If you ever go to Houston Boy, you’d better walk right
I should have listened.
It was an oppressively hot day as I made my way into the venue that would house the absolute strangest show I have ever attended. What started w/ the all-but invitation to the rubber glove room walking in didn’t let up until after the security hassled me about looking for my ride when the boys were already on the bus; no matter WHAT I did, there was some venue jerk more then happy to jump down my throat. Even objective observers commented on this strange occurrence. I got yelled at for wandering around, I got yelled at for asking for a glass of ice, I got my ticket checked AT MY SEAT when no one else’s around was, the list goes on and on. There must be someone who looks exactly like me in Houston… and he must be a real assh*le! Yet I remained optimistic.
I had been told that I would really enjoy the Wyios, so I was really ready to hate them, but they were actually a fairly solid band. The lead singer has a really excellent voice, and the steel player was a blast to listen to. I thought their “performing” a bit schmaltzy, and would have preferred they not do it, but, hey, that’s me. The music was great.
Willie I was also fairly impressed w/. He’s not one I’d ever pay to see, but he gave the audience what it wanted (more well known songs sung exactly like “Willie Nelson” would be expected to sing them) and there were no complaints from me. Early on, he began his rain of headgear upon the audience by flinging his hat into the crowd. Well, it acted like a boomerang, and, had I been leaning back in my chair instead of leaning forward, it would have landed square on my head. (Instead, it hit my back where it was promptly snatched up )
Meanwhile it just got hotter and hotter.
Mellencamp put on a “rock” show; he had “rock” songs, a “rock” attitude, a “rock” guitar player, and those who listen to “rock” on the radio seemed to gobble it up. Me, not so much. He did put on a great show, if you’re into that sort of prefabricated “Americana”, and everyone seemed to be having fun up there, so I wont knock it too much, but I could easily go the rest of my life w/o seeing and/or hearing him again.
Since I last saw Dylan in November, I had practically taken up a second residence in Austin, which afforded me the thrill of seeing Denny being Denny, playing what he wanted. While I had been looking forward to these shows all summer, it was not w/o a bit of apprehension. Seeing Denny in Austin has been better then ANY time I have ever seen him w/ Dylan, and it was natural to wonder if I could return to the BD extravaganza w/ the same feelings of affection and high regard I once held them in.
But all it took was that ol’ familiar intro music to slap a smile on my face that I just couldn’t seem to shake.
They opened w/ Leopard Skin and followed w/ It Aint Me, Babe, Dylan on guitar for both. Dylan should not be on guitar. There, I said it. Not only does he have 2 stellar guitarists on his payroll, but he really wrecks the energy of the song, if not the song itself, when he’s playing guitar.
He moved over to keys for Rollin, and I wish I could say that was a good thing, but that too had its issues. First, it made me realize that Denny was FAR too low in the mix; I really had to strain to hear him. Secondly, the keyboard was FAR too loud, making it so I could hear the ear-piercing interruptions to Denny’s slide clearly
The next, Trying To Get To Heaven, usually a favorite of mine, continued the downward slide. The band was tight enough, but Dylan’s phrasing was way too fast in the beginning. Then, he played a harp solo, which, was not terrible by any means, but Denny used to play a mean guitar in that space, and I was more focused on what we were missing. Yes, it is Dylan’s band, but if you have one of the best guitarists playing today in your band, you’re generally better served letting him play. Not a great return show for me thus far.
Tweedles was its normal rockin’ self, and a quick trip from Tony to the keyboards in the dark yielded none other then If You Ever Go To Houston. Tony was grinning for ear to ear, no doubt thinking himself clever for playing the obligatory haha. This was my first time seeing this song, and it was here that the night really began to turn around for me. This is a bass song, no two ways about it, and as I watched Tony smoothly guide and control the ride, I remembered why I keep coming back. There is really no greater joy then watching a consummate pro play up and down the neck like that. More often then not, a good groove is really all you need.
I was happy to get Alright Ma, but the uprigh’ts levels weren’t exactly, erm, level, and so the bass kept rising and falling. Deal Goes Down saw Denny’s first real notable solo, but I couldn’t help coming away w/ the feeling that it should have been longer. Highway 61 was really great, perhaps one of the better H61s in awhile. It got a bit jammy, in a good way, and no one person’s work stood above any others’. At the time of this writing, I am far too tired to remember if Tony actually solo’d, or if it was just high bass in the mix, bit it was good!
The only thing worth noting w/ Nettie Moore was that Stu was attacked by an extremely large moth at the beginning. It was very humorous watching him duck and twist to get rid of it, but he never lost a beat. It wasn’t a bad Nettie, but there was nothing extraordinary about it.
The same, however, cannot be said about Summer Days, which really took off. Just like H61, it was a team effort. Everyone was having a blast and it showed. Dylan was laughing out loud more times then once, and that laughter spread to Tony, who began slapping the upright, which automatically put this rendition into another category on its own
(Semi) standard encores ensued, w/ the exception of Jolene (another first for me). At first, neither me, nor those around me, had any idea what they were playing. Each guy’s pre-song noodling sort of just fed into each other. Stu was on tele playing the rhythm but it was bright and loud and perfectly complementing Denny’s lead on the BFG. This was a perfect example of what happens when Dylan plays to his guitarists’ strengths, rather then randomly assigning roles. I don’t claim to have listened to every Jolene ever played, and I certainly haven’t heard the last couple shows’ ones to accurately compare, but this one was something else!!! Wow! It didn’t sound like any version I’d heard before, in more ways then one.
While the mix was not the best tonight, one thing that was absolutely right w/ it was Dylan’s vocals, they were loud and clear and strong all night long. Not only was he singing great but it sounded great on the rail too. On the other hand, Donnie CANNOT be heard when there is ANY other instrument playing on stage, which is a HUGE shame. That needs to be fixed pronto.
It was a soggy show, no doubt, and I’ve never experienced such an up and down fluctuation in one show before, but it was a blast, and great to be back on the road w/ BD and Co, headed for another joint.