November 11, 2009
Review by Mary Ailes
Bob Dylan returned to Fairfax tonight, bringing with him a mosh pit
(but no giant claw) and a much younger crowd. How many guys can pack
in 20-somethings into an arena at the age of 68? But he didn't seem to
be anywhere near to pushing 70 - it does some he's so much younger
than that now.
Great set-list, tracking with theme of separation through the first
part of the night, he later turned to a broader set and who knows what
theme he might have had? Perhaps each was a whim, but they certainly
seemed to build on each other through the night. I was about three or
four "rows" back from "the rail" which gave me a good view, if not for
the rather sloshed blond coeds who would come through with handfuls of
beer as though that might help them get to "the rail" faster. I'll
post the setlist as soon as it becomes available.
Had a blast - Dylan has left the keyboards where he's stood for the
past four years at least and is coming out to a mic at center stage
which he grabs like he's a Las Vegas crooner or at least Leonard
Cohen. He's very good at it though and so perhaps he was right all
those years ago in San Francisco - he is a Song & Dance Man after all.
Met up with Cafe Regulars Thomas and Mary Alice at Brion's Grill where
we had burgers before heading over to the Patriot Center at George
Mason to get our wrist bands and head in. We had a great time of
sharing and met up with two other local folks and spent the evening
hanging out and swapping stories.
Again, the crowd on the floor tracked to teens and twenties - with a
few smatterings of oldies but goodies as well as some relics from the
60s. I was standing next to a boisterous gang of teen boys who spent
the pre-concert time laughing and shoving each other in fun. Once
Dylan took the stage, though, all four of them stood immovable,
transfixed, staring at the man behind the keyboard and mic. I mean,
they were like statues, eyes wide. Yeah, that's really Bob Dylan.
You know, there's nothing quite like seeing four teenage boys stand in
Dylan sounded great - channeling his New Orleans Bluesman persona when
necessary and at other times sounding as clear and concise as he may
have in 1974. Charlie Sexton rocked the place - the band was electric
and tight and it was clear Charlie was taking the lead - after Dylan,
There was no opening act, Dylan took the stage just after 8:00 p.m.
and played for two hours. Thomas and I swapped lists of what we'd like
to hear Dylan play. I got my High Water and Forgetful Heart and and
Jolene, Thomas got his Man In a Long Black Coat and Tweedle Dee &
Tweedle Dum. Dylan played many other favorites, from Don't Think
Twice, to Ain't Talkin' to Ballad of a Thin Man. We had fun calling
out the songs. One guy, though, who was in front of me managed to call
out a song (Highway 61) before Dylan and the Band had even played the
first note. That was pretty cool.
The photos (and short video of Forgetful Heart) I took were with the
handy-dandy cell phone - but at least they are there. And so was I.
Review by therevelator
I've seen Bob more than 50 times and there have been a few weak shows over the
past 4 or 5 years, so I didn't know what to expect. I was foolish to worry,
because this show found Bob in fine fettle, physically strong and singing with
great power and conviction. There were some old chestnuts in the setlist that
felt a bit rushed ("Highway 61 Revisted" a good example of that), but the newer
material was handled lovingly and with great skill. Among the highlights for me
were an ominous "Man In the Long Black Coat," a passionate "High Water," and
terrific versions of "If You Ever Go To Houston," and "Ain't Talkin.'" I had
one song wish for the night, I hoped to again hear "Workingman's Blues #2" and I
got it, and for me, it was by far the highlight of the show. Deeply moving, Bob
sang it mournfully and I love the "alternate lyrics" he's been playing live "If
you heard my whole story, you'd weep" and "It's still so hard for me to believe
someone would kick me when I'm down." I don't know how anyone can listen to
that song without feeling broken-hearted. Having gotten what I hoped for, I
also got something I coveted but did not expect to hear, the gorgeous "Forgetful
Heart," with it's borrowed line from Charles Aznavour "the times we've known."
Another beautiful performance. I left with gratitude that Bob's still on the
road. And a big welcome back to Charlie Sexton, who was glorious.
Review by Barry
Everything Was Beautiful*
As he and his band take the stage, the audience is asked to please welcome
Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan. Itís an interesting request. Of course,
heís the same guy who continues to make records for Columbia, but weíre there to
witness him working in his capacity as a performing artist.
