November 18, 2018
Review by JDZ
Conversation at coffee shop, at stopover on I-95. Big plans today? Driving
to Springfield. Sounds like a drag. Seeing Bob Dylan there. Sweet, very
sweet. She is too young to remember the original Bob, or any of his
incarnations since, and I walk away thinking about the time some twenty
years ago when he seemed to stare straight at me while he was singing
“Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine”. That’s how it
worked out. I have seen him a couple of times since, and now I am checking
in again, at Springfield, home of Edward Bellamy, one of the original
social reform visionaries of the nineteenth century, and Dr. Seuss, who
did so much to encourage children to use their imagination to envisage
alternative worlds. On this trip, we don’t make it to Bellamy’s house
or to Mulberry Street, but on a streetcorner we see a monument to a
congressman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 and tried to
do some good in this country. Over at Symphony Hall, with its big steps
and neoclassical columns, we see a fallout shelter sign at the side door
and tractor trailers and tour buses parked in behind. Getting ready for
Young man at the door, on security, says he never heard of Bob Dylan until
now, and he sees most of the crowd is older than him but will peek in to
see what’s happening. The show is sold out, almost full at 8 p.m. They
start on the dot with the old recording of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for
the Common Man, but no more of those announcements about “voice of a
generation” and the prizes he’s won. The band take their places and
get to work, loosening up on “Times Have Changed”, a weird song even
if it did win him an Oscar. It’s an odd choice of opener. If you
haven’t seen him since the 1990s, you have to adjust to the ragged
roughness of his voice. It can be swallowed up the driving authority of
the band, but when he follows up with “It Ain’t Me Babe”, the band
helps set off the sweet bleakness of the old song with a jazzy Latin beat.
They pump on into “Highway 61”, rearranged to give room for the
familiar words of this long howl of protest against the old order,
punctuated by aggressive drums. That one always hits the mark. Meanwhile,
latecomers continue to arrive, to be seated in between numbers while
“Simple Twist of Fate” and “Cry Awhile” sound like Bob is veering
off onto the highway of harsh regret. There are shouts of approval, but
the applause seems modest this evening.
Things pick up with “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. The band holds
back, gives him room. Bob at piano is ruminating, telling a story that is
more extended than in the recorded version. It sounds like he has written
some new words but maybe not. He brings out the harmonica to good effect,
and the band pops up the beat with pedal steel and brings it home. Another
palpable hit. Then a deep dive into “Honest With Me” and a return
from the depths with a more hopeful “Tryin’ To Get to Heaven”. For
“Scarlet Town” Bob finally shows himself at centre stage, nothing in
his hands but a microphone stand that looks like it is too tall. He misses
a few words off-mike. Is he trying to adjust the stand? Is somebody going
to run out and help? Or is this some kind of Chaplinesque stage business,
some kind of dance with it? Whatever the case, it takes away from the
stark narrative of the song, which could even be about some place like . .
Back on piano, Bob leads the band through wrenching versions of “Make
You Feel My Love” and “Pay In Blood”. Even if we don’t catch them
all, he digs deep for the key words and phrases. And in case you hadn’t
noticed, he no longer plays guitar at all but his piano playing is so much
better than it was ten or twelve years ago. He brings all his verbal
phrasing skills to “Like A Rolling Stone”, drawing out the lines and
marking off the choruses in dramatic style. His piano can’t make up for
the organ on the original recording, but it is a valiant delivery of a
song that is easier to admire than to love. “Early Roman Kings” comes
off as a kind of growling update on “Highway 61” and it hits me as the
kind of treatment Van Morrison might give the song. We settle down now for
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”, another extended meditation on
the sadness of comings and goings. Piano and harp in the lead, band in
restraint, the words are still as moving as ever, his phrasing is solid
and when his voice lapses he knows how to carry through. As usual, the
song give us his heart and leaves us still wanting his soul. Back at
centre stage, still no change in the mike stand, but he makes no fuss
about it, just tilts it like the old crooners do and makes the best of
“Love Sick”, but the song is no match for “Don’t Think Twice”.
And now we are tearing into the home stretch, with a long rollicking
version of “Thunder on the Mountain”, lyrics full of searing images
that remind us that attention must be paid not just to the evils but also
to the choices we have. The arrangement shows all members of the band to
fullest advantage, including his piano. He dips back into crooner style
for “Soon After Midnight”, a slow tempo that doesn’t really rest.
