Atlanta, Georgia
10th Annual Music Midtown Festival
Dodge/96 Rock/UPN Atlanta Stage
May 2, 2003

[Adam Selzer], [Jason Edgecombe], [Marki Clarke], [Frank Grey]

Review by Adam Selzer

The rain started during Sheryl Crow's set. After a few
songs, she had to take off, and I couldn't blame her;
the wind was making the overhead lights sway all over
the place. A security fellow took the stage and told
us all to leave until the weather had cleared, but we
were having none of it; everyone knew there was no
safe place in the area; they just wanted us out so we
couldn't sue if we were hit by lightning. But how the
hell would we have been any safer standing just
outside the gates? The was no opportunity for indoor
shelter. And the tickets stated "rain or shine."
They'd made me buy a three day pass even though I was
only going one night, and, dammit, I was going to see
the show, and hold my spot in the rain. So, as he
bugged us to leave again and again, we all stood our
ground and chanted "rain or shine! rain or shine!"
Then he'd disappear, come back, tell us again that we
all had to leave, and we'd start with the chanting
again. A few stage hands raised their fists in
support. The guy eventually gave up. We won. 

  Of course, this left those of us in the front
standing on a metal grating in a lightning storm,
which wasn't exactly the brightest thing we ever
tried. But we would not be moved. More than one person
suggested that Dylan should come onstage, wave his
hand, say a few words, and calm the storm. He can
probably do that.

  As the rain started to die out, someone pointed out
that my neck was bright blue. Apparently the rain had
caused some dye to leak out of my hat (though I'm not
sure why a black hat would have blue die). I'd stood
on metal through lightning and turned blue. I'd earned
my front row spot.

  After roughly two hours, Sheryl Crow came out and
played about another twenty minutes. Bob finally hit
the stage at 11:30; the time at which he was scheduled
to end.

  "To Be Alone with You" and "I'll Be Your Baby"
opened, and were sort of warm-ups, with Bob really
getting into the vocals. He moves his hands over the
keys, but I don't think he's always playing for the
following reasons:
 1 - you can very rarely hear any piano
 2 - he's singing expressively enough that I don't
think he's worrying about anything besides singing
most of the time.
 3 - when he plays and you can hear it, he looks
different. Like a mad composer standing over the
piano. His hair gives him that Beethoven look. The
long jacket helps.

 "Highway 61" was the rocker in which we first got to
check out Freddie's style. It's minimalistic, like
Bob, only he's hitting all of the right notes, and
jazzing it up a bit. He's added a certain spooky
smokiness, a 50's jazz club sensibility, to the band.

 The highlight of the evening to me was "Just Like Tom
Thumb's Blues;" Bob apparently decided on it at the
last minute. He told each band member what it was, and
played a brief piano intro (of sorts) to get them
started while Tony told Freddie how the song went. The
first verse, about being lost in the rain, seemed an
apt description of the scene in the crowd. This song
usually sounds adrift to me on tapes, but tonight it
found a groove and a rhythm right away, Bob singing
through the verses with little break between them
while the band played a slightly syncopated, mid tempo
spooky TOOM like arrangement. Jazz club sounding stuff
again. Prior to the last verse, Freddie took the solo,
and absolutely nailed it. Percect! I decided right
then that I really liked Freddie. He's no Charlie,
guitar-wise, but his style is very different and works
for the band really well. I can't wait to hear a
recording of this without the frat boy fucker singing
along behind me. Any good recordings? Mp3 it! Hat me!

 An early "Drifter" indicated a shortened set, as I
expected. Here, Bob took center stage, right next to
Freddie, and they played simultaneous leads. Bob
clearly likes Freddie a lot.

 "She Belongs to Me" was the next surprise of the
night, and was in the same smoky jazz club vein as
"Tom Thumb," only with a classical overtone. Bob took
a piano solo on this one, fairly low in the mix, but
generally nice from what I could tell. The arrangement
worked very well.

 "Honest With Me" is the new raveup. The band got
going on this; Larry seered and Freddie got funky. Mid
song, Bob ambled to the front of the stage and, for
just a moment, danced. Sort of. The brief dance he did
sort of resembled a person with cerebral palsey doing
"the robot." I was afraid that he might really start
to break it down, but after a few seconds he wandered
back to the piano, leaving us all cracking up.

