Sunday, December 21, 2008

Paul Ray and the Cobras 2008

First appeared here (but I have since left that madhouse)-

Paul Ray and the Cobras; to me, they were the ultimate mythic band. Not only because of who played in the band, but also for their reputation; to be named the best band in Austin in 1976 commands reverence. The fact that the only studio work to see the light of day w/ the original line-up is a rare 7 inch single (one apparently sold for $600 in a Dallas auction) only added to their mystique. To me, they represented the Austin that only exists in stories and memories anymore………. and I was going to get to see them in their one-night-a-year performance!

It had taken over a month of back and forth emails, unbending ‘no’s, pleading calls and emails to friends who’d been a part of the scene in its prime, etc, etc, and finally, I was given the go-ahead; I packed my car and headed for the Continental Club and Austin. Countless bad roads and alternate routes later, I was in front of the venue I’d heard so much about, that had taken on a life of its own in my mind. Not only that, I was about to see Denny Freeman not play a Bob Dylan song haha. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Dylan’s songs as much as ever, but if you know anything about me, you know just how much I dig this guy, so to see him as his own boss was guaranteed to really be something. Words cant really describe how much I was really looking forward to this

Unfortunately, in front of the venue was where I was to remain……… for a LONG time. The owner had neglected to tell the door guys that I was supposed to be let in :shock: I had an email, but since it was a forward, and not directly from the owner, that was no good. I was a half an hour early though, and the door guys were pretty friendly. They called Steve and left a message on his machine. I called my guy and left a message on his machine too. Especially from Colorado, the weather was by no means cold, but the light breeze made it that much harder to sit outside and watch the population inside steadily grow. The clock was ticking down, and still nothing. I was starting to really get a bit freaked out now. It was after 10, and though I’d been assured they wouldn’t start until it was packed, the next thing I know they’re taping the “sold out” sign to the door, and I’m still on the sidewalk! I talked to a friend a few minutes previous who promised that Steve would be there; he was always there to see them, but then I saw that same friend take the stage. All I could see of his guitar was the headstock: it was upside down and definitely not anything he’d ever used to play w/ Dylan. What was I missing?!?!?!?!?!

The worst, most indescribable feeling came over me when the opening notes of Sugaree hit me, still outside under the awning. Paul Ray wasn’t singing; I couldn’t see who the singer was, and I couldn’t see Denny from the shoulders down. I had to get out of the way a few times so that stragglers could get in, and I was finally reduced to leaning against the door frame. Paul came on for the second song, and I could see only his head bopping up and down. I tried to imagine I was listening to a tape (even outside, the sound was excellent), albeit an extremely expensive tape. It brought back memories of working the Telluride show in 2007, expect this was much, much worse. It is the ultimate feeling of helplessness; the worst feeling in the pit of your stomach, up into your throat and out to your arms. There was no one even to blame; the door guys were only doing their job and Steve was doing me a huge favor letting me in. I was praying to every deity, spirit, power, whathaveyou, but it didn’t seem to be working. I never want to feel that way again. It’s the helplessness you feel when something dies.

3 and a half songs into a legendary show, someone taps me on the shoulder. Oh great, I’m standing in the way again. :roll: Some other lucky SOB gets to go enjoy the show :x I turn around. “I’m Steve, sorry I’m late, go on in!” Oh G-d! I cant get stamped fast enough and thankfully am able to find a route to that old familiar spot.

Because I’ve now spent more time on South Congress then I ever wanted to, I don’t have my good camera, I don’t have my pencil and paper; no setlist, no chord notes. Given the circumstances though, I could be a lot worse off. Bare w/ me though, I cant remember exact titles of almost anything played.

The first one that jumped out at me was, I believe, called Difference, Makes No Difference, something like that. Anyway, I’ll spare you the whole history, but Paul left the band back in the day because of throat problems, so I expected the vocals to be a bit harsh. I never, in a million years, would have expected him to sound so good. He was so smooth, it was incredible. It was not the voice from the aforementioned single, but it was damn near close. You’d have thought his voice had simply aged normally; no smokes, no drinks, and sure as hell no throat problems :shock: Denny, of course, owned the guitar all night. It was great to finally be in a crowd that really appreciated him. This was his audience, everyone hung on every lick. His work on this song in particular, just really struck me; it was very emotional, very beautiful.

Paul had to leave for the next song, so what do they play but……. Hideaway! I had heard Denny play this one before, but being there is a completely different thing then listening to a record. I mean, there is no way anyone can be anything but blown away seeing him play! There’s just no two ways about it.

Paul came back, and the rest of the night passed in a flash. They played a lot of Bobby Blue Bland type stuff (I’m drawing a blank on a lot of the artists they played, I’ll know I’ll remember once I hit submit), real soulful bluesy stuff. It was great, it was exactly how I’d imagine it would have been like 30 years ago. They played their own “Other Days” from the single (Denny slaying, again), and a fair number of songs that just the crowd moving (that is, if everyone hadn’t been squeezed in).

Another highlight of the night, for me, was Jimmy Reed’s Shame Shame Shame, dedicated to Stevie. Obviously I never knew him, but it was great to hear that his song that night wasn’t some remorseful number that makes you want to crawl in a hole and cry your eyes out. Plus, its Denny Freeman playing Jimmy Reed; how fucking cool is that ?!!!!!!

They ended the night w/ a killer Chuck Berry/rockabilly tune, and there’s nothing I can say about it that doesn’t apply to the entire show. Everything was just on point! I cant really think of any other way to say it; it far and above exceeded my expectations. Seeing Denny in Dylan’s band is one thing, seeing him tear it up to Chuck Berry, or Jimmy Reed, or Freddie mofuggin King, is something else entirely! I cant articulate how incredible it was to be there.

Not just Denny, but the whole band was a trip to finally see. I’ve talked a lot about Paul and Denny, but I’d hate to slight the rhythm section, for they too never missed a beat. For a band that plays together once a year, they were tighter then some guys I’ve seen who play together every week.

After every song though, Paul always deferred back to Denny, but at the very end, while introducing everyone, he said “its like Christmas up here, w/ Denny Freeman as the baby Jesus.” Denny shot him a great look, but it was true; we came to see him as much as anyone. Hell, he was even singled out on the marquee.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Out W/ A Bang (NYC, 11/21)

First appeared here

Appologies in advance, this is kinda long :oops: 8)

This was it. The end. No more Dylan for at least 3 more months, more for those who cant go to the projected Euro tour. While that is not necessarily a long time, I was worried that feeling may have put a damper on the whole evening for me. I was dead wrong though, and couldn’t have been happier.

Much like the first 08 shows in Dallas, the last also produced sub-artic temperatures, cutting through fabric and flesh w/ the help of the wind. At least this time we had gloves :? . The ER extravaganza, which was originally slated to meet in front of the venue, was relocated to the restaurant across the street on account of the weather. A large table was secured, but since only one or two groups had arrived, I opted to listen to soundcheck at the back door of the theatre, a building that, even from the outside, commanded attention. I didn’t know it at the time, but the band hadn’t arrived yet, so I braved the cold to listen to techs and roadies set up haha The busses pulled up later, but by the time I made it back to the door, all that was left to hear was the end of a 12 bar blues jam. By then it was dark, most of the ER folks were in the area, so I took my spot in the warmth of the restaurant.

Because of the size of our group, I could not hear and cannot speak for the other end of the table, but from where I was, it really was a live action Dylan board. One of the best parts of a GA show, for me at least, is the chance to catch up w/ those who we only know through shows, to hear about the shows you didn’t make it to, to just generally be able to talk about Dylan w/ others who are as into it as you and get you in the mindset for the approaching show. The lack of that is one of the great detractors of seated shows, but this setup was even better; we were warm!

The conversations could have lasted long into the night, but as 7 came and went, we still hadn’t gotten a check, and one latecomer still hadn’t even received her sandwich. While there was no “dine and ditch”, the service was not worth what we tipped, and the only reason I would go back would be to get a drink (they can’t card when they don’t speak English ;) ).

