Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Rave
Eagles Ballroom
March 13, 2004

[Dave Moyer], [Dave Morris], [Dan Maloney], [Michael Smith], [Hazel Brock], [Mike Stillman]

Review by Dave Moyer

The Dylan show I witnessed last night, was a rollicking
roadhouse blues incarnation of the latest Bob ensemble, and if
you ask me, it perfectly suits the combination of talents he
has assembled for this latest tour.  And the smaller venues
work particularly well in establishing the type of feel that
comes out in the music.

The band, unlike the last time I saw them in Joliet with the
Dead, has meshed.  The previous outing featured various
highlights on any given song, but this group is starting to
come together the way we got acclimated to during the Sexton
era.  The set closer, Summer Days, kicked in into high gear
with the same feel as the previous three guitar front, and the
subtraction of a guitar has allowed Larry more solos and more
opportunities to show off his versatility and talent.

Tony seemed to carry the band, with many baselines keeping a
tight reign on the duel drummer set up and even seeming to
carry the melody line at times.  If it werenít for his
baseline, there would have been nothing recognizable about
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.  There
was no stand up bass tonight.  It was a purely rock and roll
blowout.  Tony took center stage during the last number of the
night, All Along the Watchtower, but mostly spent all night
looking straight at both drummers.

The two-drummer set up has met with mixed reviews.  Some
questioning why there were present on some songs and not
others.  While others seemed to like it OK, there seemed to be
a lack of consensus on whether or not it actually added
anything to the mix.  On this night, they were present
together on all but a couple songs.  The strong rhythm
sections was obviously a distinguishing feature of the
performance, and as a former drummer, I enjoyed it quite a

I went with two first-timers, and was unable to convince them
of the absolute importance of getting there early to maximize
the Bob and His Band nuances, and our distance from the stage
hampered the view of the shorter members of our contingent,
but I saw plenty, and Bob appeared very relaxed and into the
show, though there was little harp as in previous shows and he
stayed essentially behind the piano all night, except for the
band intro., which uncharacteristically appeared before
Watchtower, not Summer Days.

Bob chose to open with The Wicked Messenger, which rocked, and
later played another John Wesley Hardy tune, Down along the
Cove.  The latter was a pleasant surprise, and I am amazed
every time he transforms the material from that album into
ďwickedĒ blues-rock.  While there were a few vocal highlights,
such as Highway 61, which he typically nails right on, and one
of the better Like a Rolling Stoneís that I have heard, Bob
was very raspy.  His voice, however, did not hang in the
rafters or fail to come through.  It pierced hard to the core,
but is rather road worn.  And Iíll gladly take it any day.  He
continues to come through pretty well on songs from his latest
masterpiece, Love and Theft.  I can usually do without Tweedle
Dee and Tweedle Dum, though Bob obviously likes to perform it.
On this night it was well done and one of the highlights.  He
also sounded good on Honest with Me.

As to the continuing unique re-working of the arrangements and
lyrical phrasing, my favorite from last nightís show came in
the form of a stacatto delivery of this line from Like a
Rolling Stone. 
ing---he----could steal.Ē  Too cool. 

Tell Me That It Isnít True in the two slot, was though only
song that passed for mildly mellow.  The highlight for me was
a killer version of It Ainít Me, Babe.  How that song morphed
from 1964ís Another Side of Bob Dylan into what I heard last
night will remain a mystery. This show was reminiscent of the
Springfield, IL, concert a couple years back.  I had relegated
myself over the last year to statements such as, ďA good Bob
show, and quite enjoyable, but not among the best Iíve seen.Ē 
If you can get past the bluesy hit and miss vocals, you have
got to take Bob and the boys in on this tour.  This band has
come together and is back on top.    


