Charleston, South Carolina
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park
August 17, 2004

[Elizabeth Wenner], [Jim Lundy]

Review by Elizabeth Wenner

The Joe was rockin' last night along the banks of the Ashley River in
Charleston with Bob, Willy and a sea of people. We arrived about 30
minutes before the gates opened, breezed through and had a great spot
about 20 feet from the front barrier. There was a nice breeze blowing off
the water which was fortunate because a usual hot humid August night in
Charleston would have been bad when the crowd pushed forward (more on that

The Hot Club of Cowtown came on promptly at 6 PM and gave a nice show. The
fiddle player was fabulous! She was a joy to watch. The group was very
enamored with what they described as "having the time of their life"
playing with Bob and Willy.  A nice touch was having Willy come out and
sing with them on their last number. It was a kind and generous thing to
do and you could tell that there was a lot of affection between Hot Club
and ole Willy.

Willy and his band (includes 2 of his sons) came on around 6:50 and played
continuously for over an hour. He went through a bunch of great songs with
"Pancho and Lefty" being one of my favorites but he got rousing applause
for "Beer for my Horses", "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be
Cowboys," "On the Road Again".  Willy really connected with the audience,
tossing his hat and several bandanas into the crowd.  He waved and
acknowledged many people in the audience.  His son played a decent lead
guitar and rocked out on wearing a Jimi Hendrix shirt.  All in all, Willy
came across as being totally comfortable, digging the crowd and the type
of guy that you could just sit down and have a beer with.  His voice is
still distinctive and clear. He played his old beat up guitar but probably
not with the amount of energy that he has in the past because of recent

After the roadies quickly cleared away Willy's gear and set up Bob's, the
Dylan "crown and eye" logo came down and "Theme for the Common Man" began.
The crowd by now had moved forward and there was about as much room to
maneuver as a sardine in a packed can. People weren’t outwardly rude, just
the usual stage rushers who have to wind their way to the already crowded
mass at the front.  Thankfully the breeze occasionally would cool things
off.  After the usual Dylan intro that he has been using, Bob and the band
came out.  Bob wore a black suit with the red stripe and a red sequined
shirt and his black hat.  He was on keyboards the entire night, except for
some intermittent attempts at harmonica playing.

He opened with a barely recognizable “Drifter's Escape”. I had to strain
to catch what he was singing. His voice was very raspy. The next song was
“Times They Are a Changin'” and this one got things going with the crowd.
He was still growling out the words.  Bob was doing his usual nodding and
directing to the other musicians, especially Stu.  During “Lonesome Day
Blues” he got his main instrument guy to come out, whispered something in
his ear, and the guy ran back off stage.  Right after this, Willy
appeared, strapped on his guitar, and joined Bob in a duet on “I Shall Be
Released”. This was a crowd pleaser but seemed very rough to me.  It was
recognizable though, which was a plus at this point. After the duet, the
predictable Tweedle was played. This was where Bob finally seemed to get
some energy and catch fire. He seemed lethargic and almost bored until he
started on Tweedle.  He also played 3 more songs from Love and Theft that
got everyone bouncing around.  Unfortunately, I've heard these so much
that given his vast repertoire, I would rather have had other material. 
No denying that “Summer Days” and “Honest with Me” are foot stompers

Stu played some hot licks, but his playing was so loud at times that it
drowned out everything. He is skilled but for my taste, his playing almost
seems too harsh--not smooth. Bob let Stu jam on and came shuffling out
from behind the keyboards to do some orchestral directing moves to Larry,
George and Tony.  He did this a couple of times and seemed to be having a
good time.

For the encore, Bob played “Like a Rolling Stone” and a great “All Along
the Watchtower”. Bob's only spoken words were the introduction of the band
members.  He did stand center stage to the roar of applause and there
might even have been a slight smile on his lips.  The contrast between a
smiling, waving Willy and Bob's near dour expression left me wistfully
hoping that he would give some acknowledgement to the audience.

For me, this show was not his best.  I sensed boredom from him for a part
of the show.  It almost seemed as if this was a chore.  After his energy
picked up, things got better, but even Larry didn’t seem filled with
energy and looked a little dazed and confused.  Tony smiled a few times
and exchanged some talk with George but he also didn’t seem too
enthusiastic.  Bob seems to put a lot of energy into playing keyboards,
but often he is drowned out or simply not heard.  Bob's harmonica playing
was not very good--he appeared to be winded (not unexpected with age and
cigarette smoking). All in all, it just was not as great a show as I've
seen him do previously. I’m not sure if it was being outside with a mass
of people that contributed to the lack of magic or whether Bob was simply
having an off night.  Because of the killer schedule that he keeps, it is
certainly forgivable to have an off night. Nevertheless, I would gladly
see him again when he comes even remotely close by.  I hope that he
continues his Never Ending Tour for many more years.

