Minneapolis, Minnesota

Orpheum Theatre

November 6, 2014

[Rod Peck], [Don Ely]

Review by Rod Peck

It had been 18 months since Terri and I had last seen Dylan perform and for a 
year of that time I had hosted my own radio segment on him, thereby 
broadening my knowledge of, and changing my relationship to, the artist. 
These factors and a few others were on my mind as the concert approached.
Last time we had seen him was during the short-lived Duke Robillard era, which 
I was happy with because before that I had grown tired of guitarist Charlie 
Sexton's visible dissatisfaction with his role in the band. I for one was 
disappointed when it was announced that Duke's tenure with Dylan was going 
to be short-lived. Off the top, I'm glad that Charlie seems to have accepted 
that what Dylan wants from him is to stand in his spot and play some tastefully 
understated guitar licks. Charlie did nothing at all Thursday night to draw 
attention to himself except play his axe well, as a sideman should.

Now, as for the concert itself, I can say this customer was very satisfied with 
the show and the rest of the crowd was very enthusiastic as well. Our seats 
were near the rear on the floor and we had binoculars that enabled us to see 
Dylan's facial expressions quite well and there is no doubt he was totally 
engaged and relishing every minute of being onstage. It was a joy to see him 
having such fun with his music. Another aspect of the night I enjoyed was the 
simple fact that the show was held in a small Vaudeville theatre from the '20s 
that was packed tight for the third night in a row. Last time we had seen him 
was at the Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL and the crowd at the Orpheum 
would have fit into a tiny corner of that basketball arena. Not only is a theatre 
much more aesthetically pleasing, but being in a packed house is obviously more 
fun than one that is only a fraction of the way filled. Let's hope he stays away 
from basketball arenas from now on. 

I'd like to address some complaints I hear from time-to-time about Dylan's 
shows. Some people are disappointed that he doesn't stick to a greatest hits 
format; I say be glad he doesn't and in fact I am happy for him that he has 
such enthusiasm for material he created late in life that he feels comfortable 
building his show on these songs instead of singing nothing but songs he wrote 
as a young man. I agree that I wish he would do an acoustic set again, but he 
doesn't and there is no use in complaining about it. Same with playing the 
piano and not playing guitar at all, Bob proved long ago that he is going to do 
what he wants and just like the folkies at Newport who booed him for going 
electric, we now must accept that this is what he's into at this time and he's 
never going to worry about trying to meet anyone's expectations; if he did he 
wouldn't be Dylan. I am reminded of the recent comment by Jeff Tweedy of 
Wilco concerning whether Dylan ever does anything simply to please the masses; 
Tweedy nailed it by saying  "Dylan has zero fucks to give about that." You may 
say "yeah, but if he doesn't do what I like, I don't have to go see him." Which, 
of course, is true, but for me I'm happy that a true living legend of such great 
historical importance is still on the road, headin' for another joint, coming to a 
theatre near you. One of these days he won't be out there anymore and I'm 
going to go see him every chance I get! The man is a national treasure and I'm 
not taking him for granted. 

And finally, I have to address "the voice." I wish I had a dollar for every time I 
heard someone say "oh his voice is gone" or "he's a worse singer than ever" and 
this is absolute silliness. His voice ripped a huge hole in my heart from beginning 
to end! Of course, it is true he'll never be an opera star, but that doesn't matter 
because he doesn't give a shit about opera. Among serious Dylan fans, it is 
strongly believed that the raspy old blues singer voice he sings with now is 
exactly what he wanted it to sound like all along. In fact, the voice he sang with 
50 years ago was basically an affectation of the folk and blues singers he admired. 
Back in 1963, and not yet 22, in the liner notes of his second album, The 
Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, he told critic Nat Hentoff that "I don't carry myself yet 
the way that Big Joe Williams, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Lightnin' Hopkins 
have carried themselves. I hope to be able to some day, but they're older 
people. I sometimes am able to do it, but it happens, when it happens, 
unconsciously. You see, in time, with those old singers, music was a tool-a way 
to live more, a way to make themselves feel better at certain points. As for me, 
I can make myself feel better sometimes, but at other times, it's still hard to go 
to sleep at night." In 2014 and well into his 70s, Dylan is able to carry himself as 
his heroes did; his voice has become an authentic tool of a great blues singer
and this is an awesome sound to behold, but to be sure, it ain't for wimps, 
weanies, wussies or pussies.

