Thursday, August 24, 2006

Buddy Guy in Chicago (sort of) 8/22/06

If you haven't seen Buddy Guy in concert, you haven't seen anything. Whatever your short list of artists to see before you (or they) die is, add him. But let's start at the beginning...

The Ravinia is in Highland Park, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago, and is easily the worst place to see a concert I've ever seen. The emphasis there is on SEEING the concert. I bought lawn tickets, which I would think just meant you'd be real far away, like at the Tweeter Center. At Ravinia though, the lawn is several acres large, and there is not one spot on it where you can see the stage. People picnic and chat the whole time, with apparently no interest in seeing the performer itself. Ravinia does a lot of classical music, and this makes sense for that, but not for anything else. There's a pavillion in front of the stage, but I'd say 95% of the people there can't see the stage, and don't want to anyway. Strange. Luckily, though, you could stand behind the pavillion seating and actually get a great view, with no competition. Far closer than I would have been at a Tweeter Center lawn, so it all worked out.

The first act up was The Robert Cray Band. Cray is a blues musician who got big in the late 80's and was touring to support Eric Clapton earlier this year. I didn't know a thing about him going in and was very impressed. Blues music, sure, but with elements of funk, reggae, swing, and even Italien café music (courtesy of his keyboard player). Admittedly, some authenticity was lost having a three-man band consisting solely of grey-haired white guys, but they matched the audience pretty well. Having 25% of the people onstage black was a far higher percentage than you could say for the audience. They held their own, though, but were merely background music for Cray's impassioned vocals and nice guitar work. I don't know what any of the tunes were called, but they were fun to listen to, and far happier than your average blues number.

After a lengthy break, the legend himself came on. He's
shaved his trademark jerry curls off, but in every other way is the same old Buddy. Carrying his trademark polka-dotted guitar (white with black dots however; a little different than normal) he had a shirt and guitar strap to match. He did the whole color-coordinated thing way before the White Stripes. Backed by a four-piece band (all black, in case you were wondering), he tore into his opening number with a ferver. He's the most expressive, vibrant performer I've ever seen, stopping his incredible solos only to violently gesture. He would prance the stage back and forth, pausing only at the microphone when a verse came about. I was expecting the amazing guitar playing, but I wasn't ready for the blasting vocals. He had a microphone, but I'm not sure he needed it. A gorgeous voice, unchanged by age, as demonstrated when he ripped into Hootchie Cootchie Man, a song every blues artist has covered, but became fresh with the energy he put into it. That energy extended to the band, whom he gave ample time to do their thing. The other guitarist came to the front of the stage and started soloing, before Buddy gestured him over. Facing each other, they dueled, soloing quick lines back and forth. Buddy's incredible on his own, but the quality of his band clearly helps to push him to the next level, as they just went back and forth. The guitarist finished by spinning his guitar around and around, ZZ Top-style.

Before the next song Buddy said, "I usually save this song until later in the set, but I'm just feeling so good." It was a feeling he came back to again and again, and with the performance he gave he sure seemed to mean it. After a few verses of the song, he walked off the stage into the pavillion while soloing. Unfortunately, everyone stood up so those of us on our jury-rigged GA behind them couldn't see a thing, but you could follow him by where the audience's heads went. He walked about halfway up the aisle nearest me, tossing out blistering solos the whole time, then paused. I waited for him to keep going up the aisle, but he suddenly appeared at the head of another aisle, after having apparently edged all the way through two rows of seats. He then proceeded to walk out of the pavillion into the lawn, his guitar cord trailing the whole way. And let me tell you, the people on the lawn sure took notice them. If they weren't going to make the effort to see him, he was going to make it for them. It worked too; after he went back to the stage, the crowd around me trying to see tripled in size. They saw that, while the music is amazing, this is a performer you want to see.

He them took things down a bit as he launched into a gorgeous "I've Got Dreams To Remember", off of his 2005 album "Bring 'Em In", which featured some beautiful soloing (and backing vocals) from his keyboard player. It's so great that he gives this band the freedom he does, cause they are at the top of their game. He then launched into Fever, a song I recognized from Dylan's cover in 1980. The highlight here was him going over to the keyboard player and having him try to imitate what Buddy would play. After a few minutes, they switched places, with Buddy trying to play the same lines as the keyboard player. They were both concentrating intently, but grinning the whole time. The audience loved every minute of it.

