see for any jam-band lover.
"... ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Columbia Recording Artist, Bob
Dylan." I will start with my overall comments about the show. In my
opinion, Dylan may be peeking with every aspect of his shows on this tour.
During the Simon tour, Dylan obviously lacked originality with his setlist.
The reason is obvious. Half of the crowd came to see Simon, so Dylan played
more of a greatest hits set to win Simon fans over. When I saw him at
Madison Square Garden in October of last year, his acoustic set lacked focus
and originality, featuring only three greatest hits songs. When I saw him
at Wolftrap in the summer of '97, Larry Campbell had recently joined the
band and Dylan couldn't yet utilize Larry's talents. Finally, I've felt
every Dylan encore set to every show I've seen lacks originality and spark.
On Monday night, I witnessed Bob Dylan and his fantastic band play with
passion and creativity for not only the acoustic and electric sets, but the
encore as well! In fact, I thought the electric was the weakest of the
I am the Man, Thomas: I've seen this song on many setlists during this tour
and now I know why. This could be a great opening song. It was very upbeat
with a danceable, bluegrass rhythm. Unfortunately, Dylan's voice didn't
blend well with the song. He shouted in a harsh growl with a thick,
Midwestern drawl. This voice can work in some electric songs, but I think
it's too much in contrast with the delicate nature of an acoustic sound.
Mr. Tambourine Man: My first reaction was "Oh no! Not another greatest
hits set." Distaste for the song was my second reaction. He continued with
the same voice and it gave the song a bitter feel like he was angry that the
Tambourine Man was not playing a song for him. Halfway through, he changed
his voice and he saved the song. His voice became more tender, more
sincere. In short, he started singing. And it was beautiful. A warm,
reflective feeling resulted from his singing.
Visions of Johanna: WOW! A definite highlight. The best version of this
song ever! He sang every word and with sweet background music, the song was
Ring Them Bells: This used to be one of my favorite songs; not any more.
Still, it was a wonderful version and I did not expect it at all. B+ for
Tangled Up in Blue: This, along with the encore, is the only song I
guaranteed he'd play to my friend on the ride to Baltimore. It's Tangled,
right? Same old same old, right? Wrong! Best live Tanlged version I've
heard and for one reason: he played an incredible harp solo at the end. As
much as this is a dancing song, he opened his harp solo in contrast to the
upbeat music by playing his trademark three note opening. It appeared out
of place and it certainly befuddled the dancing hyppie girls all around me.
At this point I thought the song would bottom out and Dylan would throw us
the proverbial crumb with the harp. That is, he'd play it, he just wouldn't
play it well. Soon, I would discover the band's intent with his solo. The
band gradually built their background sound around dylan's repeating three
notes and when all five were together, they crescendoed into a feverish
Big River: huh? Where's Watchtower? Where's an actual Dylan song in this
slot? A Johnny Cash song to open his electric set? Kudos to Dylan for
surprising me once again. Incidentally, it was a really cool song.
Joey: Unreal. I never thought I'd hear this one. This version was faster
than the Desire cut and but not as energized than the Dylan & the Dead
version. This version retained the sad, relective nature of the studio cut.
The background vocals echoed Dylan during the refrain almost exactly like
the Emmylou Harris except better.
Down Along Cove: This was the one song I really hoped he'd play. Unlike the
rollicking piano intro in John Wesley Harding, this intro featured a
guitar-based, blues intro. Awesome. Another highlight.
Man in the Long Black Coat: Two Oh Mercy songs! And what a cool version.
The music created an aura of imminent doom like a storm cloud creeping
across the darkening sky. Wonderful.
Tombstone Blues: Dylan really is leaning on his Highway 61 material on this
tour and I love it. I would have loved to hear It Takes A Lot to Laugh, but
I'll take an electrified version of Tombstone any day, especially with
Dylan's new three guitar line-up.