Review by Dave Morris

Bob and band were in fine form for their Saturday night in Milwaukee. Bob
clearly connected with the audience, making a lot of eye contact and
smiling on occasion toward the end of the show. Larry shined on pedal
steel on "Tell Me That It Isn't True" and handled most of the lead work
throughout the evening. Richie Hayward was a fun presence on stage, but
his drums didn't seem to be very well-miked, at least compared with
George's. As the set list shows, it was an evening of blues and rock, with
a slower tune thrown in now and then. One highlight was "Man in the Long
Black Coat" from "Oh Mercy." Larry's tremolo-laden guitar propelled the
band to great heights. Another highlight: "Highway 61 Revisited"
absolutely rocked in the band's hands Saturday night. And what a venue:
The Eagles Ballroom's acoustics were good and the atmosphere of the old
hall seemed to inspire both the band and the audience.

Dave Morris


Review by Dan Maloney

     This is my first attempt so I will be brief.  The venue was pretty
cool.  Very laid back security.  Lines were short.  Good temperature.
Sound was not great in all spots.  However, after walking around, I
settled into a great spot.   Nice feel from the start.  The Wicked
Messenger was a nice surprise for an opener and they rocked it quite well.
 Highlights for me were the more upbeat tunes.  Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
really got the crowd going.   Memphis Blues  was  right on. Down Along The
Cove was definitely the highlight of my night.  It had a wonderful grove
going from start to finish.  They could have jammed it another 5 minutes
and the people would have loved it.  
     Moonlight had a feel like we were in a small intimate smoky club. It
worked perfectly.  Every Grain Of Sand was bittersweet and gripping. The
crowd was in awe for this one.  Summer Days is a solid rocker to leave the
stage with.  Bob and the Band took a quick bow.  Bob had a sweet outfit on
tonight. The encore was solid as usual.  I really enjoyed Cat's In The
Well.  The crowd favorite of the night was Like A Rolling Stone. 
Watchtower closed the show.
     All in all, a very nice experience.  As usual, I can't wait for



Review by Michael Smith

What a difference a day makes. After the first night in Milwaukee I was
almost regretting making the trip up from Chicago; aside from Make You
Feel My Love, the first show didn't offer anything I hadn't gotten in my
hometown and the performance as a whole seemed a little workmanlike,
lacking in rough edges but also magic moments. After the second show, I'm
very glad I went as Bob and the band put on a concert that rivaled the
mighty Vic from the previous weekend. As with the night before, Dylan took
to the stage about 15 minutes late and the applause was almost deafening
(The Eagles Ballroom crowd was far rowdier than any of the Chicago
audiences). Also, as with the previous night, he was dressed like some
kind of Mexican bandido in a black suit (rhinestone trim on the first
night, white arrows on the second) and a flat-brimmed, low-topped black
hat. (A friend of mine remarked that the hat should have had tiny balls
hanging off of the brim and there was much speculation in the audience
that Bob was "in costume" to perform Romance in Durango.) And the songs .
. .

Wicked Messenger - Great opener. I was glad to finally get this after
hearing Drifter's Escape three times. As with Drifter's, the guitar parts
are a little different now with Freddy and Larry trading solos on the
instrumental breaks. Ended with a short harp solo.

Tell Me That It Isn't True - Second night in a row and much better this
time around. A great vocal moment occured when they went into the bridge
and Dylan accidentally(?) sang the opening line of the second verse ("To
know that you've been seen with some other man" instead of "To know
somebody else is holding you tight") but he came back with an awesome
save: "It hurts me all over . . . you know it's something I just don't
understaaaaand!" He sang the second bridge this way too. The night before
he had sung the lyrics as they appear on the album version.

Tweedle Dee & Dum - I was really tired of this song last summer but I
think it sounds fresh again. This is probably due to the fact that the
tempo of the song seems to get faster and faster with each tour.

Just Like a Woman - Here we go! Yet another thrilling moment when even the
veteran concert-goers are scratching their heads at the unrecognizable
tune right up until the moment Dylan sings, "Nobody feels any pain," and
then everyone in the crowd goes nuts. This began with Larry, not on pedal
steel, but fingerpicking his strat. It sounded more like Every Grain of
Sand than JLAW. The familiar intro riff from the studio version wasn't
played until _after_ Dylan sang the first verse. Very well sung with great
controlled singing on the chorus. Ended with a surprisingly long
instrumental jam.