He did a brief section of John Lee Hooker's classic "Boom Boom", cutting it off with a laugh and talking about Clapton and Cream. If he did a Cream cover next, I didn't recognize it, but it was great anyway. He kept adding some new twist with every song, and this one featured two. First, he soloed using a drumstick instead of a pick. A clever idea, but the amazing thing was, it sounded damn good. I'd heard of him doing this, but thought it was just a novelty act. The second twist was during one of the verses he turned his guitar around and rubbed the strings up and down against his shirt, creating a metallic scraping noise that actually sounded great with the vocals.

A few more great songs before he said he only had one more. It was a short set; he'd mentioned numerous times during it how he'd like to play all night, and next time they called he'd make sure they let him. From the opening 8th fret guitar slide, I knew what the next song was, and was cheering the whole way through. The one song I'd hoped for him to play above all others, but knew he didn't always, "Damn Right I Got the Blues" was everything I'd hoped for. Off of his breakthrough 1991 album of the same name, it is the greatest electric blues song I've ever heard, and that night Buddy reminded me why (as if I'd forgotten). After a couple verses, his hands at his face clenching and releasing, he started soloing faster and faster, going crazy as he led into another song I didn't know, but great of course (sensing a pattern?) Afterwards he walked the stage for a few minutes, tossing out guitar picks while the crowd refused to leave. Finally, he left the stage with no encore, due to the 11:00 town curfew.

I'd expected a great concert, but not one that good. He's an unbeatable blues singer, but he's in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame for a reason. Half of Jimi Hendrix's stage tricks he learned from Buddy and you could see why he found him an inspiration. Perhaps the biggest testament to his abilities is how he made my experience at an awful venue (to which I'd only go back for a few performance) one of the greatest concerts I've seen in years.

Monday, August 21, 2006

We Are Scientists - Live in Toronto 6/17/06

If you've never heard of em, We Are Scientists is an incredible new band from California. Describing them as like Franz Ferdinand or the Killers doesn't do them justice, but they play a similar sort of dance rock. No synthesizers or keyboards though, their tunes are stripped to their bare bones essentials, and are still catchy as hell. Every song on their major label debut album With Love and Squalor should be a hit single, and may well end up that way.

If you don't know anything about em, check out these amazingly strange music videos, the first of which features them running away from a guy in a bear costume and the second as some sort of conjoined-but-not-quite triplets or something. Sweet.
Nobody Moves, Nobody Get Hurt
The Great Escape

And now here's a show from Toronto's Kool Haus a couple months ago, on the last night of their tour opening for the Arctic Monkeys. A great recording that shows a killer live band more than equal to their great recordings. A sound they describe as "rock music of the thoughtful, sometimes epic, often loud, vaguely danceable, implicitly humanist variety".
Enjoy.

1. Lousy Reputation
2. Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
3. Worth the Wait
4. Can't Lose
5. Callbacks
6. Cash Cow
7. It's a Hit
8. Textbook
9. This Scene Is Dead
10. Inaction
11. The Great Escape

http://rapidshare.com/files/5392917/WAS_in_Toronto.zip.html

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dylan in Columbus 8/13/06

Knowing today was not to be a day at the rail, Dan and I got a late start, leaving at 10pm for a five-hour drive. My dad was flying in and meeting us, and as he wanted to sit in the stands there was no point in getting in line early. One day standing in the sun for seven hours is enough to last a while anyway. After a reasonably uneventful drive down (made somewhat more exciting when I purchased an iTrip so our music of choice could be 100% Dylan), we met Dan's friend Hillary for a late (but tasty) lunch at Panera a little after three. We spent an hour discussing everything from Bob's '99 shows to Tuvan throat-singing, then headed to the airport to pick up my dad. We arrived at the airport right as the early entry line was starting to go in, so we made our way to some prime seats, a little left of center (prepared for Bob's new position this time), near the front, but elevated just enough. Kicked back with some peanuts and hot dogs and waited for the music to begin.

