well, I'm back from about my 50th, give or take a baker's dozen, dylan show.. and at least right now this seems like it might possibly be the best one ever.. where to start? this was my first show of the 'piano' tour (tho I had seen bob way back in '80 on piano in albany, ny..weird and wild) from tweedle dee on to the end, it was a concentrated, effortless, and playful vocal performence, a vocal dance, really, with bob doing exactly what he wanted with his voice every step of the way. the first mind-altering moment was hearing those immortal words to open the second song, 'well the comic book and us just us we caught the bus" WOW! 1st ever.. and a calypso/reggae kind of arrangement, with the band harmonixing on all the wacky love and theft ahead-of-its time choruses .....''take me down to california baby".....and doing it reggae/calypso! another new sound for maybe the greatest band he's ever had... I could go on and on, but i'll keep it short- all the covers were unbelievable, with every word of end of the innocence & mutineer sung carefully and well... Im not the first to remark that he sometimes gives the covers more respect then his own songs, but tonight every song got the a plus treatment .. great re arrangement of shelter from the storm, by(e) the way .. that I understand from those who were with me who had gone to elmira was even different then elmira! highwater, its alright ma, bye and bye, hattie carroll, .. all of it unbelievable.. every note and work carefully thought out, effortlessly, it seems, too. summer days grows and grows, its now not just summer, but the whole damm year. well, that gives you some idea! I could go on and on, but its getting late here in the city that never sleeps (but I have to) ... mike skliar email@example.com
page by Bill Pagel
Review by Peter Stone Brown
Last year when Bob Dylan played Madison Square Garden, New York City was
under siege and you could feel it. Tonight New York was pretty much back
to being New York and getting into the Garden, despite everyone being
wanded was under definitely more relaxed circumstances. There were plenty
of empty seats visible when the lights finally went down about 20 minutes
after 8 and by the time the new longer introduction was done, Dylan and
band were already on stage, Dylan standing at his white Yamaha keyboard
and they tore into "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum." It was the opener I'd
hoped for a year ago and it was perfect in every way, Dylan's singing
strong and confident.
The next song started off with a familiar riff yet it was hard to place,
and almost kind of reggae sounding, until Dylan sang the first line
crystal clear and it all fell into place, along with a collective gasp of
"Oh my God, I can't believe he's doing this," as he spoke/sang, "The comic
book and me just us we caught the bus/The poor little chauffeur was back
in bed/On the very next day with a nose full of pus/Yea heavy and a bottle
of bread." It was a classic Dylan moment and an amazing one. A song I
was sure I would never ever see him sing and not only that, the harmonies
of Larry and Charlie were perfect. He didn't sing every verse but it
didn't matter. For some reason it never does while the show is happening.
At the end, Dylan says, "That was a request" followed by "shut up" though
it wasn't clear (from where I was sitting) to who.
This was followed by a hard and heavy "Tombstone Blues," and Dylan,
wearing a black suit with red piping is practically snarling out the
lines, "The commander in chief answers him while chasing a fly," and gets
downright menacing on "the old folks home and the college." He is not
messing around and the band is with him all the way.
All of a sudden the music takes a turn and the riff is not bluesy, but 80s
pop, "The End of the Innocence," and Dylan is deep into it, his voice sad,
yet approaching almost mystical heights, and then it's fast forward into
"Things Have Changed" and the sadness is gone and the menace in the vocal
The lights go down, and someone is playing a guitar riff, sweet, pretty
almost celestial but that quickly changes as the lights come back up and
the band launches into "Brown Sugar" and the crowd stands up and they nail
it and there's no one thinking or even caring what the song's about
because it's total rock and roll.
The lights go down again, and you hear an acoustic testing out a minor
chord and I'm wondering if it's gonna be "Thin Man," but no "It's Masters
of War" and this time I'm thinking about all the things this song is
about, but all of a sudden those thoughts are interrupted by some loud
crackling noise interrupting and I realize it's the drums. They're just
not right. They're too loud and they're interfering with the song.
Dylan goes back to the keyboard for new "It's Alright Ma" which is more or
less built around the riff of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me" and he's
really charging into the lyrics, but again George Receli shows he is the
busiest drummer Dylan's ever had, and not only that he's missing. Dylan
shoots him a look and he sort of quiets down, but he's doing way too much,
playing the drums and not the song.
"Just Like A Woman" a standout of last year's MSG show comes next, and
despite nice pedal steel from Larry, it's only okay and again the rhythm
just ain't right. At last year's show, David Kemper played Kenny
Buttrey's perfect fills from "Blonde On Blonde," but Receli is all over
Then it was back to rocking on "Drifter's Escape," and then a strange new
arrangement of "Shelter From The Storm," that had Dylan repeating the last
line of each verse with Larry on harmony. This is one of Dylan's greatest
songs and one that he has tried innumerable ways in concert and for some
reason rarely pulls it off, never capturing the spooky quality of the
studio version, partly because he never sings the melody.
"Old Man" came next and for whatever reason, more than any of the other
cover songs of the night, this truly felt like a cover version. Dylan did
little to make it his own.
Things took a definite turn for the better with "Honest With Me" which was
followed by "Hattie Carroll" which I always like to hear, but this version
Then came the Shot of Love version of "High Water" which was far better
than the debut of this arrangement I saw this summer in Worcester, but
despite excellent picking by Larry at the end that recalled his original
banjo solo, this arrangement turns one of Dylan's recent stellar musical
moments, a perfect blend of bluegrass and rock into another bluesy rock
"Mutineer" was beautiful, easily Dylan's most heartfelt and sensitive
vocal of the night, followed by a cool version of "Bye and Bye" on which
the line "I'm making my last go round" seemed to resonate.
Then came a killer version of "Summer Days" with great guitar work by
everyone involved, though Receli seemed to stick in every drum roll he
knows, though the guitars were so amazing at times you could almost swear
there was a horn section on stage.
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and "Watchtower" were both fine, with great
harmonies on the first song.
After a year of what seemed to be far too many disinterested performances,
Dylan is once again sing with conviction and fire and in the best moments,
his voice will go right through you. More to the point he seems to care
and be aware of what he's doing. On one line near the beginning of
"Shelter," he lapsed into the sing-song thing, but he didn't let it happen
At MSG, he may have shown his hand a bit too early with the total surprise
of "Yea Heavy" but it was a surprise I'll never forget.
