First off, I saw Bob last October in Dayton. The venue sucked, the sound was bad, the crowd was bad and I'm sure that all factored into Bob's performance. It was a solid show with some good moments, but it was NOTHING like tonight.
Bob was absolutely on for the whole night. The set list was full of songs I had hoped to hear that appeared on this leg of the tour, but didn't expect to. Before I describe things, here's what he played (he was on keyboards all night): 1. Cat's In The Well 2. The Times They Are A-Changin' (w/Bob on harp) 3. Things Have Changed (w/Bob on harp) 4. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (w/Bob on harp) 5. Love Sick 6. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (w/Bob on harp) 7. High Water 8. Chimes Of Freedom (w/Bob on harp) 9. Rollin' and Tumblin' 10. I Believe In You (w/Bob on harp) 11. Honest With Me 12. Just Like A Woman (w/Bob playing one note on harp and then telling Denny to solo on guitar instead, haha) 13. Til' I Fell In Love With You 14. Nettie Moore 15. Thunder On The Mountain -- 16. Like A Rolling Stone 17. All Along the Watchtower
Cat's In The Well started the show off firing. Bob usually seems to try and warm his voice up during the first song, but tonight he just came out and ripped. He was playing his keys hard and moving around quite a bit. Then came The Times They Are A-Changin', the title track from my absolute favorite Dylan album. This was a great, ballady full band arrangement that worked really well. I was REALLY glad to hear that one, and thought that would be the big treat of the night.
The band then went into Things Have Changed. I saw this song last October, and it was decent but not really a standout. Tonight Bob's singing was excellent and it was a really cool version. The mix was really different from any time I've heard it, which actually was cool because the song has a totally different vibe with the guitars up front. After that, he went into a great version of I'll Be Your Baby Tonight. This song was kind of jammed out, with stanzas repeated numerous times and nearly everyone soloing. The crowd ate it up, and Bob's vocals were strong- he even threw in some nice vibrato and had no problems hitting notes. It seemed like he gained some confidence with this one that stuck around for the rest of the show. Love Sick came next. He played this one last October too, and didn't do the album version justice. Tonight, again, was different. Excellent singing, and the atmosphere of the song came through the sound system perfectly.
Then I clearly remember yelling so loud my voice cracked and I sounded pitiful. The reason: The band had just burst into Stuck Inside Of Mobile, one of my favorite songs Bob's ever done. The vocals were great, which surprised me. The melody was partly the same as the album, but some of his diction made it seem more like he was talking to us and telling the story. It worked great, and the crowd went nuts. High Water came next, with the banjo more in the background than usual. This made for a really rocking version that definitely surpassed the version from last October.
And then my heart almost stopped when I heard Bob sing "Far between sundown's finish, and midnight's broken toll". Chimes Of mothafuckin' Freedom! Another song that I'll never get enough of. When this showed up in a set list last week I thought "holy crap, I hope he plays that!" but didn't expect it. I figured it was just a little surprise, like when Maggie's Farm popped up a few months ago for just one show. This version was great, with Bob singing more and more melodious as the song pressed on, making for an epic ending. Beautiful arrangement of the song, with the 2 guitars intertwining for some great harmonies that fit the atmosphere perfectly.
Then they went into a blues classic, and the Modern Times song I wanted to hear the most: Rollin' and Tumblin'. It started off kind of weak, with Bob slurring the lines, and Denny playing some slide that was just alright. But by the third verse the band locked in. Bob was stomping his foot and giving the blues croon he wished he had when he was 19 and recording his first album. Denny's slide playing improved a lot as the song went on too, and his final solo was especially great. Muddy would have been proud.
Next up was I Believe In You, a song I don't know too well. It certainly won me over though. Bob's voice was as good as I've heard it in a long time, in the studio or live. He threw out some tasteful vibrato on this one too, and it was another beautiful ballad. He played Honest With Me next, which the crowd loved. Stu and Denny traded off licks and people just went nuts. This a great one for showing off the band and they definitely enjoyed playing it. Just Like A Woman changed the vibe up next. I didn't recognize it for a few lines, as it's been transformed quite a bit. On the chorus, Bob seemed to pause for a while and the band got quiet so they could hear the crowd sing "Juuust liiike a woman". Nice version and it probably got the most applause of the night.
Bob's vocals shone like the bright moon in the sky during 'Til I Fell In Love With You. Again, he surprised me by singing this one incredibly good. They then played Nettie Moore. Not much to say about it, it sounded pretty much just like the album- though I love cheering after the "I'm in a cowboy band..." line. Bob's been experimenting with where he places Thunder On The Mountain lately. Since the release of Modern Times it pretty much has stayed in the first encore spot, but it's been all over the place in the past couple weeks. It closed the main set tonight with a bang. The crowd loved it, and so did Bob. He changed the vocals up a bit in the end, and I thought it was better than the album version. This one gets played every night for a reason... it's got to be damn fun, it's epic as all hell and the crowd loves it.
Then we waited patiently for the encore. By this point I was in my little concert zone, just letting everything sink in. Like every show lately, Like A Rolling Stone got the first encore spot. This one was probably the low point for me, though it was cool to hear live for the first time. Bob seemed to just slide through the vocals, and it was a bit slower than the album. Kind of lifeless. It was just alright. I was a little let down when they started All Along the Watchtower. I had hoped for Blowin' In The Wind as a closer, as we got Watchtower last year. But soon that didn't matter... I realized I can't get tired of hearing Watchtower- it's just too good of a rocker. In the 3rd verse, Bob seemed to make up a new, really cool melody that kind of descended down the pentatonic scale and worked perfectly with the song.
I went to this show alone (my Bob Dylan fan friends are in short supply), and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me before the show. He told me he hadn't seen Bob before and I told him that it wouldn't be what he expected, but if he went in just looking for a good show he'd have a great time. I also told him that Bob is kind of hit or miss. After All Along the Watchtower, he and his girlfriend walked out of the aisle. He patted me on the back, and I said "I'll see you next time". That sentence about sums the show up for me.