November 2, 2021
Review by Tom Wilmeth
Bob Dylan was back on the road. Nobody seemed happier about it than Bob
himself, with facial expressions that were frequently joyous. The
audience at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater was also excited yet remained
respectfully quiet during the songs. Dylan was in good voice, and the
sound mix was excellent – both Dylan’s lyrics and his piano were
clearly heard. Even on the first night of this new tour, the backing
quintet could follow Bob’s every move. And he performed for nearly two
The promotion christened this The Rough and Rowdy Ways tour, named for
his newest album. It’s unusual for Bob himself to attach a title to a
series of concerts. There were no formally named Modern Times or Oh Mercy
tours. Fans might refer to concerts in such album terms, but I don’t
believe Bob ever has.
After this opening performance, however, it’s clear why this tour is
named for Rough and Rowdy Ways, as Dylan sang eight of its ten songs.
Playing material from a new album might sound like an obvious and even
expected thing to do, but Bob has given concerts following a record’s
release where he didn’t touch his new material. This was true when I
saw him shortly after Tempest came out.
The night began with “Watching the River Flow,” a minor radio hit in
1971. Maybe Bob was using this number to tell us what he had been doing
during his time off – nothing. “Most Likely You Go Your Way and
I’ll Go Mine” followed. Dylan often opened his 1974 concerts with
this song of separation – perhaps reminding fans that he and they live
in two different worlds. After these numbers, the true program commenced
as Bob began playing material from the new album.
In fact, the bulk of the set was devoted to Rough and Rowdy Ways, which
was well received. The program, like the album, was long on ballads and
down-tempo numbers. Bob played from sheet music for a few of these songs,
something which should surprise no one. The audience reacted with
particular enthusiasm to specific lines in “I Contain Multitudes.”
Amidst these new songs, Bob interspersed tunes recognizable to even casual
fans. He played “Simple Twist of Fate” and “I’ll Be Your Baby
Tonight,” as well as a rocking version of “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
Dylan touched on his later catalog with “Early Roman Kings” and
“Soon After Midnight,” both from Tempest. The audience was with him
The backing band was also with him, and it was fascinating to watch the
instrumentalists navigate the musical waters that Dylan threw them into.
Bob Britt and Doug Lancio offered electric guitar backing all night, while
Donnie Herron switched between violin and steel guitars. Tony Garnier
played upright and electric bass. Garnier gave a few specific hand cues
to new drummer Charlie Drayton, and each of the band members were often
giving visual prompts to one other in mid-tune. All this, while never
taking their eyes off of what Dylan was doing at the piano. They were
working hard. But make no mistake – the quintet played as a unit and
was ready for this opening night’s performance. That’s good, since
the tour is booked through 2024.
The only time the band seemed uncertain of anything was not related to
Dylan’s music; it was about the artist himself. Bob occasionally
emerged from behind the upright piano to sing, to emote, or to play
harmonica. Grinning widely with outstretched arms, he appeared to revel in
the concert experience. But when Bob made his way from piano to center
stage – he looked fragile, and at times unsteady on his feet. It was
only then that his backing musicians looked apprehensive, but prepared to
lend other forms of support, if needed. Dylan’s piano playing could be
forceful when he wanted, and his singing was strong. But watching this
man move across the stage, there was no way to forget that Bob Dylan
turned 80 this year.
The only song that drew no audience recognition as it began was
“Melancholy Mood,” a Frank Sinatra tribute number from Dylan’s
Fallen Angels album. Although less well known, “Melancholy Mood”
might best sum-up the night’s set list. Performer and audience were
clearly enthused about Dylan’s return to the stage – but many of the
evening’s song lyrics discussed the end of the road and farewells.
“Black Rider,” “False Prophet,” and set-closer “Goodbye Jimmy
Reed” all discuss disillusionment and loss. As with the concert’s
opening numbers, Dylan may be telling us something about himself. He
contains multitudes, yes, but he also knows he’s mortal. Bob
understands, as he himself has written in “Oh Sister” – “Time is
an ocean, but it ends at the shore.” And maybe that’s part of the
reason the Milwaukee audience was so jubilant, even amidst these
world-weary songs. We still have Bob with us; let’s enjoy him today.