"People walk up as if they know me, just because I've written some song
that happens to, uh, bother them in a certain way and they can't get rid
of it, you know, in their mind. Well that's got nothing to do with me,
'cause they still don't know me. And I still don't know them!" --Bob Dylan
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.peterstonebrown.com
Review by Erica Weinschenk
Only my 2nd Dylan concert and between then (Waterloo Village, Stanhope,
NJ, July 2000) and now, I’ve absolutely grown to love the genius and
timelessness of Bob’s music. I'm eternally grateful to my best friend for
introducing me to the whole Dylan scene about 5 years ago. I never knew
what I was missing! [This concert made for an awesome birthday present
for that best friend too !]
Well, Bob sure was rockin’ tonight!
The atmosphere of the Garden was alive and eager, even if some people I
saw were dressed for a Grateful Dead concert with their old tie-dyes and
the requisite “bud” lighting as soon as the lights went down. Everyone
treated you like a kindred spirit and didn’t seem to mind in the least if
you danced in the aisle or, as with the guy in front of me, filmed most of
the show. Though the concert started late, Bob was obviously primed and
raring to go, and certainly the New York audience was ready to welcome him
in all his glory.
Jumping right into a spirited “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” and
following that with a shocking premiere of “Yea Heavy, and a Bottle of
Bread,” I knew we were certainly in for a treat. It took Bob 27 years to
play “Yea, Heavy...” live and he even went so far as to say afterwards
that “it was a request!” Words flowed smoothly and clearly and Bob seemed
to really have purpose in what he was saying as he went through “The End
of the Innocence,” “Things Have Changed,” “Masters of War,” and “It’s
Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding).” You could feel the biting reality in
those songs today as much as in their original times of release. “Just
Like a Woman” was fresher than the original in ’66 and almost seemed to
convey a longing for days (and women) gone by. I'm thrilled to note that
“Shelter from the Storm” has made its way back into the repertoire, and
hopefully Bob will allow his fans to revel in that one for several more
concerts. “Honest With Me” proved a fun and carefree success with great
swoops on the slide guitar by Larry to compliment Bob’s jaunty piano
chords. The Zevon cover of “Mutineer” almost felt like a swaying voyage
on a boat, which was enhanced with the columns of aqua light rippling up
through a purple glow on the curtains. Bob really is becoming accustomed
to setting his newest songs on fire, which was evident in the velvety
swing of “Bye and Bye” and the incredible climax of the show in “Summer
Days.” The energy put into “Summer Days” was incomparable and appeared to
make Bob feel like a kid again, as he danced and jumped about with the
band in a jam session that surely could rival musicians half Bob’s age or
younger! Am I the only one to have heard some “Rock Around the Clock”
woven into that “Summer Days” jam? Well, I myself remained in the dance
mode straight through the encores, swaying in solidarity to Bob’s pleading
in “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and rocking to the sheer intensity of “All
Along the Watchtower.”
A truly unparalleled show and a night to remember.
Here’s to hoping for some “Blind Willie McTell” next time!
Review by Willy Gissen
New York, NY, September 11-Madison Square Garden has always been one of my favorite
places for a Dylan concert, and I went down with a friend from Church who had only
been to one Dylan concert before (last tour). Maybe I had gotten used to the act,
but it seemed that Dylan had peaked too early in Elmira. Like Elmira was a practice
run for MSG, but it was so good that the Garden itself was a letdown. Dylan was very
hoarse on several of the songs, and his concluding Summer Days didn't seem as long a
jam as Saturday. Still, there were some real treats. I've never heard Dylan play "The
Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" in concert before, and this song is a classic Dylan
ballad. Also, Dylan did not play "The End of the Innocence" in Elmira, and this tune
by Don Henley is tailor-made for the current situation in New York City today.
Even when he is a little off, Dylan's concerts always have relevance and make you
think. Another example is the very topical song "Masters of War" played tonight but
not in Elmira. And the first song of the encore, "Knocking on Heaven's Door," made
the concert worthwhile for both me and my friend from Church.
(To Be Continued)
Review by Stephen David Walter
Predictably strange weather greeted Bob Dylan's first stop along the
Eastern seaboard this fall: sickly warm for November, with
end-of-the-world skies full of darkly threaded clouds. Cecil B. DeMille
and some pillars would have nicely completed the scene. When we made it
to the Garden, it seemed like a place of refuge--to quote from Isaiah and
one of his descendants, "a shelter from the storm and rain." The house
was much emptier than it was last autumn, with the highest sections
darkened, and the heady, anxious buzz of yesteryear had disappeared as
well, replaced by a quieter Monday evening feel, enthusiastic yet
relaxed, loutish intoxication at a blessed minimum.
Our tickets, which I'd happened upon by dumb luck after weeks of
Sisyphean labors on the Ticketmaster site, turned out to be excellent:
the first row of the 120 section just an aisle above the loge, yielding a
perfect side view stage-left, with just enough height and nary an
obstruction, and with Dylan's keyboard angled conveniently towards us.
We were sandwiched between what one might call the yin and yang of Dylan
attendees, at least the solitary ones: on the one side, the silent
taper, owlishly perched above his prey; on the other, the wiry, manic
little jaybird of a fan who couldn't let a song go by without belting out
half the lyrics (though I must praise his recall), clapping out of time,
and elbowing me in the ribs with yet another trenchant observation along
the lines of, "look how he's bobbing up and down! ... there, see?"
Well, even a refuge has its quirks. (How do you think the gazelles felt
about bunking with hyenas? I'll bet Noah never heard the end of it.) It
mattered little in the end, as the seats and the performance alike
yielded exactly what I most yearn for in a Dylan concert: a clear,
spellbinding focus on the music and the words, enough to pull me out of
distractions large and small into a world more consistent with what I
believe to be a higher self, half-remembered from dreams and visions
long-decayed, but always recognized in the productions of genius,
howsoever masked as light entertainment, pimping or burlesque.
