Round Rock, Texas

The Dell Diamond

August 4, 2009

[Michael Nave], [Jeff Daily], [Craig Whitney]

Review by Michael Nave

Charlie Sexton Has Balls As Big As Texas
A Review of Bob Dylan in Round Rock, TX, 2009
To give this little piece a bit of perspective, let me mention that my first
show of the current tour was Sunday’s show in Houstonbut a bad hotel internet
connection and fatigue prevented me from reviewing that show.  Truth be told,
probably a bit of being underwhelmed by the show contributed as well.    In
Round Rock (suburb of Austin) Dylan opened with Rainy Day Women, just as he had
done at his last Austinappearance at ACLfest ‘07.  It was a solid version,
nothing special, but fun nonetheless.  It was a typical opener for this tour,
Bob on guitar, sounding strong of voice.  He them moved on to This Wheel’s On
Fire, not a song I listen to much, but again an ok version, probably not as
familiar to the audience as some songs.  Then it was off to the 21st century
with a version of The Levee’s Gonna Break that surpassed that of Houstontwo
nights earlier.  This version had Dylan much more engaged, playful, and into
it.  The usually hip, younger than Houston, Austincrowd also contributed, not
only to this song, but to my overall enjoyment of the evening.  That and being
closer to Dylan both made this show more enjoyable, but the factor that would
elevate this show to magical levels was yet to emerge.   I tolerated Spirit on
the Water as it is not one of my favorite songs, but I have to say that this
performance would have to be very satisfactory to those who do like this song. 
But on the next song my wish came true.  I had been at the side of the stage
looking in the backstage when I spotted Charlie Sexton there 10 minutes or so
before Bob’s set.  I was hopeful he would join Bob on stage and was excited
when he did on the 4th song, Honest With Me.   Charlie immediately took over
the stage and began to do something that this current band is incapable of
doing.  He began challenging Dylan, pushing him, basically saying he was not
content so simply sit back and play a show with Dylan but that he was here to
elevate the proceedings, turn the night into something special; and he did. 
With Charlie on stage it became very apparent what is wrong with the current
band.  The current band is terrified of Dylan.  As Stu, Denny, and Donnie
stood looking at Bob with their deer-in-the-headlights stare, Charlie
concentrated on playing his axe.  Sure, he had to watch Dylan for cues as all
of his band members do, but instead of watching in fear, he watched as a
co-creator, a co-player, someone there to create art WITH Dylan rather than to
just cater to his desires.  He seemed to be saying, “ok, old man, get ready,
because we are here to rock.”   Charlie’s focus became very apparent during
Honest with Me as he frequently danced over near Bob and his keyboard, even
kicking his foot up toward the keyboard at one time.  Dylan clearly enjoyed
this interplay bobbing and weaving behind the keys.  Charlie’s solos
weren’t up to the level they were when he played full-time in the band, due in
part I am sure to the fact that he wasn’t playing night after night as he used
to, but also due to the fact that many of the current arrangements of these
songs are simply inferior to the types of arrangements during the
Sexton-Campbell era.  I think that might be another area where the current band
is letting Dylan down.  I can imagine Charlie and Larry working WITH Dylan on
song arrangements in rehearsals while I can imagine the current band simply
going along with every Dylan idea and never challenging him or contributing in
that area as well.   The rest of the evening’s performance was much better
than what I witnessed in Houston, even on songs where Charlie didn’t really
contribute with his playing, Dylan seemed more inspired.  I was really wanting
to hear Forgetful Heart as I had heard the first performance online, and like
that one, this performance was very special and heartfelt, with Dylan center
stage, no guitar.    Charlie really elevated the rockers including Tweedle Dee
and Tweedle Dum, Thunder on the Mountain, and he really smoked on Highway 61. 
He also got off some nice solos on LARS.    Please don’t interpret this
review as simply a slam on this band.  In Houston, they got the job done, they
are a capable, workmanlike group, but they don’t contribute to taking a show
to the next level, that job falls squarely on Bob’s shoulders these days,
although last night in Round Rock, Charlie Sexton pushed Bob in ways he hasn’t
been in years.   Halfway through AATW,  I moved back to my spot beside the
stage where I could view the backstage area as Bob and the band walked down from
the stage.  As they came down the stairs sure enough Bob and Charlie were
walking side by side talking.  They walked toward centerfield, then stopped and
continued to talk for a few moments, as if they were saying goodbyes; about to
part..  But then they continued walking together talking, all the way out of
the Dell Diamond.  One could only hope the conversation was something like,
“sure Bob, I would be glad to do the rest of the Texas dates with you while
Stu, Denny, and Donnie take a well deserved few days off. .. .”   

