Oshkosh, Wisconsin
University Of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Kolf Arena
November 2, 2004

[Jerry Spanbauer], [Scott Reath], [Don Ely]

Review by Jerry Spanbauer

First a little background. Oshkosh is a college city of about 65,000
residents. Dylan typically plays in Green Bay (45 minutes north),
Milwaukee (90 minutes south), or Madison (90 minutes southwest) when he is
in the area, so it was a thrill to see him in my hometown on Election
Night. Bob has been within a two hour drive of here FIVE TIMES in the last
seven months and I was able to catch three of those shows. This was
somewhere between my 25th and 30th Dylan show (I need to figure this out
soon). My children Dylan Robert and Lily Rosemary were thankfully on an
overnight stay at my sister’s house. My wife Karri kissed Bob on stage in
1996 and she and I were engaged after a show in Cleveland on 2/14/98
(seven hour drive). I was in attendance with her (about 15 shows), my best
friend Tim (about 20 shows), and other friends Ken (1st show) and Brian
(2nd show). As a teacher I couldn’t resist grading some of the key
elements of the appearance.

Performance: A
Dylan sang like his life depended on it and the band was on fire! I
thought he was going to knock the mic off the stand with how aggressively
he was attacking the vocals. He has obviously been playing quite a bit of
harp because it’s been getting more dynamic every time I see him and he
played it on at least four songs.

Setlist: B
“Absolutely Sweet Marie” as an opener is always sweet and “Ring Them
Bells,” (though my friend Tim predicted he would play it) was a pleasant
surprise. “Lonesome Day Blues” is one of my favorite songs off of “Love
and Theft” as is “Cold Irons Bound” off “Time Out Of Mind.” Tim and I both
agree that Bob could be doing a better job of dusting off the catalogue
and treating us to more chestnuts from the 70’s and 80’s.

Sound: A+
I can’t emphasis enough how fantastic and dynamic the sound was! Dylan’s
sound folks need to be commended. Think about all of the crazy venues he
plays, and the past few years in particular have been unbelievably
consistent soundwise.

Arrangements: A+
“Girl From The North Country,” “Cold Irons Bound,” and “Summer Days” in
particular stood out as astounding takes. I’ve seen “Highway 61 Revisted”
and “All Along The Watchtower” performed more than 20 times each yet Bob
and Band can amazingly make them sound fresh and sensational! I don’t care
for the slow pace of “Positively Fourth Street.” “This Wheel’s On Fire,”
as great as it is, needs backing vocals to spice it up. I like the echo
effect that was used on Dylan’s voice on a few songs and I wouldn’t mind
seeing it become a more consistent element in the mix.

Crowd: C- to D+
Did someone hand out Ridilan at the door? Seeing the 3,500 cadavers in the
bleacher seats reminded me of a biology class I had on this campus in the
early 90’s. The people on the floor had energy but the folks in the
bleachers had glue on their pants until “Rolling Stone,” after which they
gave the obligatory “standing O.” I loved the fact we found a spot (on the
floor about halfway back) that several of my local Dylan friends had also
gravitated toward. It was nice to see some familiar faces. This grade
would be lower if it wasn’t for them and my fellow attendees.

Venue: C-
I knew we were in trouble when I saw a sign that read “no cigarettes or
lighters” and learned that beer was not being sold. Students were allowed
to smoke in the library when I began attending the university in the mid
80’s. The bathrooms were not designed for crowds of about 6000. It was
almost humorous to see Kolf Sports Center, which I can remember going to
as a kid and playing pick-up basketball games in as student, with the Bob
stage set-up.  The grade would be lower if the sound wouldn’t have been so
kick ass.


