Durham, North Carolina

Durham Bulls Athletic Park

July 28, 2009

[Jon Putnam], [L. Holden Reaves], [Brian Gray]

Review by Jon Putnam

Opening act the Wiyos were a curious group, decked up like they walked
out of 1929.  I don't know how authentic their old timey blues, ragtime,
jugband concoction was, but seeing someone with a washboard/mini
cymbal/bike horn combo instrument and singing an old blues song through
a megaphone is not something you see or hear of every day.

Willie Nelson played a fine set.  I had never seen him before, so it
wasn't a boring retread of past sets to me as it has been for some
others.  It was nice to see how simple and stripped down his band was -
the drummer simply played a snare with brushes and a bass drum - and he
seemed very warm and gracious toward the audience, often pointing and
waving, acknowledging fans.  Willie played some nice, occasionally
sloppy, Grateful Dead-like noodling throughout his songs.  

Mellencamp's set was indeed energetic - the bass was turned way too
high, in my opinion, though.  He served up plenty of cheese with his
fist pumping and some of his lesser-version Springsteenish hits.  The
mini acoustic set in the middle was nice, and something that one may not
realize otherwise with him and his band, probably due to the fact that
many of his hits are from the 80s and were fairly glossy pop/roots-rock
tunes, is that they can be very Americana.  His violinist and accordion
player were wonderful and one particular highlight was a great version
of "Scarecrow"

On to Bob...there has been a lot of criticism of his band, and I think
they are only, at most, half to blame for how their performances compare
to the much ballyhooed Larry Campbell/Charlie Sexton lineups - and this
is even if "blame" should be assigned at all.  I doubt Freeman and
Kimball are incapable of tearing off extended solos, it seems to me, by
Bob's instruction, that that isn't something the band is going to do any
longer.  As difficult as it is, I think we have to get used to how the
band is going to perform from now on - at least in the seeming short

Bob took to the guitar for the first 2 tunes...."Cat's In the Well" is
pretty pointless to me, not that great of a tune and, as is typical I
think, Bob's vocals come in too loud on the first tune, so you can't
really understand him, nor could you hear his guitar much - this could
have just been the mike he was using, as he used a different one when he
moved to the keyboard.

"Don't Think Twice" was a decent version, Bob had some decent guitar
work soloing, but volume on it still too low and vocals still too loud.
From there, the sound dramatically improved when he moved to keyboard.
I will admit that, while in years past, Bob could be lazy on the vocals,
his phrasing, energy, and clarity were some of the best, if not the
best, I have ever heard of the 7 shows I've been to since the late 90s.

The electric triumvirate from Love & Theft came across as pretty decent is hard not to miss the searing soloing that used to take
place on "Summer Days" but, for what this band is trying to do, the
performances were lively and the singing was top notch.  There was a
nifty little breakdown between a few of the verses of "Tweedledee &
Tweedledum."  Probably the stand out track of the night was the other
song from that album, "Po Boy."  Fleshed out from the studio version
with the additional instrumentation live, it was performed as a loping
swing and sounded great along with Bob's nice vocals.

Everything else was fairly run of the mill, pleasant enough to watch,
nothing, though, that would really trump previous live versions of the
tunes.  The groove for "It's Alright, Ma" was a nice groove and good
arrangement, the unfortunate thing with this tune, as good as it is, is
that the vocals are too fast for Bob's growl nowadays, that everything
sounds pretty unclear vocally, which is a shame as it features some of
his best lyrics.  My wife liked "Highway 61" best, and I will say, for
what it was supposed to be, it was well played, much energy - Recile on
drums really carried the tune - one does again miss the soloing, though.
Ditto for "Watchtower" at the end.

The low points were probably the Modern Times songs - "Beyond the
Horizon" the dud of the night, the instrumentation was cheesy and the
song not too interesting as it is.  "Nettie Moore" sounded good, and
Bob's vocals were very nice, but I don't know that, as good as the song
is, that it is something that should be played live, except for maybe
the most intimate of settings at least.

As far as the new tunes go, "Jolene" was one of the best tunes of the
night, Bob's vocals again wonderful, particularly on the chorus.
"Houston" kind of dragged along, and could have benefited by more
audible steel guitar work.  On this point, I would have to agree with
everything I have read, Donnie Herron might as well not be there,
because you can't hear any of the banjo, steel guitar, or violin that it
appears he is playing.  Which is a real shame, because this incarnation
of the band gets along more with rhythm and texture than on chops and
soloing, and him being more in the mix would contribute to that greatly.

