hummana hummuna

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dylan - tangled up and blue

photo©2008 Robert Sommers

Temecula, California
Pechanga Resort and Casino
Pechanga Theatre

September 4, 2008

1. Watching The River Flow (Bob on keyboard)
2. The Times They Are A-Changin' (Bob on keyboard and harp)
3. Lonesome Day Blues (Bob on keyboard)
4. Just Like A Woman (Bob on keyboard and harp)
5. The Levee's Gonna Break (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
6. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
7. 'Til I Fell In Love With You (Bob on keyboard and harp)
8. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
9. Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard)
10. When The Deal Goes Down (Bob on keyboard)
11. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
(Bob on keyboard)
12. Love Sick (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin)
13. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
14. Ain't Talkin' (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on viola)
15. Summer Days (Bob on keyboard)

16. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)
17. Blowin' In The Wind (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on violin)

Bob Dylan played a 1200 seat amphitheater up the road last night at the Indian Reservation. Tickets sold out in 12 minutes but I felt obliged to go due to the proximity and intimate location of the venue. Managed to score the only ticket available on ebay (only one to the consternation of the spouse) and showed up about an hour before the show. On the heels of my great fortune in Vegas, I played a few hands of blackjack, paid for dinner and a tip and made my way to the hall, which was cold as a freezer. The ushers assured me that things would heat up with the incoming body mass so I chilled. Literally.

As is usual, after the obligatory intro on the neverending tour celebrating his coming to jesus, Dylan was fairly punctual and launched into his set. I am a huge Bob Dylan fan, a major lover of his songs and occasionally his performances. I have probably seen about 20 or 25 shows of his which makes me a lightweight in some circles but have managed to spread those out across a lot of years.

This night left me a little cold. The three guitars set up a loud impenetrable sonic wall of sound that left few spaces. I personally felt that I heard very few if any moments of virtuosity from the band of clearly accomplished musicians. Much more from the old days with Charlie and Larry. Three guitars was too much. The band and Bob had the dark "Big Pink Band" era confederate schtick apparel thing going and the whole production felt really male. The gunslingers storming the town and all that. But it felt like they mailed the show in, another hall to be quickly forgotten.

The songs were of course revamped so that they could not be followed or recognized too easily by the casual hummer. Much of the music had a 1,4,5, twelve bar root and I started going crazy with all the turnarounds. As a great musician once remarked about Dylan, "he ain't no Segovia". It started to get real sing-songy and I thought how tired some of the idioms were from a musical nature and also about the complete absence of polyrhythm. Or musical freedom. Or real emotion for that matter.

The crowd as usual was ecstatic, with a great mix of old and young, the latter being very pumped and jazzed. It was almost an intellectual exercise for me. Maybe I was tired.

The memorable Dylan shows for me, like Albuquerque on the Lesh tour or the great nights with Santana, or the Universal Amphitheater shows of the late seventies or the Warfield Shows - were the nights when he delivered something real from the heart. Something that went beyond the act. Yes, he's a genius, but I don't think that he particularly feels comfortable as an entertainer. Or really likes people. He is the most acute writer the age has ever known at pointing out human foibles and idiosyncrasies. But he seldom talks during his performances and rarely delivers anything that's not tightly woven and pinned down. So I hate to say this, he can be a real drag. Apostasy. Heresy. But neither he nor his band look like they are having any fun at all. Nor was I. Except on some academic level. Basically a long night of foreplay with no happy ending.

Hit the tables again on the way out. Won five or six straight hands and said goodnight. Paid for the show anyway.


Lilly said...

It's true, you sound tired. After all the stinky, sweltering venues I have had to endure, the comforting chill of the Pechanga Theater was delightful. I couldn't stand the smoke smell on the way in, walking past the gambling tables. Like one huge, stinky bar. I took my seat, a few rows back from center stage, aisle seat, and was amazed at the layout and beauty of the place...this was going to be a treat...(you notice my approach in Temecula is opposite yours...you might note this in your personal life..like leaving the wife behind because you could only scoop up one ticket..that would be grounds for divorce in my book...and it;s no surprise you compare the concert to foreplay with no conclusion...must have been what it was like at home for you that evening). You couldn't feel the music that night, I understand. It was too cold. You had too many thoughts. You judged everything. Then you report back to everyone like you saw the Truth: Bob is dead.
I loved the concert. The best I have been to...Dylan was pretty much how I have seen him before the past three years...and so was the Band...only the sound mix and venue provided a shelter this time, instead of working against him. Next time you feel obliged to do something, don't.

Blue Heron said...

