That nagging worry lasted a few seconds into the concert after he strode on to stage in his cowboy hat and began playing at the keyboard. I wondered, “What on Earth is he playing?” Well, it was unfamiliar to me but it didn’t matter, the song rocked and I knew then it was going to be a good night. Later that night I Googled some lines from the song and it seems to be Watching the River Flow – a 1971 single that never appeared on any regular album.
Señor, señor, do you know where we’re headin’?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
Now, his voice has always been the subject of much debate and he has many detractors because of it. Over the years some heretics have even suggested he cannot sing at all, while those who once thought he could have committed a kind of apostasy by declaring he no longer can. Well, while his voice has changed over the years almost as much as his musical style it was and remains one of the most compelling aspects of his music. As he croaked out, “sen-yor! sen-yor!” I wondered how to describe his voice. I could only think of a Japanese word which seems to capture the right nuance and that is shibui. Shibui has a number of meanings, sometimes referring to wine which has an abrasive or rough character, but paradoxically it can also mean refined or - more colloquially – it can simply mean “cool”. Well, tonight his voice was strongly shibui.
The next song was I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight and it was a rare performance with the guitar (he seems not to use the guitar live so much these days).
Well, that mockingbird’s gonna sail away,
We’re gonna forget it.
That big, fat moon is gonna shine like a spoon,
But we’re gonna let it,
You won’t regret it.
I can’t tell you the names of any of Bob’s backing band, but the most prominent of the five was the energetic lead guitarist and a versatile banjo/lap steel/keyboard player. The bassist alternated between acoustic, electric and double bass and they came to the fore particularly in one segment which consisted of songs from his most recent era. I date this era from Love and Theft in which Bob’s music has tended to be some kind of mixture of blues and Cajun (?) music. The highpoint of this was High Water which has some amusing lines:
I got a cravin’ love for blazing speed
Got a hopped-up Mustang Ford
Jump into the wagon, love, throw your panties on the board
I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I’m no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind
Things are breakin’ up out there
High water everywhere
The best section of the show was one in which Bob hopped from keyboard, to harp to guitar on, respectively, Desolation Row, Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again) and the brooding, Man In the Long Black Coat. On Stuck Inside of Mobile, Bob proved (as if proof were needed) what a great harmonica player he is with a mesmerizing solo. The final lines were interspersed with toots on the harp:
Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again
The album, Highway 61 Revisited, was well represented with four songs being played from it: Desolation Row, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Highway 61 Revisited and the first song of the encore, Like a Rolling Stone. Next was Jolene, one of the best songs on the new album, Together Through Life, and one of the most popular songs of the night judging by the audience reaction.
Just before the encore this Illuminati-Bliderbergy-Eye-0f-Horusy image suddenly unfurled to a big cheer and then embarrassed laughter as no one really knew what they were cheering. What is it? Conspiracy theorists want to know...
Overall Rating: 8/10
Update 1: Bill Pagel has put up the set-list on his "Boblinks" website.
1. Watching The River Flow
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (guitar)
4. High Water (For Charley Patton)
5. The Levee's Gonna Break
6. Tryin' To Get To Heaven
7. Cold Irons Bound
8. Desolation Row
9. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
10. Man In The Long Black Coat (Bob on guitar)
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Spirit On The Water
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
15. Like A Rolling Stone
17. All Along The Watchtower
Altogether there are five songs from the albums Time Out Of Mind and Modern Times, neither of which I own, sadly. That explains why there were a few sections of the concert where I didn't know what Bob was playing.
There are two more reviews up on the same site from people who were also there. They seem to agree with my take on the night and have some extra details about the Great Guitar Incident!
Hopefully, some pictures and maybe recordings will also surface. If they do I'll try and update this post again. If anyone already knows of any, please feel free to tell me in the comment box.
Update 2: Super-uploader, Hide, has made this whole show available to download at dimeadozen.org (Free registration required).
Update 3: "decastro3" has made Señor available individually. More songs from the tour have been collected here. These have all been originally uploaded by Hide. So, many thanks to him!
Update 4: Blogger, Shiffi Le Soy, has a couple of great photographs from the night which seem to really capture the mood. Please also read Shiffi's excellent review here.