November 27, 2018
Review by Mike Skliar
And so it's back to the Beacon Theatre, for my first Bob Dylan show (and about 80th
overall since 1978) since almost exactly a year ago, which was also at the Beacon.
At an age (77) when most people have long settled into the comfortable and familiar,
Bob is still changing it up, and there were significant differences from "last year's Bob."
At that show last year, he was still singing five songs from the 'Sinatra' Standards'
material that has made up the last 3 studio albums. I loved his foray into these 'great
American Standards' and at the four or five shows I saw during those last few years,
those songs, sung center-stage, were dramatic go-for-broke highlights. He's
stopped playing those songs this time 'round, instead playing more of his own songs
both old and new. As he has been doing for at least the last 20 years, he
concentrates on more recent material, but everything he sang he seemed fully
invested in, and all in all it was a fantastic show.
Here's an interesting 21st century development- as we've all probably seen, concert
audiences in recent years seem to be less and less 'present' these days, occupying
themselves taking photos, videos, selfies, checking email, Facebook, etc. Well, Bob
s fighting back, and I do mean fighting. There were several announcements made
before the show stating 'there will be no photography or cellphone use during the
show- if you do attempt to take a photo, you will be immediately escorted out of
the theater, separated from your children, deported, and the Earth will be salted
and burned where you lived, removing all trace of your existence on this planet'. Ok,
no, that's not what they said (except for the first part) but they did explicitly say
you will be escorted from the theater if you take a photo. I'm kind of glad he's laid
down the law (and to live outside the law, you have to be more then honest, I
guess) as it did make the audience more 'present'- not only were people not filming,
taking photos, etc., but they were not even checking their cellphones every ten
minutes as usually happens. Strangely, I think it also had the effect of taming the
audience tiger too far. During a triumphant "Like a Rolling Stone", the audience on
the floor (where I was) all joyfully stood up by the second verse, then felt too guilty,
perhaps, to remain standing and sheepishly sat down. While I appreciated how we
all sat and behaved ourselves (and truth be told I'd rather be sitting for the show
then standing the whole time) it felt almost too polite.
On to the show, which as I said was fantastic. (at least to me- the couple sitting in
front of me were at their very first Dylan show- when I asked at the end how they
liked it, one paused for a while and then replied, 'I honestly don't know'. A great
response, in a way- if music and art does not challenge you, what will!)
There's now an old-style curtain in front of the stage, and when the curtain went
up, there was Bob and band (no, I didn't miss Stu- you heard more of Bob's piano,
and his playing is still quirky but fits the arrangements so well by this point). The
opener, "Things have changed' has indeed changed a little- its now much more
'major key' and fits some of the slightly eccentric arrangements of some other songs
in the set as well. (That being said, it wasn't necessarily better, only a bit different)
A fine 'It ain't me babe' next, nothing spectacular but well done and it's great to
hear that 1964 timeless and universal lyric. I was told that Ringo Starr was at the
show the night before, I wonder if he heard the 'no no no' chorus of the song and
thought about how it's a 'negative echo' of the early Beatles hit 'She loves you
(yeah yeah yeah)'.
"Highway 61"- again, fine but Bob and band hadn't yet achieved escape velocity.
That and more were achieved in the next song, "Simple twist of fate" -as fully lived-
in as any version, with a bonus of a great harmonica solo too.
Next up, a rearranged "Cry a While" (with a musical borrow/steal from Link Wray's
"Rumble"). The new arrangement nicely highlights the lyric. Between this and the
surf-rock-meets Beach Boys backing to the new 'Thunder on the Mountain', I'm
wondering whether Bob is exploring that late 50/s/early 60's 'surf instrumental feel'
the same way he had been exploring the 'Sinatra standards'. Hmm, next up,
early-mid-60's bossa-nova, perhaps? If there's one consistent thread in Bob's music
of the past 57 years, its that relentless and fearless exploration of every highway,
street and back alley in popular music of the last hundred years.
This might be the first live Dylan performance I've personally seen of 'When I paint
my masterpiece' and it was a riveting experience. He started with just him and the
piano and that warm and wise lyric never sounded better. A few fun lyric changes
were in there as well. One small negative note, although I had a great seat (about
4th row center) the sound was not that great- I wish his vocals were about 30%
louder in the mix for a lot of it, and that they rolled off the bass a bit more- there
was just a little too much 'mud' still in the sound, especially when Bob was singing
over the whole band- some of the new lyrics to several songs I was not able to fully
make out ('Serve Somebody' which was heavily re-written, was hard to understand
for me, which was too bad as what I caught of the new lyric was great)
"Honest with me' also had a somewhat new arrangement, though I believe its
essentially the same one I saw last year. Not my favorite of his songs, but the
arrangement was a huge improvement over that repetitive riff of the original
version, and I found it enjoyable.
