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Monday, August 14, 2006

(Elana James of Elana James & the Continental Two at Fifth Third Ballpark)

Beauty Walks a Razor's Edge

Bob Dylan at Fifth Third Ballpark
August 12, 2006

Maggie's Farm-
The Times They Are a Changin'
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Mr Tambourine Man
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Just Like a Woman
Cold Irons Bound
Shelter from the Storm
Masters of War
Highway 61 Revisited
Sugar Baby
Summer Days
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower

Come on, Bob. You do this to me everytime, well in the last couple of years anyway. Another safe set of songs culled from about 25 that seem to get played over & over again. Shake things up a bit, will ya? You've got over 400 songs to choose from, many of them much better than the regulars that you trot out almost ad nauseum. And this band! Most of these guys look like they should be playing Lynyrd Skynyrd covers at an airport bar. The steel guitar doesn't need to get used on every song, many times the same riff gets played on different songs. Stu Kimball, when he's playing acoustic guitar, is utterly superfluous, you can't even hear him, & he's the only one that even comes close to the front of the stage. The organ that you're playing, when it's at it's best is inaudible. Everything else seems to be a high pitched simulation of the song being played by everyone else. You seem to be situating the organ so that you don't have to face the audience at all throughout the entire show.

Okay, enough of the negative. This was a well performed show, the band seems to know what they are doing, almost too well. There's no edge. Bob's singing was very strong during this show, he didn't use that annoying vocal technique where the last word of every line goes up an octave. He used his lower register very well, & even held onto some notes for a couple of seconds to end a verse. This is the smoothest he's sounded in years. The problem is, it was a very safe show & neither Bob nor the band were willing to push the envelope, with the song selections or the arrangements. Bob's at his best when he's taking chances, when you're on the edge of your seat wondering whether a song being played with complete abandon will actually work or fall flat on it's face. There were a few exceptions from Comstock Park, of course, Highway 61 Revisited seemed to be the best this band has sounded, & Bob's phrasing was incredible during this song. I never cared for this song too much, but it really got the crowd going, & it kept my interest like no other version of this song ever has.

Now, after reading this review, you're probably thinking to yourself, why does he keep going to these shows if he's disappointed. Sometimes I think that myself, but during every show, there's at least one song that provides a glimpse of the type of performance Bob is capable of. Desolation Row saved a rather lacklustre performance from East Lansing a couple of years ago, Saving Grace did the same last year in Mt Pleasant. Saturday, it was Shelter from the Storm, a rarely played gem from one of Bob's best albums, Blood on the Tracks. This may be the best performance I've ever experienced from the old man. His singing was note for note perfect, the band was quiet & out of the way, letting Bob's vocals take center stage. A truly breathtaking performance, one that will probably make me want to shell out for tickets the next time he comes around.

Other highlights included Just Like a Woman, with some great harmonica from Bob, Sugar Baby, although the current waltz arrangement leaves much to be desired, & Mr Tambourine Man.

The opening acts were decent, as opening acts go. Elana James & the Continental Two were the highlight, they played that good ol' fashioned ol' timey type music. Junior Brown's act was good for a couple of songs, after that they all sounded the same. Jimmie Vaughn was decent, but nothing to get too excited about. Some lady in the crowd had the nerve to yell out, "who needs Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy's been around for a lot longer, blah, blah, blah...". What a stupid thing to say, I'm sure Jimmy would rather have his brother still alive.

It was a great weekend, the show included. Before the show we went to Vertigo & picked up some albums & to the Cottage Bar for dinner, a great time with friends. There was an art fair on Division in Grand Rapids, on the same block as Vertigo. Vertigo was busier than I've ever seen it, good for Herm. That stretch of Division has seen quite the transformation over the last few years, it used to be one of the roughest neighborhoods in GR. Now, it's the artsy part of town, with lots of cool little beatnik shops.

I shot my best nine holes of golf of the year yesterday, a 44 (followed by a 52 on the back nine, but we won't talk about that) at Western Greens.

As a result of losing a bet, I had to go see "Taladega Nights" last night with Christy. She was surprised that I laughed a couple of times. I wonder what movie she'll pick next, probably the Notebook or something dreadful like that. Someday I'll get my revenge & make her sit through a Woody Allen marathon.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Girl in the War-Josh Ritter, the Animal Years

I must've listened to this song ten times since I picked up the album Saturday.

Wolves-Josh Ritter, the Animal Years

Here at the Right Time-Josh Ritter, the Animal Years

Various Stages-the Great Lake Swimmers

Tell Ol' Bill-Bob Dylan, Take Two

Happy Monday, friends!



Makifat said...

I have the same reservations about seeing Dylan. I have seen him many times over the past 20 years: it's like being in the presence of a holy relic. There is an aura, but the total experience isn't always what it should be. The best I've seen him was a 2 night stint at Austin Music Hall. We were up front at the barricade, just a few feet away from the man, who was in a fantastic mood. Saw him a couple of times years later in Virginia (decent show) and Utah (going through the motions). I think at his age he just saves his energy for certain venues. Might be preferable if he just limited his shows: I would gladly travel to see Good Dylan. Also disappointed that he has apparently abandoned the guitar for keyboards. Just a little too "Josie and the Pussycats" for my taste.

That said, the songwriting has gotten much better over the last few releases, and I eagerly await "Modern Times" at the end of the month.

Thanks for the post.

andrew said...

I don't know who you are, but thanks for the comments.

Pam said...

Wow! You should consider free-lance writing for music magazines. Just send them some of your blogs.

Joyce said...

Interesting, to say the least. Vertigo is the store I walked past when I was at the convention. I noticed how different the city has become.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...