November 9, 2009
Review by Jordan Wilfong
At the conclusion of yet another moving performance, Bob Dylan stood
center stage under the spotlight, surrounded by his band of supremely
talented musicians led by the gifted guitarist Charlie Sexton. For
just a few moments Bob stepped forward, leaving the band behind as the
appreciative crowd roared. He then quickly turned back, and with a
workmanlike manner signaled that it was time to call it a night.
Standing just a few feet away from Dylan, you could tell by his facial
expression that he knew it was time to move on, to keep moving
forward. He'd done his job again, and he did it well.
Bob's still on the road and the fire is still there. The unyielding
desire to perform, the constant want to re-invent these timeless
songs, which have inspired fans from all walks of life. It's just a
delight to see the man work, to go through the ups and downs and
always end up in the right spot. On the walk out of Temple
University's arena, a local radio station had an advertising booth set
up with some speakers. They were playing Don McClean's American Pie,
not quite Dylan but a fair song nonetheless. As I walked by the verse
came on about Bob, calling him "a voice that came from you and me."
McClean may have been right about that. We're fortunate Dylan's still
out there writing and performing, the great poet and musician that he
Review by Peter Stone Brown
Ten years ago, on this exact date, Bob Dylan played this venue, really a
basketball gym at Temple University, though back then it was called the Temple
Apollo. That was on one of the best legs ever of what his fans are always going
to refer to as the "Never Ending Tour," whether Bob Dylan likes or not, even
though he was the one who coined the term. One of the reasons that fall tour
remains somewhat legendary, is there were surprises every night, often in cover
songs, but also that feeling of anything can happen, and because anything can
happen, that means catch as many shows as you possibly can - and on that tour I
did, mainly because Dylan played a bunch of shows in a two week period all
within two hours driving distance. Among the surprises that night were what
remains the only live performance of Dylan singing "A Satisfied Mind," not in
the arrangement that appears on Saved, but in the original country arrangement,
a hit for Porter Wagoner. Among the other surprises that night were Bob talking
about Bill Cosby, perhaps Temple's most famous graduate, and an extra, in other
words a real encore after the encore's.
Tonight, the Liacouras Center was not as crowded as it was back then. Let's
just say it would've been pretty easy to get a ticket, and in one sense that was
a shame, because it was probably in a lot of ways quite possibly the best
concert Bob Dylan's played in Philly since that night ten years ago and for
entirely different reasons. But of course different is what Bob Dylan's all
about. It's one of the primary reasons to go see him because it's not gonna be
the same as the last time you saw him, even if the last time you saw him was the
night before, and on those rare nights where this would happen occasionally,
even if you just saw him at the show before. And so I left this show wishing I
was seeing a lot more shows, because from this show, it was quite evident that
that indefinable thing, that magic thing that can't be forced, that has to
happen by itself is happening on this tour.
Now the buzz started early on this tour, in fact even before the tour was
announced, when the news leaked that Charlie Sexton was back in the band
replacing Denny Freeman on lead guitar. Now, I was never among the Denny
Freeman bashers. I thought Denny Freeman was on often brilliant guitarist,
whose style was more influenced by West Coast and Texas blues and also West
Coast and Texas Jazz and swing. He was definitely creative, he never played the
same solo twice. But in a lot of ways his playing was also cerebral, and while
at times he was outstanding, playing as tough and hard as anyone, he wasn't
necessarily always the right guitarist for Bob Dylan.
Charlie Sexton on the other hand is the right guitarist for Bob Dylan. He has
an inherent understanding not only of what Bob Dylan's music is about, but what
the songs are about. It was obvious his first time around with Dylan that those
songs were ingrained deep inside and that hasn't changed, and perhaps now it's
even more so. Like the two greatest guitarists ever to work with Dylan, Michael
Bloomfield and Robbie Robertson, he plays off not only what the lyrics are
saying, but how Dylan is singing them at that particular moment, punctuating
phrases with quick jabs like a boxer. Like Mike Bloomfield, he can fast, often
dazzling runs, and like Robbie Robertson he knows when not to play, and when to
come in with energized bursts of sound that are more about emotion and intensity
than showing off, and crackle like a live wire on the ground and snap like a
Bob Dylan's first surprise tonight was opening the show with "Memphis Blues
Again." If he's opened with this before, I don't remember it. But from the
first note the all important energy was there and it totally works as an opener.
