page by Bill Pagel
Review by Jason Polanski
Bob Dylan played a three quarters full Hartford Civic Center last
night. Excellent show overall. Definitely a lot of fun to see the odd
covers and new piano arrangements of the songs.
Before I get descriptive of the show, I must point out that it is time
for Bob to make a “general admission only” policy at the shows. I am
tired of getting harassed in the seats by lowlifes who must “sit down”
for the entire show and make it a point to force everyone around them
to do the same. I’m in the category of those who wish to dance. A
special thanks to the Hartford Civic Center security who sided with us
and told these “sit down” low lifes to essentially get a life or leave
Either way, the highlight was obviously VISIONS OF JOHANNA, which I’ve
been waiting 8 years to see! Thanks to Bob. That last verse with the
climax imagery of fish trucks loading and empty cages corroding was
everything I ever dreamed about when seeing it live. Bob also did an
extended guitar solo at the end of the song. Long and beautiful.
The other highlight is the band and their sound. The acoustics are
amazing. When they were jamming during GIRL OF THE NORTH COUNTRY
everyone was huddled around Bob. Four guitarists playing to each other.
Rock and roll has this thing going where guitar solos have to feature
some dude standing on a monitor eyeing the chicks in the front row. But
here at this moment, Larry, Charlie, and Tony are eyeing Bob forming
some intense circle of music. This shit is real!!!!
As far as the electric sound goes, SUMMER DAYS rocked! I did see the
Chicago show and thought that version had more energy, but Hartford’s
version was more wild. Crazy drum rolls by George and everybody keeping
loosely paced following Bob. ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER was also very
strong in the same way.
Then there’s the piano. Bob’s rejuvenated enthusiasm in piano playing
creates a different feel on songs like HONEST WITH ME. For example,
during THINGS HAVE CHANGED instead of soloing with the band, he’d take
a walk around stage then return to singing and playing. Weird and cool.
Overall a good show. I’d say a little rough on the edges, but he played
“Visions”. I can’t wait for Kingston.
Review by Joe Zibell
Going into last night’s show in Hartford, I had the Slow Train Coming
album on my mind. It’s one that I’m still trying to reconcile myself with;
I find it equal parts brilliant, boring and confounding. And it was that
fire-and-brimstone persona of Dylan’s that was in the back of mind as I
walked into the Civic Center last night.
It came to mind again as he performed a lowdown-and-mean version of
“It’s Alright Ma.” The words almost spit out, clear and controlled. And it
framed a brilliant and powerful “High Water,” which was the performance of
Bob played to a far-from-filled arena, which was a bit disheartening, and
delivered an inconsistent set on the whole. However, there were enough
moments of brilliance to put the night in the category of “very good.” I
can’t say enough about how much Charlie Sexton adds to this band. I’ve
seen them a few times now since he’s become a member, and the guitar work
of the ensemble has risen to another level.
The stand-outs were, in no particular order: “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
(with a great harp solo at the end), “Things Have Changed,” “Old Man,”
“Brown Sugar” (for the opening riff alone, which brought down the house),
“High Water,” “Summer Days” (thanks to an other-worldy jam), and “Visions
of Johanna” ( just for its presence in the set).
This was a show that, like the fairly subdued crowd, waxed and waned.
Seeing Bob at the piano certainly added a different dimension to the
proceedings. At times, it worked for dramatic effect with Bob picking his
spots to hammer on the keys like a poor man’s Thelonius Monk; other times
the sound just got lost in the mix.
Bob’s very tough to read; Is he having fun up there? Is he pleased with
how the night’s going? One can never be certain. But last night he struck
me as a little outta sorts. In the opening notes of “Floater,” you could
hear him ask Larry, “What key is this in?” Maybe he was a bit disgruntled
by the sometimes-tepid reaction from the crowd. For example, after a
ragged “Floater,” you could almost hear a pin drop, relative to a rock
concert of course. Maybe he was showing a bit of road-weariness after a
long stretch of shows. Whatever the reason, it was the songs with that
little bit of venom that were the sharpest: High Water, Things Have
Changed, and It’s Alright Ma.
But even on a night when I sensed things were a bit “off,” he can do
something like pull out “Visions of Johanna,” and sing it carefully, with
great dignity. Or he can lead an extended and wild jam in “Summer Days,”
which made up for the lyrical missteps earlier in the song. A couple of
times, Bob seemed to lose his place and had to stuff two lines worth of
lyrics into a couple of bars to catch up with the band. But the music at
the end (loud and intense) was something to behold. Charlie, Bob, Tony and
Larry standing in a line up front, just trading riffs and licks, pushing
the sound farther and farther after each stanza. Tony even lifted his bass
off the ground at a few points, which is rather impressive to someone who
doesn’t play the stand-up bass.
