Bob Dylan 970805 in Montreal, Quebec
Subject: REVIEW of Montreal (Blind Willie's debut) From: Colin Hill (email@example.com) Date: 6 Aug 1997 06:19:08 GMT Organization: McGill University Computing Centre Let me know what you think, please: REVIEW OF MONTREAL CONCERT, AUGUST 5 Here is the setlist for Aug 5, 1997 1) Absolutely Sweet Marie 2) Lay Lady lay 3) Tough Mama 4) You Ain't Goin' Nowhere 5) Silvio 6) Mr. Tamborine Man (Ac) 7) Tangled Up In Blue (Ac) 8) Cocaine (Ac) 9) Watching the River Flow 10) Blind Willie McTell 11) Highway 61 Revisited 12) Like a Rolling Stone 13) It Ain't Me, Babe 14) Rainy Day Women #12 and 35 As I saw it: Dylan came on stage in a dark-coloured, slightly-spangled double- breasted jacket, and a pair of nearly matching pants with a white (rhinestone?) stripe down the side of each leg. He looked good, healthy, but perhaps a bit tired -- it may take him a week or so to get into the full routine of touring again. As is often the case, his voice was a bit lazy in the first couple of numbers, although he hit some nice notes in "Sweet Marie," and "Lay Lady Lay," which was done real country-style. "Tough Mama" confirmed the welcome, though perhaps temporary, retirement of "Watchtower" from the number three slot. "Mama" saw Dylan really hitting his stride for the evening -- the band was very energetic, and Dylan's voice loosened up considerably. He articulated well, spitting out words like "crotch" with an ironic sense of humour. And the way he bellowed out "Dark beauty!" showed that he was really enjoying his new third-slot number. "Nowhere" was the piece that really got the crowd going, and he sang beautifully and played some characteristically charming licks on his new guitar. He harmonized the last chorus with his back-up singers a-cappella, and invited the crowd, in his only address of the evening (aside from band intros and a brief "thanks ev'rybody" after Silvio) to "finish the song". His phrasing was remarkable in "Silvio," which really kicked, and, although no one in the crowd seemed to know the number, he got the dancing going despite a rather oppressive security detachment that tried to keep the stage rush sane. There were equipment problems with the drum kit, and a roadie had to rush on stage 3 or 4 times to make adjustments -- he even conversed with the drummer mid-song, although not a beat was lost -- Dylan, who was jovial and full of good will as he has been in concert of late, even requested "a big hand" for the road crew during his band intros. An enthusiastic response greeted the opening bars of "Tambourine" which Dylan phrased uniquely but advantageously -- he skipped the third verse, solo-ed, then belted out verse 4 with a delightfully energetic "Take me disappearing . . .". Then he waddled over to an amp, picked up a harmonica and delivered an anticlimatic harp solo that received cheers despite the fact that Dylan seemed to have trouble getting into it. "Tangled" followed, and Dylan and the crowd were loving each other here. The song was rendered rather powerfully, without the tenderness but with twice the energy of its delivery when I saw Dylan a year ago here in Montreal. I counted 6 vocal and 7 instrumental verses, ("burner on the stove" omitted) and, man, can Dylan play a mean lead guitar! The anticipated "Cocaine" followed, and friendly laughter filled the pristine and sterile venue, Du Maurier stadium, which welcomed Dylan tonight as its inaugural musical act -- it is a tennis venue, and, when I arrived, there wasn't so much as a stain on the concrete, or a cigarette butt on the carpet that covered the tarmack. From the 11th row, I could see the expression on Dylan's face as he rendered "Cocaine" with great emotion, repeating the "this old Cocaine's making me sick" verse 3 times, and I couldn't help thinking this might be a reference to the histoplasmosis scare. "Cocaine" seemed to have Dylan in blues mode, and he followed with an accordingly bluesly "River Flow" which was energetic but dull, and saw him stumble over the lyrics a few times. The TREAT!!!! of the night followed -- "Blind Willie McTell". The opening bars had me expecting "Gates of Eden" -- when I heard "Arrows on the doorpost . . ." I screamed out loud involuntarily and kissed the person next to me. It was a stunning performance -- I don't know how often he has performed this live, but it was worth the $50 admission, alone. He seemed aware that the audience knew the song little, or not at all, and he enunciated so clearly that every word was clear and beautiful. Dylan didn't sing as soulfully as he had last year (in fact he was kind of talk singing circa 1988 style at times) but NOT in "McTell" which had me in rapture. (He changed the lyrics as follows: each verse was concluded with "I know one thing! / No one can sing / The blues like Blind Willie McTell"). The only cause for regret was that Dylan forgot the words to verse three -- he skipped "see them big plantations . . ." and started with "woman by the river" before correcting and singing the second half of verse three. So, we got only 4, not 5 complete verses, sandwiched around an awkward pause, and missed verse 3 part 1 -- "big plantations" -- and verse 4 part 2 -- "chain gang." It was a great performance, however, I can't stress this enough, though Dylan terminated the number quickly