And howsoever cloaked, be it in poet's mantle, in prophet's flowing
robes, or in the flash of countrified black and red down to the toes of
too-cool boots, in which the rara avis himself alighted on the stage,
leaning down into his piano mic to bite venomously into the lyrics of
"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum." Much as I tried to attend to the
singing--unbelievably clear and energized for the first song of the
night--at first I simply could not take my eyes off of the wholly
unfamiliar sight of his hands upon the keyboard, those "milky leather
hands," as Sam Shepard put it decades back, "that tell more than his face
about music and where he's been. Ancient, demonic, almost scary,
What came next does not need to be over-emphasized, I think, amazing as
it was. Once we realized what he was singing, "... poor little chauffeur
... nose full of pus," we burst into elated laughter to the extent that
we had to choke it down before it got embarrassing. "Yea! Heavy And A
Bottle Of Bread" was a priceless and unforgettable moment, like "Quinn" a
perfect reggae-fied recreation of Basement hilarity with that weirdly
menacing underside. How could it not be priceless? Yet it seems
important to stress the point that, whereas with many previous shows one
might take this away as the highlight of the evening--as recently as last
spring and summer, for example, one could be forgiven for doing just that
with "Solid Rock," "Subterranean" or "Quinn the Eskimo" itself--tonight
that wasn't possible, because it fit seamlessly into a performance so
well-paced and delivered that it made the mining of choice nuggets an
exercise in futility. The whole thing was shot through with gold.
I'd been reading setlists and reviews since the outset of this tour,
listening to MP3s and a bootleg or two, though I tried to limit that
somewhat. It wouldn't have made a difference: no amount of exposure, I
think, could have prevented me from experiencing the music firsthand as
anything but radically new. "Make it new!" cried Ezra Pound, and the
newness and the making, the vision and the craft, must always go hand in
hand. There is no doubt that with the pairing of Receli and Garnier the
band has a much looser-limbed, funkier sound, but what astonished me most
about the remainder of the first piano set, from "Tombstone Blues"
through "Things Have Changed," was how finely-_structured_ these
rejuvenated standards have become, and how effortlessly they hide that
structuring, buoying the hard-edged vocals on a warm current of sound.
And leave it to Dylan to reinforce that impression by bridging those two
with "The End of the Innocence." A wag seated behind us sarcastically
called out for "Desperado" after that one, but Dylan knows the difference
even if many others don't; knows a moving, well-crafted popular song when
he hears it, and at the same time knows how to Dylanize it as well, first
by stripping the vocals of molasses while leaving a spare residuum of
tenderness behind, and second by contrasting it with the ragged glory of
his own inimitably powerful lyrical voice as evidenced across four
decades by "Tombstone" and "Things Have Changed."
Oh, how _could_ Bob Dylan play "Brown Sugar"? And in the same set as
"Hattie Carroll," no less. And singing "taste" now instead of "dance."
The rogue! The cad! Has he no shame? What has become of protest in our
day? Obviously we should all have stood up and left right there and
then. When the lights flashed down on the floor during the final "Yeah
Woo!"s (a delightfully corny, uh, I mean disgustingly immoral, touch), I
saw plenty of people standing, pretty much everyone in fact, but the only
place they seemed to be moving was around, and around, and around. I
hope they felt plenty dirty afterwards, the perverts.
On a serious note, the quick-change artistry of the latter portion of
these concerts is a wonder to hear and behold. This coming from one who
had fallen hard for the extended acoustic sets from '99 onward (though I
grew increasingly disappointed as many of those songs lost steam, due in
part to Dylan's two-year vocal slide and in part to the sameness, or
tameness, of Kemper's backing). To go from a raunchy "Sugar" to a stark,
acoustic "Masters of War" given extra urgency by Receli's propulsive
drumming, to a desperate, pounding blues-piano version of "It's Alright,
Ma" might seem on paper a whiplash-inducing series of transitions; not
once did it feel that way, however, live and in the flesh, where the
experience is one of unpredictability without disorientation (or better,
of orientation _to_ unpredictability). In contrast with the deranging
(while sometimes thrilling) excesses of the early Never-ending Tour,
throughout the evening I had the rug pulled out from me time and time
again, yet remained on my feet, grinning like a happy idiot. The band is
that fluid, that lithe--and Dylan's vocals have almost miraculously
recovered the suppleness they so woefully lacked as recently as August.
It should be evident by now that he is and always has been some kind of
shape-shifter, not altogether human, yet it must be in the nature of such
a gift that it always manages to take one completely by surprise.
Another facet of this tour's brilliance is the layering of acoustic and
electric instruments, a technique that Dylan and band have been honing
for some time now but that seems to have reached a pinnacle now with
Dylan's electric piano reproducing an acoustic sound, his playing
inconsistent, yes, but full of "sudden rightnesses" as well. Just look
at the instrumental details for "It's Alright, Ma":
Bob on piano, Larry on cittern, Charlie on electric guitar and Tony on
for a glimpse at the sonic richness they achieve. Or take the lovely
pedal steel-acoustic arrangement of the "Just like a Woman" that followed,
more than the equal of last year's version performed on this same stage,
Dylan's aching delivery transferred in splendid relay to the harp solo at
Only a smashing "Drifter's Escape," it seemed, went un-transformed from
seasons past; not a bad thing insofar as it allowed me to refocus my
energies for a wild remake of "Shelter from the Storm," totally different
from any that I've heard, and a fine revisiting of the
country-and-bluegrass emphases now mostly left behind as Dylan has veered
off yet again in another musical direction. This one began somewhat
tentatively, but quickly built into a glorious fusion of darkly-etched,
contemplative verses and chiming, "Roving Gambler"-ized harmonies echoing
the refrain, all woven together by Campbell's lacework on the mandolin.
Exhilarating stuff, and one that will only get better if they decide to
keep it up.
A warning about excessive bootleg reliance: I had listened to an "Old
Man" from one of the California shows and found it reasonably good but
nothing special. Tonight I found it tremendous, overpowering, the best
cover song to be played, Dylan's voice _there_ in that indescribable way,
this man who sang "old" while young singing now of youth in age, so that
the speaker of the song addressing the old man becomes, in the eeriest
way, Dylan singing to himself ... and addressing us at the same time, all
with unblinking bravery and compassion. Did I hallucinate him singing at
the end, "look at my life, I'm a lot like you _are_"? I may well have,
so firmly was I in the grip of the emotions being summoned.