Highway 61 - Another good rocking version. Freddy and Larry again take
turns playing solos and their contrasting styles create a very interesting
dynamic; Larry's playing is very straightforward and melodic, Freddy's
playing is wild, all over the place, almost on the edge of chaos. This is
one of George's best songs too. He looks positively mean when delivering
that full-on percussive assault before Dylan sings each verse.

Can't Wait - A big treat. This is the same slow-tempo, bluesy arrangement
(with that descending "Hit the Road, Jack" riff) that was debuted in the
spring of 2003 but it sounded so urgent last night it was almost scary.
Dylan sang this in a conversational growl that sounded both desperate and
very appropriate to the lyric. The highlight for me was: "Oh, SWEET honey,
even after all these years you're still the one."

Down Along the Cove - And the hits just keep on coming. This was probably
even better than the performance from the Riviera a week earlier. The new
Grateful Dead-esque riff is so damn catchy that this becomes a big crowd
pleaser, even if not everyone is familiar with it. We also got yet another
new twist on one of the new lines: "Down along the cove, I feel as high as
a bird / I said, 'Lord have mercy, mama, ain't that the sweetest BIRD you
ever heard!'" After singing this line, Dylan cracked up so hard that he
practically doubled up over his keyboard.

It Ain't Me, Babe - That glorious new arrangement from the Riv with Freddy
strumming his strat and Larry strumming the cittern in slow, choppy
fashion. Playing in a minor key, the song sounds positively creepy now,
like a slow version of All Along the Watchtower. Dylan sang the correct
first line this time so it may have been even better than it was at the
Riv but it's hard for me to say because an extremely drunk woman passed
out directly behind me and was hauled away by security, an event that
distracted me for a good chunk of the song. I do remember Bob played a
great, wailing harp solo in the middle of this though.

Stuck Inside of Mobile - Again, another song that I had grown tired of in
the past that seems fresh again. I think the tempo is faster on this too;
Larry played rhythm acoustic like he always does but it was Freddy who
stole the show with two incendiary solos that were just ridiculously good.

Man in the Long Black Coat - Probably better than Park West. Hauntingly
beautiful, very well sung by Bob.

Moonlight - When the opening chords for this begin, those of us who were
at The Vic immediately go nuts; after the new arrangements of Just Like a
Woman and It Ain't Me, Babe, what did we do to deserve this too? It begins
to dawn on me that this is probably the best setlist of the tour so far.
Personally, I love this new, more rocking arrangement. Is it better than
the original version? I don't know but I'm very glad Dylan cares enough to
keep trying out new things like this. Who else does these things? Nobody,
of course.

Honest with Me - As a big fan of this song (especially live), I have to
admit that the previous night's performance was pretty lame with some
careless singing and even flubbed lines (rare for this song). Last night
was a great return to form with committed singing and the band set off
enough fireworks to burn the joint down.

Every Grain of Sand - I have reservations about this arrangement; I don't
like the two electric guitars, which I think make the song rock a little
too hard. I wish someone in the band would play an acoustic instrument to
allow Dylan to sing this with more subtlety and nuance. Still, this was
probably better than the Chicago versions.

Summer Days - Very good version. Dylan had cut the jam surprisingly short
the night before but he let the guitarists go on and on here, much to the
delight of the audience. I loved the interaction between Freddy and Larry.
They looked like coy lovers, exchanging little smiles from across the
stage all night; but when they were allowed to finally cut loose on this,
they walked slowly towards each other, meeting in the center of the stage
for an incredible twin-guitar rave-up.

Cat's in the Well - Good version. Sounds pretty much like it always does.

Like a Rolling Stone - Another incredible version. Get the boot and listen
to the staccato way he sings: AF - TER - HE'S - TA - KEN - EV'RY - THING -
HE - CAN - STEEAAAL! The version from the night before felt perfunctory;
last night it was playful and full of joyous energy. Once again, Bob was
cracking up during this song for some reason. Richie plays tambourine on
this now.