Elana came on with her Two + 1 and played another fun set, incorporating some songs we hadn't seen yesterday, including a slower one sung by guitar player Mark Hill. They solidly cemented their place as my favorite opener of the tour. Why Bob didn't let her play anything like she does now is beyond. That's not to say I didn't enjoy her in his band in '05, but she should have played a much bigger role. Junior Brown came on right after and ripped through another solid set, with fewer changes from the previous day, although "My Wife Thinks Your Dead" was surprisingly MIA. I hope someone records at least some of these openers' sets.

The real one to record though, would be today's Jimmie Vaughn set. He was doing fine, hampered as usual by Lou Ann Barton, when he stopped about halfway through to say he had a surprise. "We got a special guest here tonight folks. An old friend is in town and is gonna come out and play with us a big. A little surprise for ya. Please welcome...Eric Clapton." My reaction at this point had gone from "Oh, that's cool, he didn't do this last night" to "Oh...I thought he was serious. That was a
stupid joke." I gather the audience was having similar thoughts, because there were four or five seconds where nothing happened save a few intermittent cheers. Then, suddenly, Clapton himself walks out, and the audience exploded. I've never seen an audience reaction like that, but then again I've never had a surprise like that at a concert. The closest I've come was seeing the White Stripes play Get Behind Me, Satan in its entirety at the Chicago show. And that is not very close at all.

As I sprinted onto the field to get closer they kicked off a blues song I couldn't identify, on which Eric sang lead and, more importantly, prove dthat his reputation exists for a reason, improvising licks and solos that would take many players weeks to learn. The song began with "So long" as I recall, but I could be mistaken. The words were just vehicles to take him to the next solo. Great stuff. Next up was Jimmie's "Bapa Boom", my favorite song of the set anyway, made much better by Eric's presence as he and Jimmie traded solos back and forth. The highlight of the set, however, was without question, the third song. An instrumental, there weren't any pesky vocals to get in the way of the soloing. Guitar work like I've never seen, by both Eric and Jimmie, who seemed wowed enough to pull himself up to match, even playing a behind-the-head section. Great stuff, for which I would die for a recording. The song ended and the band walked off as the audience went crazy. A true highlight of my concert experience. As my dad put it, the band was already excellent, playing straight ahead blues extremely well. Clapton, however, just used that as his base off which to build, taking the songs to new levels. As he walked off, speculation immediately turned to whether he would play with Bob. Don't get your hopes up...

Soon the man hi
mself came on. Same stage setup as Comstock, but a completely different look, the band dressed in maroon suits, adding quite a bit of color to the stage. Bob had on the cowboy hat again, but with grey pats with a black stripe down the side. First time I'd seen him not in all black, for what little that's worth. From the get-go Tony looked much better, rocking along the songs and seeming much more in control of things than he had. Aside from looking good though, they played some music:

Maggie's Farm - Surprise surprise. Not much to say I didn't say yesterday. A solid opener, but not much more. Bring back Drifter's!

I'll Be Your Baby, Tonight - I never thought I'd be so happy to hear this, but I was thrilled (and shocked). I'd assumed at least the first few songs would be the same, and was all set for The Times. However, he was already mixing up the set list, and it was a very promising start. Not only that, but the version he did was very nice. The first "Big fat moon/ shine like a spoon" was done in a magnificent sort of sing-song voice, like he was singing a Mother Goose rhyme, going down, back up a bit, then even farther down in stacatto bursts. Very well done, far better than the previous version I'd seen in '05, and it was nice to be able to hear Donnie loud and clear.

Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again - I love this song in any form, and was delighted to hear it live. It's not a rarity by any means, and I've seen it a few times before, but in my opinion it's always great. A rocker, but a somewhat laid-back one, letting you focus on the words even as it jumps and swings.

Blind Willie McTell - One of the songs I was most hoping to hear live, I was overjoyed, and ran back to the field to get a good view. I know I'm far from alone in loving this song, but it is truly incredible. And did this version
ever do it justice. Great, heartfelt delivery from Bob, every word exactly where he wanted it. Not only that, but Denny's solos were out of this world, by far the best of the weekend. I kept trying to predict where he would go next and never got it right, as it was someplace far more interesting and beautiful. The solos told the song's story all by themselves.

