page by Bill Pagel
Review by Willy Gissen
A Dylan Diary: Concert Seven, Kingston RI
Kingston, RI, November 20-Well, my odyssey is coming to an end. Kingston
is the penultimate concert in my eight-concert trip with Wilkes-Barre to
conclude things tomorrow night. And yet I'm still seeing new things from
the audience and Dylan. The concert tonight was on the campus of the
University of Rhode Island, and I think the college setting suits Dylan
well. I was pleased to see the audience break out in spontaneous, rhythmic
clapping when he played "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," and I think
Dylan looked pleased, too. Perhaps that's why he gave us such a long
version of "All Along the Watchtower" at the end with more jamming and
improvisation than is normally the case. And he also waved goodbye with
his guitar, a particularly benevolent gesture for him.
Other highlights tonight included an obscure opening song, "To be Alone
with You," from Dylan's country album, Nashville Skyline, as well as great
versions of Mr. Tambourine Man and Ramona, though I've heard Dylan do
these in concert in previous years.
Just one comment on "Summer Days." I can see how Dylan relies on it to be
the final song of his main set, using the jazz and the frenzy of
improvisation to get the audience all pumped up, but I personally think he
is too good an artist to need to always play it for the conclusion. I'm
sure with a little thought he could vary the closing of his main set with
other songs that would have just as big an impact.
Finally, when I left the Ryan Center tonight, contemplating that at least
I wouldn't have to drive through a Nor'Easter to get back home like the
last two concerts, what did I see but fog. I groaned inwardly, but
fortunately the fog cleared up after a few miles.
(to be continued)
Review by Jonathan Edwards
The Ryan Center makes you wonder if the Tsongas Arena was air-lifted from
Lowell, Mass. and dropped amidst the "Athletic Complex" at the University
of Rhode Island. As one who attended 11/12/00 in the gym at URI, and as
one who appreciated the sock-hop atmosphere created by that venue, this
miniature version of those larger soulless arenas such as the
Fleet-Staples-MCI Center did not bode well. A number of people outside
the venue had waited most of the day, so they claimed, which struck my
companion and I as rather humorous considering that those arriving an hour
or so before show time were among the first 50 people in line. The most
audible of those in sleeping bags encountered a faulty turnstile on her
way in, giving occasion for further noises of displeasure when she was, in
fact, the seventh person in the building rather than the first. She
shoved her way up front eventually, regardless.
Excepting Newport, which sort-of counted, I had not seen Bob for a couple
of years. I came of age during the glory days of the mid-90's, when on a
nightly basis it seemed Dylan surprised himself and his audience with the
quality of his musicianship, the resurrection of his showmanship, and the
rebirth of joy that he found in performing--no matter how hard he tried
not to smile on stage. Concerts such as Charleston WVa in autumn 1996,
and Birmingham, AL in Feb. '99 were probably the strongest I have
witnessed, along with Lowel's 2000 concert, where the dueling guitar tag
in "Country Pie," played adjacent to the apocalyptic eschatology of "The
Wicked Messanger" and "God Knows" signaled a sort of warning of the folly
we all were inhabiting. "Cat's in the Well" and "10,000 Men" the
following night in Kingston reminded us as well that those were dire
times: no president could be elected, the middle east was exploding, and
in a somewhat revelatory (though as true Dylan fans understand--no less
significant) twi But that makes little nevermind, as it were. What had
impressed me in recent concerts--Lowell and Kingston 1--was the tightness
of the band. "His Band" might not have the personality of The Band, but
in many ways their playing can exceed that of The Band. What Newport and
Kingston 2 have confirmed for me, in no ambiguous terms, is that David
Kemper was the key to His Band. I say this with the intention of giving
George Receli the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's not as bad as he
seems--maybe the arrangements haven't been adjusted enough to compensate
for losing the deft, dynamically diverse touch of Kemper for the
two-fisted flogging of Receli's style. I don't know. Does anyone
remember how Winston Watson would leave the stage for the "acoustic" set
in the early 90's? Perhaps that move is in order again with Receli. He
does have a nice smile and seem like an affable person. (I have seen some
reference to this in prior postings but have not kept up with this
Another minor criticism of the "new" format--new to me at least--is the
increasingly complex structure of the setlists. Gone is the 6 electric, 3
acoustic, 3 electric, 3 "encore" format and the more recent 6a,6e,3
mixed+encore. I could not have articulated this before last night, but the
listener becomes bogged down somewhere between songs 8-12. She loses her
place. The constant switching doesn't give any framework for the
audience, or any momentum or sense of trajectory for Bob and His Band.