Finally, Terri and I usually travel to these events by ourselves and usually meet 
up with some friends at the venue. However, last year I met a fellow Dylan 
fanatic who lives in our neck of the woods and so we all decided to travel 
together for this trip and it was quite a fun experience. From the time we got 
to his house on Thursday morning until we got back Friday afternoon, it was all 
Bobtalk all the time heh heh. Thanks for being part of the experience, Pat. :

11/11/14 followup:

Ever since Terri and I saw Bob Dylan perform at the Orpheum Theatre in
Minneapolis last Thursday night, I have been struggling to get my head
around all my thoughts and feelings I have from what was a truly
transcendent evening. First and foremost, I reached a new level of
understanding about the greatness of the latter-day Bob, and being the
passionate person that I am, I wish everyone could have heard what I heard
that night through my ears. I am fond of using the word I invented to
describe such events, the “Bobpiphany.” Now, I realize that most people
have more practical things than music (careers, family, those type of
things heh heh) which they devote their lives to and that not everyone can
be a hard-core Bob Dylan fan, but it is my firm belief that it is
important for any lover of music to take in a Dylan concert whenever
possible, and hopefully be able to appreciate him as he is now.

Grateful Dead scholar, publicist and Garcia biographer
Dennis McNally recently released a fascinating study of American music and
its impact on our culture and society titled “On Highway 61: Music, Race,
and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom.”  He ties up his thesis and
research with statements like “Bob Dylan would ultimately become the
greatest artist of this tradition” and “it all came together in the story
of Bob Dylan, whose music had at least as many black sources as white, and
who returned to the black-white fusion that is rock ‘n’ roll as his career
matured, and whose songs, whether overtly political or more personal and
even surreal, always concerned freedom.” The idea that Bob Dylan is the
greatest American musical artist of our time is not something I dreamed up
by myself; it is a widely held belief shared by many people who care
deeply about such matters. 

One of the most amazing aspects of Dylan is that he keeps on
keepin’ on, not just in touring but in creating new Bob Dylans, and this
leads to a lot of misunderstanding about his present self. Just the other
day a lady at a checkout counter told me “I saw Bob Dylan and it was
disappointing because he didn’t sing ‘Lady Lady Lady’ like he did on the
record.” Sorry, ma’am, Dylan ain’t no oldies act, that’s for reunion tours
by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. In 2006 Dylan set a record for being the
oldest artist to hit #1 on the album charts with Modern Times, then he
topped that record in 2009 when “Together Through Life” accomplished the
same feat. The setlist of this performer supposedly tied to the '60's is
75% songs he has written since 1997......Amazing! It is true that even I
wish he’d at least do a short acoustic set or at least play some guitar in
his current shows, but he doesn’t consult me or anyone else. The thing is,
since the beginning, even before he went electric at Newport in ’65, Bob
Dylan is who he is in the moment, and he cares not about anyone’s
expectations. As Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy recently said “Dylan has zero fucks
to give about that.” Dylan does as he wants, as any great and true artist
will, it’s up to us to keep up with him.  

So, these are my thoughts on the current state of Dylanology
and the Never-Ending-Tour. It’s my sincere hope that someone here among
you will not only be inspired to go out and see the great Dylan perform
soon but be ready to appreciate him as he is. The Dylan of the early ‘60s,
and the mid-60s, and the mid-70s and so on were all just phases, and when
he’s done with that one, he makes up another other side of Bob Dylan. Now,
in 2014 at age 73, he’s the rambling old man who sings the blues in a deep
and raspy voice that Rolling Stone once called “a sinister, rusted-muffler
growl.” I’m glad he’s still on the road, headin’ for another joint!

Rod Peck
Muscatine, IA.


Review by Don Ely

The climate was agreeable for early November in the North Country. No
Arctic blasts dropped down from the wilds of Canada, no freak blizzards
blown in from across the Dakotas. Fact is I was able to explore the
western Twin City attired mostly in just a t-shirt and flannel.
Occasionally I would ascend to the famous Skyway that Paul Westerberg sang
so famously about. A tremendous method to get around town when the
outdoors is not so pleasant! So Bob Dylan was in Minneapolis for three
shows at the Orpheum in the theater district on Hennepin Avenue, and I
just had to be there. The past couple years I'd been fueling a desire to
see him again in his home state, so this was the opportunity. I'd
purchased tickets for wednesday and thursday in advance, but was able to
save fifty quid by buying one for tuesday night on the street a quarter
hour before showtime. My approach to Minneapolis was by crossing the river
at La Crosse, Wisconsin and taking the scenic route up Highway 61, past
the Walls of Red Wing, and into the city. A couple missed cutoffs in the
dark and a debacle at the hotel meant I had arrived at the Orpheum with
minutes to spare.

