November 28, 2014
Review by Pablo Davies
Shortly after eight o’clock Bob Dylan and his band walked slowly on to
the darkened stage to the sound of a slowly strummed guitar like a phantom
gang of outlaw musicians looking for a piece of the action, They just
stood there in the shadows for a few moments surveying the scene. As the
stage lights went up a notch the man in a long black coat was revealed
standing back from the front of the stage and looking out
from under the pulled down brim of his white hat like a gun slinger
assessing his chances of getting out of the situation alive. He walked
purposefully to the microphone center stage and launched in to a
rollicking version of “Things Have Changed” his voice clear, strong
and confident. “Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m just passing through.”
At the end of the song he struck a pose and stood stock still with his
hand on his hip for a few moments gazing out in to the crowd. Next up was
“She Belongs to Me” which although being almost fifty years old
sounded completely fresh and alive and was sung and played with great
energy. For “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” Bob moved to the grand piano.
His playing was fluid and strong and he really drove the band forward with
his keyboard work which was much more to the forefront than on previous
tours. It goes without saying that the band was flawless but they also
seemed to play with a new level of nuance and subtlety woven around
Bob’s lead. “Working Man’s Blues” found Bob back at center stage
as he reminded us “Some people never worked a day in their lives.” It
was back to the piano for an acoustic sounding “Waiting For You” and a
fast rocking “Duquesne Whistle” and then a return to center stage for
“Pay in Blood” followed by “Tangled Up in Blue” and then “Love
Sick”. The songs flowed from one to the next and the show was starting
to take shape as seamless continuous performance with lyrical threads and
plots binding things together rather than a group of separate songs.
After the break the show continued with “High Water (for Charlie
Patton)” with superb banjo work by Donnie underpinning the song and then
with “Simple Twist of Fate” which produced some really wonderful harp
work by Bob with the band carefully responding to his lead. Breathtaking.
Bob went back to the piano stool for “Early Roman Kings” and then back
to the stage mike for a plaintive “Forgetful Heart”. As is always the
case with his songs it was sensitive but shot through with honesty and
truth and pulling no punches. At this point the momentum was high and we
heard animated and robust renditions of “Spirit on the Water”, “
Scarlet Town” and “Soon After Midnight”. For the last song of the
set Bob sang even more strongly, clearly and powerfully for a superb
version of the slow paced killer “Long and Wasted Years”. “I think
that when my back was turned the whole world behind me burned.” Immense.
The encore saw Bob back behind the piano for a new arrangement of
“Blowing in the Wind” which sounded as if it had been written for the
piano rather than the guitar. Completely fresh and alive in every way. The
closing number was “Stay With Me” which was sung with a high level of
real emotion. “Should my heart not be humble, should my eyes fail to
see, Should my feet sometimes stumble on the way, stay with me.” Don’t
worry, Bob. We will.
Review by Billy Heller
At 73, Bob Dylan easily could have packed it in a few years back and lived
off his Social Security check. Instead, he continues on what’s billed as
The Never-Ending Tour.
This year’s version hit Dylan’s old stomping grounds, New York City, Friday
night for the first of five shows at the Beacon Theatre. And the results
were satisfying at the very least.
He began the show promptly, at just four minutes past the 8 p.m. start
listed in the tickets, centerstage at the mike, wearing a white bolero hat,
lose white button-down shirt with a white tie or scarf and a thigh-length
black jacket with white piping.
Dylan got right into “Things Have Changed,” his Oscar-winning song from
“Wonder Boys” — and later used for a car commercial (yeah, things have
changed). His voice was froggy and his five-piece band was hot.
He followed that with “She Belongs To Me,” from 1965’s “Bringing It All
Back Home. It was one of only two songs from the ’60s Dylan pulled out
of his bolero for his 19-song, two-hour show (including a 20 intermission).
For this one, he broke out the harmonica, which got the sold-out crowd
I’ll admit to being partial to early Dylan, so I thought I’d be disappointed
with the paucity of songs from that era. But the highlight of the show
didn’t come from the few “Blood on the Tracks” and earlier tunes. He
played six songs from his last studio album, “Tempest,” from two years
ago. And for that album’s “Duquesne Whistle, which Dylan sang from the
baby grand piano to the side of the stage. Dylan and His Band (as opposed
to The Band, with whom he used to perform back in the day) put out a
finger-snapping, head bopping boogie-woogie rockabilly tune that you
could almost see teens from the ’40s and ’50s dancing wildly, tossing
themselves in the air, to the tune. Plus, who doesn’t like a good train
Eight songs in, we got “Tangled Up In Blue,” from “Blood on the Tracks.”
