He growled, he barked, and he wheezed. It was another round of “Name That Tune – The Bob Dylan Edition.” As he has done since he began his Never Ending Tour, His Bobness re-arranges his songs so that his fans have to pay close attention to what he sings. Most of the time this approach works out ok – sometimes it doesn’t. On this night it didn’t work so well for A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall and Blowin’ in the Wind. If you want to see someone who makes their live stuff sound exactly like what is on their records, go see The Eagles [cue "The Dude" here…]. I prefer the Dylan approach. That said, Dylan didn’t disappoint the hardcore fans [such that they were – the house was half-full], but those younger folks who were there mainly to see the opening bands, My Morning Jacket and Wilco, were a bit perplexed. They weren’t sure if what they heard was great or if it sucked. In my mind, Dylan performed to expectations. I heard some songs I didn’t hear the last time I saw him, and I heard a couple I didn’t need to hear ever [A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall and Blowin’ in the Wind]. As I’ve told friends who aren’t fans, Dylan is an acquired taste.
Things Have Changed / Love Sick / High Water / Soon After Midnight / Early Roman Kings / Tangled Up In Blue / She Belongs To Me / Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ / A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall / Blind Willie McTell [Yes!!!] / Simple Twist of Fate / Summer Days / The Weight [Surprise!] / All Along The Watchtower / Encore: Blowin’ in the Wind
Bob Dylan - piano, harp / Tony Garnier – bass / George Recile – drums / Stu Kimball - rhythm guitar / Colin Linden - lead guitar / Donnie Herron - violin, banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel
The opening bands:
The opening bands:
There was an opening band, whose name I do not know and whose set I missed. My Morning Jacket went on first. I missed about half their set because of Hampton Roads traffic [I had to work right up until showtime]. Someone always manages to stall their car in the tunnel portion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel – this day was no exception. What I was able to see and hear of this band from Louisville, Kentucky floored me. The first time I had ever heard this band play was for last years “Love for Levon” tribute. I liked what I heard then, I loved what I heard this night. I can’t name a single song of theirs, but after the concert was over I thought they were the best band of the evening. I might just have to check out some of their work. I like these guys.
Wilco followed My Morning Jacket. Like the band that preceded them, I couldn’t name a single one of their songs if you put a gun to my head. The first few songs they played I thought “hmmm…they’re pretty good.” Then a few songs later I though “well, they’re just okay now.” By the end of their set I started to ask myself “are they done yet?” The young folks who were sitting in the same row as I was seemed to thoroughly enjoy Wilco, but the common complaint amongst them was that the band didn’t play enough songs [they played 12]. One surprise is when Wilco came out for an encore and they brought My Morning Jacket. The two bands played a superior version of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl. A note on the “kids” who shared the same row I did – they were extremely thoughtful and considerate. I had an obscured view because there was a post between me and the stage. One of the guys had a drink and a cup of fries and was standing in front of me, but then he saw he was blocking my view. Since my view was already blocked I told him that he was fine and that he should stay where he was. But he moved anyway. Nice touch, that guy. Another of his friends asked me who I came to see. I told him I was old so I came to see the “old guy.” He allowed that if he was older he probably would be as well, but he was there to see Wilco. At the end of the show he asked me if I thought it was good, and I asked him if he got his money’s worth. We both said yes and wished one another a safe and good night.
Unlike past tours where Dylan would vary his setlist from night to night, Bob has played pretty much the same setlist in this tour. He’s on his third guitar player in the last three week. First, Charlie Sexton left on his own accord to other projects. The blues legend Duke Robillard lasted only a few dates. He was either fired, or he jumped before he was pushed. Neither party is talking, not like it matters. The Duke has since replaced by a man named Colin Linden, who BTW sounded pretty damn good. But back to the setlist. The only surprise on this part of the tour has been the encore – would he play Ballad of a Thin Man of Blowin’ in the Wind? If he played the former I would stick around and listen. If he played the latter I would leave early. I left early. The biggest surprise of the evening came when Dylan invited Jeff Tweedy [Wilco] and Jim James [My Morning Jacket] to the stage for a song. The song turned out to be The Weight. It was a nice tribute to Levon Helm [RIP]. I’ve said it before – Robbie Robertson wrote the song, but it belongs to Levon Helm.
The verdict: despite my impatience to see Wilco get off the stage, they actually put on a pretty good show. But, the night belonged to My Morning Jacket. I don’t know if their records are that way, but they exhibited a jam band ethic that appeals to the Allman Brothers fan that I am. These guys stole the show. Bob Dylan’s live presentation seems to be going through some kind of de-evolution [please, don’t think “Devo”]. The band all wore gray suits and black shirts. Dylan wore a dark suit and no hat, so he didn’t look like Zorro the Gay Blade like the last time we saw him. He alternated between singing and playing the harp from center stage, to just singing and playing a grand piano. He didn’t touch a guitar. The older he gets, the older his music sounds. The night’s presentation had the look and feel of an old-timey band from the late 1920s/early 1930s. It was weird, kinda interesting, but still entertaining. Bob still has a hell of a band. It was a good show all around.
I’ve seen Bob Dylan twice now. I think I’m done.