All in all, a pretty good show, it had been a few years, so I was glad
to see him, particularly as fine of voice and full of energy as he was
(everyone knows these are relative).  On the downside, the setlist
wasn't the greatest, I was kind of hoping for a more adventurous set.
Additionally, and probably due to the nature of the show as Bob's
preceding acts stuck to pretty much greatest hits sets due to the varied
crowd and abbreviated stage time, it would have been nice to hear some
more new tunes as I think the new album is a good album for summer time
and many songs, such as "Beyond Here Lies Nothin," "Shake Mama Shake,"
and "It's All Good" in particular, would have fit nicely with this being
a mid-summer, muggy night outdoor show.  Here's hoping for more of that
after this touring stint is up.

On a note for Bill, many thanks for maintaining such a current and
informative site on Bob and his touring.

Jon Putnam


Review by L. Holden Reaves

There was a capacity crowd at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in tobacco
town on a warm Tuesday afternoon and evening in late July, such a great
setting for the Bob Dylan show, surrounded by the red brick of the old
tobacco warehouses in downtown Durham, with the tall Lucky Strike red
brick smokestack and Lucky Strike water tower in the distance behind
third base, easily visible from the stage.

Willie was good.  Had great view from the right field bleachers of the
open tunnel area and the Honeysuckle Express III.below.  Willie was very
friendly, waving to his fans as he got off his bus prior to his set, and
then as he got back on his bus after his set.  He was wearing the new
Dylan "Together Through Life - It's all Good" tee shirt w/ sleaves torn
off.  A nice nod to Bob, I guess.  Loved the Willie t-shirt that was for
sale that said "Willie Nelson First Aid" w/ picture of marijuana leaf.
Should have bought one.

The two Dylan buses pulled up alongside the right field side of the
stadium just before Willie finished his set.  I wish I had seen the
three shiny Harley Davidsons pull up that were parked between the two
buses, one being white just like the one that Dylan is pictured sitting
on in his tour program.  Am guessing Bob is riding his motorcyle a bit
between shows.

Melancamp played a good show.  Appeared the volume was gradually being
turned up in the stadium.  He seemed a little louder than Willie.  The
colors were great as the sun began to set and the temps began to cool
off, especially with all the people in the stadium.  All seats were
filled and the field area (which was accessible) was full.  Such a great
crowd.  A lot of parents had brought there kids to see these icons.

It appeared Melancamp's wife was standing on stage right w/ a newborn
baby.  She was wearing a white dress and really stood out - am guessing
this is Melancamp's wife, but not sure.  Melancamp was in great form -
good voice, talkative w/ crowd.  Was good addition to the overall show -
am guessing the promoters thought Mellancamp was just the thing this
show needed to help sell tickets in light of on-going recession.  He
also added to the 'americana' aura that the Bob Dylan show has taken on,
especially playing the minor league ballparks.

Me and my 4-year-old son ventured over to right field bleachers about
9:00 or so and resumed our perch over the open tunnel area.  Just as we
arrived and look down into the secure tunnel area, Dylan was standing
there dressed to the 9s in black civil war garb, wide-brimmed black
cowboy hate.  Although it was dark, the area was lit up by bright
floodlights.  He was loosely surrounded by his bandmates, all dressed in
tan suits.  Dylan was just standing there, somewhat ominously since he
was dressed in all black, just waiting for the cue to begin walking
toward the stage.  It was a sight to see dylan in the quiet moment
waiting to take the stage.  He appeared to be smoking a cigarette, but I
couldn't tell for sure.  Just standing there talking to no one.  It
appeared he was surrounded by two or three personal bodyguards, in
addition to Durham's finest and a couple of stadium security guards.
Dylan's security was extremely uptight and when they noticed me and my
son looking over the rails, they quickly yelled at us to step back from
the railings.  Willie did not have this kind of security detail - this
was completely a bob thing.  

Bob played a scorching set.  His songs ran the gamut of the 45 year
catalog, from 'don't think twice' (1964?) to 'if ever go to houston'
(2009).  He really sounded good, espec in light of his age.

"Nettie Moore" was mesmerizing, espec w/ its slow pace.  Dylan age 68,
dressed like a civil war general, backed by his cowboy band.   Time
travelers from the future were all over this show in tobacco town.  I
almost felt like I was watching Smithsonian footage, watching the aging

A scorching show.  
Long live the freak. 
L. Holden Reaves


Comments by Brian Gray

I was at the July 27th Bob Dylan Show in Durham, NC show.
We arrived at 6:15; I think it was Willie's first song.
I didn't keep up with songs played by anyone, I just enjoyed the show.
This is an over all assessment of the night.
I'm a singer/songwriter performing musician so this is from a musician's
Willie did great! His guitar sounded killer.
John Mellencamp and his crew killed it.
Bob and his crew killed it also.
This was the best show that I've seen in a decade.
Everyone had a great night, that pretty much sums it up.

Brian Gray


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