Haunting, quietly relentless up to that shattering final verse, this
night's "Hattie Carroll" should be required listening for all of those in
the "Brown Sugar"-bashing camp. If you can hear the conviction behind
Dylan's performance and hold fast to your prim reprimands despite it,
well, that's your right, but personally I feel it is you who should be
ashamed. At any rate, place me _without_ shame in the camp of those who
love the new "High Water"; as far as I'm concerned, it's never sounded
better. Of course I love the studio arrangement, but I always felt it
lacked a certain dynamism live, and later when the banjo was removed, I
felt the band overcompensated for that lack by driving the song too hard,
sucking all the air out prematurely. Worse still, Dylan's vocals had
often proven correspondingly noncommittal, even weak. Tonight they were
ferocious ... if there's such a thing as apocalyptic glee, then that's
what they were full of, and the piano interlude actually made the doom
more palpable by pulling back from the deluge for a final fractured
moment, dancing wild-eyed at its edge, until the last verse plunged us
downward once for all.
"Mutineer" had a bit of a wobbly start, I believe; the lights came up to
show Dylan eyeing his new instrument with suspicion, as at a dog that's
just given one a nip. But back he came and soothed it, and us, with the
one Zevon cover of the night, lovingly and gently sung. Dylan's
unprecedented devotion to performing these songs has impressed me very
deeply, not only for the wish to honor a friend while he's still living
instead of waiting to memorialize him when dead, but also for the simple
recognition that not nearly enough people have heard Zevon's astonishing
body of work, a situation Dylan may go some small distance toward
rectifying. An aesthetic impulse as much as anything else, in other
words--a felt kinship--and as such even more compelling for us listeners
who don't know Dylan or Zevon at all but only know their art: to us,
Zevon's impending death so young is devastating precisely because he was
making such great music toward the end, and had much still left to make.
Dylan does not sentimentalize; he's trying to spread the word, showing
us, characteristically, how we must look to, and strengthen, what
"Bye and Bye," after all, it will be his turn and ours to fire off a last
joke or two before Time sits on _us_. I'm still waiting, after how many
hundred reviews of the album, for more to be written on the contrast on
"Love & Theft" between the upbeat arrangements and phantasmagorically
grim lyrics. Even if an organ were used on this one live, it would still
sound far more happy, or even goofy, than scary: and yet, as with
"Floater" and "Po' Boy" and "Moonlight," it seems the words deliberately
contaminate the (often stolen) sounds, cast them in a sickly pallor.
Even in this jauntier live arrangement one gets some of that effect.
Here we are, as the music tells it, "having ourselves a time," awaiting
baptism by fire.
If the current "Summer Days" is not a fiery baptism (as a parting gift)
in itself, I do not know what it is. Seriously, I don't even want to try
to describe it. Listen to a bootleg, although that won't do it justice,
either. I was on no drug stronger than Xanax but I do not exaggerate in
saying that I felt sure that the back of my head had been blown off and
that brain goop was dribbling down my shirt.
After that, when just about anything would seem anticlimactic, a blessed
two encores, short and sweet: a gorgeous "Heaven's Door" and a
"Watchtower" that poked the embers of "Summer Days" without fully
re-igniting them. To think that not long ago we were enduring six or
more encores in sets already weighted with overplayed material. It's
really just overwhelming how much there is to be grateful for this
go-round, which I pray won't be the last but rather what it feels like:
yet another new beginning.
In sum: a shaman went on a journey to the shadow world, as he is wont to
do. But this time, though the host of familiars accompanying him
remained the same, he rode out on a different animal, and carried a
different stick. On the other side he conversed with the spirits of
ancestors and mastered various fell obstacles in his way; he passed
through the gates of metamorphosis and appeased the God of the
Underworld, "just like so many times before." He returned with a boon
for man and womankind, a gift of ecstatic song. Just another stop on the
Never-ending Tour. "Ancient, demonic, almost scary, nonhuman hands."
Review by Brian J. Slattery
What can I say about the man whose music says it all? I went to last night's show
with high expectations, as I always do with a Bob Dylan show. I also went with a lot
of curiosity. What would he play? From recent set lists, it seemed that anything
was possible. I arrived in the city before 7 p.m. so I walked around the Manhattan
Mall for a little while and then headed down to the Garden. Got into MSG without a
problem and found my seat on the floor. Sat around with time on my hands, time to
kill, and read the program I bought on my way in to the show. A program at a Dylan
show? This is definitely new to me. Although I didn't want to seem like some novice
Dylan devotee who buys all the souvenirs in sight just to show their love of the
master, I gave in and bought the book anyway. So, I sat, read, and waited. When
'Fanfare for the Common Man' came through the speakers at 8 p.m. I thought we were
ready to go. After all, what's a more appropriate song for Bob to enter to than
this? Not for its title, of course, for Bob is far from just a common man, but for
its triumphal strains blaring into the Garden. However, Bob didn't come on until
8:20 or so. When the house lights finally went down, and "Rodeo" played, a roar
went up from the crowd, and the amazing night that lay in waiting was about to
As Bob and the boys took the stage, I wondered what would be the highlight for me.
What song would Bob play that I had never heard live? This being my 18th show,
there are a lot of great songs I've not had the privilege of hearing live yet.
After the new introduction, Bob and the band launched into "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle
Dum." It was interesting to hear this open the show and it was well played. The
show was off to a good start, but I didn't think that I had heard what would be the
highlight of the show. Then, expecting "Carrying A Torch" or maybe "I'll Be Your
Baby Tonight," I was taken aback when I was unable to identify the song on the first
line. What could this be? Then, it hit me. Bob was playing, for the first time
ever live, "Yea! Heavy and A Bottle of Bread." Those in the crowd who were familiar
with this Basement Tapes song seemed to realize what was going on here. We were all
in for an interesting night. And at the end, when Bob brought out the harp, you
could almost feel the electricity in the air. The solo was short, but fortunately
not the only one of the night. Now I wondered if this would be the highlight.
