How Does It Feel? Pretty Good

Here's my Dylan analogy: Dylan is like the Pope. (This worked better when John Paul II was still alive, so stick with me.) He may be way up there in years and he's all hunched over whenever you see him. He mumbles incoherently to the point where it's near impossible to understand a word he's saying. He's always wearing a silly hat. He gets cheered for doing the most simple thing, like simply blowing in and out on a harmonica. But you know what? If you're a believer, you're just not going to pass up an opportunity to see him in person, to be in the presence of a legend and hope for at least a brief glimpse of greatness.

Tonight's set didn't have any truly revelatory moments but as far as 21st century Dylan shows go, this was a winner. I was all set to make a "Weezy Meet Wheezy" joke, but Bob's voice was in fine form. No croaking tonight, just the playful rephrasing that's become the norm over the past decade. Usually it takes me up to two minutes to recognize "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again." Tonight I identified it within 30 seconds.

As is often the case lately the songs from Dylan's recent trilogy of albums sounded best, no doubt because they were written with his current abilities in mind. "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Spirit on the Water" and especially "Highwater (For Charley Patton)" were excellent showcases of Dylan's new-retro Americana, made all the better by Stu Kimball's stinging guitar leads.

"Highway 61" was its usual fun romp and "Ballad of a Thin Man" (aka Weingarten's fave song) remains a lyrical powerhouse even if Dylan's own reinterpretation made it impossible to sing along. (No doubt to Dylan's delight.) He sacrificed some set time to help get things back on schedule but still gave us an encore of "Like a Rolling Stone." Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone," at twilight on a gorgeous night? Not much can top that.

--DAVID MALITZ

By David Malitz |  August 10, 2008; 8:08 PM ET Virgin Festival
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the lead guitar is denny freeman, not stu....thanks for review, tho....

Posted by: james | August 11, 2008 4:59 AM

to continue...

Dylan's onstage layout, from the vantage point of the audience: Left is Denny Freeman, always on electric guitar, nearly always playing 'lead.' Bass player Tony Garnier, who's been onstage with Mr. Dylan longer than any other player in history, is usually low in the mix, but always anchoring the time. Tony did a stylish bass-spin during the show at Virgin Festival. Drummer George Recile, the second tenured current side-man, is notable, to me at least, for his shotgun-pounding style, really working to it's peak on songs like Highway 61, a Dylan staple. Multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, channels Mr. Dylan as a second pair of hands, never taking his eyes off the front-man, and never late for a tasteful fill, providing an almost un-noticeable but essential sound backing, as on banjo for 'High Water,' an atmosphere originally created by awesome ex-sideman Larry Campbell. Currently on the right (I say this because the band changes places almost as often as the songs are reinterpreted) is Stu Kimball, who usually plays 'rhythm' guitar, switching between flat-top and electric when appropriate. Stu had a bit of a moment at Virgin Festival as he switched axes mid-song, moving from electric to his nearby flat-top. I assumed he had rare broken a string on his electric, but in his haste to switch (or frustration?) a guitar stand took a bit of a trip across the stage.

The line-up has been together for several tours, pro'ly a couple-of-hundred shows, as Mr. Dylan plays around a hundred per year (for the last umpteen years!), in awesomely outrageous places from Poland, to Spain, to Brazil, to Melbourne each year.

My own point of view is that Mr. Dylan is like a touring college professor, and I wouldn't chance it to miss one of his lectures, as long as it's within a few-hours drive. Also, the last time Mr. Dylan was at Pimlico was one of those special occasions. Hired to play for an August 2002 Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration, preceding the Virgin Festivals, he cracked open a song he hadn't done for decades, 'Quinn the Eskimo.' And at the conclusion to that show (where the sexagenarian, came onstage with his shirt mostly unbuttoned, because of triple-digit onstage temps) we saw him take a deep bow, touching his knee to the stage, then taking a notepad and pen, tossed gently from a lady in the front onto the stage, sign it, and toss it back into the mosh. It was a memorable moment for us, and the lucky Baltimorean that actually got her notepad, but not the pen, back! I couldn't help but track her down, just for a glance at the known-authentic autograph!

Any Dylan show is worth any price to see!

Posted by: jh | August 11, 2008 9:43 PM

To contine on my continue: A note on Mr. Dylan’s (and band attire), this is one sharp looking outfit. The sidemen are each wearing a custom designed and fitted suit. There are sets including shades from grey, to brown, to burgundy. If you look closely, each tour a new set of work clothes are crafted in a style tailored to the man, drummer, or axe-man. They are not the ‘suits alike,’ of the Stanley Brothers, but, yes, they are. A nod which I appreciate greatly. Nearly all players, including Mr. Dylan, are capped by a stylish and appropriate topper. Mr. Dylan has rotated through many hat styles in his career (duh?), including a cowboy hat style recently, before landing on a flat rimmed hat, temporarily.

Possibly to acknowledge the venue, Mr. Dylan had na awesomely tailored suit combo, with golden piping down the legs of his black trousers, and a golden-yellow button-down shirt under a black jacket. (Unfortunately Mr. Dylan’s footwear are not often seen for those wanting a really close look at the master. We assume he was wearing a pair of black custom made cowboy boots, hopefully with some tasteful silver accents, but alas, unconfirmed.) The color scheme certainly fit the venue! There were moments during the show, when the setting sun broke through the clouds, and the sunbeams pounded the stage, and the music pounded back (Summer Days), and what more can be said, but when can we catch up with the master again?

Posted by: jh | August 11, 2008 10:24 PM

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