From where we were in the restaurant, there appeared to be a long line at will call, but those of us w/ the minted, gold (read: overpriced) tickets were whisked right in. There was, of course, no Super-Max style security, no checkpoint, no being escorted to my seat, no anti-scalping methods other then will-call. I dropped my jacket off at my 3rd row seat, and that was the last time I was even near it. I wandered about, checking the view from various areas as I always do. Milkcow, who has her own story, got in just at the nick of time. I walked over to her, and talked for no more then about 10 minutes when the lights went down. Since no one was in the seat beside her yet, I figured I might as well stay. . .

The lights came up, and the opening chords were not those of RDW, Cats, Maggies, or any other song I’d heard in recent years. I’m not ashamed to admit, I had NO idea what it was until Dylan began to sing. I don’t know when that one was played last, but it had to have been awhile. It had a great rhythm to it, really got the audience up and on their feet. The band was, as they have been almost all year, on top of their game, and the sound was tight. I believe Dylan did pick up the guitar for this song, but I really wasn’t watching, I’ll have to listen to the tape. The sound was good as well, despite being directly in front of a PA stack. The only hitch in the song was that Dylan’s vocals were pretty harsh. It sounded as though he’d just done 4 or 5 shows in a row, and/or REALLY needed to clear his throat.

I could see Denny and his guitar pretty well, but I had a feeling whoever owned the seat I was standing at would want it back, and since Freeman frequently shifts to face Dylan, I knew my position wouldn’t be very good for very long, so when the lights dropped, I ran a few seats over to where another ER member had a seat. Not only is she an incredibly nice person, but she was shorter then me, so I asked if she wouldn’t mind me standing behind her; a request she graciously granted.

Not only was the sound and view a million times better, but when the second song was Times, I knew we were headed in a great direction. This was a song that I’d been wishing for since standing in line at my first show, one of the few that I have a real personal attachment to. I wasn’t particularly thrilled w/ the arrangement, but didn’t specifically object to it either, and the sound in my new spot was so excellent I ended up really enjoying it. Dylan must have gotten a drink or hawked one into the spit can, because his voice was much smoother for this one.

At my last show, Kalamazoo, I was blown away by the unity of the band. But in the couple of weeks between then and now, while listening to tapes of earlier shows, I couldn’t help but (albeit under a lot of guilt) feel a bit sorry that Denny was not in his same out front role that he enjoyed in, say, Dallas. It was obvious during Levee that this was not going to be a Kalamazoo night. Every other guy was still in top form, but they were not the one entity, Denny was again a bit ahead. I, personally, was thrilled. Levee has become a bit of a standard this year, and while you always get a range of good and bad performances w/ those standards, there was something extra behind this one. Maybe they were all just happy w/ the prospect of being rid of each other for a while, but there was an energy that I hadn’t heard in that one since early summer.

For the second time in 4 songs, I was completely in a fog as the next song began to unfold. I couldn’t even wager a guess; all I knew was that I liked it… A LOT! It was a very country-ish arrangement, thumping bass, great fiddle, great guitars…well, great everything, really. Part of me would have been fine if they’d have just continued on w/ no lyrics. Dylan was even on guitar, and still I found nothing wrong w/ the music :P As he stepped up to the mic and began to sing, I, and apparently everyone else, took the first few lines and sang ahead in our heads. The crowd recognized it at virtually the same time and erupted into cheers. I doubt very many knew when it was played last (not that long ago, it turned out), but I’d bet everyone counted themselves lucky to be there seeing it. It was easily a highlight for me, but after only 4 songs, I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. I can only hope that this one gets played more in future shows. I was very impressed w/ absolutely everything about it. Dylan flubbed a few lines, but that is but a minuscule detail standing in front of a perfect song; it was over too quickly.

Things was solid, as it always is, but the next treat for me came w/ Desolation Row. I was (surprisingly) impressed w/ the music when I first saw it this year in Park City, and while the band did not disappoint in any way tonight, it was the vocals which took me away this time. They were not the start-stop staccato that he usually employs for this one, he was actually singing. After awhile, I let myself get lost in it, the vocals, the music, everything was so smooth and seamless. . . and. then. the. start. stop. styling. It. started. all. over. a. gain. Jolted out of a trance-like state, it took me a second to realize that they were still on Desolation Row. That’s not a complaint about the length, but the shift was so drastic, it was almost as if a new song had been started. Almost. I personally am not a fan of staccato Desolation Row, and he never went back to smoother styles, but there was enough going on on stage to distract from that. I was greatly impressed by Stu’s rhythm playing; it couldn’t have been better if he’d tried.

This was the first time I’d seen Beyond The Horizon this close to Denny, and it was incredible. Its one I always skip on album, but love listening to on tape, and man, can that guy ever play :shock: IF he leaves the organization before the NET stops, I’d hope they retire this song; I really cant imagine any other guitarist being able to so anything w/ it, and I almost shudder to hear anyone try. I cant tell you what happened anywhere but directly in front of me, and my only memory of this song was the guitar. I haven’t listened to the tape, I don’t know if it sounds the same on that, but take it from one who knows, it was beautiful.

Til I Fell In Love was the only one of the whole show that was stuck in my head on the plane ride back, and for good reason; the thing cooked! It has really come into its own this year, and I was pleased to see they were using it to close out the 08 season. Another highlight for me. That’s the difference between seeing a setlist and being there; the best song does not have to be the rarity that earns a million points at the pool.

Another TOOM song came next, and just like its predecessor, did not disappoint. A center stage Dylan played an excellent harp. Feel My Love is not generally a song I have strong feelings about one way or the other, but the energy boost given to Levee also applied here. Perhaps not the definitive version of the song, but one of the better ones I’ve born witness to. In all honesty, I could have sworn it was You Belong To Me in the intro. I knew I was wrong, but, I couldnt, for the life of me, figure it out.

A mind-boggling thing happened w/ the audience during Honest, a thing I have never seen happen before; they SAT DOWN! Now, I don’t mean everyone, but first, second, third row folks began to take their seats, even as the guys on stage started tearing the place down. What is going on?! Don’t tell me you’re tired! Stu took his only lead work of the night on this song, throwing out one of his best solos. It was not his average “Stu solo”, but something different. I like Stu fine, he’s a great player, but his recent solos are, well, I don’t know how to describe it, but they’ve got no personality in them; they’re what you’d expect the guitar solo to sound like at that point. This one was not like that at all; Stu the guitarist came through, rather then just Stu the trained Dylan employee. Way to go, Stu! I tried voicing my appreciation when the lights went down, but my sickness and extreme thirst caused my voice to jump up about three octaves before becoming inaudible even to dogs haha

Spirit is another in the category w/ Horizon. Hearing them try to play it w/o Denny in Kingston only solidifies it ashis number. He was on his white, decorated Strat all night tonight, whereas he usually has switched to the Gibson by the time we hear Spirit. Nice switch-up.

Perhaps the boss was as baffled by the snoozing crowd for Honest as some of us were, because we rushed uninhibited as H61 began. Just a Levee, seemingly a lifetime before it, this version really cranked. It is undoubtedly a standard, one that is almost always exactly the same as the night, week, month, tour before, but was pushed just a bit farther tonight.

Those who made it against the stage stared w/ respectful reverence for the entire Ain’t Talkin, and aside from Kalamazoo, which, because of the band thing I put in a different category all together, this was probably the best Ain’t Talkin I’ve attended.

Thunder blazed! That was incredible, that’s all I can say about it! Probably my favorite version of this I heard. Two notes though; 1) the woman who groundhogged her way to my left during this song threw what looked to be her keys on stage. Keys! They landed harmlessly in front of Tony, but I for one, would not appreciate having sharp metal objects thrown at me out of the dark. :? (Also, how does one get home?!?) And 2) at the restaurant beforehand, we were all laughing at the most obscure things we could yell out a request for. I joked everyone that the table holler for Stealin Berries. Its one of Freeman’s songs, one I’ve been messing around w/ for the last week or so and am about halfway through and stuck on. Maybe I’m going crazy, maybe I’m losing my mind, maybe I subconsciously heard it because it’s been on constant rotation for hours at my house, but I swear to G-d Denny played one of those riffs in Thunder this time! He was facing Dylan and his guitar was completely perpendicular to me, I could only see his strumming hand, and it was just a quick little thing, but what a killer coincidence! Again, I might just be losing it, but.........