Then the surprise hit of this tour, his updated take on “Gotta Serve
Somebody”. In the gospel version it was already a powerful call out (and
some of his contemporaries put in a small shift in meaning by singing
“gonna serve” instead of “gotta serve”). Tonight I am hearing
words and verses I have not heard before. Bob is going fast, his verbal
facility as sharp as ever. “You might be on the border line, holding
down a fort. You might be a lawyer, having a day in court”. Is this
current comment? Has somebody captured these?
Dark for a few minutes. Audience knows there is an encore. There is always
an encore. If they read these set lists they know it is usually
“Blowin’ in the Wind” and “All Along the Watchtower”. It is the
same tonight, except that the order is reversed. This makes more sense.
“Watchtower” is a song of disturbance and danger, and the wind is
howling at the end as the strangers approach. Tonight they give it a short
emphatic treatment, and then it is “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Bob is in
good form now tolling out the verses, backed by violin and upright bass,
and most of the audience is standing because they recognize this is an
anthem of sorts. He stretches out the verses, and at the end it sounds
like he is going to sing a new verse, or perhaps he is just repeating one,
clearly sending us some kind of message of warning and redemption.
Things have changed, and they have not. Bob seems to be overshadowed by
his reputation and his history and always in competition with his
catalogue, which keeps expanding with every release in the Bootleg series
and continues to show us what a great songwriter and performer he can be.
But no matter what persona he inhabits for a song, at some level the songs
are always about Bob and hir moral authority, and we are left wondering
how long he can deliver at a convincing level in live performance. Not a
word is spoken from stage over the course of twenty songs and almost two
hours. The band, Bob at centre, takes a bow and departs. The woman in
front of us checks her cell phone. Age: 77. Somebody behind shouts “Come
back, Bob”. The tour bus engines are already running. On the road again.
Review by Steinar Daler
I saw 4 concerts in Australia in August and was very happy with all of
them. The best Dylan-concerts I have seen for several years. So ofcours I
had to see some concerts at the US fall tour. The first one was Atlantic
City, and it was a good concert, but less dynamick than in Australia. The
venue was way to big and a lot of the audience were coming late, leaving
early and talking, talking, talking. Bob's vocals were super all the way,
but anyway, the whole experience made me not satisfied. Springfield and
Symfoni Hall was so much better even if the only change in the setlist was
a switch of the two last songs; Wathctower and Blowing in the wind. I
think Blowing is a perfect song for ending the concert. I loved a couple
of the new arrangements of Things Have Changed, Cry A While and not at
least Like A Rolling Stone. It seemed like most of the audience in this
nice venue also loved the new version of Rolling Stone. Simple Twist Of
Fate, Scarlet Town, Love Sick, Masterpiece, and not at least Don't Think
Twice, were highlights. Thunder On The Mountain and Early Roman Kings - a
song that never have been my favourite - are also getting better and
better. I really liked this concert, maybe even more than the fabolous
concerts In Australia. My wife loved it too. She always like seeing Dylan
clowning around in his Chaplin way on stage, and he was really doing some
strange things with his centre stage mike stand a couple of times when he
was not using it for singing. What a great concert! I have seen Bob in
concert 253 times since 1978 and the concert in Springfield will
defenitely get a place in my Top 20 list. Looking forward to see him in
Waterbury and the two first at Beacon. High score to the venue and
audience as well.
Review by Ernie Pancsofar
As I think about my Concert #29
I think about the following line:
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine [Indigo Girls]
Bob is definitely getting closer to fine
If the rearrangements of his work are any sign
That he hasn’t yet given us his masterpiece
The quality of his work is only on the increase.
The ages in the audience ranged from 5 to 77 plus
A quite young girl in the front row was among us.
The only thing we knew for sure
Is that her name was not Henrietta Porter!
Bob represents those of us of the older set
Who have not got tired of his omni-presence yet.
One highlight of this Symphony Hall night
That I can readily remember in hindsight
Was when out of the blue from the back stage comes
An impassioned 30 seconds by Receli on the drums
During Thunder on the Mountain - #16 in the set
This is a version I will not soon forget.
Stu is gone – He has met his fate
But, this Cowboy Band still captivates.
I wonder if at all, somehow,
Larry Campbell could take another bow
To finish out the remaining dates
And be back in tune with his music mates.
The encore contained a change in position
From previous shows’ commonly heard rendition
Why? Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine.
Bob doesn’t necessarily work by any one design.
There were many other highlights that could be talked about
The phrasing in LARS when the lines stretched out
And Don’t Think Twice, on the piano in rare form
Back to the 60s when a solo Bob was the norm.
