Friday, November 7, 2008

Thunder On The Mountain-Bob Dylan in Milwaukee

So after having my appendix out on Monday afternoon, I drove 90 minutes each way to see my favorite musician of all time last night in Milwaukee, WI. There was no way in hell I was going to miss a Bob Dylan concert that I had tickets for. Bob doesn't come to the Wisconsin area a whole heck of a lot so it's always a must see for me when he does.

So how was old Bob last night? I won't lie to you; he was as baffling and brilliant as he always is. For those who don't follow Dylan live anymore, he rarely plays guitar anymore and tends to confine himself to stage-left hunkered down behind a barely audible electric organ. The barely audible part is a good thing, believe me!

As far as the set goes, it began with a rocky start with Bob's mic being far too low in the mix for most of the first song. This was fixed quickly however and the grizzled, well worn garble of the 67 year old genius came through loud and clear warning us all about the coming "Thunder on the Mountain".

Throughout the show, Dylan's vocals ranged from horrible to amazing, sometimes all within the same song. And when I say "horrible" or "amazing", I don't mean the quality of the singing but the care that he puts into the words. Sometimes I get the feeling that he's just trying to get the words out but not even thinking about their meaning anymore. Which for someone with words as great as Bob Dylan, is a shame. I realize this comes with the territory when you have sung these songs as many times as Bob has. My point is you can really tell when Bob is "into" the words that are coming out of his mouth and when he isn't. The success or failure of a Dylan show depends on this.

Luckily, for the most part we got a Dylan who was engaged in the materiel and who picked a fantastic setlist. I am such a crazy fan, that Bob playing one specific song could make seeing a whole show worthwhile. For me last night, that song was "Just Like A Woman". He could have stopped right there and I would have gone home satisfied. But we also got classics like "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Girl of the North Country, and Tangled Up in Blue" as well as two of his best recent songs in the apocalyptic "High Water" and "Ain't Talkin'".

There were lots of nice harp solos and unfortunately, some of Bob's attempts at organ solos as well. I don;t mind if Bob wants to lean on a keyboard these days, but they should leave it unplugged. I felt it added nothing to the sound and if anything, tended to distract from it. Bob's rhythm section is top notch, but one wishes he would let his guitarists stretch out more like they did in the explosive "All Along the Watchtower".

So all in all it was a typical 2008 Dylan show. Brilliant and frustrating all at the same time. But watching Bob Dylan sing the evening's emotional set closer "Blowing in the Wind", I realized that through all these years, Bob has done whatever Bob wants to do. And I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Riverside Theater, November 6, 2008

1. Thunder On The Mountain
2. Love Minus Zero/No Limit
3. Lonesome Day Blues
4. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
6. Girl Of The North Country
7. High Water (For Charley Patton)
8. Workingman's Blues #2
9. Just Like A Woman
10. Tangled Up In Blue
11. Love Sick
12. Highway 61 Revisited
13. Ain't Talkin'
14. Summer Days
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower
17. Blowin' In The Wind

Here is a version of "Blowing in the Wind" I found from the election night show the other night. The video is a bit corny, but it's worth it just to hear Bob tell the crowd that it looks like "Things are gonna change now"....

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