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20lbs of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

Mainly reviews of some of the Autumn 2002 gigs to plough through this month, so I guess we’d best get started. 

Martin Acaster caught the Eugene show and his report for http://www.jambands.com was positive yet somewhat annoying. If you think it’s clever to see how many song titles a critic can slip into his article (one sample of many; “…It’s Alright Ma, it’s life and life only, and I CAN make it. I got nothing ma to live up to. My Mom’s reply was subsequently channeled into the form of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue … go strike a match and start anew. Which, of course, elicited my frantic response…Send Lawyers, Guns and Money”) then you’ll love this. If not you’ll consider it a waste of time. Acaster insists he was free of drugs and booze when he saw the Dylan show. He sure as hell wasn’t when he typed this pile of poo up. 

Forrest Reda’s review of the first Wiltern Theater show in Los Angeles was thankfully more straightforward and just as positive. He even compares that night’s version  of Brown Sugar to the “Judas!” / Like A Rolling Stone section of Live 1966. 

Reviewing the second Berkeley Greek Theatre gig for The Daily Review, Jim Harrington also considered Brown Sugar to be the highlight and, although he thought the opening five songs were “unspectacular”, the “Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n’ Roll didn’t disappoint.” 

The Las Vegas Sun’s Spencer Patterson enjoyed Dylan’s Hard Rock Hotel show, though he felt that he should have spoken to the audience, especially along the lines of, “Hi, everybody. Thanks for putting a few more thousand dollars into my bank account” perhaps? 

The Arizona Republic’s Michael Senfet considered Dylan’s show at the Arizona State Fair to be far better than his 1986 show or many of the subsequent 1990’s visits. His only regret was the brevity of the set. Tickets for this gig were a paltry $10 and Dylan didn’t talk to his audience either. 

The Arizona Daily Star’s Rob Bailey was unhappy at the expensive merchandise on sale at the Casino del Sol but was far more impressed by the show itself; “…Praise the Lord, the legendary Bob Dylan lived up to his own hype.” At the same venue, the Tucson Citizen’s Polly Higgins also enjoyed herself. Though she felt that Dylan’s lack of  interaction with his audience dulled the set. Despite that, she was pleased to see one member of the crowd trying to dance to Don’t Think Twice

Mark Brown of the Rocky Mountain News awarded Dylan’s Pepsi Center Show a B+, even though he  considered it to be one of  Dylan’s weirdest concerts. I guess he could be right, since, at one point, he and Charlie Sexton began playing the keyboard with their feet. Good to know that Bob can still get it up at 61. His leg, that is. 

Writing for the Albuquerque Tribune, Paul Maldonado felt that the Santa Ana Star Hotel show was mildly disappointing because Dylan ignored so many of his old  classics in favour of more recent stuff and covers of other people’s songs. Honestly, there’s no pleasing some people is there? 

The Kansas City Star’s Timothy Finn had no such problems with the Kansas Uptown Theatre show; he enjoyed it all and was moved to proclaim; “…On nights like this one, it looks like Bob Dylan could go on forever.” 

Kyle Munson of the Des Moines Register felt that., at the Ames Hilton Coliseum, Dylan actually improved another artists song, namely Don Henley’s The End Of Innocence; “…a jarring choice for those of us who prefer to keep our Dylan distinct from the slicker, safer lineage of The Eagles…Dylan lent the syrupy song the subtle phrasing and grit that it’s own author couldn’t muster.” A shame though, that the 13,000 – seater Coliseum was so sparsely populated by a mere 2,831 souls. Time to hit them smaller venues again, Bob, unless the sight of acres of empty seats really does it for you. 

Jesse Stensby of the Iowa  State Daily attended the same show and enjoyed it, as did the audience who, as is the American fans wont, described it as “hands down” and “kick-ass”, though at least one felt that Dylan’s reluctance to talk to them made it too impersonal. 

According to Rob Hubbard of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dylan’s St. Paul Excel Energy Center show was marred by poor vocals on every song, though “what it lacked in vocal beauty, the evening made up for in impressive instrumental work…the faithful likely were left feeling that Dylan’s had better nights, but now at least he has a band that can mask his vocal shortcomings.” 

The Chicago Sun-Times Jeff Wisser, attending the Rosemont Allstate Arena Show, also felt that “the magnificent wreckage that is Bob Dylan’s nasal growl shows no signs of imminent, dramatic improvement. But they were ragged but right, compensating  with feel and an uncanny  knack for phrasing for what he lacks in choirboy purity.” Crucially, Wisser sums up what’s really of greater importance in his concluding paragraph; “…While some of his peers may be spinning their wheels, trotting out the same set of well-worn hits night after night, Dylan, almost shockingly, remains , on record and stage, both vigorous and vital.” 