New Morning - The organ intro told me I was in for my second first-time performance in a row. Why Dylan doesn't do more with his instrument is beyond me. While not a virtuoso, he is perfectly capable and just chooses to mainly doodle. In this song, though, he both the intro and a solo. The 'solo' was especially interesting, as him and Denny were playing the same thing, echoing and complementing each other. Listening to the recording, it doesn't seem like too remarkable, but it was a blast in concert, the most fun I had all weekend. Every version I've hear brings a grin to my face, and this one is no exception. Anyone who thinks Bob is too serious and brooding need only listen to this album.

It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - After the last two songs, Bob could play whatever he wants, so I didn't mind hearing this one again. Being further back, the mix was better and Donnie's violin was louder and really added something. Bob did a very nice "he or she or them or it" as I recall too.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum - Ech, I thought we'd managed to miss this one in slot three. Oh well, I'm really trying not to hate it. I'm really trying. When it comes when you expect it it's ok, but when it's taking a place you thought was going to be another song's, it's kind of a drag. However, it made up for it by this great new section about 2/3 of the way through, where the band totally cuts out during a line before crashing back in again. It doesn't come across o
n the recording too well, but it was very powerful live. An explosion of noice after an acapella lull.

Shelter From the Storm - Wow, didn't expect this one again. Dan and I thought, if nothing else, there was no way he''d repeat this or Sugar Baby tonight. Once again, predicting Bob's moves fails miserably. Another great version, perhaps slightly less so than the previous nights, but only slightly. He didn't sing the fifth line higher as often as he did at Comstock, which may have had something to do with it. Still a very nice job and I didn't mind at all hearing it again.

Masters of War - At this point, I was starting to get depressed. After four of the first five songs being different, suddenly we're getting all the same ones. Nevertheless, another killer version, terrifying in its earnestness. This is one you have to be there for, cause the lighting and the band set such a spooky mood it gets to you every time. More nice stuff from Denny too.

Highway 61 Revisited - This version seemed decidedly worse than last night's, more of a Maggie's-esq mush than the crazy rocker it should be. Part of that might be the realization that there was only one more possible surprise slot in a concert that seemed like it would be totally fresh, but this one didn't do much for me.

Sugar Baby - And, alas, that surprise slot turned out not to be a surprise at all, but another repeat. N
evertheless, as one of the most rarely-performed songs on Love & Theft, it's one of the better repeats. And he nailed it this time too, doing very nice things with his voice in several places I don't quite remember. The fact remains though that this performance was slightly marred for me by my disappointment.

Summer Days - Believe it or not, this one picked my mood right back up. The wait for surprises was over, and these days this one is rollicking, a song you can't help but dance to. Strong delivery by Bob, and a great sound created by the rest of the band. Whereas previous rocker Highway 61 succeeds by all instruments blending together and going for it, this one has a much more sparse sounds, each instrument distinctly separate from the others, so there's always a new level to listen to. I was frankly surprised how much I enjoyed this.

Like a Rolling Stone - Up until the encore break I had forgotten about Clapton, but was now wondering if he would reappear. It was not to be, however. The beginning of the song featured a little organ noodling before George's big bang, which made for a great effect which should be expanded, ie the Watchtower intro, or even the London Calling/LARS transition of 05. It really added something to the beginning of the song. Other than that though, nothing too remarkable.

All Along the Watchtower - During the band intros Bob was on, the most talkative I've ever seen him. D
an and I had noticed a huge graveyard behind the stadium as we looked for parking, and apparently Bob had too. After the intro for Donnie, he said "We're all playin' in back of a graveyard tonight. Only the second time I've ever played next to a graveyard and it's not easy." Perfectly and clearly delivered, it had me cracking up. Best Bobtalk I've ever seen. As if that wasn't enough, after Tony's intro, during the Watchtower opening he said "Hope we played the right set, but you just never know." Unclear exactly what he meant, but probably a little shout-out to all of us who have been complaining about the repetetive set lists. And Watchtower rocked as always, leaving us on a high note.