As he changed the phrasing and emphasis of different words — like he
always does when performing his classics — the crowd gave a mighty roar
each time the chorus “Tangled Up In Blue”came around. His other “Blood
On the Tracks” number was a “Simple Twist of Fate.” And just before the
intermission, lead guitar Charlie Sexton, shot out a few jolts of fuzzy electric
guitar to get everyone’s attention (as if Dylan didn’t have it already) leading
into the bitter “Love Sick.” “My feet are tired, my brain is wired … I’m sick
of Love,” Dylan growled. Then he told us he and the band were taking a
break and would be back. The only thing he said all night.
While a number of the songs sounded too similar, thanks to the singer’s
chronically horse-sounding and sometimes montone-ish voice, there were
plenty of different styles to make up for that. There was the boogie-woogie
rockabilly mentioned above, a Latin-tinged, syncopated hand-clapper in
“Beyond Here Lies Nothing” from 2009 and plenty of country (thank you
Donnie Herron and your pedal steel, electric mandolin and banjo), and
some swing, most notable on “Sprit On the Water,”from “Modern Times.”
Dylan seemed to be enjoying himself. And at times, he was, dare I say it,
jaunty. He stepped away from the mike on a number of songs, set his legs
apart, put his left hand on his hip and nodded to the music. And while he
was no Iggy Azalea when it comes to dancing onstage, he did a bit of a
shuffle at times and almost smiled, too.
And he was also unflappable. During “Spirit On the Water,” a “fan” jumped
up onstage and started dancing. He was tackled off the stage by security,
and Dylan, playing his piano near the commotion, didn’t miss a beat. (The
crowd cheered as the interloper was ejected.)
After the last of the “Tempest” songs, “Long and Wasted Years,” Dylan
and his guys left the stage, returning for the inevitable encore —
two songs worth.
Dylan sat at the piano for “Blowin’ In the Wind,” the 1963 great best-known
as a guitar song, as he seemed like he might be telling his grandkids
something: “You know, the answer, my friends is …”
The finale was unlikely, but something he plays most every night on this
tour: “Stay With Me,” a song Frank Sinatra recorded, also in 1963, for a
movie, “The Cardinal.
Whatever the expectations are of Bob Dylan, there is no doubt he does
it his way.
Webmaster's note: Billy Heller's review originally appeared in the New York
Post on November 29, 2014. He has graciously granted me permission to
post it here.
Review by Phil Hale
I last saw Dylan at the cavernous Barclay Center in 2012. When this
year’s dates were announced I decided that I would go to all 5 nights.
It’s a big commitment financially and the static set list gave me pause
for thought but I figured what the hell, it may be the last chance I get
to see 5 consecutive performances. Not surprisingly my wife and friends
have been giving me a lot of looks that have involved raised eyebrows and
Since buying the tickets I have hesitantly and somewhat nervously been
reading reviews and viewing occasional YouTube videos. I took the reviews
with a pinch of salt, many have been dripping with high praise but I
The last couple of times that I saw him at Bethel and the aforementioned
Barclay Center I was encouraged that playing the baby grand instead of
electric piano seemed to have reinvigorated Bob. Nonetheless it was hard
to see where he could really go performance wise. His voice seemed to be a
limiting factor in what he could mine from older material and he had only
introduced a couple of the Tempest songs to the set, Early Roman Kings and
Soon After Midnight, neither of which were stand outs.
I attended my first Dylan concert in 1981 and in the last few years I had
resigned myself to faithfully attending, being grateful that it was still
possible to see him live, finding moments of delight, reflecting on the
man’s genius but not expecting to be truly blown away again. On Friday
night those assumptions were turned on their head.
From the opening lines of Things Have Changed Dylan gave as controlled and
powerful a performance as I have seen in the 40 + occasions that I have
seen him perform live. He completely owned the Beacon. His vocals are
outstanding, he has reinvented his voice (just to be clear I have never
thought his voice was anything but central to his talent and it was the
reason his music first resonated with me before I even paid attention to
the lyrics) but I have not heard him sing like this before. He is clearly
loving the songs he is singing and the arrangements that have evolved. The
show had no dips, it was at a high level throughout with some simply
sublime moments. For me the highlight was Long and Wasted Years, it was
delivered with an intensity that had to be witnessed to be truly
understood. Likewise many reviews have commented on the tightness and
subtlety of the band but it’s one thing to read about it and another to
experience it. The show reminded me of the Hammersmith 1990 residency
where power of performance and intimacy of venue collided to create a
remarkably memorable experience.
If you have been on the fence about whether to go to a show, do yourself a
favour and try and get a ticket. You won’t regret it. I am definitely
not regretting my decision to see all five.
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