In fact I felt it worked better as an opener than anywhere else in the show.
Actually, I've never been a big fan of this song done live, and I waited years
to hear it live. The original studio version on Blonde On Blonde is so
incredible and also so funny, that it's been hard to match it live. The humor
on the original just never translated to the stage. Tonight however, it was
special, and while maybe the humor wasn't quite all the way there, it did have
that light moving feel of the original.
Dylan then moved from keyboard to guitar and went right into the more upbeat
arrangement of "Man In the Long Black Coat," that he debuted in Europe early
this year. Powerful stuff, and Dylan even took a really not bad guitar solo,
that had none of the search and destroy aspects of other guitar playing I've
heard from the tour this year. In other words he nailed it. Unfortunately
during the song the plot of the eternal bring down appeared in the form of a row
of latecomers who of course had to sit right in front of me and decided to
continue whatever conversation they apparently were already having. Then all
too soon, Charlie Sexton signaled the end of the song. Unlike a lot of passed
tours, one thing quite noticeable tonight was there are no more long, drawn out
endings. All the endings are clear, defined, and fast, and all are signaled by
The conversation continued right through a not bad "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight,"
where Bob's solo was, well it wasn't anywhere near what he played on "Man In The
Long Black Coat." At this point my friend Max, whose been going to Bob concerts
with me for 21 years said, "I want to kill these people." So I said, as
politely and nicely as I could, "Could you guys please not talk during the
songs?" One guy was cool with it but the other one turned around and said,
"Man, people come to concerts to talk." At this point I had to restrain every
James Gandolfini walking out of a clothing store and seeing a photographer
instinct I had in me. In the book, The Godfather, there's this story about when
Al Neri was a cop and how he didn't need a gun, 'cause he'd just use his
flashlight instead, and I had this incredible urge to bring my binoculars
crashing down on this guy's skull, but I then I remember I wasn't in a movie,
even if I'd been through this movie before.
My hit man fantasies were quickly interrupted by Bob returning to the keyboard
and the band blasting into a fierce "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," followed by a
fairly upbeat "Spirit On The Water." From that point on the energy level never
lagged, and was taken higher by "High Water (For Charlie Patton) with Donnie on
banjo, during which Bob left the keyboard and moved to center stage for a harp
An almost 66-ish style harp solo started off what turned out to be a truly
gorgeous and moving version of "Tryin' To Get To Heaven." It was quite possibly
the best version I've ever seen of this song. Dylan was singing from way down
deep. Of course in the middle of it, almost the entire row of talkers left to
get beer. This was followed by an equally amazing "Cold Irons Bound" with Dylan
singing at center stage and playing harp, with searing guitar work from both
Sexton, who got down on his knees, a position he would return to often and
Donnie Herron on steel. This arrangement may not have the dramatic show
stopping effects of the previous arrangements, but it's no less, in fact
probably more powerful.
Next came an also upbeat "Desolation Row," that was interesting for a couple of
reasons, the first was Dylan borrowed the organ riff from "If You Ever Go To
Houston," and then Dylan went into what some refer to as his sing-song voice.
It's really not sing-song, it's almost as if you were reading poetry to little
kids or something. In the case of "Desolation Row," it was basically hysterical
and took it to new heights of absurdity. At the beginning of the song the chief
talker, who had returned from the beer run by himself, to my utter astonishment,
turned around and had the audacity to ask me if he could borrow my binoculars.
After a moment of Obama-like contemplation, in the spirit of Obama diplomacy, I
handed them to him, and he handed them back after a verse or two. However,
unlike Obama with the Republicans, it worked, and he pretty much shut up for the
rest of the night. A lot of Dylan fans wonder why Donnie Herron watches Bob
like a hawk during the shows. This version of "Desolation Row" had the perfect
example. During the song, Dylan found some organ riff he liked, and Herron
immediately picked it up and echoed it on the mandolin and it took over as the
dominant riff for the rest of the song.