On stage, unlike in a studio, the songs arenít refined through take after
tedious take, and they canít be replayed; instead, theyíre presented in real
time, a series of ephemeral notes, rhythms, and words. While the chord
progressions can be repeated from verse to verse or from night to night, the
essence of the songs exists in the moments in which they are recreated before
On November 11, 2009, Bob Dylan and his band created things they have never made
before. The same songs will never be performed identically to the sounds that
graced the Patriot Center at George Mason University tonight. While Dylan is
hailed for his songwriting, the fluidity he brings to his performances is no
less a product of his genius. I have seen about 20 Dylan concerts, and this one
www.boblinks.com/111109s.html may have been the best. New arrangements
rejuvenated songs from 1997, 2001 and 2006. Songs 40 years older than those were
inspired and vital.
And not enough good can be said about the artists who helped Dylan deliver
the music. Charlie Sextonís lead guitar was thoughtful, George Recile added
polyrhythmic texture to familiar beats, Donnie Herron played at least 4
different instruments as needed, Stu Kimballís rhythm guitar filled out the
songs in a million different ways, and Tony Garnier held it all together on bass
as he has for 20 years.
High points came during the uptempo Man in the Long Black Coat, the crisp
instrumental breaks of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the eerie Forgetful
Heart, and the intense Ballad of a Thin Man. Itís hard to imagine that more
words need be spent describing the work of a man who changed everything. Just
listen while you still can. The music is a gift.
Review by James Keil
a very good show last night. bob was spot on, and charlie seems to
have gotten under the skin of bob, george, and tony, at the very
least. charlie was all over the stage, gettin' up in people's
business, as my students would say. he's thin as a wraith and
mischievous as the coyote, at one point sneakin' over to bob's
keyboard after bob went to the mike and running the back of his
fingers across the keys. It was a pleasure to have him back in
Fairfax where he ended his previous run with bob's band lying on his
back with his feet in the air. the highlights for me were the best
"forgetful heart" I could imagine and maybe the best "workingman's
blues #2" I've ever heard. came near to tears as bob crooned the
first of these. Much of the performance reminded me of a vegas
impressario of whom Elvis could be proud, crooning, swaying,
gesturing, pouring his heart into a couple of these songs. I hope
I've got half his mojo when I'm 68. see this band. you won't regret
Review by Alex Leik
2 years between shows is a long time. It got me to thinking how Charlie Sexton
must have felt after nearly 7 years between Bob shows. It didn't take but 15 min
for that question to be answered Wednesday night in Fairfax, VA.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and since recently relocating to
Bristow, VA, a mere 20 min from Fairfax, I penciled this date in on my calendar
as my opportunity to see Bob within budget - meaning no travel, no hotel - not
jet lag, etc. And while part of my 2 year sabatical was driven by what I thought
had become lackluster performances by an unispired band, knowing Charlie was
back in tow certainly sweetened the offer.
I was in my seat by 730, 2 rows off the floor, stage Stu. Great location, right
next to the interpreters for the hearing impaired (more on that later). At about
8:09 the lights were down to a half full venue (which only filled up slightly
more throughout the evening) and the boys were quick into Mobile. I must agree
with PSB I cannot recall ever seeing this as an opener, but it worked real well.
Bob was on it from the beginning, dusting off the freshly smoked tobacky as he
told us about Grandpa dying last week. Only Bob could make that sound like an
event worth celebrating. Next was Don't think Twice, and while I miss the finger
picking opening this song treaded out in the Larry/Charlie era, Stu ushered it
in nicely, and Bob was on the electric guitar.
Main in the Long Black Coat has a great new (for me) arrangement, driven hard by
George, and Bob & Charlie start their first interplay of the night, on guitars
no less. And it is during this song where I realize something rather huge is
happening here. Charlie Sexton is commanding the stage, and everyone on it. Even
Tony is relgated to the rear close to George's risers, and while he and Charlie
appear to be sharing/trading cue's it is clear to me everyone else is watching
Charlie, and, well not sure how else to put it, but taking orders. Is Charlie
the new musical director???
TDTD was the usual, never did that much for me, but very nice work on the
trademark guitar licks between Charlie & Stu. Stu seems to be more involved in
this show than I have ever seen in the past, and enjoying himself more than
ever. He seems to feed off of Charlie almost as much, if not more than, Bobby.
The highlight for me was the next song. I was expecting it, and while Houston is
my favorite song off of the new album, what was presented to the Patriot Center
Wednesday night was truly a new Dylan classic, something I would hold up there
with anything the boy genius has put out in his career. 1) Driven very well and
succinctly by George 2) Great organ/keys work by our hero to fill in for the
missing accordian 3) Best vocals of the night in my opinion - Bob really wants
you to think twice about going to Houston, and if ultiamtely you still decide to
go, "you'd better walk right". For me, it sounded like these 6 guys wrote &
recorded this song together, that's how tight it was. But at the same time, the
freshness was as if they were playing it for the first time, in someone's
garage. Man, it blew me away and right there I had my money's worth, as only Bob
can do, on one song.