We may not see him tomorrow.
Review by Don Romundson
The show at the Riverside was unbelievable. I'll hand it to the Milwaukee
crowd last night, there was a standing ovation after every song. Bob fed
on it, it was clear from the start that this was going to be a very
special show. In fact, Bob did a sort of a bow to the crowd, in Bob's own
way, after each song, an acknowledgment if you will, his stand at center
stage gazing out, very appreciative of the crowd, and the crowd for a
change was able to accept what Bob was putting on the table.
And Bob put everything on the table. The time off was good because it
allowed a break in continuity. Bob delivered what nobody expected -
virtually the whole of Rough and Rowdy Ways, excluding only Rubicon and
Murder Most Foul. At least eight breakouts. He reworked his entire set
list. He gave us talk. There was something to say. He dedicated the
show to Les Paul. At times this was better than a beat poetry reading -
and Bob delivered some just classic phrasing - his voice was also fresh
and focused. But it was also at times like the "Silencio" theater scene
from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. And then there's the Shadow Kingdom
groove. Everybody I talked to leaving the theater said it was one of the
best shows they've ever seen. I haven't seen such a happy energized crowd
in a long time. And I know Bob and the Band were saying as they left the
stage, "We just knocked it out of the park boys!" The band with Matt
Chamberlain and Bob Britt was good, but there's a new dynamic between the
guitarists, Doug Lancio gives a bite and presence to notes. Bob and Doug
are outstanding together, total professionals. And Charlie Drayton is
simply excellent. Bob always has a good band, but these boys are
I'd seen some of the sound check, so I knew we were getting Watching The
River Flow. It's an old warhorse but the smoky drive that Bob gave it was
perfect for the opener. Then, Bob goes into a rocking You Go Your Way.
The crowd's energy was sizzling. There were plenty of other driving
rockers - he just flat out rocked Gotta Serve Somebody. Goodbye Jimmy
Reed. That's going to be a staple for a long time. But what a masterful
job of weaving in the more hypnotic R&RW numbers. And that swampy driving
take on the closer It Takes A Lot To Laugh was brilliant! We were all
thinking this is going to be like the old days and Bob is going to come
out for a third encore, but .... we should have known better.
I've seen some picking apart about this or that. The band intro was
ackward, blah blah blah. Fer Fox Sake. Bob is eighty years old and he
delivers a truly historic evening and you guys are going to pick it apart?
Go to a Rolling Stones concert if you want every note and word delivered
exactly the same every night, (in fact its been the same every night since
about 1989 basically). Bob is on a much higher level, a much higher
level. An artist constantly becoming. Chicago is going to be another
special show, y'all down the line are going to like this.
Review by Adam Selzer
It’s been a long time since I went to a Dylan concert without a clear
idea what to expect. Have I ever, really? In the past, even when the
setlist was changing, there weren’t many times when I didn’t have a
general sense of what the show would be like, even back in the 90s. I only
saw a couple of shows before we got the internet, and those weren’t
“First show after a long gap and a new album” situations or anything.
This kind of anticipation for a show hasn’t happened in years, and may
very well never happen again.
The smart money was on a show similar to fall 2019, but with a few RARW
songs mixed in. Which would have been fantastic. And it’s just so good
to be back out there, following Bob and having adventures along the way.
My friends and I did a superhero movie-style slow walk into the Mars
Cheese Castle in Kenosha on the way. You can’t miss the Cheese Castle.
In the car, Michael Glover Smith asked the rest of us (me, Ray of the
Flagging Down the EEs blog, and Mike’s buddy Scott) how many new songs
we thought we’d get, and I think all three of us blurted out “three”
in unison. 1-4 seemed like the safest bet, based on previous tour openers.
I certainly didn’t guess we’d get 8 - probably the most live premieres
in a show since, what, 1979?
