Reviews
Waterbury, Connecticut
Palace Theater

November 11, 2023

[Stephen Goldberg], [Henry Miller], [Barry Gloffke], [Charlie Gardner]

Review by Stephen Goldberg


An easy two hour drive to Waterbury. The Palace Theater is a beautiful art
deco theater. The doors didnít open until 7PM so there was a long line
to get in stretching down the block. It moved quickly though and security
was light compared to the Capitol on Tuesday. The crowd was attentive and
appreciative. Dylan received 3 standing ovations from the crowd down front
(Iíll Be Your Baby, Give Myself To You and Jimmy Reed). There was no
ďextraĒ tonight just the basic set list. What struck me was how
consistently brilliant Dylan was over the two shows we attended. The
videos on YouTube donít do the shows Justice at all. Hats off once again
to the drummer. While the band is uniformly excellent Jerry stands out.
Also noticed that with no video screens, no phones and the soft yellow
lighting on stage the audience is subtly invited to concentrate solely on
the music. Fantastic show.

[TOP]

Review by Henry Miller


Not knowing if I needed to see yet another Rowdy Ways show after seeing
several in 2021, I almost passed up seeing Bob this time out, however
I'm glad I decided to go. I had gathered from reviews and from friends
that there was little soloing of sidemen going on these days and a good
deal of reworking of the new songs, both of which I wasn't sure promised
for the better (particularly the reworking, as I had not liked the
previous reworking of Key West which took some of the mysteriousness out
of the song). On more intriguing notes, which encouraged me to go, were
the new drummer in Jerry Pentecost, and Bob on baby grand and actually
visible on stage (at least for those not in the first few rows at the
rail from what I hear- take that you rail fiends...). So I duly went to
the Waterbury show with mixed expectations and was happy to discover Bob
front and center and that virtually all the reworkings of the new songs
worked quite well, particularly in the case of Goodbye Jimmy Reed which
was a knock-out punch, whereas I had thought it the weakest song on the
CD and at the 2021 shows. (I do still prefer the original version of Key
West, however.) I also liked drummer Jerry Pentecost. Charley Drayton
had held back a little too much in 2021 (a reduced kit, all those
mallets, etc.), perhaps in deference to Bobís age or the 'jazz'
arrangements of certain songs. Au contraire, Bob has always liked, and
often benefited from a prominent drum beat, at least on the rockers, and
heís got that now. Need I mention Winston Watson in this context, or the
incredible JIm Keltner? Check out Keltner's stint on the Spring 2002
European tour (!!) to get a lesson in how helpful a great drummer can be.
There was one slightly weird aspect to the Waterbury show which was that
Donnie Herron was largely reduced to being just another ensemble player
whereas he used to be featured more prominently, if not actually play more
solos, in the past (perhaps he was just turned down a little too far in
the mix?) - if this was intentional the apparent emphasis on restricting
soloing may have gone just a little too far- I mean he is working on
twenty years of seniority in the band at this point so perhaps he should
have a fuller rein as of old? Come to think of it, I'm not sure why Bob
needs two fairly nondescript guitarists (forgive me) in addition to
Donnie, except two guitarists has been the pattern for two decades now,
perhaps as it makes the transition to another guitarist easier when one
leaves for health reasons or whatever? Regarding which I do hold in high
regard in retrospect the late Denny Freeman who really came into his own
during his stint with Bob and brought a lot to the shows without being a
show-off, per se, though, man, he could play to the rafters when the
spirit struck him. But, oh never ending muse, I could sing also of Bucky
Baxter and John Jackson, as well. (Jackson says in an interview that Bob
was the only one who called him 'J.J.'- search 'J.J. Jackson' and you'll
get a different musician). Two final comments- no barking in Bob's voice!
Perhaps he's found the right herbal tea? Also, now that Bob has truly
grown into these songs a live album from this tour could be a further
musical experience and not just Rowdy Ways redux? (I won't count the days
waiting for this, however.)