Like A Rolling Stone: The stage lighting died and I spied movement through
the darkness. My conclusion was that the set had finished. Instead, he
thunders through a good version of Rolling Stone.
Love Sick: I think this song would work better as an 8 or 9 slot song. I
mean, with the crowd roaring and stamping for an encore, why not feed off
their energy with another blistering electric song? Love sick seems to
drain the bubbling energy of the crowd. With that said, it was one of the
best Love Sick versions because Dylan and the band searched the song for
something new and found a cool guitar solo to end the song.
Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35: Usually I hate hearing this song. The deadheads
definitely loved it, and much like Love Sick, the band seemed to care about
playing this song and found some good jams. This is probably the only time
I've enjoyed hearing this one.
Friend of the Devil: With Phil Lesh on stage towering next to Dylan (in the
physical sense, of course), he added a thumping bass line to the song. In
short, it was a perfect song which cemented a longtime comraderie between
Dylan and the Dead. A highlight for me, especially the refrain. I love how
Dylan sings around the haunting background vocals. I think the contrast is
superb and adds a painful tinge to every acoustic song (like Richard manuel
in I Shall Be Released in the Bootlegg Box Set).
Not Fade Away: What a great song to end a concert! And with Phil Lesh!
The final highlight to a great show.
In conclusion, the only negative to the show was the Baltimore Arena. I
realy hate seeing shows at arenas. I hope he plays this way during the
summer. And if I could ever catch him at a small club ... James J. Cho
Review by Todd Harvey
You know us by the way we look. Even at a restaurant thirty minutes
walking distant, there was no question that the Deadheads were in
town. The evening's performance was not so easily stereotyped,
however, working on several levels. The heads did their best to
believe that it was ten years ago when the Dead became a band for the
masses. You could see them swirling on the areana floor and out in the
hallways, oblivious to the event's visual aspect. And the smoke…first
note, first bat-hit for the kid next to me.
The Lesh band worked in the Dead's jam-style tradition with a healthy
dose of Allman Bros., using the songs as brief points of reference.
The bulk of Lesh's 1:40 set was spontaneously composed. I found
newness in the performance, every note fresh. Lesh guided the band
but didn't overpower them. The crowd responded at the prescribed
moments, (full vocals and guitar duels) but they were, for the most
part, searching for something they wouldn't find. They wanted
affirmation that, indeed, they came to the right place, but neither
Garcia nor his guitar licks appeared. "I had to leave," I heard one
woman say. "I was thinking about Jerry." Despite the song list, Lesh
has moved on. Dylan & Co. began at 9:45 and played until 11:15. If
the Lesh set was about the-song-as-process, the Dylan set was a
lesson in the-song-as-object. It said, "listen to these words," or in
the case of his "Tangled up in Blue" harp solo, "listen to these two
pitches." Dylan's minimal insistance drew in the audience. The
loose-jointed kids still danced, but as with elements of the Lesh
set, there was more here than nostalgia. Odd, the song list was a
retrospective of the man's career, with only "Lovesick" appearing
from his 1997 release. Who would have thunk to request "Down Along
The Cove" and "Joey." He was daring us to imagine other obscure songs
which might appear, allowing us ponder the depth of his nearly forty
years' output and back still further into the past. Griel Marcus was
right. If Dylan wears the masks of older musicians-tonight it was
Ralph Stanley, Johnny Cash, and himself decades ago-then we are the
townspeople and he is the undisputed mayor of the new (sic) weird
America. Despite the song list's retrospective nature, the
performances were anything but a rehashing of his recordings. The
song-as-object in Dylan's hands does not remain static. Even his band
had trouble keeping up with Dylan's rhythmic nuances in the chorus of
"Friend of the Devil." As always, the arrangements change and evolve.
The Deaheads reappeared when Lesh joined the band for the encores.
Suddenly discontinuities between the fans melted and we all sang "Not
Fade Away," its familiar chorus echoing off the arena walls as the
heads continued long after the band had left. Suddenly we all looked
alike, all part of the same tangled-up weird community, a confluence
of past and present.
