Atlantic City, New Jersey
Hilton Hotel
Grand Theater
May 9, 2003

[Peter Stone Brown], [Jeffrey Johnson], [Stephen Walter], [Steve B.], [Stasia]

Review by Peter Stone Brown

It was kind of this miserable raining and not raining and raining again
day in Philly, the kind of rain that wets the roads just enough to make
them slippery and traffic everywhere was crawling.  I'm pretty sure this
was Dylan's fifth time in Atlantic City, not counting the times he did two
shows in one night.  It was also his first time at the Hilton.  I'd been
the Hilton a few times before to see the Everly Brothers and Dion and
maybe somebody else somewhere along the way.  Usually they have tables,
though they don't serve drinks which makes the table kind of useless
anyway.  The Waifs were already on by the time we actually got into the
theater (shows run on time in Atlantic City) and we took our seats about
midway from the stage to end up behind what appeared to be the only true
drunken moron in the place who didn't shut up once during the Waifs and
had a mullet besides.  The Waifs are actually pretty good, playing some
sort of Australian/American roots rock.  Good player singers, good songs
and one of them plays a pretty mean harmonica.  They played exactly 35
minutes.  At one minute after 9. Dylan took the stage and opened with
"Maggie's Farm"

On this tour, Dylan has perhaps the weirdest stage setup ever.  He's all
the way over the left of the stage instead of being in the center.  But he
is Bob Dylan, so who's going to tell him what part of the stage he should
be singing from?  Anyway the reason for this setup quickly became clear. 
It's so Dylan can lead and cue the band, and perhaps keep an eye on his
sometimes wayward drummer.

Dylan seemed to be in good spirits and having fun.  New guitar player
Freddie Koella came right out (unlike previous new Dylan guitarists) and
played a fairly funky lead.  Next came "Tell Me That It Isn't True" in an
arrangement that was pretty close to the original with Larry Campbell on
steel.  Larry played a fine steel solo and it was Freddie's turn to jump
right in, but he didn't seem to find whatever he was looking for at it
took a while for him to get it.  It wasn't a big deal, but he should have
been right on it and he wasn't.  

Next came "Tweedle Dee" and "Tweedle Dum," which was just fine, the band
maintaining the groove.   However on the second verse, Dylan went into
what some people call the "singsong" mode, which when he goes high on the
last word of a line.  Unlike the fall tour, where he'd do it once and then
stop, he kept it going kind of, but was also doing that thing he does
where he's looking for the groove to make the song happen, laying into
stretching out some lines, breaking off others.

It was back to "Nashville Skyline" for a decent "Lay Lady Lay" with Dylan
singing strongly as well as convincingly with Recile staying reasonably
close the original Kenny Buttrey drum part.  Dylan concluded the song with
a not bad harp solo that was just starting to approach the cosmic phase
when he ended the song.

Then it was back to rocking with "Things Have Changed," and a not bad at
all "Watching the River Flow" with Larry playing the slide part.  An
equally good "Blind Willie McTell" followed though it was kind of
diminished by the mullet drunk who was dancing the entire show and started
falling into the chairs behind him.  A fairly run of the mill "Highway 61
Revisited" followed, and then came the sort of rearranged "Standing in the
Doorway."  However this version was far better than the couple of mp3s I'd
heard earlier in the tour.  The double-time guitar part, which I thought
was played by Koella is actually played by Larry and at Atlantic City, it
wasn't a lead at all, but a guitar part in the arrangement of the song and
instead of dominating was in the background.  As a guitar part it worked
fine, as a lead part it doesn't.  Koella and Campbell had some really nice
interplay going on in this song.  

Next came the high point of the show for me, a rather stellar rendition of
"Dignity."  Though he kind of mumbled the opening line, the rest of the
song was close to perfect.  And this was followed by more than competent
versions of "Just Like A Woman," with a good harp solo, "Honest With Me"
and a more than decent "Moonlight."

Now last fall, "Summer Days" was the perfect song to close the show.  With
three guitars going crazy, the song reached stratospheric heights - there
were times I could've sworn I heard horns on it, though of course I really
didn't.   At Atlantic City, it didn't come close.  Something I don't know
what, threw Dylan off early in the song and he started blowing lines.  It
took him a while to recover.  Just as he did, Recili came out of a drum
roll and kind of lost the beat.  The guitars players tried to save it, but
it never really took off.  "Like A Rolling Stone and "Watchtower" were
fairly predictable.