Suffice it to say, I wonder what will be,
When in Waterbury, a new set beckons to me.
Review by Larry Fishman
To start the big question is Stu's departure. Per most things in
Dylan’s inner world, there were no clues or announcement but when these
fall shows started there was no Stu Kimball. The result is that the sound
of the band has radically changed. The vocals were upfront and center
and without a rhythm guitar and one less band member the remaining
instruments are more distinct - yet muted in the background. The dominant
Fall 2018 Dylan sound is his keyboards. This is the BOB DYLAN show and
the supporting cast is most certainly relegated to the role of the living
room furniture. The survivors placed deeper into the stage with Garnier
hugging Recile’s drum kit and rarely stepping out of the shadow. Sexton
- skinny as a hockey stick staying at the back end, grooving and nodding
and careful as ever not to upstage his employer And even with freed up
real estate, Donnie Herron, hatless, sitting obscured behind Bob. While
this all may sound like a criticism, I don’t mean for it to cast
aspersions on the show; it was fantastic. Face it, I am here for the Nobel
Prize winner on the ticket and he delivered.
Bob was in fine form. His voice was expressive, warm and fully in control.
The shrunken band must have been doing a lot of rehearsing as a number of
arrangements are fresh and new. LARS has been reinvested with a mid
verse stop and restart (Fantastic, man). Watchtower which has been
performed 300,000 times as a Jimi Hendrix cover has been reinvented into a
funky groove with a scat vocal. “Masterpiece” starts with just Bobby
and his keyboards with the band joining in mid second verse. Honest with
Me entirely reworked. Cry Awhile rearranged into what sounded so much like
Link Wray’s Rumble that I think his estate is due royalties. On and on
we go. We also get a fantastic dose of harmonica with some sweet, long
and beautiful solos all night long. Can’t beat that.
The verdict: our great inspirer continues to surprise, change and push
his art into new and fascinating directions. Bob was on. He was having
fun, fully in charge and buzzing with energy. This was a night full of
surprises, delights and a reminder that his body of work is unequalled.
A show for everyone. I’d call it a hybrid show. The last few years he
has done a handful of European festival shows where he does a truncated
greatest hits set. We got the hits, but also songs across his entire
catalog. This and That. The familiar turned into something else. A
wondrous night and I’m ready for the sequel in Waterbury.
Review by Wetros
I was in the fifth row and the sound in this beautiful theater was not
great from where I sat. Bob’s voice was hard to make out in the mix.
All the great reviews of his singing went past me this time, perhaps I was
too close. The new laid back arrangements were sweet and enjoyable. The
only really rollicking number was Thunder on the Mountain with a great
Recille solo near the end. Unfortunately, as is usually the case as the
tour comes to an end, there was some upsinging that was offset by some
great harp and wonderful piano playing. Also distracting was a really
selfish soul in the front row who just would not sit down, even after the
event staff tried to get her to do so. She was a lousy dancer and also
had dark glasses on which she constantly lifted up while standing in our
way. Get a life woman!
Review by Girl From the Farm Country
Today is Monday. We’ve stayed in a couple of Historic Hotels this week. One
was also a Doubletree Hilton, then a Marriott and a Sheraton. Last Night Bob
had a cold. Before the show began I sat in the balcony and watched things
happening at the edge of the stage with my binocs. Everyone wears black
so they blend in with the black curtain. Charlie Sexton appears wearing a
short black down jacket with a hood. When he turns briefly I can see the
grey hair and the glasses that frame a gaunt face. Earlier a few members of
the crew were having a pow wow center stage. The lead was pointing at
the giant speakeasy stagelight resting on the stage floor. It sat where Stu
Kimball usually stands. Maybe there was not enough room to hang the light
at the Symphony Hall in Springfield, maybe it’s always there, I can’t remember.
There were some new lights, small old fashioned like a ship’s lights, staged
around on poles and resting on speakers in spots. Bob has a still life resting on
a table made of speaker boxes. Placed carefully are the bust of a greek
goddess of love and the golden 13.5” Oscar, no longer draped with Mardis
Gras beads. Next to these sits one of the lanterns glowing like a burning
scented candle. That’s when I noticed behind the piano on another bench
rests a box of tissues and a cup of water or tea. If it had been Mavis’ stage I
would have known it was tea. “Hot Tea”. “If you want to know how to care
for your voice”, she says “ Drink hot tea with honey.”