And Milwaukee is a cool town - lots of hulking breweries and ancient cold
storage warehouses along the river, in a style you don’t seen in Chicago
much (at least after 1871). It has a blue collar vibe and you can get lost
there. In fact, we did a bit. I always do when I go there. It’s
delightful that there’s a whole city with such a different tone only 70
Got to the venue, grabbed some sushi with Trapper (the “On, Wisconsin”
guy), then headed to the venue. Vax card check was quick and painless,
security seemed to move faster than it did in 2019. Picked up a t-shirt
and saw a few familiar faces around. So good to be back. I didn’t care
what the show was - the important thing was that it was happening. We all
indulged in some of that full-on nerdery pre-show: What’s that other
mic? Was that there before? Did you notice the Oscar is gone? Did you hear
that one rumor? That’s Donnie’s usual setup, right? What’s with the
marquee changing over the couse of the day? All that minutia, just making
the suspense more delicous. When the lights went down and the band went
into “Watching the River Flow,” Bob’s first public performance in
nearly two years, I was just overwhelmed.
And “River” is normally high on the list of songs I DON’T want to
see on a setlist, but this arrangement (sounding like the 2019 band, but
owing a lot to the Shadow Kingdom arrangement) was terrific. Same with
“I’ll Be Your Baby,” a song that’s usually filler but absolutely
Of course, the important thing here is the new songs. Eight of ‘em!
Bob seemed a bit nervous as he began “I Contain Multitudes” - I
don’t know that I’ve ever seen him look nervous before. After a verse
or two he moved from center stage to piano, where he could be seen
flipping through lyric sheets (he was standing the whole time; you could
see him over the piano just fine). But the performance was solid, and on
“False Prophet” he was grinning, pointing, and seeming as though he
was having a blast. Like he couldn’t wait for us to hear what line
he’d sing next.
Among the other new ones, “Black Rider” was menacing and awesome (and
the “size” line is this year’s “you think I’m over the hill.”
Big applause line and I was honored to be among the first to hear it
live). “Mother of Muses” was gorgeous. “My Own Version of You” was
menacing but I think this one will improve over the tour.
Of particular note is “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,”
with Bob REALLY drawing out words in the pre-chorus lines. Like, REALLY
drawing them out. Longer than you’re picturing if you haven’t heard
it. “Lotta people gonnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeee” Mike and I were looking
at each other bug-eyed between verses, and Mike declared it the best
vocal he’d ever heard live.
The show was, in fact, very similar in sound to the 2019 shows, only with
eight new songs mixed in. And things were a little rusty - Dylan seemed to
forget the band intro, or had to check a new name, and had to come back
onstage after leaving to do it. There were a handful of lyric flubs, and
some new arrangements that didn’t seem like they were very tight yet.
The piano was mixed too high sometimes, and Bob certainly hit some
clunkers, though he found a three note riff he could lean into on “Key
West” (Holy shit he played “Key West!”), and he seemed to be
struggling to remember his lines when he dedicated the show to Les Paul
after the band intro. But that’s sort of to be expected on the first
night after a long break, the first show with this precise band, and with
SO many new songs. There was a lot of new stuff to deal with! And
throughout, the singing was so great that it covered up the rust.
Though Bob leaned heavily on the piano a few times, but at other times he
did a lot of dancing and posing - “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” felt
like an old school rock and roll rave up. “Serve Somebody” was
awesome. “Melancholy Mood,” the biggest surprise from the back
catalog, was smooth.
I couldn’t see new member Doug’s guitar enough to get a real read on
him as a guitarist; he and Bob Britt were stationed behind Bob. Tony
seemed like he was overjoyed to be back, acting as bandleader and grinning
Of particular note is new drummer Charlie Drayton, who looked and seemed
like the coolest %^^&*er on the planet. He played those drums with a
variety of implements the likes of which I had never seen. At once point
he was dragging strings of beads on the drums. Once he held the stick
perpendicular over a cymbal and slowly spun it, playing it like a vinyl
record with a drumstick needle. Sometimes he played with the handle end of
the brushes. On many songs he switched between mallets and brushes mid
song. Sometimes he just massaged a tambourine. Similar to Chamberlain -
playing percussion a lot more than regular drumming, and always playing
the song, not the drums. Great first outing.
