November 16 2008
Review by Marsh Birchard
This was a set list sent from above by brother Jamie. A command
performance. When has an audience ever had the great good fortune to
hear Visions of Johanna, Every Grain of Sand, I Believe in You, Blind
Willie McTell, Not Dark Yet and Nettie Moore in one set list? This one
That said, I left the show thinking that he must believe rock is the only
genre his fans are committed to. The band is an amazingly tight outfit
now and the jams are worthy of The Dead. But, particularly in these
stadium shows, it's such a bass heavy wall of sound that the standard mix
can't accommodate a night with a set list such as the Kanata show, filled
as it was with sweet melody and quiet sentiment.
If Bob is as committed to those qualities of the popular american
songbook as his recent studio recordings suggest, he needs to do like
Willie Nelson who gathered a bunch of the original veteran country swing
players to perform the Songs of Cindy Walker. Re-think the rock band
configuration. What about the Lincoln Centre jazz combo tour? Some
Nelson Riddle strings.
Lose the drummer, I'd say is one place to start. And a guitarist or 3.
Small ensemble, essentially acoustic, and let it swing. Maybe a horn or 2.
Heck, with the return of the Street Legal era finger bling -- I might
even entertain a reprise of the back up singers.
It doesn't always have to be stadium tuned "Rockin' Ruach" ( as
brother Jamie once called it ).
Still. In the fury of the moment I saw the Master's hand.
Review by Ray Seed
I don't know what we've done to deserve this but I hope the Gods continue
to smile upon Ottawa. Bob Dylan has performed here three times in the
past three years and the one thing I've noticed is his perverse sense of
occasion. Last year Bob performed before 30,000 fans at an outdoor
festival and he pretty much appeared indifferent to the whole thing. A
paltry crowd of 3,500 showed up on Sunday night and Dylan put on the
performance of his life. Go figure. He was on fire all night long and
for the few true fans that bothered to attend, it was a thing of beauty.
For the first time I could really hear and appreciate his organ playing
because it was high in the mix and it seemed to add a nice texture to the
music. He came out from behind the organ several times and even though
his playing was a little erratic, it was nice to see him strap on his
guitar for a few numbers. He actually stood at centre stage and crooned
(if you want to call it that) and you could imagine this guy as being part
of the Rat Pack. His harp playing was excellent throughout and while I'm
not the biggest fan of his current band I must give them their due. They
have melded themselves into a very tight unit and their playing is
seamless. I especially like the groove they created with a reworked "It's
Alright Ma" and the blistering pace they set for "Rollin' and Tumblin'."
Bob's singing was passionate and clear and it was never more apparent than
on "Not Dark Yet." The set list was a treat for the fan who appreciates
lesser known gems like "Blind Willie McTell" and "Every Grain of Sand."
When you hear songs of that calibre, that are such a personal confession,
you can understand what Joan Baez meant when she said "for those who are
interested, Bob goes way deep."
It's a noble profession our Bobby plies. Anyone who can lift you out of a
bleak November funk and bring a smile to your face is worthy of gratitude
and respect and when Bob's firing on all cylinders as he was on Sunday, no
one can cast a shadow on his terrain. He clearly stands alone.
Review by Nicholas von Maltzahn
Some days a lot goes right. Even this set-list—one for the ages, to my
mind—still doesn’t say it all. He was so alive tonight, a great stager
working one great song after another after another. It was full bore from
the get-go. Through the big sound came his keyboard, his harp, his
guitar, and often enough that voice! And his looks, gestures, animation
also told the tale (worth being front centre). Some great changes of mood
throughout. Compelling opening sequence: Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat, Don’t
Think Twice, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Visions of Johanna… What
different kinds of love! Somehow the story kept swirling back to such
desires: mistaken or not? Later came “I Believe in You”. Then later
still “I Don’t Believe You”. But that last followed in turn by Nettie
Moore, full of believing in such pleasure, except even belief may falter
when there’s noone here that’s left to tell.
The shift after Visions (how long I’ve wanted to hear that sung) to
Rollin’ and Tumblin’ made surprising sense, with that bafflement in love
spreading ever wider in Not Dark Yet (that song much hoped-for too). With
Not Dark Yet, he was really selling the refrain with a knowing “aaaah …
but it’s getting there” yielding then to the half groan, half acceptance
of “ooooh … but it’s getting there”, as if also to tease any of us who
think it isn’t. And so the following Tw.D. and Tw.Dum was just fine; I
hadn’t thrived with it heretofore, but tonight it captured the cheap
ferocity out there against which beauty and pain must stand.
