Des Moines, Iowa
Sec Taylor Stadium
August 28, 2004

[Patrick MacFarland], [Timothy Roman], [James D. Hauser], [Larry Hejtmanek]

Review by Patrick MacFarland

Amid the cool, almost autumn-like backdrop of late summer in Des Moines, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan 
played a spirited and multi-faceted twin bill last evening at the former Sec Taylor Stadium.  If not 
for the antics of an overly lubricated Willie fan (more on that later), I would rate the show to be 
an overwhelmingly enjoyable success.  

With a crowd perhaps half the capacity of the venue still milling about, the energetic Hot Club of 
Cowtown performed a short but lively set punctuated with the appearance of Willie Nelson on that 
last number.  Elana Fremerman, who would resurface briefly during Dylan's set was truly a delight; 
a beautiful woman with an electrifying smile who plays a mean fiddle. The band's folksy demeanor -- 
they walked right through the crowd to reach their merchandise tent -- set a nice tone for the 

After a short break, Willie Nelson, backed by his finely grooved band appeard and played a 
seldom-altered set list. Populated largely with his greatest hits, Willie's act was very received 
very warmly by the crowd.  In stark contrast to the man who would follow him to the stage, Mr. 
Nelson continually gestured to the crowd, waving and blowing kisses throughout his hour long set.  
Of particular note, Willie's teenage son played near virtuouso guitar.  Introduced by his father 
as a "ringer", the young man took a brief turn singing at one point and played several high quality 

While many of his songs were highly recognizable, Willie failed to create an air of excitement with 
the crowd, especially amongst those not familar with his work.  While "Pancho and Lefty", "On the 
Road Again" and "Crazy" are all great songs, and he no doubt sings them well, something was clearly 
missing.  Perhaps this could be attributed to Willie's position as the twi-light act.  Similar to 
the Bob Dylan - Paul Simon shows of 1999, it would seem the legend the preceeds the final legend 
never garners the excitement necessary to command the crowd. 

With the sun fully set and the stadium lights casting the glow of a giant bug zapper, the stage was 
shuffled in anticipation of the evening's final act.  Bob Dylan took the stage to a loud ovation and 
plowed into a road-ragged version of "Maggie's Farm." Wearing a black suit adorned with small stars 
down the side and a black cowboy hat, Mr. Dylan proceeded to perform a nuanced set that mixed both 
old and new.  For those who track the icon's every move on tour, the set list offered few surprises; 
Five Love and Theft songs were performed including a reworked "Moonlight" and a pleasant "Floater" 
on which he was accompanied by Elana Fremerman from the Hot Club of Cowtown. 

Despite Dylan's typically nonchalant stage presence,crowd intensity built as the evening wore on.  
A brief reappearance of Willie and Co. for "Heartland" was followed by a standard-issue "Highway 61 
Revisted." After "Moonlight", Dylan offered his only true clunker of the evening, an uninspired 
"Things Have Changed."  For a song that conjures such tension, this performance seemed far too lax 
in tempo and singing.  "I'm a worried man / Got a worried mind" and "I'm in love with a woman that 
don't even appeal to me" should invoke a more urgent pace. 

To the other extreme was a later performance of "Ballad of Hollis Brown."  Sung ever so clearly and 
forcefully by it's author and performed with an absolute perfect combination of despair and haunting 
solitude, this song appeared as the most striking singular performance of the evening.  Its 
appearance seemed appropriate given the presence of "Mr. Farm-Aid", Willie Nelson.  Throw in the 
fact that Iowa has it's share of struggling family farmers and this song took on an added dimension 
of relevency.  Dylan repeated the final line: "Somewhere in the distance there's seven new people 
born", suggesting an underlying optimism buried deep within the bowels of an otherwise dispairing 

Concluding with a crowd pleasing "Summer Days" and an two song, greatest hits encore of "Like a 
Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower", Dylan exited to a strong ovation a strolled out into 
the night. 

The evening would have been flawless had it not been for the booze induced antics of some of 
Mr. Nelson's fans. It has no doubt been a common occurance for nitwits who come to see Willie and 
"the guy that sung 'Everybody Must Get Stoned'" to react angrily when they discover that Mr. Dylan 
holds no interest in crowd-pleasing "Standards" shows. On this particular evening, one fellow 
decided it was his duty to boo and hiss throughout Bob Dylan's set. Sprinkling in such pearls as 
"bring back Willie!" and "you're losing us Bob!" with other more unintelligble rantings about, 
ironically, Dylan's hard to understand singing voice, this gentleman decided that instead of doing 
everyone a favor and leaving, he would remain and sap some of the joy out of what is, for many, a 
true occasion. 