'Tryin' to get to heaven' also was largely the same arrangement as last year's 'odd
but new' version. Somehow, however, it was way more successful than last year's
version- the quirkiness has now been fully integrated, and its one of his best new
songs, with great lyric phrasing. (It's also the song that provides the great
counterpoint to Like a Rolling Stone's 'when you ain't got nothing, you got nothing
to lose', with the line 'when you think that you've lost everything, you find out you
can always lose a little more'). All in all, an amazing version of a great song.
Center stage, with just awkward mic-stand in hand, Bob sang the spooky poetry of
'Scarlet Town' while the band percolated an Eastern-inflected tapestry behind him.
This was the most effective version I've seen of this song and gave me new
appreciation for all the wonderfully odd language and phrasing. Then came 'To
make you feel my love'- normally I'm not a huge fan of this 'hit-by way of a million
cover versions, but this was effective and well done, with some nice harmonica as
well. A somewhat strangely arranged 'Pay in Blood' was next, a song I still don't
quite know what to make of, but it was well-delivered.
And now, live before our very eyes, the anthem that used to be at every show
back in the day, then disappeared, put in deep storage for a few years and is now
backÖ Ladies and gentlemen, here's "Like a Rolling Stone"! This was a powerful
re-working of the song, wherein he deconstructs the end of each verse, giving
every word that extra sting that nails it and amplifies both the bite and the
underlying humanity. The crowd (briefly, as I said before) was on its feet,
deservedly so, and this was one of the great Bob-in-concert moments.
A slinky, almost subdued, yet perhaps more effective for it version of 'Early roman
kings' was next, and Bob's joy at delivering lines like 'they're peddlers and they're
meddlers' was plain.
And next, another huge highlight, maybe the highlight of the show- a tender,
dramatic and emotional version of 'Don't think twice, it's alright' with mostly just the
piano and Tony's bowed bass for accompaniment. Its got that 'torch song' feel that
he gave 'tangled up in blue' and 'I want you' from way back at my first show in 1978.
As a friend texted me after the show 'the best version ever!" Bob exploits every
note of this expressive and rangy melody, going all the way up to notes so high I
thought he would never reach them again, and singing softly and tenderly as befits
the song. He played a great harmonica solo on this song as well.
"Love Sick" is another song that just gets better and better, and tonight was as fine
a version as I've heard. There's a little less 'angst' in the music, which flows
somewhat more evenly, but its just as effective. I've never warmed to "Thunder on
the Mountain' and while this (also stolen a bit) surf-arrangement helps, its still
somehow something I like but don't particularly love. Did get a few handkerchiefs
waving in the air during the requisite line obliquely calling for same, and every 77-year
old performer doing what Bob does should be able to proudly shout 'my bell still rings'.
A gently sung (tho the gentle-turns to venom lyric always sat with me oddly) "Soon
after midnight' was next-musically, still the same arrangement which echoes more of
that 1950's early rock/pop music. Set ender was a surprisingly 'rocked out' 'Gotta
Serve Somebody" which was so rearranged that I almost didn't recognize it until the
chorus. I wish the vocal was turned up more for this as he had some great new
verses, but it was hard to hear everything.
The first encore was a truly odd but inspiring 'almost Jamaican/reggae/ska' version of
"All along the watchtower". Of course, in addition to a totally new rhythm, he's
completely changed the chords, bringing in those three famous descending
minor-major-major chords only at the end, then going off on a totally new set of
chords for a bit before landing where it started on a spooky Islands vibe. I need to
hear this one again! (and the rest of the show). And to cap it all off, that violin
driven 'Blowin' in the Wind', which is always welcome and effective, and then the
proverbial (and real) curtain came down, and there it was- Bob, the late 2018
model, still out there, still confounding expectations since 1962, still heading for
another joint, still busy being born.
Review by Barry Gloffke
I walk out into a cool late autumn evening in NYC smiling from ear to ear. Four out
of seven Beacon shows are in the books. From my perspective tonight's 4th
concert was close to perfect.
Bob's voice was crisp and clear. Barely a note was missed. He nailed nearly every
word and he didnít garble many. He accentuated and punctuated his lyrics with
long notes and short growls. His piano playing was sensational. His harmonica work
was passionate. The Cowboy band was spot on. There was fantastic interplay
between all the players. The rockers rocked. The blues were raw. The slow songs
were mesmerizing. Every song was delivered with passion and the possibility of
greatness. Even PAY IN BLOOD was a notch above the previous shows. Bob went
out a limb several times and never fell off.
