Atlanta, Georgia

Fox Theatre

April 24, 2015

[Duncan Hume], [Ric Harwood], [Noel Mayeski], [Steven Seachrist]

Review by Duncan Hume

Had decent seats for Himself last night at the great old Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
The revised version of Working Man's Blues #2 won the night. It's really quite 
wonderful. He's added a few lines to Long and Wasted Years including 
something like "remember when were two boys together". The performance 
has lost some of the drama of the  Royal Albert Hall magnificence but is still a 
highlight. Early Roman Kings was great with Stu given maracas duty. Stu 
grinned throughout the whole song clutching his 4 maracas. Shaking them 
for all he was worth. It looked exhausting. 

I knew it would be a good night when early on Bob really got into She Belongs 
to Me holding an open hand out towards the audience and then back to his 
chest. The sound was great all night and the crowd were enthusiastic cheering
 the 'new' songs almost as much as the old it seemed. 

There was a pretty major tantrum towards the end during Blowin' in the wind. 
He stood up from the piano mid song and marched over to the side curtains and
shouted angrily at someone stage side. I assumed a soundman was getting an 
earful but within seconds Baron appeared visible to all and stood shining a 
flashlight into the second row repeatedly. Baron looked very pissed off. I guess 
Bob had spotted someone either taking photos or video. 

Stay With Me was as good a Chicago last autumn. A perfect closer. Charlie looks 
much older than just a months back and was very static the entire night though 
he played some wonderful lead. 

Overall a really great night. The depth and clarity of voice is still there pleasingly 
and he obviously is still loving be on stage. Stage lighting hasn't changed. Still as 
dark as possible with a new larger 'fake' microphone placed strategically to 
stump those keen to capture a decent photo. But Ding Dong Daddy. His bell 
still rings. 

Duncan Hume


Review by Ric Harwood

It was 1995 when Bob Dylan last played the Fox Theater in Atlanta, and what 
a tremendous concert it was.  But tonight as I was waiting for the show to 
begin, I was thinking more about all the places he's played in Atlanta in the 20 
years in between and how fortunate I am to have been able to enjoy so many 
great Bob Dylan shows right here in my own back yard.

I almost didn't attend this concert tonight.  I had seen the AmericanaramA 
tour the last time Dylan came through town a couple years ago and it seemed 
like this tour was very similar, from the set list right down to the stage lighting. 
So I had about decided to pass this time around.  But by this morning I was like 
"What?! I can't miss this!"  So, I purchased a pair of tickets for my wife and 
myself, and I am so glad I did.   I love it when a concert exceeds my 

I think Peter Stone Brown said it best (as usual) when he described this tour as 
being "totally about the music".  Bob Dylan worked and emphasized every line in 
every song.  And his harmonica playing was much more spot on than I've ever 
heard it before.  But the main thing was Dylan's stunning vocal quality.  His voice 
was more dynamic and melodic than I have heard it in years.  The band has all 
the little nuances of each song nailed down, probably thanks to the static set l
ist, and Dylan sounds accomplished on the grand piano - which I prefer over his 
electric keyboards.

There were a lot of new verses and lyrics, most notably in songs like Tangled 
Up in Blue and Simple Twist of Fate.  To me, the highlight of the evening was 
Long and Wasted Years.  His delivery was passionate and animated and totally 
powerful. There was a new verse about how we were like brothers and grew
up together and trusted each other.  And then there was a line, kind of a twist 
on the one in Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight, about how the past is dead gone 
and tomorrow might as well be today.

Well, it's almost 3am and I think I'd better call it a night.  What a great evening.  
I hope Bob Dylan stays healthy and performing for many more years to come.

Ric Harwood  


Review by Noel Mayeske

Ah, the rhapsody of Live Bob! I’m always kind of pinching
myself before (and during) getting to see Bob live in concert, him being
my favorite – and time not slowing down. Soon now he will be 74. Once,
according to the Beatles, 64 was the threshold for being old. Nowadays the
meter keeps sliding. How many more years can he do it?

Based on last night’s performance, I’d say he’s got as many
more as he wants, really. It would be pointless to compare his voice,
playing or energy to other key points of his career, especially in the
distant past. Things have changed. But at the Fox Theatre last night,
under Moroccan, star-jeweled “skies” (you can see constellations of stars
in the ceiling), he delivered exactly the type of show he should be
delivering in 2015 – and he did it well.

Why is it the right show? Why not a set loaded with hits - or
even non-hits most fans would recognize?

