Houston, Texas
Verizon Wireless Theater
April 23, 2003

[Jason Nodler], [Bridger Bell], [Tom Friedrich], [RJ]

Review by Jason Nodler

Contrary to many notices, I was both elated and disappointed by the 4/22
show.  As mentioned in other venues, the steel guitar was broken and it
just seemed to throw everyone.  Freddy especially seemed spooked and
missed some easy, obvious stuff, much to Bob's chagrin. 

That said, last night and tonight were night and day. Bob was clearly
frustrated last night. Tonight he clearly had a great time. I've seen him
maybe 35 times. Tonight's good mood was surpassed in my experience only by
last year in Austin (which remains my favorite show -- tonight gets second

Every song he played last night and played again tonight was transformed
by his effort, his engagement. He was just so into it. I commented on this
during Tweedledum and Tweedledee and it carried on through Blind Willie,
High Water (especially - this was cranking), Honest With Me and Summer
Days. Night and day. Where he sometimes phoned it in last night, he was
there for every single moment tonight, loving it, caring, tasting each
syllable, managing each moment from the band. 

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You was like an omen. It happened early
and it was like he was saying to each of us, okay, I'm here, and I'm gonna
be here. All the way. It was a great feeling to start the show. 

Highway 61 was the best version I've heard and I'd say I've heard 15 or
20. He relished it and so did we. It was very exciting. 

Blind Willie was much more lively than last night and his phrasing was
new, to me at least, and different than last night. (but nobodEE/can
SING/the blues like/Blind WillEE McTell) If this is old hat for the rest
of you, my apologies. I haven't been on a regular tour for a lot of years.
This was a fresh phrasing to me, and exciting as such. 

Watching the River Flow is a big fave to me and exciting for that reason,
but it wasn't a remarkable version. His spirt was great, but it didn't
translate into a special read. Same for Drifter's Escape, though it was
miles better than last night. 

It Ain't Me Babe was extra special though. He took his time, he tasted
every word and every phrase. He was playful but serious. It was the best
I've heard of this song (and I'd guess I've heard it at least 8 or 9
times). And it clearly got him going. I remember thinking, he's gonna bust
the rule. He's gonna play more acoustic. I started an impromptu solo
chant: one more, please one more, one more like that, just one more, etc. 

And sure enough, he started another acoustic tune. 4th Street was acoustic
right up to the break before the last verse (or maybe second to last, I
was in a daze at this point). And it was absolutely the highlight. It was
one of those occasions where the contemporary reworking made the song
better in every single way. A friend commented on the way out, "It wasn't
even bitter, and that's a bitter song." It wasn't. It was lovely, but it
scored all the points. It was lonely and communal at once. And again, he
took his time, he stretched it out, he brought everything he had to make
it everything it could be. Towards the end, he set down his acoustic and
played piano for the last verse or two. In a break he walked around the
stage like he was looking for something, but he wasn't sure what he was
looking for. Wasn't his harp. He knew where that was. It was like he had
energy he didn't recognize and was looking for somewhere to let it loose
in a different way than on a guitar or a harp or a piano. A righteous 
restlessness. As he'd have to do, he gave up and went back to the piano 
to finish it up. As the lights went out on the song a stagehand came out 
to take the acoustic guitar away and he stopped him and made him leave 
it there behind the piano, which made me think he might add an acoustic 
number to the encore -- after all, he'd been behaving strangely in the 
best possible way all night. 

I've already mentioned how fine Highwater and Summer Days were. Bye and
Bye was very, very nice as well. Again, totally engaged, carefully,
thoughtfully sung (even though he did repeat the 'sitting on my watch'
verse at the beginning and the end of the song - didn't matter - he
clearly meant it both times). 

Can't Wait was superb. It and Positively Fourth Street were the
uber-highlights. And it blew doors off Standing in the Doorway (my
favorite from TOOM) from the night before. 

And then the predictable encore. I lost a dollar to kid rib betting that
his mood was so good (plus the insistence on keeping the acoustic) he
would change it up a little -- if only just to add Blowin in the Wind or
Hard Rain. I lost the dollar, but LARS was extra charged. There were times
he seemed to get lost in the crowd's reaction, resulting in some
long-time-no/old school "How does it feel's." Sorry to say I don't ever
really care how Watchtower goes. Bob covering Jimi covering Bob just
doesn't do it for me as a peak, especially after hearing it at every
single show I've attended. 

But it was a goddamn special night.


