Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dylan in Chicago 10/28/06

Getting to the show today was certainly less hectic. Had a mini get-together with Steve and Dan (standin' on the gallows), with whom I had road tripped to Comstock Park and Columbus, at at Jimmy John's near the venue. The place was recommended as a great place to eat before a Sears Centre show by the Chicago Tribune, so I organized it there. Little did I know it was just a sub chain. Why they recommended it was beyond me, but we had a nice dinner and Bob-filled conversation nevertheless.

Headed over to the venue afterwards, where I picked up a poster. They look great this tour (as seen on the left). Steve had some pretty crappy seats for tonight's show, so I filled him in on the little quirk of the section I was sitting in, about thirty rows back on the floor. Due to a venue screw-up
it was general admission, and no one was checking tickets. He decided to take me up on the offer and we grabbed some great seats over to the left, in just the right place to see Bob.

But first, of course, were the Kings of Leon. I'd been sorry to miss them yesterday and was excited for their show. They were pretty fun to watch, but got old after a little while. Why they were opening for Bob is a mystery; with short frill-free garage/thrash rock songs, they seemed to be the exact opposite of him. Go figure. When they came onstage I thought they were roadies. Dressed in white shirts, they were long-haired and dirty enough to qualify. Well, except the bassist, whose unbuttuned tight black shirt made him look emo and out of place. I knew a few songs, The Bucket and Slow Night, So Long, both of which were played very faithfully to their album counterparts. The lighting was going nuts their whole set, which made for an extra layer of entertainment. I was ready for them to be done after a while though.

Bob came on, and opened with...Maggie's Farm. A decent enough version of a song that is usually just that, decent enough. Obviously disappointing as an opener, and one of the worst he's used in the last year. Absolutely Sweet Marie, Things Have Changed, Most Likely, Cat's in the Well...all these songs have fun, memorable riffs that get the audience dancing. In its current incarnation, Maggie's Farm simply doesn't. It's got texture and a carefully-orchestrated backdrop for which Bob to sing over, but nothing much else instrumentally. Anyway, that's all more a criticism of the song in general, as opposed to tonight's version, which was fine.

I heard Donnie start the pedal steel intro to the next song, and I thought I remembered what it was. The intro went on for a little while, during which time I kept my fingers crossed. Success, it was She Belongs to Me, complete with some great downsinging. Having not seen any shows this spring, this was a first for me, and was quite well done. Not a masterpiece like versions earlier in the year, but still done with care. His voice clearly didn't need the time to warm up that it did yesterday, as from the first line on his voice was swelling and fading in top form. I got the feeling this might be a good show.

I was somewhat expecting Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum here, but instead we got another song off Love & Theft,
and a much bigger treat: Lonesome Day Blues. I'd seen it once before, in Chicago '05, and this one blew that one out of the water. A truly epic performance tonight, Bob belting and screeching each line out. The second line was done differently
(and better) from the first every time and the third line was always treated with just as much care. Every verse better than the last, with many individual highlights. In "He's not a gentleman at all - he's rotten to the core, he's a coward and he steals" Bob delayed each clause a little bit, making you think he wasn't going to get them all in, but just hitting 'em dead-on one by one. I remember him doing something nice for the second "I was trying to make out what it was," but I don't remember what exactly. Additionally, Bob was as animated as I've ever seen him, dancing around during the instrumental breaks, and doing a little funky-chicked number at one point. A highlight not only of the concert itself, but of all the shows I've seen.

I've gotten better at guessing songs from their openings. During my summer shows I got it wrong several times, but didn't get it wrong once at the Chicago shows. Positively 4th Street was a first for me, and one I'd wanted to see. However, having heard a lot of pretty bad versions over the last couple years, I was a little apprehensive. Not to worry, Bob wasn't taking any song for granted tonight. In a song where he used to upsing every line, that only showed up occasionally, and never sounded bad. The current version has been described as more remorseful than aggressive, but I disagree. The fact that it's quieter just makes it seem angrier to me, more passive-aggressive than outrightly hostile. Every line tonight sounded like he meant it and I'd hate to be anyone that song was directed to last night. The last verse sent shivers down my spine before he went into a nice harp break.