Review by Scott Reath

Last night, Bob Dylan and his incredibly talented band played at a small
University field house in Oshkosh, WI, of all places. It was a very
collegiate beer sales, no smoking, polite student ushers,
a pleasant and happy young crowd and no loud drunks! Small bleachers,
maybe 20 rows up, ran along both sides of a large gymnasium floor. To say
this was as perfect as a Dylan show gets, both musically and
atmosphere-wise, would be an understatement; I have seen Dylan enough
times to know the difference between average and legendary
performances...this was the real deal, and I am still completely shocked
by what I saw and heard. I don't know if it was due to the election night
energy, the prior day's rest for the band,  the small campus atmosphere,
probably a combination of the 3, but these guys were so "ON", it simply
had to be seen and heard to be believed. I have seen Dylan approx. 15
times in my life, going back to 1986, and this show ranks as the best,
hands down...I think even better than Chicago's  Aragon and Riviera
Ballrooms last spring. The crowd was made up of mostly college students
ready to hear some good music. This was not the highly-seasoned touring
crowd that one might see in larger towns like Madison, Milwaukee, St. Paul
or Chicago. Oshkosh is 75 miles north of Milwaukee, not on a major
interstate...a bit off the beaten path for most. But not for luck
would have it, Oshkosh (home of one of the world's greatest airshows held
each July), is only 20 miles north of my house! So needless to say, I had
been looking forward to this night since tickets went on sale 4 weeks ago
(only $25! thru the student union). So after a few beers and excellent
Walleye dinner, my friend Andy and I arrived at the fieldhouse,absolutely
hassle-free, about 45 minutes before 8PM showtime, and we simply walked
straight up to the rail in front of Larry Campbell's microphone. I couldnt
believe it. At 8:15 the intro. began, and we were off and running with a
rare and very beautiful "Absolutely Sweet Marie", which I had never heard
him play before. From there on out, Bob and his band did not dissapoint or
let up one bit...I was amazed by the focus and intensity on Dylan's face,
his excellent voice and phrasing, his amazing Harp work, and he was just
dripping with sweat and obviously having fun. Driving and fiercly rocking
at some points (purely epic versions of HWY 61, Lonesome Day Blues,
Tweedle Dee, Cold Irons Bound, Summer Days), then, on a dime, so delicate
and heart-wrenching (Baby Blue, Ring Them Bells, 4th Street, Masters of
War and, the highlight of my evening, a gorgeous Girl of the North
Country). Some quick notes: 1. Stu Kimball completely won me over last
night. This guy smokes, some of his solos were just outrageous...he has
officially filled Sexton's shoes in a big way, and he fits right
fact the entire band was clicking well, smiling, laughing and having fun.
With 2 guitarists this good, I am beginning to believe that it doesnt
matter that Bob doesn't play fact it might be a good thing
because there seems to be a newfound dedication to the harmonica. 2. Larry
Campbell played lots of great Pedal Steel guitar last night, and it was
sweet. 3. Bob played extended, high quality harp solos on Baby Blue, 4th
St, and North Country. Very intense 4. The "stare-down" at the end was
unusually long....Bob looked proud of the band's performance and the crowd
(which looked close to a sellout by the end) roared its approval... It's
nights like these that keep me coming back for more! You just never know
when or where this man and this band is going to push things to a level
you never thought possible. Don't miss him right now, it's hard to believe
how Bob Dylan continues to get better with age. Bob, come back to the Fox
Cities again sometime, that was a blast! 

