This was almost the shortest review I have ever written (sorry for the “almost”), as it wouldn’t have taken more then a half of a page to describe the horrible situations I seem to keep finding myself in upon arriving at these shows. Luckily, it got better, and ended up being JUST as good as the spectacular Grand Prairie show the night before (and now yall are treated to more words from me haha).
In hindsight, it was just really too easy, even from the get go buying tickets. I bought what, on the map, appeared to be exactly what I needed, front row to boot. I’d never gotten front row on a presale. We arrived to a great parking spot and in time to catch only the tail end of the Mel-ster. Then it all went to hell. I was escorted to my front row seat……front row on the edge of oblivion! There was a good 10 feet to my right before the edge of the stage even started! I was directly in front of a monstrous PA that, as it turned out, served the sole purpose of blasting George’s kick drum out. That’s not the worst of it though, as the people in the outer sections who were sold “front row” got an excellent view of an empty football stadium, but nothing else. I talked to some folks who were REALLY digging the Mellencamp thing, and they agreed to let me have their (top notch) seats IF they left (a big if, they didn’t know yet).
I was understandably disappointed when they opened w/ Maggies Farm. Here’s a tour rarity, and I am being shaken, rattled and rolled by an atomic metronome. I couldn’t see anyone but Bob and Donnie, and worse, I couldn’t hear any sort of mix whatsoever, just that kick drum. I’m sure had I been holding anything fragile, it would have shattered. After it ended, the woman w/ the good seats looked over and smiled. I took that as a good sign, but it sure didn’t make my seat area any better. Lay Lady Lay is NEVER a favorite, but I’d have given anything at that point to actually see and/or hear the thing. The woman began texting and fidgeting, surely she’s had enough and will leave soon.
But no. Instead she remains sitting, and the boys launch into Stuck Inside, another rarely seen song this ballpark jaunt. Even before this situation, I was looking forward to it more then normal. I got REALLY mad when I hear a muffled and distorted Denny solo coming through the kick drum PA…..and it sounded incredible! If it sounded this good through this thing, imagine seeing it!!!! Meanwhile the blue glow of the screen continued to illuminate her face. I tried to watch Bob, really, I did, but I just couldn’t. He’s so boring to watch! I’m sorry, but he doesnt do anything I have any interest in doing myself. I couldn’t help myself, my mind kept drifting back to what a horribly frustrating spot I had. Denny is not an antennae for Christsakes! You can send text messages anywhere; you do NOT have to be in front of him to get them to go through! ARGH!!! I was losing my mind!
Just when things look their worst, it gets worse. They actually came over and tried to eject me from seat, claiming I needed to be in the 20th row. That’s SEAT 20, you as$hole! Cant you read?!?! (third time that night it happened, no joke) I am NOT a confrontational person, by any means, but I found myself speaking w/ an almost Milkcow-esque passion. Come on, I mean, is there really a line of people vying for a spot in front of the sonic boom machine? The fact that Hattie Carrol was playing burned me just that much more; its bad enough where I am, but now I get to “miss” all the good ones?!
Whoever was having a laugh at my expense decided he’d stressed me enough because FINALLY, after what seemed like eons, the Mellenheads got up and gestured me to their seats. Thank you! Just in time for Honest, I find myself in the perfect “BZ spot” listening to the clearest and strongest mix of the tour. Everything was exactly where it should be, and even Stu steps away from the generic. Folks, the 08 band is back! And man, how I’ve missed them
I literally could not have been happier to be in my new adopted spot then when the haunting opening of Blind Willie rings out! I excitedly zero in on Denny’s guitar as the song starts, only to be startled by a strange sound, like our party streamers from last night tuned down an octave or so. I honestly hadn’t noticed, but Dylan had strapped on his guitar for this one It was bad, but not terrible, and to my surprise didn’t ruin anything. The song was still chilling, and the other electric guitar parts were beautiful. Dylan did run right over the top of a Denny solo, but let him have a go the next time around. Stu was on acoustic, but couldn’t really be heard from where I was. Everything was incredibly solid though, on point and on par, just as good as when they disbanded last year.
The setlist just kept getting better w/ High Water, one that I was sure 5 shows would have produced by now. My all-time favorite version of it was Milwaukee 2008 when that new riff was louder sand stronger then it has been, before or since, but that’s not to slight this, as they were really working as a unit here. For the first time in my 5 shows, Donnie was audible on his banjo, and Tony slapped out a very few select lines on the upright. It sounded spectacular! I couldn’t believe this reversal of fortune.
Workingman’s too, wow, what a beauty. Dylan flubbed the first couple of lines, but that detracted absolutely nothing, and Denny did a real nice job w/ the solo. All in all, a very moving song. Things were really going well. H61 was more Stu then Band tonight, but it worked out because he took command of it rather well and never let it sag. Love Sick, can this be happening?! I couldn’t make up a better setlist! Dylan once again trampled Denny’s solo, this time on harp, but Denny was playing this great little line under the harp which, to me, stood out more then anything else. He did slide into a solo afterwards, but the rhythm under the harp was much cooler. Thunder was Thunder and I’m sure would have been impossible to listen to at my original location.
Little pockets of the stage had been huddling all night, but when they came back in for the encore in a tight bunch, I knew we were in for something special. Tony was still giving out directions when George kicked it off. It SURE as hell wasn’t LARS…..was it Shake Shake Mama? It sounds just like……..and just then that unmistakable chord…..NOT FADE AWAY! The whole drive into town, I’d been racking my brain trying to come up w/ something Lubbock is famous for besides Buddy Holly. I mean, it must be known outside the musical community, but I couldn’t think of anything. By now you’ve probably figured out that I don’t put much thought into what Dylan is thinking, but I couldn’t help but wonder if, 50 some odd years ago, he hadn’t seen this exact song in the Duluth Armory. If so, it probably made tonight’s performance that much sweeter. Tony, at least, was having a real blast playing it . When it finally came time to wind to a close, there was barely a beat before the wash of LARS (fine song but does nothing for me) and a slightly more subdued Watchtower then the previous nights, but still nothing to shake a stick at. Stu really seemed to be doing a bit of exploring w/ it, and it turned out to be very successful for him.
I wasn’t ready for it to be over though. Not having to sit through everyone else, or stand all day in the sun, and dealing w/ the seating tonight left me wanting, needing more! How could it already be over when each new song held the title of “highlight” only until the very next song stole its crown away? I finally feel just as excited to see them as I did last year, they’re playing that well again.