Still looking into the dark corner, a couple of roadies appear and disappear,
Then Charlie returns and goes again, suddenly there is a woman. Dark skin,
soft eyes, she looks about 45, medium height, she comes out from behind
the black draped corner of the stage and peers out at the audience. She’s
wearing Bob’s sweatpants, the black ones with a white stripe. Maybe they’re
his maybe they’re not. Who is she? Maybe a friend or a relative. Cute face,
that’s what I was thinking, Face of a Teddy Bear. She disappears. Perhaps
she has been sent out to report back first hand what state the audience is in.
Has the tissue box been placed properly? Is the room filled yet, has everyone
been seated? Someone comes out a few minutes later and moves the cup
of water over behind the tissue box instead of in front.
The voice of the theater agent comes on, asks us to sequester all devices.
Then the music starts. A booming symphonic overture. I don’t know the name
of the familiar piece. Of course Bob has chosen it deliberately. Is this the venue
he has devised this dramatic introduction for? The loud and forceful musical
introduction is broadcast out over the crowd. The stage is dark. The boys take
their places in the dark. They begin to play their instruments along with the
symphony sounding in the background. Suddenly Bob’s modest form slips out
of the black curtains to take his place in the darkness behind the piano. Even
though it is still dark the audience begins to cheer and clap for his shadowy
He too joins the musical accompaniment on his piano. Minutes later the lights
come up and the symphony sound ceases. The band launches into their new
rendition of ‘Things Have Changed”. They begin their new rendition of a Bob
Dylan Concert in total. Almost nothing sounds like it sounded when we saw
him a year ago. Tonite we (my boyfriend and me), we are not revelers like
we were in Utica 3 days before. We are more students of the new set.
Waiting, listening, wondering what he is doing, what will he do? What is the
condition he is putting us in.
When I left the theater in Utica 3 nights ago it was cold, it was windy and
snow was blowing in my face. Nevertheless we were riding on a warm cloud.
The band, the night, the set had been magical, mesmerising and energizing.
The guys were wearing their silver shimmering suits. Bob was wearing a
sparkling suit with blue embroidery all down the front of his lapel like a
Christmas garland. We were sitting in the aisle seat row E & F just left of
center. Both of us on the aisle, one behind the other. Both of us leaning into
the empty space grooving and smiling. Bob was focused, energetic and really
enjoying himself. He moved around the stage in between songs behaving like
the control man behind the curtain at the Emerald City. Busy at his important
life altering task of performance theater. The band attentive and accurate
always bolstered by the expertise of the percussionist.
Tonite in Springfield the lights came up and the voice began to sing and
through my lense I could see the sinus compression, the weary cheeks, the
soar squinty eyes. I could hear it in his voice. Bobby has a cold. He powered
through the first 2 songs and things began to melt into perfection, regardless
of the full face of the virus he was fighting. “It ain’t me Babe..” he sings to
the fan who is front and center. “It ain’t me you’re looking for...” She has
removed her coat and dark glasses and is predictably dancing and pointing her
hand in the air. She seems content with her view this time, there will be no
refunds to process.
Bob and the band have transformed into a Theatrical Orchestra. They change
songs and instruments like they are changing scenes in a musical. Charlie dons
a new guitar, Donnie takes up the Ukulele. Tuning between songs we try to
recognize what they will play next. Even knowing the set list by heart there is
always a chance for a change in plan. Captured in the moment one forgets
what’s coming next, and won’t be so adept at recognizing it with only a few
chords. There are new licks to every old favorite. The songs that sound familiar
are all Tempest songs. Now it is these songs we love the most. Scarlet Town,
Bob moves to the center of the stage grabs his speakeasy microphone, starts
the country lyrics, the whining crooning, the raspy calling out of the Walnut
Groves, Mistress Mary, heaping prayers on his head, Little Boy Blue so brave so
true, he’ll weep for him has he’d weep for you. The song is a superb
masterpiece he paints with words and sound and voice.
