Orange Beach, Alabama

The Amphitieater At The Wharf

July 31, 2009

[Daniel Thompson], [Patrick Saunders], [Dan McKay], [Tampa Steve]

Review by Daniel Thompson

My girlfriend and I made the 4 hour trip from New Orleans to Orange Beach and it
was well worth it. I won't go into the kind of detail many do, but I will say
that it was quite an experience. I'd never seen Willie live so it was a treat to
hear him perform and the good ol' boys in Alabama sure did love him--though the
cheer that went up after the line "took us all the way to New Orleans" in Bobby
McGee seemed to suggest a large New Orleanian crowd contingent ( I even ran into
a middle school teacher there).

Mellencamp pleased the crowd greatly but I thought he was just one big rock n
roll cliche. He sounded in both his voice and music like he was trying to be
Springsteen but couldn't quite do it. His greatest hits were cheered by the
packed house, but I really thought he was so middle of the road as to be totally
uninteresting. His between song banter was just unbearbly cheesy (example: "I
looked out the window today and said 'please God don't let it rain' but I think
he has bigger priorities'"). Anyway, his band was good and he was a talented
performer, but he just wasn't for me. He was the most beloved by the crowd
though, which I guess is to be expected given his "All American" persona and the
very redneck-y crowd-- no offense to any fellow ER Alabamians.

Finally Bob came on and it was a treat. I'd heard some of his more recent shows
and it seems like you either get a comprehensible, upbeat, playful, well singing
Bob or you get a mumbly, disinterested, "get me on and off this stage ASAP" Bob.
What with it being the last show of a four night run I was nervous--
unnecessarily as it turned out. From the opening notes of Leopard Skin Pill Box
Hat, Bob was a go. His singing was sharp and focused and though it was overly
rushed in some numbers sometimes, he never descended into lazy mode for any
extended period of time. Levee was a scorcher, this band is just fabulous and
while they don't have quite the range of the Sexton-Campbell lineup, what they
do do, they do better. They just have so many levels, riffs come in and out on
different instruments and then fade into new riffs and melodies. Honest With Me
was also wonderful. My heart sank at that opening riff that I've heard at every
single Bob show I've been to dating back to Spring of '02 and I couldn't help
but think "not again!". Boy did my opinion change though, Bob sang it great and
the band really shook the place. The seats were all metal bleachers so whenever
the band really rocked you had the added affect of really feeling it rock the
stands-- a nice touch. Forgetful Heart was the highlight and had the best
singing I've ever seen Bob do. It was marvelous. Likewise, Nettie Moore was
gorgeous and Highway rocked as always. The encores were great and had the crowd
were I was in the stands up and dancing. I have to say, though quite a few
people did leave, it was by no means the droves I had read about leaving at
other shows, and although Bob didn't rouse them quite as much as the more cheesy
Mellencamp, I was impressed at how into the show the crowd seemed. A grand old
time was had by all-- or at least most. I certainly was glad I went after having
been slightly worried after hearing some other recent shows. I guess some nights
you just get a Bob who cares and some nights you don't. I'm happy I got the


Review by Patrick Saunders

I would like first before writing this review state that I am a disabled person
and, it is hard for me to travel to Dylan’s shows these days, so I would like
to thank my dear friend of many years Pat N for taking me to this one. 

It was a sultry summer South Alabama night and, as romantic as some may think
that sounds, for many it was a bit too sultry.  The afternoon storms which had
come and gone by show time left the air so think with humidity that audience
discomfort level was excruciating to say the least.  All this aside  the
“show” itself was sensational. And I am writing of Bob of course. 

As for Willie he talked many of his lyrics however, at age seventy-six I’ll
take that and mark it as well done and entertaining.  I have seen Willie many
times and although he doesn’t sound exactly as he once did, he and guitar
Trigger still evoke the hauntings of the smoky pool halls, the horses trot on
the Western Plains, and the silent inner tears of cowboys as their lady loves
come and go.  Willie is to be commended for staying true to the outlaw art
within country music he created, he doesn’t sell out and let’s hope he
remains on the road for a long time. 

John Mellencamp, who performed after Willie, I did not come to see.  To my
surprise many of the folks  around me did.  It is not that I dislike him I’ve
just never been swept away by his music.  I suppose it’s safe to say I have
been indifferent to it over the years.  It is also safe to say that John  rocked
the house, as they say, but it just didn’t seem to fit in a Dylan show. For
many older Dylan fans, it prolonged the evening to the point of being tiresome. 
Mellencamp on his own, for his fans: wonderful. As part of a Dylan show: No

