December 2, 2014
Review by Larry Fishman
Lots of folks claim Bob Dylan for their own. Minnesota where he was
raised; London where he was first understood, Boston (um, Rolling Thunder
started here, Club 47, Joan Baez, well Stu Kimball is a Bostonian), but we
all know that Dylan belongs to New York City. You need to see Bruce
Springsteen in New Jersey, U2 in Dublin, but to love Dylan you need to see
him here. This is my second NYC show - the first being the “yea heavy
and a bottle of bread” Madison Square Garden show back in 2002 - among
my most cherished Dylan concert memories. This show is night #4 of 5 of
this Beacon residency, he’s done a couple of residences over the years -
not Allman Brothers many, but he’s done a couple and you can see why.
This is a gorgeous theatre, simply stunning with tapestries, chandeliers,
gold statues and details that date back to the late 20’s went it was
built by Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the great empressio who helped invest
the movie theatre. The “Roxy’s” moniker used in cities across
America was employed to brand their theaters with the pizzazz that he
brought Manhattan during those formative years. The dimly lit stage
lighting for this show couldn’t have matched the theatre better. I’ve
seen other shows in larger venues and it seems a bit remote, especially
for those in the cheaper seats. The lighting was absolutely perfect for
this intimate venue.
Anyway, security was oddly tight and there was a plethora of well dressed,
serious, security looking dudes all over the place empowered to enforce
the "no photo policy of Mr. Dylan” with eviction or the death penalty,
I’m not sure which. You’d think that they were protecting a Prime
Minister or a terrorism alert at the Supreme Court and not a music
concert. Lighten up fellers. During the gig, you would see them shine a
flashlight at someone who held their cellphone/camera too conspicuously.
I’m sure it’s at the insistence of Zimmy and his management, but I
suppose in terms of quirks it ain’t too bad. He ain’t no Bill Cosby
if you know what I mean.
Okay, Bob looked great. Really. He was spry, energetic and engaged. He
seemed rested and healthy even though he was pushing towards his 90th gig
of the year. Dressed in a white hat, and mid thigh, long black coat, he
looked a bit like Leon Redbone’s illegitimit cousin, albeit with a much
larger back catalog. The band, well, they weresimply sensational. I’m
not a newbie Dylan fan and have been to a bunch of shows and I’m not
saying that this is my favorite Dylan backing band. However, I am saying
that this was the most cohesive Dylan band which I have ever seen. In my
notes, I scribbled down numerous times a great Charlie Sexton solo.
Sexton was clearly unleashed and his tasteful licks were simply spot on.
Often I don’t even notice Donnie Herron’s steel guitar as he seems
lost in his own space at the back of the stage. On this night, he was a
integrated puzzle piece contributing mightily. Much has been written
about the static 19 song set list, but I concur with the consensus that
these professional musicians have fully mastered the material and perform
it exquisitely. The crowdwas an old one and I’m going to say polite and
subdued. They certainly applauded after each song and were a bit more
engaged in the 2nd set. I did my part, hooting and hollering when the
spirit moved me - which was often. The elderly couple staring at their
flip phone sitting next to me barely budged as if they were waiting for
the early bird special or at Bingo earlier. To some extant, for the
casual fan the setlist would prove problematic. While I’m in the let
Bob do whatever the hell Bob wants to do camp as long as he doesn’t put
out another Christmas album, there aren’t many ‘hits' over the 2
hours. He give them “Tangled” and “Blowin,” but how many in
attendance own Tempest which is about a quarter of the show. I don’t
need to hear LARS, but just saying some probably do.
Enough, on to the show which began with a huge gong - a loud King of Siam
Gong. And then Stu Kimball entered the stage riffing away on an acoustic
guitar until the band filled the stage;
1. Things Have Changed. A nice mid tempo opening song, the first thing
I’m struck by is the excellent sound quality and the nice, clear
separation of the instruments. After the vocals as the song winded down,
Bob hopped and danced to the back of the stage something that he would do
after a number of songs all night.
2. She Belongs to Me. This arrangement now begins with slow power chords
and a steady, urgent beat. Bob’s voice was low and deep - and less
hoarse than the last few shows I’ve caught. Nice little harp solo which
he played frequently throughout the night.
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothing. After two songs performed at center stage,
Bob takes a seat behind the grand piano for this somewhat playful sounding
tune. George Recilli used a combination of brushes and sticks to make a
mad rhythm with the drums.
4. Working Man Blues. Almost performed as a mini waltz, at first it
seemed less melodic and more spoken sung as Bob stood legs slightly spread
back at the center microphone. The bridge was absolutely beautiful as the
band is perfectly provided the music for Bob’s impassioned delivery.
5. Waiting for You. A playful carnival sound and quite exemplary of Bob
Dylan’s sound of 2014. Very old timey, like a soundtrack to a movie
from the 20s or 30’s maybe “The Sting” or “Paper Moon.” This
ain’t no rock concert - gone is the head banging of Highway 61 or the
crowd pleasing rave of “Summer Days” replaced with a mature, love and
theft, concoction of 100 years of American musical history. Sexton and
Herron were noodling tightly with one another. With Bob singing
“Happiness is a state of Mind,” it is for me as this was one of the my
three highlight performances of the night.
