Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bob Dylan
w/ Mark Knopfler

So Bob's NOT touring his new album and Mark's only playing a song a night from his Dire Straits days and seldom any of the 3 I might recognize.

Wish that was the other way around. For reasons unknown Dylan has released a new album, Tempest, playing one song from it on the opening night of the tour, Scarlet Town, and it took him 20 or so shows before he played a second, Early Roman Kings, last Wednesday in St Paul. Dylan continued to leave the community flummoxed as he opens his Chicago show with an instrumental. After a couple of days thinking it might have been a mash-up of Watching the River Flow, Rainy Day Women #12&35, LSPH or some random blues chords, it was decided it was an homage to Obama's victory, Robert Johnson's Sweet Home Chicago?. Then the night before Toronto he breaks out his 3rd song from the new record, Pay in Blood.

Pay In Blood on youtube

Not that Bob has been stingy with the song selection. Lots of great wildcards; Mississippi, Visions of Johanna, Chimes of Freedom, Every Grain of Sand, Dignity,  You Ain't Goin' Nowhere, Delia(!), and on Wednesday nights, Joey.Those last two I've never seen live (by Dylan) and I'm nearing 150 shows now.

So how is Bob these days? Well you'd be hard-pressed to find any review of his music, from 1962 forward, where his singing voice was being praised. For decades now he's been playing the anti-rock star; touring incessantly but never giving the audience what they expect. Since June 2005 he hasn't given me much to write home about but others have kept up the pace. That makes me this decades Mr Jones.

Here's a sampling from a recent Grand Prairie, Texas show:

"No one in popular music is more worthy of hero worship than Dylan, and no one fails with such regularity to live up to it onstage."
" Dylan’s piano solos often sounded like amateur hour at an old Western honky-tonk..."
"Dylan’s gargling rasp of voice continues to decompose in unpredictable ways. At 71, he now sounds as eerie as a Delta bluesmen, but at other times, his singing bordered on comic. His recitation of “Girl from the North Country” sounded like William Shatner’s notorious reading of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”"
" A small but steady stream of fans left as the show progressed -- satisfied to have seen their hero, but not worshipful enough to stick with him until the very end."

But that's Texas, you may say, what about a place that loves liberals, like Hollywood, CA?

" We lasted through two Dylan Songs. His voice is gone and the sound was terrible. We left along with a lot of other disapointed people. Walking to the car it sounded different, like it was pre-recorded."

Or Berkeley, CA. Surely the home of Free Speech must still be in love with the voice of their generation?

"The bottom has fallen out on Dylan’s voice—he now croaks out songs with a fierce rasp, his thin, acidic singing voice of the 60’s long gone."

err, guess not. But wait, there's always the fan sites.

"on "Love Sick," it looked as if Bob at first was going to sing center stage with harp, but he abruptly turned and made haste slowly, like an early Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and moving with the just-finished dignity, to the piano. There his sounds created just the right atmosphere for "Love Sick." We could hear the excruciatingly painful tick tock of time endured by the lover. Feel ourselves haunted by streets that are dead, silhouettes and thunderous silence. Understand the desire to be rid of the loved one causing such torment--wishing the past could be altered, wishing that forgetting could win out. And the closing overwhelming desire to be with the lover's source of pain. Throughout the song the band's full sound was relentlessly stark, emotionally brutal."

" For me all I can say is I'm glad I was in the 3rd row and close enough to see the "play within the play". At this point I would say the Dylan show is more vaudevillian at heart with a crack band providing a sometimes sonic but more often brooding landscape for Bob to play a spooky carnival barker right out of some Roger Corman B-Movie."

Yikes, there seems to be a contrast in opinions.

Guess I'll have to make up my own mind. I haven't seen Bob since the fall of 2010, since I weaned myself off that compulsive need to attend his shows...looking forward to this one.

Mark Knopfler refuses to play old songs and he tells us so part way through his set. He didn't suck and a couple of these songs were outstanding, saving the crowd-pleasing Dire Straits song for the encore.

What It Is
Corned Beef City
Kingdom of Gold
I Used to Could
Song for Sonny Liston
Done With Bonaparte
Hill Farmer’s Blues
Haul Away


So Far Away

Bob's not shy about rearranging his songs. The stage set up is dark and the players are back quite a bit. For the casual fans who haven't been to a show in 15 years they were probably wondering why the guitar wielding Bob was staying so far back and why didn't he hire a real piano player. Thing is that was Tony Garnier, bass player, in the center of the stage and dapper Bob on the keys.

The Toronto press absolutely slammed this show. Of course I remember when they were fawning over the last two albums so I don't hold their opinion in high regard. They are about 5 years late on the moaning about how boring the show is and they are on the wrong side of the curve. This is the most interesting show I've seen since Freddy Koella left the band. All the rest is true; the voice sucks, lighting is dismal, the band is handcuffed and Bob never engages his audience. But the songs are drastically rearranged and there's no mistaking something is happening here, even if we don't know what it is.

Toronto, Ontario
Air Canada Centre

November 14, 2012

1.     You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
2.     Man In The Long Black Coat (with Mark Knopfler on guitar)
3.     Things Have Changed (with Mark Knopfler on guitar)
4.     Tangled Up In Blue (with Mark Knopfler on guitar)
5.     Early Roman Kings
6.     Joey
7.     Rollin' And Tumblin'
8.     Visions of Johanna
9.     Highway 61 Revisited
10.     Sugar Baby
11.     Thunder On The Mountain
12.     Ballad Of A Thin Man
13.     Like A Rolling Stone
14.     All Along The Watchtower
15.     Blowin' In The Wind


Brock Hickman said...

Thank-you I was there! A magical show! Do you have the whole thing recorded? I would love to hear this show over and over again.

James G said...

Hey -- good review. i think we had similar experiences, Mr. Jones. Check out dual reviews by my pal and me:
The reviews are beneath the rants about Rolling Stone's top 500.