Birmingham, Alabama
15th Annual City Stages
Miller Lite Stage
May 16, 2003

[Michael Nix]

Review by Michael Nix

Last evening at Birmingham's City Stages Dylan was awesome. He stayed with 
the keyboard the entire show and I really wasn't looking forward to 
that....but what a show it turned out to be!

From the opener, Maggie's Farm, to the encores Bob was in good voice and
unusually expressive.   And the band was kicking.  I think this was about 
my 40th Dylan show since 1974 and I can say that this was one of the better 
ones since 1988.  The rhythm section was tight and forceful and Bob seemed 
to be playing keyboard with them, not against them. Since the show was a 
bit shorter than some  as a concession to the audience Bob kept every number 
rolling along and never allowed any lulls in the show.
Dylan's vocals were completely audible and the sound mix was beautiful about 
50 yards from the stage. Maybe it was because we were about 10 yards in front 
of the mixer. I heard some buddies who were closer complain that it wasn't so 
clear closer up but I heard no complaints about the performance at all.  Even 
those for whom this was their first Dylan show seemed entranced by the 
magnetism of the man on-stage. Bob seemed quite happy to be there.

Drifter's Escape was played with a Cream like arrangement and it burned.  I 
haven't heard him do this one since O.J. Simpson was found innocent and I 
wonder if the inclusion again has something to do with some people in 
Iraq...who knows?

Honest With Me always burns and I just realized that the arrangement he's 
using for this one live is a stage arrangement he used to employ with Maggie's 
Farm in previous years.
Positively 4th Street was a treat as well.  I can honestly say there were
no real downers in the set.

The encores were played a bit more relaxed than usual but Bob is always
reinterpreting his works so that's his call. It's a little odd to hear 
Like A Rolling Stone sung so casually and at such a slow tempo but I 
suppose I'm "just gonna have to get used to it" :)  All Along The Watchtower 
had a slightly slower tempo but retained it's usual burn except when the new 
guitarist soloed :(

With all the positives I have to say that the new lead guitarist seems to be 
a terrible choice.  Larry Campbell plays rings around him and Larry's licks 
fit where the new kid's don't.  Sometimes Dylan's choices of musicians don't 
make sense to me right away but I can see the logic later.  About this one I 
just don't know. I understand the pursuit of a Dick Dale sound but it just 
seems to be a weak spot every time he steps out. Maybe it'll gel soon but if 
it doesn't Bob should reconsider his choice and look for a replacement.

But to anyone who is put off by the idea of Bob playing an entire concert 
on keys I say don't be.  It's another side of Bob Dylan and an interesting 
and inspiring one.

Michael T. Nix


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