Austin, TX

April 6, 2024

[Adam Selzer], [Sergi Fabregat]

Review by Adam Selzer

The first night of the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour in Milwaukee will
always stand out in my memory as an incredible experience, and seeing
this unique tour evolve has been a highlight of my near-lifetime of
Dylan fandom. When I realized I had a free day on the day of what is
likely the end of the tour, I had to go. Seeing the first and the last
was a very attractive bit of symmetry. Even better, the trip could
only be an adventure: eclipse prices had driven airfare to the moon,
and the only affordable route was flying from Chicago to Dallas,
hopping a cab to the grassy knoll, making my way to Deep Elum, and
riding a bus to Austin. On my 4am Uber to the airport I was joined by
women in lingerie who tried to sit on my lap. I moved to the front,
but obviously this trip was going to rule.

I've written out a whole travelogue, comparing this show to the
first and to the Memphis shows last weekend, but for a review site
I'll cut to the chase:

Among the reasons I wanted to see this was that I hadn't seen a
general admission, all-standing version of the Rough and Rowdy Ways
show. Honestly, I didn't miss the drama and in-fighting of lineups.
Then again, I met some of my best friends in a line. When I arrived in
Austin, Caroline and Kait of the Bob Dylan Fan Club were positioned at
the front, as they usually were back in the day. 

I took a seat next to Peter from Minnesota and spent a fine afternoon
chatting with, Graham, Gary, and others from Memphis. I had some pizza
delivered to pass around, hoping to keep any drama from forming. Laura
(DefinitelyDylan), Erin, Robin, and some others joined me, and the
hours passed pleasantly. Everyone continued to buzz about the show the
night before. I was sad I'd missed that one, but happy to be with so
many friends again. What a great hobby this is!

Once in the venue I was positioned right behind Caroline and Kait
(which is great if you know what you're getting into - they won't
be standing still for a second and you can either grumble or get into
it) and among my other friends in the center. We noticed that there
seemed to be more guitars out than usual. Whether that meant anything
was anyone's guess, but it was fun to speculate. It's -always- fun
to speculate, even though we all know not to get our hopes up.

Bob came out along with the band, sat down, and sang an excellent
"Watching the River Flow." It may not have been as inventive as
the wild version from Milwaukee last year, but it was one of those
nights where he was really SINGING it, really telling the story. That
was a regular thing tonight: at times he was almost doing a Rex
Harrison style "talk singing" (even more than he usually does),
delivering each line not only with inventive and emotive phrasing, but
as though he was making sure to get the point of the line across, not
just the sound of it. After the opener, Laura turned and said it was
the best "river flow" she ever saw. It was definitely up there;
not as exciting as seeing a wild rework, but a perfect rendition of a
song that's usually a warmup (and was usually filler in the old
days, really). 

The opening continued like this - excellent if unsurprising takes. But
Bob was having some trouble with his voice; it broke now and then, and
he audibly cleared his throat a few times. Now and then over the
courser of the night he forgot a line, or made a flub like saying
"make" instead of "mix." But, while some nights those flubs
seem to get to him, tonight he was laughing them off. Like the busted
earpiece in Memphis, it seemed to spur him on to push himself harder.
This can be the difference between another excellent show and a show
where there seems like a fire under his ass. 

If he was distracted at all, the reason became clear after
"Masterpiece," a particularly tight rendition of the "puttin on
the ritz" version, when Bob said "we've got a guest guitarist
tonight, Jimmie Vaughn!"

Doug Lancio stepped offstage, and on came Jimmie Vaughn, older brother
of Stevie Ray, and one-time opening act for Bob. He came out wearing
an aquamarine 1950s style shirt, with his hair slicked back, almost
like he was doing Biff Tannen cosplay in contrast to the rest of the
band, who were all in black. 

A special guest! After 30 odd months of this tour without a single
guest, one comes out on the last night! 

Jimmie came in for some solos on an absolutely smoking "I'll Be
Your Baby Tonight," giving it some extra oomph that made it a strong
contender for "best ever" (of a song that was never really a
highlight until this tour, when it became a stunner).  He stuck around
for "My Own Version of You," struggling a bit to find a way in,
but adding a smoky edge when he did. (I still love how having this
Frankenstein song next to the "Ritz" riff makes it all seem like
Young Frankenstein). 

Afterwards Bob gave Jimmie a massive grin (something he'd do
regularly all night). Jimmie shook Bob's hand and appeared to be
ready to make like a tree and get out of there, but Bob and Tony
indicated for him to stay, and he locked into a smoldering
"Rubicon."  Erin leaned over and asked "did we just see Doug get
fired onstage?"