When he introduced the band (both nights), he called Freddy "Fuzzy
Koella." On the first night, Bob seemed to find this funnier than everyone
else. Last night, the whole band was cracking up. Freddy just smiled and
shook his head from side to side at this (presumably) inside joke.

Watchtower - Also much better than the night before. On the first night,
he sang this in short, clipped phrases, which is never a good thing IMO.
Last night, he really sang it and drew out the words.

After the band left the stage, the applause was so damn loud for so long I
felt certain we would get another encore (as with Park West and St. Louis)
but it wasn't to be. Dylan's decision not to come back couldn't have had
anything to do with the crowd energy though, which was very high and
seemed to spur him on all night.

Unlike the first Milwaukee show, where I never really rose above my
critical reserve (except during the beautiful Saving Grace), I was sent
into paroxysms of ecstacy throughout last night's performance. This was
probably the second best show of the six I caught on this leg (after the
Vic) and a hell of a great way for me to end my personal tour. Those of
you who have tickets for the upcoming shows should be in for a real treat.
Bob is hot.


Review by Hazel Brock

He IS hot and it all seemed so real and intimate, it's as if he were
singing directly to one person.   No matter if he does disappoint at
times (and don't we all, and one always again forgives him-- how is he
gonna build character like that?), songs like the lyrical,
thought-provoking "Wicked Messenger" of last night certainly make up for
it. What wiser words can there be than: "And he was told but these few
words, which opened up his heart, if ye cannot bring good news, then don't
bring any" --positive friends are such a boon.

Wish I could speak of the technical virtuosity of the band, but that's
beyond my ken. On to the touching, pleading and yes, a bit threatening
"Tell Me it Isn't True" and who hasn't been there?  Surely, his lover must
reassure him time and again (how many times do you have to win a battle
only to discover that you have to fight it again) but regardless, who
could, in truth, ever really compete with him?

"Tweedle Dee"...rousing, rollicking fun and a bit of Stephen King thrown
in...he told everybody he's been there...done that... and it was a hell of
a ride! "Just Like a Woman" beautifully rendered, sensitive, knowing,
tender. "Highway 61"...a classic, and one he's made his own in that rock
and roll heaven in the sky. "Can't Wait" -- I liked another reviewer's
perception of this...a sense or urgency is certainly crucial and in
keeping with the intent of the song.

"Down Along the Cove" ...much in sync with the mythical, fabled quality of
the whole John Wesley Harding album...with the intimation that in our
modern times, phones may be disconnected, as well as the post office
closed for unknown reasons, friends may be far away (but thought of every
day) yet sentiment will always remain and one can still walk and talk
regardless, and there's nothing like having one's true love coming one's

"It Ain't Me Babe..." I imagine that's how Bob's significant other must
have felt when he didn't spend the holidays with her, but announced
instead that he planned to go to sumptuous Venice with insipid, if
gorgeous 6 ft. models (a bit of a circus that) but who else but Mr. Bob to
put that song out there with vehemence and/or sorrow, depending on the
mood, and the mood was right on. He's the star and it would seem he's got
all the influence, but he's been diggin' the applause (obviously), so his
fans have the power to make him happy --neither can do without the other.

"Stuck Inside of Mobile" ...isn't it amazing how he can, after his
public, illustrious, glamorous life, reach into the private enclaves of
the quiet desperation  of an ordinary person stuck someplace they can't
help but ending up in.

"Man in a Long Black Coat" - mysterious, haunting, dramatic, beautiful.
Then "Moonlight" - bet the "Dylan" of yore never thought in his wildest
dreams he would ever compose a warm, affectionate, sweet and yes,
sentimental song like that, much like the great love songs of the 40s.

"Honest with Me," probably a song only he understands, but as an artist
he's entitled to put it out there, it may well have resonated with others
in the audience. "Every Grain of Sand" - thanks for reminding us Mr. D
that God is in charge and that we may not know the rhyme or reason of it,
but coming from nothing, going to is just a brief and
astonishing parenthesis.