and seemed a bit uncomfortable with the performance despite the band's having hammered out the catchy chord progression with panache. I would not be surprised, however, if this number is not repeated again. After this, anything would have been a let down, and the closing "Highway 61" was just that. The performance was great, but I've heard this number too many times live, and, as you can see by the setlist, this show was a bit too much of a greatest hits retrospective. Dylan said "goodnight," played with his hair, and went backstage where I saw him puffing a cigarette through a part in the curtain while the audience demanded more. 1st encore: the standard "Rolling Stone" with nice vocals in the 1st verse that tailed off as the performance went on. A passable "It Ain't Me Babe" followed, and Dylan scowled playfully at the first 5 rows that were lit up with floodlights. Pretty girls were hoisted on the shoulders of boyfriends, and one tossed a sealed envelop on stage that went unreceived. A man in the front blew large clouds of pot smoke Dylan's way, and the smoke engulfed him, but he didn't seem to notice. "Babe" ended enigmatically -- Dylan played harp for the second and final time of the evening, this time magnificently for a couple of verses, and the band got real quiet, creating a kind of sound like we get at the end of the studio recording of "What Can I Do For You," when we hear just harp and organ; then the band shifted gears, into overdrive, and a final instrumental verse was played to great applause. The final number had everyone dancing, and I mean everyone. "Rainy Day Women" tailed off as the lights came up and Dylan went towards his bus. I heard only positive feedback from the crowd on the way out, though I was a little disappointed at the lack of dancing, strutting, and kiss-blowing that Dylan had provided last year. He seems healthy enough, though maybe there just wasn't enough left over for all the shananigans -- last year he had sweat soaked through the back of his jacket. All in all, a very solid, fun, but not historic night.
Subject: Review-Aug 5 Montreal From: (firstname.lastname@example.org) Date: 5 Aug 1997 23:26:06 -0700 Organization: None Well, they weren't lying when they said it started at "7 pm sharp!" We were relaxing out front, having a Sleeman's Cream Ale (after checking out our 10th row seats) when BR-549 hit the stage at 6:59 pm and we wandered into the stadium. A fine fun set, though personally I think when it comes to this kind of retro country/hillbilly music, Canada's Ray Condo and his new band could blow them off the stage, and would make for a great Dylan opener (catch Ray at a dive near you! Worth every penny!). Still, they were tight as hell,and it's not every day you hear Ray Price songs at a Dylan concert (or Blind Willie McTell, for that matter--more on that lower down). Sounded like Ray to me anyway... They played half an hour, and then Ani DiFranco came on. Ani was charming, a huge grin on her face pretty much the whole way through the set. I've heard a lot about her though haven't heard her before and was pleasantly surprised, with a few reservations. The stage rush had started right after BR 549 left, all the young little Ani-ettes lining the front of the stage and middle aisle. She played with a bassist and drummer (fine Canadian boys, she pointed out), not solo as I was expecting. It was an enjoyable performance--can't really haul out the superlatives for her--fans might tell you otherwise. She's an interesting guitar player and songwriter, though I was surprised at the number of angry/pining relationship lyrics (angry I expected, though not delivered with that huge grin). A love-gone-wrong song with a chorus that started with the words "Fuck you..." was a standout, in my mind, not so much for the language, but a beautiful, funny, sad song. Other remarkable things were the pickguards on her guitars. Pickguards the size of Texas. Some took up 2/3rds of the top. Though she didn't bang on the guitars as much as I've heard about... Incense lit... Bob came on at about 9 pm in a dark suit, sparkles woven in there somewhere, pants striped along the sides with what looked like teeth from the men he's killed over the years (maybe the stripes weren't teeth, but teeth-shaped). He's wearing a gold Les Paul, now that he's a guitar hero. Absolutely Sweet Marie. Never a favourite of mine until I heard Completely Unplugged, and I've been waiting to hear it ever since. A great version band-wise, though the standard first-tune low vocals in the mix at first, corrected by the end. Lay Lady Lay followed unexpectedly, a wonderful version with Kemper tapping out the familiar cling-clang rhythms on cowbells. This one was as close to the Nashville Skyline version as I've heard, a rockier bridge with some power chords thrown in, Bob's 90's growl instead of the warbly Skyline sound. Not one I'd pick for a dream setlist, but I was once again proved wrong. Still, I woulda killed to hear Death Letter Blues, the alternate on the setlist. No. 3. Not the song we've all come to love. No one will be able to just write "Duh..." in this spot for awhile. Instead, Tough Mama seems to be settling in here. Much like the Planet Waves version, as Sadie mentioned in her review of Loon Mtn. Not a great vocal from Bob, but this isn't a vocal song anyway, more of a romp-stomp swamp-rocker. Woulda been more thrilling with The Band I suspect. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. One of my favourites, this was dead on. Bob's reclaimed this tune, just nailed it, a-sneering and a-snarling one moment, plaintive whine the next. Backup vocals from the boys, and the a capella ending. I was surprised how many people seemed to know it, or maybe it was just the groove the band hit. The Voice is in fine shape I say. Silvio was the same as ever, not one I listen to at home, but a pleaser in concert. One of the few moments where Larry Campbell--who could give Bob a run for his money in the stone-faced department--was allowed to cut loose, dueling with the reborn Bob guitar god. Very tight performance (it should be by now) with the crowd singing along (!). I was kind of hoping for Roving Gambler next, but the familiar chords of Mr. T. Man started (prematurely from Bob). What can you say about this? I much prefer his slowed down 95 to 97 versions, so it was a joy, familiar as it is. Nice noodling from Bob on the Gibson, and a staccato hand-held harp solo at the end. He's got a bullet mic for the harp now, attached alongside the vocal mic. Bucky on mandolin. I wish he'd blow on that thing once in a while instead of just strumming. We known he can. Crowd went nuts for this song, naturally. Tangled Up In Blue. This is a slightly slower version than I'm used to of late, and it was a great, funky acoustic groove that they had going. Drumless and bassless for the first verse, after which the fellows joined in. Tony looked especially pleased with it throughout, and Bob's lead work, while not exactly pyrotechnics, was some great 2 and 3 note chord vamping on the G to E strings that worked beautifully. Heard this one in Montreal last year, and while that was great too, I'd hazard a guess that this one will be singled out when the tapes are heard (I'll put in a grovel right now). Cocaine was next. Not at all the quick fingerpicking version we know from the Gaslight Tapes (all the lyrics were different as well, perhaps more along the lines of Rev. Gary Davis's, dunno). Sort of a You're Gonna Quit Me pace happening. I could listen to Bob play the oldies all night. Someone should put together a Golden Vanity Part II tree, I say. Watching the River Flow was the standard version, some people don't like this one, I love it. Extremely tight playing from the boys, perfect vocals from Bob. I prefer Kemper's old school style of drumming, subtle, but rhythmically all there, a tasteful player (coming from an ex-drummer). Bucky was much more prominent than usual in the mix throughout most of the show and his steel really drives the band at key moments. After River Flow there were a few strange chords, sounded like someone had capoed on the wrong fret or something. Larry had a bouzouki. All of a sudden I was hearing the unmistakable chords of Blind Willie McTell, sans piano, electric/acoustic bouzouki version. No one in the crowd seemed to know what it was and I started hollering. I should say that I haven't hollered at a concert in about 20 years. I knew BWMcTell was a possibility from the sound check report a couple days ago, but didn't actually think I'd be there at the premiere, if there ever was one. Once they sorted out what the hell they were doing (tooks a few bars), this settled into an amazing Arabian (swear to God) influenced BWMcTell. A modal chord vamp running throughout over top of the regular chords, definitely middle eastern, not something from the versions we know (never heard that cover version of it though). "Seen the arrow on the doorpost..." Every was beautiful, you could tell Bob had been getting ready to sing this one for a while. I'm outta words for this one. Crowd roared at the end. (Phew, choked up just thinking about that :-) Last of the regular set was Highway 61, and what a version. Same arrangement as in recent years but perfectly played, high energy closer, blowing any possible version of Maggie's Farm to kingdom come. Soloing was tremendous and Bucky started to go wild on the steel guitar in the solos before the last verse. Just pounding out a chord solo, he took over, even Bob just let him go and danced around, adding his own inimitable riffs to the mix. By the end Bob was laughing and smiling like you wouldn't believe, even Larry Campbell looked excited, and Tony (he's the funny one, right...) was obviously having a great old time. Bucky never even looked up, was in the zone. A favourite song of mine, and the best version I've ever heard. Encores: (quickly, gotta go to bed) Thunder clap from Kemper, Like a Rolling Stone. Tight, nothing special, aside from some spacey chords toward the end from Bucky who still wanted to play it seems. Crowd: nuts. It Ain't Me Babe. Really pretty rendition, with a soft straight shuffle from Kemper on the drums. Wonderfully sung, Bob on harp at the end, looked spur of the moment to me. RDW #12&35. yadyadayada...Smiling and dancing and pointing from Bob though. Marijuana fumes poured forth (from the crowd)... Well, up way past bedtime...that's all folks. A *great* show. Bob's in fine health, looks younger than last year and is definitely having fun up there. Don't miss him, and if you get a tape of this show... Andrew Mullins email@example.com