I made a stop at the merch table before leaving the venue and picked up, in addition to the tour poster (on which I will write "+ Eric Clapton" below Vaughan) an nice blue-grey t-shirt featuring a '66 Bob on a stamp. Hadn't seen it before. Grabbed another T after leaving the venue, the best Dylan shirt I've seen, a tie-dyed one with a large square on the front, featuring a '74 picture and a few recent ones saying "Baseball Tour '06" and Bob Dylan in big bold letters on the back, each letter made from a different album color. All the tour dates below it. A very nice (though slightly itchy) souvenir. After meeting back up with Dan, who'd been at the rail, we found a motel and, after listening to a few surprise Tell Ol' Bill outtakes, called it a night and then, after driving home the next morning, a weekend.

THE FULL SHOW (mp3's):
Part 1:Maggie's Farm - Sugar Baby

Part 2:Summer Days - Watchtower

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dylan at Comstock Park 8/12/06

What better way to kick off this blog than with a review of a Dylan concert? Specifically, the first show I've seen since spring of 05. Also my first Dylan road trip. The plan was to go from Chicago to Michigan to see the first show the 12th, then down to Columbus the 13th, then back home the 14th, picking up another Dylanpooler en route. I'd posted a thread wondering if anyone wanted to go with me to save on costs and driving but, more importantly, to have some qualty Bob conversation on the long drives.

I left at 8:30 Saturday morning and, after a brief stop at the bank to replentish the $1.37 I had in my wallet, headed up to Buchanan, MI to pick up standin' in the gallows (otherwise known as Dan). We made the wise decision to take his new Ford Taurus, instead of my '89 rustbucket (which you have to drive with one foot on each pedal) and pointed our hood towards Comstock Park, MI, a Grand Rapids suburb. Got to the town itself with no incident, but we couldn't for the life of us find the park. It was right next to the highway when we drove in, then as we exited we promptly lost it. We saw one of the tour buses as we drove back and forth, and it appeared to be equally lost. After many dead ends, however, we made it to the ballpark.

We got in the early entry line about 1, with only six people ahead of us. The sun beat down on us for the next four hours, but we had a nice time chatting with creature void of form and Jane, both just there for the one show, although Jane was gonna be hitting more later in the tour. Needless to say, when the gates opened at 5, we got the rail, on the right side so that Bob on the left side of the stage would be facing us. Or so we thought...

A pic of us from the Grand Rapids press. We're over on the left, me in the blue shirt, creature to my left and Jane to my right (blocked by my hand...sorry) and then Dan. Taken during Elana's set.


First up was Elana James and the Continental Two. Elana James...the artist formerly known as Elana Fremerman, who toured in Bob's band in the spring of 05. She was at all four shows I saw then, and was quite good (both as a performer and as eye candy). But that wasn't anything compared to her in her own band. I didn't know what to expect, but it was a phenomenal set. In a little in-joke to us Bobcats, the first thing she said was "Welcome back" before kicking off a great set. Lots of old bluegrass tunes, accompanied by two guitar players and a bassist (isn't that three though?). Very talented musicians, but the bass player was out of this world, playing slap bass at ridiculous speeds. The highlight of the set was a song he sung called "Stomp, Stomp", filled with plenty of bass soloing. A very tight, fun group, definitely worth seeing if they come to your area. The best of the openers I'd say (and that's saying a lot). As a special treat, we could see sidestage during Elana's set, and saw a stocking-capped Bob watching in a leather jacket and sunglasses, talking to his guitarists. Usually he hasn't even arrived when the openers are playing, so that alone is a tribute to her talent (or looks).


After a quite lengthy break, Junior Brown came on, carrying his guit-steel, an instrument he invented, half guitar, half steel guitar. Accompanied by a bassist and drummer, he proved himself far more than just a novelty act, switching back and forth between neck of his instrument at lightning speeds, playing incredible solos as he tore into songs like "My Wife Thinks Your Dead" and "Highway Patrol". And on the opening song, "Broke Down South of Dallas", he did this awesome thing where he would hit the lowest string on the telecaster and as it rang tune it way down, then back up. Sounded quite cool. Quite a character, at one point he stopped using his middle finger during a solo to flip us all the bird as the other fingers kept going. I'd gotten his greatest hits cd, but the studio recordings don't do him justice. He needs the time to solo, incorporating classic country riffs with surf instrumentals with a side of blues. Another top-notch performer; great even after the initial surprise at the instrument wears off.


