November 13, 2009
Review by Larry Fishman
The Wang Theatre is a beautifully appointed, grand theatre in what
remains of the old Boston Theatre district. I may be wrong, but I
don't think Bob has played here since Rolling Thunder back when it
was called the Music Hall. The place named for Wang Laboratories
which was a one time powerhouse in Word Processing and
Microcomputers. Dr. Wang gave a pile of money to get the space
refurbished before his company went belly up in the early 90's.
Anyways, the place is gorgeous with painted ceilings, gold leaf
details, clean bathroom, polite ushers and marble statues.
There's been plenty of buzz and discussion on Charlie Sexton's
arrival. I saw a bunch of those Larry Campbell/Charlie Sexton twin
gun shows and love them as much as the next Bobcat. I always felt
that Zim held him back a little. My memory is that Campbell or even
Bob took the solos and Charlie was primarily on rhythm. Well the
times they are a changin' and this is Charlie Sexton's band. I don't
think there has been a guitarist with both the stage presence and the
musical presence since GE Smith. Charlie's one charismatic dude. He
struts, glides, sashays and then gets down on one knee; he slings the
guitar around and commands alot of attention. He pushes the envelope
and pushes Bob - there is alot of interplay, energy and chemistry
between the two, Stationed next to each other, playing side by side,
it's cool to see him the confidence and rapport-between them. The
rest of the band seemed to take a few steps back. Tony Garnier, still
in his 2 sizes too large suit, stood to rear, Donnie Herron situated
in his usual chair directly behind Bob and hometown hero Stu Kimball
now positioned far to Bob's right.
The crowd is the usual Dylan crowd maybe a bit older. It was an
enthusiastic group that I could see, lots of dancing, shouts, yelps
and applause for lines. Many like me seemed geared up for a weekend
of shows with our favorite Christmas Crooner. The pre show music
was soft Diner 60's rock, the limping roadie, the plain stage
setting, the lit drum kit, stand up base on it's side, keyboard,
Oscar statue, Bob emerges with black hat, black suit, lime green
shirt...ahh all's right in the world. Another Dylan show;
1. Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat. The night gets launched with this
rocker a good tune to clear out the cobwebs in Bob's voice. Swaying
and bobbing behind the keyboards, an upbeat start.
2. Girl from The North Country. Stars are projected upon the
backdrop, the old fairytale lullaby arrangement from the last few
tours gets dropped and replaced with a straighter, simpler version.
Bob playing guitar for the first and only time on the night trading
solos with Sexton.
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothing. A fun and snappy tune with Donnie
Heron on trumpet, it's got a terrific bordello vibe. Loved it, thank
4. Just Like A Woman. A rich, full arrangement with the crowd
roaring it's approval. An unexpected twist as a nice organ solo
subsitituted in the place that we usually get harp. It was a nice
take, but the show didn't really ignite until...
5. High Water. Not sure that I can really express how much the
performance of this song moved me. As it began, Bob jumped to the
center of the stage, to sing with a standing microphone. He held
another mic in one of his hands for his harp. The song just
cooked. And Bob danced. Danced!, And Swayed. Channelling the
energy -- It was pure Joy. Beauty and honesty revealed. I was
overwhelmed, I was laughing, I was grooving. Holy shit! Bob Dylan
is dancing on stage. Amazing, one of those performances I'll never
6. I Feel A Change Comin' On. Back behind the keyboard, the ship is
now sailing and we get a rarely performed tune faithfully performed.
He took his first proper harp solo of the night.
7. Cold Irons Bound. Back to the center stage microphone for a taut,
mature, confident reworking. Previous versions seemed a bit non
descript if not swampy, this was hard, tight and focused.
8. Spirit On the Water. Time to change pace and slow down, the
crowd responding immediatly once recognizing the tune. And the great
call and response for the "over the Hill" and "past my prime" stuff
is always a highlight, love that.
9. Honest With Me. There are a handful of songs that I just don't
need to hear again and I would put this squarely on that list. I was
sitting comfortably, nodding along when mid song it just heated up.
Sexton took over and really lit a fire and turned the knob to 11.
It started to rip and became a rocking wonder.
10. Workingman's Blues #2 Count me in the camp that feels that any
song with the word "proletariat" in it is good enough one. A sweet,
bit perfect take on this wondrous meloncholy gem.
11. Highway 61 Revisited Time to rock some more with Bob and
Charlie channelling Michael Bloomfield and Buddy Guy
12. Ain't Talkin' The stage lights darken and Bob takes on another
wierd, strange journey through the backwoods and the big city.
Sexton adding nuanced archapelos of sound as Zimmy narrates.
13. Thunder on the Mountain. This one seems to be a crowd pleaser,
but having heard the tune on the last 250 bootlegs I could think of a
few others that I would rather hear if he asked me.
14. Ballad of A Thin Man. Performed hard & Loud, more like the Band
'66 versions than anything else. Lots of fun with again our favorite
former DJ returning to Center stage.
15. Like A Rolling Stone. This version performed in it's standard
crowd pleasing, rise to your feet, lift your arms and sing along way
- maybe a touch faster than the mid tempo versions of recent years.
16. Jolene A delightful take after the band introductions. It's a
minor work, but still an enjoyable one. I'll take it as long as he
writes it on the setlist.
17 All Along The Watchtower. As always a great way to end the
night and jeez he even let Stu take a solo. Maybe Bob's weakest
vocal of the night as he fell into that upsinging, sing song style,
but the boys in the band carried the day.
What can I say, it was a strong night and I had alot of fun. I've
got two more nights of music to look forward to. I can't wait.
Review by Jimmy
Here's a "review" I sent to my teacher who loves Bob Dylan and teaches
a class on him in high school. He encouraged me to send this to this
website as it's the first time I've seen Bob Dylan live...
The show was great tonight. After listening to mostly studio recordings
of Dylan, I wouldn't have expected the style in which Bob and Charlie
Sexton played (also the backup guitarist was really good too). Charlie
Sexton is a great guitar player and I'm sure he could play some great
blues in a style like Stevie Ray Vaughn or Buddy Guy, but the style in
which he played suited Dylan's music and I like the blues format in which
Dylan plays these days.
I was lucky enough to get a few songs off Blonde on Blonde (Note: I'm
currently working on an "expertise" project on this album) played live in
a completely different style than studio versions. The opening with
"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" was awesome and a few of my favorites from
Dylan (as far as I've ventured into his music) were played such as
Workingman's Blues #2, Highway 61 and Ballad of a Thin Man (which
was a great version and good song to break on before the encore).
They played a really nice version of Watchtower too. As I said, Charlie
Sexton can play and he made some of the songs I didn't know all the
more interesting with blues fashion. I also noticed, not only in this show,
but on all live recordings of Bob that he sings the lyrics the way he wants
to and I haven't studied different live versions of each song but I'd guess
he just sings it however he wants on the spot, which probably keeps him
from going completely mad from playing the same thing over and over
again. Bob surprised me in weird ways, but I guess that's expected. For
instance, I imagined Bob to just sing his songs, pretty much still, and then
leave. He does really awkward hand expressions and stances. I don't know
what it is, I just found it amusingly odd. He also dances like an old man at
his piano, probably because he is an old man. Another thing I found
amusing was when I was seated, an usher of the theatre went around to
each section and told people not to talk during the show or else Bob
might walk off. It was a fun time and I hope he lives up to the hype of
"always being better the 2nd night."
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