Thanks for a well written rebuttal, Lilly. I respect your opinion but if this was the best you have seen, feel a little sorry for you. Really. I have actually seen Dylan deliver. But it's a rare occasion. I guess I could have allowed some self induced hypnosis and hung on every word and convinced myself that the ground chuck I was being served was a Delmonico but if the feeling ain't there... Must say the set list was excellent. Just felt like it was a mnemonic exercise by the host akin to his 144,000th tooth brushing episode.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Lilly. I think your experience, dear Heron, was colored a bit like your name- too blue. A little sour as well. I'm genuinely sorry that you didn't experience the same show I did (as well as pretty much everyone else I could see).

I first saw Dylan in the mid seventies- been to at least 30, probably 40 shows, from every decade since. Of course, Temecula was nowhere near the best I've ever seen- how could it be? I wasn't expecting that. But I did feel it was up there with the very best I've seen from him in the past 10 years (and I wasn't expecting that either). Loved that poignant version of hattie carroll. Loved the venue.

It occurs to me that Dylan didn't ask, "What do you think?" He cried, "How does it feel?" Felt great.

Wish you could have been there.

Blue Heron said...

Wish I could have been there too, tchiz. Just couldn't drink the kool-aid.

It's like someone in a battered relationship, a person gets used to whatever measly kernels that get doled out and confuses it with love.

I was lucky enough to see Dylan in both the early and late seventies, before the fall to grace and through many tours since. I have seen him sublime. I have seen him suck.

As a half ass musician, I think that for me, sonically, the current Dylan sound is too thick and could use a few spaces thrown in for breath. Stu has been totally reduced to a metronome and the set was all the same uptempo that ran slightly fast to my ear. I think that Bob himself cuts loose more on guitar. I do think that the harmonica playing was spot on.

Glad that I can honestly state my opinion and happy to hear yours, my sour disposition aside.

larryscott said...

I won't argue any of your points except one. I don't see how anyone could say that performance was mailed in. Dylan was DANCING in between songs like Mr Bo Jangles. How could you not see that in a venue of 1200? Tony is fighting some health troubles that would sideline some and still sounds great. I'm sorry the new arrangements didn't suit you, but all of them change and grow over time, no one's spouse looks like they did on their wedding day... If your in a bad mood and spend more time gambling than paying attention to the show, maybe that's a bad night to review the show. Mailed it in? Me thinks you protest too much.

Blue Heron said...

Dancing, Larry? I thought the old guy was maybe having a palsy...

Anonymous said...

I fully understand Blue Heron's review. The last time I enjoyed him in his full glory was 2001 with Larry and Charlie. I understand he had to pretty much give up guitar, due to arthritis. But his voice has become more speak than sing. This coming from a guy who always defended Dylan's vocal abilities.

Lily, If this was the best you've seen - you've basically seen nothing, and your opinion - while sincere, lacks the scope to validate it.

Larry, If I want to see dancing, I rent a Gene Kelly dvd. This is Dylan for cryin' out loud.

I will continue to go to his shows
as long as he is willing to perform, but I refuse to walk in lock-step with Dylan-Drones...didn't do it with the Grateful Dead, not gonna do with Bobby D.

