page by Bill Pagel
Review by J.L. Stiles
Bob Dylan looked rather chipper as he took the stage at the outdoor Greek
Theater in Berkeley on a lovely night. He was wearing a black suit and
his band sported lavender suits(was it lavender or was I too baked to
remember?), all looking sharp and ready to rock and roll. Bob's stage
presence was quite engaging and unique as Bob is quite a character, quick
and sharp in his movements, playful and almost goofy but just over the
bounds to being genuinely cool. As for the crowd, certainly one couldn't
find a higher concentration of middle aged snarly white men, but maybe
that was because I waited for 3 hours before the show to get up close to
the stage as it was all general admission, and this indeed placed me with
the more fanatical if not cult following fans. Regardless of some of the
company present, Bob put on an excellent show which ranged from the
touching and beautifully delivered second number, "Just Like A Woman" to
the completely ripping swingy number "Summer Days" which closed the 18
song set before his standard three encores, the stellar "knockin on
Heaven's Door" "Rollin Stone", and "All Along the Watchtower". Bob got us
rockin throughout the night with "Tombstone Blues", a tight version of
"Brown Sugar", and "Honest With Me", a ripper off Love and Theft. The
only detractor of the rockers was the spastic tall white guy standing in
front of me who swayed from side to side in my line of sight. I tried to
sway with him so I could get an unimpeded view, but it is impossible to
sway with a guy who has no rhythm.
Dylan played almost half the show on his electric piano where he looked
quite comfortable standing and banging out choice chords which helped
place him in the nucleus of the songs. Dylan seems to have a knack for
this on guitar as well. On the acoustic numbers such as "It Ain't Me
Babe", and the epic masterpiece, "A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall", Bob took
over and really led the band with stellar acoustic rhythm-lead that only
bob could do. All the musicians were great listeners, the band being
careful to follow Bob and Bob leading the way in turn. The rhythm section
was flawless and almost unnoticeable in their solidity. Tony Garnier
alternated from electric to a smoothly delivered stand up bass. On tracks
such as "Tombstone Blues" "Summer Days" and "Floater", the ultra slick and
super pro (Yanni look alike) Larry Campbell carried the accompaniment and
shredded some excellent solos. Campbell also chimed in nice fingerpicked
guitar in some of the other acoustic numbers such as "It Aint Me Babe" and
"old Man"(Neil Young) as well as bouzouki. Charlie Sexton, very handy
himself on guitar seemed the rookie of the bunch, not as smooth in his
presence and sure handed as Campbell but excellent in working with Bob and
Campbell. A couple of times Bob had to take care of him and make sure he
was in sync whereas Campbell seemed to be the relaxed one, acting as Bob's
faithful caretaker throughout the night and in particular during the
opening rocker, "Seeing the Real You Atlast." Bob's delivery on "It Ain't
Me Babe" was particularly low pitched instead of the higher shouting style
he uses on the album version and it came off quite well considering Bob's
gravel voice, a voice of great strength though with very little effort.
Another highlight of the show and beautifully sung number was "Mutineer" a
song by Warren Zevon.
In live performances Bob tends to toy with phrasing of his older
material and squirt out the words rapidly though with near flawless
timing. Sometimes I feel this obscures the words too much even though most
of the audience knew them anyway. This is my only criticism of the show
other than my personal preference for Bob's most recent material of which
he played only four songs. With the recent stuff he hasn't had a chance
to mess with the album version as much and it comes off tighter and more
fresh. My favorite of the night was "Floater" off Love and Theft. It was
played like the album yet with some great jamming. I could have used to
hear eight or so cuts off Love And Theft, an album I have grown to like as
much as anything he has done. This show also had very little harmonica
and no harmonica played on the rack with his guitar, as well as no solo
performances. One solo tune atleast is always nice but who's complaining,
it was great to see Bob and besides, he can only play so much of his
thousand or so songs in a single evening.
By JL Stiles
Review by David Link
Wow! Bob Dylan for two nights at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley? Yes!
Those were my thoughts when these were finally announced---Bob's first
show at the Greek since 1988.
The Greek Theatre is a special place for many and the Bay Area (and indeed,
around the world). Ask any person who saw the Grateful Dead there, and
they will probably tell you it was the best place the world to see the
It was built in the 1920's to be a replica of a real anciant Roman Greek
theatre, and it works.....Greek-style columns, a terraced bowl, and seats
around the sides, with a small lawn area in back....I am trying to convey
to anyone who does not know about this place that this is no civic center
in Omaha, this theatre has vibes and history....