Scott Reath
Fond du Lac, WI


Review by Don Ely

There was no show monday night and this thought went through my mind: I wonder how Bob and company spent 
their day off? Here's how I spent mine! The Super8 I stayed at after De Kalb was located on Highway 38,
which conveniently becomes Roosevelt Road, an artery leading straight into the heart of Chicago. The 
lifeblood of this city, for me, is The Blues, and lo and behold, right off Roosevelt Road in the suburb 
of Hillside is Oakridge Cemetery. Perhaps it's most famous eternal resident is Howlin' Wolf, whose 
distinctive voice set southside blues clubs afire, a deep, dark, Mississippi growl that sand-blasted 
many a record machine. Wolf recorded for Sam Phillips at the Memphis Recording Service, and cut hot wax 
for Leonard and Phil Chess in this very metropolis. He remains one of my favorite bluesmen, and I was 
glad to finally pay my respects to this vibrant, towering figure. My next destination actually was 
2120 S. Michigan Avenue, home of the legendary Chess Studios. I had been at this address on two prior
occasions, but had never ventured inside. Reservations are recommended, but once there all you need do 
is Ring The Bell. A guy named Kevin buzzed me in, I paid the ten bucks and proceeded on the tour. The 
building now houses Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, an organization begun by Dixon's widow 
dedicated to lending a hand to destitute musicians and educating the public about the blues. Kevin showed 
me some original glass in the office area, and then a remarkable wall in white of life masks of blues 
musicans. Dozens of greats were represented, including several (Bo Diddley, Honeyboy Edwards, Paul "Wine" 
Jones) I've had the pleasure to meet. The works were created only in recent years, so most of the folks 
were still living and breathing the blues. Then Kevin opened a door to reveal a bridge to paradise. A 
long flight of almost surreally crooked stairs led up to the studios. He asked me to imagine Willie Dixon,
a very large man in physical presence as well as historical significance,carrying his upright bass up all
those steps. As I climbed to the top myself the voices, the laughter, and of course, the music began to 
bleed through the walls and into my brain, shifting ethereally across time. First was the rehearsal 
studio, and among personal effects of Dixon and Etta James sat a few pieces of recording equipment.For me 
this was where the action was, and I could see in my third eye Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, and Willie 
gettin' loose before layin' it down. I lingered here before walking into Studio A, where the records were
made. As I watched a video presentation about the Foundation, I sat and recounted the names that had 
played in this room: Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson 2. All these and many 
more, the finest players from the Deep South brought on home to sweet Chicago. What a gas it was to be 
here. I looked out through the front window where Buckets Of Rain fell upon the pavement of Michigan 
Avenue and dreamed a little bit more. Picking up a Chess t-shirt I thanked Kevin for his time and
hospitality, and headed up the road to 444 N. Wabash, namely Jazz Record Mart, easily one of the best 
record shops in the world and a regular Windy City stop. It's owned by Bob Koester,who founded the Delmark 
Records label half a century ago. Koester recorded other Chicago stars for the label like Junior Wells,
Magic Sam, J.B. Hutto, and Big Joe Williams. A battered guitar once played by Williams sits in a showcase 
in the store, and oozes with experience like Koester himself, who still regularly puts in a full day's 
work at Jazz Record Mart in addition to putting out new releases on Delmark. I kidded Bob that he always 
manages to get too much of my coin, but that's ok, I only get here once a year. After this it was time to 
get out of town, and I spent the night in Mequon,Wisconsin,north of Milwaukee.

