If ever there was a throwaway show, I would have expected it to be this one. I had heard the horror stories from several people of the downright nastiness of the crowd and venue from the last time Bob and the boys played there. The ticket cost more then the ballpark shows and the site kept crashing when I attempted to buy tickets. I eventually got through and settled for a 5th row, figuring I would have to drive through the state anyway on my way to the AZ show. When that one was cancelled Friday night, I viewed this show as more of an afterward to my actual tour; a mellow experience to maybe ease my transition back into classroom drudgery. To say I went w/ low expectations would be an understatement. So when it turned out to be quite possibly the best show of 09, saying I was excited would be an even bigger understatement.
My seat, though in the 5th row, was absolutely perfect for where I wanted to be, and even when everyone was standing, I could see Denny and Stu just fine (Tony was, unfortunately, blocked by the bulbous head of Gov. Bill Richardson, but he was soon to sit). Ballad was the surprise opener, which, I will be the first to admit, does not look like a good opener on paper, but it absolutely worked in practice. Last time I saw it (cant remember where) Stu had lead duties, but tonight those fell on Denny and he did not disappoint. For an opener, the band was really together, this was no “warm up”. Lay Lady Lay even impressed me, and I am NOT a fan of the song, but I could find absolutely no fault w/ it. The guy next to me commented on how happy Bob was, and I guess I’ll have to take his word for it, but the band was a well oiled machine (forgive the cliché), this was going to be another incredible show. The people in front of me even left after this one, so I spent the night one row closer haha
Beyond Here came out of nowhere and blew everyone away! Not only was it completely unexpected, but it was an absolute powerhouse! It was as though this song alone was what everyone lived to perform. Everyone gelled together so well that you would have thought they played it every night, not that this was only the second time it had ever been played. No one could have made a wrong move even if he wanted to, and Donnie could actually be heard blowing away on the trumpet. I looked around at the audience; everyone around me was wearing the biggest grins their faces would hold. I doubt too many of the grins faded when Stuck Inside appeared next. It was great; this must have been what I missed last night while enduring kick drum shock waves
Earlier today, I had been talking w/ someone here about the new Beyond The Horizon, and it dawned on me that I still hadn’t seen it, which was a drag because it was near the top of my must see list. Well, they’ve got impeccable timing Tonight’s was just as beautiful as I’d hoped. Not only does this new arrangement better fit the lyrics and the overall mood of the song, but tonight Denny and Stu really must have been on the same wavelength or something, because those two played as one. Amazing.
Its Alright Ma was intense. There is no other word to describe it. Intense. Stu was the man on this one. This was his song from the moment his pick touched the strings, and he did everything but disappoint. For a song that gets played as often as this one does, I know this is a hard statement to make, but I think this was the single best performance if not ever, then at the very least w/ this band. It wasn’t just me; everyone I talked to afterwards said the same thing. Which is when it occurred to me; I’ve done a lot of comparing to 08 recently, but this one was better then 08! This is where this band would be every single night had they continued their upward trajectory.
Deal, while never a real favorite, was equally solid. Houston was a little less bassy tonight, but sounded like everyone was more comfortable in their roles then in shows past. H61 saw two people in the front row leave, so two of us took it upon ourselves to keep the seats warm for them They came back after the song was over, but if there was one song to be in the front for, it was that one. In the grand scheme of things, it was another band effort, w/ no one outshining anyone else, but for me, the coolest thing was Denny’s solo, which was pure, 100%, unadulterated Denny Freeman. I don’t know that we’ve seen that in a Dylan show for a long time
I cant remember if it was during Nettie or Deal, but either way, there was some really terrible harp playing that interjected one of the better moments, as though he was playing it for the sole purpose of reminding people he was still onstage. Aside from that though, I felt Dylan was definitely in one of his better grooves all night. Sometimes, many times, it can kind of sound like he’s oblivious to what the band is doing at any given moment, but tonight he seemed really in tune w/ what was happening on stage, as opposed to the musical equivalent of just hacking your way through the walls of a corn maze when you get lost.
Summer Days was a bit lackluster, given the show it was in, but if anyone really impressed me during it, it was Stu. Not usually a song in the key of Stu, he was on point tonight when the ball landed in his court. The governor and his women, who were in the row directly in front of me now got up to leave here. It was VERY clear they had no intentions of returning, so I commandeered their space. No sooner did I look up at the stage again then the venue’s version of the secret service was in my face, screaming at me that I could not, under any circumstances, be there. I pointed to the spot a chair’s width behind me, and explained that I had only just moved from right there. Well, then that’s where I needed to be, he informed me. Um, ok. I mean, its not that big of a deal, the view is notthat different, but so much for no royalty in America Well, I guess it cant be a Summer 09 show if the venue isn’t giving me some kind of grief for one thing or another.
Jolene was the unexpected low point of the night. They made it work, but no one was on the same page at any part during it. Yes, it’s blues, so they figured it out, it wasn’t a “mess” but anything beyond that didn’t really click for some reason. Once someone picked up that he was supposed to do A after someone else did B, that person had stopped doing B altogether.
Around midday today, I had finally accepted that the Arizona show was not going to happen. And I was beginning to be comfortable w/ the idea. I went to this show knowing it would be my last of the tour, and, while I could not have asked for a better show, I cant help but be disappointed wondering what could have been in AZ. I cant stop now, I’ve got to have some more! This so far has been the only tour where, while on it, I question whether or not I really want to do any more in the future (local shows not withstanding). While it got off to a real rocky start at the beginning for me, if they continue on the way they have these past 3 nights, I forsee many more stretching down that road on out of sight (and, w/ a bit of luck, void of the Mel-ster).