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Bob Dylan 2001.11.11 at Penn State

Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 16:15:44 EST
Subject: 11/11/01 Penn State Review

This was my first show of 5 out here on the East Coast, but my excitement 
level was not as high as anticipated on my part, due mainly to the events of 
the last few months. However, as the afternoon progressed, my excitement 
level reached the point it probably should have been at in the last few 
weeks. Despite some details to which I will make reference below, Bob did not 
disappoint and has me looking forward to the remaining 4 shows on my leg of 
the tour.

Roving Gambler and Girl from the North Country were both wonderful surprises 
in their respective slots. Right away with RG you could tell Bob's vocals 
were strong and the harmonies with Larry and Charlie were on, but the overall 
volume seemed to be a little too low. With Girl, you just new it was going to 
be a night of great singing, and I will go so far as to say it was the best 
Bob's voice has sounded in the nearly 20 shows I have attended. However, we 
also learned with Girl that Bob's acoustic leads were not on. To say they 
they left something to be desired would be giving him too much credit - very 
bad!! But, I could not do any better (well, I hope so, anyway) so to each his 

It'a Alright Ma was the first sign to me that we had a laid back crowd. Bob 
salvaged a passable guitar solo in this one, and the band sounded great, but 
some of the classic lines like "busy being born..." and "even the 
president..." evoked little response from the crowd. This is easily 
overlooked, but it can also drag down your perception of the show no matter 
how good the overall performance may be. Similar thoughts came to me during 
This World Can't Stand as the harmonies were tight and the voclas so clear 
that even my mother (her third show, and never having heard this particular 
song) heard every word clearly, and agreed with Bob that this world will be 
destoyed again.

Cry a While was better than I had anticipated. I believe someone made 
reference to it sounding like It Takes a lot to Laugh.. at the beginning, and 
I must agree. But, this is louder, and Bob appears to really have passion for 
these new songs. This was great to see. Again, superb vocals that ripped out 
your heart and made me want to cry for much longer than just a while! I love 
the new faster, country western I Want You, and the harp solo at the end 
finally got the crowd roaring. Floater was another superb vocal performance 
by Bob, but the lack of Larry on violin on this song really drags it down for 
me. Charlie tries to cover it on his red Gibson hollow body (I believe), but 
it just is not doing it. Bob even looked over his way a few times during 
those parts of the song - not upset or anything - but as if to say "Yeah, 
that doesn't SOUND right!" like maybe he knows, and he's thinking of either 
dropping it, or giving Larry the shot he deserves.

Highwater was enough for me. He could have walked off stage after that and I 
would have been happy it was that good. If he had left, it also would have 
prevented the disastrous acoustic lead he played during Visions, by far my 
favorite Dylan song. Only the second time I have heard this, and while the 
vocal drove it once again, the lead was just plain bad. Larry even tried to 
make his picking louder by doing it harder, as if to cover up Bob's solo 
attempt. John Brown was welcomed in place of Masters of War, and while Bob's 
acoustic lead improved, it still was nothing to write home about. But it was 
another fine vocal performance with everything clearly enunciated. A shame 
that the crowd didn't react as if they new what he was saying.

Love Minus Zero brought the perfomance level back up on all fronts. Bob 
muttered around with the harps during the intro, as if deciding which one to 
use later in the song. He eventually opted not to play the harp as he 
appeared to have pulled the Visions solo out of the gutter, and perform this 
one rather well after a slow start. Larry's steel was simply beautiful and 
this was definitely a highlight combined with Bob's vocals. One of my 
all-time Dylan favs, and he always does it justice when I am in the crowd. 
Thanks Bobby!

The final electric part of the main set worked really well. Summer Days is 
amazing. This guy is 60 years old and there were 20 year old college kids who 
had to take a break mid song cause it was too much for them. Many had been 
standing in the middle of the floor, hoping to get a chance to "move" all 
night, perhaps waiting for TUIB. It was as if Bob was saying "OK, you wanna 
DANCE? Try this on for size" and very few kept up with him. Another great 
response from the crowd after this one. I was hoping for Mississippi next, 
but got Sugar Baby instead, and was glad I did. This was incredible, and the 
crowd showed much respect with their silence and observation.

Wicked Messenger and Rainy Day brough the crowd to their feet, and Bob played 
with the words to Rainy Day, but few noticed. EVERYONE was moving to this 
one. We got the "Ladies and Gentleman, students, faculty, and 
alumniiiiiiiiiiiii!" introduction for the band.

The encores brought everything full circle. The crowd was up for all of them. 
Perhaps the best If Dogs Run Free I have ever heard, and an extraordinary 
Honest with Me. This works so well in place of Highway, and Bob has much 
passion for these lyrics - it also showcases the tight-nit band all over 
again, just in case anyone had any doubts. Blowin' was again, perhaps the 
best version I have heard. Tight harmonies, and Bob shouted out to remind us 
that indeed "too many people have died!"

Another formation found Bob offering his acoustic guitar to an admirer in the 
front row. He even took a few steps forward to offer it even closer, but he 
ended up holding on to it. I just hope it was not a negative exchange, like 
someone saying his acoustic leads sucked, and Bob saying, here, you try it. 
Watchtower closed things out, and rocked as always. The new version works for 
me and, it appears, for the band as well.

Overall, very nice show, and Bob is still at a high quality performance, much 
higher than most any act out there. Perhaps I mentioned the squandered 
acoustic playing too much, but it was really obvious, mainly on GFTNC and 
VOJ. He salvaged himself on Love Minus Zero, and the electric playing seemed 
to be fine. Maybe he is just still getting used to the new acoustic guitar. 

On to Syracuse for Bob, and DC for me. Take Care!

Alex Leik

2001: February - March - April - May - June - July - August - October - November -