 "Summer Days" has lost something and gained
something. It's not the huge raveup that it used to
be, though Tony is still twirling his bass. While it
was certainly rock and roll, it, too, got a sort of
smoky club feel to it. If the fall renditions were the
Winter Dance Party, this is what was going on over in
the jazz clubs when rock was in its embryonic state.

 Bob was about to leave after "Rolling Stone," but
Freddie said something to him and they came back for
Watchtowner. Larry played funky, Freddie played
spooky. One more formation; with Bob grinning like a
fool, and, at 12:30, they were off.

 Good show? Absolutely. Maybe not one for the history
books (though "tom thumb" and "she belongs to me" were
both the best they've been in a long time, if you ask
me), there was general agreement among my party is
that the band seems to be in a transitional state.
Tapes from LAST WEEK don't sound quite like what we
were hearing; the band is becoming smokier, jazzier,
maybe a bit more mellow, and that may be where things
are heading. I think that shows six months down the
road may sound very different from what we're used to,
if the Dead shows don't change things.


Review by Jason Edgecombe

Dylan's Atlanta stop was somewhat of a disappointment, but I should to
explain further, which will require some back story.  Dylan was scheduled
to headline the first night of the annual Music Midtown festival in
Atlanta, a three-day, multi-stage outdoor event.  When I arrived at about
6:00, the sky was overcast and black.  Cracker opened the day and
following their set light rain began to pelt the crowd. Sheryl Crow took
the stage at 8:00 and the wind began to howl, blowing light trusses and
amps around on the stage.  Three songs into her set, someone came on stage
and told her something, then she went to the mic and said, "We'll be
back," and walked off.  Within minutes a torrential downpour began.

Lightning was now everywhere in the Atlanta sky.  A festival organizer
came to the stage and told everyone to leave the venue.  Most of the crowd
took off, but I and a couple hundred of the other Dylan faithful who were
up front weren't leaving - if we were going to get wet anyway, we weren't
going to lose our places near the stage.  I huddled with about 10 other
fans under someone's Mickey Mouse poncho that we took turns holding up. 
Finally the rain let up, the tarps came off the instruments on stage, and
Sheryl Crow returned at about 10:30 - long after Dylan was supposed to
have started.  She finished an abbreviated set, and everyone down front -
soaked and freezing - was ready for Dylan.

He finally took the stage around 11:30.  This was the first time I'd
seen Dylan since he started playing piano, so I was looking forward to
that.  At other shows, I'm assuming he plays a real piano, but it was an
electric keyboard tonight (too humid for a piano?).  "To Be Alone with
You" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" came off well.  The whole band was in
top form, and the set seemed more upbeat than the other Dylan shows I've
seen.  Dylan was all smiles all night - he really seemed to be enjoying
playing and his vocals sounded terrific.  He picked up the guitar only
once all night for a blazing rendition of "Drifter's Escape."  "She
Belongs to Me" was a treat as I've never heard this one in concert before.
 "Honest with Me" was pretty much like it has been in other shows, which
is to say fantastic - Larry's slide guitar smoked and George Recile really
shines on the drums during the breaks.  Dylan closed off the main set with
"Summer Days," which sounded tight and rocked.

And this is where the disappointment came in.  With only 7 or 8 songs, we
had definitely a longer set.  Even though some times bands at this
festival only have a short time to play, Dylan has always headlined at
Music Midtown and always done a full set in other years he's played.  He
came back for a two-song encore - a good, but somewhat obligatory "Like a
Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower" - but that still brought his
set in at least a half dozen songs shorter than other recent shows, like
two nights ago in Louisville.  Compounding the disappointment was the fact
that, as said before, the band sounded incredible, and we wanted to hear
more of it, especially since Bob looked so excited to be playing.  After
arriving 5 hours early for good seats, getting soaked waiting out the rain
and risking lightning strikes, I was looking forward to a full set.  I
can't really blame Dylan as it was probably the festival organizers who
cut everything short, as it was almost 1AM by the time he finished.  So,
bottom line, after going through all of that, Bob's set was a bit of a
tease; if the old adage of "Always leave them wanting more" is true, he
definitely left us wanting more.  So, note to Bob: Come back to Atlanta
soon and finish up!