After last fall's Philly show (perhaps because I had very good seats) I
kind of felt like the guy on stage was the closest we were going to see to
the kid who rocked the talent show at Hibbing High School.  I feel even
more that way now.  Dylan is clearly having a good time on stage.  Every
once in a while he comes out from the piano and does his Dylan walk
shuffle and then goes back to the piano and leads his band.  However his
band is in a transitional phase.  Some arrangements are the same, some are
slightly different.  There's no doubt that Koella can play, and he can be
both funky and tasty when he wants to be.  He doesn't seem to have a
handle on the songs yet.  And while he apparently has no problem stepping
out, he does not have the edge and the fire that Charlie Sexton had  not
yet anyway.

Gone at least for the moment are the harmonies, and also gone for the
moment is the feeling of a band that had been together for years and knew
exactly what it was doing.  

At the same time, it wasn't a bad show by any means.  It just wasn't a
truly great one.  It was a great singer having fun with his songs and his
band.  That that singer is one of the greatest and probably the most
influential songwriter of the last century, along with being on of the
truly brilliant vocal stylists of the last 40 years is another story. 
Dylan did enough to let you know he can still do it.  One last thing.  Bob
Dylan did not touch a guitar the entire night.

"I'm having a hard time believin' some people were ever alive" -Bob Dylan


Review by Jeffrey Johnson

The Man of a million facial expressions, and myriad keyboard stances
appeared (at this warehouse with seats) in white boots, as is appropriate

Never leaving the piano, He led the band from far stage left.  From this
show, it's clear that this web site should add pertinent detail to its
set lists to indicate "(Bob dance solo)."

After attending a dozen shows during the Charlie Sexton Era, beginning
with his Tramps 1999 debut through the fantastic Madison Square Garden
shows last November, his departure was deeply regrettable.  An opening act
and a dwindling set list compounded these concerns.  Charlie grew
enormously in the band and his 2002 UK performances showcased his talents
and energized the Maestro.  

Thus, the first show without Charlie presented considerable concern. 
After watching the band baby sit its new session drummer across the UK, an
Apollo Landing-type train wreck or less innovative set lists were feared. 
But after the first night in Atlantic City, there's reason to hope that
this change in personnel will similarly inspires the Maestro and a
metamorphosis is under way.  Two Larry Campbells in one band would not be
a bad thing, and this could develop.  

But Freddie's obviously still in his probationary period, as he appeared
to be wearing Charlie's hand-me-down suit and is the only member of the
band not wearing boots - he's got to follow protocol.    

Reviewers often contend that He plays covers better than His own 
masterpieces.  More notably, every concert has a show stopper, a song
played to perfection.  In Brighton, "Man Of Constant Sorrow," was the most
meticulously-performed song of the UK 2002 Tour.  At the last MSG shows,
the passionately-performed "Something" and "Heavy And A Bottle of Bread"
were stellar, overshadowing fantastic renditions of Brown Sugar, Old Man
and the Zevon songs.  MSG 2001 spotlighted Tangled Up In Blue in 2001. 
Tramps redefined Visions.  (New York City is undeservedly blessed.) 
Tonight the show stopper was "Just Like A Women," with the encores close

Tell me It Isn't True presented the best vocals of the night.  

Blind Willie McTell suffered somewhat by addition of the piano, but so
what it remained fabulous.  

HW 61:  another new version, this time "Six teee won!"  Larry and Freddie
fused perfectly. 

Standing In The Doorway, perfected in the sound check, was performed

Dignity is back, but would benefit from three acoustic guitar treatment.  

Down the home stretch, the Maestro let the reins free and it was play
time, showoff time for the band on ## 12-14, Honest With Me, Moonlight and
Summer Days.  Larry gleefully synchronized his strings to the Maestro's
harp and again collaborated nicely with Freddie.  (But Larry's Honest
With Me guitar lick didn't resonate as usual.)  

Since at least spring 2002, Rolling Stone and Watchtower (except
Brighton's rap version) have been performed as if they were
newly-released singles.  

Interestingly, with personnel changes, each leg of His piano tour has a
trademark sound beyond the set list.  The Charlie Sexton leg including MSG
was marked notably by Brown Sugar, Old Man and the Zevon compositions. 
But it was further marked by a zest that made the usually-reserved Larry
Campbell dance on stage.  Now, it's the Proud Band Leader dancing in
tribute to His band mates, particularly His revered drummer.  

From His piano-command center, the Maestro punctuates the same way He
plays guitar.  It's childishness and brilliance combined.  Sadly, it
seems that there could  be a piano weaning for the imminent Dead tour.  

The double header resumes tonight and we can hope for a touch of violin,
Desolation Row and more of this subtly dancing Maestro.  