Michael Nave 
Horseshoe Bay, Texas


Review by Jeff Daily

Last night's Bob Dylan Show at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, TX was a high
octane heart of Texas heatwave rock-athon. The sun was brutal and the temp was
at least 104 degrees in front of the stage. The Wiyos opened with some fun,
melodic jug band folk that got the crowd ready for the night ahead.

Willie Nelson hit the stage next. He and his band stood in front of the TX
flag and played a non-stop medley of hits and country classics. Willie's
band was up there having a good time. It made most of us in the crowd feel
good too. He kept throwing his hats and bandana's into the crowd which was a fun
way to connect with the near capacity crowd. Those of us in the front were
jamming along with the TX icon. A great set all around.

Next was John Mellancamp. I'm not a fan of his so I wont say too much about his
set. He definitely had a crowd of fans in attendance though. Kids were rockin'
along with "Hurts So Good" and his other 80s radio hits. I was unfortunate
enough to stand next to the most uber Mellancamp fans so I was not diggin' this
portion of the night.

The sun was down and the crowd was getting tighter in front of the stage
when Dylan's now traditional introduction came booming over the PA. Bob and his
band were decked out in their black & gray stately country rock suits. Dylan
started the evening off with a mush mouthed rendition of "Rainy Day Women." He
played guitar for this song and the next, a pretty good version of "This Wheel's
on Fire," this tune also featured a fine harp solo with our man almost dancing.
I think Dylan really hit his stride behind the organ though. I heard people in
the crowd express low expectations, but I've seen Bob a couple times in the last
decade and he never disappoints me, given the occasional dropped syllable here
or there. The next few tunes were rippin' versions of recent MODERN TIMES
tracks. The surprise of the night came on "Honest with Me" when Charlie Sexton
(local Austin guitar player from the LOVE AND THEFT era) came on and jammed with
the band for the rest of the night. For me the highlights were "Highway 61" and
"Aint Talkin." "Forgetful Heart" was a tune I was hoping to hear in it's
slightly tougher new live arrangement. I was not disappointed. The middle part
of the set featured a chuckling Bob and a fiery band. They seemed to be having a
great jam on stage and it seemed almost like we fans were watching old friends
hanging out making music. The encore was the expected trio of LARS, Jolene, and
AAW. All fine performances, but I don't really love the live LARS. "Jolene" was
great fun though. All in all a fun night despite being hot and surrounded by
some less than cool live show goers.



Review by Craig Whitney

Last night's concert at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas was the first time
that I had seen Dylan play since his San Antonio show with Merle Haggard in
April 2006. While it was a treat to get to see Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp
playing together on the same bill, it was Dylan that I was there to see.

Dylan's set started off with a fairly lackluster "Rainy Day Woman." As a number
of reviewers on this site have pointed out, Dylan's singing can veer into a
mumbled monotone when his heart isn't in a performance, and the fact that
Tuesday's set began in a like manner did not bode well for the rest of show.
"This Wheel's On Fire" began in a similar fashion, but about halfway through the
song, Dylan seemed to lock in to the dark heart of the words he was singing, and
his delivery suddenly became ominous and clear. From there the show really took

I've always thought that Dylan's performances in the last decade or so were at
their best right after he has released an album. The opportunity to perform
fresh material seems to really give his concerts an energy that they lack after
his most recent recording has been on the shelf for a few years, and the
performance in Round Rock was a perfect example of that. Out of the first eleven
song that Dylan and his band played, eight of them were off of the last three
records, including a blistering span of six recent songs bookended by "Wheel's
On Fire" and the never-dull "Highway 61."

However, the biggest surprise of the night came five songs into the set, when
who should wander out on stage (unannounced, thanks Bob) but Charlie Sexton! I
really enjoy the sound of Dylan's current band, especially on material from
"Modern Times" and "Together Through Life," but I've always felt that his
strongest recent outfit was the great Campbell-Sexton lineup, especially in its
performances on the "Love and Theft" tour.

But while that era will always probably stay my favorite out of Dylan's recent
live incarnations, I have never seen him so strong in concert as his was on
Tuesday in Round Rock, with Sexton augmenting the new band. Performances of
"Honest with Me" and "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" had a ferocious energy that I
haven't heard in a live rendition since 2002, and newer material--particularly
an ominous "Forgetful Heart" and back-to-back performances of "Thunder on the
Mountain" and a harrowing "Ain't Talkin'"--sounded absolutely phenomenal as it
echoed through the Dell Diamond.

About the only dissappointment of Tuesday's show was the crowd, which was not
particularly engaged in Dylan's newer material, and began steadly drifting out
after "This Wheel's On Fire." While it's understandable that nostalgia would be
a big part of the crowd's expectations for a Nelson-Mellencamp-Dylan triple
bill, I couldn't help but wonder what these people were hearing--or not
hearing--as the made their way out of the stadium. To my ears, this was Dylan at
the best I'd ever seen him play!

Craig Whitney
Austin, Texas


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