Kingston 2, for instance, was the first time that I found the opening two
songs were stronger, more intense performances than those farther on down
the line. There was no rise from the slow #2 to "Watchtower" in #3, off
again a little with #4 (maybe from Blood on the Tracks) before building
with #5 to the inevitable electric rocker (often "Silvio") that was
#6--leading into the "acoustic" format. There was a certain rhythm to a
Bob Dylan concert; it is different now, which is probably good, but
requires some grow That said, the piano is a good addition to the mix, and
Bob's idiosyncratic playing makes the songs interesting. It also seems to
account for the loss of tightness in His Band. Dylan has some good
posturing created by leaning against the piano with his left hand
supporting him and delivering the words with a sarcastic, stylized sneer.
Charlie Sexton likes to lasso his guitar cord, and appears to have a good
time always. Larry Campbell seems somewhat less doe-eyed than he did when
he replaced John Jackson, and he appears settled in his role as
multi-instrumentalist, happy for Sexton to leap about while Campbell
smiles and strokes that facial hair. Receli, gosh, he just looks like a
nice guy. Maybe he could play every song with brushes.
Last night's Kingston show was good. It wasn't great, and let no one
deceive that it was. "To Be Alone with You" and "You Ain't Going Nowhere"
started out promisingly before Bob trotted out "Highway 61" for one of
those 10 minute guitarathons that even the Allaman Brothers Band has
abandoned as pointless and tedious. "End of the Innocence" was a good
thought, but the enunciation wasn't all that clear on the first and third
verses. "Things Have Changed" might've been the best performance of the
evening, followed by a disappointing "Brown Sugar." There are garage
bands comprised of young teenagers across the US that perform it better.
"Ramona" was a little disappointing, long as I've waited to hear it.
"Tambourine Man" is always a treat, but this arrangement holds no candle
to the one he abandoned two or three years ago. "It's Alright Ma" has a
fun new arrangement, but one grows bored of it after a while. This is a
song that requires intimacy precisely because of its repetitiousness, and
this treatme The strongest consecutive songs were "Drifter's Escape,"
"Shelter from the Storm" and "Old Man." The arangement for "Drifter"
(which I believe to cop off of Hendrix?) is the way that song should be
played, and signals what I find to be a new sort of "Weird American music"
of sorts--the apocalyptic eschatology of rock n' roll. This is where
*John Wesley Harding* meets *Under the Red Sky.* Many people compare
Dylan and Jesus in some form or fashion, but the only thing they have in
common is that they don't like you and are appalled at the condition of
our social order (and the Jewish thing). "Shelter" works well in the
arrangement and was well performed. "Old Man" works nicely, and is an
exercise in performative irony.
Bob should perform "Wiggle Wiggle" twice in one concert before"Honest with
Me" ever gets played. "Don't Think Twice"--I didn't.
"High Water" is a song I've been excited to hear since the release of
*"Love & Theft"*--which is probably why the really annoying teenaged girl
started dancing and swinging her ponytail in my face in the middle of it.
Why do these people always find me? "Mutineer" seemed lovely, and it made
me even more frustrated when said teenager began chatting loudly with her
friends--all the while bumping me. (As a course of ettiquette for
concerts, in a General Admission setting, closeness is to be expected.
Dancing is acceptable. I'll even let a couple of people weasel in front
of me in the understanding that they'll be courteous in return. But if I
do let you up there (which I especially am apt to do to let kids get a
closer look) don't swing your hair in my face, elbow me, grind with me,
and have loud conversations. It is wrong and sooner or later someone
should get hurt.) "Mutineer" could, otherwise, have been the evening's
highlight. "Bye and Bye" was nice, as was "Summer Days" when, after 5
minutes of p Bob played an encore! It was incredible--I mean, we all
stamped our feet and lit lighters and pleaded for him to come back out and
do another song, and he did TWO! Wow, what a guy! He must've liked the
audience! "Blowing in the Wind" sounds like a laxative jingle--this is a
terrible arrangement (to the point that one wonders if Dylan isn't having
a good laugh with this treatment of his "ANTHEM"). "Watchtower" is always
good, and a fitting closer.
Bob seems happy because he is exploring new terrain. The performances
were not as good as they have been in the past, but in some cases they
were more interesting. He has found a place musically and a band with
which he can strike the happy medium of rehearsal and variety in his
concerts. I predict that in a year these fall concerts will seem sloppy,
and in some cases gorgeous, when compared to what Dylan and His Band will
sound like when they figure out this piano thing and the drummer who plays
too loud thing.
