Reviews

Medford, Oregon
Jackson County Fairgrounds
October 9, 2001


[Dan Dillon], [Michael Smith]

Review by Dan Dillon



    In Bob we trust. Saddling someone with Spokesman for a Generation is a
godawful thing to do to anyone. But we¹ve listened to Bob Dylan for 40
years, dissecting, parsing, diagramming his thoughts so we could read our
own meanings into his words. He¹s back with a new album in a suddenly new
world and we came Tuesday to the Jackson County Expo in Central Point,
curious about both. At a time when one man¹s response to senselessness is
more senselessness, there was an air of anticipation. What would Bob make
of more bombs, more tears?

    His allusions ranged from predictable, Masters of War, to surprise,
Searching For a Soldier¹s Grave, to the faithful closer this time around,
Blowin¹ in the Wind. But we can always read whatever we want into anything
Bob does. Maybe those allusions were illusions.

    On this night he entertained, a road-tested song-and-dance man. Five
faithful readings of songs from the new Love and Theft, including a
rollicking first performance of Mississippi. Nuggets from the 60s through
the 90s. A little Bob-dancing. A litle harmonica. A touch of the vamp.

    His performance was a statement more eloquent than any politician¹s.
He made a case for normalcy. Bob did what he¹s always done. He gave us some 
things to think about and reminded us it¹s OK to have fun. There¹s strength 
in that kind of response. It¹s why we¹ve turned his way for 40 years,
listening for hints about ourselves. Thanks, Bob.


[TOP]