We saw Donnie get out the violin, and I was hoping for something special, but Steve knew immediately what it was going to be: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). There are some songs that I enjoy no matter how many times I see them (Highway 61, Watchtower, and even Summer Days), but this just isn't one of them. He did the song quite well, but I just can't get into it anymore. Oh well, the crowd loved the "naked president" line.

I was pleased to hear The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol and he did a nice version of it. I'd gotten it once before, at the Aragon in '04, and I think I prefer that rendition. This was a nice version, better than average probably, but I still was slightly underwhelmed. I feel like I should have liked it more than I did; maybe I was distracted or something.

Rollin' and Tumblin' was better than it was last night, without question. You could hear Denny somewhat better, but the main difference was in Bob's delivery. He was far more into the lyrics, doing different things to each line like he had done in Lonesome Day Blues. The obvious highlight was "I ain't nobody's house boy, LORD KNOWS I ain't nobody's well-trained maid." And he sure as hell wasn't.

Donnie picked up the banjo and I was expecting High Water or Blind Willie McTell, but was very pleasantly surprised to get The Ballad of Hollis Brown. I'd seen it once before, and it was well-done then, but nothing like this. He sang every line beautifully, as if he was telling the terrible story for the first time. The band meshed to perfectly complement his delivery, Donnie's playing rising and falling in volume just where it needed to. Another huge highlight. The only problem was these two girls behind me, tipsy I imagine, who were talking and laughing very loudly. I asked them to be a little quieter as nicely as I could, and they obliged...

...but were apparently pissed at me anyway, as after the song ended one of them shouted at me "Buddy, you need to calm down!" Now, I couldn't imagine being more calm than I was, and knew I had done nothing to deserve this outburst, but it got me down anyway. I don't like making people mad even if it is their fault, so I was upset about it during most of Most Likely (You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine). Just couldn't focus on it. To their credit, though, the girls stayed quiet the rest of the show.

The opening chords to the next song pulled me back in. I knew what it was, but still couldn't believe it. I never thought I'd hear a song off Desire live, but as Bob nailed the hell out of Joey I knew I'd been mistaken. People lambast this song as glorifying a murderer, but I love it anyway. Just take it as fiction if need be. Bob sure seemed to believe what he was saying tonight, telling the story as it was written to be told. Every time he came to an especially-familiar line (which was often), I was surprised all over again. I just couldn't believe I was getting the opportunity to see this live. Definitely the biggest surprise I've gotten yet (I've only seen ten shows) and a very well-done one at that.

After that gem, Bob deserved a bit of a break, and got it with Highway 61 Revisited. As usual, the band carried it, and performed it quite well as always. The only notable part, other than the light show previously described, was a lengthy organ solo by Bob, with Denny layering some crisp fills over top.

I hadn't realized there were only two songs left in the main set. Had I, I probably would have been a little more disappointed to get Workingman's Blues #2 again, instead of Nettie Moore or Spirit on the Water, but it's still so fresh to me live that I loved it again. I'll need to listen to the two recordings to compare it to yesterday's, but they were close. He threw in another little addition, saying "They worry and they hurry and they fuss and they fret, they waste your nights and days - sure they do!" Bob was definitely in the zone tonight. Denny did some good things too. The thing with him, is that he's kind of like Freddy Koella, either on or off. The only difference is his highs are nowhere near as high...and his lows aren't as godawful. He could for sure use a few more transcedent moments though.

Another nice version of Summer Days closed the main set off. All eyes today (or at least) were on Stu most of the time, watching him and Bob to see if he would keep playing the whole song. And he did. I didn't see Bob pay any attention to him at all, though Stu seemed quite apprehensive, eyes riveted on the man behind the keys. Bob was too busy dancing again to notice.