Returning to the pedal steel, Herron then kicked off a rearranged "Po Boy" with
a country flavored riff. Like every song at this show, this too was done in
upbeat fashion. Not speedy to get it over with, but just with energy and cool
harp from Dylan.
Next came the high point, the most moving part of an already quite moving show,
a stunningly beautiful, "Workingman's Blues," with Dylan starting at keyboard
then moving to center stage and playing harp. In a city that just went through
a short but bitter transit strike, a city where jobs are few and far between, a
city where it was announced that very day that the city itself had less money
than thought, and hundreds if not thousands of city workers would be laid off,
in a city where a murder a day, if not more than that has become the norm, this
song resonated, and Dylan was powerful especially on the line, "I find it hard
to believe, someone would kick me when I'm down." These solo turns out front by
the microphone are something special, just in the way Dylan stands, his hand
gestures, the way he moves. It's been said many times during his career, but
what comes to mind is Charlie Chaplin, particularly at the end of Modern Times.
Dylan didn't have a cane, he wasn't walking down the road, his hat was tilted
more like W.C. Fields in It's A Gift, the lone, sad, poet clown singing about
what was going on.
After that, the rest of the show really didn't matter, but it was all good.
Dylan again returned to center stage for "Ballad Of A Thin Man," "Like A Rolling
Stone" resonated reborn, and "All Along The Watchtower," which ends Bob Dylan
concerts for a reason, sounded a warning, with the band pulling off a very cool
stop during the repeat of the first verse on the line, "I can't get no relief."
The thing about Bob Dylan is that every time you're maybe thinking he can't, he
shows, always in a new way, that he still can. Like the best magicians, he
always has a few more tricks up his sleeve. And that is why this tour, now in
its last two weeks is the tour to see.
Review by Frank Reynolds
Bob Dylan played Temple's Liacouras Center last night. I have seen Bob many
times before, and really wasn't that enthused about this show, as his shows in
recent years seemed to be lacking something.
Whatever has been missing in recent years seemed to have been rediscovered
as I am happy to report that this was my favorite Dylan show of the decade!
The real key for him is to be engaged with the material. When he is, he
passionately expresses the inner meaning of the songs and keen observers
can't help but be drawn in, like moths to a flame
A few elements were likely the sparks that relit Bob's fire. First, lead
guitarist Charlie Sexton, who had toured with Bob from 1999 thru 2002
rejoined the band for this fall's tour. In his previous stint, Charlie
played lead but stayed firmly integrated in the overall band sound. This
time around, Charlie was unleashed and he ripped off fiery solos in
virtually every song from the center of the stage. Charlie's playing even
inspired Bob to trade lines on the organ, harmonica or guitar.
Bob also seemed very inspired by his recent material, relying heavily on
tunes from his 3 most recent albums, but then carrying over the passion to
A personal highlight was "Ballad of a Thin Man". The best performance of
this song I've ever witnessed.
As good as the show was, it still didn't match my very favorite Dylan shows from
the mid-1990s, as he just doesn't have enough voice left to effectively do the
tender ballads in his repetoire. He can still croak his way thru the rockers
though, and thank God for that!
If you are on the fence about whether to attend any of the remaining shows
on this tour, my advice is to go. I'm sure glad that I did!
Comments by Glenn Hertzler
Well, my 76 th show and still amazed! Bob was great , more than any
recent show you could understand nearly every word. I took my 24 year
old son and his girl friend. My son has seen , as we call him "UNCLE BoB
" 7 times ,once in Cork Ireland. We all loved the show, my son ranking
it as his best show from Bob he has seen It was her first show..Charlie
has infused Bob with new energy not seen in a while. The entire show
was great with no real let down from start to finish. Thanks Bob .
Review by Andy Saylor
What a dramatic difference between this show and the baseball stadium
show in July. Charlie Sexton's return has brought back musical
excitement and excellence. The chemistry was obvious and at times,
like in Ballad of a Thin Man, electrifying. That was a highlight for
me. Not a favorite usually, but this arrangement, the blending of the
guitars and then Bob's harmonica, and of course George and Tony, was
off the charts.
