If you’ve been reading my recent reviews, you’d know that I was due for a break. Whether it be the incessant mishaps regarding doors, venue people flexing their muscles on me or just the drab atmospheres for most of the shows, something just wasn’t clicking for me on the Hotter Then Hell Summer Tour. This one I had higher expectations for (even though, given my recent track record, that might be dangerous); my favorite guitarist, friend, idol, and all around hero was turning 65 at a show 30 minutes from the town where he grew up. Even if no one else in the audience knew, if the setlist sucked and the performance was phoned in, it was still a show I really wanted to be at.
The wait, while sticky and for some inexplicable reason, fly-infested, was not near as bad as it could have been. It was actually nice to catch up w/ friends not seen in many months, and make some great conversations w/ those more commonly contacted. I really have to say, I was not expecting much, given the stereotype of a Texas Willie Nelson fan, but there were three gals I got to know over the last few shows, and, aside from obsessively following Willie rather then Dylan, they really are just like “us” (whoever you define ‘us’ as).
Once again, the door I had chosen to line up in (one of two) was not opened; they did not have the combination to that lock They were able to discern this before opening the other though, and the run was actually really fun, if not erring a bit on the ridiculous side of looooonnnnnggggggg! Got my ideal rail real estate again, and set about the familiar task of waiting out the other acts while, at the same time, trying NOT to be shifted on down the line into rail oblivion.
When it finally was time for the Boys to come out, Happy Birthday was, predictably, NOT the opening song haha. Leopard Skin instead took the honor. Nothing really stood out about it, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Denny was further up in the mix then nights previous, and was playing enough to keep my mind off the fact that Dylan was also on guitar. haha
Once the lights went down, Tony scampered over (as it would soon be known) to tell Stu to bring in Don’t Think Twice w/ only his acoustic. It really made the song (usually a touch-and-go) that much better and stronger. Everyone was on point, even early on, and Denny even took a solo. Short, sure, but since Dylan was also on guitar, it made if that more rare (and needed! )
Things Have Changed showed that, indeed, things had changed from the shows earlier this week. The band was hot. If Wednesday’s show had been a partial return to form, this was their way of showing they were back! Excellent lead from Denny, new (to me) start-stop finish, and just a genuine passion announced that whatever had been plaguing them in the past few shows was out of their collective system. Just as strong and enjoyable as the 08 shows, it was evident early on that we were in for a treat. I couldn’t have been happier.
Spirit I could really have done w/o so much Dylan harp, but given what I’d seen in the past week, I was more then happy for the guitar parts we did get here. Not up to par w/ just letting Denny soar on the song (and perhaps a bit on the bright end) but it did the trick.
Levee rocked w/ its pre 09 intensity, Stu on lead, but at least mixing it up ever so slightly. 08 was easily my favorite year for this band, in order to give you a scale w/ which to judge this. It did honestly feel like I had gone back in time one year tonight, the songs were that tight and enjoyable!
This marked my second time seeing Houston, and man, I am still enthralled w/ that bassline! Wow! I couldn’t tear my eyes away to look at anything else. Especially when TTL first came out, I really couldn’t stand this song, but seeing/hearing it live changes all that. Tony even mock roared w/ the crowd on the Dallas mention haha
Tweedles, as far as I’m concerned, was in the same boat as Levee tonight. Both have become semi standards, but tonight’s were taken to the next level, which was even remarked on by those around me. I will add that George is the absolute perfect drummer for this song; I am continually impressed w/ his work on this one.
I finally got my first Charlie-less IFACCO, and….you guessed it, was left wanting more from Denny. All in all, nothing to gripe about, and ANYONE other then M. Campbell on guitar was good enough for me. H61 has become a lot more bass heavy, which, according to me, couldn’t really be any better. Again a standard, but a house rockin standard, no question. Nettie was really cool, Denny doing something I hadn’t ever seen before. The whole band was really killing it, w/ the exception of Dylan’s harmonica. Usually, I really like it when he plays harp, but this is was NOT working w/ the direction everyone else. I have nothing to say about LARS. Jolene again saw Tony on the upright, but staying w/ the tune of the rest of the night, the boys, working together, took the thing for an instrumental spin, who’s only low point was that it ended too soon.
Or maybe that was just nerves, for after Jolene came band intros, and our one chance to enact a plan though out many moons ago. Shiny party hats, banners, and those streamer-whistle-duck call things had been strategically distributed to those on the rail and second row around us in front of Denny. The plan had been to throw them on/hold them right after the lights went down after Jolene, but for one reason or another we were all still assembling our party regalia when Denny was introduced. He threw up a fist, but didn’t really see us, and Dylan moved on to Stu.
By the time he got to Tony though, we were all decked out, and the banners were waving. Tony looked down, saw us, and leaned into Denny, no doubt asking if it was his b’day. Denny then looks down, sees all of us, and has to bite his lip to keep from bursting out in huge grin. Tony slapped him on the back, and Dylan leaned in. I think Tony was wanting him to announce this. Dylan almost leaned into the microphone, contemplating it, before the band kicked into Watchtower. Denny did his best not to look at us in the beginning of the song, but the lights get rather bright on the audience during that one, and 15 shiny foil hats and duck call streamers got the better of him. Watchtower to me was one loud, quick blur that went by entirely too fast. I myself couldn’t stop smiling; I knew we looked like tremendous idiots out there, but fuck if it wasn’t fun. Denny was practically bouncing around on stage, well, I mean, for him haha.
At the lineup, Tony kept slapping him on the back and shoulders, grinning wildly, trying to get to do something. I don’t think he could move, I think he was stunned; I saw the expression on his face, it was all he could do to keep a straight one. Finally, after moving his arms around a little, he gestures for us to go ahead and “take it down”. We, of course, do not. Someone said Dylan shook his hand, which I cannot comment on because I did not see, I didn’t even really see how Dylan was reacting to this whole thing, though I’m told he was also getting a huge kick out of it. Right before they leave the stage, Denny finally lifts his fists triumphantly, and act he repeats several times before they are actually off.
What started as an act of admiration, hidden behind a friendly desire to embarrass the elderly (hahahahahahahaha ) turned into something a lot bigger.
The show was excellent, really a return to the 08 style and power I loved so dearly. It has been the best 09 show I have seen, and that would be true if today’s date were the 8th or the 16th. Our little party, and the emotion if visibly stirred in a fairly stoic stage presence, will be what I remember about my time following the Dylan tours, long after tapes are obsolete and memory fails on setlists and venues. In short, I'll remember this, when I've forgotten all the rest.