Memphis, TN
Orpheum Theatre

March 30, 2024

[Jim Maynard], [Adam Selzer]

Review by Jim Maynard

Bob Dylan's "Rough and Rowdy Ways" Tour returned to the Memphis
Orpheum Friday and Saturday (March 29-30), with almost the identical
playlist from April 2022, but it was a very different show, at least
for me.  Last time I had floor seats way in the back row, and Dylan
was hidden behind the upright piano, and he and the band were still
breaking in the new songs from his last album.  It was still an
enjoyable concert for Dylan fans who knew what to expect though casual
concert goers were disappointed they didn't hear any of Dylan's
"Greatest Hits."

Tonight I had excellent Mezzanine seats and great view of the stage
and a much better experience.

Dylan is not coasting on greatest hits like many artists, he has been
releasing great new albums since 1997 and has focused on 2021's "Rough
and Rowdy Ways," which apparently is what he is feeling right now. 
The songs seem to focus a lot on death (Black Rider?) and approaching
the end of a long life and career (Key West).

I missed the Friday night show, where Dylan apparently had some
glitches with his ear monitor, and walked off stage for about 2
minutes after I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.  Reviews were still pretty
good, so I was hoping things would go better Saturday night, and they
did without the glitches.  The band came out first and played Watching
the River Flow for a few minutes before Dylan walked out, like Friday
night, but apparently not because of any glitches, but it was pretty
cool for him to make an entrance while the band was playing, and the
audience was on their feet cheering him on.  From the get go Dylan was
in great form tonight.  You could hear almost every word and syllable.
Sound was great.  The band was one of the best I’ve seen backing Bob.
They were tight the whole night and kept their eyes on Bob for clues
and directions.

The setlist is pretty much the same as 2022 and this current tour, but
it was a different experience.  Many of the songs were re-worked to
great effect.  Most startling was the "Puttin' on the Ritz" remake of
When I Paint My Masterpiece.  Gotta Serve Somebody was given a blues
shuffle.  Great harmonica playing on I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, To Be
Alone with You and I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You, and
especially on Every Grain of Sand.  The audience loved it.  Bob
usually gets a warm reception in Memphis and tonight the audience was
really into it, and there was even audience participation in Crossing
the Rubicon, a kind of call and response in the interludes, something
I've never seen at a Dylan concert.

Those listening for familiar songs were rewarded with great
performances of I'll be Your Baby Tonight, To Be Alone with You and
Gotta Serve Somebody, which were spaced in between the more obscure
RARW songs.

The highlights for me were the RARW numbers, I Contain Multitudes,
False Prophet (after which Dylan did the only band introduction of Bob
Britt on guitar), Crossing the Rubicon, the sublime I've Made Up My
Mind to Give Myself to You and Mother of Muses.  The band would back
off and provide minimal backing on some of these songs allowing
Dylan's voice and piano playing to stand out.  It was some of the best
singing by Dylan I've heard in 20 concerts.  He put a long work effort
into shaping the notes and lyrics perfectly.  Seems like sticking to
the same setlist for the last two years has allowed him and the band
to perfect the songs.  Then there's Every Grain of Sand, one of
Dylan's 'late' masterpieces, one of the most beautiful songs ever
written, from the "born again" period where he hit bottom a few times,
but came back up with songs like that, some of his best stuff, even
for us "nonbelievers."  This song does make a strong case for
religious faith, but it transcends the limits of evangelical
Christianity that Bob went through.  It's broadly "spiritual" without
being preachy like the songs on Shot of Love and Slow Train Coming.

Tonight's cover was Johnny Cash's Big River, which was given the
Memphis Sun Studio rockabilly treatment, was especially significant
since the Mississippi River was just a few blocks away.

The only song that I didn't really get into was Key West, which kind
of drags, but there were some high points in it.  Not sure what the
song is about, maybe retirement?  I don't care much for Florida right
now and wouldn't want to retire there, but I guess Key West symbolizes
exiting into the sunset for Bob?  Hopefully not. He's 82 but he is in
top form and I think he has at least one more album left in him, and
he doesn't seem ready to quit performing live yet.  Bob is full of
surprises and exceeding expectations.  I don't think he has finished
painting his masterpiece yet.

Jim Maynard
Memphis TN


Review by Adam Selzer

By 7:59, when the second Memphis show began, whatever sound issues had
plagued yesterday's show had clearly been resolved. From the front,
the sound was crystal clear, particularly the vocals. It was a night
of low drama compared to night 1 - just a simple, near-perfect Rough
and Rowdy Ways show played to a calm but appreciative audience. Of
particular note to me were the harp on "Every Grain of Sand" and a
heart-stopping "I've Made Up My Mind." Tony seemed to be in pure
rapture during "Rubicon." Bob Britt was introduced after "False
Prophet," the only band member intro of the night, but appeared to
get one of Bob's trademark glares during "Gotta Serve Somebody"
(which reverted to "it may be the lord" after last night's "it
may be my lord.") 

Without any real "That was that show where... "drama, let me just
ruminate a bit on that new "Puttin on the Ritz" arrangement of
"Masterpiece." As much as I loved that slow piano version, this
sinister take has a charm of its own, like the speaker in the song is
the same as the one in "My Own version Of You." This masterpiece
he's working on isn't a painting, it's something far darker and
more menacing. A few songs later he picks up the thread. He knows he
can create monsters from the experiment with the godfather and the
scarface, but that robot commando went haywire and had to be destroyed
(as robot commandos always do sooner or later). Now with one blast of
electricity, he'll have a new creation, one that's all set to sing
"Puttin' On the Ritz" with Gene Wilder.

For some further mad midrash, the new arrangement of "Gotta Serve
Somebody" reminded me a good deal of "My Wife's Home Town." A
bit faster, but some of the same elements. If you've gotta serve
somebody, and it may be the devil, well, if hell's your wife's
hometown, and you've made up your mind to give yourself to her. 
(wait, was SHE the creation?) 

Naturally, I'm not claiming that any of this was something Bob Dylan
planned, but the way these songs open themselves to new
interpretations, the kind that often seem to occur when you see it up
close and unfolding in front of you, is part of what makes it fun to
go to show after show. This show contains multitudes. 

At the end of the show Bob didn't seem as effusive or pleased as he
had after the high wire act of night 1 - not displeased or anything,
it just a normal mini "Formation" without the points and chest
taps. This was probably a better performance, but not so exciting as
night one. Last night things he couldn't see may have been blocking
his path, tonight the triumph was never in doubt. 

Thanks to Melanie, Henry, Liz, Peter, Matt, Emily, Erin, Michelle
(thanks for the artful dodging lessons!), Oliva (thanks for the
Swiftie-style TSOYCWGYN bracelet!)  Alexander, Irene, Sergi, Michael,
Stu, Graham, Chad, Gary, and everybody. I always feel like William
Miller after his first assignment backstage in "Almost Famous"
running these things down, but it's the best feeling in the world
show up and find friends from around the globe. So glad to be able to
say "See you in Austin" to so many of you!  There's a reason one
meets no travelers on the dark road of despair. 


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