Review by Rob Turner
I'll admit to being more than a little concerned during the long drive
to my first Phylan show. Since the Dylan/Petty/Dead tour of 1986, I
have noticed that the Bob audience and the Dead audience don't exactly
see eye to eye on everything. There is nothing like the energy of the
Grateful Dead community, or the attentiveness of the Dylan crowd.
Somehow, these two audiences that I hold dearly to my heart often find
a way to exhibit their most annoying qualities when they are thrown
together. For example, many Dylan fans insist on sitting through even
the most high-energy moments. I've been asked by Dylan fans to take
my seat even when people directly in front of me were dancing to a
ferocious version of "Highway 61." Conversely, Dead Heads have been
accused of dancing wildly (or talking loudly) through even the most
intimate of moments. GD fans also have a tendency to cram way too
many people into reserved seating areas, invading their neighbor's
space as a result. More than a few Dead fans complain about Dylan's
tendency to repeat songs, and many Dylan fans are even less tolerant
of long instrumental explorations. Would these crowds collide or
Having been denied press access to the show, I first had to worry
about procuring a ticket. I was expecting a sellout, incorrectly as it
turned out. Unfortunately, the employees at the box office
steadfastly refused to check their computers for seats as requested,
causing the people who had waited on released tickets for hours to
miss the window of opportunity to purchase the best of the releases.
If there are any ticket people out there, please bear in mind that
your jobs are to check the computer for seats when you are asked, not
to inform people as to your opinion about their availability and deny
the requests of potential customers.
The mood was festive in downtown Baltimore. Dead Heads were enjoying
beverages at the nearby "Wharf Rat" establishment, and music-loving
sports fans gathered at the warmer confines of the sports bar next
door. One area by the main entrance resembled a kennel, with
literally over 20 people bringing their dogs to downtown Baltimore,
and two or three more canines were roaming around leash-free. The
incessant barking mingled with the s pealing bells emitting from
nearby churches and cathedrals (The Basilica of the National Shrine of
the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of them) with
striking regularity, which Dylan would later reference during his set.
The basketball fan in me was caught off guard as Robin Ficker was
greeting people at the arena doors and handing out flyers promoting
his run for the Maryland State senate. Ficker is a lawyer famous for
sitting behind the opponents bench at Washington Wizards' (and the
Bullets before them) games, and hurling sometimes brutally personal
(but never foul-mouthed) barbs at the enemy players. It was a real
collision of worlds to see him outside of a big time rock event.
However, the attendees I spoke with weren't tickled with Ficker's
promise to "make Maryland drug free." I'm gonna go to a Wizards'
game, sit behind Ficker and scream "know your friggin' audience" every
five minutes sometime very soon.
I wound up with mediocre seats, but was able to improvise and nail a
nice little spot up front on the floor anyway. Lesh and Friends took
the stage somewhat unceremoniously, with the house lights still on and
the building about half-empty. They were even noodling around for a
minute or two before the house lights dropped, focusing the attention
of the audience onto the stage. Lesh's friends on this night were the
young lion of slide guitar Derek Trucks, the Head Mule Warren Haynes,
Zen Tricksters key man Rob Barraco, and the ever present,
hard-hitting, ex-Hornsby Band drummer John Molo. What proceeded was a
very challenging set of mostly improvised music, which unfolded
smoothly for the most part, with a few rough spots. It seemed to me
that for the most part, the only problem they were having was moving
from the jams to the first lyric of the songs. I was amazed that Phil
had the balls to play a set in this style opening for Dylan, who's
audience is rarely exposed to song segues, let alone improvisations
completely free of song structure. I cautiously glanced around and
found the audience refreshingly receptive to the aural challenge. My
preconceived notions had misled me, on this night anyway.
