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COLUMN NINETY-TWO, JUNE 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

BOB AT HOUSTON AGAIN


I am sending you a review of Tuesday's show. I'd rather not spend time writing my own version. I agree with everything this guy says. Dylan was looking lean and mean. He surprised us by playing mostly keyboards all night. The configuration was the three guitarists in a row, drummer to the left with Dylan playing (standing up) in front of the drummer.... It was a solid show. Fans could not ask for more. Not at all like the last one he did at The Dome when he forgot lyrics and looked like he wished he were elsewhere. Here is a humorous aside. The introduction went something like this (I am paraphrasing):

"Ladies and gentleman, here is the spokesman for the 60s generation....a man who almost disappeared into substance abuse in the eighties and was considered washed up...but who came back stronger than ever in the late nineties with some of his finest work...ladies and gentleman Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan" ....All in all an excellent show.

April 23, 2003, 4:50PM

Dylan transforms himself from folkie to versatile stylist

By MICHAEL D. CLARK

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

Bob Dylan came to Houston Tuesday night and confirmed the impression he created during last year's abbreviated set at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Dylan, as most people imagine him, is no longer. 

The freewheelin' folkie who started a musical revolution in the '60---then did it again years later when he plugged in as a rock star---is gone. The monotone poet who held notes as if his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth is not likely to be seen again. 

In that icon's place is a new Dylan, a nattily dressed 61-year-old cowboy who growls his lyrics in fierce, Tom Waits-like mumbles. He's a member of a crack five-piece ensemble who's just as likely to bask in an extended early-rock jam as in the big bass beats of bluegrass or rockabilly. This musician's legacy still is being created.

Playing mostly keyboards through the opening show of a two-night stand at Verizon Wireless Theater, he was a purveyor of styles and a music historian. 

The 16-song, 100-minute set was not about classic hits. With the exception of several tracks from his most recent studio release, Love and Theft, he didn't highlight any era of his career. Dylan offered something more real, a snapshot of who he is right now. 

He offered infrequently heard nuggets like Dignity to the faithful, along with favorites Just Like a Woman and All Along the Watchtower, sparkling with new arrangements. 

Beginning with the Love and Theft opener Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the stage setup was the first tipoff to a different Dylan. Dressed in a two-tone suit, the star was off to the side, banging out keyboard chords and letting the strings and percussion take center stage. 

Texas pride made one initially skeptical about Dylan's backup following the departure of Lone Star guitarist Charlie Sexton last year. The new lineup---guitarists Larry Campbell and Freddie Koella, bassist Tony Garnier, drummer George Receli---allows Dylan more latitude to move from ramblin' roots and country to swing and jam band, however. 

The group turned the monumental raw garage rock of Tombstone Blues into blues rock. A Stevie Ray Vaughan-style squealing guitar jam gave the well-known lines a whole new face. 

A start-and-stop vocal style and string lullaby lilt made Just Like a Woman nearly unrecognizable until the first chorus. The usually solemn Blind Willie McTell was given a new sophistication by a lute backing a wailing electric guitar. 

Dylan's garbled vocals actually are a favor to the audience, forcing them to concentrate on subtleties of the band. From the unexpected Cajun groove of I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (punctuated with Dylan's head-boppin' vamps) to the cool jazz serenade of Moonlight, this is a great ensemble presentation. You just have to forget that an icon is on stage to hear it. 

Dignity and Standing in the Doorway (from the 1997 comeback album Time Out of Mind) were thank-yous to the devoted. The final encore of All Along the Watchtower, with its huge electric presence and banging beats, was a token look back for everybody. 

As he delivered the chorus-- in much the same way as on the original---Dylan's clearest statement of the night was unspoken: I could do all the oldies like this; I just choose not to.  ##

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