While not one of his greatest songs, the fact that Bob did it live and I was present
for it could make it stand out above the rest. With a grin on my face, I focused on
what Bob would bless us with next.
Next, the sweet pretty things were put to bed, of course, and Bob rocked into
"Tombstone Blues," standing behind his keyboard, seeming to enjoy this new
arrangement. He even gave us the 'sun's not yellow, it's chicken' line, except Bob
delivered the word 'chicken' in a way that only Bob can do. It was a great
performance, but I didn't think it would wind up being the highlight for the night.
Then, Bob delivered his first cover of the night, "The End of the Innocence." His
delivery was superb and he brought this song to life in a way I've never heard. It
is interesting how Bob can bring such life to a song that is not even his. By doing
so, he makes it his. Would this cover of a song I only nominally liked before
tonight become the highlight? With a comfortable uncertainty, I listened on as Bob
took off into the next song.
After this first of four covers, Bob treated us to a reworked "Things Have Changed,"
with the keyboards adding a new dimension to this Oscar winning song. It was nicely
done, but wasn't the highlight so far, so probably wouldn't be the highlight for the
night. After standing behind the piano since the first song, Bob is now standing
with a guitar in hand as the lights come up and he and the band blast off into the
stratosphere with "Brown Sugar." I've heard a couple bootleg versions, but they
didn't prepare me for this. The energy level in the crowd went up a few notches and
Bob and company rocked this one out. Being a Stones fan, it was quite a treat to
see Bob doing this song. This very well might be the highlight for me, and if the
show ended there, it may have been. But, of course, they were just getting started.
An acoustic "Masters of War" followed the electric and electrifying "Brown Sugar"
and was well-played and well received. The words of this song speak as true to
day as they did when it was written. Not being my favorite Dylan song, I didn't
think it would be the highlight of my night, but it was definitely delivered with
power and skill.
Then, back to the keyboard, for a drastically reworked acoustic "It's Alright, Ma
(I'm Only Bleeding)." Bob missed the first line but was on target for the rest of
the song, and the new bluesy arrangement gave it new life. While not the high point
so far, it was a damn good performance. As the lights are down, I wonder what's
coming next, and as the lights go up, and Bob is standing with his guitar and the
first notes come through the speakers I know immediately and I smile. From the
first guitar strum to the phenomenal harp solo finale, "Just Like A Woman" was
simply amazing. Bob did this last year at the Garden too, and I remember feeling
the same sense of awe. This was truly an inspired performance. Surely, this would
be the high point and highlight of the show.
Next, remaining on guitar, Bob launches into "Drifter's Escape," and pulls out all
the stops. Another harp solo to close this one out had most of the people on the
floor out of their seats and rocking. I didn't know what was coming next. Would
there be another electric song? Would Bob go back to the keyboards? As the lights
were down, I stood and wondered, and as the lights came up, my questions were
answered in the form of Bob standing with an acoustic guitar and singing the first
line of "Shelter from the Storm." This was a great performance as well, and since
the song was one of my first 'favorite' Dylan songs, before I realized that most of
his songs were my 'favorites,' I was taken to another level with this. It even
surpassed the feeling I had during "Just Like A Woman" only moments before. This
was one of my 'wish list' songs as I call them - Dylan classics I've yet to hear
live but hope to be blessed enough to one day have the good fortune to behold with
my own ears and eyes.
Following this 'transplendent' moment (watch Annie Hall and you'll understand my
use of that in reference to Dylan) Bob delivered a stellar "Old Man" followed by a
keyboard infused "Honest With Me." Both were excellent, but couldn't compare to
"Shelter from the Storm." Following these two solid performances, Bob went back to
acoustic guitar and gave us another song from my 'wish list.' From the first line
of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," the very personable Englishman sitting
next to me and I were singing along, more in awe than in any attempt to just sing
along with Bob. (Speaking to my aisle mate between songs, I found out that he flew
back from England just to see Bob play MSG and that his first show was back in 1964.
My first show was in 1994. When it comes to Dylan, that doesn't matter. His music
reaches across the years.) This was a beautiful rendition, and the crowd's reaction
to the last line 'Bury the rag deep in your face, for now is the time for your
tears' literally gave me goose bumps. This may have even surpassed "Shelter from
"High Water" came next and was completely different from the first live performances
last year. Bob's voice was great throughout, and it was very satisfying to hear.
Then, Bob did a touching rendition of Warren Zevon's "Mutineer." This was a very
special performance for me for two reasons. One reason is that I've been a Warren
Zevon fan almost as long as I've followed Bob, and finding out that Warren's time is
short makes this a fitting tribute to an amazing songwriter by the greatest
songwriter of all time. Second, and more importantly for me, is the fact that I'm a
Zevon fan thanks to my father. We shared different musical tastes in many respects,
but were both Zevon fans. Since my dad's death this past April, listening to Zevon's
music has been special to me. Hearing Bob do a song by this artist who my dad and I
both liked, and whose music we often discussed and listened to, was a special moment
Bob then played a jazz-like "Bye and Bye" and a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, pull out
all the stops, barn-burning, enough with the clichés all ready I know, version of
"Summer Days." I don't know if I've ever seen Bob and the boys rock this hard. This
was an unbelievable performance that words can't adequately describe. The lights go
down and when they come up, Bob and the boys are standing, smiling, looking out at
the crowd. They leave the stage, and the lights go down. When they return, they give
us two more great performances. First, a wonderful acoustic "Knockin' On Heaven's
Door." Then, a blazing "All Along the Watchtower." While I was hopeful for more, I
knew this was the end. The cheers continued and Bob, Larry, George, Charlie, and Tony
did a final formation and were off the stage. The lights stayed down for a couple of
minutes but then came up; dashing any hopes of one more song.
Looking back on the show, I try to determine what the highlight was for me. There
were so many songs done tonight that I've never heard live. There were so many great
deliveries of songs I've heard done before. What stands out? Is it "Shelter from
the Storm?" Is it "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll?" Or is it the personal
meaning of "Mutineer?" I look for the highlight until I realize something very
important. Getting to see Bob perform his trade is the highlight of the night.
