Great Falls, Montana
Four Seasons Arena
July 26, 2005

[Mike Stillman], [Fred Robinson]

Review by Mike Stillman

"Wrestling with a pig isn't going to lower the price of pork." - overheard
in North Dakota

I arrived in picturesque Great Falls, Montana, in early afternoon after an
eight hour drive from the Badlands of North Dakota, where I spent Monday
night. Two centuries ago, it took Lewis and Clark more than four months to
make the same journey, but they had pirogues on the Missouri River rather
than a Toyota on Montana Highway 200. They reached the three forks of the
Missouri River near Great Falls on this very date in 1805, and had to
decide which fork to take. Meriweather Lewis wrote in his journal, "the
Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our right which she
informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation on
a river beyond the mountains to the west." With Sacajawea's help, they
were able to make the right choice, and within weeks they found the
Shoshones and bartered for horses, which were essential for the trip over
the Rocky Mountains.

In the midst of celebrating the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, a few
thousand Montana residents took time out to celebrate the music of Bob
Dylan on this Tuesday night. The audience seemed to be a cross-section of
the community itself, with a surprising number of senior citizens and some
entire families as well as a number of people in their 20's. There was an
atmosphere of anticipation and enthusiasm as Bob took the stage and the
crowd surged to their feet for MAGGIE'S FARM, always a high-energy opener.
Bob sang the first verses with a strong and clear voice, and guitarist Stu
Kimball launched the first solo of the evening as he usually does. Don
Herron took a solo on the lap steel through the fuzzbox, and Denny Freeman
played a short but rocking solo until Bob concluded the song with a nod to
the ace rhythm section of Tony Garnier and George Recile. A woman asked,
"Is that a bellhop uniform?"

The second selection was TONIGHT I'LL BE STAYING HERE WITH YOU, which I'm
always happy to see. Bob nailed the "I can hear the lonesome whistle
blowing!" line with real joy, and I began to think that this would be an
above-average concert. Don played a pedal steel solo, and then Denny took
a short guitar solo. Don's pedal steel sounded great on the IVm chord that
begins the bridge. After Stu soloed, Bob grabbed a harp and kind of juked
his way out to centerstage in front of the drums. When he moves like this,
you can see why people compared him to Charlie Chaplin way back in 1961.
He dipped to one knee as he drew out a note, then duck-walked a step into
the next phrase, and the arena was full of smiles.

Next was I'LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT, with another strong vocal from Bob. He
sang the mockingbird bridge in his high midrange voice, which he has
sometimes avoided in recent years. With two of the previous three nights
off, Bob's voice was in great shape. Don, Stu, and Denny took solos in
that order, then Bob finished with a harp solo from behind the keyboard.
The fourth song was LAY LADY LAY. Though this song is thematically and
stylistically similar to the three that preceded it, the sequence somehow
works better live than it does on paper. When you see it live, it seems
like a miniature concept album or subplot embedded in the longer setlist.
It helps that they are all great songs. Denny played an interesting solo,
keying some of his lines on Don's pedal steel riffs. There are times when
this band interacts only with Bob and not each other, so it was good to
see Denny and Don playing off each other's ideas.

Then came IT'S ALL RIGHT MA, I'M ONLY BLEEDING, with Tony on acoustic bass
and Don on violin, which was inaudible until his solo. Bob sang "the
President must stand naked" line with emphasis on the word "NAY-kid!" but
it didn't receive the cheers that you would hear in a blue state. Denny
took a solo that had too many repeated notes, and this rendition didn't
have the building momentum of the best versions. But it wasn't bad.

The sixth song of the evening was a strong UNDER THE RED SKY, with some
audible and effective piano support from Bob as well as a clear vocal.
Denny took a short solo between Don's two pedal steel solos, and Bob
played a melodic harp solo. Next was COLD IRONS BOUND, which was not as
well-played as some in the past. Denny took a riff-based solo that went

In the #8 slot was JUST LIKE A WOMAN, one of the evening's highlights. Bob
sang with precision and feeling, and the audience hung on every word.
Though the words "amphetamine" and "pearls" were treated with Bob's
"upsinging" tic, it didn't become excessive enough to detract. Don played
an interesting pedal steel solo, and Bob played another fine harp solo at
center stage.

Next was TWEEDLE DUM AND THAT OTHER GUY, which hasn't been played quite so
much in the last few weeks but is still a little tired. The best thing
about this rendition was some imaginative and supportive rhythm guitar by
Denny during Stu's two guitar solos. The tenth song of the night was THE
TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN', with another strong vocal from Bob. The
"greatest hits" songs were all well-performed and well-received by the
crowd tonight. I had the impression that 95% of the crowd was seeing their
first and maybe only Dylan concert after listening to his music for many
years, and many had emotional connections and personal meanings to these
songs that were stirred anew by Bob's strong vocal performance. This song
had a bit of upsinging in an early verse, but I doubt that anyone who was
actually there had any complaints. Don took a pedal steel solo between two
Denny solos, and the crowd rose to their feet as the song ended.