My only message to those closeminded morons who insist on giving everyone else their two cents on 
Mr. Dylan is: Don't.  For most Dylan fans, the absence of an unchanging and hits-laden set is what 
keeps them coming back. Most do not care if he flubs a line or can't always sing as clearly as he'd 
like. They know the damn words anyway. His refusal to ever be satisfied with his oevre is perhaps 
his most distinctive trait as an artist. So, I profusely apologize to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Fan 
who went home unhappy because he didn't get to belt out the one line to "Rainy Day Women" that he 
appeared to know, but I'm sure if he keeps' coming back he'll eventually get to sing along. 

Thanks to Bob and Willie for a wonderful evening, and for making my (almost) three-year-old twins 
first concert a night to remember. Despite the antics of a select few, the performances of two 
American Icons trumped all.  

Patrick MacFarland


Review by Timothy Roman

So, here's the story on Dylan in Des Moines...

I ended up going down there with an old friend from Madison, who has a
friend from H.S. that lives in Des Moines, and is a writer for some
Midwestern magazine. We also brought down two of her other friends, who
had bought a car on e-bay, and the seller happened to live in the same
neighborhood as the people we were staying with. The wife of the guy
buying the car showed up with a thermos of Bloody Mary's for the drive, good sign!

We drove through rain from MN to Iowa, so we weren't too sure about the
weather that night...and didn't bring any rain gear.

We got down there, had a few beers with her friends, and took a cab into
town. We went first to a nice little English Pub, and had a round of pints
(Fuller's London Pride for the kid). We then walked through their little
warehouse district, towards the stadium, and stopped at a German
restaurant for food and beer before the show. The weather by that time was
absolutely georgeous, and we sat outside and ate our potato pancakes and

Showtime approached, and we trundled over to the ball park. At
gate-time, we got in a line around the stadium of folks waiting to get in.
Everyone well behaved, midwestern, young and old...a typical Dylan
audience. Frat boys giddy as schoolgirls talking about seeing Like a
Rolling Stone, grey haired old hippies reading Thomas Hardy (at least the
one next to me...couldn't catch the title, but it wasn't Jude The Obscure,
my favorite T.H. - more about this later), you know what I'm talking

Maybe I don't know anything about Western Swing, or Bob Wills, but the Hot
Club of Cowtown does not strike me as "Western Swing" the genre. They are
a combination of Django "Hot Club" gypsy jazz meets Old-Time Fiddle Music.
They are great, fun and awesome. They do a version of "Ida Red", which my
brother's band did, so I bought him a CD (more about this later).

Willie came on for the last or penultimate Cowtown song, and sounded in
fantastic voice. Can't remember the tune now...dammit.

Willie's set was fantastic. Better than the last time I saw him from the
last row of Northrup Aud here in MPLS, but not as monumental as seeing him
at the Michigan Festival back in 94 or 95. His band is smaller. No sister
Bobbie on piano. But he was fantastic. He has this awesome affectation of
raising his right hand and pointing his finger emphatically while he's
singing, like the lyrics are making an important point. If only Kerry
would adopt that, I think we'd be fine in November!!

One of the songs I was hoping he'd play was Pancho and Lefty, and he
did. I've been listening to Townes' album "Live at the Old Quarter,
Houston" a lot lately (due to being "turned on" to Townes via Gillian
Welch's cover of "White Freightliner Blues"), and it was cool to hear
Townes version in my mind as Willie sang...the first "moment" of the night
for me.

They also did a version of "Texas Flood", featuring Willie's son on
guitar that was a cool surprise. All in all, it was great. The pointing,
the Townes, and the scene...

A little about the scene...the stage was set up on the right field
fence, with beer tables defining the back of the "floor" around the
perimeter of the infield. This let folks have the outfiled from center to
the right field foul line as the "floor". You could pass freely from the
floor to the stands. We were in the first row behind the first bast box
seats, so we had a great view. Shoulda brought the binoculars though. The
ball park with Willie and Dylan just fit real well. Real American. Not in
the republican sense. More populist. More real.

Then, the Aaron Copeland music and the silly introduction. Maggies Farm
out of the gate - soundcheck. Then, Tonight I'll be Staying here with
You...another "moment". Dylan's voice sounds better than it has the last
two times I've seen him (in the last year). Not the phlegmy Tom Waits
voice from last Fall. Smoother, more like MTV Unplugged, or something I
guess. Not the death rattle. And this tune was a treat.

Lonesome Day Blues. I've been wanting to see this since 9/11. I'm sure it
would've held a hell of a lot more meaning then, but it was still great to
see. It still has pertinant lyrics. I think this, and Tweedle Dee are both
very political.