Every song he did is the highlight. The energy and emotion is the highlight. The
mere fact that Bob still keeps on keepin' on is the highlight. The highlight of the
night is the night itself.
I'm looking forward to Wednesday's show, and encourage anyone who is thinking about
catching Bob this time around to do so. You won't be disappointed. If you have any
questions or comments about my review, or just want to talk Bob, email me at
Brian J. Slattery
Review by Rick Pearl
A "unique" show, to say the least!
From the out-of-left-field selection of "Yea! Heavy & a Bottle of Bread"
in the two slot, to the four covers, to a pair of songs that make
still-pertinent political statements, to hearing the only song from L&T
that I hadn't previously heard ("Bye and Bye"), this show had a lot to
offer the NY audience. It was just too bad that more of them didn't come
in to listen, as the entire upper deck and complete sections of the next
level down were empty in MSG. The hard core that were on hand certainly
appreciated the eclectism of the set, but I thought, in general, the
audience was less raucous than usual for a NY show.
To be sure, a phenomenal version of "Summer Days" (the boys all gathered
in front of the drums to take part in a rollicking guitar jam), a
scorching "Drifter's Escape" and truly enjoyable cover of the Stones'
"Brown Sugar" had the crowd rocking, so it can safely be said that there
was something in the first of two shows at MSG for everyone.
The highlights of the evening, in my opinion, included the aforementioned
trio of songs, a beautiful acoustic version of "Just Like A Woman," a
cystal clear "Things Have Changed," and a snarling version of "It's
Alright Ma ... ." The latter drew a big roar when Bob leaned in to the
mike and sang "even the president of the United States sometimes must have
to stand naked." That, and an acoustic "Masters of War" gave a new
generation (alright - and an older generation) a new perspective on a
The only disappointments were the Eagles' "End of the Innocence" (he sang
it clearly and well, but I just don't like the Eagles) and a version of
"Shelter from the Storm" in which he repeated the title phrase a second
time at the end of each stanza. The latter is a great song, and I have
heard other live performances of it done quite a bit better. It almost
seemed as if Bob used that artificial repetition to bring in the vocal
harmonies of Larry and Charlie that they offered up in "Blowin' In The
Wind" during the encore of earlier shows this summer and last fall.
Other than that, all five songs from L&T were tight (the leadoff "Tweedle
Dee & Tweedle Dum" was a great song to open with), the covers of Neil
Young and Warren Zevon were delivered with care and passion, and the
encore of "Knockin'" and "Watchtower" had the crowd on its feet and hoping
for more. They'll get it, I expect, on Wednesday night (11/13)!
Review by Robert Barretta
Bob took the stage at 8:20 wearing a what looked like
red alligator boots (bright red!) and black pants with
a red stripe up the leg, a black waist coat with red
buttons and red silk above the collar (all the red
matched, of course). Tweedle Dee was one of the
strongest openers I’ve ever seen – every word was
clear, which has rarely been the case with the first
song of the night – the version was closer to the
album than the stop-and-start sometime a cappella
version of last year. Simply by saying “thank you” at
the end of the song, you could tell Bob was in a good
mood – would he actually be chatty tonight? Of course
no one could have expected Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of
Bread in the second slot – and it was a strong, tight
version with Charley and Larry harmonizing and Bob
playing pretty good keyboards. The song stopped, and
then restarted with Bob on the first of many harp
solos of the show. Bob gave a little talk after the
song, and sadly I couldn’t understand it – I think I
heard the word “chorus” but that’s it. Hopefully
someone understood it and will post it here.
A torchy Tombstone was next, again with Bob at the
keyboards, and again very strongly played and sung.
The End of the Innocence was actually a concert
highlight, even though I have mixed feelings about Bob
taking up so many slots in the current setlist with
covers. The angry tone of the song came through, and
the words were crystal clear. Things Have Changed was
tight, and the Oscar looked freshly polished and
gleamed from the top of the amp behind Larry.
I was a little disappointed with Brown Sugar, only
because on the MP3s it sounds like Bob was singing the
“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Whoo!” part earlier in the tour,
but he left it to Charley and Larry tonight.
Otherwise a fun and well-played Silvio stand-in.
Masters of War was absolutely haunting – one of the
best versions I have ever heard, and the same goes for
It’s Alright Ma. These songs work great coupled
together, and Bob’s vocals were superb. The piano
part in It’s Alright Ma really helps the song – Bob
seems to have much more clarity in his piano playing
than his guitar playing – while no virtuoso, he sets
the mood of each song and has quite a few nifty fills.
Just Like a Woman was strong, although I thought last
year’s was a little more powerful. One interesting
thing about his set now is there is very subtle
division between acoustic and electric – each song
stands on its own, with its own arrangement, with no
break between acoustic and electric sets – this makes
the concert feel a little more unpredictable, since
you are not counting the number of songs in each
format and waiting for the change in the set.
Drifter’s Escape was the now-standard Hendrix version
with a big harp finish – tight and rockin’. Shelter
from the Storm was a surprise in its almost weird
arrangement – Larry plays mandolin with an almost
reggae beat, with Tony on stand-up and Charley and Bob
on acoustic. Larry, Charley and Bob harmonize the
“Come in she said I’ll give you” bit twice, and it
almost sounds like a 1978 arrangement without the horn
and electric instruments. I don’t think he sang all
the verses, but it was certainly good to hear instead
of Tangled for a change (especially in an acoustic
Old Man was well played, but at this point I’d still
rather hear some Bob tunes – as fun as this was, Neil
does it better. Honest with Me was a good, solid
rocker, and again I thought Bob did better on
keyboards than he did when he played guitar on this,
with wrong notes flying around. Vocals were perfect –
lots of Boblike inflection.
Hattie Carroll was a stunning highlight – incredible
version, and the magic was in the vocals. He spat out
the angry words, and whispered the sad ones. I hope
this surfaces on tape soon.
High Water was the only song I didn’t recognize
immediately. I actually thought it was Serve Somebody
from the gospel beat until I finally figured it out
half-way through the second verse. I liked last
year’s solid-rock version better than this – his voice
got a little lost in the mix on this one. What was
fun here though is I noticed the groupie section –
several young women sitting near the guitars on a
cordoned off section off of stage right, and one in
particular was really grooving to the song – she did
NOT seem to be singing along to the rather dour words!
