New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Heritage Fair
Fair Grounds Race Course
April 25, 2003

[Andre Salvail], [John Pruski], [Michael Smith], [Michael Palma], [Tom Ostoyich]

Review by Andre Salvail

NEW ORLEANS -- I'll keep this short and sweet as another new day of
JazzFest awaits. Bob Dylan was the headliner Friday afternoon at the main
stage of the Fair Grounds racetrack and  to me he was in fine form. I
can't say that for his entire band -- at times they seemed a little lost,
but maybe it's tough following the mercurial whims of a musical master. He
opened with a concert rarity, "To Be Alone With You" and it was clear he
was in a good mood and feeling loose. Following that up with another gem
from Nashville Skyline, "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," was a
great idea and a welcome change for someone like me who's tired of hearing
him redo his radio hits. The band was in jam-band mode and maybe a little
too loose and I wonder if new guitarist Freddie Koella has studied the
Nashville Skyline stuff as the chord changes were often late or too early
and the shifts into the bridges were sometimes rough.

Dylan the piano man? It was a nice, unexpected touch for Bob to stick to
keyboards most of the day. He's no Professor Longhair, but he kept it
simple and if anybody knows how to play Dylan on any instrument, it's
Dylan. On "Tonight" he punctuated the minor-chord parts brilliantly and
really delivered. Having knocked out his true fans with those first two
songs I halfway expected "Lay Lady Lay" or "Country Pie"  to come up third
or somewhere else in the set but it was not to be.

"Highway 61 Revisited" was standard concert fare but he seemed to be a
little more into it than other times I've heard him do it. It gave him an
opportunity to showcase the band and the leads were nice but nothing
overly special. His band lineup for his last New Orleans show, at UNO
Lakefront in March 2002, was much tighter but the set list during that
show left a little to be desired.

"Things Have Changed" and "Dignity "were superb and proved worthy of the
lineup. It's clear the Bob has more fun singing the new songs than the
classics. He smiled a lot and seemed at times to be eyeballing people in
the massive crowd with a quick head gesture away from the keyboard on some
of the bluesy turnarounds. Had his piano been turned up a little higher on
some of the endings, it might not have sounded as good. Yes, at times he
seemed to take on the role of the fun-loving, sloppy, tongue-in-cheek, New
Orleans-hotel piano man. I've never seen Dylan grin so much and my friends
and I often wondered during the show's slower moments what's got him
feeling so giddy. There were moments when I felt he was mocking himself --
Dylan doing Dylan.

The JazzFest audience numbered in the many thousands but it wasn't
unbearable to the level of a Jimmy Buffet or Sting crowd. Everybody was
enjoying the show even if they weren't familiar with the new stuff from
Love and Theft or the Wonder Boys soundtrack composition. The sound mix
was a lot better than I expected from the bozos running the JazzFest. The
crowd chatter was at times bothersome but they gave him polite applause
and occasionally he gestured to them as if he expected more enthusiasm.
But this was a JazzFest crowd, not an audience solely consisting of Dylan
groupies and many people didn't know or care what was going down on stage.
At least they didn't try to sing along with him (with his dedication to
twisting his songs around, you can't) or mock his voice during the set's
finer moments, a buzz-kill I've encountered at some of his other shows. It
would have been nice to hear the light piano chords and Dylan's
stretched-out lyrical phrasings without background noise about what hotel
so-and-so is staying at or the Uptown bar at which everyone was planning
to hook up later.

"Mr. Tambourine Man" came mid-set and was kind of a low point. He seems to
rush through it without regard to rhythm as if he's obligated to sing it
but doesn't like it anymore. I've seen him perform it with only an
acoustic guitar in the past which is a much better fit for that song.
"Tambourine Man" doesn't work with a piano backing. Maybe what he's trying
to do is stress that the backing is unimportant -- "Tambourine Man" always
has been about the lyrics anyway. His voice cracked a little from time to
time but his delivery was generally clear.