A much shorter encore break tonight, lending creedence to my suspicion that something had been going on backstage yesterday. They came back out after sixty seconds or so and performed another great version of Thunder on the Mountain, even better than last night's I'd say. Everyone who told me beforehand that this one kills live was right; it's a real show-stopper. Hearing him say he was going to "get me an army, some tough sons of bitches. I'll recruit my army from the orphanages" put a grin on my face, as did him telling his unnamed opposite that he didn't give a damn about their dreams. I was absolutely in a trance during this one, hanging on his every word, and boy did he deliver.

With George's charicteristic bang, we went into Like a Rolling Stone. Once again, I'll have to listen to the recordings to compare it to last night's, but I enjoyed it once again. In addition to singing along on the chorus, I found myself listening for each of his characters to pop up: Miss Lonely, Napoleon in rags, the chrome horse and the diplomat. And they were all there, in position as always. Hearing it tonight made me remember what an incredible song this is (not that I'd exactly forgotten), so I guess that says something about the performance right there.

The band intros contained a snippet of Bob talk, about Denny I think, but I didn't hear what it was. Nothing too much at any rate. All Along the Watchtower was better tonight, with the riff louder and Denny's guitar clearly plugged in from the get-go, but I still didn't think it was one of its better airings. Something about this current arrangement seems to drain it of some of its oomph. The one song where you couldn't help but bop around has lost something.

All in all, an incredible show, much better than last night's (which I had enjoyed quite a bit too). One of the best Dylan shows I've seen for sure (and the one that pushed that number into the double digits!) When Bob is on, he's on. And he was definitely in the right mood tonight, doing each song as if he might never perform it again. I don't know what inspired it, but an awesome show from beginning to end. Can't wait til Portland and Boston!

MP3's of the show:
Maggie's Farm - The Ballad of Hollis Brown
Most Likely You Go Your Way - All Along the Watchtower

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dylan in Chicago 10/27/06

It would have been hard for my day up until the show to get much worse. I hopped a bus from Dartmouth to the Manchester airport at 12:30pm, getting ready for a 5:22 flight. The plan was already tight: I was going to get into the O'Hare at 6:50, Steve (Disco Stu) was going to pick me up and we'd head to the show, hopefully in time for the start of the Kings of Leon set, but perhaps not. However, anyone who's ever relied on an airline to make a tight connection knows very well how that tends to go. Yup, the plane was delayed. An hour and a half.

Cue me freaking out. Near-mental breakdown in the airport. This trip was costing me (or, really my family; it was a birthday present) several hundred dollars, and I might not even make the show. The delay was taken down to an hour, and my blood pressure lowered a little. I called Steve and bailed from my ride, and spent the whole flight praying. I got off the plane and sprinted through the airport, shoving children and little old ladies out of my way in my mad dash towards the taxis. I reached the taxis, and saw a line for them. A several-hundred person line for them. I got in it, starting to panic again, and realized the simple fact that if I waited in the line I'd probably miss the whole show. Trying to grab a taxi before it made it to the line didn't work; the guy in charge spotted me and was not pleased. So I went to the front of the line, put on my best little-orphan-Annie face and asked the guy if I could cut him. Success! His kindness probably made the difference between me seeing Bob and not.

The taxi driver had no clue how to get to
the Sears Centre, even when I gave him the address, so I had to make a quick call home to have my mom mapquest it. We made it there right at 8:30, when Bob was supposed to go on, but the ride was so obscenely expensive that I had to pay with a credit card...which he screwed up when he scanned it, only charging me $40 instead of the $70. He said he would need to call in and cancel it and try again, so I just threw $30 cash at him, signed for the 40, and sprinted away.

As I dashed into the Sears Centre, I heard something that made me very happy...nothing. No music. It was 8:40, and I was overjoyed. I ran to my chair, took my backpack off, and the moment I sat down: "Ladies and gentlemen, will you please welcome..." The timing couldn't have been better. Thanks random guy in the taxi line!

I was expecting "Absolutely Sweet Marie" or "Cat's in the Well" as an opener, either of which would have been fine, but the moment it started I knew it wasn't. For a second I wondered if it was Maggie's Farm, but no, clearly not that either. Then the riff for Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 began, and I figured it out. But it seemed a little different..."Well, I see you got your brand-new leopard-skin pill-box hat." Excellent, I wasn't expecting to get this one. Now, it's not one of my favorite songs by a long shot, but he did a decent job of it. Clearly a warm-up song for his voice; it was almost all wolfman. Wasn't expecting a harmonica solo either, but it was a nice one.