LARS and Watchtower were really excellent, probably definitive attendance versions for me as well. I actually REALLY liked LARS this time, as opposed to just “meh”. The lights went down after Watchtower, but no one moved, and so you don’t know what to expect. It is were any other night, I’d have used the term “unfortunately” when they started into Blowin, as I really hate ending the night (or in this case, the tour year) on that one, but this was a year ender if I’ve ever heard one! Dylan once again picked up the guitar, and once again, it was not bad, not bad at all! Everyone sounded great.

As the boys lined up for the final time in 08, I cant imagine that any reasonably sane person in the theatre could have been disappointed. The setlist was not outlandishly absurd, Larry Campbell and Robbie Robertson did not come out from behind the curtain, we were not treated to a demo of an unfinished album, and Donnie still does not wear a hat, but did anyone honestly expect anything different?

As for myself, this tour year has been unbelievable. I saw more the double the shows in 2008 then I had seen before, total. I flew to shows. I drove. I got rails, and I got row “Z”. I’ve met a million cool people, and I’ve seen a million different towns.
I got to meet my idol, Tony Garnier!

It doesn’t get much better then this, my friends.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Top Form (Kalamazoo, 11/8)

First appeared here-

GA. GENERAL Admission. At least, that’s what I thought it stood for. Dylan management and I apparently disagree (their G may lean towards “greed”… ). W/o going into a long rant about it (that is another topic for another time), I made the decision a week before to NOT buy into this horrible policy, even if it was a bit self-detrimental, much like my stance on TTS. Turns out quite a few folks felt that way, the “commoner” line was formed out of the exact same people it always has been; those who do (and will continue to) waste the better part of a day braving the heat, the cold, the wind and the rain.

And aside from heat, there was plenty of the aforementioned weather conditions. Even so, the time flew by in one of the more enjoyable waits I’ve had. Between meeting internet personas face to face, catching up w/ friends who don’t post, and just generally trying to keep a handle on the ever-changing door plan (exasperated by that new early-entry BS), I couldn’t shake the excellent feeling I had. This was the first show I’ve ever hemmed and hawed over before buying a ticket, and w/ the sound in Milwaukee, I had every reason to expect something miserable to suddenly appear and rain (or, as it were, snow) on our parade, but the venue seemed to at least have a plan, and when, 2 hours before doors, the line was still less then 20 long, I knew things were going to somehow work in our favor.

Finally, when your knees no longer bend and you’ve forgotten what its like to have sensation in your feet, the doors are opened! I was the first one through my door, and the first one to fling back the curtain into the arena. There is a small collection of the “elite” plastered to the rails, but it looks to me (coming from house right) that I can still get my prime place. I charge over to where the elitists end, and look up; too far! Split second decision time…… I stay here I’m going to be staring at Denny’s ass all night. But if I try to go back, I could be too far again, staring at Dylan’s ass all night …. subconsciously I must have decided to make the gamble, because before I know it I’m shooting back the way I came, again coming to a stop at the end of the “royalty”. My gamble was a good one; I have a clear view of the guitars and bass. Looking strait ahead, I’m in line w/ they keyboard, and have an impeccable view of the center stage mic, if I were interested in that ;) .This was the closest to Dylan I’ve ever been. Looking left and right, it appears everyone who should have been was at least somewhere on the rail. So far, so good. Take that, administrative jerks!

When they finally come striding out and hit the opening chords of Maggie’s, I was in for another treat; the sound was perfect! At first I was just excited that I could hear Denny loud and clear, something I attributed to being right where the amp was pointed, but as the song cranked on, I could hear everyone, perfectly! In talking w/ some others later, they noted that the vocals were a bit low for the first two songs, and yeah, OK, but they got it fixed, and I was perfectly happy either way (His organ was screeching loud for a bit, but was quickly corrected).

Maggie’s was a first for me, and I didn’t recognize it right off the bat, but I don’t think the band did either; it sounded remarkably like an intro-less Thunder for the first few bars. You’d have thought they planned it that way though; no one stuttered as they pulled it back around. Just a sign of things to come. One thing I noticed was that it was definitely a band effort, there was no one instrument that was more important to the song or one person to whom the song “belonged”. Everything came together so smoothly, and that was just the opener!

I was a bit surprised to head RDW come next, I never really thrill in hearing, but this was easily the best version I’ve ever heard of this song, thanks in no small part to Denny’s playing. It was the only time during the night that anyone stood out on his own; the band slayed this one too, w/ a passion that just normally isn’t there for this one, Denny was just that much better.

I couldn’t believe it when the level of dedication didn’t drop for the next number, Baby Blue. I watched Tony, but then became aware of what George was doing, and couldn’t help but watch him for awhile. And then suddenly I couldn’t peel my eyes away from Stu’s guitar… no one necessarily commanded the attention, but everyone was fascinating to watch. Everyone commanded the attention.

Just as an aside, Donnie is a guy I never really watch, mainly because I don’t play any of his instruments, but I did tonight, and he’s very “puppyish”. I don’t mean that in a bad way, and I certainly don’t mean to offend him, but there’s a charming innocence in his concentration. I don’t think that he has to concentrate any harder then anyone else, he’s an extremely competent musician, or that no one else is having any fun, but he seems to be the only guy who isn’t trying to project an “image”; he’s having a blast and doesn’t care who knows it!

Tweedle has sort of become Stu’s song, but like everything else tonight, he was not any more or less important then anyone else. I feel like a broken record, but they really were synced tonight, they played (and quite possibly breathed) as one single entity, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Someone asked me after Milwaukee if Stu’s new stage position facilitated the guitarists feeding off each other, and it was clear tonight that it definitely does, one only had to look at Levee for the perfect example. Denny on Strat, Stu on Tele, and the fullest sound I’ve ever heard w/ this song! And still, there were no mistakes, no flubs, no departure from the level they set w/ the first song.

The only word I could think of while watching Hollis was “stunning”. My only letdown of the entire night was that the slide after the “seven shots rang out” line was a bit anti-climactic, which, in hindsight, may have worked to its advantage. I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, for fear of jinxing them, but at the point, this really was the best Dylan show I’d ever seen.

From where I was, it seemed like a great crowd as well. While they weren’t the most active, they seemed to have a sense of what a great show they were taking in. Everyone of course went nuts when Dylan came center stage, or sauntered over and picked up the Gibson hollowbody for H61, but they seemed fairly versed in recent NET happenings and didn’t seem like they were there for the “wrong reasons”. As far as the guitar, he plays if exactly as he plays the organ, which, take that any way you want, but I personally would prefer that he leave that to the guys who he pays to do that.

I hate to repeat myself a million times, and there are only so many different ways to say “near perfect”, but it really was. The only low point of the whole night was that there was NO low point; there was nothing to judge the highs against. The setlist wasn’t the best, (I’d have liked to see some Love and Theft mixed in) but the performance was beyond belief. Best Dylan show I have ever seen.

Despite the sign in the lobby, this is not “Bob Dylan and Friends”, this is him and his band, and man for man, I think this band has finally arrived in the place he wants/needs them to be in. While I may go to see certain members stand out, no one else does, and he, and they, don’t need to be known as Bob Dylan, a killer guitarist (or drummer, or anything), and a random assortment of other guys. When listening to tapes of other line-ups, many times there was a “unity” factor, and while no one ever mentions it, I think that was more of a factor then anything in the “Larry/Charlie” days. I’ll be the first to admit that, from the beginning, not every member of this band was given an equal role (and, depending on the tour, who that was has been different), but if this show was any indication, those days are over.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Six Strings Down and a Drowning Guitar (Milwaukee, 11/6)

First appeared here-

Sickness. Its to be expected, especially when you come back from many long days and nights of traveling through uncharted territory, drinking energy drinks and touching gas pumps. Its almost a welcome forfeit when you get back to your own bed. But I’ve never attempted to do the same while already under the weather. And let me tell you, it sucks most of the fun out of seeing new country. But no matter how burnt out, spent up, head pounding-cant breathe-coughing up a lung-over it you think you are, along comes the night before the show, and the excitement you think you didn’t have wont let you fall asleep.