Jeffrey Johnson
New York City via Greyhound


Review by Stephen Walter

Soon they're going to have to start building highways on top of highways.
I can't recall the last Dylan show in the Tri-state that I got to with
anything resembling ease, and Friday was no exception. I'll spare you the
gory details; suffice it to say that the highlight came when we were
trapped on the N.J. Parkway in a needling spring rain, virtually
motionless, for an hour. And no one had come to look for America, it was
the wrong highway for that, and there were too many cars to count anyway
(and too confusing: does an SUV count as one, or two--how about a
Hummer?). We arrived just in time to grab drinks at the "Dizzy Dolphin"
adjacent to the theater--which wasn't as tacky as it sounded, I'm
disappointed to say, being something of an aficionado of the horrid old
nautical-style bars with their fish netting, starfish, model ships and
lanterns--and haul them in to our seats at 8 p.m.

Atlantic City might as well be nowhere near the Atlantic, as far as most
of its visitors are concerned; save for a brief stroll on the boardwalk,
they exist in a kind of perpetual twilight, a roomful of uncovered mirrors
reflecting a whole country's dream life of power, greed, and corruptible
seed. It is a potent blend of the repugnant and the seductive; yet even
amidst the glitter, the promises of instant paradise, it is difficult to
keep one's mind's eye off of Desolation Row, lurking in the grim back
streets only a few short blocks behind. Perhaps that's why Dylan likes to
play here: he's been covering the territory, metaphysically speaking, for
most of his career.

Certainly, seeing his billboard rising from the salt marshes on one's
approach to that Oz-like city is a celebration of all thing incongruous
and bizarre. I wonder why he keeps trying a new casino each time. Have
they not wished him, or his audiences, back? Sheer curiosity? Bigger
bucks? Looking for a better game? Whatever the reason, the Hilton may have
been the best of the bunch; brighter, cleaner, and somewhat removed from
the center of the action, less haunted by the desperate multitudes. Its
showroom, which backs up right against the Boardwalk, was a fitting place
of refuge: less glitzy than the Tropicana, less intimate than the Sands,
with the tables removed it had the stripped-down feel of a larger city
club--and, as Dylan seems keener to play casinos than clubs 'round here
these days, I figured I'd already broken even with the chance to see him
in this small of a room.

In my old American Heritage Dictionary, a "waif" is defined as a vagabond,
a stray, or--appropriately, considering the location and their own
background--something washed up from the sea. This young band played the
role infectiously, with some lilting harmonies, sharp acoustic lead
guitar, and very tasty harp--audience comment: "I wish Bob would play like
that"--and I felt the frustration of those long hours on the road begin
slowly to drain away.

That is, until I noticed the already-famous Mr. Mullet making a ruckus in
the next row. For the opener, mind you. It almost never fails, does it?
After incense filled the room and the lights went down again, his
horizontal dancing, cries for "Idiot Wind," and air-guitar windmills would
basically define the Dylan portion of the event for me. All I can say is,
Mr. Mullet's wife or girlfriend must love him very deeply, to hold him up
like that when his body threatened to collapse, to allow him to sit on her
lap (!) when he needed a brief rest: I emphasize brief, as he even
"danced" during "Moonlight," albeit somewhat more slowly, with arms
extended, like a child pretending to be an airplane. Their mutual devotion
was rather sweet, I suppose, in a Barfly sort of way. 

After a couple of his backward falls, I stashed my wife to the side for
safekeeping, planted myself behind him--hands pushed firmly on the back of
his chair to prevent it, if not him, from crashing down into my
row--gritted my teeth, ingested some anxiety medication, and did my best
to focus on the performance. Mr. M. was certainly the exception in what
seemed a respectful and very enthusiastic crowd on the whole (one set per
night helps to keep the binge drinking down, I guess), most of whom
remained standing throughout the show, save, of course, for the "comps" in
the middle, a few of whom could be heard bellowing for the next, what, 20
rows in front of them to sit down?--with about as much luck as they'd
likely have trying to beat the odds at the tables later on. 

Bob Dylan, bandleader and piano man, played a warmly capable, engaging
show distinguished by the absence, not only of acoustic guitar, but of any
guitar whatsoever. He even made a joke about while introducing the band,
something to the effect of "I haven't been playing much, mine are all
(out?) of tune." I appreciate the humor, and don't miss his electric
guitar at all--when it comes down to that, I'd just assume he stay on
keyboard in perpetuity, especially seeing how dramatically the move has
revitalized his singing, brought it to a much higher level of intensity
and focus--but I must confess that I do dearly miss the acoustic sets, or
at least AN acoustic set ... or song! 