The band explored many textures, and teased with some familiar riffs
(although I didn't hear anything specific to "Dark Star" and I was
surprised that it was entered on many lists as a "Dark Star jam," I
guess any open jamming is "Dark Star" to some) before settling a bit
awkwardly into "Morning Dew." I actually enjoy Phil's voice on many
songs, but this isn't one of them (now y'all might have a guess as to
why I don't get press passes anymore). He really doesn't do the song
justice, and I was surprised he took a shot at it when Warren Haynes
would surely sing it beautifully. Haynes took a completely different
approach to the first guitar break. Rather than attempt to replicate
Garcia's high voltage approach to this section, Haynes opted for a
smartly crafted, soulful lead. When the moment came that I was
expecting Phil to deliver the final verse, he instead gave Derek the
nod for a solo. Trucks built on Haynes' lead splendidly, at one point
repeating some piercing notes while Lesh and Molo built the rhythm to
a frenzied peak. Lesh actually saved his most expressive singing for
the final verse, which gave way to a relaxed jam that in turn unfolded
sweetly into some powerful musical regions. Trucks played some
exquisite gentle guitar during the initial quiet section of the jam.
I caught Lesh and Haynes sharing glances of approval at each other as
Trucks started the build with some absolutely brilliant slide guitar
lines. Trucks came off all night as an incredibly assured player,
especially considering the fact that he is still in his early
twenties. Haynes lent some sweet riffs to the proceedings, but
clearly the band was letting Derek lead them through the jam. Just
when I thought they were going to catapult the jam to a climax, Lesh
signaled the band with his eyes, and everything came back down. Lesh
sang the "I guess it doesn't matter" line quietly a second time,
ending the rendition on a mournful note as opposed to the climactic
Grateful Dead endings. By the end of the song I realized that the ol'
Baltimore Arena had filled up pretty rapidly since Phil had started
"Morning Dew" was an example of Lesh's approach with the ongoing and
evolving Phil and Friends project. He dismantles and reinterprets the
Dead material in a way that is both refreshing and respectful. The
version of "The Wheel" that would follow was even more adventurous.
There was a long jam into "The Wheel," which may have been extended
due to the band's struggle with reaching the first lyric of the song.
It seemed they made two or three unsuccessful attempts to launch into
it, but without that clearly defined (Garcia) introductory lead guitar
line they couldn't get there. Nobody was panicking though, as the
music would just drift back to improvisational spaces with seeming
ease. There were many moments of delectable jamming, as Haynes and
Trucks displayed their comfort level with each other. These guys have
shared the stage many times before, and it was never more evident than
here. They were completely free from any song structure at one point,
yet their guitar lines flowed together astonishingly. Finally, during
one moment of very quiet, gorgeous Trucks and Haynes interplay, Lesh
gently inserted the "Wheel" bass line, and this time they successfully
reached the song's first lyric.
If you are specifically a fan of "The Wheel," then you must acquire
this tape. It was clearly the most adventurous and creative take on
"The Wheel" that I have ever seen by anybody, anywhere. Warren, Phil,
and Rob sounded great singing the first two verses. Just as they
finished the second verse, somebody hit three chords that sounded a
bit like the intro to The Dead's version of Chuck Berry's, "The
Promised Land," which served as a prelude to another journey to
unencumbered improvisation. This section was highlighted by some
muscular Molo and Haynes interplay, before it settled into a jam that
resembled a march. This gave way to the "Round round, robin run
around" verse, sung over a gentle rhythmic background, which became
uproarious when they returned to "the wheel is turnin'..." Again they
wandered into the great unknown, making it two full-blown jams,
completely departing from "The Wheel's" structure during the verse
section. If the Dead ever broke up the verse section of this song
with even one improvisational jam, I haven't heard it. The second was
a little longer and centered more on the sliding Derek, and the "Small
wheel turn by the fire and rod" verse emerged abruptly just as I
thought the band was going to segue to something else. The jam that
followed explored many textures in a short amount of time, keeping the
audience guessing as to what would follow. At one point, the band
lowered to a whisper, and Trucks played some absolutely mesmerizing,
gentle slide guitar. Again, Derek proved he is not shy, as he
gradually led the band toward some jazzy regions. Warren jumped right
on this, and the two of them brought forth a powerful musical swirl
like those one would hear from Coltrane bands of years gone by. I
wish Dick Latvala (GD archivist who passed away in early August) could
have been alive to hear this one.