I had read the weather reports, I’d followed the storm, I knew it was going to be miserable, but when I got up that morning, I was greeted by the sun. When it hit me; I was in Wisconsin. East Troy. Alpine Valley. I knew I had to go. As soon as I pulled up directions, the wind kicked up, and in came the clouds and the fog. It was instantly cold and miserable, and, a little ways down the road it began to rain (oh, how easy it would be to allude to the sky crying haha). The actual stage is now apparently owned by those bastards at Live Nation, so the gates are closed and locked, but the “ski resort” was wide open. And I use ski resort in the loosest of terms. Its hardly even a hill, more of a mound, and I’d have laughed at its puny size had it not silenced one of the best guitarists around. There are no signs, no plaques (its not exactly great publicity ‘Welome to Alpine Valley, we killed Stevie Vaughan’, but still…), if you’re not a music fan you probably have no idea what happened there. Being there made me angry. There were a million things that went wrong that night, I wont bore you w/ the details, but it was really the ultimate act of selfishness, a man who had no business in the sky just had to fly the “celebrities”. As I said before, it is not a gigantic mountain, I wouldn’t think that is a safe flying height no matter what you think is or isn’t around. Whereas the grave in February was a somber experience, this one just made me mad.

Back in Milwaukee, the rains were really having their way, not a torrential downpour by any stretch, but enough to get you very wet if you attempted to wander around the city. I spent the rest of my wait in a coffee shop next door, which seemed to be blasting out the collected works of Bob Dylan. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but it was very gimmicky. What, do you think Dylan will be drawn in if you play his tunes, like a rat to the Pied Piper?

In any event, when doors finally opened, I was able to look around the theatre; none too shabby a place. I think the balcony was bigger then the main floor, and wouldn’t have liked to be stuck in the far reaches of it, but most of the place seemed to have a relatively great view. Security was tight as hell though. I was yelled at many times that I would have to turn my cell phone off, even though the upright was still out in front. Each time though, I was asked if I had a pass. :?

When finally the lights went down (half and hour late, as usual), we were hit w/ the unexpectedness of Thunder as an opened. I must admit, I didn’t recognize it for a few bars; the Freeman intro that makes Thunder Thunder was missing. Or perhaps I literally did not hear it. For all that I kept hearing about the sound in the Riverside, I was very disappointed, I could barely, if at all, hear Denny all night! I was right in front of the PA, which is never the place to go for perfect sound, but the mix coming through the PA was very funky. I originally had an aisle seat, but traded when a much shorter woman’s view of Dylan was blocked. I had a good window on the boss and she had a better view of the band anyway ;)

Love Minus Zero was next, and even w/ the “interesting sound” I was excited. I’d been listening to Warsaw pretty much non- stop this summer, and love Denny’s solo. I waited and I hoped and I prayed, please let Denny solo, please…… not tonight! Dylan took it on harp. It wasn’t terrible, it was quite good, but it wasn’t why I go. Yeah, I know, its why everyone else goes, I’m not the normal audience member, I’m sorry, I probably would have loved this show a lot more had I been normal; Dylan was probably higher in the mix then I’ve ever heard before. Vocals crisp and clear just like on a studio recording, harmonica the same, and organ….oh G-d, what is that?!?! It sounds like a guitar drowning, its clear, its high in the mix, it’s the organ?! As has been noted, he is playing a different keyboard, on a different setting, and in all honesty, it really wouldn’t have been that bad had it been lower. As loud as it was, it just sounded really weird and kinda irritating, moreso when played over a barely audible Freeman.

Lonesome Day, another first for me, suffered again just due to the mix. I’d love to hear it properly mixed, because everyone seemed to really be cranking w/ it. Hard Rain again saw Dylan solo on harp, and again it was very nice. Almost every song thereafter saw a Dylan solo, either on harp or on organ. Denny barely took any all night (and when he did, I couldn’t hear them :? ). Stu was rhythm guitar extraordinaire, finger picking like a madman all night and actually loud enough to be heard. The only one I distinctly remember him playing lead on was Tweedle. I love that song, I have yet to hear a bad version of it, and Stu did a fine job w/ it, but his strength is definitely on acoustic rhythm. Make him loud enough to hear, and let him do his thing. I was consistently impressed w/ him. He seems to be enjoying his position among the other members (and second billing during band intros) as well, probably glad to be out of solitary.

The bass was an interesting component in Milwaukee, at times hard to hear, then boiling up to slam you back, rattling your chest and taking hold of your heartbeat. Sometimes that was great, but not so in the bowed Girl From North Country. Tony was further upstage then I’d ever seen, on level w/, if not behind George, and w/ the exception of upright, played almost solely to him as well.

The absolute highlight of the night for me was High Water, always a good song, but made a million times better by the band. Donnie, Stu and Denny were all so tuned in to this incredible riff that seemed to float around stage, and Tony was throwing some slap in there to complement it. It was, bar none, the best High Water I’ve ever heard! Unfortunately the slapping stopped after the second verse or so, but the song stayed strong.

Love Sick was another highlight, actually complemented by Dylan’s high vocals. Summer Days was the band’s number, and they ran w/ it, doing a better instrumental verse then I have to assume has been happening lately.

The whole show was really very impressive, I don’t mean to give the impression that it wasn’t. Every single guy up there was really on top of his game, it was an excellent setlist, Dylan was really hopping around every time I glanced over that way, came out for many center stage “croonings” (though I cant tell you which haha), for the most part, the overwhelmingly local crowd remained standing (and those who didn’t made no attempt to force others to do the same), it was just a good time had all around, Security almost didn’t let us stage rush, and later that night, when me and Pooler standin_on_the _gallows were curious as to what was clearly marked off the setlist minutes before they went on, security wouldn’t even let me near the stage, “not w/o a pass”. (What is w/ this pass, was there one left in my name somewhere?! Haha)

Outside after the show, I did see the soundman, and considered asking him about the strange mix, but ultimately let it go. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Dylan’s vocals were so high, after all, I listen to him at the shows and I think that his voice is his best instrument on these songs, but that drowning guitar doesn’t ever need to be that high again. Dylan may have even mentioned it, saying something along the lines of “on silent(?) string guitar, Denny Freeman……”, but I couldn’t make out exactly what he said. You all know me here, you know what sort of a bias this was written under. I think had any of you “normal” people gone, you’d have gotten more of a thrill out of the sound at my location then I did. If you went to see and hear Bob Dylan, it was probably a 10. If you went to see and hear the band, more like an 8.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Last Days as a "Teenager"

So there I was, sitting out in New York, the supposed land of opportunity, which was quickly proving to be anything but. I needed out, but I sure as hell didn't want to go back and sit around in my piss ant little town. I was stuck in a no win situation……that is, until I saw that Doyle Bramhall, one of my all time favorite artists was playing a few shows in Arizona! Now, I don't want to say that I dropped out because of these shows haha, but lets just say my bags were packed soon afterwards. 

Just as in New Orleans earlier this year, I was forced to get in contact w/ the club and try and work something out in order to gain entry (I can be shipped to a foreign land to kill and die against my will, but I cant listen to the music of my choice w/o setting of a chain of emails from here to Uzbekistan). Unlike New Orleans, however, this place was far less willing to work w/ me. The date was fast approaching, and, w/ nowhere else to turn, I called in the favor of all favors; and it was settled! I would arrive early and help load in, therefore appearing to the venue as a member of the crew. Words really cant express how grateful I was (and still am haha). There really wasn't too much to do, the two actual crew guys seemed to have a pretty good handle on things, but I did whatever I could, and was got the chance to talk to some cool folks. I was hoping on the off chance that Denny would be playing, since Dylan isn't on tour right now. He wasn't, but another guy from the 3-D Blues Band was; the bassist Jim Milan! Actually, aside from guitarist Nick Curran, the band was completely different then the one I'd seen him w/ in NOLA, I'd heard of the other guitarists (Casper Rawls and Kirk Fletcher) but wasn't familiar w/ their playing, and I was pretty excited to finally be seeing Jim in person, so when we left at 7 for doors to open, I had high hopes.