I admit that when Bob insists on slowing things down, especially with
some of the newer songs, I find myself wishing they'd do some more
rockers. But then he makes it special. Tonight, it was Workingman's
Blues #2. Who knew what a poignant beauty that is? I didn't until
Which reminds me. At times, Bob would stand at the mike, in a sort of
1920's singer pose with his arms out and up a bit, sort of swaying...
I can't describe it. You'll know it when you see it. Struck me as
another sense in which the vaudeville in Bob comes to the fore.
I tell friends that even if it got to the point where they wheel him
out on stage and he recites Mary Had a Little Lamb, I'll go, because
he's family, he's a friend. But tonight demonstrated we are a long
way from that.
If I may, I'll close with a quote that ran through my mind tonight.
It's something Bob Johnston, the producer ("Is it rolling, Bob"), said
in the Martin Scorcese PBS documentary. "I think God, instead of
touching him on the shoulder, kicked him in the ass. Really. And
that's where all that came from. He can't help what he's doing. I
mean, he's got the Holy Spirit about him. You can look at him and
Review by Stephen Trageser
Having enjoyed a ballpark show only 4 months ago, I wondered if maybe I was
pushing my luck going to see another Dylan show so soon (one show a year usually
works for me.) Perish the thought! As many reviewers have been saying, the
current tour is a must-see. Unfortunately, there were thousands of missed
opportunities for this concert. (Because it was a Monday? Everyone still
mourning the Phillies? Afraid of the neighborhood? “Monsters of Folk”(oh,
please) playing further down Broad Street ? Who knows?) Those that did come
out, however, were treated to a killer show.
The set list included 4 songs from Highway 61 Revisited (okay, okay, two of
these pop up nearly every night, but the other two most definitely do not) a
couple of re-worked songs from Time Out of Mind, a few old favorites, and seven
numbers released in the 21 st century. And, yes indeed Charlie Sexton is back
with six-strings blazing. The rest of the band, particularly George and Tony,
were locked in and focused. But most impressive of all was Bob Dylan himself,
singing with mike in hand, sounding better than I’ve heard in a long time, and
playing organ, harp, and guitar with renewed authority. That’s not to say this
was a slick performance by any means, but the moments of ecstasy far outnumbered
those that brought a tinge or a cringe. And, for what it’s worth, I enjoyed it
perfectly sober (it would’ve been okay too if drinking, but couldn’t imagine
it being better.)
Surprises: 1. Stuck Inside of Mobile as an opener, and not too wonky sounding
considering it usually takes awhile for the band to warm up. 2. Bob trading
guitar licks with Charlie during I’ll Be Your Baby, as part of 4 guitar attack
(including Stu on acoustic and Donnie on steel.) 3. The “new” arrangement of
Cold Irons Bound. Can’t say I like it as much as version circa 2001-2004 which
made hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention, but interesting
nevertheless. 4. Bob’s odd, and hard to describe, but very enjoyable (to me
anyway) recitation of Desolation Row. It made the priceless lyrics clearly
heard, and easy to move lips to [soundlessly in my case.] 5. This is not the
Charlie Sexton Show, featuring Bob Dylan, but he definitely makes this band
(including Bob) greater than the sum of its parts. Although he certainly lit it
up at times, I’ll bet that on his report card it says “plays well with
No matter that the end-of-set-plus-encore string of Thin Man, Rolling Stone,
Jolene, and Watchtower is predictable; it is also an unparalleled knockout
combination of hard-driving, crowd pleasing, rock and roll. For other acts, an
overplayed “big hit” might be the time I’d sneak out to hit the can one
last time or to prepare an exit strategy. Not this time, thank God. Thin Man
was sublime, the haunting notes of the chorus a joy to behold. I can’t
think of a suitable description of Charlie’s playing during Rolling Stone, but
he seemed to raise the bar higher than possible. I’ve heard Jolene dismissed
as filler, but it helps you catch your breath, even as it maintains your pulse
rate. Two days later, I’m still hearing George pounding the hell out of
Watchtower, while the band played along loud enough to wake Jimi.
Go see it.
| Click Here
to return to the
page by Bill Pagel
| Bob Links
| Set Lists
| Set Lists