- Henry Miller, from semi-retirement

[TOP]

Review by Barry Gloffke


Once again, I'm writing this review on Monday after a riveting weekend of 
following Bob and the Boys around New England. Providence, RI, then 
Waterbury, CT, and lastly, Springfield, MA.
As the inn I am staying at for the weekend was only about a half hour 
drive from the venue in Waterbury, CT, I arrived early enough to get the 
very first parking spot in front of the theatre... WONDERFUL!! Anticipation 
was in the air outside the Palace Theatre, which has a gorgeous marque 
outside, and is absolutely stunning inside. And once again, like RI, the 
arena has great sound and sight lines. I'm lucky enough to have a first 
row seat, which I find out is only one seat away from my pal Kevin from 
CA. Good omen for another good show. So many highlights tonight, but 
what struck me was the subtle changes I'm noticing from show to show... 
for instance... on I CONTAIN MULTITUDES tonight when Bob sang "All the 
pretty maids" he did a back and forth roll across the piano keys as a musical 
punctuation. This was something he did not do the following night in 
Springfield, MA. And I noticed that Bob was using that technique on many 
different lyrics that he seemed to want to punctuate. Fantastic! Standouts 
were MY OWN VERSION OF YOU which is so very funky now, CROSSING 
THE RUBICON, KEY WEST and MADE UP MY MIND TO BE WITH YOU. Oh, 
and GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY which blew the roof off! Bob is delivering 
so many great shows that it is hard to separate one great one from the 
next. He's doing it so effortlessly. He sounds fantastic. Every tour seems 
to find him better than the last one. I do believe he is now putting on 
performances that are closer to the greatness of the late 1990's-early 
2000's period. These shows are certainly heads and tails above what he 
was doing 10-12 years ago, and I thought some of the shows 10-12 
years ago were phenomenal. Simply amazing how he reinvents himself. 
The only bummer was no cover again tonight. And no harp either! Oh 
well, such is life, such is happiness.
Once again nice to see the Canadian mother/daughter duo Sue and 
Chelsea. Got to see Barry and his son Dylan for the first time in four years. 
Got to meet Bob Evans in the venue foyer and had a nice conversation. 
I also helped a hippie chick (Amy?) to get a ticket before the show. 
Afterwards her and her man CC found me and told me that they were 
eternally grateful and CC said it was a life changing experience to see 
Bob. 
Bob can do that to you.
I'll wrap up the last show of the weekend, Springfield, MA. next.
Don't you miss it!

[TOP]

Review by Charlie Gardner


For the first time in almost five years Bob and his band rolled back into
Waterbury's Palace Theater, a splendid old venue of the sort that he seems
particularly fond of these days. His two prior shows had been at
Providence's ornate Performing Arts Center and the intimate Capitol
Theater in Port Chester, which like the Palace date to the 1920s. 
Arriving early to the theater, which to its credit is clean,
well-maintained and efficiently run, I had time to admire the elaborate
gilded plaster-work as a polite Connecticut crowd filtered in.

The house lights finally went down, and after a familiar burst of
classical music a simple set of lights rigged on poles perched on the
stage switched on to reveal a band hammering out the opening bars of
"Watching the River Flow" and, in the center, a black baby grand piano
with an empty bench.  After around a minute of instrumental jamming by the
band, the man himself ambled out from stage left with what looked like a
short-brimmed white fedora, similar to what he wore during the 1991 tour.
It would remain on top of the piano for the first few numbers, and was
periodically doffed and donned thereafter, with Bob taking breaks to fluff
his hair.  His outfit was mostly black, but with sequins or something else
reflective on the pants that glittered faintly.

The setlist is by now well known, but genuinely lives up to its billing as
album-focused. The Rough and Rowdy Ways songs were rendered with care and
feeling, with Bob crooning the lyrics in a pleasantly timeworn voice that
has only traces of the roughness from the pre-2020 era. Key West and
Goodbye Jimmy Reed had new arrangements, the former of which was not bad
and the latter a definite improvement, making the song a foot-tapping
highlight. Crossing the Rubicon was particularly good, with Bob really
savoring the lyrics.  The non-album songs, drawn mostly from Bob's
easygoing late 60s/early 70s period, seemed chosen to avoid competing
lyrically with RRW tunes and to serve as a sort of filler or mental break
in between them. As if to emphasize this point, several were rearranged to
the point of unrecognizability and the verses completely rewritten,
leaving only the chorus to indicate the referential work. The standout
exception was Every Grain of Sand, the closer, which was as it deserves
played with great fidelity to the original melody and sung with astounding
clarity.

As for the band, I'll agree with another reviewer that the new drummer --
Jerry Pentecost -- is terrific. Bob's piano playing was above expectations
and kept at just the right level in the mix. The guitarists played some
tasteful licks but were largely relegated to the background, with few if
any solos.  Donnie Herron, who I've now seen many times going back almost
20 years, must have forgotten to plug in his amp at first, since his pedal
steel was virtually inaudible. His violin playing did shine through and
provided some instrumental variety.  No harp this show or any local songs
for a state which indeed has not been a muse for many musicians.  Thanks
to Bob and crew for a fine show!

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