Just an aside, but I think when hell freezes over, the devil will live in Phoenix……. and he will complain about how hot it is! The high that day was supposed to be 100 (I believe it), but when we left the club, it had been dark for at least a half an hour, and it was still hot as shit! When I got back to my hotel, or whatever informed me it was still 97. Who willingly takes up residence here?!?!?!?!

When we all went back, we found a fairly packed house, which is never a bad thing. I stepped back from moving a folding table, and felt a tap on the shoulder. A younger looking guy, looking a bit uncomfortable, attempts to look tough while wringing his hands.
- Uh, are you, actually, like, 21?
- What? (I'd forgotten that I wasn't technically supposed to be there)
- Have you turned 21 yet?
- I have to be here…
- What was that?
- I have to be here. I work for these guys. (He stares at me.) I'm the Merch Guy (my predetermined "title" in case something like this came up), I have to be here. This is my job. Ask those guys.
- Oh, I see. I'm sorry.
Yeah, you better just keep walkin there haha. Nah, he was just doing his job too, and after that incident, no one bothered me for the rest of the night.

The show started on a very high note. They opened w/ Lost In The Congo and the people flooded onto the dance floor. They all seemed to really dig the first few tunes, which include Shape I'm In, Sugar, and Dyin W/ The Flu, but they really seemed to calm down after that, content to sit at their tables and sip their beers, which is really their loss, why anyone would sit through The Hunter, or I'm A Bad Boy or, for fuck's sake, Thunderbird (!) is beyond me. The band absolutely tore though. Casper is really an exceptional guitarist. He's the guy a lot of Dylan fans like to pretend Freddie Koella was, except this guy can actuallyplay! (also a very nice guy, which I'd find out later). Kirk too, played a mean guitar all night. For a few songs, Freddie Cisneros sat in, and regret that I cannot comment more on him, but a wild cat was loose that night, and I was trying not to be a complete asshole about it haha. House Rockin and Change It (predictably) got the crowd moving a bit more, as Stevie co-writes usually do, but overall everyone was a lot mellower then I'd originally pegged them for. Again, their loss, because it really was an excellent show all around.

I'd originally planned to make the 4 hour drive to Bisbee that night, but instead opted to just stay an extra night in Phoenix when, at 2 am, I still wasn't out of there yet.

Bisbee has got to be one of the most interesting little towns in America. A copper mining boom town build literally into the side of the hills, it reminded me of pictures of an Italian villa, and the guys who I was w/ who'd actually been to Europe concurred. It was really nice the next day when everyone was gone, but when roughly 3000 people converge upon it for a one day festival, things can get a bit, erm, cramped. Luckily my car isn't much bigger then a Shriner's parade car, so I can put it almost anywhere, but I felt sorry for the poor saps eternally circling the full lots. If I may make one suggestion to the festival organizers, its that they put a sign up when a lot is full.

Supposedly, Bisbee is one of the most haunted cities in AZ, but it seemed the only thing to have died around there are cell phone calls; literally one end of a bench will have service while the other side (less then 4 feet away) will get nothing. You'll be walking around a corner and suddenly your pocket will come alive w/ all the voice mails and missed calls you've accrued, but when you need to make a call, you'll never have service in the same place twice. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have cared, but when you're in a larger group and cant get a hold of anyone else, it becomes a bit of an issue.

None the less, tonight's show was great as well. Not too many changes to the previous nights set, but the crowd was FAR more into it, dancing and cheering and carrying on. At the last minute, a video camera was sprung on me, so I tried to get some interesting shots, but I hadn't had any time to think about it, and I had a bitch of a time just figuring out the zoom, so apologies in advance should you ever find yourself watching my footage haha The band was still in top form though, and was easily the best act of the day. If you're any sort of fan of good music, you really owe it to yourself to seek Doyle out, trust me on this one.

I spent the next day just hanging out w/ a couple of friends, wandering through Tombstone and whatever, just generally being tourists. We'd gotten there too late to actually see one of the gunfights they put on, but still got to look around and see where various folks got shot, died, partied, etc, etc, etc as well as places to buy refrigerator magnets! haha It was a blast.

My only regret is that I did not see any ghosts. The first night I didn't know, but the second night, my friend told me that the hotel I was in was one of the original in Bisbee. I was in one of the original rooms where all the Wild West shit took place, and as such, it was supposed to be haunted. I didn't hear anything, see anything, imagine anything, no specters, no spirits, no apparitions…….the damn floor didn't even creak all night! What a drag! haha

Even though staying in town the extra day meant having to drive from the edge of the country across the barren wasteland known as AZ on my actual b'day date, I could not have asked for a cooler or more fun way to spend my birthday weekend then the way I did, easily the best birthday I've ever had. Nothing I could have been doing in New York could even have hoped to compare to this. Words cant express how much I appreciate all that was done for me. And it occurred to me, somewhere between the vast expanses of baked dust and the cactus covered hills, that this almost didnt happen. I almost never talked to Doyle down there in New Orleans that afternoon in April. I actually turned around and walked away before I went back in. I didn't think someone of his caliber'd care what I'd have to say……..

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Final Blowout (Park City, 8/31)

First appeared here-

Upon learning that this gig was to be played at Deer Valley a few weeks ago, I actually briefly considered not going. Deer Valley is one of around 4 ski resorts that still does not allow snowboarders on its slopes. The last thing I want to do is support something like that. However, it was Dylan (and the band! :P haha), it was close, it was GA, and, well, c’mon, its Dylan!

I arrived early enough to be able to wander around on the stage. It was tiny! The stage itself was only maybe a foot and a half tall, and very small. It was deep, but the audience was on the ski run, meaning a hill, so there would not be a bad spot to be had. It was cold, grey, drizzly, and the sprinklers were having their way w/ the only spot w/o grass; right in front of the rails. Still, you could tell we were going to be in for a major treat. 

Soon after, the road crew arrived and made us go back to the line. And oh, what a line it was. Aside from the group I was traveling w/, there weren’t but one or two “regulars”, yet the 7 lines grew fast and furious, stretching all the way back to the parking lot many, many hours before doors, I’d never seen such a large and (relatively) gung ho bunch of locals. Most were pretty mellow, and the guy next to me actually saw Tony a lot back when he was w/ Asleep At The Wheel.

The first problem to hit (aside from the sprinklers watering the stage) was a massive power failure. At first it wasn’t too bad, they still had time, but as the day waned on and the power still had not returned, both the crew and the audience began to get edgy. Would they cancel the show? Would they play a replacement date? I cant come back for that! Will they play acoustic?!?!?!?!?! Why cant you use the generators? Why are the bathrooms so dark? haha A quick walk up the hill proved the prefect vantage point for the janky way they went about setting up the rails. There were cables jutting up out of the ground holding the canvas roof on that clearly had to be walled off, but because the stage itself was so small, there were only 2 barricade pieces that were parallel to the stage, the rest angled away to form a U. You would have to run down a ramp off the ski patio, up the hill, around this U, and back down into the pocket of the thing, which wasn’t very big to begin w/. Sounds like a worthy challenge haha. The best part about it was that the bathrooms were up there, so the crew couldn’t stop you from going and looking, further stressing out the guy in charge :D

As for myself, it wasn’t a bad wait. I was able to sit in the shade and type up my KC review, and have a relatively normal conversation w/ one of the merch guys. We’d sort of become forced friends after seeing each other day after day after day during the week haha. Security was really cool too, they were all relatively young and would give me the heads up when I needed to duck the stressing stage manager (apparently shade is reserved for those on the payroll as well :roll: ). Thankfully the power came back on and they were able to start soundcheck (and open the downhill bathrooms, no doubt making his life a little easier).