Bob…Bob,Bob,Bob……I have seen this man perform many times all over our
country and in Europe.  I have studied his work and life in depth, and even had
writings of my own about him published.  He never disappoints and, in spite of
the fore mentioned sultry heat, and lengthiness of the night, he didn’t
disappoint this time either.  To see Dylan in concert is simply to witness
history.  He is the biggest Icon on the planet.  He is a walking, talking relic
from another time and yet still remains a visionary creating art in and for the
present. Fridays show was rich and vibrant. It just plain sounded good. And on
the subject of what the ears hear, I wish to state to many out there who are
perhaps like one young man I heard as we exited the show say “Dylan voice is
weird. He can’t sing”…… Well to you who agree with that, you should try
and understand a few things. First of all being that Dylan’s voice match his
words.  That kind of truth, Bob’s truth shouldn’t be delivered in a pretty
package.  Second, Bob’s art has never been just about being entertaining. His
words have lived to not only move hearts and souls witch is where many good
artist stop but, they are sent to shake our brain and make us exercise it once
and awhile.  So to that young man out there somewhere and those of you like him
please know and note, that to be a Bob Dylan fan he requires some deeper living
from you.  That is what makes him like no other  artist of his time. 

Patrick Saunders


Review by Dan McKay

Get ready for a rant!  For starters Willie Nelson was smooth and as good as ever
at Orange Beach to start it off on a Friday night, last day of July.  A nice
surprise was Willie's sister Bobbie playing a very well-miked grand piano that
was  a big part of the backing instrumentals.  Had not heard her with the band
in quite some time and was not at all sure she would ever be back.  Willie
throwing sweaty bandanas is a bit Elvisie, but what do I care? John Mellencamp
stole the show.  Now, that was some rock-n-roll!! - and I am nearly convinced
Bruce Springsteen got his sound from the old Cougar.  The girl named Miriam
playing violin for Mellencamp is a great part of this fine band.  She was a
breath of fresh air and, ok, I'm a feminist, too.   As for Dylan, I am now
repeating myself.  I said this once on the old message board, the
best message board the internet ever saw, the one that Columbia Records abruptly
shut down.  Dylan was not at his best on the 4th of 4 shows in 4 nights-trying
to do too much and it's taking the edge off. I still long for the days of that
big organ sound - Dylan on keyboard serves only as a way of signaling chords to
himself and maybe to the band.  The words on too many songs were unintelligible,
particularly on It's Alright Ma' and Honest With Me, both of which were barely
recognizable.  I love the variation in the Bobster's arrangements, but sometimes
they just degenerate into nothingness.  The only lyric I was able to understand
in those two songs was a very clear,  "sometimes even the President of the
United States has to stand naked".  On these songs His Bobness had no clothes. 
What the freak????  Dylan, you can do better.   OK, it wasn't all bad.  I would
put Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat in every set list if I had my choice.  Bob was good
on harp, but there was way too little of it.  Most of the songs were pretty well
done, but I don't know what it is about Jolene that makes it an encore song. 
Haven't gotten used to that, and LARS as well as Watchtower were both sub-par
(keep doing LARS, Bob).  Overall, I was disappointed.  There is a good, factual
but not critical recap on Mellencamp's official website.

Dan McKay


Review by Tampa Steve

Persistent strong finally weather cleared Orange Beach moments before the
Two-Man Gentleman Band took the stage for a speedy set of novelty tunes.
They sang about bunny meat and drip drying and ushered in Willie Nelson, who
paraded many comfortingly frayed country hits.  His family band is ragged and
not always right, but the effect is ultimately satisfying as the maestro leads
them through the wonderful array of his songs, plus a few Hank Williams numbers.

Next up (after a too-long set break) was John Mellencamp, who flipped the
aesthetic 180 and delivered nearly perfect spit-shine choreographed rockers that
fomented no danger and left my ears singing like a cloud of angry cicadas. 

Dylan's band took the stage next to the predictable strains of Aaron Copeland
and the usual spoken introduction. Bob rocked the guitar hard for the first two
songs, leading all the breaks with surprising muscle.  Then he moved over to the
keyboard station to stay, adding clearly audible organ tones throughout the rest
of the set.  He wandered center stage a couple of times for harp breaks and
consistently delivered the goods vocally.  This was my 26th Dylan show since
1986 and I can't say I've seen a better one.  The portion of the crowd that
stuck around to hear the whole set (maybe 60%) probably did so for the right
reasons.  Some doubters may have been converted.  I saw many youngsters
grooving.  "It's Alright Ma" is enjoying a particularly twisted arrangement
right now (don't miss it!) and "Rolling Stone" made my companions laugh out loud
with its audacity.  The new songs were magical.  The guitarists each enjoyed
moments of essential contribution without anyone really overdoing it.  What
other band has this kind of taste and restraint?  I could easily see this show
emerging as an official document of the powers of the 2009 Bob Dylan Band,
although the possibility of that is extremely doubtful.  Bootleg Series #9. 


Click Here
to return to the
Main Page

page by Bill Pagel

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