Albuquerque, NM -- August 9, 2009

Bob Dylan and the Great Beyonds The combined facts that 1) my sweetie can't make the California shows with me and 2) Southwest was offering fares of $34 each way from Denver to Albuquerque mandated a somewhat last minute decision to jet down to NM for the show. And man, was I not disappointed (not that I ever had a notion that disappointment of any sort would enter into the equation). It'd been almost a year since last seeing Bob: a long time. I'm not sure how much that separation played into the amazing time I had – I think it did in that there were new arrangements of songs, not to mention NEW songs altogether – but I have to say that I was quite blown away. While I can't bring myself to agree with Bob that this is his best band ever, the combined sound they achieved for much of the night in Albuquerque was rich and rockin', the song selection contained some wonderful delights, and Bob was in great form and just fucking cool as ever. I was pleased when we got to our 15 th row center seats – any of you who know me know that I'm a rail rider in the extreme and that has not changed. But this was a bonus, unexpected show that we only bought seats for about 2 weeks ago, so I was more than pleased to plop down into our assigned seating and feel like I would actually be able to see well and feel pretty connected to the on-stage happenings from this spot. Again, maybe because it'd been so long since seeing Bob at all, it just seemed enough to be this many rows away from him, closer than in a long time. I was also excited for a good mix of sound, which one definitely sacrifices at shows spent at the edge of the stage. We spy our friends and fellow Fan Club members, Joanna and Jay and Stu, as well as NM Gov. and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson, down near the front. We go down and say hello to all of them, and even pose for a photo op with the Gov. Then it's back to our seats to wait in happy anticipation for our first Bob show in almost a year. We'd been playing ‘name that opener' for the hours leading up to the show. We thought it would most likely be Rainy Day Women (based on David's frequency at getting this song and the fact that it'd been a while since played) or the recent Sunday opener, Gotta Serve Somebody. We were hoping for the latter, of the two (though we had a joint ready to go in the event that it was the former J ). What we weren't expecting in the slightest was what we got…Ballad of a Thin Man!?! I heard the familiar intro riff but thought I must be mistaken. But there it was. Has Bob ever opened with that song? What could perhaps be even less expected was how well it worked in that slot! While not the booty-shakin' kind of opener like a Cat's in the Well or Maggie's Farm or the raucous kind of rock ‘n roll that is Rainy Day Women or Watching the River Flow, this was a powerhouse bluesy classic rock of an opening song that was played serious and heavy and lifted things off with intensity. Plus I am just a sucker for odd song placement and how it can affect a show. In this case, I'd say it was a great choice, not least because it got the whole pavilion on its feet and kept them there – that's right, a seated show with pretty much everyone up for at least the first four or five songs. A classic opener that seems to get the audience tuned in and psyched up, complete with some bluesy harmonica. And here, with my professor who likes my looks, I couldn't be happier. Next up is Lay Lady Lay. Now, this has never been a shining favorite of mine in the grand scheme of things, usually a song that is fine but not usually a real standout for me. Tonight, however, was different in that Bob came center stage with his harmonica in one hand and microphone in the other, and sang and played the hell out of it. It had a bit of a jaunty beat behind the lilting pedal steel, maybe a little faster than the last versions I've seen played live. Bob was playful with some of the words, singing, “You can EAT your cake, and HAVE it too!” and then “…stay while the night is still ahead, and while you're at it, lay across my big brass bed! ” At the first very recognizable notes of the next song I scream like a lunatic since this is THE song that I'd just been saying earlier in the day that I wanted most to hear off Together Through Life. A real treat too, as it's only been played at one other show before. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' with Bob center stage singing, strolling, swaying, pointing in the air, and playing harmonica lines that are not on the album version but totally complete the song live. In fact, he plays a great little harmonica riff during the musical intro while he struts out, once again, to the middle of the stage for most of the song. And basically in between each verse, soaring harmonica solos that take the whole thing to higher and higher altitudes. Donnie blowing trumpet like on the album, the sound big and authoritative and dramatic. And such a swing to the whole thing! George's playing is great, holding it all together and pushing it along, while the instruments weave around each other. Couple lyrical goofs couldn't diminish it at all (heck, think it's only the second time played). He even makes a nice recovery on one, when he starts to sing the wrong line but incorporates the mistake to create, “Beyond here lies nothin' but the moon and the mountains of the past.” The oft heard Stuck Inside of Mobile is fun and seems like a big crowd pleaser. People still up and dancing into the fourth song, quite a happy surprise that! Bob's feisty on this one, messing with the timing and emphasizing different lines in amusing ways. He throws in an organ solo to bring the song to a close. Next I'm thoroughly blown away by a song I wouldn't have expected to blow me away, Beyond the Horizon. I had heard a sample of the way Bob is doing this now, from the ..Europe.. tour, and thought it was awesome, then totally forgot about it. The song is completely new and different, not only with