Stu and Tony picked up their acoustic instruments, and Don strapped on his
banjo for JOHN BROWN, which was a little rushed. I was trying to listen to
Bob tell the tale with the same fresh ears as the people around me, most
of whom had never heard the song before, but it was hard not to compare it
to past performances. This did not quite achieve the dramatic intensity of
some of those renditions, but it was well-performed and the crowd listened
intently. Then came HONEST WITH ME, during which Don turned up the
distortion on his fuzz box for an edgy lap steel solo that barked with

The penultimate song of the main set was GIRL OF THE NORTH COUNTRY, which
I really need to hear again to form an opinion. Tony bowed his acoustic
bass, and Stu played an acoustic guitar that looked like a sunburst
Gibson. I liked the pedal steel riff that anchored this arrangement, but I
was disappointed to hear Bob almost entirely discard the original melody,
which has been sung for hundreds of years since its origin across the
Atlantic. This rendition was a little more jagged, and I wasn't sure what
to think, though the post-concert opinion of some other folks was
positive. Denny took a pattern-based solo, Don took a pedal steel solo,
then Denny took another. Bob played some harp to end the song. The main
set concluded with SUMMER DAYS, with all three guitarists soloing, and it
was nothing special even though Bob was still singing very well. The
momentum sagged for a few bars while everyone was expecting Bob to nod to
a soloist, but no nod was forthcoming, and the entire band was comping
tentatively for a noticeable lull. 

Bob and the band left the stage and the crowd cheered for several minutes.
They returned for an extremely powerful MASTERS OF WAR, one of the best
renditions I've seen, with a backdrop of fiery orange stars. Don, Stu and
Denny took solos and played well, but this song was carried by Bob's
vocals and intensity. Each verse gathered momentum and urgency, and Bob
was leaning into the vocals and feeling it. This is exactly the kind of
thing that caused me to drive 1400 miles from Chicago to be here tonight. 

After the song concluded and the crowd stood, Bob said "Thank you,
friends!" to this attentive and intelligent audience. He introduced each
member of the band, and then they launched into a tremendous LIKE A
ROLLING STONE. There was a palpable joy in the arena, as the Montana folks
seemed to be tickled pink to have Bob come to their town and stand right
there in front of them to deliver the greatest rock song ever with care
and intensity. Can you tell that I really liked this audience? I think
that Bob and the band did too. The crowd gave every song a respectful
listen, and were not jaded in the least, reacting with immediacy and
honesty based solely on each song's performance, not comparing to previous
versions like some of us tend to do. Bob won them over almost entirely,
and that doesn't always happen. There was nothing really unique or
remarkable about this show, but it was state of the art for Bob in 2005,
and I was happy to be there.

I met up with a couple of other Chicago folks, Mark Withrow and Wiley
Krapf, who chose to travel by air rather than automobile or canoe, and we
dropped into the semi-legendary Sip 'N' Dip Lounge, which is part of the
O'Haire Motor Inn. There is a window behind the bar that looks onto the
deep end of the inn's swimming pool, so that drinkers can watch swimmers
and vice versa. There weren't any swimmers at this late hour, but the bar
was full of Dylan fans, and there was an older woman with a bouffant
hairdo and pointy glasses playing the organ and singing songs from several
different eras. She sang Blowin' In The Wind, and there was very little
upsinging. Dylanpooler Bob T. Guevara was there all the way from
Switzerland. There was a good selection of beers, good food and service,
and we had a good time with the post-show Dylan fans. Check it out next
time you're in Great Falls. Onwards to Bozeman and Missoula for two more


Review by Fred Robinson

Before the concert, I wondered how Great Falls would welcome Bob.  I
sometimes feel a bit lonely-maybe mistakenly-as a Bob fan in Helena, and
Great Falls is generally perceived-maybe also mistakenly-as less artsy
than Helena. Before the show, I was struck by the diversity of people
showing up--a real cross-section of Montanans.   Anyway, the audience was
just fine, maybe slow to get up and dance, but appreciative.  From
comments I overheard, though, there were a lot of people surprised, some
pleasantly, some not, by the country-blues-rock show that they saw. 
Maggies' Farm opened the show, and got the rock fans going. Then, Tonight
I'll Be Staying Here With You, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, and Lay Lady
Lay, with Donnie's pedal steel, pleased ardent country fans. Donnie added
a great touch to Its Allright Ma with his violin, and his banjo on John
Brown gave the song an Irish flavor.  Stu and Denny worked well together. 
I had heard that this group brought a more countrified air to Bob's shows
but I did not believe it--Bucky, Charlie, and Larry, afterall, were all at
home with country music. I guess "country" is too broad a term.  Maybe it
would be more precise to call this group's flavor as "Nashville"-whatever
that is.  Given the Nashvilleness of the show, I was surpised by the
non-Nashville Skyline version of Girl from the North Country. Whatever,
the song was sweet and there was plenty to like about this show even if
you are not a fan of Nashville music.  Cold Irons Bound, Honest With Me,
and Masters of War were  bluesy and those looking for political statements
got Its Allright Ma, Masters of War, and John Brown.  Tony and George were
great as usual.  Thanks, Great Falls. Thanks, Bob. Thanks, Band.  Next-up,

Fred Robinson


page by Bill Pagel

Tour Guide
Tour Guides
Bob Links
Set Lists
by Date
Set Lists
by Location