November 17, 2009
Review by Willy Gissen
What could be better than opening night of a Bob Dylan concert in New
York City? I hate to wax poetic, but Dylan was transcendent last night.
I've gone to a lot of Bob Dylan concerts in my day, even traveling up and
down with him along the Eastern Seaboard during one stint where I was
temporarily unemployed. But this concert just blew me away. There
were so many key moments, and I didn't follow the previous set lists in
advance so I was in for a total surprise. Dylan's voice was strong even in
the beginning when he typically needs to stretch things out a little. That
was my first inkling that this concert was going to be a good one. Things
moved into the stratosphere when Dylan sang "John Brown," a virulently
anti-war ballad. And the audience could hear every word distinctly so even
the uninitiated were able to appreciate it. Dylan ended the song by
repeating the first verse with a devastating impact, "John Brown went
off to war Ö and his mother sure was proud of him." Another moment
was a rocking version of Summer Days. Dylan used to end every concert
with this song, but it seemed to be about the middle of his set, so I knew
we were in for additional treats. I was thinking to myself, "Well, he didn't
end with Summer Days. Maybe, he will end with Highway 61." Sure enough,
a few songs later, another rocking version of Highway 61. It seemed like
Dylan had been playing for a long time, and, indeed, all the songs were
extended, more than usual, with a lot of improvisation. Dylan and his band
seemed to be really getting into it. A little disappointed that the concert
was coming to an end, but it had been a great one. But Dylan kept on
playing. After Highway 61, he switched gears to a much slower piece,
"Ain't Talking," and I really listened to the lyrics for the first time. I became
intrigued and didn't just mindlessly sing along, as is the unfortunate tendency
among long-time fans. I made a note to listen to the song again when I got
home. So, I thought, he threw a change-up, and that was it. The concert
had been going on a long time, and I was thoroughly sated. But no. More.
Thunder on the Mountain, and another driving rock song bringing the
audience to its feet. It seemed like the typical way he would leave the
audience before his encore. But then came the piece de resistance.
Ballad of a Thin Man. A hush fell over the entire audience; everyone was
entranced as Dylan sang, "Something is happening here, and you don't know
what is, do you Mr. Jones?" It seemed to literally come true as Dylan moved
center stage in a challenging way. I've only seen this effect once before
when Dylan was playing with the Grateful Dead at the Meadowlands. Most
of the fans were deadheads, and Dylan was the lead-off act. He sang while
it was still light outside and concluded his set at dusk by playing this song.
It was one of the most eerie moments I've experienced. Anyway, this was
just too much for the audience, and every one rose to their feet as one.
Dylan finally ended the concert with this, and, as usual, his timing was
impeccable. The crowd went wild, and then we experienced the typical
encore with Like a Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower. Leaving the
concert, I heard peoppeople talking out loud to themselves in amazement.
Review by Howard Weiner
Dion led the oldies charge with Run Around Sue and the Wanderer. Dion was
wearing a 1987 like Dylan-like get-up and two of his mates had the Cowboy
Band wardrobe down. They were entertaining. At 8:46, Bob came out behind
the organ for a romping Cats opener. Dylan selected fine wardrobe: grey top
hat black trim, black leather suit, vest with silver buttons, red shirt and red
stripes running down his black pants. †
Back in New York City, forty-eight years after he was a hungry hobo with an
acoustic, Dylan electrified the Untied Palace, Rev Ikeís fantastic concert
venue/church in Washington Heights. It was Christmas from the Heart as Dylan
unraveled the two songs at the top of my list: Baby Blue and Hard Rain. During
Baby blue, Dylan held his guitar perpendicular like he was blowing sax. Both
classics were performed with clever, sparse arrangements, the focus was on
Bobís riveting vocal interpretations. Strolling the stage with microphone in one
hand and harp in other, Dylan did his Marlon Brando thing during Tweedle
Dee & Tweeedle Dum. His singing posture and confidence is incredible. Chest
puffed out and thumbs pointing and emphasizing his phrasing, his lead-singer
phase is something that shouldnít be missed. Donnie was on trumpet for
Beyond Here Lies Nothing and banjo for John Brown. John Brown was weirder
than I ever heard it before. Cold Irons Brown was defragmented and torn apart.
I could get use to this powerful version which was put through the meat
grinder. The focused, smiling band pounded it out. George Recile is the best
drummer. Itís been seven years, did I spell his name right yet? Summer Days
in the middle of the set is delectable. Po Boy was snappy on its heels As I got
off the C Train, I marched towards the Palace and listened to Ainít Talkin. I
yearned for it and Dylan delivered the haunting sermon. Thunder on the
Mountain rattled the church. This was my third time seeing Sexton this
tour Ė he keeps upping his game.† I canít say enough for Dylanís vocals and
showmanship as he strolled the stage and plays harp on the set ender:
Ballad of a Thin Man. I donít know whatís happening and that was my
101st Dylan show.