All his covers, which I was very interested in hearing, were effective,
with “Old Man” as the stand-out. What a great, powerful reading of Neil
Young’s classic. The subtle work of the rhythm section, the chick-a-chug
Youngish chords from Charlie’s guitar...it was definitely a sublime
And finally, since I’ve already mentioned it three times, what’s the harm
in mentioning it again? But “High Water” was magnetic. It was captivating,
and loud, and mean, and everything that song should be. In a different
arrangement than last year – no acoustic accompaniment at all – Bob just
hammered away at the keyboard and delivered a strong vocal.
The encore was anti-climactic with standard versions of the
tried-and-true: “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Watchtower.” “Summer Days” was
still rattling in my head at that point, and it would’ve taken a mammoth
“Watchtower” to make it stand-out.
And before walking off for good, Bob stood on stage looking out at the
cheering crowd – just looking out with an expression that could be
construed as bored, disgusted, complacent, passive or satisfied. It
depends who’s doing the looking I guess...
Review by Mark Gould
A severely "Hard Rain" was still a-falling, after three days, as the Bard
and his Band pulled into the Hartford Civic Center. The place was less
than half full, giving a fairly intimate feel to a rather large arena.
What was incredible to me was that, after hearing boisterous crowds for
the McCartney and Stones show at this arena, how quiet and respectful the
audience was for Dylan. No screaming, no shrill, obnoxious whistling, no
drunks, just quiet respect and strong applause.
I have not seen Dylan live for a couple of years, but found that the band
is so tight. George seems the perfect drummer for Dylan's vastly changing
sets, arrangements and material. Charlie and Larry were rock solid all
night, with Tony, as always, provided the bottom. The sound system was one
of the best I have ever heard in this arena, very, very little feedback,
with little bounce off the back wall.
The set list was interesting, as always. I will always miss "Stone," but
can understand that it gets a little old night after night, tour after
tour. The covers of "Brown Sugar," "Carrying a Torch," and "Mutineer" were
very fine. I thought "Old Man" was a bit messy, and in need of more
rehearsal, but it was fine tribute to a mighty fine songwriter,
The highlights, for me, were "North Country," very quaint sounding after a
raucous "Brown Sugar;" "Back Pages," and a beautifully understated
"Johanna," sung in his best voice. Dylan sounded great all night, rarely
breaking his voice, in complete command. "Summer Days" is the perfect set
closer, and "Blowin'" and "Watchtower" complete the circle with the
All in all, a very interesting, challenging, charismatic night. That is,
just like Dylan himself.
Review by Wendy Gell
I drove North on Rt. 9 on a rainy highway with a steaming up windshield
and low visibility .So many Dylan concerts when it was raining cats and
dogs .We had the end of a nor' Easter. I found my friend David Taylor's
house getting a little lost, his beautiful 14-year-old daughter Katie and
her adorable friend Chelsea and I all headed to the Hartford Civic Center.
We got there early and waited and waited soon we could see why. The
security was extremely stringent. They were checking every bag and patting
people down, everyone. I said to David lets change lanes if I'm getting
frisked I want the cute guy in the next lane .I didn't really mind the
wait, and they were all polite but we missed the first song Twiddle Dee
and Twiddle Dum and were finally seated during the end of I'll be Your
Baby Tonight. It was a totally fantastic concert. Things Have Changed was
perfect Bob's voice was more clear then I ever heard it. The gravely thing
seems to deepen like smile lines. It's a beautiful thing. Everyone in the
band was in black and my group was high up in the bleachers so it was hard
to see details. The set list was wild and great with originality. Bob
looked so comfortable and confident he seemed could have been home (I
borrowed someone binoculars so had a glimpse). Bob often played a
keyboard, which I haven't seen often switching to acoustic guitar. They
did the Stones Brown Sugar, I thought it was funny and then Girl from the
North Country a beautiful version, the girls asked me what song it was.
Tombstone Blues was grand the audience howled at times. Carrying a Torch
for You I didn't know, it was Van Morrison's and super. Its all right Ma
I'm only Bleeding, rang true so new; all the songs current like the Daily
News. When he sang Even the President of the United States sometimes must
Stand Naked, the room exploded with an emotional cheer. The acoustics at
the Hartford civic were really good I think. You could really hear. The
song that got me the most, My Back Pages , I was so much Older then I'm
Younger then that Now and tears leaked out and ran down my face thur the
whole song. When the song stopped so did my tears and they were not there
for any others. Who knows why , it was good to be moved. Shelter from the
Storm such a classic the arrangement was new and intriguing. Everything
Fresh Bob was so bright it shines. I wasn't in a very good mood to go and
would have canceled anything else. I am about to sell my Connecticut Lake
house after 18 years and move to southern Oregon, and thought of it all
overwhelms me so. But Bob swept me up as always and soon I was feeling
hope and also some kind of kinship with humanity I'd missed for a while.