some new verses, The morning sun has risen On the whole human race I'm right out of prison I'll put on a good face. I'm roaming the meadows I'm bearin a new name I'm travelin on shadows I know no shame but the whole melody line of it and feel to it is both more somber and more rich and beautiful than ever before. The music is both subtle and powerful and swells with feeling, and Bob kind of talk/sings over it in a way that I thought was just incredible. It crescendos for the last verse and overall is just a very powerfully reworked version of the song. Bob seems really into it too, declaring, “I'm touched with desire, Oh LORD what don't I do!” Then, testament to how Bob can switch gears so effectively, this contemplative, rich melody is followed by one of the most intense and fiery versions of It's Alright, Ma that I've ever been present for. The backbeat to it is funky, Bob is rapping with preacher-like intensity. Singing, “That can win what's never been won, that can do what's never been done”, all staccato-like. Sometimes I've heard this song and, while I always like it because it's one of those songs every line of which blows me away, I've felt like Bob's been searching for exactly how to play it and it's been not quite together and a little lacking the power it could have. Not so tonight, the band is cranking on it as a single unit. Bob even inserts some harmonica wailings in between verses and is playing along really great with the rest of the band, they are all really complimenting one another and the layers that they achieve are totally powerful, with that constant kinda funk groove going on in the background. Bob's singing on it is very strong, and he ducks and weaves and pumps his palms in the air behind his keyboard. We think for a second that the next tune is a new song debut, Life is Hard. But it turns out to be When the Deal Goes Down. This is the only time that I kind of feel like the song is perhaps not the best choice right now; I think it's really pretty and I quite enjoy Bob's singing on it, but it definitely brings the energy way down and the crowd that's been standing and dancing the whole time sits down now in unison and never quite regains their bodily involvement with the show, so to speak. More harmonica, Bob's really playing a lot of it tonight, and on many, many songs wandering out to center stage with it and then back behind the keyboard. Then we get another new one, If You Ever Go To Houston, which I quite enjoy live. I like the lack of the repetitive accordion riff. Bob sings it with swagger; I can't really say how it stacks up to other live performances of this song because I think I only listened to one other one. Which I am glad of, because I know less what to expect and I like being surprised by what I hear. It's always a great treat to hear a Bob song live for my first time and I think it's a great version. Well, two songs is enough for sitting so when Bob cranks into Highway 61 and everyone around us remains glued to their seats, we head down the row to the end of the aisle and a few rows down to where people are boogying down. A typically raucous, rousing version of this song with the pounding and fist-pumping it has come to encompass. Fun. I like Bob's singing on Nettie Moore. Despite any raggedness of voice that may be present, he stretches the melody out and sings some interesting, lilting lines throughout the song. Seems like he is really thinking about his vocals and mixing up the way he sings each line. He sings with particular ferocity, as if directed at the somewhat lackluster audience, “The judge is comin' in, ALL RISE!” A guy in front of us really likes this song, and is swaying and slow-motion clapping and then tries to get the crowd involved in a really humorous way. Humorous because it's Nettie Moore and he's turned around facing the crowd behind him with his hands over his heads saying, “Clap! Everybody clap!” Normally something like this might annoy me but because he's so earnestly into getting the group clapping going for a song that doesn't exactly lend itself to that in a natural way, it's goofy and quite amusing. He even goes out into the aisle and is kind of spin/twirling around imploring the crowd to clap while security gently but firmly tells him to get back into a seat or else… Summer Days begins and we see Gov. Bill Richardson heading for the exit, just shortly before Bob sings about politicians gettin' on their jogging shoes, must be running for office…Kinda funny. The encores are the usual ones, but all very well played. Unfortunately for them but fortunately for us, people have been streaming for the exits for a few songs, so we do some stealth hopping over rows of chairs way down to the front, and move into a spot right at the good angle for Bob at his piano about 5 rows from the front. Really psyched to be able to get a better look at Bob and his facial expressions for the last few songs – he looks good! I admit I always get a thrill out of Like a Rolling Stone and miss it when it's not in the set. Partly its iconic status, partly the significance it's played in my crazy, homeless or home-seeking life at various times. Jolene's another new one, love being up front this close to hear Bob say he's the king. He sings quite enthusiastically, “I'm gonna make you miiiiiiiiiine!!!!” Kind of sounds like an old black blues singer on this one. Watchtower is its usual adrenaline-filled self and I find myself jumping up and down and punching the air. Bob again does some of his funny phrasing on this one that is hard to describe, you just have to hear it. Like he's singing scales or something, “All the women came and went barefoot servants too” each syllable a note higher than the next. Makes it interesting. Big finish, then it's over. I stand up on my chair to say hi and bye to Bob, he levels his squinting gaze right at me for a few seconds which is cool. I am happy
Review Location: 
Albuquerque, NM
Review Date: 
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Review Author: 
Caroline Schwarz