This jam ultimately led to the band coming to a full stop for the
first time of the evening.
Within seconds, Warren counted off "Playin' In The Band." I found
myself hoping that
Haynes would sing this one. When Rob Barraco started the first line,
I was very surprised, even disappointed. I love the Zen Tricksters,
but I wondered if we needed Rob Barraco singing Weir songs. As is
often the case, the preconceived notions were nothing if not
misleading. Barraco delivered a strong, assured lead vocal. He
neither tried to sound like Weir, nor did he over-sing. He brought
forth a confident lead vocal, winning me over by the end of the first
verse. (NOTE - I saw eight more of these shows and time and time
again Barraco seemed to be helping the other players with the
structure of the Dead songs. He demonstrated an amazing knowledge of
the GD material. Even Lesh had moments of confusion cleared up with
the help of Mr. Barraco.) Warren brought Garcia to mind with his
Jerry-ish guitar work behind the first two choruses.
"Playin" gave way to a jam that held even more moments of rapture.
However, I thought there were also intermittent struggles when they
seemed to be having a hard time blending. Some of the musical ideas
weren't flowing and blossoming as well as they had been earlier. They
did come together with strength toward the end of the jam though,
especially as they played with a chord progression that sounded like
"Chinacat Sunflower" for a while. The jam settled down, and Warren
counted off "Just A Little Light."
Any fan of the late Grateful Dead keyboard/vocalist Brent Mydland owes
Warren Haynes a Christmas card. Haynes is the main reason two of
Brent's songs, "Tons Of Steel" and "Just A Little Light," (Warren also
has sung Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" in a Mydland style) have
resurfaced in Grateful Dead land. He nails the "Just A Little Light"
lyric so perfectly it's spooky. On this version, he also ripped a
tight, hot solo at the first guitar break, and an aggressively
exploring, Gov't Mule-style guitar solo on the second break.
Ultimately, he brought the latter down to a whisper, and engaged Derek
Trucks in some mouth-watering call and response action, which also
featured some amazingly improvised twin guitar lines. Again the band
settled naturally into a relaxed extemporization, with a long,
ethereal stretch, before sneaking back into "Little Light." Warren
continued his most aggressive guitar playing of the night,
interrupting the out chorus with a knifing lead. The band wandered out
of the song quietly, and not only riffed "Playin' In The Band," but
each member also seemed to be making a legitimate effort to play the
end of the song, but they just couldn't quite get there.
Phil saved the two tightest numbers, and his strongest lead vocal
moments, for last. Jessie Colin Young's "Get Together" fit
comfortably into a "Bo Diddley beat" arrangement. Phil's voice
sounded princely on this anthemic piece which would have been a great
part of The Grateful Dead's repertoire. The set closing "Cold, Rain
and Snow" seemed to win over even the most anti-Dead Dylan fans.
Warren and Derek each took strong and concise leads in these final
numbers, helping the crowd back from the improvisational wonderland
that characterized most of this set. These two songs built a nice
bridge to the forthcoming set from the cowboy angel.