He rebounded quickly with "Drifter's Escape," "Bye and Bye," "Stuck Inside
of Mobile" and "Saving Grace." "Honest With Me" was another great
selection off Love and Theft and a good warm-up for the show's highlight,
"Hard Rain." Dylan put everything into this version of "Hard Rain" and I
was wondering if the Iraqi war was the inspiration behind his enthusiasm.
"Summer Days" closed out the 14-song set and was nice. Then he left the
stage for the encore buildup. I knew what the encores would be so I was
slightly disappointed at that point in the show -- he had done nothing
from my two favorite albums, Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind, and wasn't
going to. It struck me as odd since he recorded Oh Mercy in New Orleans
with Daniel Lanois and "Thibodaux Tony" Hall on bass. The band performed
adequately, and Dylan sang with strong presence, but I could've done
without the "Rolling Stone" and Watchtower" encores. But at JazzFest, the
jam-band style prevails more often than not.

I can only hope that at the JazzFest night show in the smaller Municipal
Auditorium venue he pulls out a few from Mercy and TOOM. For that matter,
why not "Where Are You Tonight," "You Ain't Goin Nowhere" or "Sara,"
Bob??? I saw the Texas set list which showed he did "Love Sick" and
"Standing in the Doorway" and I have to wonder why he never plays them in
New Orleans. "Love Sick" has the eerie quality of sounding as though it
were written somewhere in New Orleans, perhaps next to Bob's "mythical
residence" off Prytania Street a few blocks from the river, perhaps some
foggy night when he was walking down a lonely streetcar line listening to
tugboat horns and taking in the sights and smells of America's most
magical city.

By Andre Salvail
Thibodaux, Louisiana


Review by John Pruski

Our hero Bob Dylan’s concert on the “Fess” Stage at
the Louisiana Heritage Fair of the 2003 New Orleans
Jazz and Heritage Festival (aka Jazz Fest) was
fantastic.  I guess the same fantastic comment applies
to Jazz Fest performances in general, as well as for
all recent Bob Dylan shows.  Yesterday’s daytime Dylan
show (5:05-6:45 PM or so) certainly was no exception. 

I’ve been going to Jazz Fest since 1973, when as a
Orleans Parish High School senior I had enough
connections to get in free as an usher for my first
round of Jazz Fest shows: Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King,
BB King, Stevie Wonder, et al.  I moved away from NOLA
in 1982, but I’ve been back for many/most Fests since,
including Bob’s only other Festival Appearance (also
at the Heritage Fair part of the Fest) on 23 April
1993, 10 years and 2 days before yesterday’s show.

Anyway, I’ll modify what I once heard an MC says about
BB: that boy Bob has “potential”!  Bob played piano
(situated on stage right / audience left) on 15 of 16
songs, and played guitar only on Drifter.  Speaking
of, Drifter was the only song where Freddie’s get-down
solos somewhat “overlapped” with Bob.  Otherwise, Bob
and Freddie (and Band –in matching gray suits) meshed
superbly.  IMO, Freddie’s style (or at least his style
yesterday in Dylan’s Band) partly mimics that of Bob:
slow-ish spurts of tasty bass runs all around and
through the beat.  But Freddie has many more tricks
than mere mimicry; he was just flat out great, like
Charlie.  Freddie is not as rock oriented as I’ve
read, and I found him to be much more bluesy than I
expected.  In short, yesterday Bob and the new version
of the band were simply fantastic. 

The show began with three of the first five songs
(Alone, Tonight, Baby Blue) having country flavor,
onto a great Dignity (with a cool new stop time /
break arrangement in parts), and thence to a hugely
popular and well-received Tambourine Man, the
composition of which was supposedly influenced by
Bob’s 1964 Mardi Gras experiences in New Orleans. 
Next, Drifter found Bob on guitar for a triple strat
jam.  Bye And Bye slowed things down before a great
Memphis Blues which, as a hit and as continued FM play
list song, was an obvious crowd favorite.  But bear in
mind that the crowd was mostly a NOLA crowd, and not
as much as a “Bob-is-great, Bob-is-good, let us thank
him for our food” kind of crowd.  

Saving Grace was a great post war (but sadly not
post-appointed-President Bush) song, as was Hard Rain,
which was 2 songs later.  Hard Rain had new-to-me
differing vocal inflections in parts, as did another
song or two, but none as much as I remember from
Towson a few years ago.  Toward the end of the main
set Bob twice glanced and grooved at and with the
crowd, to spontaneous smiles all around. The concert
ended more or less as had Bob’s past few shows, that
is with Honest and Summer days rocking, and finally
after the band formation with great encores of LARS
and Watchtower.