Mutineer was very moving given the circumstances – and
Bob hit the high notes perfectly. This was probably
the most difficult vocal line of all the songs
tonight, and he absolutely nailed it.
Bye and Bye was a treat – this version I prefer to the
album’s, with a repeat of the first verse and long
solos instead of the rather abrupt fade out. Summer
Days has evolved into a fantastic closer, with the
band picking up the pace and really rocking out,
1940’s style, into a grand finale.
The encores were as expected – great songs,
overplayed, but still good to hear and performed well.
I was glad to hear Knockin’ instead of Blowin’ in the
Wind (the Blowin’ in the Wind last November at the
Garden was one of my favorite Bob moments, with all of
the emotion in the 2001 NYC crowd, and I don’t want to
erase its memory with another versions – of course I’m
going on Wednesday and he’s sure to play it then!).
Watchtower was indeed better than 2001 – the same
arrangement but more intense.
All in all, a great show – with the incredible
surprise of Yea Heavy – let’s see what’s in store for
Review by Alex Leik
Bob Dylan's show at Madison Square Garden on Monday, November 11, 2002 was
one filled with extreme highs and, IMHO, some lagging lows. Bob and the
band took the stage about 15 minutes past 8, and my seat was prime locaion
in terms of the overall sound. But, as "Tweedle..." started, I could not
help but hear that the drums seemed to be either very low in the mix, or
George is not playing them as hard as he used to. Also, the piano was
virtually inaudible, only heard when Bob would pound it very hard, usually
in the wrong key.
The first high came immediately following these early complaints - what I
believe to be the very 1st performance of "Yeah! Heavy and a Bottle of
Bread". This took a few lines to pick up, but once I knew what it was, I
was out of my seat, along with the fellow from GA behind me who said it
made the drive worthwhile. I have to agree. It sounded very well done as
wel, although I am not sure if he got all the words. Great harmony work by
Charlier and Larry. I seem to get the surprises lately - 1st "Quinn..."
since 1969 at Baltimore this summer, and now this, on my first show of
this leg. Can't wait for more.
I like the new arrangement of "Tombstone Blues", and I'll leave it at that
- nothing special, but better than it used to be played, IMHO. "End of the
Innocence" was the first cover of the evening, and it was obvious to me
that Bob was going to put more effort into these than his own songs.
It soon became painfully clear that his own songs were not the reason he
was there. "Things Have Changed" slumbered along, JLAW was nothing
special, the new version of "Shelter" really did not sound good to me - it
was perfect the way it was, with Larry on pedal steel. The mando and
harmonies destroy it. "Hattie Carroll" was played so sluggishly I had to
ask myself if I really cared that this miscarriage of justice occurred -
it lacked emotion. "Bye and Bye" could have been "Floater" - neither are
personal favorites of mine and it would take a smoking version to convince
me otherwise. I just don't think it is capapble with either of these 2
songs. "Highwater" was, simply put, sleep inducing compard to the version
he played last year on tour. For the first time since MAYBE my first Bob
show, some 30+ shows earlier, I actually checked my watch during a Bob
show while he was playing "Highwater" - it was that boring. And "Drifter's
Escape"? Well, they still do a fine job with this, and it was one of the
better versions I have heard, but what the hell is the difference bewteen
it and "Wicked Messenger", other than the lyrics?
Since there are 2 sides to every coin, I'll try to end this on a positive
note. "Brown Sugar" brought the house down. You just don't realize the
energy listening to the recordings. This was amazing, and the 50-75%
capacity crowd was in agreement. "Masters of War" was very appropriate as
Iraq votes to reject the UN sanctions. But it is every bit about W, whose
oil $$ certainly cannot buy back his soul, no matter how much praying he
does. This was a great version. As was "It's Alright Ma..." - very swampy
bluesey feel that works well. George drives both of these numbers very
well. "Old Man" was stunning - a beautiful selection for Bob that works
very well. He was actually singing the second verse, not just yelling out
the lines. "Honest with Me" still kicks ass, and "Mutineer" was, for me,
the highlight of the evening, and, IMHO, the best singing I have EVER
heard from Bob. What a tribute to Warren - simply put? Beautiful! "Summer
Days" started off sloppy, with Bob rushing to catch his breath at the end
of each line, forcing the lyric, as he has done so many times. Sometimes
it works - not tonight. But, the jam at the end more than made up for it,
and brought everyone out of their seats.
"Knockin..." may have been the best version I have ever heard - very
tight, well-played and well-sung. AATW closed out the evening, and I was
able to catch Bob pulling away from the Garden in a van, tinted windows,
flanked by a male on each side (security, perhaps Jeff Rosen?).
Incidentally, I thought I saw Winston Watson outside of the Garden prior
to the show? At any rate, it was not the best show I have ever seen, but
thanks to Neil Young, The Stones, Don Henley/Bruce Hornsby, Warren Zevon
(especially), and some Dylan, it was not the worst. Wow! I never thought
I'd be saying that.
Until Wednesday night...
Review by Marilyn
I awoke Monday morning and told my husband of six months I would miss him
but had to leave him to be with Bob and went on to pout that it being the
garden, Bob wouldn't even know I was thereâ€¦
Late Sunday night Peter had found a small paragraph in Newsday that said
the band was doing four covers - I was glad and anticipated one at the
show and never imagined we'd hear all 4!!! Feedback: the band covered
Brown Sugar better than the Stones; Neil's music is easy to play (?)â€¦Old
Man was sensational and I encourage Dylan to sing many more of his
classics; The End of the Innocence touches a deep chord in me and was
sweet; remember Werewolves of London??? These covers were too much fun and
I honestly thought Dylan had gone a bit mad until he planted me right back
in my place with a powerful rendition of Masters of War.
Things Have Changed is always very cool with me (I was sorry Peter wasn't
there to hear it as it was our 2nd song at our wedding); Highwater was
everything iconoclastic that it is and on the show went into
greatnessâ€¦Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread: I thought I was dreamingâ€¦
How does Tony bop like that with his upright bass? He was all over the
place dancing and playing it, and Bob, please bang those keys way
moreâ€¦percussion drumming was also a nice addition. Shelter From the
Storm sounds strange, yet can one ever complain about those lyrics? I I
liked the red pinstriping on Bob's snazzy suit, and no, until last night,
I honestly did not see the grammy up on one of the amps: I'm too busy
looking at the boys playing.