The evening kind of never quite reached this level for me again. I think I was
just in awe from Houston. Most Likely & Highwater were typical, the latter seems
to be getting that treatment it had when it first came out, again with Larry &
Charlie, and I like that. Donnie grooves the Banjo just right. Forgetful Heart
was enjoyable, and some very emotional singing from Bob, center stage at the
mic, with just the harp. Cold Irons Bound is a different arrangement than I
recall, but it was the MT gem Workingman's Blues that brought things back, and
almost to the Houston level. This is another modern classic, and as PSB so
eloquently put it in his Philly review, timely and, unfortunately, will always
be so. Played in VA where the Republicans only a week earlier wrestled back the
mansion in Richmond, signaling the end of the honeymoon with the dems, when so
litte time was given for any change to happen. We can all learn to live on rice
Highway rocked the usual way it does. And it was here once again where you get
this sense that Charlie Sexton was born to do one thing. Not just play guitar,
but play guitar with this songwriter, in this band. You can almost picture a
12-year old Charlie rocking out to this song in his bedroom, figuring out the
licks, and transforming it into his own song, telling himself...one day. And the
constant nods of approval from his boss are a sign that Bob has once again made
a good choice. We are all happy indeed.
The highlights of the last few songs for me were Ain't Talkin and Jolene, a fine
call as an encore. Although I would love to see Shake Shake Mama in there :)
The other ineresting tidbit of the night for me was one of the hearing impaired
interpreters continued frustration with Bob, who apparently was not following
the lyric sheet she had been given - haha. Of course not, why would he. At one
point she just threw her arms up in the air, and turned and looked at him as if
to say "this is my JOB!! quit F'ing me up!!!" Brilliant.
The band was quickly into the coaches after AATW, and out onto I-66, I-495 then
up the big road to Boston. Only about 10 more days until holiday break, and then
onto another joint for the winter/spring tour. Happy holidays to all.
Review by J. W. Mahoney
Standing on the front row, as a very expensive ticket can expedite,
you can see some things close up that may elude most of the rest of
us: Dylan wears a sparkling ring on the ring finger of his left
hand. Like a wedding ring. The "Oscar" on his amp isn't an Oscar,
whatever it may be, these days. The band feels itself playing very
loud, no matter how it sounds elsewhere. When I first saw Dylan in
Jacksonville Florida in 1966, the band then was playing flat out (from
the 3rd row center), too. So that's what Bob's immersing himself in,
much of his life, for many years: really overwhelming sound, over
which he has final authority.
These days, his disguise is, as mentioned so much already, that New
Orleans Entertainer in Costume, as are his Players. Charlie's
definitely pulled the band together around him, as Robbie Robertson
did, and Charlie's gotten even better, his transmutation of LARS is
exceptionally beautiful, worth performing every night for its
outstanding beauty. It's fascinating to see him do this move no lead
guitarist I've ever seen has done - crouching low, almost to the
stage, looking up at the singer. Not worship, just taking a posture
that serves the flow, so it really feels abstract, not in any way
subservient. The abstraction itself, and its spontaneity, was one of
the many mysteries....
This band has reached Art again, and it knows it. Dylan's always on
the road, looking for another joint & all, but the configuration in
2000, Charlie, Larry Campbell, and David Kemper made Art, not just
entertainment, not just carrying the night professionally forward. To
see Dylan playing serious guitar again, if only twice, but well, and
radical harp, really honestly mournful, and to watch the band tone
down deeply into a string-based version of "Forgetful Heart" and the
stepped-down "Workingman's Blues #2",, was unimpeachably great theater.
I just wish Dylan could try "All Along the Watchtower " different,
maybe alone, acoustically (what an idea). His version was always far
better than Hendrix's. Seriously. Lsten to them both, and choose, OK?
J. W. Mahoney
Review by Duncan Hume
Subtle stage lighting managed to hide the grey hairs that are obviously there.
Blinking as if a little startled, he came on stage with his be-suited gang to deliver
yet another paragraph in this seemingly never ending story. At first he glanced
at his fellow musicians, then eyes darted to the instruments as if mentally ticking
off a roll call. Guitars check. Drums check. Plastic Oscar, check. Audience, check.