Some random observations:  Bob was videoed and
simultaneously projected on a huge screen to the
audience left.  Bob blew nice harp on two? songs, but
at present I am remembering hearing him blow only on
Drifter.  He wore black shirts and pants along with
styling sunglasses.  He wore his cowboy hat only for
the two encores, and his coat only during Watchtower. 
(The Australian is it?) Oscar was on stage.  Freddie’s
old orange strat was his main ax.  Several songs had
acoustic guitars, as opposed to the first show of this
tour.  Hard Rain was all acoustic, save for Bob’s
Piano.  Bob introduced the band before Summer Days. 
One of the stacks had the same old Blind Lemon
Jefferson sicker as it did during the fall tour. 
Speaking of Blind Lemon, Professor Longhair’s inner of
two t-shirts (worn during his 27 April 1975 Jazz Fest
show, as seen in the “Fess” Stage logo, as well as on
the cover of the Fess’s Dancing Cat record / cd) was a
Blind Lemon t-shirt.  That is Longhair’s 1975 Fest
Blind Lemon Jefferson t-shirt was covered in
performance that year by and for the photographers
with a Jazz Fest t-shirt.  But this review is not
about our other friend and hero Professor, but rather
about Bob, who was truly fantastic at the 2003 Jazz
Fest!  (Oh, and so was Fats the day before.)

John Pruski
St. Louis MO


Review by Michael Smith

Let me say, first of all, that I hope this show starts circulating ASAP
because everyone who hears the new arrangement of Hard Rain will be
absolutely astonished. Secondly, several people that I spoke with who had
seen some or all of the new tour thought last night's show was the best so
far. What can I say? I can't help it if I'm lucky. I've had the good
fortune to see several great shows in recent years - including Asheville
and Central Point in 2001 and Red Bluff last year - and last night was no
exception. It wasn't perfect but it was great and the highlights were out
of this world. It was obvious that it was going to be a special show
before Bob and the band even took to the stage. The previous act, a
cajun-rocker named Jo-El Sonnier talked about how his "friend" Bob Dylan
would be on next and how he and Bob "go way back". I'm thinking to myself
that, because I've never heard of him, this guy is probably trying to make
himself look big because of some tenuous connection at best but - lo and
behold - at the end of this guy's set Bob Dylan appears in a hooded
sweatshirt backstage checking out his performance! (Because it was an
outdoor show, there was no real backstage area so it was really easy to
see what was happening.) So, after what we thought was Sonnier's last
song, he walks off stage and Bob gives him a big hug and they stand there
and talk for a couple minutes. Then, the guy comes back on stage and says
that Bob requested that he play Jambalaya, which he then plays as an extra
encore! So, later, when Bob and the band take to the stage, their
formation is pretty comical. It looks like a police line-up with Bob on
stage right and everyone else lined up next to him looking at him. Bob was
wearing a casual shiny black suit and sunglasses and the band had on
matching charcoal gray suits. The first song, To Be Alone with You was a
real treat for me because I'd never heard it before and I had been
expecting Tweedle Dee. It was obvious from this performance that Bob was
in a good mood from the get go. Other songs that deserve special mention,
in no particular order, include: Dignity - a show-stopping performance.
Bob nailed all of the words and sang this very confidentally, following
the original melody closely. Even if he sang the verses out of order, he
got around to all of them sooner or later! During the new instrumental
break, Bob stepped back from the keyboard and began dancing and directing
the band with his hands, which had a galvanizing effect on the audience.
During the last verse he sang (I swear I'm not making this up) "I'm fucked
up and I'm at the edge of the lake." When this performance was over, I
just wanted the concert to stop for a few minutes so I could process
everything I had just seen and commit every detail to memory. I hope Bob
plays this many more times because everyone deserves to hear it. Sadly
this was followed by the only real weak link in the set - and I mean it
was _real_ weak: Mr. Tambourine Man. It started with Bob singing into a
switched off microphone and things only went downhill from there. Bob
seemed unsure of the words and the whole thing sounded really rusty,
almost as if the band hadn't even rehearsed it. Freddy was watching
Larry's fingers for the chords and the whole band seemed out of sync. The
whole thing almost fell apart a couple times. Bye and Bye - this was
really beautiful. Bob was smiling almost the whole time he sang this for
some reason that was unclear. He smiled a lot all night, sometimes at the
other members of the band and sometimes, like here, to himself, as if at a
private joke. My girlfriend said she's never heard him sing so sexy.
Saving Grace - Also beautifully done. Freddy's lead guitar part on this
was very nice and Bob sang it with great conviction. There was even a
minor lyric variant: "To search the whole world for love ain't no more
than vanity." Honest with Me - it's not really a new arrangement but it
sounds different because of the new instrumental break; instead of anyone
taking a solo, Freddy and Larry, who stand side by side and lean into each
other like they're in The Rolling Stones, play a minimalist discordant
start/stop jam. As with Dignity, this has clearly been worked out in
rehearsal and Bob directed the band with his hands again. Hard Rain - I
thought the great Dignity performance was going to be what I took away
from this concert and then Bob tops himself with a masterful,
one-of-a-kind, never to be repeated performance of this song that he's
performed so many memorable versions of already over the decades. Bob was
on piano. Freddy, on acoustic, and Larry, on cittern, played the exact
same riff at the same time, which gave Bob a pretty spare framework to
sing over. And the vocal delivery just slayed the audience. He got into
this staccato thing where he spat out each syllable of each line and then
immediately launched into the next line without pausing. Everyone in the
crowd started going crazy, which spurred Bob on to lay it on thicker and
thicker and the song just kept kicking itself into ever higher gear until
the finish. It's hard to describe. You'll just have to hear it. After the
show was over, someone said that just when you start to question why you
spend the time and the money to see these shows so far from home, Bob
delivers a performance like last night's Hard Rain that totally validates
and renews your love for him. I don't even care what he does tonight
because that one performance last night made my whole weekend. So aside
from Tambourine Man, the whole show was at a very high level of quality
with the above mentioned songs being the highlights. Freddy is a fine
guitarist who plays in a minimalist style. He doesn't play many notes! The
only time I really missed Charlie was during Summer Days, which will never
again be what it was but we'll always have Paris (the boots). As soon as
Freddy gets more comfortable and the band gets as tight as it was with
Charlie, I think you can count on another run of incredible shows. It
could happen later this tour or this summer.