Next up was "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". Without Maggie's preceeding it, I wasn't expecting it, but it was nicely done (and only my second time seeing it live). Still a warm-up for the old vocal chords, but Denny had some beautiful solos in there. Though his soloing is getting quite good though, he's simply doing it too much. During many songs he had four or five solos, while Don and Stu, both competent players in their own right, had none. The man, though he's getting good, is being way over-used.

As far as war-horses go, "Stuck Inside of Mobile" is usually one of my favorites, but as he started it seemed limp. The band was decent, but not particularly inspired, and Bob was just mailing it in with full wolfman. About halfway through the song though, bam, the warming-up ended and he kicked into high gear, really having some fun with the lines. I had been worried about his voice, as it seemed worse than I'd remembered it, but the Bob I knew and loved finally showed up.

I figured, well, it's about time for the Tweedle Bros, and was really glad to hear High Water instead. Of all the Love & Theft songs, it has aged the be
st and is just a powerhouse every time. Earlier this year I was worried he'd retired it, so it's nice to see it back in the rotation. Denny had some solos but, as the first sign of a continuing problem throughout the night, they were hard to hear. They sounded great on the quieter songs, but on the rockers you could only sometimes make them out. For better or worse.

As Stu started playing the intro to the next song, I really hoped it was Boots of Spanish Leather and not Girl of the North Country. And it was! I'd only seen this one once before, in West Lafeyette '04, and it still ranks as one of the best performance I've seen. Tonight's wasn't far behind though.
It seemed kind of short though. I'm not sure he did all the verses.

Finally, the first Modern Times song. As expected, Rollin' and Tumblin'. And it sure tumbled, in a Jack and Jill down the hill sort of way. It just didn't see to have much going for it. Bob would belt out one line after the other and, once again, though Denny looked like he was doing cool solos, they were hard to hear. However, he was quite animated, doing several high kicks (ok, they were more like old-man, bent-knee, not-so-high versions of high kicks, but give him a break). Not horrible, but somewhat underwhelming for my first MT tune.

The moment the first chord to this one was played, I flipped out. Love Sick was on my very short list of songs I wanted to hear live...that I might actually have a chance to hear live (ie. not Lily, Rosemary). And not only was it a personal debut, but it was a GREAT version. Bob made the lines creepy, haunting...but kind of fun too in their anger. I was singing along the whole time (quietly, don't worry) and he nailed each line just like I wanted, staying close enough to the original to be powerful, but adding his own flair periodically. A killer performance.

As I was still recovering from Love Sick, the band kicked into Highway 61 Revisited. One thing I don't expect at a Dylan concert is a lights show, but this had one and it really made the song. These white, patterned, ghost-like lights covered the background during the verses, and then started flashing on and off one by one during the instrumental breaks. It was insanely cool, and actually made me glad I wasn't closer (I was maybe thirty rows back on the floor). The big picture here was key. Oh yeah, and the band played well too.

I heard Donnie noodle with the opening riff of When the Deal Goes Down a bit as the lights were down, and just thought "I hope...hope..." And that's exactly what it was. A gorgeous version, very close to the original. The band stayed comfortably in the backgroun
d while Bob crooned the lines for all he was worth, and nailed every one. Best Modern Times song of the night. [Side note: Halfway through the first verse, a couple, maybe early 40's, in front of me started holding hands and cuddling, and it was adorable.]

"After that," I thought, "Bob can just go ahead and play Tweedles." Be careful what you wish for. It was a decent version, although my legs were hurting from standing so I took part of the song to catch a much-needed sitting break.

I thought, since When the Deal had come pretty late in the set, we might only get three new songs tonight, but luckily that was not the case and the guitar starts into the intro to Workingman's Blues #2 (no piano intro, surpise surprise). A nice version for sure, but nothing ground-breaking. Nowhere near the quality of When the Deal Goes Down, but I enjoyed it more than a lot of other people I talked to. I found it pretty moving hearing him sing those words live.