For most of the show he soared majestically, delivering his music with sensitivity
and care that is obviously God given. His remarkable ability to get attention
without really making any effort marks a true star. For that is what he is. Now
let's move on from talking about Charlie Sexton and find out what our 'Uncle
Bobby ' was up to at the Patriot Center Wednesday night.
Wearing a black suit with yellow piping and a yellow shirt Bob looked a little like
a bell-boy who'd stolen a large white Fedora or has he become a Steelers fan?
The bumble bee colors caught my attention briefly as my senses tried to
consume what was before me.
I admit my heart sank with the opening chords of Stuck Inside of Mobile, a song
that most of the time saps the enthusiasm out of the crowd. Tonight was not
the case though and the songs bounced along at a steady cantor before pulling
into stable unharmed. Don't Think Twice It's Alright had our man holding his
guitar neck almost vertically, pointing to the flags that adorned the ceiling of the
rather cavernous Patriot Center, that I assume hosts more basketball games
than musical events. Pleasingly, Bob seemed engaged early, a good sign. Sexton's
mere presence seems to have given him an additional incentive to really try. Gone
is the bored delivery that seemed to try to invade the baseball shows I saw this
summer and dare I say many shows over the last few years. The vocal was a little
rushed early but there was a care evident. As the song wound up Charlie leant in
towards Bob and they seemed to communicate a message. Okay, here's another
show. Let's see where this takes us.
A new arrangement of Man In The Long Black Coat works. Really it does. Gone
is the 6 time beat and clipped delivery. Now it's faster with the lyric being punched
into place around a steady pounding rhythm. On which note I must acknowledge
Recile's contribution to the evening. Nonstop energy that wore me out just
watching. Bob has had a mixed bag on the sticks over the years but Recile belongs
in the bag marked 'must keep'. Whatever he earns, he earns it honestly. He's still
having fun and pushes the band on with his enthusiasm and remarkable talent.
The soggy conditions outside almost certainly had no bearing on the selection of
High Water (For Charley Patton) but with Herron driving the banjo background and
Bob's by now full on vocal and attention, I really felt it was bad out there. Really,
really bad. High Water was about to pour through the doors. Or that's how it
seemed at the time. Drier spells through the show produced perfunctory versions
of Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) and a very rushed and totally
undecipherable Thunder On the Mountain, but focus was pin sharp at times
including Forgetful Heart, delivered stage centre sans guitar, clinging to the narrow
chord of the microphone as if his life depended on it. Melodrama? Maybe. But it
was just as tender as any conversation with ones heart should be.
Cold Irons Bound was another barnstormer. I saw the very first performance of this
song down in Georgia years ago and the excitement I felt then returned tonight.
Leaning into the lyric, he delivered the song with clarity and power. Charlie s
upporting, sometimes steering, excelled. Bending on one knee crouched at the
foot of his bosses' keyboard, almost as if at an altar, Charlie managed a call and
response to Bob's efforts. The song closed and they exchanged glances. Yes,
nailed that, didn't we.
The increased visits to center stage with nothing but a voice to sing with is really
welcome and was showcased with an emotion filled version of Working Man's
Blues #2. There were magnetic moments in this performance. When referring to
"me" or "I" he placed his right hand to his chest and then extended it to the
audience when singing "you". More animated than I have seen in some years. And
the voice was clear, upfront in the mix and without trace of the gravel growl or
barked belch we've all suffered through.
Ballad Of A Thin Man was nothing short of extraordinary. Belted out with Sexton
duplicating the sexy riff of the original recording perfectly. Okay so not 1966
obviously, that would be a silly comparison, but something really was happening
and I really wasn't sure what it was. My goodness was it great.
The encores were as per program. I find it hard not to enjoy the greatest song of
all time. Jolene and Watchtower brought the evening to a close and left many
rooted to the spot, demanding more but of course, we knew it wouldn't happen.
It's hard to sum the joy of seeing Bob's return to form. I am often reminded of
Shelton's great comment about Bob being the guy who jumps out of the casket
on the way to the cemetery, or Jack Nicholson's introduction at the Lifetime
Achievement award in 1991 where he describes how he was looking through a
dictionary to find words that summed up "Uncle Bobby" but ALL the words seem
to apply. I'd delete some of them. Lazy, sloppy, bored, tuneless and disinterested
certainly didn't apply on a wet night in Virginia on November 11th 2009. Michael
Gray was once asked what it was like when he met Bob backstage in 1978. He
said "he was splendidly Bob Dylan". I felt the same about him as I left the hall.
Splendidly Bob Dylan sums it up so nicely.
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