Review by Cary Krosinsky
Much better venue and crowd tonight than at Hartford. This was a fairly
enthusiastic crowd (as far as these things go) - responding vigorously
after each song, although mostly sitting on their hands during songs
(which I don't get - can someone explain this to me??). Also, almost no
security at the door as opposed to Hartford's very tight checking -
strange, but refreshing.
The relatively new Ryan Center at URI is a pretty good place to see Bob -
it was just about full, and not too cavernous, with good sight lines for
all, although its' newness makes it feel a bit antiseptic.
To Be Alone With You was a nice opener, got things going with a song that
few in the crowd recognised.
You Ain't Going Nowhere was nice, but not as good as the version you can
hear from MSG on Bob's website.
Highway 61 was oddly placed at Song 3, and was a much more toned down
version - Bob's trying to give this old nugget some new life, which is
always welcome, but it didn't really fly, but it might soon. Larry was
absent as he strangely was most of the night. He played some nice mandolin
and pedal steel fills per usual, and contributed to ensemble jams, but
didn't play any lead at all, which was different from any show I've seen
recently, and took away a bit from some of the electric songs, including
this one. Bob's harp lead at the end was sweet.
The setlist looks interesting for the first 3 songs, and they were good,
but not great, to be honest.
The End of the Innocence - Bob was almost spitting this one at the
audience, almost saying to them - "don't you get it?" (I'm not sure all of
Things Have Changed was a throwaway - I think Bob wished he hadn't chosen
this half way through.
Brown Sugar - another solid version - nice if you haven't seen it - no big
deal if you have.
To Ramona is where things got interesting. An excellent, unique version of
a wonderful song, and the first highlight of the evening. If you haven't
listened to a version of this while reading the lyrics, do so immediately,
and this song will be transformed for you.
It's Alright Ma followed, and another solid, excellent version of a song
that seems as current as ever. Almost want to call this redo the "Love and
Theft" version - it works really well, and Bob's right on it.
Mr. Tambourine Man, then, and an outstanding version, sang uniquely (what
else is new) - wonderful stuff.
Drifter's Escape rocked out, with Bob on the lyrics nicely - better than
average version, this one. 4 hot songs in a row now.
Shelter from the Storm, new and not so improved, but a nice rendition,
with jams being extended a little more - this song will evolve over time,
if you, like me, don't really like this reading.
Old Man was better than Hartford, which was good. May have been the best
version of this yet - was really right on the money in all ways.
Honest with Me was a throwaway, and again, Larry wasn't up to speed
(what's with that?). Hartford's version was much better.
Don't Think Twice - absolutely outstanding. Very, very quietly played.
Quite something, and worth getting the tapes for this alone. Bob's been
kicking on the acoustic numbers the last few shows. Over the last two
nights, that's a run of Girl of the North Country, Visions of Johanna, My
Back Pages, To Ramona, Mr. Tambourine Man and Don't Think Twice all well
done and uniquely so.
High Water was another throwaway, Hartford having been much better.
Mutineer - gorgeous as ever. Rock the boat, Bob.
Bye and Bye was beautifully low key, and had a very nice, subtle jam.
Summer Days' jam was real and spectacular, and very different than the
previous one in Hartford. Fascinating in comparison - even when the
setlists are similar, or portions are, the versions can be so different
that it doesn't matter.
Encores were standard and well done.
In all, another solid show, with great highlights, from The Man. Over 40
years of performances, and at the end of a long tour, and seemingly
endless one at that, going through the motions at times (who wouldn't or
couldn't), but coming up with great versions of classics and new songs.
Keep on keeping it fresh Bob, for you and us.
We out here really appreciate what you're doing.
Review by Larry Fishman
First some General comments:
Oh to briefly follow Bob up and down the East coast on this Piano
Man/VH1/Bob's Tribute to 70's Rock leg of the N.E.T. The fall shows
should be nicknamed in the Dylan pool, don't you think.
First, I must say the bookings have been frickin' miserable. All of the
shows in too large sheds with too many empty seats. The Boston show a
year ago was packed to the gills, this time half full. 2 Shows at MSG
should have condensed into one sold out affair. Its time for these
promoters to go back to mid size theatres for this septuagenarian.
Anyways, the Ryan Center is a bit more modest than MSG, Hartford & Boston
so it felt like a nice crowd - a bit older & grayer than the previous
The Music: This band has changed dramatically and has become a rock and
blues unit as opposed to the country & Western flavor of the last few
years. Covers of the Stanley Brothers replaced by more modern writers.