Neil Young's Old Man look at my Life was a great choice and then Visions
of Johanna such a mysterious lyric. His voice is so good. There was a Bass
Cello and violin mandolin for some songs. They did more from the last
album I lost track and ended with Summer Days. .I walked over to a girl
across the aisle who had binoculars and asked if I could use them for a
minute. She said yes. Bob and the band were doing their first encore
Blowing in the Wind it was great to see them close through the binoculars
they were fine energetic and happy. There was one more song All along the
Watchtower and the concert was over abruptly it seemed. I never got my
review written this summer for the Newport Folk Festival, I was there
working and had a booth, to sell my jewelry and dog and cat portraits. It
was 100 degrees both days and broiling. I could hardly hear Bob and hated
to leave my booth manned by friends.. It was almost like I wasn't even at
a Dylan concert. When I finally got through the crowd on this massive lawn
to try to see Bob a girl handed me her binoculars long enough for me to
see his face with that funny wig and Cowboy Hat he turned and it was
over. I was robbed! So that made this extra good . I would have like to
hear a few more songs in the but it was over. Katie Chelsea David and I
walked to the concession booth so I could get a poster. Two ladies
practically dove at me into my bracelets; I wore really my best cuffs ,
wristies that night. One all rhinestones and crystals is 5 inches wide I
wear to a lot of Dylan concerts because I think it sparkles at the band
when I applaud. The other cuff is inspired from the Song Isis " I was
thinking of turquoise, I was thinking of gold, I was thinking of Diamonds
and the worlds biggest necklace". It is maybe 5 inches wide and covered
with Tibetan turquoise.There is a carved figure of the Egyptian Goddess
Isis on it. The ladies and I exchanged cards I sent them to my website and
I went back in line .An adorable blond cherub of 5 years old looked up at
me in astonishment. "You must be very rich" she stammered loudly as her
mother blushed and shh'ed her. It's okay I said laughing,." No sweetie, I
said, I am not rich, I am broke, and I have no money. I am an artist in
America and people don't buy art. Not enough of it, but I wish it were
true what you said." She was really taken with my imagination; my purse
is a stuffed animal dog bag with a red jeweled tongue. I wished I had
something to give her. Maybe when she grows up she'll buy art. I finally
got my poster Bright orange black and red. In Person Bob Dylan and his
Band. I had said to David who is also a painter "I have to sell all this
stuff I have already made , maybe I don't need a poster". But I always
make some art out of each poster so why stop now. Katie sang us a surprise
version of Outlaw Blues in the back seat of the car on the way home, she
was great. Really great voice and knows all the words. I drove home a long
rainy dark highway. For a change not thinking of all the things before
me, just enjoying the moment.
I feel so lucky I got to see Bob and the band again.
Review by Willy Gissen
A Dylan Diary, Hartford, CT
Hartford, CT, In the end, it's all about the lyrics and the music. That's
what makes every Dylan concert special. Even the standard songs that are
played nearly every concert are unique each time because of improvisation
and the understanding of lyrics that you didn't get before. In Hartford,
the sixth concert of my eight-concert vacation, there seemed to be more
special selections than in previous events. Three special songs tonight
were "Girl of the North Country Fair, Visions of Johanna and My Back
Pages." For the non-Dylan fan reading this diary, consider just two
Visions of Johanna: "We sit here stranded, though we all do our best to
My Back Pages: "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
The songs Dylan plays in almost every concert don't seem to lose any of
their poignancy either no matter how many times you hear them. Whether
he's warning us that "It's rough out there" in High Water; or "Nothing
really matters much, it's doom alone that counts" in Shelter from the
Storm; or "He not busy being born, is busy dying" in It's alright, Ma;
Dylan's one-liners could be used to write a book. I know no one else who
can say so much in just one sentence.
Even the songs by other artists are precious. Dylan may be just having fun
with the Rolling Stones, "You should have seen things just around
midnight," or being brutally honest via Neil Young, "Old man, take a look
at yourself, I'm a lot like you were," or confessing via Warren Zevon, "I
was born to rock the boat."
So even with all the cute (or dull) stories in these series of essays, I
just want to emphasize in this one that it's really all about the lyrics
and the music.