Dylan took the stage, and even the most loyal, ardent, obsessive,
Jerry-lovin', VW bus drivin', taper-huggin' freakboy Dead Head in me
had to admit that this was the meat of the show. Dylan was commanding
for most of this set, and those who felt he should've been opening for
Phil on this tour are spending too much time out of their minds. He
is currently joined by Austin guitar-slinger Charlie Sexton. Sexton
is the newest member of the band, and he supplanted Larry Campbell as
most of the ladies' favorite Dylan band sideman. I'm not afraid to
say it; he's a damn good-looking guy. He makes Brad Pitt look like
Newman from the Seinfeld show. I am a fully heterosexual male and
I've caught myself looking at this guy a couple of times. He can play
too, when Dylan lets him (check out "Highway 61" from Atlanta 9/4/99
if you can), which is all too rare so far. Sexton has a few releases
of his own; the first of which (Pictures For Pleasure) was released in
1985 when he was only 16 years old. Larry Campbell initially joined
the band in March of 1997 replacing JJ Jackson (now a member of
Lucinda Williams' touring band) as the lead guitarist (Dylan also
began enjoying Campbell's considerable fiddle abilities shortly
thereafter). Since multi-instrumentalist Bucky Baxter left the band
earlier this year, Campbell has been fingered to play a gradually
increasing variety of instruments himself. Campbell and Sexton also
provide Dylan's strongest backing vocals in over ten years. Ex-Garcia
Band member David Kemper handles the drums and Dylan's longest running
sideman ever, and noted gumbo chef Tony Garnier is the bassist (he
also serves as musical director for the band).
Dylan opened with Ralph Stanley's "I Am The Man, Thomas." Recently
while recording with the bluegrass legend for his "Clinch Mountain
Country" CD, Dylan reportedly commented that, "This is the highlight
of my career." I think it's fitting for him to stand in front of a
largely Grateful Dead audience, which is heavily influenced by Dylan
himself, and perform a song from one of his own greatest influences.
However, the tribute may have been more poignant had Dylan annunciated
the lyrics a bit more. It was still touching, especially given the
fact that Dylan has opened with this song at many recent shows within
a one thousand-mile radius of Dickenson County, Virginia, where
Stanley was born. It also was a nice gesture to the portion of
Dylan's fan base that might not have been wooed by the adventurousness
associated with the extended jamming during Lesh's opening set when
Dylan came "out of the shoot" with a short, upbeat song.
Dylan delivered the vocals to "Mr. Tambourine Man" quite clearly. He
particularly emphasized the "My weariness amaaaaaaaaa-zes me, I'm
branded on my feet" line. Although Bob chose to skip my favorite
verse of the song (the one that starts with "though you might hear
laughin', spinnin', swingin' madly across the sun") it was still a
standout version. The modern day Dylan fan is forced to deal with
incomplete versions of songs pretty much every show. However, one can
also revel in Dylan's mastery of delivery. One example of this is his
reading of the end of "Tambourine Man's" second verse, when Dylan
seemed to intentionally omit the "into my own parade" line that
usually follows "I'm ready for to fade." By doing so, Dylan made his
characters plea, "cast your dancin' spell my way" more desperate.
Dylan also treated the crowd to his quirky approach to the acoustic
guitar segments. Sometimes his playing is out front, sometimes he
weaves his guitar lines in and out of his band mates, or he even just
lays back and lets Larry take over.
I was caught off-guard when "Visions Of Johanna" surfaced as the third
song of the show, this being my fourth show since Bob changed format
earlier this year (he now opens with an acoustic set which lasts for
close to half of the show, when he used to tuck the acoustic portion
into the middle of a mostly electric show). There were some sweet
moments of vocal embellishment here, and a nice little guitar break.
However, it wasn't one of his finer "Visions" overall. He stumbled
over the second line of the second verse, and skipped the third verse
altogether. Then he botched the resolution of the fourth verse by
reverting back to the third verse for the final two lines. He also
took a little of the gusto out of the final verse, as he failed to
build to the "while my conscience explodes" line correctly, became
visibly annoyed with himself for a fleeting moment, and opted to just
skip the line altogether. Please don't misinterpret me here, a
"Visions" is always welcome, be it stellar or not.
"Visions" is usually the highlight of any Dylan set, but not
tonight's. With "Ring Them Bells" Dylan began tossing out chestnuts
to his most faithful fans with striking generosity.