Carol Simmons of the Dayton Daily News considered Bob’s Trotwood Hara Arena show to be further proof that Dylan is not content to stand still or deliver a formulised set of recognizable hits (thank God); “…The veteran artist who has had so much influence on the American musical scene continues to skirt the cutting edge. He’s so sharp, in  fact, he feels almost dangerous. 

John Soeder of the Cleveland Plain Dealer was similarly impressed with Dylan’s vocals; “…After all these years, Dylan’s pre-concert routine apparently still involves gargling with acid and brushing his teeth with glue” but didn’t let it spoil his Kent State University show: “…All told, Dylan was every bit as edgy, enigmatic and entertaining as the former self preserved for posterity on Bob Dylan Live 1975: The Rolling thunder Revue.” 

The Chicago Tribunes reliable Greg Kot certainly enjoyed the Allstate Arena gig: “ Bob Dylan is rock’s imp of the perverse, a 61-year old song-and-dance man in a bellboy’s suit with red piping, working new angles on some of his oldest songs and rekindling  the fire of ’65 in his newest ones…As a guitar player, Dylan has been masterful lately, picking out acoustic solos  with mischievous acuity. But as a keyboardist he is simply an oddball. He plucked and hunted for notes, landing on a few clams in the process. Amid these head-scratching conversation points, Dylan delivered a set thick with quirks, many of them brilliant.” 

George Hass of the Daily Southtown was similarly impressed with the Allstate Arena show (even if he considered his stage clothes made him look like a doorman): “…It served to remind us that even after four decades, Dylan’s no treasure in the attic, but an American masterwork still on display in our living room.” 

The Indianapolis Star’s David Lindquist called the first of the two Murat Egyptian Room shows “a night to remember” though he felt that Dylan’s keyboards were more of a diversion than a bona fide addition to the music. “The rarest track” he writes, “was probably I’ll Remember You. He infused this tender ballad with the nostalgic flair of Sinatra’s I Did It My Way – as sung by Sid Vicious.” 

Will Stewart of the Ann Arbor News, reviewing the Crisler Arena show, again recognized Dylan as refusing to turn into a Golden Oldies singer, acknowledging that every show will be a roller-coaster ride. Stewart enjoyed the main set, especially the Love And Theft material, but a Dylan show, “ he concludes, “Or even his career, for you : full of surprises that build your hopes and then, just as quickly, dash them on the shoals of those very same promises.” 

In contrast, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Masley enjoyed the encores, especially Watchtower, realizing that Dylan is capable of throwing the band for a loop and a spanner in the works at any moment; “…And if that meant enduring the deconstruction of a number of the greatest songs that anyone has ever written, that’s the price that any Dylan fan is used to paying.” 

Finally, Rolling Stone’s Austin Scaggs penned a briefish article documenting the surprises that the Autumn tour has thrown up so far, not only the numerous covers but also the “Beware Of Dog” sign that Dylan has on his guitar rack and the recent extended stage introduction which apparently came from a preview in New York’s Buffalo News and so amused Bob that he decided to use it as his stage call. Who said the old bugger has lost his senseayumour? Well, o-kay, so it was me. 

Briefly away from the tour, Scotland’s Sunday Herald reviewed the new book Do You Mr Jones? Bob Dylan With The Poets And Professors as edited by Neil Corcoran. Reviewer Harry Reid found it pretty acceptable (“The essays vary in tone and quality, but not one of them is downright bad. Most of them are thoughtful and helpful”) but regrets that there is little discussion of If You See Her Say Hello, which he considers to be “one of the finest love songs ever written”, especially the payoff line “If she’s got the time” which he calls “incredibly moving…genius, pure and unfettered.” 

Finally, the December issue of Uncut carried an interview with Robbie Robertson by Adam Sweeting on the Last waltz to commemorate it’s recent new lease of life as a four-CD set and a DVD.  He claims that the reason Dylan’s set was only filmed from Forever Young onwards was  because they wanted to capture that, Baby Let Me Follow You Down and the all-star I Shall Be Released back to back without the film running out or the camera batteries running flat. In the same issue, Allan Jones awarded five well deserved stars to the best Bob Dylan book in the world, namely  Larry Sloman’s so-good-words-fail-me On The Road With Bob Dylan; “More probably has been written about Bob Dylan than any other of rock’s great legends. Few of those many scholarly tomes, dense critical studies and meticulously researched biographies have come quite as close, however, to capturing some tangible essence of his mercurial genius as On The Road With Bob Dylan.” 

That’s it for another month. Thanks to GRAHAM ASHTON who supplied most of what I’ve listed this month. He faithfully searches the internet and sends everything of interest along simply because I can’t be arsed.

 

 
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