Summer Days was literally explosive, jamming on and on and giving me a
new-found appreciation for rockabillyâ€¦the entire garden was up and
rockin' out! Everywhere I looked during the show, people had smiles on
their facesâ€¦I just knew that everybody got much more than they ever
bargained for, yet somehow, no one was really too surprised, for this is
exactly one of the allures that has held our fascination with the
exploration through Dylan's musical careerâ€¦do we ever really know what's
around the next corner?
Thanks to Tana &Michael, Cara & Todd, Joe & Joni, Howard, and Chris for
maintaining the mood and sharing the spirit.
I'm cleansed of the "All for the Fee, I mean Sea" experience, and can
finally put it behind me. Yes, I've been wearing it for so long.
Review by Sascha Kreiger
Bob Dylan in what is more or less his home town - on a tour that has been
receiving rave reviews wherever it has stopped. No wonder expectations
were high, when I followed security recommendations and entered Madison
Square Garden an hour before the show was scheduled to begin. The arena
was practically empty and it would not fill completely. Nevertheless, a
decent crowd was present when the lights went out around 20 minutes past 8
Signalled by the usual sounds from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Fanfare to
the Common Man", the new introduction first used during the summer tour
was spoken and caused a few smiles as it summarized Bob's career in a few
sentences, taken from a newspaper article earlier this year.
Then the lights went on and revealed Bob in a black suit, trimmed with
red, standing behind his new favourite instrument, a keyboard - a
sensation at the beginning of this tour as he hadn't played piano on stage
for over 30 years.
The show opened with a song from his latest album, an up tempo "Tweedle
Dee and Tweedle Dum", Bob's voice being sharp and clear right from the
start. We even got a "Thank You" before the second song which kept people
guessing and the lapse into disbelief: "Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread"
from the Basement Tapes - a song he's never played live before (apparently
a request as he said afterwards)! It sounded, however, as if he'd been
playing it forever, in a reggae-like rhythm with strong harmonies from
Larry and Charlie during the chorus. A more than pleasant surprise! It
finished with a harp solo that ended with a nice fade-out as Bob was
gradually stepping away from the microphone while he was playing.
Bob stayed behind the piano for the next song - a rough, bare, bluesy
"Tombstone Blues", stripped down to its basic blues rhythm. This was
followed by the first of a number of covers, Don Henley's "The End of the
Innocence", a haunting ballad, brilliantly sung by Bob. After this, a
cool, relentlessly performed "Things Have Changed" before things really
On came Bob's stratocaster and off went the roof! "Brown Sugar" performed
with a force the Stones haven't managed to develop in a while. The band
was rocking as hard as you could imagine and even the slightly apathetic
crowd caught fire. The definitive version of a classic rock song!
As the noise died down the band took to their acoustic guitars and bass
and launched into their wonderful bluesy version of "Masters of War" on
which George could shine with his pointed and sharp drumming. Next up was
"It's Alright,Ma", much changed from the version he did on this year's
European tour. Bob was on piano again, Charlie on electric guitar and
Larry on cittern, making this a faster, more bluesy and overall rougher
version, his singing being very sharp and poignant as throughout the show.
There was by now no talking on Bob's side, it seemed that after the
opening he had somewhat tightened up, and although he moved to the rhythm
his dancing around was more constrained than on previous shows - it looked
like the first show at home took its toll.
The next song was one of the show's highlights: "Just like a Woman", with
Bob on piano as well as displaying one of his most beautiful harp solos
I've heard. The singing was extremely intense, giving the song an almost
religious fervour - increased even by Larry's steel guitar. After this it
was pure rock'n roll again, a high speed "Drifter's Escape" which saw the
band at its best and Bob on harp again.
This was followed by a new mainstay in Bob's repertoire, "Shelter from the
Storm", in a relaxed, acoustic, almost country version that repeted the
one-line chorus, including harmonies from Charlie and Larry. Not the
greatest version ever of this song as it lacked its dramatic character,
but a nice enough one, highlighted by Larry's excellent mandolin playing.
Up came another cover, a tight and sharp semi-acoustic "Old Man" by Neil
Young, featuring some of Bob's best singing and great harmonies from the
band. Up next was the usual rocking "Honest with Me", this time featuring
Larry on steel guitar. This was followed by a haunting version of "Hattie
Carroll", carefully sung by Bob, who seemed to invest the old words with
Next on the list was "High Water" in its current rough blues version,
driven by George's drumming and Bob's piano - a version that lacks the
subtleness of the original. Up came the next cover and maybe his best:
Warren Zevon's haunting ballad "Mutineer" beautifully performed with Larry
on steel guitar, featuring Bob's most tender and lyrical voice. This
version is a masterpiece in its own right!
The regular set closed with two songs from "Love and Theft": first a
wonderfully swinging "Bye and Bye" (with Bob still on piano) and then a
"Summer Days" that left the crowd breathless. Compared to the European
versions I had heard this was almost orgiastic, moving into a guitar
whirlwind at the end with Bob, Charlie and Larry driving each other to
speeds which the audience could hardly follow. If it needed a proof that
Bob and the band had reached a whole new level of playing - this was it.
Then they took the applause and left the stage only to return for the
encores, beginning with this wonderful version of "Knockin' on Heaven's
Door" which has lost none of its intensity since the European tour.
Heralded by its Neil Young style intro, came the closing song and what a
closer it was : "All along the Watchtower" - even more tense and driving
than earlier this year and ending in and orgy of sound and noise.
Thus ended an incredibly strong performance with Bob dead-on from the
first to the final second! It seemed that the total revamping of his sets,
the switch to the piano and the inclusion of various covers have
reenergized both Bob and the band, taking them to ever higher performance
levels. And although Bob was somewhat tight and the New York crowd a
little subdued, this was the best show I'd ever seen which made me ver
excited about the second Garden show the following Wednesday. Rock on,
page by Bill Pagel
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