There were chaotic moments such as in TRYIN' TO GET TO HEAVEN when at one
point it seemed as if the song was about to fall apart, with crescendos of guitars,
piano and drums crashing into one another, only to be rescued by a quick riff or a
change in melody structure. Riveting. There were explosive moments such as the
rockiní, rolliní GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY, yeah!, or the reeling and raucous
THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN, drums Goerge!. There were moments of raw
musical prowess in CRY A WHILE and EARLY ROMAN KINGS. There were ominous
rumblings via SCARLET TOWN and LOVE SICK. And lastly, there were tender
moments such as the exquisitely beautiful rendering of WHEN I PAINT MY
MASTERPIECE or the heart wrenching version of DONíT THINK TWICE, ITíS
ALRIGHT. Tenderness, loneliness, despair and defianceÖ sometimes in one song,
sometimes all within one lineÖ unreal! This is why I keep going to these shows.
The icing on the cake tonight was a spectacular BLOWINí IN THE WIND featuring
outstanding piano and harp work from Bob. Sweet!!
Tip of my hat to Bob and the Cowboys. See you Bobcats on Thursday.
Review by Laurette Maillet
I spent 1 hour and a half in the cold trying to lift my spirit so I would , at least, look
high spirited for anyone willing to help me or just address me.
I was extremely surprised then when 2 guys walked up to me and simply said "we
have a miracle ticket, follow us". The ticket was on a telephone.
I could hardly believe it. It took me minutes to recover, stop checking, and finaly ask
why they would give me that ticket.
The answer was simple ; Kevin's mother was sick and couldn't make it to the show.
They figure out I was a good candidate for the seat.
Kevin and Frankie are extraordinary sweet, kind and considerate.
We take our seats ; orchestra, row L, seats on the aisle and we chat about Bob Dylan
and the 60's until the music comes on.
Kevin's mother had been in Woodstock. Yes. The real one.
Nice, simple, pleasant conversation. And they know Dylan songs and they are ready
So my spirit is high when Bob appears at the piano. Be the Dylan of the 60's or the
Dylan of 2018....here he is!
His suit is black with shining red/maroon embroidery in front.
Doing his job, his mission. Take it or leave it.
The setlist is the same. So what? We all know it by now. There will be few changes ,
maybe not one change at all.
I think the setlist is correctly balanced , songs ranging from 63 to 2014.
From sweet and soft melody. "don't think twice" almost done as a Folk song with
Bob almost alone on piano (George left the stage)...to some hard Rock and Roll,
including the famous "Like a rolling stone"
-but I don't get the point when I see some folks in front row, who paid 600$ for a
seat, getting wild on
"How does it feel to be without a home, with no direction home, like a complete
unknown, like a rolling stone"
I guess we don't have the same perception of the song-
highway 61" and a thunderous "Thunder on the mountain"...
At the end of "make you feel my love" Bob picks up the wrong harmonica but
rapidly switches it and the final is grandiose.
Each song for me is a wonder, even the one I like the least "trying to get to
The audiance reacts nicely but for what reasons?
Nostalgia from the past? For 1 hour and 40 minutes?
My friends are sensible to the harmonica playing, as they are musiciens, precisely
I hear the guy on my left mentioning something about a guitar.
Yes, people have different expectations.
It was such a struggle for me to get in, that I can be just appreciative.
But, seriously, I believe the show was great.
The best it could be if you go with an open mind and open heart.
Bobby Dylan ain't your clown!
He's an Artist.
Could you ask Picasso to re-paint Guernica in your living room just because you paid
a ticket for the exhibition?
Oh well! No reason to b e angry....
The encore is with a standing public. My 2 friends even manage to get to the front.
A standing ovation well deserved.
Thank you Bobby and the Band.
See you on Thursday night....
In the mid time...I will go serve somebody!
Review by Gary Jacobson
My gut and my brain tell me that Bob is delivering some comfort to the battered
masses all around. A year ago I thought he was into deconstruction and alienation.
The delivery now brings hope. On many fronts itís the opposite of the mahem
making the news.
Reworkings of his timeless songs replace American Songbook standards. He owns
his songs and he lets you know it . Itís been mentioned that the set would be
good as a live album. I agree but Iíd nix maybe three songs that have been
played a lot since 2000.
Thereís a lot more space for each instrument, and each band member does their
thing which includes working with the others to help them do their thing. Bob is
upfront and the piano drives the proceedings. The show was a trip down memory
ane washed in American pop styles. Bobís voice is proof that change is possible.
Not easy easy, but rewarding listening. Big presence. Moving in the right direction.
Not much to complain about and a lot to enjoy.
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