Old National Events Plaza
December 3, 2023
Review by Tom Burke
Bob Dylan brought the curtain down on the 9 week/40 show/27 city Fall 2023
leg of his Rough and Rowdy Ways tour last night (December 3rd) before a
full house (2500) at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville, Indiana.
Forgoing a venue specific addition to the show, Dylan adhered to the
standard setlist of this tour, opening with a spirited piano intro to
Watching the River Flow bringing the house to its feet with a roar of
appreciation and welcome. An early vocal highlight this night was provided
by Dylan's extended emphasis on the lyric, "youuuuur way" on Most Likely
You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine). False Prophet provided a musical
highlight thanks in large part to the propulsive drumming of Jerry
Pentecost, and showstopping stick work, as Peter Smith described in his
Review of the November 20 show in Newark "(Pentecost's) nimble drum stick
acrobatics...creates the illusion the sticks will fall from his hands only
to be caught and beat down the rollicking beat of a Blues shuffle."
Another band peak performance was provided by Donnie Herron's beautiful
fiddle playing in When I Paint My Masterpiece.
Dylan provided strong vocals throughout the 17 song set, but was
particularly effective and expressive on I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, To Be
Alone With You, and I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You, with those
trio of songs providing a subtle thematic subtext to the night's
proceedings. Additional stylings of note included Dylan's quiet,
deliberate, near hushed version of KeyWest (Philosopher Pirate); the
cadenced Bluesy delivery of Crossing the Rubicon; and finally, the
seemingly devilish relish and glee with which he sang the lyric from
Goodbye Jimmy Reed, " I can't play the record, 'cause my needle got
The Fall 2023 Tour closed with the prayerlike Every Gain of Sand at the
conclusion of which the audience rose to their feet for an extended and
thunderous standing ovation as if by so doing they could will Dylan back
to the stage to sing one more song, perhaps sensing that it will be a long
time, if ever, that Dylan passes this way again, or contemplating in their
collective mind the question the narrator poses in Crossing the Rubicon,
"How much longer can it last? How long can it go on?" This December Sunday
night in Southern Indiana we can't know or say, but tonight in this season
of giving, Bob Dylan delivered, and for that all in attendance gave
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Review by Adam Selzer
In the end, the real concert is the friends you make along the way.
This two month period, in which I hit a personal-best of ten shows, is run
I'll never forget; every trip was an adventure and every show top tier.
But as the shows start to run together, maybe it'll be the gatherings I
remember the most.
Longtime parner in crime Michael G Smith and I headed out from Chicago,
unsure we'd ever HEARD of Evansvill, Indiana, before. Last January we went
to Hibbing and Duluth; now we stopped off in Lafayette to drive by the
boyhood home of Axl Rose, in what looks like a cigarettes-and-powerball
neighborhood that happens to have some excellent pizza. Five hours down
the road, Evansville sort of came out of nowhere. Ten miles away it seemed
like we hadn't seen a sign of civiilization in an hour, but then
Evansville absolutely charmed us. It had a gorgeous historic district of
old mansions, a hippy coffee shop, and a downtown full of shops that
weren't just gift shops. The pre-show meetup with Liz, Henry, and co was
in a burger place built into a streamline-moderne bus station where
they've heroically kept the old neon running, even though it probably
costs them a fortune. We loved it, and we never would have seen this town
if it weren't for Bob Dylan. We even managed to get a venue-specific post,
a rarity for this tour, off the wall at a coffee place.
In the two weeks and change since my last show at the Beacon, word was
that the practice of starting with the curtain down had continued, as had
Bob's habit of wandering around talking to Tony. This was still the case
tonight; Bob was fussing with his hair a lot (rumored to be some sort of
signal), and definitely making signals to Tony, at one point holding up
three fingers, like a catcher calling for a certain pitch. Tony picked up
the guitar that lay in wait briefly, which I hear happened last night,
too. We always think that they're discussing a surprise song, my theory is
that Tony, who was seen to fiddle with a knob, is making monitor
adjustments at Bob's request.
If so, it must be helping. The show was another A+ show, even with
minimial "Bobtalk" and no real surprises. Bob was having so much FUN.
"Black Rider" sounded like the cheshire cat taunting you as you go further
into the woods, and he grinned like the cheshire cat all through the show.
"Most Likely" also had a teasing smirk to it tonight; when he sang "You
say my kisses are not like this, I'm not gonna tell you THIS TIME why that
is," you really felt like he was the one with the ace in his sleeve in
this fracturing relationship. Usually I think the singer in that song is
just mouthing off to save face.
A big highlight was "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," which has been so
consistently awesome this tour. There were no songs that seemed so
fabulous we'd all be shouting about it the next day (Ie, "My Own Version
of You" night 2 in Brooklyn), but Bob was being playful and inventive with
the singing all throughout the show. The piano was tight and dialled-in,
which wasn't always the case earlier in the tour. His barrelhouse and
boogie stylings have gotten better and better, and with far fewer clunkers
now. The band intro had the now-standard "These aren't easy songs to
play..." bit, and the show-closing harmonica solo that's been pretty much
standard since Milwaukee. Mike had found an incredible airbnb in an old
house a few blocks from the venue, and post show we stayed up into the
night talking with Caroline and Kait, founders of the fan club, kicking
back the show where we almost got killed in a lightning storm 20 years
ago. Ian Gallon had made it to 37 shows this tour. The famous Duncan let
us in on some of his stealth camera secrets. I made Heavens Door
Manhattans for all.
Back in Milwaukee a woman sitting next to me was surprised to see such a
young person at Dylan (a reaction I got a lot more as a teenager than I do
in my 40s) and asked what the draw was. "Is it the poetry?" Of course it
all starts with the words, but what keeps me coming back is the singing.
No one else out there is singing like every line is an attempt to draw the
gods down from the mountain like this. Tonight was more playful than
intense, but it still worked. The songs, even with a static setlist,
manage to seem different night after night. They contain multitudes, and
seeing those multitudes being revealed live and in person is something you
simply can't match.
It's the quality of the shows that made me want to go to so many on this
run; this was clearly a tour where Dylan was feeling inspired. As good as
the first RARW shows were, he seems more energetic now, and even though
the songs are relatively new, we have a whole career's worth of different
arrangements on some of them at this point. But I was just as exciting
about seeing old friends and having adventures on the road as I was about
the shows. See you all in 2024!
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