After the main set, including all 8 new songs, Dylan said “I want to
thank you on behalf of the band,” then left the stage, only to come back
a few seconds later to actually introduce the band and dedicate the show
to Les Paul. This felt like he hadn’t rehearsed it or thought much about
it, and in the rush of getting so much new material right he spaced a bit.
It happens. These little quirks are part of what we like to see in Dylan
shows, aren’t they? While you can’t just pretend he isn’t 80, they
weren’t the sort of mistakes I haven’t seen him make before, and I’d
never seen him try so much new stuff in one night - so MANY chances for
We were ecstatic after the show. Eight live premieres and some of the best
vocals Dylan has done in ages - though the band sounds like it did before,
for the most part, there’s definitely a “Shadow Kingdom” element in
the vocal delivery.
Anyway, he’s back. The tour is back. And he’s still full of surprises
and doing what he does best.
Can’t wait for tonight in Chicago, even though we don’t have a cheese
castle to call our own.
Review by Blaine Schultz
Bob Dylan Kicks Off Tour at Riverside Theater
By Blaine Schultz
NOV. 03, 2021 11:34 A.M.
You buy your ticket, as the man says, you take the ride.
Bob Dylan’s worldwide tour, scheduled to run through 2024, opened Tuesday night
at the Riverside Theater. If the “Rough and Rowdy Ways” sub-heading was not
exactly accurate then the “Things Aren’t What They Were” appellation hit the nail
on the head.
Never one to pretend that audience expectations matter much, Dylan’s shows in
recent years were akin to watching a master painter take to a canvas in real time.
A true road warrior, he began his Never Ending Tour in 2007 and since the dawn
of this century has released a string of albums often propelled by his stellar,
What toll would the pandemic take on the Nobel-prize winning octogenarian with
nothing left to prove?
On Tuesday, if you were a casual fan or if this was your first Dylan show, you were
kinda’, sorta’, outta’ luck. Of the 18-song performance, less than half would be
drawn from what might be called his canon: the opening pair “Watching the River
Flow” and “Most Likely You’ll go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine,” “Simple Twist of Fate,”
“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.”
And many of those were deceptively arranged; picking them out was not for the
faint of heart. Does Dylan do this to keep things interesting and stave off boredom
or his he too clever by half? That is your call.
Dressed in a white tuxedo coat and flanked by his band dressed in black—drummer
Charlie Drayton; Tony Garnier on upright and electric bass; Bob Britt and Doug Lancio
on guitars; and Donnie Herron on steel guitar, mandolin and pedal steel)—Dylan spent
most of the evening behind an upright piano that sure sounded like a modern
The noir stage set, lit from below, was an improvement over the can lights of
previous tours that were allegedly used to dissuade photos and videos.
Surprisingly, Dylan performed eight songs from his 2020 Rough and Rowdy Ways
album—nearly the entire album, choosing not to tackle the nearly 17-minute
“Murder Most Foul.”
Among the show’s highlights: “Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine,”)
featured a honking guitar riff and slowed to a molasses bridge section; a loping
“Simple Twist of Fate” graced by inflections of surprise in Dylan’s singing; the crooner
“Melancholy Mood” graced by a seemingly incongruous Flying V guitar accompaniment.
A ramrod take on “Gotta Serve Somebody” recalled Dylan’s David Letterman surprise
appearance with punk band The Plugz more than its Gospel origins and “I’ll Be Your
Baby Tonight” was dripped with Roy Head’s “Treat Her Right.”
Longtime bandleader/bassist Garnier, multi-instrumentalist Herron and guitarist Britt are
veterans of Dylan’s group. So, this wasn’t exactly a new band since Dylan’s last show
in December of 2019. Maybe it was opening night, maybe it was chemistry but this
band felt like it was playing it safe. Solid but safe. At times Garnier was cueing band
members; the guitarists didn’t show that dangerous spark that Charlie Sexton had
provided and “Early Roman Kings” was missing the mannish-Muddy Waters stomp of
the recorded version. Dylan himself had what appeared to be lyric sheets atop his
piano. It would be worthwhile to see how this band sounds later the tour.