To go from the extended acoustic forays of '99-00, which I loved, down to
alternating acoustic-electric, was fine; I liked that too. But to hear an
entire show without the "still point," the respite, of even the brief
3-song acoustic sets of the earlier NET is a strangely unsettling
experience. Not that the performance becomes "one-dimensional," not with
all the other instruments in play, like steel guitar, cittern, &c.; and of
course I was so caught up at the time that I didn't dwell on it too much
... but afterward, reflecting, it just seems that something's missing: and
not because of the shorter length, which actually seems to me just right,
in keeping with Dylan's current strengths and limitations. In general, I
feel the innovations wheeled out last fall and continuing to unfold in the
U.S. this spring have been wonderfully exciting, but I'm afraid this is a
sticking point for me; in this I am a staunch reactionary: a Dylan concert
needs an acoustic set, however short or long.

That is a criticism, however, not a complaint. I've little but praise for
what I actually heard last night--a show almost evenly poised between
"early" ('60s) and "late" (post-'80s), which made me wonder if the absence
of much "in-between" ('70s) on this tour represents a deliberate choice,
with Dylan, as per his stage announcement, juxtaposing these two eras not
only to better foreground the strengths of the latter, but to stress its
fundamental continuity with the "best work of his career." Myself, I've
never needed any convincing on that point--I'd be elated if he played
whole sets of later work--but a lot of people have needed convincing in
the past, and many still do, I'm sure, though Dylan has begun to narrow
that gap considerably. What's most impressive is how strongly he believes
in his newer songs these days, enough to get out there and proselytize for

Much as I loved the past two fall tours, I think Dylan's voice is at its
strongest now since back in double-0. It's a wonder to hear and behold,
though the beholding may give you a bit of whiplash as you swivel your
head back and forth from Dylan to Koella & Campbell. Garnier at stage
center: I guess that's what you get for sticking with the Big D. so long.
It all pays off in the end! As for Mr. Koella, I hate to say it, but he
gave me a real case of the Charlie-who's: I love the warm tone of his
guitar and the way it contrasts with his spare, yet not-angular, style.
He's stepping out for more solos than any Dylan guitarist could reasonably
hope for this early in his tenure, another reason to be thankful for the
Master's voluntary exile to his little side-stage Elba. On the encores,
too, he shone; but, for the last time, note to sound people: main set =
plenty loud. Encore = ear-puncturing. For the love of Zeus, leave it where
it is.

I'm not much in the mood for a song-by-song, and perhaps they're becoming
obsolete anyhow in these times of "day-of" MP3s. Standouts for me were a
low, almost purring "Lay, Lady, Lay," a "Blind Willie McTell" that managed
to sound both solemn and fierce simultaneously, "Standing in the
Doorway"--the new arrangement of which is really starting to improve,
become more dynamic and fluid; not quite there yet but I expect great
things ... it may end up being the solution to the live performance of
this song, which too often came off as a dry, sterile recitation--yet
another blistering, jaw-dropping "Dignity" (I'd heard the one from
Portsmouth Friday morning and didn't dare hope we'd get it again tonight)
easily the best damned thing I've heard from the tour so far, and a
rampageous "Honest with Me," a song that I typically don't find so
compelling but that tonight compelled me all over the place (all while
remaining IN my place, I might add: I declined the opportunity to occupy
three additional ones along with Mr. M.; just as well, seeing that my
white-man dance has got nothing on him, or, for that matter, on Dylan's
Mr. Roboto, which he generously displayed for us several times last night
... what's next, I wonder, "Tight Connection"-style dancing?).

And after all that, to step out onto a near-deserted boardwalk wet with
rain and watch the surges coming in off of the literally cold gray sea.
Well, hot dang it, it's semi-mystical hoo-hah smack dab in the Temple of
Sin! I just may have to head back there tonight.


Review by Steve B.

Took four hours to make the 2 hour drive from northern New Jersey.  Rain
and the extra long journey left us both a little irritated before

Seen Bob more 'n a  dozen times now.  Been on the front row and I've been
in the grass, and every time I've seen him, there is always something
amazing to note, even in the "bad" shows. 

The Waifs opened, and I gotta say, they were just great.   Remarkable
harmonica playing, tight lead guitar work, and beautiful harmonies from
the sister-singers made me a little sad for modern music.  So much of what
passes for popular music is a travesty, and this little band from
Australia reminds me how vital music can be.  They cared about music, and
they were passionate and talented and committed.  They weren't rapping or
choreographing ridiculous dance numbers to embellish their mediocrity. 
They came out and jammed for a few songs, and like any good band, I didn't
want them to be finished when they said goodnight to me.   I wanted more. 
If you haven't seen 'em or heard 'em, check 'em out.   You won't be sorry.

