Richmond, Virginia
Altria Theater

November 27, 2023

[Thad Williamson]

Review by Thad Williamson

Stellar show by Bob and band in Richmond tonight!

We had seats dead center about 10 rows back--perfect as the piano was also
dead center of the stage, and when the curtain lifted, Bob Dylan was
looking right at us!

I thought the piano playing was wonderful--a little showy at times,
even--and absolutely loved watching Bob's right foot tapping in several of
the songs (particularly the "old ones.")

As to the songs: no location-specific surprises, but one could easily say
that "Watching the River Flow" is appropriate for a city with the James
River running through it, and of course the last phrase of "Goodbye Jimmy
Reed" is "can't you hear me calling from down in Virginia," so I for one
felt seen!

Having seen the Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour in DC in December 2021 and
Greensboro in April 2022, and having deliberately avoided hearing much
from the current leg of the tour, some impressions:

On previous legs, all Dylan's energy seemed to go into the new material,
and the Shadow Kingdom stuff felt like borderline throwaway, comic relief,
respites from the real agenda. Tonight those songs got a lot of love, as
they have hit on the formula of having Bob sing part or all of the song
slowly, just on piano, so people can get what's going on, then getting the
band into it. It definitely worked--I thought all those songs were
significantly improved from 2021 and 2022, especially "Most Likely" and
"I'll Be Your Baby."

As to the Rough and Rowdy Stuff, Key West and I've Made My Mind Up were
the highlights for me tonight. Changed arrangements of most of these
tunes, not all of which were clear improvements, but it kept things
interesting. I appreciated it all, but I worried (probably too much) that
the songs were lost on many in the audience who hadn't done their prep
work: it's a lot of darn words in all those songs, and not all of them
came out clearly (at least tonight). On the other hand, I thought to
myself, this guy isn't unleashing the deluge of words that is "Like a
Rolling Stone" one more time even though he could and would be cheered,
he's unleashing entirely new deluges of words that demand attention and
study. And that, time may tell, may stand as big and as courageous an
accomplishment as anything else Dylan has done over the decades.

Finally, Every Grain of Sand as the closer. Words clear, subdued
instrumental verse, final verse spot-on, followed by a soaring harmonica
verse that this 82 year old man clearly was putting everything he had
into. Sublime.


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