6. Duquesne Whistle. With Tony Garnier hauling out the stand up bass,
this one swung nicely as Sexton again just seemed plugged in and on fire.
7. Pay in Blood. Play this one for your punk rock friends, makes the Sex
Pistols look like Fleetwood Mac. A song so filled with piss and vinegar,
I’m still taken back by the amount of anger and pain this happy, old
dude can still conjure up. It was an epic take and every listen of this
song send an electric jolt through me enough to light most of those
streetlights in the Upper West side. While Bob may never write another
“Desolation Row” or “Tambourine Man,” he can still write
incredibly powerful and evocative songs. Bon Jovi wishes he could write
one song half as good.
8. Tangled Up in Blue. I think the crowd was happy to hear something
they knew and this certainly a nice performance with a set of rewritten
lyrics which I concentrated as hard as possible to soak in. Always nice
to hear this mighty work.
9. Love Sick. Closing out the first set, the main difference in this
performance is how much accent and detail Sexton added with his tasteful
soloing. Love this song's big brash chords rwhich eminds of Jackson
Pollack whipping paint upon his canvas laying on the floor.
10. Highwater. Stu emerges from the wings again this time with an
electric guitar as the band assembles with Herron picking up a banjo. A
straight forward arrangement, again I’m struck by how well this band is
playing together. Everyone is just fitting their playing into everyone
else’s playing. I’ve been to shows were the Band was muzzled and
where Dylan took every solo. Clearly he trusts these guys and they are
enriching the songs with such emotional playing
11. Simple Twist of Fate. A sweet, lush stab at this beloved BOTT
classic. On the album, it was an artist struggling with his pain, now
it’s an older, wiser man telling you a story of wisdom from an earlier
time. A lyric change or two thrown in, just to make sure you were
listening. This was a fun one.
12. Early Roman Kings. A killer blues stomp that would get the Daughters
of the American Revolution out of the their chairs and dancing. One of
the those songs that Bob both plagiarizes and honors simultaneously. My
man Sexton again killing it and even though I’ve been up for 15 hours
I’m simply groovin’
13. Forgetful Heart. Okay, time for a sad, slow song and I think Bob
sings it well. Full of mourning and pain, Bob delivers this first class
with no delay.
14. Spirit in the Water. Thought this got one of the larger cheers of
the night, maybe it’s for the great call and response mid song.
Performed in it’s charming familiar style, this take was highlight #2 of
15. Scarlet Town. It’s a powerhouse work and a good example of his
current songwriting style.
16. Soon After Midnight. The backing logo not the curtain changed from
the Dylan Eye logo to a chunk star sky. Sweet, and well played.
17. Long & Wasted Years. I’ve never saw the charms of this song as I
find the pacing of the lyrics just doesn’t quite fit snugly with its
arrangement. Obviously, Bob doesn’t agree with me as he has been
playing this song night after night for quite some time. Hey Bob! Bob!
How about subbing in “Tin Angel” in this spot - probably the best song
on Tempest and he hasn’t play it live yet. Grrrrr.
18. Blowin’ in the Wind. Donnie picks up a violin and I think Bob was
a little too jacked up for this song tonight. It was the one time where
the band was out of snyc and the music felt as if someone on stage was
accidentally playing in a different key. Don’t get me wrong, I would
want to hear that song played by Bob on a Ukulele in a freezing rain if I
19. Stay with Me. My third and final highlight of the night, I purposely
avoided hearing a bootleg version of the song so I could soak it in for
the first time live. It was a little shorter than I thought - 3 minutes
or so, but has whetted my appetite for the new album in the spring. I
haven’t gotten out of the Basement Tapes since the post man delivered my
package, maybe I’d leave those six discs in my car cd player until
Shadows of the Night arrive in a couple of months.
Wonderful night of music, look forward to my next.
Review by Nancy
My Concience is clear
..what about you?
From attending 4 shows and reading reviews of many others it is clear that
Bob Dylan and his band have provided the fans with a spectacular
experience maybe even a masterpiece of a tour. The single set list has
elements of blues jazz old time country Latin as well as classic rock in
various permutations within and between concerts. all the venues have
comfortable intimate settings with excellent acoustics to highlight
Dylan's voice, harp, and piano as well as the other instruments. The old
jazz song quote " I like my men like I like my whiskey... Aged and mellow"
applies to Dylan on Tuesday night compared to the loud more percussive and
faster versions performed on Friday. On Tuesday it was
Dylan's. evocative syncopated lyrics and harp solos carried by the
soulful chords and textures of the band. Dylan seems to be cheerfully
tangled up in blue and happily lovesick but a Simple Twist of Fate and
Forgetful Heart still brought tears to my eyes. Charlie's Sexton 's
"Sincerely" interlude in Soon after Midnight and Bobs nuanced full
performance of blowing in the wind were great. How can one listen to
the originals anymore- they are just too simple. Dylans hymn Stay with Me
is elevated now like My Way became for Sinatra but they have opposite
bottom lines and the incredible vocal power Dylan had on Long and Wasted
Years and especially in Stay with Me anything is possible even now.
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