He could do that – he could Rolling Stones-ize. And it
would make a lot of people happy. But that’s never been Bob – even back
when. You could make a case that he truly did that just once – the ’74
tour with The Band. That was as high-profile as he ever got, at least to
the masses. He sold out arenas and the set lists and performances would
indicate there were probably no disappointed fans.

But the rest of the time, on this crazy journey of more
than 50 years of live performances, it’s been about a show that matched
his own preferences. Certainly you could say that about the ’66 tour where
he was booed; the ’79 tour where he played almost no old songs; the cover
songs during the NET that nobody asked for but that revealed a lot about
Bob’s tastes and roots.

That’s what he’s doing these days, with The Set. The Set is
his nearly-unchanging arrangement of songs, dominated by 2012’s Tempest –
and only two songs each from the ‘60s and ‘70s. In fact, just under half
the set (if we include “Stay With Me,” a song written in 1963 by Jerome
Moss and Carolyn Leigh, but not released by Dylan until 2015) is from
albums less than 6 years old. Remarkable, at least in showbiz terms.

Now, despite what one might think, Dylan isn’t anti-showbiz
per se. He and his band are always sharply-dressed – this night’s outfits
were brown for the band, and a dark suit with white trim and a white hat
for Dylan. The stage was carefully designed to emulate an old-fashioned
movie set, with big movie lights arching back behind the band in an
ascending arc. And there was a nice little light show – simple, and mostly
just white lights, but it changed the feel for every song, from dim
lighting for ballads to brighter lights for “Tangled Up In Blue” and
“Duquesne Whistle.” Perhaps the most effective use of the lights came
during “Soon After Midnight,” when white lights speckled across the
curtains behind the band, like stars upon stars.

So he has a sense of what he’s presenting to the public
along with just the music – hard not to call that showbiz, in its own way.
But it’s showbiz from a different era. Consciously choosing not to keep up
with the flash of modern stage production, or even the thumbs-up, chatty
energy of a Paul McCartney or mantle-wearing muscularity and audience
interaction of Bruce Springsteen, Bob has opted for something befitting
his age and interests.

So now – to the night’s music. 

The first thing I noticed was two things – Dylan’s clear
enunciation and vocal command, and the tasteful arrangements. 

First, The Voice – second only to The Words in Dylan
analysis. Certainly, it’s traveled many a mile (some 3,400 concerts given
since 1961) and had characteristics from the start that turned people on
or off. When I saw him in 2013 on the Americanarama tour, he seemed old
and his vocals didn’t resonate well with me. At the Fox last night, almost
every word was clear and strong – plenty of vocal power behind the words –
and even if you didn’t know the songs, you could follow along lyrically.
(Not the case at many concerts.) This was supported by the band, which
seems to know just the right colors to add.

And unlike a Dylan show I saw in Birmingham, Alabama in
2010, where Charlie Sexton looked like a caged tiger trying to break free
of the arrangements; or the Atlanta Americanarama show that turned out to
be Duke Robillard’s last with the band due to an apparent musical
disagreement with Bob; the current band understands its role in supporting
Bob’s mostly quiet songs, and does so effortlessly. (Granted, that’s
surely aided by playing an almost unchanged set list for more than a

That’s nice to see. You want a certain amount of tension in
a band, to move the sound forward – or at least play the best one can
within the range given. But it’s also nice to not see obvious dissension

The show opened with a loud gong, followed by Stu Kimball
playing some bluesy, countrified riffs – like a a song waiting to be
written. A beautiful and auspicious way to begin.

My favorite song performances of the evening started right
off the bat, with one I didn’t expect to enjoy so much, having heard it in
live shows so many times – “Things Have Changed.” It sounded fresh and
right; it really is the perfect opener for Bob Dylan. 

“She Belongs To Me” is in my top 10 Dylan songs, so it’s a
pleasure that it’s held its spot at #2, even as The Set was originally
evolving in 2013. While it seemed anthemic in 2013, now it seemed a little
toned down, sweeter, with a nice harmonica solo.

“Workingman's Blues #2” is one of my top 10 Dylan songs
post-2000, and it flourishes in concert. While tonight’s version didn’t
have the grit and gravity of, say, a favorite version from Boston in 2009,
the clarity of the arrangement compensated.

“Duquesne Whistle” is fine, but feels like fluff to me –
just like its former placeholder of jump-jazz in the set from a few years
ago, “Thunder On The Mountain.” It’s a genre exercise and a mood-shifter,
without much substance.

“Tangled Up In Blue” – who would think any more power could
come from a song played so many times? Yet, this was one of my favorite
songs of the evening. Unlike the 2010 version I heard in Birmingham that
was truncated – leaving out all the fun parts in the middle about the
Italian poet – this was a full, albeit rewritten version. I love how Bob
has played with the lyrics on this song through the years. “Memorize these
lines and remember these rhymes,” as the new lyrics midway through go,
indeed. A definite highlight. 

