Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Eagles Ballroom

November 12, 1997

Thanks to Ken Merrill for the following review:

I'm not enough of a Zimmy-phile to offer a blow-by-blow on Bucky's fill-in
riffs or the nuances of this date's Silvio as opposed to the Silvio in
Jackson, Miss., but the boy sure does make rock and roll fun.
I'd seen recent set lists so nothing on the list really came as a surprise.
Man in the Long Black Coat dragged a bit after a robust Maggie's Farm to
open, but Cold Irons Bound proves an instant classic. I still haven't decided
if I like Daniel Lanios' heavy hand on Time Out of Mind ("Dylan sings through
plumbing," says a friend) but the concert version manages to take the best of
the studio sound and crank up the intensity. Beautiful.
The really noticeable thing is how much fun Bob is having. He's doing his
usual noodling behind the lead guitar, but his guitar is very clear in the
mix and he's really trying. Tasty little bursts and counterpoints. He coasts
very little, and at times seems comes close to breaking into a Chuck Berry
duckwalk. Lots of chicken-necking and smiling at bandmates.
Silvio, sixth on the set list, cooks. The album version isn't my favorite,
but Bob converts me with a blistering version that roasts the house. I wasn't
impressed when he did the same song a year ago in MIlwaukee, but he brings it
new life this time.
A three-song acoustic break is revelatory. Never did a singer sound so
world-wise and world-weary as on Cocaine Blues (a gem), One Too Many Mornings
and Tangled Up In Blue. TUIB raises the hair on the back of my neck. It's
apparently the favorite of they that discovered Bob in the '80s, judging by
the number in the crowd around me are singing it back to him.
Till I Fell in Love With You, Blind Willie McTell, Highway 61 ... by now I'm
riding the wave ... Bob's singing and playing have never been better. This
band may not be as tight as the tour a year ago, but they have a lot of fun
doing it and some of the playing, at least, seems to have been made up on the
spot. Would would have picked Blind Willie McTell? But on this night, it's
transformed into a achingly-gorgeous pearl.
Gone are the busty blondies that seemed to pop on stage at the most annoying
moments during last year's date. One woman hands Bob a bouquet of roses after
Highway 61 and another young woman does the Grateful Dead's "whirling dervish
on mescaline" dance at the front of the stage briefly before Zimmy's one
security guy politely forces her back into the crowd.
After the usual routine for encores, he delivers a fresh - don't laugh -
Rolling Stone, and everbody's singing along by now. When he gets to " SoI'll
just say 'Fare thee well' " on Don't Think Twice, I'm surprised at how many
people give a big "bye-bye" wave right on cue. Love Sick is beautiful, but it
seems strangely out of place as third of the encore songs. It saps the crowd
energy, but it is so heartfully done. 
I cut out after the first verse of Rainy Day Women to search for the
backstage door and Bob's bus, and meet with a group of fans - at the wrong
bus. After exchanging raves on the night's concert, I offer that I think
Bob's bus is in back of the building, not on the side. We hear the applause
at the end of RDW, and I'm afraid that Bob's already on the bus. But as we
turn the corner at the back of the building, we see three or four people
milling around the front of the two busses parked there. I ask one guy if the
star of the show has been out now and am glad to hear that he has yet to
Moments later, the back door pops open. Led by a one security guy, Bob walks
quickly to the bus, with a towel over his head against Milwaukee's November
chill. The security guy stares me down and I can tell that it's not going to
be old home week for me and Bob. 
As he passes me and steps onto the bus all I can manage is "Good show, Bob.
 If Hank Williams had lived, is this what he'd be doing now? I am humbled by
Zimmy's energy and intensity. Even if it weren't for his songs, he's shown us
an alternative way of approaching adulthood. For all the 30-something twits
raised on the Brady Bunch who think it's somehow really funny that the
Rolling Stones are still touring (let's have anotherreally funny joke by Jay
Leno involving Mick Jagger and a walker, OK?), show me one of your nose-ring
or show-gazer bands after 35 years and as many albums. 
Was I venting? Sorry.
Bob kicks ass.

Ken Merrill


Thanks to Gordon Bassen for the following review:

Great show with a very animated Bob.  Posing, smiling, and in control.
Looking a little ragged but in pretty good spirits. Crowd was biggest
for this venue. Started off slow with Maggie's farm but began to cook
with Man in the Long Black Coat. Continued with 
Cold Irons BOUND and then did a fine You Ain't going Nowhere with a
really nice closing 
harmony with the band. Can't wait slowed it down a bit but Silvio just
rocked off.
Cocaine was bit stalled but One too many mornings brought it back up
again for the crowd. Tangled up in blue was the roaringest acoustic
sound yet. Till I fell eased things up again for a rousing Blind Willie
and a Blasting Hiway 61 which kept everyone up for the remainder of the
show. LARS was different only for Bob interspersing some children's song
in his playing. Don't Think twice had the folkies attention but Love
Sick brought us back to the moment.  RDW seemed to be there for the
audience but it seemed that the boys were a little anxious.  Perhaps if
the roses girl had just handed Bob the flowers instead of pawing all
over a rather relunctant recipient of affection it might have had a
better influence on the encores.  Bob doing Bob in his own inimitable
style with sound and presence at a really fine level.
Gordon B.

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