Salem, Virginia
Salem Civic Center
June 9, 2004

[Reid Evans], [Jim Klagge]

Review by Reid Evans

I decided that I needed to see Bob one more time this year before he took
off to Europe. I left Columbia(SC) about 3pm and headed up I-77 to Salem.
Nice drive, 77 has some nice scenery as far as interstates go. I got there
at about seven and made my way to the venue, got my ticket from some guy
who had travelled from the 4 hours the other direction, made my way into
the auditorium and setteled in for what was a really, really good show.
The show started at about 8 with The Wicked Messenger. I could tell right
away that Bob was on with his phrasing and His voice was easily the best
that I had heard it in the five shows I have seen since March. I thought
the harp here was very fluid, not the choppy note to note work we've
sometimes gotten lately. The first thing I have to say about Stu Kimball
is that If we can't have Charlie back then this guy is my next choice. He
really fits the band alot better than Freddie did, he just does his job
without all of that "hey look at me! I can play a guitar solo" attitude
that Freddie did. I like his style alot better than Freddies , very fluid,
not choppy or lots of distortion. The next few numbers were really good,
You Ain't Goin Nowhere, was excellent, Bobs voice sounded awesome here too,
I needed to hear that song, I always need to be reminded of that Tree
with roots. Cry A While good although I am not the biggest fan of Love and
Theft (from the which there were six songs this night). I like the bluesy
riff here vs what on the album. Next was the Highlight of the night for 
me, Just Like A Woman, just breathtaking, the way it should be done with
emotion and emphasis like he had written the song last week, and the
harmonica was awesome here, perhaps the best I have ever heard live. 
Highwater was good, probably my favorite off of  that album, Larry is so 
awesome. Desolation Row was great, but only because I hadn't heard it 
since the last show in 2000, that version was a much livelier rendition 
than this one. It was good though. Hearing this the way it does remind me 
of those days when the band had a more bluegrass-country feel and it 
makes me miss them. Tweedle Dee/Dum....sort of a ho hum version here, it 
differs very little from town to town. The Ballad of Hollis Brown was 
really good, but I have to admit I was really hoping to hear Tangled Up 
in Blue here, I havent heard it live in sooo long, I know lots of people 
hate it( or got tired of it) but not me, I actually thought I heard the 
first two chords of it, but that may have been wishful thinking. Boots 
of Spanish Leather was fun. Again this is one I have heard my last three 
shows so I was kind of hoping for something else. Bye and Bye was really 
good tonight, Larry played the fiddle for the whole tune and he had some 
great solos. Honest With Me was, as always, a highlight of the show. 
Larry did not however burn it up on this one the way he usually does, 
oh well. Saving Grace is a favorite of mine, every time I hear the intro 
I think, hey Shooting Star, but then He says....If you find it in your 
heart......always takes me a few lines to figure out where I am. He let 
out a knowing grin when He spoke the line "the wicked know no peace, and 
you just can't fake it". Priceless. Summer Days is awesome as always. If 
you arent even a Dylan fan you should do yourself a favor and come hear 
this live, Its hard to find music this good anywhere.

Then the encore, read another review if you need to know about these
songs......They never change (sometimes to my dismay)



Review by Jim Klagge

Bob was back for his fifth show in this neck of the woods in 15 years. 
I'm glad I went, and took my 18 year-old son.  The last time Bob was in
town, during the Spring 2001 tour, I lamented that he did too much old
stuff and not enough that was recent.  Apparently Bob read my mind,
because this time he did 6 songs from his recent album.  I was pleased.

We got tickets early and would have had good seats if they hadn't
been too far to the left.  We had a great view of the microphone in the
center, which only ended up being used for the cryptic introductions of
the band members.  Unfortunately we could only see Bob's profile as he and
his keyboards were at the left edge of the semicircle that he and the band
formed on stage.  Though we didn't have a good view of Bob's face, we
could see what he was doing pretty well.  And we had a clear view of what
a little, spindly guy he is.  He spent a lot of time at a lit table behind
his keyboard either picking out a harmonica or picking out the next song
from some list.  After each song he would walk to the center of the group,
facing the drums, and--apparently--tell the guys what to play next.  While
we each have our hopes for what he'll play, he's earned the right to play
whatever he wants to--and people generally respected that by not shouting
out inane requests.

This was the first time I saw him sans guitar.  That was kind of a
disappointment, since his songs are so guitar-oriented.  But on reflection
it wasn't so bad.  Over the last 10 years Bob's guitar-playing had
deteriorated to the point where he mainly just did repetitive "noodles" on
the guitar that IMO detracted from the songs.  His keyboard-playing was
not distracting and, in fact, was competent.  Perhaps it would be nice to
seem him strap on the guitar for a song or two, or for the encore.  The
band as a whole played very well, and was especially good on "Cry Awhile",
"High Water", "Honest with Me", and "Summer Days".

Bob's voice was in good shape, since this tour had only begun 5
days earlier (after a break of 6 weeks).  He used it to good effect.  The
only real problem was singing "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis
Blues Again."  The words move so quickly that all he could do was plow
through them.  He does better when he can shape the words, or play with
them--as he did on "Just Like a Woman", "Desolation Row", "Boots of
Spanish Leather" and "Saving Grace".  I wish he would have been clearer
singing "Honest with Me", since the poignant and timely lyrics: "I'm here
to create the new imperial empire; I'm going to do whatever circumstances
require" came out as "blah...blah...empire; blah...blah...circumstances
require."  A reminder of the eternal relevance of his words.

One thing you (re)learn by seeing Bob live, if you are close
enough to the front, is what an odd human being he is.  Not only does he
hardly  talk during the show, but he could barely bring himself to
introduce his band.  I believe he forgot Larry Campbell this night.  And
for the others, you can't tell what he's saying unless you already know
it.  At the end of the set and after the encore they still do the routine
of standing in a row and facing the crowd (with no bows).  But Bob can
hardly even bring himself to do this.  He's always turning away,
whispering to someone, or skittering around.  He can't just stand still
and look outward.  During songs he spent surprising amounts of time
fooling around at his table, even during others' solos.  There's a sort of
thorough-going alienation in him that is just...odd.  I don't hold it
against him, though some do.  It is part of his attraction I suppose.  But
it is striking when you are aware of it.  When he used to play guitar and
actually face the crowd, his glances and the look in his eye displayed the
same alienation, as though he's operating from another realm altogether. 
Although poetizing the human condition presupposes being human, perhaps it
also presupposes an alienation from that humanness that gives a certain
perspective--from another realm.

Anyway, that's Bob as I experienced him Wednesday night.  Thank
God the humanness wins out over the alienation, and he continues to share
his realm with us a hundred nights a year, and a few albums each decade.

Jim Klagge


page by Bill Pagel

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