Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Academy Of Music

November 21, 2014

[Peter Stone Brown], [Kevin O'Halloran]

Review by Peter Stone Brown

The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, the oldest opera hall in the country
and home to the Philadelphia Orchestra for 101 years (until 2001) is
sacred ground. It is world renowned for its acoustics. Bob Dylan and the
Hawks played a two-night stand there almost 49 years ago, and tonight he
returned for a three-night stand.

The show started in darkness with Stu Kimball strumming an acoustic while
the rest of the band and Bob Dylan took the stage. The first thing you
noticed was how low the volume of the band was, as Dylan in an off white
suit and hat moved to the center of the three microphones at the front of
the stage for "Things Have Changed," his left hand on his hip. His voice
was gruff, but I've heard much gruffer, but the song and "She Belongs To
Me" which followed were just the warm-ups, though the latter song included
three fine harp solos, especially the last two. Bob then moved to the
piano for "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" which he sang in a low voice as the
band started kicking into gear with George Recile's drums up front.

Bob went back to the front of the stage for a stunning "Workingman's
Blues" with beautiful pedal steel by Donnie Herron. Several of the lyrics
have been rewritten and it was the first high point of the night, and Bob
made several lines stand out. Then came the carnival waltz of "Waiting For
You" which I ended up liking a lot better than I thought I would. The song
serves another purpose which is providing a little rest before "Duquesne
Whistle" which swung like mad, but also rocked. Tony Garnier's string bass
stood out throughout the song which ended with a cool solo by Charlie

It was then back to center stage for "Pay In Blood," and while it is still
in a minor key unlike the studio version, the arrangement has changed
since I saw it last year and is a full blown rocker. Dylan stayed up front
for "Tangled Up In Blue" standing with his legs far apart. It was
basically the version he's been doing for the last few tours though a
couple of lines have been changed and he skips the third and fourth verse,
and sixth verse. He took a couple of wild harp breaks, one of which came
close to 1966 craziness, and on the final line, he now sings "Depending on
your point of view" with the emphasis on depending. It was around this
point that I realized how each song in some strange way sets you up for
the one following by change of mood, feel and dynamics. Then came a
fantastic version of "Love Sick" which has been rearranged with the band
doing all these very cool fills that constantly change on each verse.
Dylan then spoke for the only time all night announcing the intermission.

The second half again started in darkness with Stu Kimball alone on
electric, while the band took the stage launching into "High Water (For
Charlie Patton)" with Donnie's banjo out front. Dylan stayed at center
stage for "Simple Twist of Fate" notable for Donnie's pedal steel and
Dylan's second harp solo. His vocal was clear and tender and the lyrical
changes were much smoother since the last time I saw it.

Then it was back to the piano for a fierce "Early Roman Kings" that was
half Chicago blues and half swing. Dylan's piano work was great. Then
finally came my first "Forgetful Heart" which has been a major highlight
of every show since Dylan started doing it. Then it was back to the piano
for "Spirit On the Water" which as usual built up to the "You think I'm
over the hill" line. Then it was back out front for "Scarlet Town" which
tonight was a bit nastier than it is on the record. Again it was back to
the piano for "Soon After Midnight" which was played perfectly. Dylan
returned to the front of the stage for "Long and Wasted Years." This was
also my first time seeing this and the arrangement has been changed to add
an extra stop at the end of each verse which seemed to get in the way more
than enhance the song. They pulled it off flawlessly, but it's not needed.

Dylan's piano dominated "Blowin' In The Wind," but he sang it like he
meant it and considering recent events in this country, he seemed to put
extra emphasis on the line "How many years must some people exist before
they're allowed to be free?" Then came "Stay With Me" and it was as if the
entire concert was building up to that point, Dylan singing clearly and
strongly, and it was over too fast.

This was the most relaxed I've ever seen Dylan on stage. His band has
never been tighter. This was not a show about hot solos, though when the
occurred they were hot. When there were jams which happened only when
Dylan was at the piano, they knew exactly what they were doing. There's a
reason Dylan has been doing this show this way with only a few changes to
the set list for a little over a year. It is clear he wanted people to
hear these songs, the best of his later songs done this way in a concert
hall atmosphere. The lighting is low key throughout. There are no
spotlights and there are subtle but effective changes in the backdrop.
It's a show that's about the music. The audience, noticeably older than
recent Dylan shows I've been too stood up when he took the stage, but
quickly sat down and for the most part thankfully were quiet.

After the show, Donnie Herron was walking with friends up Locust Street
alongside the Academy when a street hustler tried to sell him a Bob Dylan
t-shirt. "No," he said, "but thanks!" and then laughed and walked into the


Comments by Kevin O'Halloran

The set list followed the past shows but as someone who has attended 25+
shows tonight was really special. The deal for most of the crowd was I'm
performing the songs that  I choose, crystal clear and your responsibility
is to listen...if you accepted the deal it was just brilliant

The Kimmel Center was beautiful, the sound clear...just a special night

Kevin O'Halloran


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