Bob's expressive lead vocal blended magnificently with Larry
Campbell's gentle pedal steel.
I had not seen this gem from Oh Mercy since early in the decade,
and it was appropriate
after hearing Baltimore's bells earlier in the day. There was no
verse skipping on this outstanding interpretation. With the exception
of a couple of lines in the first part of the last verse, Dylan's
delivery was magnificent. He took a second stab at the flubbed verse,
repeating it passionately, after a gorgeous instrumental lead by Larry
Campbell. "That's for this city full of bells," he said after they
finished the song.
My mind started to run wild. How generous will Dylan get? Could we
get the rare "Tryin' To Get To Heaven," with its line "Miss Mary Jane
got a house in Baltimore?" Did he see all the Heads with their dogs
(or at least hear all the barking) not far from where his bus was
parked? Would he be moved to perform "One Too Many Mornings" which
begins with "Down the street the dogs are barkin', the dogs will lose
their bark." Perhaps he would regale with some obscenely rare songs,
like "Romance In Durango," which has the line, "the dogs are barking
and what's done is done." Or even "Clothes Line Saga" from The
Basement Tapes, on which is sung, "the dogs were barking, a neighbor
passed." Most appropriate would have been "If Dogs Run Free" from his
1970 release New Morning. I don't think Uncle Bob has ever performed
this particular song live. Although Dylan would not touch on these
songs, he certainly did not disappoint.
"Tangled Up In Blue" did not have the strength of most of the others I
had seen this year, but Dylan played with the lyrics liberally. He
keeps the voice in the third person for most of the song these days.
His embellishment in the middle of the third verse seemed to change
its meaning entirely, "So he drifted down to New Orleans, workin'
night and day, workin' on a fishin' boat, but his mind was slippin'
away." However, the song didn't gain much steam until it concluded
with a rousing Bob harmonica solo. Many Dylan fans have grown weary
of this being performed at virtually every show for a long time now.
It seemed everyone in the house was pleased with Dylan's offering of
Johnny Cash's "Big River." This song found it's way into many live
Grateful Dead performances, and although Dylan had performed it live
before, it is, for him, an exceedingly rare live pearl. Dylan was
thoroughly enjoying himself, as he shot Sexton some approving looks as
Charlie goaded sounds out of his guitar that were reminiscent of
Johnny Cash's early studio work. (NOTE - The following night, the
band delivered an even more impressive version of Cash's "Folsom
Prison Blues" with Sexton offering guitar parts strikingly true to
Johnny's original studio version) Dylan was clearly having a great
time with this one; his delivery was loose but respectful. "Big
River" chugged along like a train, picking up a little steam for good
measure during the final instrumental break. A fine tribute to the
great Johnny Cash.
The "Joey" that followed was the only clunker of the night. He
delivered the first four verses in a somewhat off-handed fashion.
Then he skipped five verses, and sang the last three. I'm used to Bob
skipping verses of many of his songs, but "Joey" is a masterpiece of a
story song which he shouldn't even bother playing if he's gonna just
go half-ass with it. It was a very disappointing moment in an
otherwise spectacular performance. However, the instrumentals were
I had always wanted to see "Down Along The Cove" (from John Wesley
Harding) live, and tonight, for the first time, I got my wish. Dylan
reversed the first two verses, and peppered the song with other
lyrical adjustments. He changed "it sure is good to see you comin'
today" to "you sure look good today." And "Everybody watchin' us go
by, knows we're in love, yes, they understand," became "Lord have
mercy momma, sure glad you understand." Campbell began the ensuing
guitar break, but was quickly joined by Sexton and Dylan for a short
guitar trio jam. Even though the New Hampshire version eight days
later was far superior, it was a delight to catch this rarity live.