Tuesday,November 2
Up bright and early I drove over to Cedarburg, a beautiful small town that actually succeeds in achieving 
the balance between historic preservation and modern trends. As I walked the streets on this Election Day 
it was gratifying to see folks in great number exercising their privelege to vote. In the basement of an 
old schoolhouse I found the archives of the Ozaukee County Historical Society, and informed the lady there 
of what I was seeking. In a room filled with cardboard storage boxes she pulled one box marked "Grafton" 
from it's place, opened the lid and began searching. In a box filled with file folders she pulled one 
folder marked "Paramount Records" from it's place, opened it up, and handed it to me. To my chagrin there 
was very little inside, but one newspaper article caught my attention. Dated from summer of 2000,the 
article concerned a resident of Grafton whose property abutted the Milwaukee River. The old Chair Factory 
Dam was to be removed from the river, and she had a large deck that would be affected by the removal.
This in itself was of no significance to me, but as I read on I struck gold. The dam was originally owned 
by the Wisconsin Chair Company, the parent company of Paramount Records, and the site was where the 
Paramount studios was located. The newspaper story included a small map, so the archivist made me a copy
and I excitedly headed over to Grafton. 12th Avenue and Falls Avenue. At this juncture once stood the 
studios of arguably the most important record label in American roots music, the grandaddy of 'em all, 
Paramount! Names known far and wide in their time and those known only to voracious collectors of 78rpm 
shellac released records on Paramount in the 1920's and '30's. Blind Lemon Jefferson, one of the biggest-
selling blues guitarists of the era was on the Paramount roster. As was Ma Rainey, Frank Stokes and Tampa 
Red. Incidentally, Bob Dylan played Tampa Red's "Love Her With A Feeling" and "She's Love Crazy" on the 
1978 tour. There's a commemorative marker on the grounds so I know this was the place. I walked around
carefully as the waters of the Milwaukee River rushed under the bridge, snapping the requisite photos. 
The building was razed way back in 1938, when preserving America's cultural heritage was not in tune with 
the concerns of commerce. Concrete slab remains, and a bit of foundation material, but that's all. To 
dismiss the weight of this place is to ignore the forebears of rock 'n' roll. From 1929-32 the likes of 
Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy, Bo Carter, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Skip James, and Charley Patton all 
set foot on this solid ground. They and many others like them, black and white, came to this unlikeliest 
of places, Grafton,Wisconsin and left their mark on the world. Today those 78's are among the most prized 
by those collectors, and among the most rare. If you ever run across a copy of Son House's "Clarksdale 
Moan",please email me immediately! I managed to find a nice prick to add to my own collection (my 
"collection" numbering only a sample from Stax in Memphis, Gennett in Richmond, Indiana,and now this one),
and said goodbye to Grafton. If you've stayed with me this far you'll now realize this is still a Bob 
Dylan review! I proceeded north to Oshkosh, site of tonight's show. Passing through Fond Du Lac I saw a 
nice painted mural of circa-1966 Bob on the side of a music store. Arriving in Oshkosh around 4pm I had 
lots of time to scout out the situation prior to the concert. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was 
tonight's master of ceremonies, and I found the venue, Kolf Arena, and checked into parking options for 
my return in a couple hours. I've already been through the having-your-car-towed-in-a-city-far-from-home 
situation,so I wasn't about to trust the fact that just because there was a major event on campus they 
wouldn't touch my car if I parked in a reserved spot. I dropped in to the campus police station and the 
gal there offered suggestion that proved viable. I went back to my hotel and checked election results.
I must admit I was surprised and disheartened by the news, even at this early hour. I could see there 
was little chance we would have a fresh president. With the volume of dissenting voices I'd heard over 
this past year I felt certain the challenger would become president-elect. Perhaps people fell for the 
argument that the incumbent is the ONLY American who can lead this country. If that were true, what will 
we do four years from now? In my estimation it is a hallmark of democracy that the stewardship of this 
War be transferred to someone else, to be certain all concerned parties are keeping their hands above the 
table. The stakes are too high, and this isn't celebrity poker we're playing. But the bed's been made.
This was the only show of the four on my roadtrip that I got to early enough that I could settle in and 
not have to rush around. Returning to campus I enjoyed a delicious pie at Topper's Pizza before walking
over to the venue. The Kolf Arena is a rather ugly brown structure that sits amid an otherwise friendly-
looking setting. It's another sports facility with bleachers on the sides; thankfully once again I had a 
main floor GA ticket. Tonight's was an excellent performance, the band was rested and energized, and it 
was obvious they had spent their off-day in a beneficial way. I had a notion this show would be a cut 
above when Bob launched into the only "Absolutely Sweet Marie" as an opener on this tour. Stu, Larry, 
Tony,and George played like they're capable of each and every night, and Bob took extra care with his 
delivery. There were really no weak moments in the set. I've seen "Girl Of The North Country" performed 
three times now in Wisconsin or Minnesota,and the renderings always seem an exemplary gift to Bob's
northern brothers and sisters. "This Wheel's On Fire" was welcome to me, another favorite Dylan song and 
one I hadn't seen live in several years. And "Masters Of War" was damn near apocalyptic on this Election 
Night in America. But the absolute highlight of this show and of these four, was an exceedingly rare 
"Ring Them Bells" played to the congregation on this watershed eve of destruction. "Ring them bells, ye 
heathen/ from the city that dreams, /Ring them bells from the sanctuaries/cross the valleys and streams,
/For they're deep and they're wide /and the world's on it's side /and time is running backwards". Bob 
Dylan chose this song for this night. "Ring them bells, Sweet Martha, /for the poor man's son /Ring them 
bells so the world will know /that God is one". Even in the darkest hour of night Bob Dylan shines a 
beacon of hope. On this particular night I left the arena having my spirit refreshed and renewed, and
On this particular nightI left the arena having my spirit refreshed and renewed,and looking ahead with
hope toward Bob Dylan's next night in West Lafayette,Indiana

Don Ely


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