Review by Michael Smith



Last night was my thirtieth dylan show (since 1989) and i would say it was
the best. First of all, because it was a GREAT show; secondly, because it
happened last night. My friends and I had to drive about 3 1/2 hours north
to get to the venue and when we arrived we knew the show would be
something special. It was held at an indoor "fairgrounds" - a place that
resembled a large barn with a dirt floor and bleachers in the back. There
was a very high percentage of casual fans in the audience - people who I
felt probably saw every big rock show to come to town - and even though
they didn't recognize the new material, they were respectful just the
same. Wait for the Light - The first thing I noticed when Dylan took the
stage is that he has a new acoustic guitar (almost all black). The second
thing I notice is that he has a small white scarf tied around his neck as
if it were a tie. The rest of the suit was white and the knee-length
buttoned-up coat looked real sharp. This is another great opener - like
Hummingbird or Hallelujah, I'm Ready to Go - jaunty, upbeat, bluegrass.
And knowing that he's opening all the shows with this one, it was hard not
to hear it as an optimistic message to America in the wake of 09/11.
Harmony vocals by Larry and Charlie and Larry on mandolin. Mr. Tambourine
Man - This is the best version I've heard since Towson and the first one
I've heard since then that doesn't imitate that performance’s outrageous
ahead-of-the-beat-phrasing. Terrific vocal nonetheless and and capped off
with a harp solo. It's Alright Ma/ Searching for a Soldier's Grave - Solid
versions of familiar songs from the past two years. Tweedle Dee - Yes!
What an indescribable thrill I had when they started this song: to hear
brand new material by the band that played it on the album. Great playful
vocal by Bob. Charlie played the main riff as well as the harmonics.
Powerful drumming by Dave who was pounding on something other than his kit
to get that bongo sound. Bob sang the final line of the song as "Tweedle
Dum said to Tweedle Dee" but the band abruptly stopped after Bob sang
“Tweedle Dum . . .” so that he sang “said to . . . “ a capella. Then the
band came back in for the final “Tweedle Dee”. Very dramatic. I Threw it
All Away – This was a first timer for me and it was also very well done
with lots of “WEEEEEELLLLL, I threw it all away”s. Larry was great on
pedal steel. Mississippi – It’s not often you hear a live debut of a Dylan
song, much less one of his greatest songs, so when they played the intro
to this I went into a state of shock. This version was absolutely
astonishing. Larry played slide guitar, which sounded much more prominent
than the one on the album. Charlie and Bob played electric guitars and
replicated the album’s mandolin riff, which they played twice at the end
of each verse. The singing was every bit as moving as on the album – with
Bob cutting loose and singing his heart on lines like “Don’t even have
anything for MYSEEEEEEEELF anymore” and “I’m gonna look at you ‘til my
EEEEEEEEEYEs go blind”. What else can I say? It was all that and more and
then some. Summer Days – Great fun. Like the previous L&T songs, most of
the crowd around me didn’t seem to recognize this one but this was the one
they responded to the best. Everybody was movin’. Larry played the intro
riff. As with Tweedle, Bob’s vocals were even more playful than the album.
Tony on upright bass. There was an extended jam in the middle of the song
as the three guitarists huddled together and rocked out. Masters of War –
Solid version. Got a big response from the crowd. Girl of the North
Country – As gorgeous and tender as a bruise. Very soft and lovely singing
by our man. Visions of Johanna – When they started this I felt like I had
died and gone to heaven. The playing and singing were slower and softer
than the Asheville version from earlier this year but it was incredible
just the same. Magnificent harp solo by Bob done in the style of many of
his great solos: he blew three notes, waited a few seconds, blew the same
three notes, waited, etc. then began expanding on that pattern until they
got to the chorus and Bob started blowing like crazy and the whole song
exploded in catharsis. Sugar Baby – I’m not trying to be hyperbolic with
the superlatives but sometimes only superlatives will do; this was flat
out the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. Before this tour started it was
the last song L&T song I imagined Bob playing but just a few notes into it
and I’m thinking, “Of course, of course!” Bob, Charlie and Larry all on
electric guitars, Tony on upright bass and Dave played the cymbals with
mallets during the chorus. They all played very softly and the sound they
created was very ethereal and beautiful. As great as the album version is,
this one was better. Another tremendous vocal by Bob and the crowd was
hanging on every word. There was one minor but crucial addition to the
lyrics (complete with pregnant pause) that I found fascinating: “There
ain’t no limit to the amount of trouble women bring . . . BUT . . . love
is teasing, love is pleasing, love not an evil thing.” Spellbinding.
Tombstone Blues – I keep waiting for a filler song to come but it never
does. Great rocking version. Drifter’s Escape – As someone noted of Wicked
Messenger at an earlier show, this seemed a lot louder than usual. Bob
played back-to-back ragged-but-right guitar and harp solos to finish it
off. Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat – Everyone onstage had a blast during this
song. Big smiles all around. Bob introduced the band midway through the
song and they’ve now graduated from “some of the finest players in the
country” to “the best band in the world”. Indeed. Formation and two minute
break followed by: Love Sick – This song always sounds great to me and I’m
glad he hasn’t abandoned TOOM from his live show. Appropriately menacing
twin guitar solos from Bob and Larry. Like a Rolling Stone – The same
“slow” version from last tour. I Shall Be Released – Very nice. Something
totally magical happened at the end of this song; throughout the song, Bob
and the guys had been singing the chorus call-and-response style. When
they get to the final chorus Bob steps up to the mic and sings “Any day
now”! Charlie and Larry then sing “I see my light come shining”. Bob then
sings very rapidly,
“I-see-my-light-come-shining-from-the-west-down-to-the-east”, just before
the boys can follow up with “from the west”, etc. This was a great example
of Bob screwing up and then saving it by doing something so marvelous that
the result was much better than if he hadn’t screwed up at all. Honest
With Me – As I expected, this has taken the place of Highway 61 as the big
encore rocker and it’s a breath of fresh air. Larry on slide guitar,
though it sounds less prominent than on the album. Also as expected, this
turned into an extended instrumental big guitar rave-up with lots of
mugging from Bob. Again a terrific vocal - with Bob really milking the
lines for comedy in a way he doesn’t on the album. The “hunting bare” pun
wouldn’t have been lost on anyone if you get my drift. Just before the
conclusion of this song, Bob stopped playing guitar and very obviously and
affectionately pointed at someone in the crowd with his index finger.
Would like to know the story on that one. Blowin’ in the Wind – A nice
familiar finish to an astonishing, breathtaking show. I don’t know how
Bob’s show can continue to get better from year to year and tour to tour
but that’s exactly what it’s been doing. If anyone is reading this and has
been contemplating going to see Bob, just DO IT; you won’t regret it. The
new material alone is worth more than the price of admission. See y’all in
San Fran!

Michael

[TOP]

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