Next up: Jimmie Vaughn. Brother to Stevie Ray, I'd gotten one of his CD's and was most excited to see him. Playing straight ahead Chicago blues, his guitar solos were to die for. A true master of the form, he should be far bigger than he is. He came onstage looking straight out of The Godfather, greased back hair and tinted sunglasses and started in with a couple blues numbers. Nothing I knew, but he was fun to watch anyway. A more animated performer than the rest, he would walk the stage, occasionally bending to one knee or making some other rock star pose. He even played his axe behind his head at one point. Jimi would have been proud though. That said, I was a little disappointed. He was good, but not great. Part of the problem was that where we were the organ was deafeningly loud, making it difficult to hear his solos. And the set really went downhill when he brough out Lou Ann Barton. From Austin, TX, she's sung with Jimmie (and his brother) for years, but it's hard to see why. She's not bad, but nothing special. Boring to watch and listen to. She sang a few songs by herself, including "Suger Coated Love", brought to life only by Jimmie's solos. Things looked up when they duetted, cause she was easier to ignore. The highlight of the set was definitely them singing "Bapa-Boom", a really fun Vaughn classic. Attempts to get the audience to sing along, however, had limited success. Some of his best soloing here too. One more song and they were gone.

Next up...the poet laureatte or rock'n'roll, the voice of the promise of the 60's counter-culture, the guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned make-up in the 70's and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to find Jesus, was written off as a has-been by the end of the 80's, and who suddenly shifted gears, releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late 90's...Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan. As the stage techs set everything up though, we noticed something strange. Bob's keyboard, instead of being in its usual place stage right facing left, was stage center facing right. And I mean directly right, not angled towards the crowd at all, but rather facing a wall. Meaning our theoretically great spot was actually mostly staring at his back, with guitarist Stu Kimball occasionally blocking him completely. Yikes. Needless to say, this caused much consternation among us on the rail. What are you going to do though? Bob is Bob. Trying to predict his moves never works out well. It was really unfortunate for Jane and creature though, who didn't have the height advantage Dan and I enjoyed, and could barely see his head.

Anyway, Dylan finally came out, dressed in all black with the cowboy hat (no more Zorro) and the band in matching grey suits, all hatted save Donnie. Denny and Tony have switched to the other side of stage, and Stu has taken their place. Donnie is directly behind Bob (couldn't see him at all) with George to his right. Not a great set-up by any stretch of the imagination. On to the songs:

Maggie's Farm - Was hoping he'd open with something different, but no luck. A song with a stronger riff would be better; this is just kind of muddy. A solid delivery, though. He did something very nice when he said "I get...bored", barking out bored short and clipping it off.

The Times, They Are A-Changin' - While I would have liked a setlist changed, I'd never heard this live before, so that was nice. A very nice performance of a song that has often been massacred in recent years, with a killer harp solo at the end (behind the keyboard; he never ventured center stage). Denny's guitar work, I started to notice, has far improved, and would just get better as the night went on.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum - Confession of the day: I thought this was Drifter's Escape during the opening riff. I have no idea why; maybe I'd tried to forget this song even existed. Too optimistic though, as exist it did. Solid, which is better than you can always say. It'd be a lot of fun if he just didn't perform it every night.

Mr Tambourine Man - In 05 this song was a highlight of every show, in a surreal, languishing arrangement. Unfortunately, that arrangement is gone. In place is one that, while not bad, is less creative. Bob didn't do much until about halfway through, when he suddenly kicked into gear and really wrapped his voice around the lines. Ended with another nice harmonica solo. The king of the three-note solo, the harmonica performances these two shows were the best I'd seen him do.

It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - I was getting a little worried at this point by the set lists. No surprises at all; almost all hits. I didn't pay too much attention during this one.