Review by Marki Clarke

I guess even the master has an occasional off night.
A long weather delay brought Dylan on stage at the time his set was
scheduled to end.  It was an abbreviated show and Dylan and the band seem
to be off-kilter. Bob seemed agitated, and I blame the long delay. He
appeared to be ready to leave the stage after only a few songs. He managed
to pull off eight, with an encore of Like a Rolling Stone and All Along
the Watchtower. Between songs he was fidgity and fitful. The whole band
was ill at ease. This was the eighth time I've seen Dylan live, and seven
of them were amazing. I guess even the master has an occasional off night.
But I'm not put off! I'll see him again in two weeks in Birmingham.


Review by Frank Grey

Now about the music. Sheryl Crow had played a couple
songs before (almost) everybody took shelter from the
storm. She played an abbreviated second set and the
sound was poor. Not anybody's fault. The stack of
speakers on each side of the stage had been taken down
and were replaced by single speakers sitting on each
side of the stage floor. The vocals were tough to
decipher and the sound was low and muddy. But it was
cool she stuck around and that there was any music at
all. Before her last song she said something very
close to, "Thank you for staying, this will be our
last song and then the great Bob Dylan will come out
and rock your ass". He did.
At 11:30PM, "the guy who forced folk into bed with
rock" took the stage with his band. To Be Alone With
You was a welcome and well-done surprise opener. Mr.
Dylan was obviously in very good spirits and seemed
almost giddy. The later verses sounded "loving" as
performed. The lyrics were much more intelligible in
the mix than Crow's. Maybe it's just a matter of being
more familiar with Dylan's songs. (Side note: A
Mississippi duet never happened) Dylan's crew deserves
a lot of commendation. I saw a lot of bands in Atlanta
over the entire weekend at Music Mid-Town and almost
all had to fight with the sound crew for at least a
couple songs. Not Bob and the boys. Seeing other bands
at venues where I have seen Dylan, I am struck at how
superior the acoustics for Bob's concerts are. Great
work. Next, with a harp intro and outro, was I'll Be
Your Baby Tonight. Excellent rendition. No doubt that
Dylan was very much in control. Sly and playful were
two words that I scribbled on my setlist sheet. But
the word I would apply as most appropriate to the
performance would be sexual. Bob very much had the
sound and phrasing of a man ready please his lady for
the night. I joked to a couple of new friends
after the song that it sounded like Ms. Crow may have
given Bob a little special attention during the rain
delay. Next came the first rocker. Highway 61. As he
sang "easily done", Dylan jerked toward the crowd and
smirked. Obviously having fun. It may have been during
this song where he got both knees doing the in and
out. The fourth song was definitely one of the
highlights. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. Deliberate
and excellent. This rendition was more powerful than
any version I've heard in a while. For Drifter's
Escape, Bob picked up the guitar for the first and
last time. I saw no indication from Bob all night in
any displeasure with his band. He used Drifter's as an
opportunity to jam beside Freddie. During the harp
outro, Bob lifted his hand to soften the sound. No
doubt who the band leader was tonight. 6th came
another welcome and well-performed surprise. She
Belongs to Me. Maybe I missed it before, but I noticed
here for the first time, Bob playing the keys and harp
simultaneously. Honest With Me was another highlight
for many reasons. The band rocked. Bob was playful and
emotive ("if only yooouuuu knew"). During one of the
jams, Bob wandered from behind the keyboards (to the
viewing audience's far left) to center stage and did
some brief air orchestrating in front of the drums.
Bob was obviously as caught up in the music as the
rest of us. Unbelievable, another first for me. The
jimmy leg made another appearance. Summer Days was
eighth, followed by the formation. LARS was the first
encore. The festival crowd responded to this song. It
was pretty clear that many used the rain delay to get
as wet inside as out. Heavy sing-alongs during all of
the choruses. But Bob didn't seem to mind. After the
song, Dylan picked up his hat and coat and started
off the stage, but the band persuaded him to do one
more song. This was All Along The Watchtower and the
hour was "getting late". I was watching Freddie during
this song and he is definitely not a look-at-me showy
guitarist. His approach is somewhat minimalistic. I
wasn't sure what to think of him after the show,
though some lingerers near the stage were chanting
"Freddie, Freddie, ...". His soulful performance in
Charleston on Tuesday won me over, but that's another
review. Bob in keeping with his demonstrativeness of
the night, picked up his coat with an authoritative
snap and put it on. At 12:30 AM, it was belatedly time
to head to another joint. (Thanks again, Bob.)



page by Bill Pagel

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