The familiar intro to Tangled Up in Blue was a nice surprise, as another song I hadn't seen live yet. And we heard a lot of that intro, Stu just playing it over and over, Bob not coming in for quite a while. Tony and George started cracking up about it as Stu just kept going and going. Bob finally did come in and delivered a nice version. He garbled some of the lyrics (he had a tendency tonight to skip the first line of verses) but got better as it went on. As noted elsewhere, the trick he did where he sang one line in one octave, and then the next in a deep growl an octave lower was nice. Now I've seen three Blood on the Tracks songs in two years, which I think is pretty good. If I get Simple Twist of Fate sometime I'll hit four.

I'm always bummed when I see Summer Days on a set list (which is, of course, basically every night), but always enjoy it live. And tonight even more so than most. I think it's gotten better as of late and tonight it rocked and rolled just like it should. Everyone was dancing around in the aisles and it made for a great scene. Stu, however, wasn't much part of that scene as after the first few verses as for whatever reason he stopped playing, except the riff between every few verses. He just stood there awkwardly with one hand in his pocket, occasionally taking a drink of water or wiping off his sweat-free face.

I find it kind of funny that what sounds like just noodling on the intro to Thunder on the Mountain is actually the orchestrated introductory guitar part, which Denny (I think) played note-for-note. That led the way to a very faithful version, but one that was great nonetheless. Bob got into every line, barking them out one by one just as they should be barked. I'm not sure I'd agree with those who say it's better than the album version, but that might only be because I like the album version more than most. Either way, it was great...

...and led right into Like a Rolling Stone. I generally think LARS is mailed in, not done with any inspiration, but it was very fun tonight. Some nice soloing from Denny, and the crowd went nuts (as they always do) when the lights came on them during the chorus. Being on the floor for this song is always fun just to see everyone going crazy. I've seen a lot of renditions of this song, and this was one of the best.

Whereas All Along the Watchtower was one of the worst. It didn't jump, it didn't swing, it just sat there. I don't know if there was something wrong with Denny's guitar or the mix, but after George did his big drum into...nothing. Just quiet playing, the familiar riff hard to find in the mud. It never really took off and I feel like Bob may have rearranged it slightly, and not in a good way. Moreover, I think Donnie was supposed to be taking a solo during the second solo break, but you couldn't hear him at. You just heard more muddy, texture-less background noise. For what's usually one of my favorite songs of any concert, I found it very disappointing.

Cut out of there and got a ride back with Steve (thanks again man!). Until tomorrow...

MP3's of the show:
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat - Highway 61 Revisited
When the Deal Goes Down - All Along the Watchtower

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Live in Fort Lauderdale 1984

In honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Weird Al's first television appearance (brought to my attention by the very good article about it at, I'm posting this very very early concert recording, by far the earliest in existence. But first, let's see a few videos (if you just want to get the concert, just scroll down!). Starting with...the television appearance this post is commemorating, from "The Tomorrow Show with Tom Synder" in 1981.
"Another One Rides the Bus"

Al is also, of course, know for his music videos, so let's see some early ones. First up, the first video (never officially released):

"My Bologna"

The typical Weird Al video is, shall we say, a lot funnier, so here's the first official one.

"Hey Ricky"

And one more, just because I love Weird Al videos. This is one of the few videos that was not done to a parody song, but rather an original. It's a style-parody of Devo though.

"Dare to Be Stupid"

And now...on to the concert. This is a show he did at the "Summer on the Beach" festival in Fort Lauderdale, FL on May 17th, 1984. His first two albums were finished and he was beginning to get a following. Live performances this good certainly helped a lot. The recording is soundboard, and very good quality. Check it out if you're at all a fan; it doesn't get more vintage than this.