Dylan returned to the amazing Oh Mercy album for "Man In The Long
Black Coat" which surfaces about once a tour these days. Again,
Larry's light messaging of the pedal steel was an ideal backdrop for
Dylan's gentle crooning. This was an absolutely stunning version,
with Dylan getting every verse and almost every word perfectly; I
found myself transported by the melancholy power that Dylan's band
conjured. The entire building was moved to utter silence creating an
amazing vibe, especially considering the fact that we were in an arena
with 14.000 or more seats.
Dylan romped through a hooch-fueled bluesy "Tombstone Blues." The
normally low-key Tony Garnier stepped up with some rollicking bass
lines. Larry Campbell sounded strong on his new toy, which stands to
the right of the pedal steel. I call it a "table steel" for lack of a
better description, but whatever it is, it sure has some muscle to it.
We just got a small window into its strength here, but it wouldn't be
until later in the tour that some of the most electric moments
occurred while Larry was diving into this energy machine. Perhaps
it's useless and pointless to know that Bob skipped four verses of
this song, but for the record, it was a painfully incomplete
rendition. However, I catch the song so infrequently that I was happy
to see them tear it up. The final jam was a guitar feast with Sexton
and Dylan stirring up waves of energy with their mingling leads.
I finally succumbed to my over-powering need to pee during the "Like A
Rolling Stone" which concluded the set. It warmed my heart to see all
kinds of Deadheads dancing hard to Uncle Bob. This made for one of
the most enjoyable treks to the bathroom in my recent memory. I could
hear the show clearly, even in the bathroom, where Campbell's very
sweet guitar solo echoed off the tiles. When I returned, Dylan sang
the "princess on the steeple" verse in almost humorous fashion, with
phrasing that was unique even by his own standards (although it did
indicate another verse had been hurdled). This settled down into a
gentle and brief guitar interlude where Dylan's band used to do a
full-blown jam, so the show ended a bit quietly in my eyes.
Dylan left the stage to thunderous applause, and returned to an even
louder response. He quickly corralled all of the energy to the
painful beauty of his Grammy-award winning "Love Sick." This haunting
masterpiece from Bob's Time Out Of Mind CD has been performed as the
first encore at most of Dylan's recent shows. This is one song I
don't mind seeing almost every show, as Bob seems to find a new way to
wring another ounce of angst out of this agonizingly self-examining
song. "Rainy Day Woman #12 + 35" has settled down a bit from the
blistering versions Bob was delivering as recently as 1997. It still
is a fun song, and Bob deviated from his recent two-verse approach by
adding a third verse. It was improvised, but partially inaudible, and
made up partly of lines from the second verse. Campbell again flexed
his muscle on his new "table steel" toy, offering us more hints of the
energetic potential of this powerful instrument.
Bob introduced his band in animated fashion, then said, "we're gonna
get Phil Lesh back out here," which met with deafening approval from
the Maryland crowd. With Dylan's band performing acoustically, Phil
offered some wonderful bass to a spirited rendition of "Friend Of The
Devil." Dylan seemed to be making an extra effort, offering arguably
his finest lead vocal of the evening. The mystical beauty of the song
and the cosmic significance of Lesh and Dylan performing it together
captivated the crowd. Dylan has kept it floating around his
repertoire for the past two or three years, so he is more than
familiar with it. He and Campbell intertwined for two separate
instrumentals. Lesh even stepped up for some lead bass (something he
did infrequently with the Grateful Dead of the 80s and 90s). His
performance sparkled, especially when he traded some licks with Tony
Garnier, who was commanding on the stand-up bass. The "Not Fade Away"
that closed the evening had considerably more muscle than any Dylan
version I've heard, with Lesh goading extra energy with his beastly
bass lines. I glanced around during the final chorus and was hit with
a wash of warm energy. The room had the feel of a Grateful Dead show;
it seemed every body was in motion with the music. This evening built
to what I would consider to be the ideal meshing of the Dylan and Dead
audience. My most vivid memory of the evening is of Lesh and Dylan
sharing a sliding handshake with broad smiles on their faces. The two
artists and audiences had coalesced, and I couldn't have been happier.
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