"Summer Days" - "I'm counting on you love, to give me a break"-I do
believe he and his most ardent fan(s) are on the same page on that one.

"Cat's in the Well," "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watchtower"
-ended a great set  -- "Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl, two
riders were approaching, the wind began to howl"  

What more can one say? 

Hazel Brock


Review by Mike Stillman

Still reeling after the triumphant Vic and Park West concerts in Chicago a
few days ago, I decided to venture up to Milwaukee for the Saturday night
show with my friend Bob Shiel, who has been a fixture on the rail at
dozens of Dylan concerts since the Chicago Stadium shows of the '70s. We
tried to have realistic expectations for this concert, knowing that it
would probably not achieve the shimmering otherworldly brilliance of the
Vic show or the hard-rocking power of the Park West, but we were open to
the possibility that it might be as good in a different way. This show
didn't reach that level, but it was an enjoyable evening of music, and
well worth the 90 mile drive from Chicago.

The Eagles Ballroom is a peculiar venue. It has a lot of character and
some quirky design elements, such as four bald eagles cast in plaster
around the top of the many interior pillars. The ballroom is an
oval-shaped area with the stage on one of the long sides of the oval,
which means that most of the crowd was distributed to either side of the
stage. I would estimate that only 25% of the crowd was situated between
the speakers, which means that the sound and sightlines were fairly
abysmal for most of the attendees. We arrived about fifteen minutes after
the doors opened, saw that much of the area in front of the stage was
already taken, and made a beeline for the balcony, where we found a decent
spot directly opposite the stage with the speakers at ear level. The
balcony was of the narrow cat-walk type that lined the perimeter all the
way around the ballroom. Between each of the eagle pillars in the balcony
was a small reserved box with two rows of four seats, and behind the seats
was an aisle that security kept clear, and then there was the wall at the
back of the balcony, where we stood. 

As 8pm approached, the venue became much more crowded, with people
squeezed into every available nook, usurping regions formerly considered
to be personal space. But there was still no one in the reserved seats,
though many tried to sit there and were removed by security. This led to
some confrontations that could have been avoided with a simple "reserved"
sign on each of the boxes. I overheard one middle-aged concert-goer ask a
security guard, "what would we have to do to sit here?" and the guard
snapped "win a radio contest or become a cripple, your choice." It was
verging on becoming an ugly scene, with late arrivers trying to find a
small patch of available space, and the venue becoming very hot too. But
despite the fact that the temperature exceeded 80 degrees, the management
never turned off the radiators that lined the back wall of the balcony.

It seemed like the band was ready to hit the stage on time at around 8:10,
as the towels were laid out, the nag champa incense lit, and the opening
strains of Aaron Copland came over the P.A. But then the music stopped,
and it seemed like the schedule was delayed a few minutes so that those
with reserved seats could finally make their way from the V.I.P. lounge
downstairs to their balcony boxes. They were guided to their seats by
ushers, and then fawned over by the cocktail waitresses who had been
ignoring the riff-raff against the back wall. 

Once the elites were comfortably ensconced, the band was allowed to take
the stage, and the concert finally began with WICKED MESSENGER and its
powerful riff. Dylan was wearing a black mariachi-style hat tonight, not
the white cowboy hat that he wore in Chicago and in the Masked & Anonymous
film. The soundman was still getting the sound dialed in, trying to
compensate for the boominess, reverberations, and standing waves of this
oddly-shaped venue. To his credit, he did a good job, though the sound was
never great. Bob took the first harp solo of the night, which always draws
a cheer.

The second song was TELL ME THAT IT ISN'T TRUE from Nashville Skyline,
which I like in this spot. Larry Campbell played pedal steel and took a
nice solo, then Freddy Koella launched a well-phrased solo, and when Bob
took another harp solo, it began to seem as if the band might be able to
redeem the terrible venue. Next was TWEEDLE DEE AND TWEEDLE DUM which was
somewhat routine, not as well-played as in Chicago.