Visions of Dylan † †
Review by Hermann Rechberger
My secong time going from Europe to the United States to see Bob and again as in
Fall 2006 it was more than worth it. I always was satiesfied with the band in
the last years as I thought they are doing exactly was Bob wanted them to do.
But this year in April it was the first time that I had doubts. All of the band
members starring at Bob it seemed like they could't make even one few seconds
solo without the permission of Bob. For some reason I had the impression of
Charlie Chaplin as The Great Dictator. What a difference to a show with Charlie
Sexton. He is definitely the band leader, but in an absolut positive manner. And
he fires Bob on. The show started as expected, very good sound and Bob in good
form but nothing magic. Things changed at an absolute unexpected point. I think
I am not the only one who has Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum on a very low point on
his favourite song list but what happend last night was sheer breathtaking. Bob
in the middle of the stage with one hand waving free, just the song and dance
man he ever used to be, and a musical firework from the band that can never
described in words. As soon as a tape will show up, hear it, feel it. And it
goes on on this very high level with another breathtaking song, John Brown. Bob
was very concentrated and we can see how much he is enjoying his band, although
this song has nothing to do with enjoyment and is as actual as it has been
written a few days ago. All in all one of the best shows I have ever seen. And I
am very impressed about the fact that Bob can reach such a young audience. And
it does not seem like girls doing her father a favour accompanying him to Bob
Dylan, it seems to be the exact opposite: young people taking their father with
them to show him that now-a-days Dylan has nothing common with the Bob Dylan
from the sixties performing solo with his guitar. Low points: not from Bob and
his band, but why are these young people (more girls than boys) drinking that
much beer and talking so much during the performance? Some people around rows J
and K orchestra fare left will know what I am talking about! There should be no
misunderstanding: I am not the kind of fan that travelles across that lonesome
ocean to await a calm, sitting audience with no fire. Nothing could me more
worse than that.
Review by Scott Kareff
Bob Dylan opened the final homestand of the '09 season on a wicked
strong note tonight, fresh off of his series in Boston over the weekend.
To punctuate what is beginning to feel like a historically significant
return to the Bob Dylan Band for Charlie Sexton, it was nice to see,
across the street from Rev. Ike's house, underneath the marquee, a
synthetic black sign that read in white letters: "Bob Dylan and his
Band". Nice touch. Do they do that for all the artists?
Like the Pittsburgh Steelers opening defense of a Super Bowl title in
front of the black and gold faithful, or the New York Yankees opening a
new stadium and winning the World Series in the Bronx, Bob Dylan
returned to NYC and laid down a fairly lofty baseline for the rest of
the week. A very strong performance, flexing muscles not shown recently
on tour. At least not before the return of prodigal son Charlie Sexton,
whose best moments may well outshine even the great Robbie Robertson
(not to mention GE Smith) and remind you that at his best Bob has always
been a collaborative artist. Even the Tom Petty years had their
moments. Speaking of GE Smith, who can believe it has been 20 years
since the Oh Mercy Tour passed through Ithaca College's Ben Light
Gymnasium? Half a lifetime ago.
Anyway, strong opening show from bobmeister and band, as long as you
don't compare it to 11/14/09, night 2 in Boston (and why would you):
1. Cats in the Well
Glad to hear this 1990 song. That album wasn't so bad, was it? Had god
knows on it too. But also wiggle wiggle wiggle (like a bowl of soup).
2. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Nice. Bob steps out and plays guitar on what might just be his best
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothing
Good reminder that the new sound is not to be outdone, with a good horn
and lively beat.
4. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
I'll take that! What did you see, my darling young one?
5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
As if we didn't realize that Charlie kicks ass! He kills it on this
6. John Brown
Bob plays this a lot in NY. Beer break.
7. Summer Days
Back just in time for this rousing number, which Bob used to close the
show with. Always an energetic song.
8. Po' Boy
Weakest song of the night but still not bad.
9. Cold Irons Bound
Great song, different version, but same strong Chicago winds.
10. If You Ever go to Houston
You better walk right, especially if you want to talk to the policeman
to help you find your gal (or your pal). (Couldn't do it). "Something
keeps me coming back for more". You and us both, Bob.
11. Highway 61
Hard to believe he could do it but he made it sound different, yet
again. Unique extension on "How-ard".
12. Aint Talkin'
As if we don't remember that he debuted this song live in NYC. Kind of
reminds me of "highlands" only with imagery.
13. Thunder on the Mountain
Alicia Keys? Aint nothin' wrong with that woman.
14. Ballad of a Thin Man
Notable for its return to the lineup this season and charlie's playing
with his back to the audience to reprise '60's moment.
15. Like A Rolling Stone
Good. Did I mention that I think Bob's outfit of black with red racing
stripes is a re-tread?
Made it this time! Totally made me forget what the White Stripes'
jolene sounds like.
Great start to the final series of '09, in NY.
See you down the line.
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