Portland, OR - October 14, 2006

The amount of time we spent in Portland was less than I've spent at any other show destination, I'm pretty sure. We drove the seven hours north from home on Saturday, saw the show, then promptly reversed direction to drive the first few hours south toward our next destination, San Francisco. Naturally, it was well worth it. We got lucky with our seats, asking a security guard shortly before Bob came on if we could occupy two empty second row spots, to which he replied, "You gotta go for it!" We had great people around us the whole show, including a big guy in the front row who insisted we take his spot at the rail for the encores! We got a Tombstone Blues opener, and there's some serendipity here as on our drive up we had put in Seattle 02 and were rocking along to that now seldom played number, with Kait even commenting, "Bob should bring this back!" Thought this was Maggie's for the first pounding beats. It is played bluesy, thumping, fully-charged, and Bob sings it with swagger. After the verse about your useless and pointless knowledge, they end it on the sung part of the chorus with a drawn out, "I'm in the kitchen with the Tombstone Bluuuuuuuuuuues!" I think this is a different ending than the last times it was played, but I'm not sure. Next, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues makes a somewhat surprise appearance in the second slot, kicking off in earnest a run of shows with a very diverse, pleasing, and well-played selection of songs. Bob finds a cool singing groove on this one, featuring what I might call "down-singing." Despite the repetitive cadence with which he sings each line he manages to keep it varied and expressive and packs the appropriate lines with a subtle humor. There was nobody there, eeeeeeeeven to bluff! This song has a really good swing to it and Bob is bobbing around behind his keyboard enthusiastically. A harmonica solo that starts out pretty low-key but then really swells and takes off at the end as they go back into the DA-DA, DA-DA part has the crowd cheering wildly. This was the first show with four Modern Times songs, and Rollin' and Tumblin' makes its frenetically paced debut in slot three, destined to roll and tumble like a pool ball around the set, knocking against other songs and landing in different slots as the tour goes on. We jump up and down at the familiar opening riff, overtaken by that rare excitement that comes with hearing Bob do a song for the first time ever. It's a half beat or so faster than on the album, sped up and super-charged the whole way through. Georges's drumming is fantastic, punctuating different beats each time round, the cymbal crashes, mixing it up but holding it together so tightly. Bob smiles a lot during this one and seems to have fun singing it, cracking himself up on the lines about some young lazy slut who's charmed away his brains. And when he sings "Ain't nothing so depressin' as trying to satisfy this woman of miiiine," he pulls back from the microphone with an snarl that is halfway between agonized and elated: "AAAAAH!" Ends it on a great bass note: "Think I must be traveling aaawwwn!" Just Like A Woman features some fine and creative vocals as Bob gets into the song. He kind of wails on the line, ".ain't it clear that Ayayayay.that I just don't fit!" And emphasizes, "Please don't let on that you knew me. WAY back when!" At the song's end, an interesting thing happens. Bob goes from scornfully sung sentiments straight into a very sweet harmonica solo that softens the whole tone of the song. The affect is a subtle juxtaposition of feelings, an ambiguity in how the singer feels about the subject. It is masterfully done, with the voice and the harmonica being equally important instruments to the overall feel of the song. When the Deal Goes Down. This one to me seems the closest to the album version. Bob's singing really sticks with the melody (more than on Working Man's Blues #2) and it is gorgeous. I am impressed by Bob's ease at singing these new songs. The only lyrical mix-ups I think I hear during the five shows I attend are ones that end up making sense anyway - tonight one time through we get: We eat and we think, we feel and we drink. Hey, that works. Cold Irons Bound is another highlight, performed in it's most recent, slowed-down and spooky incarnation. It's full of shadows and echoes, a great example of the layers of sound this band achieves. Bob's airy organ notes sort of off-set the menacing beat, again creating kind of an ambiguity in the tone of the song that somehow makes it more ominous. After he sings, "You have no idea what you do to me" Bob gives a sly laugh and qualifies that assertion with what I think is, "Or maybe you do!" Always happy to hear Simple Twist, it's at times in my top five favorite songs. I like the amount Bob is playing it these days: often enough that it's pretty easy to hear once or twice if you attend a run of shows, rarely enough to make it a great treat. Denny does some nice floaty stuff on this one and it ends with an appropriately sad harmonica solo. Working Man's Blues is done with a slower tempo and Bob sings it in more of a talk-singing kind of way. And it sounds different with the organ. It's interesting, it gives it a more overall pensive tone or something. Fun to hear the lines Bob puts emphasis on in the new songs. Wanna look in my eyes PLEASE DO! We get a "Sing me my boots and shoes!" the last time through, another lyrical woops that nonetheless works, for me anyway. I was overjoyed that Thunder On The Mountain stayed in the first encore slot, it works really well there and this song is just a blast to hear and watch - interesting note is that at the Portland show the band went straight from Thunder into Like A Rolling Stone, like they used to do from Cat's In The Well, with just one count in between without missing a beat. I don't think they did it this way, at least not as dramatically, at any of the other shows we saw. It was really cool and kept the momentum going and the energy really high for Like A Rolling Stone, which Bob sang great and with some very pronounced enunciations, especially toward the end of the song after the main instrumental jam. We get a very pronounced pluralization of "You better take your diamond ringssssssssss." and this line sung with exceptional conviction: "When you ain't got nothin' you got nothin' tooooooo loooooooose!" Yup, that's what I say, you gotta go for it, right? Bob introduces the band explaining, "I'm gonna introduce my band right now, seems like as good at time as any." Sure does. I'm having as good a time as any! At the end of the show people from the first few rows descend on us and tell us how hard we rock and how much fun it looked like we were having along with Bob. We thank them for their support, especially the big guy who let us up on the rail for the last few songs, and then we're out and heading back down Highway 5 for the next joint, talking about how lucky we are that know what we like to do and are able to just do it.
Review Location: 
Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR
Review Date: 
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Review Author: 
Caroline Schwarz