We were second-row center when they came out, Bob in black suit w/ white
stripes and black pants, and the band in maroon.
Seeing the Real You at Last was great, we could tell right away the sound
was way better than in Sacramento. Everyone could be heard crisp and
clear, and Bob's vocals came through in unmatched clarity.
Tombstone Blues---"The sun's not yellow, it's..........................
........chicken!", that last word said in such a comical voice I thought
I was hearing a commercial, and many around me laughed out loud.
The first few songs were very strong; Bob was really psyched to sing
tonight, not just talk his way through. Things Have Changed was awesome,
wonderful to see him do this w/ the piano.
Brown Sugar got the expected response, and then a Positively 4th Street
that was unlike any I have ever heard, in person, on tape, whatever.
He was taking the last or the second-to last word of each verse and
drawing it waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out.---i.e. "....But you don't
meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeean it." "It's not my proooooooooooooooooooooblem."
"Perhaps I'd rooooooooooooooooooooob them." This was a great way to make
this great song all the more powerful.
It's Alright Ma.....Ok here we are in Berkeley, birthplace of the free
speech movement and the anti-war movement, and the day before "our
president" had been given broad powers to go into Iraq and level it. (ok
that's not what they say but lets be real).
So the "But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to
stand naked" line got a bigger cheer than I've ever heard.
Wicked Messenger was indeed, w/ some great harp and guitars.
The highlight for myself this night was Hattie Carroll. I have never ever
heard Bob sing so clearly or the audience be so quiet and respectful. You
could understand every single word beginning to end, and you could hear a
pin drop through most of it. Just the most beautiful thing I've seen that
I can remember. The last line, ".....Bury the rag deep in your face, for
now's the time for your tears," was very powerful.
Old man was very good again, he seems to real enjoying singing this.
More great Hard Rain and High Water followed, Bob spitting out the words to
Floater was fun for me because I had not seen it live yet, and it was so
clear that everything could be understood. During the middle Bob kept
looking back at George and both of them were laughing and having a great
time...but not as good of a time as Bob, Tony and Larry were having during
Summer Days...they could not stop grinning the whole time, and Tony would
swing the bass over to Larry and pose and play, then swing back to his
spot....Great fun and totally raging.
They came back out and started w/ Knockin, which was somewhat of a
surprise....then Like a RS, during which Bob did a gaff on the guitar
which was loud and clear, causing him to laugh at himself in the middle of
a verse, which also came through loud and clear....
After Rolling Stone, they did some bows, and I thought mayby they were
cut because of a cerfew...but then they came back, and Tony and Bob were
talking, and I thought they were actually about to do something other than
Watchtower. Then a couple seconds later Bob said Watchtower to him, and
I'm thinking, "So what the hell were they discussing?" Then Bob came to
the mic and said (and this is not an exact quote but very close) "Folks,
my bass player just told me he used to go to school here.....I didn't know
that...(laughter)...He didn't guaduate though." He then said something
else I couldn't hear, but the way he said "I didn't know that" was funny
as hell....I can't wait to here it again.
So they ended w/ Watchtower, with Larry shredding the guitar solo and
Bob and Tony smiling at each other through most of it, and they continued
talking as they walked off stage to the cheers and screams of many happy
customers, myself included.
Review by Brandan
i enjoyed the concert last night. i went along with my cousin who is not a
fan. he was impressed. setting was greek amphitheathre, semicircular steep
concrete steps rising high, audience very close to stage, a small floor
area, outdoor, i reckon 6-7,000 capacity, filled to capacity. mood was
mellow, calm, relaxed, (lots of hash) rather than the agressive alcolol
fuelled concerts we sometimes see in the british isles.
im not goint to go through the concert song by song, just some thoughts
that struck me.
ive seen 20 shows since 95, this one was different, like the start of
something new, less rock more rockabilly or something. bob was relaxed (no
stone face), spoke a bit. put a lot of effort into the vocals, esp in
first five songs. after that it became efortless. vocals on first few
songs seemed strained, he sounded old but on the first warren zevvon song
he found it. accidentally like a martyr is a beautiful song. im gonna
check this guy out.
strange to se bob at keyboard, he seemed awkard at times not knowing what
to do with himself been shackled in place. after he'd finish the vocal,
he's stumble/dance/jive around the stage among the other musisians like
tony bennett, while they did their solos, then he'd go back to the
keyboard or get the harmonica. harp playing was mediocre.