“Weird Al” Yankovic
Summer at the Beach
Fort Lauderdale, FL

1. Introduction by local DJ’s
2. The Brady Bunch
3. Intro to Buckingham Blues
4. Buckingham Blues
5. Polkas on 45
6. [Drum Solo]
7. I Lost on Jeopardy
8. Buy Me a Condo

9. Audience Inspiration Song
10. Yoda
11. [Guitar Solo]
12. Stop Dragging My Car Around
13. [Audience Participation]
14. Mr. Popeil
15. King of Suede
16. [Bass Solo]
17. Midnight Star
18. It’s Still Billy Joel to Me
19-29. Food Medley

-Theme From Rocky XIII
-Flatbush Ave.
-Feel Like Throwing Up
-Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut
-Take the L out of Liver
-My Bologna
-Whole Lotta Lunch
-We Got the Beef
30. Nature Trail to Hell
31. Eat It

32. If I Could Make Love to a Bottle
33. I Love Rocky Road
34. Another One Rides the Bus


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dire Straits - Live in Sydney 4/26/86

When people think of incredible, influential bands, Dire Straits may not be one of the first names that comes to mind. But it should be. Is there a song more beautiful than "Your Latest Trick"? Well, maybe "So Far Away"? Even more beautiful than that? Only "Romeo and Juliet". And, on the other side, what song rocks harder than "Money for Nothing", swings crazier than "Walk of Life", or moves you like "Brothers In Arms"? Not to mention the classic "Sultans of Swing", which somehow never gets old.

In 1985, the band embarked on a world tour of unprecedented proportions. Promoting their hit album Brothers in Arms, the treck included a thirteen-night residence at Wembley Arena (featuring Eric Clapton helping out) and a brief jaunt at Live Aid (featuring Sting), before winding up in Australia in the Spring of 86. They ended with a 21-night stand at Sydney's Entertainment Center, packing the place every night, and wrapping it all up with one final show on April 26th. The show was filmed and broadcast on Australian and New Zealand television, and as a result has provided an incredible soundboard recording. Featuring the one-off calypso version of "So Far Away" and an impromtu version of the Australian folk anthem "Walktzing Matilda" (with the whole stadium providing the vocals), it is truly a show for the ages. Frontman Mark Knopfler is without question one of the premier guitarists of the last couple decades, his understated guitar licks free of ostentation, no note out of place. Watching him, he looks like he's not even paying attention to what he's doing as incredible solos and fills emanate from his fret board. Listen to "Solid Rock", "Money For Nothing", "Industrial Disease" and, of course, "Sultans of Swing" to hear him at his finest.

Another player who shines in this show is saxophonist Chris White. An auxiliary touring member of the band from '85-'95, in song and song again he pulls more emotion out of a metal tube than I ever thought possible. "Your Latest Trick" is his moment to shine, making a reasonably simple riff one of the most powerful moments of the concert. Perhaps even better, though, are his instrumental-duets with Knopfler, like in "Going Home (Theme From Local Hero)" where they play the same solo, only to branch off in different ways as the solo(s) progress. Or "Ride Across the River", in which he plays flute in an extended call-and-response with Knopfler's guitar.

his show represents a band at their very finest, a band that has perfected the art of transitioning from structured verse/chorus parts to solos and back, bringing the audience along on an emotional and gorgeous journey for each and every song. To demonstrate, here are a few videos:

Ride Across the River

Industrial Disease

Sultans of Swing (cut down to ten minutes, unfortunately)

And now, here is the full concert, in mp3 form. Enjoy!

Dire Straits
April 26, 1986
Sydney Entertainment Center, Sydney, Austrailia

Disc 1
01. Ride Across the River (10:41)
02. Expresso Love (6:50)
03. Industrial Disease (5:51)
04. So Far Away (7:15)
05. Romeo & Juliet (11:17)
06. Private Investigations (8:26)
07. Sultans of Swing (11:41)

Disc 2
01. Why Worry (7:29)
02. Your Latest Trick (5:01)
03. Walk Of Life (6:44)
04. Two Young Lovers (9:03)
05. Money For Nothing (8:02)
06. Tunnel Of Love (11:24)
07. Brothers In Arms (7:59)
08. Solid Rock (4:31)
09. Waltzing Matilda (2:10)
10. Going Home (Theme From Local Hero) (4:51)