Review by Michael Palma

So we drifted down to New Orleans, right outside of Dellacroix.  Left
Atlanta Friday morning by car -- rented a little apartment in the French
Quarter.  Six hour drive with the new Lucinda Wlliams CD in tow.  Arrived
at our little Inn at 4 pm -- dropped off the bags and taxied to the
Fairgrounds...Picked up a crabmeat Po Boy and got to the Acura tent at
4:50.  Bob came on at 5 pm.

The sound was good for an outdoor festival.  Seen Bob at maybe 20 of these
"Fairs" -- the large video screen was a nice touch, also.  Bob had on a
black cowboy shirt and shades.  But, my favorite accessory was the white

There wasn't a lot to like about the show.  Other than "Saving Grace", Bob
was mailing it in.  He almost parodies HIMSELF on most vocals.  I don't
think I've seen him less inspired since he released TOOM.  The piano is an
obvious move toward a less strenuous act, which is understandable.  I like
Bob's piano -- especially on studio numbers (Oh, Mercy piano songs -- Slow
Train Coming piano songs).  But, the piano on this tour is buried in the
mix -- then turned up LOUD on Bob's faux solos.  It's not that honky-tonk
"Dylan" piano we're familiar with -- it's spare "filler" style of
piano-playing -- but, it was so buried in the mix I could hardly hear it. 
He played piano on all but one song, Wicked Messenger.

There were many glitches -- most obvious is that the band is still
"rehearsing" live (for a lot of money).  The new guitarist is good -- but
doesn't know the songs well enough.  He stands next to Larry and looks at
Larry's hands.  This has a detrimental effect on the tour.  The setlists
are so similar because the "new band" doesn't know the few songs Dylan is
playing.  The sound guy didn't know who to bring up and down and when to
do it.  The most comical example was that Bob's vocal mike was off during
the trademark first-line of Tambourine Man.  So a song that was supposedly
inspired by Dylan's '64 Mardi Gras trip was botched from the intro. 
Losing its effect on the masses -- for whom it was intended (this was what
I call Bob's "State Fair" set, rife with recognizable anthems).