And although every song got great applause from the crowd,
this was the first huge cheer of the night other than the opening. Blazing
harp solo, too – in fact, the harmonica was the most remarkable solo
instrument of the night. Bob played piano on a number of songs too, but
nothing as galvanizing as the harmonica. Fun, though, to see him play both
in one song – harp first, then he wandered over to the piano in the later
part of the “Tangled.”

Part of what makes “Tangled” fit into The Set – and the
lovely “Simple Twist Of Fate” that was to follow after intermission – is
the story-telling aspect of it. It’s tailor-made for a set queue of songs
and stage set that emulates a movie set.

“Forgetful Heart” – if I were to pick a favorite
performance of the night, this would be it. Seeing and hearing Bob perform
it live adds a great deal to the recorded version from 2009’s Together
Through Life. It was nice on record, but takes on an intimacy in concert
that we’re not used to at a Bob Dylan show. Hearing it live at The Fox
last night was similar to hearing “Sugar Baby” played live at his immortal
Atlanta show from 2002 – it’s the thrill of hearing something so quiet and
intimate played to a large crowd. I read recently that Mick Jagger is
nervous about playing all of Sticky Fingers at shows this year (they’re
celebrating the 40th anniversary of that LP) because “it has three slow
songs on it… not sure how that will go over.” Clearly, halting momentum
with a quieter sound is not a problem for Bob. This performance sparkled
and pulled you in.

I was glad to see the crowd accept the lack of hits – only
once or twice did I hear the usual calls between songs (”Watchtower!”
“Hurricane!”). “Spirit On The Water” is one of my least-favorite Bob Dylan
songs, but I appreciated the response it got from the crowd – when he sang
the “You think I’m over the hill?” line, the crowd was loud: “NO!!”

 “Long And Wasted
Years” is the center of gravity of The Set and I thoroughly enjoyed
tonight’s version – a close second to “Forgetful Heart” and “Tangled Up In
Blue.” It’s been toned down a bit since last year – less venom, less
accusatory, less bitter– more wistful and personal. In fact, the
performance of this with Bob at center stage felt like one of the more
personal songs I’ve ever heard from him in concert. Whether the lyrics
detail any part of his actual life, he sings them as if they do. 

(As he said in the AARP article recently, “…It’s [singing
in performance] a bit like alchemy. It’s different than being an actor
where you call up sources from your own experience that you can apply to
whatever Shakespeare drama you’re in or whatever television show. With a
song it’s not quite the same way. An actor is pretending to be somebody,
but a singer isn’t. He’s not hiding behind anything.”)

I must admit, it was nice to hear “Blowin’ In The Wind”
near the end. I appreciate the guts of The Set containing almost all new
songs, but for the versions of The Set where he’s left off “Blowin,” it
feels a little undercooked. This one floats in just in time to tie things
together, before he releases us for the night with a song from his newest

A great evening with an artist who keeps on growing. 
Thank you, Bob!

Noel Mayeske


Review by Steven Seachrist

My 30th Dylan show was a big surprise to me. I didn't follow any set lists
or other info as almost two years elapsed. So when I realized there was no
opening act and two sets would be played, i thought it was so unusual.
Maybe he was doing this because he was at the venerable Fox, my pride for
the ATL said. This blissful ignorance probably colored my appreciation of
the show, to the good. Stu strummed a pattern to ease into the night, and
the first set began in earnest. There's no point in a song-by-song
rundown, so I'll just say that very few classic Dylan tunes were played
and that was fine with me. I see this as a slow transformation to nearly
all newer material, and it certainly has happened before in Dylan's long
history. But everything sounded fresh, and I would not have guessed how
long this basic set list has been around. I think a few people near me
were perplexed -- expecting way more hits and recognizable arrangements of
those. But no one openly expressed disappointment. Maybe he's slowly
winning them over. I doubt it, but he's trying.

As in all shows from recent memory, his band is allowed to produce only
textures. There's no room for soaring guitar solos in this aesthetic. It's
as cool as any music can be, heavy on the mood and devoid of flash. I
think it's almost ripe for a live album to be recorded. In fact, I will be
shocked if that doesn't happen. It would garner five star reviews and sell
a million. He has the best band ever, and they never let him down. What
kinds of instructions do they receive in order to paint from one single
palette? Or do they just lock together naturally, having been around their
boss so long? Someone write a book, will ya? Well, of course wait until
you're off the tour for good. I love a good road book, especially when
it's about this guy.


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