Elizabeth Wenner, Ph.D.


Review by Jim Lundy

We got there about 4:30 to join what looked like a rather long line but
once inside, the crowd was swallowed up by the ballpark and it was
possible to stake out a spot within 10 feet of the stage.  As mentioned in
other venues, the stage was at the extreme edge of center field and the
infield was closed off making the stands seem very distant from the
concert and it was hard to believe that people opted to sit there even
when it was still possible to get within 50 feet of the stage.  Maybe they
were saving up their energy for later in the evening when thousands would
crush forward during Bob’s portion of the show.  But more on that later.

Cowtown came on at 6:00 all smiles and gee-wiz and gave a brief, sweaty,
high-energy show.  At that point everybody was still sitting on their
blankets in an orderly fashion but the beer vendors were making the rounds
selling beers the size of Big Gulps and the crowd was starting to get
loaded.  When Willie came on unannounced to join Cowtown for their last
number, “Please Don’t Talk About Me” everybody got on their feet and
people came from the back to fill in the spaces between picnic blankets.

By the time Willie and family came on for their set the crowd was good and
hammered.  Two drunk redneck chicks 2 feet behind me made sure to scream
and whistle (those unbelievably high decibel eardrum damaging two fingers
in the mouth whistles) every 30 seconds or so through the entire set.  At
first I thought it was nice just how much Willie acknowledged the crowd
but after a while it seemed distracting.  His voice was on autopilot never
missing a word, all the while he was waving, throwing hats, pointing, and
making this weird sock puppet motion with his hand to the crowd.  His band
was incredibly sloppy during some of the songs and eventually I was just
glad when his time was up.  After they cleared the stage of his band’s
equipment they left his old Martin up there so we knew he’d join Bob
during his show.

Then Bob came on and opened with Drifter’s Escape in the same version as
was performed on Masked and Anonymous.  It was ferocious, powerful,
precise, and loud!  You could feel the amazement in the crowd as they were
literally blown away by it.  Those expectations were dashed, however, when
he wheezed, croaked, and gasped his way through “Times are Changing” next.
 You picture his vocal chords as tattered sails on an ancient battleship,
flapping in the wind.  But if I learned one thing from seeing “Masked and
Anonymous” it’s that he’s still in control of those mangled vocal chords
(i.e. his rendition of “Dixie”) and is still capable of singing as opposed
to rasping his way through a song.  Sometimes I wonder if he’s trying to
make bootlegs of his concerts worthless by purposely taking the life out
of his vocals.  Anyway, another audience unfriendly aspect of this leg of
the never ending tour is that his keyboard is positioned perpendicular to
the stage at extreme audience left.  Last year when I saw him here in
Charleston his keyboard was at a 45 degree angle to the stage so he still
looked out onto the right side of the audience.  But now that he is facing
stage left the whole time, if you want anything but a profile shot you
must be sure to position yourself to the right of center stage.  Tony
Garnier raptly faces Bob the whole time and Bob conducts the band with
nods and hand signals.  Let’s just hope that he doesn’t take this to the
logical extreme in upcoming tours and perform center stage with his back
to the audience like a real conductor.

Back to the music.  I don’t want to give a rundown of each song.  To
summarize, though, I can only use the word FEROCIOUS to sum up the
performance.  There were no smiles, no laughs.  The music was driven and
urgent, powerful and sweaty.  (Speaking of sweat, why doesn’t Bob’s
keyboard short out?  During his set he must have dripped about a gallon of
sweat onto those keys.  It just pours out of the man’s face.)  As the
energy built on stage and the volume steadily increased, the crowd kept
pushing forward.  Hundreds of intoxicated college kids pushed by us every
song, some quite rudely.  I learned that getting there early and staking
out a spot was pointless.  Why not just get there late and sloppy drunk
and push your way to the front like everyone else?   And once you’re
there, hold up your cell phone to the stage and call…  WHO THE HELL ARE
THEY ALL CALLING?  “Look at me!  I’m at a Bob Dylan concert!  I have to
call my friend back at the sorority!”  Sorry to sound so bitter but the
crowd really detracted from my enjoyment of the concert this time.  It was
all pushing, stumbling, and second hand smoke.  It’s a pity too, because
the band was having a great night and Bob was focused, intense and
(although I’m wearing out this word) ferocious.


page by Bill Pagel

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