Then came yet another of the many new arrangements of this tour, a
complete re-working of JUST LIKE A WOMAN that was one of the evening's
highlights. The familiar guitar riff that coils and unfolds at the
beginning was missing, and no one recognized the song until the lyrics
began, which were phrased a little differently. Richie Hayward played only
tambourine and let George Receli handle the trap drums, and Larry took a
guitar solo (not pedal steel) that was also phrased differently, a good
thing. These new arrangements force both the band and the audience out of
their comfort zone of rote familiarity, giving the songs a freshness that
makes you listen more intently as if you were hearing the song for the
first time. Those who expect Dylan to play the songs the same way he did
forty years ago are entirely missing the point; he is always changing,
mercurial, busy being born instead of dying the slow death of a nostalgia
act. He is all about subverting expectations, and one of the ways that he
did it in this song last night was *not* playing the harmonica in a couple
of spots where we were expecting it. I can't really describe this
rendition as well as I'd like after only one hearing, but it seemed a
little more tender and less dramatic than before. This is the kind of
thing that makes me respect Bob even more, still reinventing himself when
most would be retiring. But most of the audience apparently felt
differently, as they gave this new arrangement a lukewarm response. 

Then came HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED which was what the audience wanted, a
rocking uptempo song that was familiar in every way. Freddy took a good
slide solo, and Bob looked a little like a track star, leaning forward in
his black pants with the stripe down the side, his left leg cocked back
and his right leg bent at the knee, resembling a sprinter waiting for the
starting gun. This was well-played and the crowd loved it, and it still
seemed like the show might be a great one.

Next was CAN'T WAIT for the second time on this tour. Why didn't the folks
who saw it in St. Louis mention that this is a new arrangement too? It's a
little slower and bluesier than the old version, with a different riff in
a descending four-beat pattern, guided by Tony Garnier's savvy bass
playing. The old arrangement had a great riff, but after hearing this new
arrangement, I realized that the great riff didn't quite fit the character
of the song. George's drums were fully in the pocket, funky and swampy,
reminding me of his New Orleans roots. I was delighted to hear this new
and well-played arrangement of one of the best songs from Time Out Of
Mind, but most of the audience couldn't care less, making small talk in an
ever-growing hubbub that threatened to drown out the music. This was a
chatty chain-smoking and chain-drinking crowd, and I was annoyed that they
didn't show the music a little more respect.  

Then came DOWN ALONG THE COVE, which was one of the songs that I really
wanted to hear. Bob was still fully involved, singing this song with great
joy, bouncing up and down behind the piano and having a good time. Freddy
stepped up to take a couple of solos that were given more emphasis by the
band dropping out behind him briefly. He has really come into his own over
the past few days; when I saw him in Joliet last August, and even during
the first Chicago show at the Aragon, some of his solos seemed like a
random collection of wrong notes played off-tempo. Freddy does not rely on
stock riffs or familiar phrases, but rather approaches each solo in the
spirit of true improvisation, coming up with something new on the spur of
the moment each time. He is not afraid to take chances, and sometimes
falls flat on his face, but it's always fascinating. Sometimes he comes up
with something that is so brilliant and radically different that I almost
involuntarily laugh out loud. He is a perfect complement to Larry
Campbell, who is very polished and smooth. Larry can play imaginatively,
but he does not take chances. In this song last night, Freddy's first solo
began with a type of phrasing that I have heard some old bluesmen describe
as "chicken pickin'" that imitates the cluck of a chicken, but then he
took it to some different parts of the barnyard. Well done, Freddy.