Review by Bridger Bell

i arrived at 7.  the concert was scheduled to begin at 730.  i had the
option of standing in the front, or sitting in the front row of seats,
about 25 yards from the stage.  i decided to sit at least until bob came
out.  the opening band had a couple songs that i really enjoyed. they're
an Australian band called The Waifs.  They played from about 8-830.  Bob
came out at 9 and started with a song i don't care for so much called
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  He was on the far left of the stage, on the
keyboard, with his three guitarists in the center.  From that short
distance he looked very aloof and disinterested in the performance.  the
only comforts i had at that point were that i could actually understand
most of his words and that the music wasn't too loud.  i decided i should
move closer.  how glad i am that i did!  i made my way up to the very
front, so i was about 15 feet from bob.  and from there i could see how
involved in the performance he was.  he was very theatrical.  it was just
more facial than full-body physical, so i couldn't see it from the back. 
and he was so very much into the performance.  the songs were adapted to
his changed voice, which he used to it's fully capacity, with
characteristic inflection, jumps, and cracks.  he got out his guitar for
It Ain't Me Babe, which was stirring.  And then he played Positively 4th
Street, the most beautiful rendition.  completely unlike the recorded
version, so sweet and sorrowful.  and I cried.  that song is very personal
to me.  the tears didn't stop streaming down my face until the song was
over.  the rest of the concert was very lively and great fun.  the
keyboard added alot to the music.  and bob was so funny acting out his
persona on the side of the stage, right in front of me.  the most
masterful thing he did was to embrace his aged body and voice, and play
the part of an old man, and play it impeccably, instead of, as say david
bowie does, pretend that he's still young and just look like a wash-out. 
it was one of the most enjoyable, incredible experiences i've ever had
with music, or should i say poetry, or theater.  thank you bob dylan.

--Bridger Bell


Review by Tom Friedrich

It's all over now Baby Blue!  I've just seen 5 Dylan shows in 6 days and
boy are my feet tired!  That's a lot of standing as they were all GA shows
but all well worth it.  Dallas was extremely intimate and hot (no AC!)
plus my first show in 14 months and Freddie's first show (he's really
great, regardless of what some may say.)  Dallas really rocked, very loud
and intense and we got to hear "Dignity" (really nice breakdown near the
end), a surprise with "Easy Lovin'", and a beautiful "Saving Grace" on
Good Friday. 100 minutes long but well worth it.

Austin shows were both outdoors and had 4500 people each night compared to
1200 for Dallas and 3000 for Houston.  The Austin crowds were very vocal
and party-like.  Saturday was good but Sunday was great, they were so
loose and laid back and you could tell from the opener of "Watching the
River Flow" that it would be special.  Freddie played violin on two songs
and it was amazing, "Floater" and "It Ain't Me Babe" I think.  He keeps
getting better and better each show, building confidence.  Sunday had 10
songs different from Saturday too, a nice treat.  

The Houston shows were very good too.  He dedicated "Blind Willie McTell"
to the memory of Sam Houston.  That was amazing to hear live and oddly I
had just bought a McTell 2CD best of earlier that day!  It was kismet I
suppose. Then he did it last night too so we got lucky again.  "Don't
Think Twice" was really nice to hear, it was long and cascading. 
"Positively 4th St" was great last night, he switched from acoustic guitar
to piano as it wasn't agreeing with him.

Each show was 16 songs, about 100 minutes each night.  The Waifs were
quite pleasant too, about 30 mins each night.  I met some really cool
people from Norway, a guy named Magna who saw his 200th Dylan show Tuesday
night!  Other friends from IL and Austin were there too partying out.  Its
not a bad gig to travel the country, see museums, record and book stores,
eat, drink, and be merry with Dylan.  I could get used to it!

Tom Friedrich


Review by RJ

 Questions- they all have questions. Having had some backstage access both
nights let me get to them. Larry's pedal steel had a pickup problem and
they did not have a spare ready in time and at 9:00 he said "---- it we
don't need it." Wednesday night Bob's stroll around behind the risers was
to check the levels on Fred's guitar. The boy had his hands full and had
never noticed he was a little loud and Bob danced over and qued the sound
board to adjust. On tuesday night Bob did say some things. He said "We
want to dedicate this one to Sam Houston" and broke into Blind Willie
Mctell. He also into'd the band both nights with a cheerful countenance
and had a few "why thankya" for the ever loyal Houstonians and has always
seemed to enjoy himself here.
 As for the set's themselves there was a little something for everyone;
from the kid I talked to out front who said he had never seen Bob and was
beside himself with anticipation to the weathered old hat wearin' traveler
who said "just call me River" and said he had seen so many shows he had to
remember by decades. I had to admit my decades can get a little blurry at
times as well.
  For any who might care there were a few harmonica breaks both nights as
well as some scorching stratocaster lick trading Tombstone and Hwy 61:
some acoustic picking on Tonight and I'll be your baby tonight and some
sweet melodies on In the moonlight and Dignity. 
 As for me some of the best moments in life are watching someone do the
thing that makes them happy and being very good at making you happy you came 
for a look. I have been looking since the summer of 73 and have always been
happy with the message and the delivery. Now I think I am happy with the
man himself. Just show up Bob. We will be there. And all those smiles you
see from the old guy on the side will be there as long as the good Lord
gives me the strength for the trip.

RJ in Houston


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