The Heartland. This was an unexpected surprise. I guess I hadn't been
keeping up on setlist, because I didn't even know Willie had been coming
on for a tune. This was amazing. After seeing the Willie thing on TV
earlier this year, I was convinced he couldn't duet with anyone anymore.
Maybe that stuff was just poorly rehearsed, but the two least likely
people to harmonize together on the Planet sounded like Simon and
Garfunkle...after smoking 50 packs of smokes, granted. But they were just
great. Willie's son took a solo standing right in front of Dylan's piano.
Like it was nothin'. They could've played more tunes together, if you ask

Hwy 61 rocked. Moonlight I thought was going to be more moving, like the
Sugar Baby's from recent years, and it was good, but I think it lost the
crowd just a little. Things Have Changed got everyone back into it
(although this was not a "stand up" show for the folks in the seats).
Floater got everyone back out of it! But, it did feature the fiddle player
from Cowtown, which almost made it seem like Rolling Thunder for a minute
(the populist crowd feel, the fiddle). That song seems like it goes a long
way just to deliver the punch line of "too much to ask". But I like it.

Hard Rain was solid, and an unexpected thrill. Honest with Me rocked.
Then...I thought I'd go down on the field to buy the Cowtown CD. I get
down there and am looking at the merch during Honest, and I think "why
don't I just see how far up front I can get, and buy the CD later"...good

One of the tunes that I've been "chasing" over the years (in addition to
"Boots") is the Ballad of Hollis Brown. I downloaded a great Mike
Seeger/Dylan version from iTunes recently, and I just love the tune. It's
so dark and dreadful, powerful, tragic. Then, with just the last line,
becomes philisophical, religious, modernist, and almost indifferent.
"Seven people dead on a South Dakota farm/Somwhere's in the distance
there's seven more people born"...I almost shite myself when he started
playing it. The crowd on the floor had become open enough that I got super
close for this, one of my "grails". Later, from the influence of seeing
the older guy with the Thomas Hardy book, this song reminds me, obviously,
if you've read it, of Jude the Obscure. But if you haven't, I won't give
it away.

Summer Days was the rocking, swinging tune that it is. The encores were
great. (LARS, Watchtower).

We went back to the German place afterward and got a "boot". Then took a
cab back home, after crawling to a few more bars...All in all, a
surprising amount of fun is to be had in Des Moines, Iowa!

Timothy Roman


Review by James D. Hauser


The main highlight tonight was Bob and Willies Heartland. In 
Iowa, where land failure rates are about highest in the country,
everyone in the crowd knew and loved this song.  Every person I
saw had tears in their eyes on this song.  Willie and Bob nailed this
song in the perfect place, and the people there were treated to something
that was out of this world. Opening with Maggies Farm showed everyone that
Bob at least took the time to think about where he was, and what the
people needed to hear.  This version was perfect. Bob's band cooked, and
Stu did his best work of the tour.  Larry is always on top of it, and his
lap steel was so moving and emotional that you could see the crowd touched
by some of the licks.  Incredible show, possibly my favorite of the tour.


The venue was pretty empty, which was probably due to the state of the
economy.  It was sad to see the concessions empty, even the drunks were
not drinking. On the last two encore songs, Larry's pedal steel went out
and he just kept plinking around. Larry you're one of the most emotional
players I have ever heard, and every lick I have heard has been tasteful
and perfect. But if this happens again, just pick up a Strat or something.
One savior of this was the leads by Stu, which were downright chilling. 
It made me wish that Bob would get a stripped down 3 piece and just rock
out, because I think he could pull it off. Moonlight. Bob I don't know
what was up with this weird disco jazz arrangement, but it may be better
to bury this one and go back to the original, which is great. Elana looked
a little lost on Floater, but the band also seemed disinterested.  Since
she is so pretty, it is hard to say anything bad about her, so I will
leave it at that. Highlights The main highlight tonight was Bob and
Willies Heartland. In Iowa, where land failure rates are about highest in
the country, everyone in the crowd knew and loved this song.  Every person
I saw had tears in their eyes on this song.  Willie and Bob nailed this
song in the perfect place, and the people there were treated to something
that was out of this world. Opening with Maggies Farm showed everyone that
Bob at least took the time to think about where he was, and what the
people needed to hear.  This version was perfect. Bob's band cooked, and
Stu did his best work of the tour.  Larry is always on top of it, and his
lap steel was so moving and emotional that you could see the crowd touched
by some of the licks.  Incredible show, possibly my favorite of the tour.
Thanks Bob

Thanks Bob
James D. Hauser


Comments by Larry Hejtmanek

What a fantastic night for the show-70`s and a full moon broke out  over
the stadium near the end of the set. One can tell that Dylan`s band has 
been together for some time and makes that ragged voice even better. The 
highlights of the show were both Heartland and Hollis Brown. The crowd
sang  along to the former, appropriate for a state hit hard by the 80`s
farm crisis  and csite for one Farm Aid concert. What can you say about
the arrangement for  Hollis Brown-Dylan at his best. The encores were
great and we particularly liked  Watchtower, as vibrant now as when he did
it in the 60`s. If you are wavering on  going to the show, I`m telling you
to get tickets now. Willie was his usual engaging self. He gets better and
better  each time I see him. Also, buy the baseball that is on sale for
this tour.  What a great idea.

Larry Hejtmanek


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