My Dylan DVD list:
Through The Years Vol.1 DVD
Through The Years Vol.2 DVD
Through The Years Vol.3 DVD
So Many Directions Vol.1 DVD
So Many Directions Vol.2 DVD
Improved Genuine Telecasts Vol. 1-6 DVD
DVD Bootleg Series Vol.1 DVD
Eat The Document DVD
Made In Sweden DVD
Don’t Look Back Outtakes 1965 DVD
Bob Dylan & The Band 1969-1970 DVD
w/ Johnny Cash 2-17-69 DVD
Mel’s Personal Footage 1974-2000 DVD
John Hammond Tribute 9-10-75 DVD
Renaldo & Clara Unreleased 12-75 DVD
Clearwater, FL 4-22-76 DVD
Fort Collins, CO 5-23-76 DVD
Various 1978 Pt. 1 1978 DVD
London, England 6-78 DVD
Nashville, TN 12-2-78 DVD
Saturday Night Live 10-20-79 DVD
Toronto, Ontario 4-20-80 DVD
Syracuse, NY (Mel’s Footage) 5-4-80 DVD
London, England 6-30-81 DVD
Loreley, Germany 7-17-81 DVD
Mannheim, Germany 7-18-81 DVD
Vienna, Austria 7-21-81 DVD
Hamburg, Germany 5-31-84 DVD
Newcastle, England 7-5-84 DVD
London, England 7-7-84 DVD
Live Aid 7-13-85 DVD
20/20 10-10-85 DVD
The Making Of “Hearts Of Fire” 1986 DVD
Martin Luther King Tribute 1-20-86 DVD
Buffalo, NY 7-4-86 DVD
East Rutherford, NJ 7-21-86 DVD
Foxboro, MA 7-4-87 DVD
East Rutherford, NJ 7-12-87 VCD
London, England 10-16-87 DVD
Cincinnati, OH 2-19-88 DVD
Berkeley, CA 6-10-88 DVD
Dublin, Ireland 6-4-89 DVD
Atlanta, GA 8-16-89 DVD
Troy, NY 10-27-89 DVD
Winter Compilation 1990 DVD
Paris, France 1-31-90 DVD
Paris, France 2-1-90 DVD
London, England 2-8-90 DVD
Hamburg, Germany 7-3-90 DVD
Werchter, Belgium 7-8-90 DVD
Beacon Theater, NYC 10-17-90 DVD
Rome, Italy 6-6-91 DVD
Milan, Italy 6-8-91 DVD
Stuttgart, Germany 6-17-91 DVD
Essen, Germany 6-18-91 DVD
Offenbach, Germany 6-19-91 DVD
Munich, Germany 6-21-91 DVD
Warfield Theater, S.F. 5-5-92 DVD
Belfort, France 7-2-92 DVD
Aosta, Italy 7-8-92 DVD
Bob Dylan Tribute Rehearsal 10-92 DVD
London, England 2-12-93 DVD
Eindhoven, Netherlands 2-17-93 DVD
Halle, Germany 7-23-94 DVD
Saugerties, NY 8-14-94 DVD
Rochester, NY 10-22-94 DVD
MTV Rehearsals 11-16-94 DVD
Nashville, TN 11-8-94 DVD
Nashville, TN 11-9-94 DVD
Aschaffenburg, Germany 3-15-95 DVD
Kerkrade, Netherlands 3-19-95 DVD
London, England 3-31-95 DVD
Birmingham, England 4-2-95 DVD
London, England 6-29-96 DVD
Salzburg, Austria 7-9-96 DVD
Atlanta, GA 8-3-96 DVD
Atlanta, GA 8-4-96 DVD
Mankato, MN 11-10-96 DVD
Dubuque, IA 11-12-96 DVD
Albany, NY 4-18-97 DVD
Philadelphia, PA 8-20-97 DVD
Irving Plaza, NYC 12-8-97 DVD
Vancouver, B.C. 5-13-98 DVD
Vancouver, B.C. 5-14-98 DVD
George, WA 5-16-98 DVD
Los Angeles, CA 5-22-98 DVD
Gothenburg, Sweden 6-10-98 DVD
Bremen, Germany 6-14-98 DVD
Essen, Germany 6-16-98 DVD
Newcastle, England 6-20-98 DVD
Birmingham, AL 2-7-99 DVD
Wantaugh, NY 7-30-99 DVD
Chicago, IL 10-26-99 ES DVD
Chicago, IL 10-31-99 DVD
Baltimore, MD 11-8-99 DVD
New Haven, CT 11-10-99 DVD
Durham, NH 11-17-99 DVD
Amherst, MA 11-18-99 DVD
Rochester, MN 3-31-00 DVD
Cedar Rapids, IA 4-30-00 DVD
Newcastle, England 9-19-00 DVD
Cardiff, Wales 9-23-00 DVD
Munster, Germany 10-1-00 DVD
London, England 10-5-00 DVD
Bethlehem, PA 11-8-00 DVD
Braunschweig, Germany 7-5-01 VCD
Liverpool England 7-12-01 DVD
Boston, MA 2-24-02 DVD
Brighton, England 5-4-02 DVD
Cardiff, Wales 5-6-02 DVD
London, England 5-12-02 DVD
MSG, NYC 11-11-02 DVD
MSG, NYC 11-13-02 DVD
Philadelphia, PA 11-15-02 DVD
Wilkes Barre, PA 11-21-02 DVD
UK Tour Compilation 2003 DVD
Wellington, New Zealand 2-24-03 DVD
Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC 8-12-03 DVD
Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC 8-20-03 DVD
London, England 11-24-03 DVD
St. Louis, Mo 3-1-04 DVD
St. Louis, MO 3-2-04 DVD
St. Louis, MO 3-3-04 DVD
60 Minutes 12-5-04 DVD
60 Minutes Outtakes 12-5-04 DVD
Portland, OR 3-11-05 DVD
Portland, OR 3-12-05 DVD
Beacon Theater, N.Y.C. 4-30-05 DVD
Birmingham, AL 6-5-05 DVD
Fort Worth, TX 7-4-05 DVD
Seattle, WA 7-16-05 DVD
London, England 10-20-05 DVD
Hamburg, Germany 10-24-05 DVD
Prague, Czech Republic 11-7-05 DVD
Bologna, Italy 11-10-05 DVD
London, England 11-20-05 DVD
Bakersfield, CA 4-5-06 DVD
Cardiff, Wales 6-27-06 DVD
Bournemouth, England 6-28-06 DVD
Foggia, Italy 7-19-06 DVD
Bill Graham Civic, SF 10-16-06 DVD
Uniondale, NY 11-13-06 DVD
New York City Center, NYC 11-20-06 DVD
Stockholm, Sweden 3-28-07 DVD
Amsterdam, Netherlands 4-9-07 DVD
Glasgow, Scotland 4-11-07 DVD
London, England 4-15-07 DVD
Auckland, New Zealand 8-8-07 DVD
Melbourne, Australia 8-19-07 DVD
Bergamo, Italy 6-16-08 DVD