No songs from Oh, Mercy -- recorded in New Orleans.  No songs with New
Orleans references (Tangled, Idiot Wind outtake, "from the Gand Coulee Dam
to the Mardi Gras", et al).  Just a "here's what my troupe knows well
enough to play for you today".  Hey, I know that Bob is distant or shy or
whatever -- but, he was just so impersonal and professional in his
delivery.  I write it off as a travel day and an early show in 80 degree

I head back to my little inn, excited about the Auditorium evening series
show the next day with Lucinda to open.


Review by Tom Ostoyich

It's been ten years since Dylan last played Jazz Fest and that '93 date
marks, for me, the time Dylan began delivering consistently good
shows--the many times I've seen him since have generally been good shows,
with a few fantastic ones along the way, too.  But the NOLA '93 show ranks
high in my memory as a personal favorite--"I and I", "Jim Jones", Dickie
Betts sitting in, and a truly wonderful "It Ain't Me, Babe" as the sun
began to set on a warm spring day.  I was hoping he'd hit that high again,
but a bit apprehensive, as he doesn't always seem to rise to special
occasions and at this year's Jazz Fest, Dylan was a big draw, a
high-profile gig.

Dylan more than delivered--and thanks to the large video screen, we were
all able to see Dylan at his most engaging--routinely smiling and doing
his herky-jerky "dance" movements--he really seemed energized by the
songs, by his singing and by his revamped band.  I think the nearly
all-piano set has reinvigorates him -- he clearly seems excited by the new
band line-up and new arrangements.  He's got a new way to re-explore the

My friend--who is no fan of Dylan and has avoided all my urgings to see
him over the years--was blown away by the show and the band and said
afterwards that she can't believe what she's been missing.

I'll just stick to the highlights, as you all know the setlist--"Things
Have Changed" was better than I've ever heard it--Dylan doing his best
black comedy--he really milked the "water under the bridge" and
"wheelbarrow" lyrics--everything seemed like dark punch lines--truly funny
and wonderfully done.  The new arrangement of "Dignity" is also the best
I've heard--I particularly like the guitar brakedown, where the band drops
out to leave Koella and Campbell wailing and riffing away.  They do this
again in "Honest With Me" and it just sends me.  "Bye and Bye" was more
high comedy, with the band doing a nifty jazz shuffle.  All great.

I hate the superlatives, but "Hard Rain" was the finest version I've ever
heard him do live--I usually find this song plodding in concert, but
Dylan's vocal was so awesome and dramatic, building to a rapid stacatto,
that it brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps everywhere else.  This was
absolutely stunning and fresh.

Dylan's vocals are a bit more mumbly this go 'round, but he seems to be
pushing his voice more--the breathier tone he had 4 and 5 years ago.

All this and "Saving Grace"!

And if Dylan seems reinvigorated by the new material, I found the
warhorses to be fresh too--"Memphis Blues" was crisp and even "Rolling
Stone" sounded fresh, including one of many fine solos from new guy
Freddie.  And "Watchtower", while not as menacing as it was with Charlie,
predictably brought the house down.  As for Freddie's role in the band,
he's got big shoes to fill with Charlie gone, but I really like his
sound--he may be showing off a bit much (my estimation of Larry's more
unobtrusive playing keeps rising), but I think Freddie's just feeling his
way.  A NOLA friend of mine who knows Freddie from the local scene ran
into him on the track--Freddie said that the band hadn't even rehearsed
six of the songs they played tonight--Dylan was just telling the band what
key to play in and then charging into the songs.  So a bit ragged--missed
cues, sometimes still soloing while Dylan sang--and yet ragged, but right.

My only complaint is that Dylan has now abbreviated "Summer Days"--the
guitar work-out shortened as he sticks with piano throughout (he played
electric on "Drifter's Escape").  And the rumors of friends who might've
joined him onstage turned to be untrue--Lucinda Williams, Aaron Neville,
Duke Robillard, Jo-El Sonnier and CS & N, who all played this weekend,
never hit the stage.  Alas.


page by Bill Pagel

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