Jimmie would go on to stay for the whole show, though he sat down
offstage when Doug came back out for "Key west," "I've made up
my mind," and "mother of muses." Jimmie occasionally appeared
like a deer in headlights, unsure quite what to do (and unaware that
when Bob nodded for him to solo, Bob was going to be wailing on the
piano at the same time). Tony could be seen giving him tips and advice
between songs, and when Jimmie found a way in and jammed, Tony seemed
to be having the time of his life. I'd noticed he seemed almost
somber at the beginning. 

Bob, too, was clearly enjoying having Jimmie on, grinning like a fool
and pushing himself vocally despite whatever trouble he was having (he
audibly exchaled with a "phewwwww" during "Key West."  He sang
"Walking By Myself" as though he were possessed, wailing for all
he was worth.

On the flight I'd scanned the "Philosophy of Modern Song" entry
on "Big River" and noted that he wrote that it was impossible to
do the song "without the chain gang thump of the acoustic rhythm
guitar," which made this arrangement (which distinctly lacks that
rhythm, and does the vocal parts nearly a capella) simply hilarious.
He makes the rules, he breaks the rules. 

With many shows there's one particular song, or one particular
verse, or even one particular line, that everyone will be talking
about after the show. Other nights it's just consistently great
throughout. Tonight there were too of those many great moments for one
single one to stand out. And the crowd noticed; there were spontaneous
shouts after SO many lines tonight.  In Memphis Tony played a little
bass solo during the "stop start" arrangement of "alone with
you," on earlier tapes the crowd shouted "woo!" during the quiet
breaks. This time the crowd was shouting, and Tony didn't play the
bass bits, he just stood there and enjoyed himself. 

The harmonica was awesome tonight. "To Be Alone With You" opened
with a solo great and gruesome, the intro on "Made Uo My Mind" was
stunning, and then Every Grain... well, with this new arrangement, and
the harp solo... it was simply overwhelming.

There was a quick formation, with Bob grinning happily. Doug came back
out to stand with the band (we all sort of felt bad for Doug
honestly), and Jimmie put his arm around him.

Laura turned back to me, her eyes wet and makeup smeared.

"Are you okay?""I asked.

"No!" She said, joyfully. 

Between the general admission setup and the guest guitar, it was truly
a RARW show - possibly the last one - like no other, a unique show to
close out a unique tour. And all this despite Vaughn's
sometimes-hesitant soloing, where the lack of rehearsal was pretty
clear, and Bob's occasional trouble with his voice and the lyrics. A
flawed show that was also a perfect show. Those little troubles make
it so much more exciting to watch. 

At the hotel bar I sat with Peter, Graham, and Eric from LA and had a
banana bread old fashioned, which seemed like a damn strong pour.
Nancy thoughtfully offered me a ride to my hotel, where I checked in a
bit tipsy and so exhausted that I crashed on top of the covers with my
Fanny pack still on. What a day, what a tour. What a bunch of
adventures this tour has been! What friends I've made, what great
concerts I've seen, what strange towns and places I've explored.
I'll see you in Alpharetta. 



Comments by Sergi Fabregat

- Jimmie Vaughan has stepped in and out few times. From the left side
 I could see someone with a guitar hung up so knew something was 
 going on. Definitely wasn't expecting him to stay for more than a 
 couple of songs, those several replacings of Doug have been a real WTF.

- Vaughan has added a really different sound to the band, beautiful but
 not too flashy solos and specially an incredible work in 'Grain of Sand'.
 Bob surely has let him play, but he has blended amazingly with the band.

- When Doug has come out again in 'Key West', he was jacketless and with 
his sleeves rolled up. Very serious looks and even sweating a bit (it 
was hot down there tonight). A semi-new arrangement has been tried, and 
is true I have felt that something was off, not sounding right. A couple 
of killer Bob looks to the Doug side and even an "ohshhh..." at the mic. 
Next song, Vaughan in again, maybe the best 'Serve Somebody' of the tour.

- 'Walking By Myself' has been incredible, super danceable version, 
nothing of Bob start-stop or piano driven. Pure strikes of lightning.

- To put it easy: when Vaughan was on stage, Bob seemed happy as if it 
was Xmas, belting the phrasing and all you can imagine. When it was 
Doug... I've felt bad for him, wouldn't want that his last show with 
Bob has been like this honestly.

- 'Jimmy Reed' and 'Grain of Sand', specially the latter, with Vaughan 
just scraping the strings, have been unforgettable, a very special 
hasta la vista to an unforgettable tour. Bob has done an extra mile of 
acknowledging thankyous and a mini meeting with the band (not sure if 
Doug was there) when lights went down.

Maybe just for the human aspect, I'd stick with Austin #1, but I think 
that also emotionally-wise last night had that bit of extra something. 
In any case, so glad I decided to do them all to Austin and my bet is 
that we're not done with R&RW yet!


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