Anonymous said...

I also would mention he plays piano as if he has oven mitts on, no virtuoso at piano either.

it is akin to seeing a dylan cover band at this point


Anonymous said...

On a positive note, AT LEAST he doesn't do any of that extremely annoying "up singing" any more!

Blue Heron said...

Sheesh, I think I better refrain from commenting on that. These Bobheads are serious and they play for keeps. I don't want roving bands of black t-shirt/converse wearing ruffians making my life miserable. Might strap me to a gurney and make me listen to infidels a thousand or so times...

Anonymous said...

It seems a little bit silly all the fanfare devoted to blogging which of Dylan's concerts were the best. Listing their favorite concert like 60's teeny-boppers listing their favorite Beatle. Even more ridiculous is the rancor of annoying aging hippies fixated by a senor citizen performing his music that has not been relavent since 1969. I can remember when Dylan stood up for the Native American's ideals. Now he pimps his "Best of Dylan" music from one greedy Indian Casino to another. Anyone dissapointed about paying $100. (to attend by themselve) a aging rocker/folkie go thru the motions should question his own sanity, let alone, taste in music. What did you expect Woodstock?

grumpy said...

good, not as good, better, best, worst, etc etc, all of these qualifiers are ultimately a disease of the mind, my friend, take what Bob has to offer us now and accept it and be glad, and grateful for all he has given us over the years (i know you are)... by the way i never knew about this show until after the fact, wish someone (you?) had told me about it, that's what i get for being a tennis junkie...by the way, i'm still waiting for Bob to tell me what he thought of the Hank Decken cd i gave him 6-7 years ago, when he came into the bookstore i was working at, he told me he would, maybe if i hung out more at his coffee shop in Santa Monica i'd run into him again...

Blue Heron said...

Hey Grumpy - thanks for breaking away from the Nadal match and chiming in...

Well let's see, Bob the blessed sacrament, Bob the communion wafer, accept whatever meagre gifts he chooses to bestow on your tongue...

How about Bob the shill game, the three card monte action where the joke is that the ball is never in the cup?.

I saw Willy Mays play his last year...for the Mets! He sucked. Compare mid 70's Jerry Garcia singing Crazy Fingers like a cool drink of water with latter day Jer wheezing and cracking through the register like nails on a chalkboard. These titans got to learn when to hang up the cleats and not diminish the legacy. Now Dylan is such a brilliant writer, all kidding aside, that I never want him to stop, but do think he suffers from a slight dose of contempt.

Interesting review in the Union Tribune today - guess I wasn't the only one that thought Pechanga was a yawner...

By George Varga

September 8, 2008

All bets were off when Bob Dylan and his band performed Thursday at the 1,200-seat Pechanga Resort & Casino Theater in Temecula, where they created only a few sparks during their otherwise mostly rote concert. But the iconic singer-songwriter and his versatile, five-man group were right on the money Saturday night at AEG Live Concerts on the Green, the new Mission Valley venue located on the site of the San Diego Chargers' former practice field.

Dylan's Saturday show featured wonderfully fresh versions of such vital classics as “The Times They Are A-Changin',” “She Belongs To Me,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and the concert-concluding “All Along the Watchtower.” He sounded just as inspired on his newer songs, which included “To Make You Feel My Love,” “Honest with Me,” “Ain't Talkin'” and “The Levee's Gonna Break” (a surging update of Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie's 1929 gem, “When the Levee Breaks”).