By the time they got around to opening doors, the rainstorm that was being meticulously followed by those in line finally reached us. It had just started to get wet when the head ticket taker slowly and calmly walked by, instructing in a quiet voice “start taking tickets”. I ripped my own ticket again and tore off. There was only one person in front of me; some arrogant local who’d been drinking all day and was really starting to become an assh*le, claiming how his ringers were going to grab the whole rail for his 30 friends that showed up right before doors, etc, etc. You know the type, so it made what happened next even better. The venue guys, as is their job, begin yelling “Slow down, walk, don’t run, you’re the first ones , you have plenty of time”……so this mookactually starts walking!!!!!!! I fly around him and yell “no, you’re not!” (If he wouldn’t have been an assh*le all day, I wouldn’t have, but this was too sweet.) Stunned, he begins chasing me, lets out a war cry (?) of “AYE YEI YEI YEI !!!!” and aims for my left, where there appears to be a space between me and the walls around the cable… only to be blocked by the trashcans!!!! My lead grows. I get around the handicap pen, take a sharp left, and, by some miraculous stroke of luck, actually SEE the tiny white twine stretching 2 and a half feet off the ground. Not to brag, but w/ the agility and grace of, I don’t know, a gracefully agile person (?) haha, I slide underneath it and hit the rails first, with quite some time to spare! The most fun run in I’ve ever had! I turn around and get to watch the chaos that is the rest of the crowd as they sputter up and around the corner. If I was a tech I’d be standing center stage each and every night to watch that, as it sure is a sight. Luckily the grass hadnt beome slick yet, but to someone who’s lungs aren’t accustomed to such altitudes, I’m sure it was a pretty massive hill.

The rains begin, hitting hard as they often do up that high. Just about every single tech and crew guy came out on stage to watch; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so many together at one time like that haha. We are on the cusp of the canvas roof, so we don’t get the worst of it, but we are still anything but dry. We begin listing all the songs he can/should/(but in reality probably) wont play, and come to the realization that “what Dylan songs don’t have to do w/ rain?” haha

When the instruments are finally unwrapped and the boys strut out, what else could they have opened w/ but RDW? (From what I was told ;) ), Dylan seemed happy, and Donnie, George and he seemed to sharing the greatest of jokes among themselves, grinning the entire time.

I couldn’t believe my ears when they started into Masterpiece, I had to be wrong, there’s no way, it cant be! It was! Its plain to see that the energy from last night is still alive w/i them, and the sound isn’t anything to shake a stick at either. We were standing just right of the PA tower, and the intro music was squealing pretty terribly, but Papa seemed to get things under control, from where I was the bass was pounding into my chest all night. Tony was playing the hell out of the thing too, throwing in interesting little fills all night, but as always, just smooth as hell. Chalk another night up to Tony. I’m glad to see him moving better. While not necessarily bouncing off the walls, he wasn’t standing in weird positions or moving about in slow, uncomfortable ways. (I don’t know that I’d be able to see a Dylan show w/o T :shock: ) Denny again only has the gold Gibson on stage, but its really grown on me this past week, so no complaints from me. Donnie played pedal for this one, and at the end, beaming from ear to ear, he yells to Dylan “I got that one!” Uh, go Donnie? ;) :P

Was taken completely off guard by Not Dark Yet, which was incredible. Sounded a lot like the album version, but more haunting, more real almost. Million Miles was equally powerful. And then it happened. Desolation Row. That was the one song I was happy to have never seen. Every single tape I’d ever heard of it just completely ruined it. That was a song for a young man’s voice; I don’t even particularly care for 70s versions of it. However, tonight’s didn’t bother me (and I was listening for anything to be wrong w/ it). The vocals weren’t particularly clear, but they weren’t horribly garbled either. But what really got to me was the music. The music has never been what attracted me to that song, but it was really moving tonight. I don’t remember one particular person standing out more then the others, but everyone just seemed beautifully on point, really the whole night, but for that song in particular.

Levee, which should have been predicted but wasn’t, was its usual rockin self, putting Stu was back on his Tele, which had been conspicuously absent for the past couple of nights. After that, another one out of left field; She Belongs To Me. Again, not one that I look forward to seeing, but above and beyond a solid performance from everyone. Honest absolutely BLAZED, Stu on lead, even twisting and writhing during his (impressive) solos, after which he went back to acoustic for Simple Twist.

Since the stage was so low and so close, I began to get a little uncomfortable just staring at my normal two (that, and I’d been staring at them for the past three nights now), so I got the chance to observe a little bit of the dynamic between the whole band, and I cant maybe help but wonder if Stu on rhythm for so many years is actually putting him into position for something more. This guy knows the songs, inside and out, and it is he, not Tony, who Denny watches for cues. He is the only one that Dylan is not in the position to keep an eye on, and last night it seemed Tony would play/show a few of maybe the more tricky parts straight to Stu. I’m not saying anything one way or the other, maybe its always been that way but I’m too busy watching stage right, but that guy really is a rock back there, and perhaps his stage position is not one of subordination, but rather of trust and reliance.

Our final surprise of the night came w/ Queen Jane, and there’s nothing I can say about it that I havent said about the rest of the show, absolutely incredibly playing from every facet. The performance level matched the setlist on this one, incredible song selection; but even more incredible playing on each and every one of them! It was such an honor to have been there (sorry to rub it in :P).

The rain clouds came back sometime around H61, but they were really bearing down after Thunder (which, by the way, was the BEST version of Thunder I’ve ever heard!) and turning especially where we were into a muddy quagmire. When the lights went down, Denny and Tony turned their backs and messed w/ their equipment, but otherwise readied themselves for the next song; everyone else was putting their instruments up. Could it really be the end already?!?! I couldn’t believe it! More! We need more! They’ve only just gotten into it!

The came striding back out a very short while later, launching into one hell of a LARS, Denny on Strat and seeming to be doing a more bluesy job w/ that song then he usually does. The lights went down, and we expected to be greeted w/ “hello, friends…..”. Instead, the lights came up on Bob and the boys in that familiar line-up. What?!?!?! They cant end it now!!! Those bastards! Get back here and play some more!!!!

But, of course, they didn’t. It was raining harder then it had all day, and the wind was shifting in such a way that a very nice Tungsten amp would have been soaked in a matter of minutes. I’m sure the temperature had something to do w/ it as well. Even w/ the 4 heat lamps on stage, you could see their breath all night. My ears were hurting and fingers were cold just being in the audience, so I can imagine how cold they were up there.

Whatever mud had accumulated on me during the show instantly washed off on the trek to the parking lot. It was coming down hard and heavy, and you’d probably have been a little drier had you just jumped into a swimming pool w/ all your clothes on. 

It had been completely worth it though. The last week had been one of the funnest I’d ever had. I had just done 4 shows in 4 states in 5 days. I’d experienced the complete pantheon of weather, I’d had the easiest GA run-in, and one of the more difficult ones. I’d sat in row Z, and I’d clung to the rails, I’d been everywhere but the electric chair, seen everything but the wind ( ;) ). And as much as I really wanted to continue on to Las Vegas, I was just as happy to be leaving the tour. They have it easy, they have beds, they have people to drive them, they’re guaranteed the best spots in the house.

4 states in 5 days on your own is exhausting!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back On Top (Aspen, 8/30)

First appeared here-

Given the off-kilter feel of the KC show, I was uncertain about what to expect as I started out for Aspen. A lightening bolt lit up the clouds as I rounded the corner into Kansas, illuminating the busses puttering along. I fly by, wondering if that cinematic image was a good sign, or meant instead that we were heading for a stormy performance.

The day of the show did little to ease my apprehensions. The short of it was; even thought I’d arrived early, I had to leave for a few minutes, and when I came back, they would not let me back into the lot, would not sell me a parking pass, etc, etc. I ended up having to park at the next lot……..roughly a mile up a very large hill. No one could agree on a time when I would be able to buy one, etc, etc. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind, but this was a festival and the doors were opening at 2. I didn’t want to walk up and down the damn mtn in the hot sun all day, as it was a pretty long run up to the rails and I’d need energy, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be at the top of the road should they open doors early. I tried to stay positive, but it was unnerving nonetheless. 

The other thing bothering me was the stage setup. While I commend Jazz Aspen Snowmass for setting up the VIP area length wise rather then width-wise in front of the stage, they really set it up on the wrong side! I enjoy standing in front of Denny and Tony, but that was all taken up by the VIP area and the center was cordoned off as a security path back to the soundboard. This could very easily have turned into a bad deal for me, and was starting to give me a bad feeling.