Dedicating the show to Les Paul, they returned with encore numbers “Love Sick” and
the aforementioned “Train,” which were welcome but might have been better moved
earlier in the show.
Review by Jerry Spanbauer
Bob Dylan showed an amazing amount of artistic courage, conviction, and
confidence last night at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. The fact that
he was kicking off his new “Rough and Rowdy Ways” Worldwide Tour in
one of my favorite venues had me obviously excited, but no one in
attendance could have expected him to play a remarkable 8 songs from the
It was my 38th time seeing Dylan since 1986, the last being his fantastic
Milwaukee show at the Eagles Ballroom on October 26, 2019. I was with my
buddy Timmy who has joined me for about 30 of them. For the first time, we
noticed some signs of physical slippage with Dylan. He relied on
microphone stands and the piano to help him better maintain his balance
and walked a little less steady than I’ve been accustomed to, but he is
80 and human. I can also say that he was probably in the best voice I’ve
ever heard in those 38 shows; an amazing feat no doubt aided by the nearly
two year layoff.
While the hardcore Bobcats welcomed the heavy dose of recent material, it
probably wasn’t a smooth ride for the casual fan. I can enjoy any Dylan
show for what it is, but I try to put myself in the shoes of a person who
knows some of his better known songs and just wants to check him out live.
I couldn’t help but think that many of those folks likely found the show
to be challenging to enjoy. I was with my girlfriend Marie and buddy Shawn
and his wife. It was Shawn’s second show and the first for the girls.
Marie said she enjoyed it but she was familiar with many of the “Rough
and Rowdy” songs from being around me.
As much as I loved seeing and hearing the amazing offering of live debuts,
I also felt like things dragged a tad and perhaps one of the slow, long
new songs could have been replaced with a rocker or two. Call me a greedy
bastard but it bugged me to have only one song from the entire 1980-2010
period. Only one song from “TIme Out Of Mind,” “Love and Theft,”
and “Modern Times” is hard to swallow. Having cut our teeth in the
early days of the NET, we long for some harder-edged things that are
probably a thing of the past.
Here are some brief comments about each song:
01. Watching The River Flow - fun and funky; great delivery but voice
buried in the mix a bit. 02. Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll Go
Mine) - similar to Shadow Kingdom version. Entertaining. 03. I Contain
Multitudes - excellent and perhaps the most emotional moment for me seeing
the 80 year-old Bob delivering another great new song for the first time.
04. False Prophet - very nice but should start to cook even more as the
band grows together. 05. Simple Twist Of Fate - great Dylan song but have
seen it so many times, including similar arrangement in 2019. How about
“Senor” or “I and I?” 06. My Own Version Of You - fun and
well-delivered. 07. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - similar to the Shadow
Kingdom version. Loved the slow, bluesy finish. 08. Black Rider - loved
his voice on this. 09. Melancholy Mood - Short and sweet. Great swing jazz
band delivery but lots of great alternatives. 10. Mother Of Muses -
hasn’t clicked with me yet; would have preferred a rocker from earlier
era. 11. Gotta Serve Somebody - great and very similar to excellent 2019
version. 12. Key West (Philosopher Pirate) - Prefer this to “Muses”
13. Early Roman Kings - Similar to 2019 but not as gritty. 14. Soon After
Midnight - Would have preferred something off of “Infidels,” “Oh
Mercy,” or “Time Out Of Mind” or something else from “Tempest”
like “Narrow Way” 15. I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You -
great song and delivery. Very passionate vocal. 16. Goodbye Jimmy Reed -
solid but should evolve into something great
band intro - awkwardly handled; should smooth out over time.