This Sunday night now the starlit prayer of Every Grain of Sand, then a
roaring Highway 61—Bob again getting into the spirit of things, not least
with a menacing grin when God has given Abraham the word on what to
expect. Can’t recall if the final gambler / next-world-war business had
always passed me by before. But they drove it home tonight, with the
crazy alacrity of that promoter up for some real good bidness.
Something nearer a creed again in Blind Willie McTell. Yes indeed. Too
much to hope for but there it was. “All the way from New Orleans to the
new Jerusalem” was how it went tonight. Not sure how far to go with that
change! But things have changed some, or more. And the great turn at the
end from McTell’s world to our own, with Dylan trying to put the two
together at the St James Hotel—it really came through tonight too.
Main set ended with Thunder on the Mountain, the band-members unleashed
after Nettie Moore. They smiled and ran with it and the lyrics just kept
coming. It seemed wrong to ask for an encore after so much had been
delivered. But we did and it was full bore again with LARS—the lyrics
began in a lower key of exasperation, only later more heated—and All Along
the Watchtower, ending as now seems usual with the return to “what any of
it is really worth.”
I can’t do credit to what was a wonderful show, really full of wonders.
His singing keeps playing against the songs you think you know. And you
just have to watch him, even when you’re trying just to listen.
Review by Peter MacIntosh
It has been more than 20 years since I first saw Dylan in concert, and in the many
shows since that time I thought I had witnessed all of his myriad personae. You
probably know them by heart: the trickster fox Dylan, the reluctant Dylan, the
inscrutable Dylan, the shy Dylan, the train wreck Dylan, and so on. Well, imagine
my surprise when the recent Ottawa/Kanata show exposed yet another layer of
the onion, specifically the … wait for it … song and dance showman Dylan! His
frequent sojourns away from the keyboard were remarkable, sauntering to centre
stage with only a harmonica and a desire to bust some spirited dance moves and
striking poses. Moreover, Dylan's comfort at strapping on his acoustic guitar after
several years in limbo, brought a smile to one's face.
Highlights of the show included simply having "Blind Willie McTell" on the setlist - my
favourite Dylan song! As well, Dylan's organ solo (!!!!) on "Visions of Johanna" was
fantastic. The "from the ground up" only lighting on "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle
Dum" was inspired, and it was indeed remarkable that Dylan and the band pumped
considerable life into this song whose 'best before' date has long since past. "It's
Alright, Ma," never a personal favourite, was on this cold Canadian night, extremely
warm and engaging. Finally, I greatly enjoyed "Not Dark Yet," the first time I had
heard this touching song in concert.
Lesser moments were a surprisingly uninspired rendering of "Nettie Moore," and a
tired walk through "Don't Think Twice."
When all is said and done, Dylan once again revealed himself to be an incredibly
generous performer - caring about his craft, and providing, together with his
superb band, many moments of absolute transcendence.
Review by Aaron and Krysta Anstey
I was at the Bob Dylan show last night in Kanata (Ottawa) here is my
review: ---------------------------- Bob was stylin' and rocking in his
white hat last night. In Kanata last night he laid down a great bluesy
show and the audience appreaciated it. First off it was great for my wife
and I to get out on our "first date" since our son was born about 6 weeks
ago. He was in our minds but Dylan revitilized us and gave us a great
story to tell our son when we got back . Amazingly he slept for almost 6
hours straight last night letting Mommy and Daddy get a well earned rest
after dancing to Dylan's amazing sound. Thanks mom for babysitting! Dylan
opened with Leopard-Skin (which my wife called) and then jumped right
into Don't think Twice which energized the crowd. He slowed it down for
the next few songs and Tony was smooth on the stand-up bass. While the
background lights changed colour and texture brining a new dimension to
the venue. He ramped it up again with Tweedle Dee and it was at this
point that Dylan seemed to really open up. He was playing the harmonica
more and letting some really nice blues riff float over the crowd. He
also played a rare one in "Every Grain of Sand" which I haven't heard in
awhile. Then he launched into a great rocking Highway 61. I must say that
George was great on the drums for the whole show but during this tune his
arms looked like rubber as he hammered out some amazing rolls. Another
highlight during this song was Dylan emerging from behind the keyboard to
display some of his dancing skills. He was pointing at his bandmates
while doing a shuffle. He also did a great slow rendition of I don't
believe You. It was mellow and captivated the audience. He finished the
show with Nettie Moore and Thunder on The mountain which I think he
played at each one of his shows this year. Of course he did his customary
2 song encore. all in all it was a great show and it was great to see
Dylan in such a good mood while preforming.
Aaron and Krysta
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