That feeling was not helped when my line’s scanner wasn’t working. Surprisingly, there were only 2 people ahead of me once we got inside the festival grounds, both from my group and both doing nothing more then jogging. While the thundering masses did eventually catch up to us, I did get my spot; squeezed into the far left corner of the commoners’ pen haha. 

The opening acts were awful. The first chick seemed to want to be a mid-80s Angela Strehli, but it wasn’t happening. Her right handed guitarist contributed NOTHING. I don’t know, she might be a real entertaining act in a smaller room, w/ a bunch of drunks who just want to dance and have a good time, but no one was really having any of it there.

Ziggy Marley was, above and beyond, the absolute WORST act I have EVER seen! I don’t get reggee music, but I went at it w/ an open mind, and G-d, was it bad. It was as if he opened a book of clich├ęs, flipped through it, took 2 or 3 lines out if it and said “there, that will be my song!” I’ll spare you my long rant, but there were 9 musicians on that stage, and none of them was doing anything even remotely interesting. The most interesting thing during that whole set was when Tony wandered into the wings and talked to one of the Dylan crew guys hanging out there. Literally. I tired to keep myself entertained by watching the rich yuppies dance around, which, don’t get me wrong, was great fun, but I kept getting sucked back by an INCREDIBLY terrible line. G-d, I have never lived through a longer hour and 15 set. Grrrooooooooooooooooan! At least during the Strehli wannabe set I could sit.

By this time, I am really not feeling better about the show. I’m in a bit of a bad mood after enduring that auditory torture, and just praying that whatever was plaguing them in KC, that they were able to work it out.

They predictably opened w/ RDW (for some reason he always opens CO w/ it). I am not in a bad spot, maybe 3 or 4 people to the left of being completely in line w/ Dylan, but I think a whole lot of people got screwed into watching his back all night.

Denny’s strat appears to be working fine this night, and holy shit, does he put it to work during the second song, Baby Blue. Blew the water off the KC version, and his solo, man, I could not stop smiling the entire time. It was one of those like the Senor in Dallas, that just completely grabs you and wont let go, absolutely slayed it. If you haven’t figured it out by now, that is how a guitar should be played! Its clear as they charge into Most Likely that they’re a completely different band then the were in KC. Everyone is on top of their game and its clear my worries were unfounded.

The next song sees Donnie strapping on his banjo. My guess is High Water, or possibly Ma. I am wrong though, as he begins to play those oh-so familiar chords. ‘Nope,” I think to myself, as I being to bop to the music, ‘Cry Awhile”.

Cry Awhile!!! Oh shit!!!!!!!! The world comes to a screeching halt, and I can do nothing but stare mouth agape as Tony not only plays the album version (on electric), but above and beyond it. He goes up, down, left, right, backwards, forwards, all over that fucing neck! That is his song and he knows it. He is once again proving he is the master of that instrument. I can hear Denny playing a really scorching solo over there, but I cant tear my eyes away from those 4 strings. The sound is incredible. I never want the song to end, I cant describe the feeling. I am not delusional, don’t get me wrong, I do not think I influence, sway whatever, the setlists in any way, but that was the song I asked Tony about in the parking lot back in May. That was my whole reason for walking over and talking to them. That was the arrangement he forgot. In our shooting the breeze, it came up that I was from Colorado, and there he was, in my home state, playing it!!!!! Again, I have no delusions that it was “played for me” or anything like that; it was simply a coincidence, but man, was it the best coincidence I’ve ever experienced!!!!! I’m still amazed I saw it. That was really one for the ages in my book. After that song ended, I could have been struck by lightning and I’d have still be on cloud 9.

Cry Awhile seemed to kick off something w/i the guys, and pushed Mobile to a completely different level then it usually resides in. Same for Love Sick, every song had that extra something behind it.

Tweedle saw Stu’s first lead of the night, and from the incredible sound, I could tell he was really tearing it up. Unfortunately, all I could see sticking out from behind the Leslie cabinet that let me know he was there at all was his head and the curve of his guitar’s head stock, nothing else. :?

I could continue commenting every song, but they’d all say the same; this song f’n rocked!!! These guys were on fire the entire night, from standards like H61, to the ones the set watcher drool over, like UTRS and Visions. At the encore, someone pointed out that we had not had one MT song. Impressed, we were sure that would change w/ Thunder, but no! I didn’t miss them during the show, but I do hope that they aren’t slowly abandoned.

Even the yuppies, who I was sure wouldn’t be the least bit concerned had a blast, standing and dancing like the rest of us. The sound was perfect, and for such a tall and deep stage, they were very visible. Not only were they back on top, but they had something to prove. This show is easily one of the top 3 shows I’ve seen, and more then made up for the parking and Ziggy Marley bullshit. I couldnt have asked for a better last show in Colorado.

No bolts of electricity this time as I pass the band, just the glow of something green on the TV outlining a head leaning against the window, but you don’t need to be a genius to know that the next show is going to be incredible!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Made it to Kansas City, Broadway and Valentine (KCMO, 8/28)

First appeared here-

Unfortunately, something got left behind :?

That is not to say this was not a good show, but the band seemed to be having trouble communicating, and things just kept going wrong, From broken strings, to nonfunctioning guitars, to missing lead singers to just an obvious lack of communication, things just weren’t working in the band’s favor. This was not to say it was not a good show, we got some great songs and the venue was next to prefect, but you cant have everything all the time, I suppose.

The wait started off easy, with all of the first 5 folks having also attended the Tulsa show. We shared different experiences from different parts of the room, ands pent a good two hours making fun of Donnie’s facial expressions (which gave us a good laugh later that night at the actual show haha). The general mood shifted soon afterwards however, when no one could answer our questions about an “early entry” trick pulled the last time Bob and the Boys were there. The owner made an appearance, telling us to (thankfully) move the line to the shady side of the building, but otherwise, we dealt w/ a venue employee who bore a striking resemblance to Denny Freeman. A few times I caught myself wondering what the lead guitarist was doing up on a ladder messing w/ the marquee. Anyway, for some reason, I trusted this guy immediately, and felt that if he said he’d do something, he would actually come through for you. Venue employees NEVER giver you the feeling.

The rest of the day was a hot sticky mess… but at least we were in the shade. Our only real form of entertainment came from messing around w/ the roadies/merch guys, as they were forced to unload their wares in front of us. The line growth was slow and steady until the last hour or so, you all know how it is. What complicated things for us was that a torrential downpour was predicted and fast approaching; and the only shelter was a one foot wide awning directly above the door. So much for the line, and we still hadn’t had out questions answered.

While this frustration is nothing new to anyone who’s done GA before, what happened next was an incredibly welcome surprise. They took the first 100 people and shoved them into the bar. Still no line, still mass confusions, and tempers flaring. They wont tell us anything, so we assume this is just some other weird venue ploy to watch the pathetic little patrons scramble. But no.

They take the first 5 people, and they tear our tickets. They then walk us into the theatre. Us, and only us. The rest wait. There is no need to run as we each casually and calmly select our prime rail real estate and sit down. Then they repeat the process w/ the next 5, and the next, and so on and so on. We have time to enjoy the low, small stage, beautiful decoration and just general calm of what has been engrained in us as a hectic mad dash. I cannot thank them enough for the way they handled it!

They let everyone in early because of the storm, so we had awhile to chat w/ the folks around us. On a personal level, Blonde, DIA, and the lurker they brought w/ them (:P) are such awesome people. Its increasingly difficult to find fans who are enthusiastic, but also not insane. These folks are quite level headed. Easily risen to some of my favorite ER posters. Thanks!

W/ the extra time spent packed into the 2000 person venue, we got the chance to see its one major flaw; no air conditioning. It soon became clear that this would soon turn into a sauna. No one cared though, as they jumped to their feet to welcome the intro. Shadowy figures take their places on stage. “…Ladies and gentlemen, Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan!”. The lights swoop up, Tony claps it off, the crowd screams, and……….no Dylan. The band continues on w/ the song (Leopard Skin), as if nothing was wrong (because, clearly what else can they do?). I shrug it off, the guys I paid to see play are all here haha. All of the sudden, Dylan comes flying on from stage left, leaping over random obstacles to take his place at the keys. Denny is on his Strat, but from where I’m standing (directly in front of him) it sounds like he’s having problems w/ it.