one thing about dylans keyboard, out from high water it could not be heard
on my side (dylans left). also the band were not as tight with dylan at
the piano. perhaps that will take time to work through.
there were four covers, two golpel type sad songs from zevvon (bob poured
himself into those), brown sugar (dylan is more impressive with a guitar
strapped across his chest) which is superb (what a band) - and dylans
vocals, you gotta hear it, he was screaming the song like a 20 year old
and pulling it off. then there was old man, sounded better than young. for
me these for songs were the highlight. some of his own acoustic songs
sounded tired. electric better especially, new version of high water does
work, floater, and of course summer days - guitar jam lasted a long time,
there was more interplay between bob and larry than ive seen before.
honest with me sounded like a pale reflection of the album.
i also have a theory as to why bob normally stands so far away from larry,
he makes him look so small.
overall a fine concert.
Review by Andrew Stein
WOW! What a show! Those guys (the MAN) are on fire! Supposedly, tomorrow sold
out a while back (few tickets out front for this one, seemed quite full inside,
though). Still, this one was definitely not to be missed. Might be a few gems
showing up tomorrow, but they will have to work real hard to match the energy of
this one. There's a challenge for you guys -- top THAT!! ; )
Pretty mellow going in, but with poor crowd control and a few hot-heads at the
main entrance. Typical nice, mellow Berkeley crowd, though. Beautiful clear
(red) sky with high, wispy clowds as the sun went down while waiting to get in.
The Berkeley Greek has got to be the ultimate venue for seeing serious rock.
Very open air, but extremely intimate. Bob looked great in this funky black
suit with the white moulding! All the guys looked quite dapper in their purple!
The boys took the stage shortly after 8:00. Seeing The Real You At Last got
things moving right away. Fast and jammy. Very aggressive, complex arrangement
(as was the case much of the night) and they were COMPLETELY up to it! Slowed
it down a bit with Just Like A Woman. Completely nailed it! Beautiful harp!
Here, and more so at other times during the night, Bob began to slip back into
the original, classic phrasings, tempting a sing along! This was an exquisite
gem! Beautifully executed! Tombstone Blues picked up the pace again. It was
real up tempo, like the original, but sometimes getting a little spacy, and then
striking back in the groove. Completely driving and acidic like the original!
It BURNED! Accidentally Like A Martyr -- wish I'd familiarized with this ahead
of time. Both the WZ tunes done with serious feeling and relish. Things Have
Changed -- back into more of a familiar groove. A lot of bite in this one.
Dark and foreboding -- seemed to reflect the Iraq stuff going on. Then
PHEW! I would call that the first phase. From there, he TOTALLY geared up
with Old Man -- again, listed as acoustic, but more electrified. Sang this in
the classic mode. NAILED! All that pluck -- "Old man, take a look at my life,
I'm a LOT LIKE YOU! I-need someone to love me the WHOLE DAY THROUGH, oh just
look in my eyes and you'll SEE THAT'S TRUE..." Messed with the words just a
little, though! : ) All the rest of the set strong and/or sensitive/delicate
where applicable. Hard Rain -- again, listed acoustic but quite electrified.
Sung incredibly -- instrumentals nailed! Some heaviness here again, like the
contemporary situation. High Water had a real serious, edgy, sinister tone.
Very clear, tight instrumentals. Summer Days closed the set -- quite a barn
burner! Everything they did -- they COMPLETELY jammed it out! They seemed
tireless/unstoppable the whole way through! For the encore -- nailed the
Knockin'. Sang/played with real punch. BEAUTIFUL. Great backing vocals
Rolling Stone more happy, upbeat. Seemed a little out of place without so
much edge. Took a little break before the Watchtower. Took their time with
that one. Truly AMAZING! Just burned it down! The Heaven's Door certainly
burned at points, but this whole thing ripped all the way through! Just
completely blasted their way out -- then they were gone...
I don't know anyone to compete with them these days. I saw Phil Lesh's band
tear it up real good a little while back. Bob is really on fire at the moment.
SEE HIM IF YOU CAN!!!
Oh, and Bob was REAL pumped, AND he smiled, almost like he was enjoying some
kind of a joke!! : ) Kind of hard to see with all those flames! ; ) Sound
was great. Got good and loud after the first few tunes. Real clear mix.
page by Bill Pagel
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