The group has jelled well with Bob at the electric piano and with Sexton &
Campbell taking frequent leads all nite long. Often the guitar men
pulling back from the microphone and improvising to great effect.
Bob looked fine in his black suit with white highlights enjoying the night
at his command post/piano - frequently giving a thumbs up to Garnier &
Recelli at the end songs displaying his pleasure. Anchored at the
keyboards, he no longer duckwalks and prattles, but really leans into the
microphone as he stabs at the keys. Okay, on to the show:
1. To Be Alone With You. The first of the aforementioned Sexton &
Campbell solo's thus beginning the night. The voice hoarse, the crowd
confused, I dug the opening tune but, it's still a slow start.
2. You Ain't Going Nowhere With a groovey, rock arrangement and sealed
by a short, sweet harp solo, one of the highlights of the evenings. Played
with panache in the Yeah Heavy spot of a few notes before. While not the
same surprise (I still can't get that one out of my head), this was
performed equally well.
3. Highway 61 Revisited. The tune benefiting from the addition of
Zimmy's keyboards, a song that I have tired of in concert injected with
some new life. Dylan following his twin guitar boys with a solo of his
own on piano ala Jerry Lee Lewis.
4. End of the Innocence. Kinda cool to hear Bob sweetly hitting the high
notes, Don Henley is a miserable, self righteous slug - a man with no
soul. And while he has essentially written and rewritten the same song
for 30 years this is probably the best composition of his overrated
5. Things Have Changed. Another song that benefited from keyboards -
performed snugly. The piano giving the song a tighter more structured
6. Brown Sugar. Well, It's a big time crowd pleaser so is there really
anything wrong with that. It is because it's so familiar? Or is because
Bob Dylan is performing "Brown Sugar?" I don't know. I'm glad he
performed these songs on this leg & I would have been pissed off to have
never caught these tunes live, but I sure as hell hope he drops them by
the next time he comes around. BTW, It's a messy, but faithful version of
7. To Ramona Nice acoustic take.
8. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) The rearranged version is a good
example of the direction of the band. Played as a bluesy romp, I think
his acoustic takes the last couple of years were a bit more effective.
However, he was really spitting out the lyrics while sneering & leaning
into the mike.
9. Mr. Tambourine Man. Another highlight of the evening, sung with a
soft hoarse voice, damn, he even nailed his own guitar solo. The band
10. Drifter's Escape. Screeched out in the Wicked Messenger styled
arrangement, a bit of punky, chaotic and noisy mayhem.
11. Shelter From The Storm It took the fourth night for me to fall in
love to this reworked - almost sing songy- version with the song title
repeated twice after each stanza. "I offered up my innocence and got
repaid with scorn" Oooo the blood is still on the tracks
12. Old Man The crowd again responded to the familiar classic rock radio
staple. Showcasing Recelli's touch em all and touch em frequently style
of drumming, its ironic that the covers are all straight takes and his own
tunes are the ones that he takes liberties with. Hmmm.
13. Honest With Me. Is anyone else as sick of this song as I am? Think
it's one of the weaker offering from L&T.
14. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright. Beautiful performance, Bob sung it
small + low, slightly hunched over the center microphone with heart +
feeling. The band lost its way briefly during the improvisational jam,
but found it's out and ended strongly.
15. High Water While I prefer the original banjo based arrangement, the
boys really nailed it and turned it into rockin party. Charlie Sexton has
really establishing himself front and center as the best lead axe for
Dylan since G.E. Smith on a good night. The guy has some magic tricks.
16. Mutineer. This Zevon song was prettiest and most effective cover of
the night. While the crowd was disconnected, I've enjoyed this one each
17. Bye & Bye Came across a bit of a flat footed bore, just not the
greatest song for an arena, a piano bar maybe, but not here.
18. Summer Days. Has become the fan favorite with its Johnny B. Goode
arrangement and extended band whirlwind jam. My friend Ellen seemed to
feel that any wedding band can do much the same - Havana Gilla anyone? - I
still enjoyed the three guitar slingers flailing away and watching the
19. Blowin in the Wind. I never tire of this song if only that every
time I hear it I remember the Peter Paul & Mary version a little less.
20. All Along the Watchtower You could say the fifth cover song of the
night, I'd love to se Bob try one with an acoustic John Wesley Hardin tip,
but that ain't going to be.
All in all, a good but not spectacular evening. Not as good as Hartford,
the best of the shows I saw, but I wouldn't have missed this one for the
page by Bill Pagel
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