Baby Blue, perhaps my favorite Dylan song, was next. As I told the ER’ers out front, I was nervous to hear it, since I really wasn’t a fan of what they did the last time it got regular rotation. While I didn’t much care for the vocal stylings, the instrumentals were certainly nothing to scoff at. Rollin followed, and here it became clear that something wasn’t clicking. Denny’s slide was a bit lackluster, but no one seemed to be really on the same page for any of it. Afterwhich, Dylan made his first of many migrations center stage, to stand in front of George waving his hands (don’t know if that was a good or a bad thing) or to confer w/ Tony, or both, but whatever it was, he wasn’t able to get it acroos the whole show.

GONC was GONC; not a favorite, and at the rate these guys were going, nothing to write home about. High Water one again saw Stu taking lead duties. Nothing superbly special, but it got the crowd that much sweatier. Tony mimed the expected audience scream on the line mentioning Kansas City, but in actually, the crowd was less i=enthused about it then he expected them to be haha

I will admit that Chimes caught me completely off guard, I didn’t recognize it for quite some time. See comments for Baby Blue, though I felt Denny did more w/ this then Blue. Another song which I’d discussed out front was the amazing Til I Fell In Love w/ You from Dallas earlier this year, and while the rhythm boys weren’t able to get that same groove bcak tonight, it was pretty damn near close, and if you complain about hearing the great song, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.

Hard Rain took me a minute to recognize as well. See High Water, minus Stu on lead. Honest cranked, as it always does. I wanta say Stu took lead on it too, but I’m writing this from the Park City line, and so it may have been Denny. I’m pretty sure it was Stu though. JLAW was nice, but I’m not a huge fan to begin w/. I was pleased to finally see Beyond the Horizon. Not Denny’s best performance of the song, but it wasn’t something you hold your ears on either. 

Highway 61 totally belongs to George now, it is official. And Thunder was always Denny’s, nothing different tonight.

Denny had, sometime during the first few numbers, given up on his Strat in favor of the funky Gibson, but the roadie had supposedly fixed it in time for AATW. Guess he forgot to switch the strings though, as one went flying during a very nice solo. Not to be deterred, the boys finished out the night by blowing the eardrums of the sopping wet crowd, before sending them out to see what damages this reported doozie of a storm brought.

Reading this, you may think it was a sub par show, or that spirits were low, but that is not the case. It was not the tight knit group we have grown accustomed to seeing, that’s for sure, but they sure put on a hell of a show, and Dylan pranced about in front of the rails before encore before some mook snapped a picture.

Again, I must thank that guy who looked like Denny Freeman, and the owner of the venue itself, I look forward to seeing many shows in your establishment.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The review that almost wasnt (Tulsa OK 8/27)

First appeared here-

I don’t know what it was, but something about the Tulsa show screamed my name from the moment it was announced. Tulsa was never a place I really ever envisioned myself at, especially at the end of August, but for some reason I tried harder for a ticket to this show then I’ve ever tried before. Waking up for presale at 6 am after working 4 12 hr night shifts for presale, ditto two weeks later for regular sale. Short of actually going to a venue over 800 miles away, I did everything in my power to get a ticket, so you’d think some sort of cosmic force would help me out, right? Wrong!

I had NOTHING. I had all but written it off, when those aforementioned forces came to my aid, in the form of a friend lamenting a change of plans. A ticket! In the 11th hour! (Thank G-d some people are devoted enough to their jobs to actually listen to their boss haha). He wouldn’t tell me where it was, said it wasnt the best, but who am I to refuse such an amazing turn of events!

When the day finally came, I checked out of my hotel at noon, and stepped out to greet……… the most unbearable, sweltering heat I’ve ever experienced in my entire life! I’m not from a humid place; I usually dig humidity, but not when its 90 damn degrees outside! I walked 2 blocks up the deserted streets, and quickly realized why they were deserted haha. I suppose in hindsight a seated show really is best in a climate like that. 

I went in around 7, mainly just curious as to the location of my seat. He was right, but I looked at the bright side, not only was it near the soundboard, (perfectly mixed sound is not something one is accustomed to on the rails), but it would give me a different perspective on the show and maybe (gasp! What a concept!) actually watch the man whose name appears on the ticket haha It also provided a totally different crowd. As opposed the conversations on favorite guitarists and worst line experiences over the years, I found myself amongst Dylan virgins (for lack of a better term, apologies). They didn’t even know the current drummer, much less remember the really excellent solo so-and-so played x number of years ago. That is not to demean them at all, its great to see and talk w/ folks who’ve been fans for years, but who aren’t as “sucked in” as, say, some around here. And, pertaining to all Okies, they were some of the nicest and most polite groups of people I’d met. 

And somehow, I knew that was a recipe for disaster.

I figured that since it was a seated show and I was pretty far back, I would go ahead and text the set to the pool. Everyone (albeit begrudgingly) stood for the first song, but by the time the second song was sent, I looked up to discover everyone else was sitting. I tried to sit, I honestly did, but I just couldn’t. ‘Oh G-d, how will they voice their displeasure? Paper? Cups? A Chair? :P ’ I thought to myself as I awaited the inevitable. Now, before you start on me, please reread the 3rd sentence, and bear in mind that these people stayed sitting through a REALLY nice rockin version of Tweedle. 

“It” finally came in the form of a nice woman. She, too, expected a confrontation, but she politely explained how I seemed to be doing a wonderful job of blocking Bob, but only Bob. She was visibly surprised when I agreed not to stand.

I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit though; the venue (a nice small theatre, go if you’re ever cursed enough to have to endure Tulsa :P) seemed to have no problem w/ people meandering and cruising about. So long as you didn’t block the aisle for very long, you were free to move about. No one seemed to mind. At fist I went and stood along the left side. The bass over there was so strong I could feel it bouncing in my chest. But I couldn’t see Denny at all, and while Tony was there, he appeared to be playing the wall; his upright was completely hidden from view. Since the wall probably wasn’t going to move, no matter how politely I asked, I began to ping pong around the room, working as a seat filler. Just another example of how genuinely nice Okies are; not one turned down my offer, nor suspected that I had ulterior motives. Of course, I wasnt about to stand or cause trouble in a borrowed seat, but about halfway through, a couple left a pair of fairly decent seats, right behind another younger guy who danced the whole show. Strength in numbers, my friend. 

Onto the actual performance; the opened w/ River, Dylan on guitar. Since I had just made a post lamenting the loss of a Freeman solo on that one, I could only groan, but to my surprise they both had a go at it. Denny’s only guitar of the night (there wasn’t even a Strat on stage for him) was that funky gold custom Gibson. I was excited to finally be hearing from it, but it didn’t get quite the normal workout, as the biggest surprise of the night came when Stu took the lead on Tweedle! :shock: I don’t know if this has been going on for awhile, but w/ no tapes and no one reporting, I was really surprised. He’s no Denny, but its nice to see some variety. Moonlight, while not a huge fan, was a first for me, and then back to Stu for lead on High Water. If we’re going for variety, have Donnie do something w/ that banjo! The riff is a great teaser, give us more!

4th Street, sadly to say, I was not able to concentrate on. It was a little too GONC for me, as I remember (too much irritating steel), but I’ll hold out for a tape to make my final judgment. Levee was again taken by Stu. Spirit and Mobile were my best seats all night, and they were excellent, not a bad thing to say about any of them. After that, I found myself a permanent place, and the setlist itself settled down into the more “regular” numbers. George took off during H61. I mean, everyone always kills on that one, but the drums were something else this time. The same for AATW, not just on George’s part, but everyone took it to another level.

When it was all said and done, there was nothing that took me to another plane of existence. The setlist was not something that blew me out of the water. The crowd? The wait? The town? The weather? The heat? There was no one particular thing that makes you say that’s why it was calling to me, that’s why I went. It was an above average show, far better then some I’ve gone to, and settles into place behind others. Overall though, it would have been a real bitch to have missed.

You guys missed out.