Verona, New York
Turning Stone Casino and Resort
Events Center
April 20, 2005

[David DeVries], [Chuck Owen]

Review by David DeVries

Over the last four decades and especially over the last ten years I have
seen Bob Dylan and his various bands perform in a range of venues and with
a range of performers.  I’ve seen them play in college campus auditoria,
in outdoor performing arts centers, in the so-called events centers of
small cities, in a farm county fair, in a minor league baseball park and,
last night, in one of the newer additions to the American cultural
landscape: a Native American casino’s performance space.  The performers
he’s shared the bill with over the last decade describe a similar arc in
terms of American popular music: Paul Simon (gracefully crafted American
music with a world beat), Phil Lesh and Friends (the friends the night I
saw them being members of Little Feat among others—the Dead range of
spacey jazz-inflected jam band meandering), Hot Club of Cowtown and Amos
Lee (young workers in the roots music vein) and Willie Nelson and Merle
Haggard (reigning kings of country music).

The continuing Bob Dylan road show carves its way through the
possibilities of American performance space, like one of those nineteenth
century traveling theater shows that set up stage in saloons, in churches,
in town halls and barns all across the country, night after night bringing
drama and comedy and music to the hinterlands.  The presence last night of
Amos Lee suggested that there is a future for the kind of music that
matters to Dylan and to those of us who have followed him for years.  And
the presence of Merle Haggard and his wonderful band of Strangers confirms
the sense I have that this kind of music transcends the political
differences that so often disable public discourse in this country.  I
suspect that many of Merle’s fans and probably Merle himself support the
current administration and its policies.  But they all recognize fine
fiddle playing and beautiful songs and foot-tapping rhythm and that’s what
brings them out to a concert with one of the hippies’ favorites.  And the
songs Dylan plays every night, of course, have carved their way into the
very marrow of American music, both by burrowing and borrowing deeply in
it and by adding a nearly unprecedented amount to it.  Last night’s
performance leaned heavily on his past—nothing from Love and Theft, for
instance—and pretty heavily in the 1960s.  But, and this is what makes a
Dylan concert so important to me, Dylan’s 1960s are not the 60s you see
evoked by other survivors of that storied decade like the Rolling Stones’
faux psychedelic ornamentation for some of their trippier songs from the
late 60s or McCartney’s huge scale references with video and slide show
screens of his mates from his younger years.  Songs like “It’s Alright
Ma,” or “Desolation Row,” or “Hollis Brown,” could never become the cues
for nostalgic slide shows of Dylan’s 20s the way McCartney uses Beatles
songs to cue his slide shows.  Listening to the terrifying story of Hollis
Brown last night in its new setting as an ominous electric blues brought
that piece of prairie desolation vividly and immediately alive.  My son,
who is thirteen and who was at his second Dylan concert, asked with some
concern in his voice after the concert if the story in that song was true.
(And that should give you an indication of how well Dylan was singing
last night—my son caught every word of that song.)  Whether it is
historically true or not really doesn’t matter, I replied.  What matters
is what you think about the story.  And he then asked about the seven
babies being born at the end.  “What does that mean?”  Indeed, what does
it mean?  My son thinks it is a hopeful sign.  I think, on the heels of
that slow building tragedy, that it implies seven more potential dead
ends.  But that’s not the point.  Here’s the point: a sixty-three year old
man was able to sing a song so compellingly he got a thirteen year old boy
to care, to worry about the people in the song.  That is a testament to
the extraordinary power of Bob Dylan.


Comments by Chuck Owen

This was my second show in Dylan's all new spring tour. It was a pleasant
three hour drive from my home in Canada. I'm not going to critique Dylan's
set list, it was very similiar to last weeks performance at Shea's Theater
in Buffalo NY. The audience was very appreciative to another fine
performance from Dylan and his band. There was roaring applause and
several standing ovations for the grand master. If Dylan should decide to
retire there will be a huge gapping hole in Rock'n'Roll larger then the
Mesabi Range. Dylan has given me over 40 years of enjoyment as I followed
his career. This was my 45'th concert and it happened on my birthday, this
was a special night for me to say the least. And Dylan and his band put on
another solid performance, I like to thank Bob and his band and I hope to
catch another show real soon. And for the rest of the Dylan fans out there
Dylan has "The Never-Ending Tour" in great shape, so get your tickets

Chuck Owen


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