(to be continued)
Review by Tom Ostoyich
We braved the rain and hit Hartford--former home of the Whalers. The
Civic Center was much larger than I anticipated--maybe 12 to 15 thous.,
and only 60 percent full, but it was a fine show. The first and happiest
difference, for me, was the sound--I saw both shows at M.S. Garden and
found that much of Dylan and the band's sound was lost due to its lousy
acoustics. Tonight, the hall's sound mix was a marked improvement--it
allowed me to hear songs differently than I had earlier in the week--in
particularly Dylan's piano playing. In fact, it makes me reevaluate some
of the things I said in my review of 11-13. Context is everything--and
while I wouldn't trade the GREAT moments about last week's Garden shows,
Hartford's show was consistently enjoyable throughout. (Let me also add
that in Hartford I wasn't seated around people yelling into their
cellphones or yakking away during any quieter song--apparently that
behavior is de riguer at the Garden).
As for the setlist, it was decent if unadventurous for this leg of the
NET: I'd heard each of these songs at prior Dylan concerts, but most
everything was well-played and well-performed. Still, I'm sorry I missed
some of the early West Coast gigs or the Philly set from Fri., where some
lesser played gems ("In the Summertime" and "Grain of Sand", more Zevon
covers) made the sets.
From the start, Dylan's voice was strong and clear, a welcome surprise
considering it was his third straight night playing. "Baby Tonight"
demonstrated that his voice was doing what he wanted it to do--bending
notes and punctuating words playfully. On "Tombstone", I was happy to
finally distinguish the interplay between the band members--this version
percolates, it choogles, for cryin' out loud. The guitars snake around
like an old Slim Harpo record and Dylan was clearly having fun with the
words--popping his voice on "CHICK-en". "Carrying a Torch" was also very
sharp tonight--it reminds me a bit of John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith"
(which wouldn't be a bad cover for Dylan to try out)--it just sounded much
clearer, more emotive than at MSG. "Back Pages" now has the best
arrangement I've heard--Larry's fiddle just gives it the right lilt.
"Johanna" was a fine insertion, although not the greatest
arrangement--acoustic, but a bit meandering; the closing jam seemed
subdued. "Old Man" was botched at the start--Dylan seemed to start
singing the verse rather than the opening tag line "Old man, look at my
life, I'm a lot like you were", but the band quickly righted
itself--another testament to their collective skill at sticking with
I could hear Dylan do "Mutineer" every night--to me, Dylan's claimed this
song as his own. And I still like the new "Shelter" arrangement, even if
it's abbreviated to 5 or 6 verses a night (if we're lucky).
Dylan seemed loose--a lot of goofing at the piano, noodling between songs
and leaving the keys at times to either dance or clap along. You've heard
about the "What key is this?" comedy before "Floater" but what I haven't
seen pointed out is that despite a briefly rough start, Dylan gave it a
wonderfully playful reading--teasing and tugging at the words and the
rhythm of the vocal in the unique way that he can. It's a reminder of
what a tremendous vocalist he can be even within the narrowing confines of
his aging voice. The arrangement is lovely, if too intimate for such large
halls--I hope to hear it done in a small venue one of these days. But
anyway, I'd love to hear it again, it seemed near-definitive.
The "Love and Theft" material continues to get strong workouts and it's
refreshing to see that Dylan hasn't bailed out on the record as he's done
with some from the past--still, I wish he'd vary it up a bit--I've heard
"Honest" several times this year and while it's always good, it hasn't
evolved like "High Water" has. "Summer Days" of course was fun, but Dylan
lapsed into some of his tics--he missed a whole section of lyric in the
first verse as he walked away from the mike, and got confused a couple of
times, but it still was a scorcher. I imagine that for as long as Dylan
continues to tour--and has a band this talented--"Summer Days" will be
closing the main set.
A final word on Receili's drumming--in my 11-13 review, I didn't mean to
imply that he's a bad drummer--he clearly is tremendously talented and
probably a good fit in this band--it's that he has a tendency to
overplay--to showoff, it seems, how inventive his fills can be (and
granted, this is only on a handful of the harder, electric songs Dylan
plays each night). To my ears, his playing can be distracting and
overpowering. But in Hartford--and again, maybe it was the mix--he seemed
much more tasteful and unobtrusive. One thing is certain about Hartford's
show--it didn't sound like they were loudly over-playing as if to fill the
venue's dimensions--as in MSG, where I left both nights with my ears
I envy those of you who still have this leg of the tour ahead of them, get
yr tix and like the poster says, "don't you dare miss it."
