Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Wells Fargo Center

November 19, 2012

[Peter Stone Brown], [Alan], [Oscar Montes]

Review by Peter Stone Brown

It takes a lot of guts to play a cavernous arena, ignore your hits, play
songs from an album that wasn't even released in the country you're
playing in, as well as other not well known songs and make the crowd
listen.  Sounds like something Bob Dylan's been known to do.  But Mark
Knopfler and his superb seven-piece band which features more than a few
heavy duty musicians did that tonight, and the music was not exactly rock
and roll either.  

Ever since the soundtrack to Local Hero, Knopfler had been delving more
and more into Celtic sounds and themes and at the same time exploring more
traditional based American music.  The result is stunningly beautiful
punctuated by Knopfler's always stellar, seemingly effortless guitar
playing.  His band which included uilleann pipes, violin, flute, two
keyboard players, various guitar players and bass and drums, with various
members constantly switching instruments took this sound to celestial
heights.  Additional instruments included the bouzouki, sometimes two
bouzoukis, and ukulele.  There were several points in the night where the
music crossed into bluegrass and back again while touching on several
other genres.  

Knopfler is not only a perfectionist as a guitarist, a songwriter, and
record producer but as a bandleader.  The dynamics and interplay
throughout were excellent.  I haven't read all the fan reviews of the
current tour, but there's been a lot of talk lately about Dylan's use of
old melodies for new songs which he's been doing his entire career, but I
haven't noticed any mention that the title track of Knopfler's latest
album Privateering is based on the same melody Dylan used for the song
"John Brown," which is based on the traditional songs, "900 Miles" and
"Reuben's Train," one of the highlights of the show with Knopfler on
acoustic guitar.  The show did what it was supposed to do and made me want
to pick up his new album.  

Dylan's show started with Stu Kimball appearing and playing blues riffs
while the band moved onstage and took their places.  Then it was into a
spirited "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" with Dylan at the piano singing some of
the verses from the Greatest Hits Volume II version with a couple of lines
thrown in he might have made on the spot.  A piano-based "It's All Over
Now Baby Blue" followed with Mark Knopfler on guitar.  Dylan's voice was
rough, and while still in warm-up mode, he was clearly on.  

He then left the piano for what has been one of the highlights of the
current tour, "Things Have Changed," with Dylan front and center and
playing harp.  He was clearly energized and also quite comical acting out
the song and standing right next to, almost singing the song to Knopfler
as well as reacting to Knopfler's solos and guitar punctuations.  The
arrangement is the same faster almost train beat version that Dylan's been
doing for awhile, but he keeps adding this utterly hysterical comments to
the lyrics with different lines each night.  Tonight after the line,
"Don't get up gentleman," it was "Why?  I'll tell ya," and then continuing
with the lyrics.  Dylan stayed standing for "Tangled Up In Blue," which
also featured Knopfler, returning to the piano for the last verse.  And it
was at this point, the show turned into something special.  As Knopfler
departed the stage, Dylan said, "Thank you Mark."

"Early Roman Kings" was next, and the band was smoking with Donnie Herron
playing funky slide on the lap steel, eventually joined in a slide duet
with Charlie Sexton playing a black Epiphone hollow body.  It easily
rivaled the album version.  

"Chimes of Freedom" came next and with it the mood of the concert suddenly
changed from that of an arena to one of the more intimate Dylan
performances I've seen in a long time.  Contrary to various reports all
along this tour, he wasn't ignoring the audience, he was singing directly
to the audience, in fact always facing the audience while sitting at the
piano.  And the show had a feel of, I'm gonna sit at this piano and play
you all some songs.  

Then it was back to blues for a rearranged "Rollin' and Tumblin' " with
Donnie providing lead on slide on the lap steel in a version that simmered
reaching a smoking point on the solos, and then back to simmer again
before a smoking conclusion.  All of this was bolstered by Dylan's piano
which is some sort of crazed combination of barrelhouse, Jerry Lee Lewis,
a bit of gospel and Chico Marx throw in for good measure.  

And this is the difference since Dylan returned to playing a regular piano
at the beginning of last summer.  A decade ago when Dylan switched to
keyboards as his primary instrument, first using a piano sound, then
switching to an organ sound for several years, the arrangements of the
songs for the most part stayed the same with Dylan trying to fit the
keyboard into the existing arrangements.  With the change from keyboard to
piano, slowly but surely the arrangements are changing to be based around
what Dylan is playing on piano, something I've been hoping for, for then
years.  And he is really playing and certain riffs and runs he uses which
never really worked with the organ sound now are working.  This allows for
call and response with the band, allows for a new spontaneity and allows
for Dylan to get deeper into exploring the melodies behind his songs.  And
Donnie Herron, the key player in this band watches Dylan's moves like a
hawk.  And on previous tours and arrangements where he used to transmit a
riff to the band to pick up on, now it's more to alert them a stop, a
change or a response.  And it can happen at any time, and they're ready. 
So yeah, it's no longer this heavy guitar based band, but when the guitars
are needed to bring it up, they bring it up.  This is easily one of the
tightest bands Dylan's ever had, because they have to be ready to respond
at any time, and it can happen at any time.  