The next song was the radical new arrangement of IT AIN'T ME BABE that
debuted at the Riviera in Chicago. The portion of the crowd that wanted to
turn this song into a drunken singalong was thwarted by the new
arrangement, and that was a good thing. The portion of the crowd that
talked loudly throughout the entire song should have been at a different
event, perhaps a tractor-pull or wrestling match. This was really the
turning point of the concert, when the band seemed to realize that most of
the crowd was not really listening, and the rest of the evening was
somewhat perfunctory, well-played and professional but with no special
effort. One of the things that made the Vic and the Park West shows
special was the attentiveness of the audience, listening to every note
intently and giving immediate feedback at the right times in the right
way. The Vic concert, especially, was elevated to a special level by a
kind of synergistic convergence between the band, the audience, and the
venue, all perfect in their own way. At Milwaukee last night, I had the
feeling that Bob and the band were primed for another special concert,
with a great setlist and everyone at the top of their game, but the venue
and crowd did not allow that to happen. But Bob and the band still
delivered a good show, showing a professionalism and dedication that did
not exist during the low period of the 1980's.

The rest of the show was more routine, with the potential for greatness
was exactly what this attention-deficit crowd wanted, a familiar uptempo
rocker played the same old way. Then they played MAN IN THE LONG BLACK
COAT, with its dramatic spaces nullified by the mindless chatter, people
making small-talk about real estate and motorcycles and who knows what
else. Next was MOONLIGHT with its new arrangement, which I really like.
Most of the people who actually listen to the lyrics feel that the
narrator is a serial killer of some kind, but I like to think that he is
the Grim Reaper himself, luring his prey out into the moonlight
"alooooooone" as Bob elongated last night. The old arrangement was good
too, making Death seem like a tender romantic smoothie who strikes when
his prey has been lured into a blissful trusting state, but in this new
arrangement Death is a little more jaunty: a cocky, prancing fellow who
knows that he will always triumph and that the bell will always toll, even
for you and me. I dig it. 

The band then began playing HONEST WITH ME, and Bob briefly touched a
guitar behind him but decided not to play it. The rendition was strictly
routine. Next was EVERY GRAIN OF SAND, one of the most beautiful
statements of religious faith ever written, but of course the crowd kept
chatting and drinking. The show would have been better if the crowd
listened, but it was still much better than they deserved. The main
portion of the show ended with SUMMER DAYS and then came the triad of
WATCHTOWER, which went over well but were really very average. Bob got a
little fouled-up during one of the verses of LARS, and they played it
closer to the old arrangement than the new, with the guitarists playing
through the entire chorus most of the time instead of dropping out on
every other measure. That was the show.    

I don't understand why this particular crowd was so oblivious. I've been
to previous shows in Milwaukee, and those crowds were far more attentive
even though the band was not playing as well as it did last night. I think
a fair percentage of the crowd, those at each end of the oval, could not
see or hear the band very well, but there were plenty of other chatterers
too. I don't expect everyone to be as intensely focused as I am, but you'd
figure that people would show a little more respect to one of the foremost
creative artists of the 20th century, who is now staking a claim to the
21st century as well. There is still no one else who uses the English
language like Bob Dylan. Though his vocal range has declined even further
from where it was even three years ago, he achieves an extraordinary
expressiveness through his phrasing and timing, much like Billie Holiday
in her final years, when she recorded the most affecting material of her
career despite a voice that was ravaged by time and various other abusers.

We slowly began filtering out of the ballroom, pleased about the band's
performance but with mixed feelings about the overall experience. The
entire crowd had to make its way to the far right side of the arena, which
was the front of the building. Then everyone had to go down a single
stairwell ten yards wide, then down your choice of two more stairwells
that were each only ten feet wide. Then everyone had to exit by a single
doorway, four feet wide, which was very slow going. You'd figure that with
all of the nightclub tragedies of the last year, the venue management
would be a little more conducive to facilitating crowd flow. It probably
took some people 30-45 minutes just to exit the ballroom. I could see no
particular reason to have the entire crowd exit by a single door, other
than the fact that it would take less staff to monitor against re-entry. I
took this as a final insult from the venue management to its customers,
and I will think twice about ever returning to the Eagles Ballroom, one of
the worst venues I have ever encountered in over thirty years of
concert-going. But the music was worth it.


page by Bill Pagel

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