Review by Ian Cunningham
The day had arrived uneventfully and wound up with a sweeping array of song
and times changed . A rainy, raw night inundated with a Nor' easter as a
backbone to make the drive to Hartford a slick and tense start to a good
night of music that far too many people missed out on. More on that
Bob hit the stage a little later than scheduled I assume due to the security
at The Civic Center. It was a borderline/airport setup all the way down to
emptied pockets, bags searched and the like. But my buddy, Pete and I went
inside happy to see that the merchandise was flowing off the swag shelves
and the prices were lower than many I have seen at other shows. The
audience was less than 2/3 capacity at The Hartford Civic Center but, the
crowd was as usual, a mixed bag of varied ages and status. I
unfortunately was next to a "gray flannel dwarf" with a cell phone that
had to call his "bud" and "dude" him for the entire version of "Girl of
The North Country". Much to my disgruntled response as he hung up. I
proclaimed, "Why did you come to this concert?". His reply..." I don't
know, My friend is buying the beer". Anyway,
The show was in touch with many of the shows from this tour. Bob banging on
the piano with for at least 70% of the show if not more and with great
ease. He was grimacing at times I figured because of the Big booming sound
quality of these sort of venues. Arenas are not Bob's favorite rooms and
he had been on a 3 day grind that fortunately had not negatively affected
his vocals at all. He was in great voice. " Tweedle dee.." was excellent
and the energy high right through to song # 6 the Stones', "Brown Sugar".
A driving Rock-n-Roll onslaught where not being able to decipher the words
did not matter. They had fun with this one and Charlie Sexton was playing
with the usual remarkable skill. Backed by a really great rhythm section.
George on drums is a force I hadn't seen behind Bob since Winston Watson.
I took me awhile to get used to him over 11 different shows and two tours.
But, I think like Charlie? he is a great contribution to the New Bob Dylan
concert experience. Anyone know what Dave Kemper is up to? The new
arrangement of "It's alright ma" was engaging and I felt that the funk and
groove, ebb and flow hooks in this song. Made for one of the standout
moments along with Tombstone.." and "Wicked Messenger" which I absolutely
loved. This is a great song made even better. Which is often not the case
in the reinvention process. Also, I have to note: "Visions of Johanna" was
perfect. The show was backdropped with a vibe from the times we live in.
The days of laughter, the days of adrenaline surge prior to a concert
being boosted by a stellar performance was dulled slightly by the rain,
the security,and the cell phone suit . But, the show progressed gracefully
with anticipation, commemoration and surprise. Climaxed with a loose
though, Rockin' version of "Summer days" and encores...A stunning and
beautiful version of "Blowin' in The Wind". That made me think of how far
Bob has come since his gig at The Finjan Club in Montreal Back in 62'
where he played a tune he called, " How Many Roads". "Watchtower" was a
welcome reinvention which ended the show with a scorching set of solos and
a thought to consider. The thread of certain themes, topical, and
personalin much of the material made me realize I had witnessed another
changing moment in Bob, our times and in ourselves. So...On to Rhode
Comments by Jane Wolf
Upon Hearing Visions of Johanna
(live for the first time)
Sunday November 17, 2002 (Hartford, CT.)
Many years I have waited, many shows I have been to
Many songs I have heard and bands, can they play!
I just never believed
I was fated to be where he sings VOJ
Many changes in life, I am no longer a wife,
a mother, a child. I have traveled a way.
But I never believed
I was fated to be where he sings VOJ.
Who knew it would happen, when we ventured unknowingly
on a trip with a reason. Looking for the Medicine Wheel Garden,
as the rain began to harden, and the trees fell and the wind blew,
and we lost route 47 north.
I never believed I was fated to be where he sings VOJ.
Summer days and summer nights are long gone.
The marshes have turned brown and golden.
It is cold and
I never believed I would be where he sings VOJ.
We found help and then the road to take us to 84.
No need to stop any more, just put the pedal to the floor.
We are flying. The rain and sleet and ice keep trying
To keep us from where he sings, and,
I never believed I was fated to be where he sings VOJ.
The show has started. Oh! What is this?
Carrying a torch for me? Oh! The voice is fine.
His band keeps time and then shifts time and bends time, and,
Wait... there is no time.
I didn't suspect that I was fated to be where he sings VOJ.
Girl from the north country, travelling south into a gale.
Looking for a Peace Pole. City birds aren't sheltered from this storm.
Ice on their wings, as he sings. I knew something was coming, But I
couldn't imagine I was fated to be where he sings VOJ.
Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're trying to be so
quiet. And there it is. And I am there. And I can only think that I was
fated to be where he sings VOJ.
page by Bill Pagel
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