And this was the case on every song for the remainder of the show.  Dylan
and his band made it all count, whether it was "Desolation Row," "Highway
61 Revisited," which has taken on new life under the current setup and a
slightly rearranged "Mississippi" which saw something of the song's
original heights.  "Thunder on the Mountain," not one of my favorite songs
simply soared.  And the concluding songs, which I've seen played tons of
times in various ways, "Like A Rolling Stone, "All Along The Watchtower,"
and "Blowin' In The Wind" all had their own special meaning.

So yeah, Dylan's voice ain't what it once was.  But it ain't been what it
was for a long time.   And the thing is he can still deliver when he wants
to, and tonight he made a huge arena seem like club and that's no easy
trick.  I hooked up with a bunch of friends at the show, and we all took
the subway getting off at different stops.  And my particular stop is not
the safest to get off of at night alone.  But as I was halfway down the
block, all of a sudden I heard a bunch of voices talking about the concert
and about ten people passed me carrying posters from the show.  A nice end
to a great evening.  


Review by Alan

The concert opened with an excellent set by Mark Knopfler, emphasizing
Celtic-influenced music and providing numerous opportunities for the
musicians in his group to demonstrate their skills.  Bob Dylan's set, in
contrast, was pretty disappointing. The problem was not the set list--in
fact, it was a set list made in heaven.  Nor was it his voice--he largely
speaks the words, but they were clearly enunciated (so one could note, for
instance, the changes he made in Tangled Up in Blue), and his Blowin' in
the Wind demonstrated that he still has some melodious licks left.  The
problem was in the staging and dynamics.  For one thing, the stage was
kept pretty dark--no spots at all, just a few lights at stage level--in
sharp contrast to Knopfler's use of spots and modest use of colored
lights--so it was difficult to see well what was going on.  This may not
have been true from all seats, but those of us seated to the left of the
stage and up a little found that whenever Bob was behind the piano, he had
a stage level light directly behind him, and the glare made it hard to
pick him out. After seeing the lighting at other Dylan concerts, I have no
idea why this approach was chosen.  For another thing, the band was
confined to a particular part of the stage, sort of like an orchestra from
a 1940s Big Band.  There was no opportunity to display musicianship or
create fruitful dynamics--they were there for support rather than
collaborating.  The layout had an effect, it seemed to me, on performance.
 Although Bob chose a number of up-tempo tunes, only on Thunder on the
Mountain was there an effective rocking atmosphere; otherwise, pieces
sounded restrained when they shouldn't have been. Again, the contrast with
the Knopfler set was obvious. Finally, there was a sameness to the
arrangements--it is fine to experiment with tunes but not to repeat the
same experiments over and over. Mississippi in its various recorded
versions is far superior to the Mississippi we got last night.

Maybe it was lethargy at the end of a long tour; maybe something else. 
But as a long-time and enthusiastic fan who has attended about 15 concerts
in recent years, I was sorely disappointed.



Review by Oscar Montes

So happy to meet my dear friend Vera Chen from China before
the show. Roberto Bergadano was now here. I’m sorry that in Boston’s
review I mentioned him but in fact he wasn’t there. Also wonderful to see
again my friend Tzippi Braff from NJ and Ed.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere” was the start of the night. We
could feel in the air this was going to be a special show. A good “Baby
blue” was next with Mark on guitar and as usual on this tour on the
following 2 songs: “Things have changed” and “TUIB”.

It seems that Bob is going to keep singing “Early roman
kings” until the end of the tour. Good “Tempest” song but you see that
people want another from the new album. We all know, you never know with
Bob! The highlight of the night was “Chimes of Freedom”! No se often
played and with no doubt one of the best Dylan’s songs!  At the end of the
show everybody was happy talking about this excellent Bob’s masterpiece.

“Rolling and tumblin’” was the next song of the night, not
the best performance we have heard. “Desolation” was beautiful delivered I
must say! People just loved it! “Highway 61” also better than previous
nights! A great surprise was “Mississippi”, at least for me, a nice

Then the usual 5 songs that end the show, “Thunder”, “Thin
man”, “Rolling stone”, “Watchtower” and “Blowin’ in the wind”. “Mr. Jones”
as every night is so intense with Bob in harp. “Rolling stone” and
“Watchtower” always make all the people stand up until the end of the

No after-party tonight, but great to see the other usual
followers around.

We are now in Washington, waiting a few hours for tonight’s

Oscar Montes


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