17. Love Sick - Great song but I've seen it so many times. Would have
preferred something off of “Infidels,” “Oh Mercy,” or something
else from “Time Out Of Mind” like “Cold Irons Bound.” 18. It Takes
A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry - Similar to 2019 but an all-time
favorite and always welcome
• Bob Dylan - no additional comments necessary
• Tony Garnier - rock solid as always; would love to have a few beers
with him! • Bob Britt - gonna take a more active role moving forward •
Donnie Herron - lots of great texture; missed the violin from 2019 •
Charley Drayton - looks like the real deal • Doug Lancio - buried in
background; hopefully will emerge more as tour rolls
Please don’t interpret my critiques as a lack of appreciation for what I
witnessed. It really was an amazing show with tons of highlights. I will
be following the tour online the rest of the way and look forward to
hearing other people’s opinions of the shows!
Review by Don Ely
Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fondle is the title of a Roxy Music bootleg
pressed in the 1970's, and is a favorite example of wordplay among many.
The cliche around which it playfully twists applies here to Bob Dylan,
whose absence from the travelling stage to be certain had those who look
to him for leadership in words and music feeling an emptiness in need of
nourishment. The Muses have bestowed a Great Light upon this Savage World,
deeming us worthy to receive these gifts and emerge from Darkness. Bob
Dylan and his Band are on the road again!
With no Michigan date on the schedule I chose to attend opening night and
it's follow-up down the highway in the Windy City. A most reasonable
downtown hotel rate meant I could venture to and from the Riverside
Theater on foot. Entry with vaccine and security protocols was made a
breeze by organized staff, and I spent pleasant time talking to an usher
upstairs and other patrons on the floor in my section located 23 rows from
the stage. Conversation with live humans in an ornate movie palace is not
available virtually. Then the moment at hand: Bob and his Multitudes came
to play! There have been some alterations to Bob's outfit in the
intervening two years ( though I must admit I have not seen Shadow Kingdom
so I have no inkling as to who's who there ). Guitarist Charlie Sexton has
completed his second tour of duty and drummer Matt Chamberlain from 2019
has been replaced. Veteran Donnie Herron remains as does Mr. Tony Garnier,
who has punched the clock supporting Dylan more times than any sideman
past or future. The virgin behind the drum kit is Charlie Drayton, with
guitarist Doug Lancio also making his live Bob Dylan debut. Both have
extensive resumes. Drayton was a member of Divinyls ( " I Touch Myself "
), led by his wife Chrissy Amphlett who was claimed by that bastard cancer
in 2013. So they commence with " Watching The River Flow ", not the
strongest of compositions but perfectly fine to get the blood flowing and
much more welcome than " Things Have Changed ". After another old one, "
Most Likely You Go Your Way ( And I'll Go Mine ) ", they break the seal on
Rough And Rowdy Ways with " I Contain Multitudes ".
I've admired what became the new album since the release of " Murder Most
Foul ". I believe time will be kind to this collection and that it will
weather the ages like ancient scrolls written in a language the
intricacies of whose mysteries have yet to be revealed. I hadn't listened
in months but over the two days of the shows I immersed myself in the
record ( and have continued since returning home ) as well as the live
set, allowing it's subtleties to seep into pores and really get under my
skin. Of course these are largely not up-tempo songs; their lyrics coupled
with the pace of delivery allow the listener to absorb their richness.
Eight World Premieres! Never in all my imagination would I have expected
the entire album save for two songs would have been performed! Bob was in
good voice and his piano technique seems to have improved. There are a
couple lines in " I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You " where he
sings impressively in a higher register, something I don't think he
could've pulled off just a few years ago. Of all the new numbers the song
that has risen most in stature for me this week is " Key West (
Philosopher Pirate ) ", which I never took very seriously until now but
believe to be one of the strongest tracks on Rough And Rowdy Ways. There's
no accordion on the live version ( which conjures the image of Danny
Federici from early days of the E Street Band ) but it's a sublime
rendition and perhaps the centerpiece of the set. From the back catalogue
I love this arrangement of " I'll Be Your Baby Tonight " except for it's
brevity. Near the close of the show there was a wee bit of confusion
during the band intros and Bob gave a shout-out to guitar hero Les Paul,
who hailed from nearby Waukesha.
It will take this band time to gel but this cool, clear night alongside
the Milwaukee River provided a powerful opening salvo!
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