Santa Barbara, CA -- October 22, 2012

Last June, I did the Santa Barbara Bowl and Pacific Amphitheatre and since then, things have changed. I've read all about the baby grand piano but didn't realize what a major difference the instrument has made on Bob's performance. He seems revitalized. I don't know a lot about music but it seems to me that Dylan's piano is often used as a lead instrument as he duels note for note with guitars during musical interludes. I really noticed this phenomenon during the new arrangement of "Mississipi" as Bob traded notes with Stu, who has become a more than adequate replacement for Denny at the far left of the stage. Oh yeah, Charlie's still there, but he's toned down his showmanship substantially. I never saw him flip his guitar cord once. Of course the big news is the return of Freddy Koella. It was probably just a guest appearance, but strangely enough, I was just thinking about Freddy before the show. He replaced Charlie, and I can't recall the year (maybe it was 2003) but I remember a couple of Austin Backyard shows when Charlie showed up, Austin being his hometown. We could see him from the front row, backstage in the shadows, but Bob didn't let him come out and play. Freddy seemed to be excited about something. And it turned out that Bob let him play a fiddle that night or maybe it was a banjo. Maybe our fan club president, Caroline, remembers. She and Kait were lumps in sleeping bags in front of the GA line that day. We ran like hell to get to the rail, and Deb fell down in her cowboy boots. Remember Caroline? And it was Eastertime too. Back to Santa Barbara. So Bob comes out in black suit with thick white stripe and the grey Renaldo and Clara hat. Opens with a rousing "Watching The River Flow" on his regular keyboard and never returned to it the rest of the night. Moves to baby grand for "Man In The Long Black Coat." He alternated between center stage and the piano stool the rest of the night. "Things Have Changed," ironically, is the one song that hasn't changed much and has the same jingly jangly sound as last year. And of course Freddy played on it. Bob is really the showman as he stutter steps back and forth with a boucing gait. At the beginning of "Tangled Up In Blue," Tony was coaching Freddy, talking in his ear, then Freddy started strumming away. Fun song, great performance. "Cry A While" rocked hard and fast. "Hard Rain" and "Chimes Of Freedom" bookended "Highwater." They both have that sort of chanting, reciting vocal thing that Bob does. I knew "Highwater" was coming when I saw Donnie pick up the banjo, and it did not dissapoint. It was one of the better songs of the night along with "Cry A While" and "Mississippi." You'd think the rest of the set would be predictable, but we got another highlight with Bob's song and dance center stage for "Ballad Of A Thin Man" with echo effect and a much better than average LARS. After a strong AATW, Bob and band did the traditional lineup and left the stage to rousing cheers and applause. For the BITW encore, Bob hit some really good notes that made me smile. They stood center stage again for a minute, Bob looking out at us. He gave Tony the nod, and they were gone. The baby grand is a nice addition and a good change. As we know, our Bob, "Like A Rolling Stone," gathers no moss.
Review Location: 
Santa Barbara Bowl
Review Date: 
Monday, October 22, 2012
Review Author: 
Andy Carroll / Utopian Hermit Monk