But he’s got a bit distracted now, the microphone isn’t wrapped correctly, the
cord isn’t right. He twirls the stainless stand with its 3 protruding feet and
reaches back to inject the next phrase just in time. Then he twirls it some
more he tugs at the cord. Through the binocs this is a comedy. He is so
perturbed with the mic stand, but he persists
with the perfect injection of the lyrics between muddling over it. It’s almost an
intentional antic. He holds it sideways, tries to stand it back up, pulls it behind,
puts it back. Finally he walks right over to Tony with it who is playing base
along with the song Bob is still singing. He looks at Tony, shows him the stand
as if to say, What the heck can I do with this? Can’t you fix it! But Tony can
do nothing but play his own instrument. The song continues, Bob returns to
Tonite he wears a different suit, dark and green on black instead of blue. The
embroidery on the lapel is less flamboyant, like a willow branch laying down the
side of his breast. More new licks. Charlie’s job is not to sit in an old groove. It’s
to stay on his toes, work on his timing, grow and shine. His talent is limitless
and Bob means to test it all. There’s this strangely 50’s style jazz rock fusion
going on. A cross between Burt Bacharach, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and
About half way through the set the lights are dimmed and the boys begin to
play their instruments very lowly. The spotlight is only on Bob at his piano. He
sings and plays the piano alone in a recital style rendition of Don’t Think Twice.
Now as the lights go down between songs he returns to the microphone
stand, Tony checks it in the dark. It seems nothing can be done. It is twirled
again and put back. Bob will return to center stage for only one more song.
Love Sick. Again he sings to the woman in front, “I wish I never met you...”
But again futzing with the mic stand, it’s just all wrong.
I can feel through my binoculars what the problem is. He can’t move it with
ease. He has a way, a posture and the microphone stand is fighting him. It’s
just like when the cord is too short on your computer mouse. I can’t stand
that, I have to pull it and yank it out of the desk portal and free it for motion.
At one point he actually walks away from it and toward one of the other mic
stands that are set up at the front of the stage. He gets close but just gives
up. They are clearly not going to be set up for him, they are just there for
dramatic effect. He has to return to the annoying uncooperative tether. Once
again he holds the forked footed steel arm out behind his back and leans into
the 50’s style mouthpiece. “I’m Love Sick….” Even with all the distraction he
is right on top of the song. Always giving it that punch, that truth.
They complete the set with, Gotta Serve Somebody. “You may be a criminal,
but you’re gonna have to Serve...Some...Body.” Finally as the crowd cheers
and waits, claps and roars, the lights come up a bit but the band has left the
stage. Even though there will only be 2 more songs, the crew is busy,
replacing Charlie’s guitar and yes, someone comes out and gets the
microphone stand. They twirl it once or twice, not 10 times like Bob did
during Scarlet Town. The roadie goes to the front of the stage where the
long cord is laying, he picks it up and yanks about 10 or 12 feet out from the
depths of the cord pit, just like I’d have done with my computer cord.
I’m watching all this with humour, since I know they have been ordered to fix
it, even though everyone knows he won’t be using it again tonite. Finally the
band returns to start their new version of All Along the Watchtower. This
new version is strong and it’s all about a new base line. Tony is now sporting
his base guitar, not the stand up. He moves closer to the center of the stage
a bit and the thundering sound heats up. Again I am looking through my
binoculars from the balcony. At one point I saw Tony leave the stage, both
feet were off the floor at the same time. It was a little leap. I was quite
amazed. When have I ever seen a base player leap in joy while he is
performing in a symphonic orchestra. The band is really on fire with these
new arrangements. The challenge is thrilling to them. I noticed Donnie during
Thunder on the Mountain, moving back and forth across his pedal steel really
getting into it, head bobbing like he’s the lead guitarist. The final song begins,
Donnie takes up his violin, the beautiful and sweet Blowing in the Wind.
We grab our coats and leave just as soon as they make their stand of good
nite on the lighted stage and Bob steps through the black curtain once again.
Out on the street there were no barriers surrounding the truck’s with red
cabs, back doors open wide as the boys of the road are wheeling giant
numbered cases in a fury out of the Symphony Hall. “There’s another
Wardrobe” someone shouts. The magnitude of the production hits home.
The long trailer box is empty but for a few cases already stacked at the back.
The lights are bright inside and one of the crew waits at the end, a guy on
the ground is shouting orders. A few of us from the crowd are standing in
their way and looking down the alleyway along the side of the building where
the front bus is only a few 100 feet away. Already Charlie is standing at the
entrance to the bus facing the Symphony’s side door. Black down jacket with
a hood, glasses, he’s still wearing his dress shoes. Bob is already on the bus.
But it’s stuck there until the trucks are loaded and move out of the way. This
is the reason for the fury of the loading team. The police finally move us along.
It’s our final night at the hotel across the street, I’m tired, I’m sad that there
will not be another show to see for me. But I am so thankful that we did it.
That we grabbed those seats for Utica and spent the extra money on hotels
and waited in the Berkshires to see tonite’s show. It fuels me for another year.
“Went to see the Gypsy..”
Girl From the Farm Country
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