Of course, one of the great joys – and frustrations – of catching this Pulitzer Prize-winning artist in concert is that he can be brilliant, perfunctory, or both. Which Dylan you get depends on any number of variables, as his dramatically contrasting Pechanga and Mission Valley performances demonstrated yet again.

It may have been the grassy outdoor setting Saturday under a moonlit evening sky, the enthusiastic response from the all-ages crowd of 6,700, or just a simple twist of fate. Or it could have been the fact that Dylan's performances typically ebb and flow from day to day, as befits a veteran maverick who always takes chances and constantly changes his concert repertoire (only six of the 17 songs from Thursday's show were repeated Saturday).

Whatever the reason, he repeatedly soared – and scored – Saturday, in contrast with Thursday's show in Temecula, where he struggled to remain airborne for more than a few minutes at a time. The audio quality Saturday was markedly better than at Pechanga, where a bass-heavy mix marred too many songs and Dylan's band seemed to tiptoe around him.

Dylan's singing Thursday too often made him sound disinterested, no matter if his sly facial expressions suggested a greater degree of engagement than was audible. But on Saturday, he sang with palpable passion and authority throughout, even as his elastic phrasing made it difficult for even the most devoted fans to identify some of his best-known songs until he got to the chorus or a key phrase in a verse.

One was reminded of the adage about how great jazz musicians never play a song the same way twice. Dylan, who has long thrived on improvisational daring and now eschews playing guitar in favor of keyboards, took it a step further Saturday.

During a revelatory revamping of “It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding”) midway through the concert, he offered a potent reminder that – sometimes – he doesn't play a song the same way once.

A standout track from his fifth album, 1965's “Bringing It All Back Home,” “It's Alright” repeatedly changed shape Saturday. After opening with a rockabilly-styled burst and a guitar riff that seemed to pay homage to the Roy Orbison-penned Everly Brothers hit “Claudette,” it morphed into a Southern-fried rock-a-boogie vamp, before shifting into blues, country and back and forth again.

In less talented hands, this might have been a mish-mash or a mess. But Dylan's band negotiated each change seamlessly, just as his vocals seemed to draw strength from each new stylistic twist. And the lyrics sounded more relevant than ever, especially when he delivered the gripping line: But even the President of the United States / Sometimes must have to stand naked.

Later during “It's Alright,” he sang: You lose yourself, you reappear / You suddenly find you got nothing to fear. Given the benefit of hindsight, it sounded as if the young Dylan who wrote the song was crafting a creative mandate for the restless 67-year-old veteran he has become.

Lilly said...

You are right. It's something I was coming to on my own, then your comment pointed out exactly the reason my heart was feeling sad. I, too, saw Mr. Dylan with my memories and expectations. There is a feeling of being an untrue lover. I professed my love but it was just a business deal. There is a flame here to nourish, all is not lost. So much to see now!
He is an exquisite mirror. We ultimately see only ourselves.

Anonymous said...

In reading the varied comments of all involved in this Bobbie D. show, I was reminded by one participant, that we should pretty much accept what we get at this point in his career, because we have been very blessed over the years, after all it's just entertainment. However, it makes me think about movies at the multiplex, if you don't like it (it's just entertainment after all) you can walk out and go next store to see The Dark Knight, again. But, let's remember we paid $ 100 or more dollars and not
$ 11.75 and we will recognize Two-Face when we see/hear him. On another note, there will be NO sequel for Bobbie D.

Anonymous said...

We had a band some time ago - The Grated Cheese. All Grateful Dead songs with food themes...(The veal is burning, I was born for dessert, etc.) Maybe it's time for me to do my solo Dylan food themes. I call myself "Billyn"... Most Likely You Go Your Way, I'll Go Drive-Through. I need an agent.

grumpy said...

well, so Bob had an off night in your opinion (Lilly thinks otherwise, though a couple of her comments were below the belt), sounds like he put on a much better show the following night however, so maybe he shouldn't be written off just yet...btw, the Bob/Christ analogy is ill advised, though you point is well taken, he (Bob, that is) should not be put on a pedestal...excuse me, Roger and Andy Murray are about to tee it up at Flushing Meadows....

Anonymous said...

I saw Bob Dylan perform free at the Ely Minn. Wolfest. He gave a little old lady his guitar at the end and of his concert and handed my youngest girl part of his Elk Burger. He played one song "Bandits of the Mississippi" that he swore to the crowd he would never play again, and I've seen at least 60 Dylan Concerts over the years since and I have never heard him play a note of it again until the concert he did the other night. So much for promises.

Blue Heron said...

Hey thanks for chiming in from I assume, Minnesota. We all make promises we can't keep. I would forgive him. Thanks for checking the blog out.