As aficianados of all things Bob already know, he now performs the same
set each and every night, except for festival sets, which makes it more
difficult to critique multiple shows. Over the three nights I was
positioned at 16th row right center, 5th row right center, and 7th row
left center. Tuesday/wednesday my seats were facing Bob's piano and Donnie
Herron, while on thursday I was facing the rest of the band and Bob when
he sashayed over to the four microphones at center stage. As expected
sound was excellent in a venue created when sonic quality was about more
than mere volume. The Orpheum Theater seats 2700, virtually all of them
filled. Thursday was the only show where I saw signs at the ticket windows
announcing a sellout. Dylan's last night in Minnesota? As the performances
go, tuesday was in my opinion a notch below the others. The best " Things
Have Changed ", Bob's stock opener for a few years now, was the final
night. " She Belongs To Me " moves like the rhythm of a heartbeat, a
living pulse that cannot be extinguished. " Workingman's Blues #2 " has
never been one of my favorites, but these were the best versions I've yet
heard, Bob singing tenderly and convincingly. " Waiting For You " was the
first of three personal first-timers. It was nice to hear an old, OLD
school country waltz in the set, and the song was a highlight as a unique
identifier of this period in time. " Pay In Blood " afforded the band a
chance to shine, as during a break Bob did one of his awkward little jigs
( maybe awkward on purpose ) as he stepped aside while the group jammed
for a few beats. A minimalist " Tangled Up In Blue " caught my ear as the
most bare - bones rendering ever, primarily just Dylan on piano
accompanied by Stu Kimball playing the well-known guitar part and Donnie
filling in the rest.

After " Love Sick " the group left the stage for the intermission. To me
this makes the evening seem shorter, but the total playing time remains
just under two hours. Per usual I met some interesting people at these
shows, like Dez from Ireland, who'd been in the States all of three weeks,
and was seeing Bob Dylan for the very first time. On the third night I was
seated next to an engaging lady who hailed originally from Montana. Good
conversation has been a component of many a Dylan show and factors in to
why I attend so many. A breath of fresh air later, the band returns with "
High Water ( for Charley Patton ) ". I was wearing what has become my
Dylan concert uniform: a t-shirt with the full-length photograph of
Charley Patton, the one discovered by blues archeologist John Tefteller on
his expedition to the Paramount Records region of Grafton and Port
Washington, Wisconsin. Previously the Paramount promotional photo only
existed from the neck up. It remains the only known picture of the
hard-living Patton, who died in 1934. From Paramount to Chess and the
Muddy Waters blues, " Early Roman Kings ". This number has improved over
time, as the repetitiveness has transformed  from annoying to addicting,
it's hooks digging down deeply into your chest, deceptively so, much like
the Rolling Stones outtake, " Two Trains Running ", itself an actual Muddy
Waters cover. Tempest material dominated the second half, with " Scarlet
Town " and " Soon After Midnight " both making appearances. Bob was in
fine voice, a little rough perhaps the first night, and his piano work was
very good. He added harp to three songs, and naturally the crowd voiced
their appreciation.  Stage lighting was very warm, often bathing the
musicians in rich, amber tones, dim but not so you couldn't see the band
well. Small lights scattered about replaced the torches of the
AmericanaramA tour - after all, you don't wanna burn these beautiful
palaces down - but the coolest element were the old canister-style spots,
seven of them, I believe, in all. Bob must've gotten a deal on these, as
they looked like they came directly from an MGM soundstage! Backdrops
added to the overall effect, and made me smile a couple times. The "
starry night " slide made the band look like they were caught in an
asteroid field; another gave the illusion that the boys were stuck at the
bottom of a quarry!

" Long And Wasted Years " was the only Tempest song I had not yet seen,
and I was eager for this one. I wasn't bowled over, I thought these
renditions lacked the power that other Boblinks correspondents have spoken
of, but I was glad it's included in the set and look forward to more on
future tours. With that, a quick formation, and it was on to the encores.
First the " happy " version of " Blowin' In The Wind ". Finally the song
Bob's closed with each night since the last show in Los Angeles, namely "
Stay With Me ". Short but sweet, apparently a number Frank Sinatra crooned
in a 1965 film, and possibly incomplete, I believe Bob means it as a
special thank you to those who've remained loyal to him throughout his
time. People bemoan the fact that Bob rarely speaks during performance,
doesn't blatantly give recognition to his audience, or say " hey Detroit!
" or whatever, but here it is right here and right now. He saved his best
vocal for this one, too. All Bobcats really need is Bob being Bob for as
long as it lasts.

Don Ely
Rochester, MI


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