Now back to Bob.  Since there are two new members of the band, there is
still some work to be done getting them all on the same page.  
Nevertheless, they are on their way.  There are some new twists and turns
in some old standby's, and an energy and freshness that only new blood can
provide.  We just have to get through some of the learning curve to get to
the awe-inspiring, heavenly moments Bob and his band can reach.  I
particularly enjoyed the thumped up Dignity arrangement.  Bob's gotten
really good, I think, at spitting out his heavy, bluesy rockers.  Standing
in the doorway was moody and funky and fresh.   Great new guitar work on
Blind Willie, WTRF.   Not a phenomenal show, but certainly a good one.

By the end of the night I was so glad we'd made that journey to visit with
Bob one more time.  His latest move is to step away from the piano with
his hands out in front of him like Frankenstein and wander the stage for a
minute, returning to the piano with his hands already in position to begin
playing again.   Another hilarious put on that Bob has added to keep us --
and him --  amused and interested.  When he told the crowd that he was
playing piano because his guitar wasn't tuned, my girlfriend almost lost

I always remind myself at the end of every show, especially ones that I
wasn't "keyed" up for, that one day, to all of our sadness, the
neverending tour will end.  I don't want to think that I would have missed
one single opportunity to see Bob play.  He has given me alot of joy and
entertainment in my rough life.  I'm so glad I can be there now to support
him now that the stadium crowds are mostly gone. 

One remarkable note.  After the show, my girl and I pick up our car at
Valet and pulled out of the hotel driveway.  As we pulled out of the lot,
we noticed on the small unmarked side street to our right a lonely bus
with a few souls standing around it.  We got curious.  So we stopped and
got out.

Not minutes later, Bob comes out the door backwards, dancing and happy. 
We clap and move toward him excitedly.  He claps back and prances toward
the bus like a Clydesdale.  Just before he gets to the bus I put my hands
out and gave him a happy handshake.  His hands are larger than I would
have imagined, and incredibly soft.  He doesn't so much shake your hand as
he does let you touch him.

It was a real highlight for me.   I've been such a fan for a long time.   

Thanks, Bob, for the music.   Thanks, Bill, for this great website.   And
thanks to all the Bob fans whom I have met at shows all across the
country.   You are the best!!!

Steve B.


Review by Stasia

The Purple Bead

I'll begin this review at the end of the show, and
then hit the main highlights.
As soon as the band left the stage following the
encore, I saw a girl climb up onto the stage - I'm
assuming she took something from Bob's keyboard area. 
After I said goodbye to the person sitting next me, I
decided to go up to the front row and see if I could
get anything off the stage.  From past experiences I
knew Dylan's crew does not pay attention to requests
from the audience, so standing up there was more just
a chance to be up close and observe the action.
A woman standing next to me was yelling at a roadie
(the guy with the long gray beard), asking him if the
necklaces on the stage floor were "Bob's beads."  He
picked them up, said they were, and took them
backstage.  A moment or two later, I noticed that a
lone purple bead was within my reaching distance, so I
grabbed it off the stage.  It looks like it came from
one of the necklaces, which I don't know anything
about - only now, as I write this, does it occur to me
that someone from the audience may have thrown the
necklaces onstage during the show.  But that doesn't
matter to me; the important thing is that the bead was
onstage, which qualifies it as a souvenir.  I plan to
make a necklace for it.

This show ranks in the top 5 out of the 19 I've been
to.  One reason is definitely because Dylan did not
play guitar even once - and I loved the little
centerstage "shuffles" he did in the middle of some of
the songs.  I was especially happy to hear Moonlight,
and my other favorite song from the night was the
sing-song take on Tweedle Dee.  Oh, and Watchtower at
times seemed like a tribal dance, with very deep bass
and a great piano part.  Another reason is the
location - 3rd Atlantic City show for me, and I
thought the $75 ticket was worth the price.  My seat
was decent, on the left side, with a good view of
Dylan.  I stayed overnight in the Hilton, which meant
I was in bed a 1/2 hour after the show ended.  On the
elevator ride down to the show, I saw Larry when the
doors opened on the second floor.
Lastly, the Waifs were possibly the best opening act
I've ever seen for Dylan (Natalie Merchant might tie).
 I'd never heard anything by them, but was impressed
enough to want to see them again.
Looking forward to August, or if not then, the fall.

Stasia (


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