Just Like a Woman - Bob the greatest hits jukebox just trucks along. What made this song somewhat special were the choruses though. He would let the audience sing "just like a woman" and then echo it with his own quick "just like a woman". That's about as close to audience interaction you get at a Dylan show, but it was a nice touch.

Cold Irons Bound - After a slow start, things began to look up here. This version took me a few listens, but it is truly incredible. A slow-burner that builds and builds, but never really climaxes. It built more towards that final explosion tonight than it used to, however, getting pretty raucous by the end. Great vocal delivery and the band was smoking, Denny especially (never thought I'd say that). Not surprisingly, I was the only one who clapped after the "winds in Chicago" line. One of the clear highlights, for both the music and the vocals.

Shelter From the Storm - Oh my God. I thought it was Boots of Spanish Leather when Stu started his acoustic intro, but when Bob came in with "It was in another lifetime" I almost passed out. An incredible song off of my favorite Dylan album, I hadn't thought to even hope he'd play it. An incredible song doesn't always translate to an incredible performance though; I remember on one of its few outings last year this was of the worst upsung songs I'd ever heard. Here, however, it was incredible, sung slowly and deliberately, each line being turned a different way. Of special note was the way he sang the fifth line of every verse, higher than the rest and jaw-dropping each time. He ended by repeating the first verse. Seeing it performed at all would have been enough, but the way it was performed was unreal. Out of eight shows, the best performance I've ever seen him do. Unreal.

Masters of War - I was still recovering from the previous song for the beginning of this, but it was another very nice performance of a song I don't think has ever been performed badly (first one to say Grammys 91 gets smacked). Very spooky ambiance created by the band and the lighting. With the terrorist attacks and all, it seemed as topical as ever, a fact Bob was probably well aware of.

Highway 61 Revisited - Was expecting this one, but was disappointed because it meant only one more surprise slot. Even still, the band rocks this one out and didn't fail to here either. It's never one with subtle, nuanced vocals, but Dylan did a good job enunciating them. Even still, though, this song belongs to the band, especially George.

Sugar Baby - Another highlight. I'd seen it performed in West Lafayette 2004, but this version was far better. I like the arrangement and it made for a nice break between Hwy 61 and Summer Days. Bob was really putting effort into these vocals, probably realizing it was his last chance this show to focus on them in a non-rocker. I didn't think I was a huge fan of the song, but he convinced me otherwise. The chorus is really great, not ending at all how you'd expect it to.

Summer Days - Would he do two Love & Theft songs in a row? Yup. This song is a great rocker live, but would be better moved around, as now it's always tempered by the fact it signals the show is almost over. Nevertheless, it was quite good. As it is often a vehicle for a Tony bass solo, I guess now would be the time to mention how horrible he looked tonight. Not just bored and tired, but about to pass out, eyes rolling around. I've never seen anyone more out of it on stage. Maybe he was sick, maybe he does a lot of drugs (seems unlikely, but who knows), but he looked horrible. Barely standing. Oh well. Encore break.

Like a Rolling Stone - I'd heard that this song has been reinvigorated in 06, but I didn't see any evidence of that. Same old crowd-pleaser, only now missing Stu's solo which was my favorite part of last year's performances. Turning the lights on the audience during the chorus is fun if you're in the pit though, just cause everyone goes nuts.

All Along the Watchtower - Unlike LARS, this is a daily song that is killer every time. I hope he never drops it from the set; it's the perfect way to end every show. George's drum roll after the first verse literally makes me shudder every time. It is just perfect. Some more very nice solos by Denny. He used to be so boring, but he's really picked up recently. Not great yet, but he could be there by the end of the year. The echo effect was used on a couple lines in the last verse, but only minimally. Stu's acoustic guitar, which seems like a bizarre idea for a song this hard-rocking, actually works nicely, coming through occasionally when the electric take a brief break.

All in all, a very good concert. Not great, but with a Shelter that was to die for. It was also nice that the set list was a little mixed up, even if it was still mostly hits. George was great as always, Denny was much better then I'd expected, Stu was non-descript, Donnie's instruments might as well not have been plugged in, and Tony was about to pass out. Bob, while not in top form, was reasonably close, and made for a very nice opening night. Off to the motel, to leave at 10 tomorrow morning for more Bob!