Sterling Heights, MI -- July 11, 2007

A very pleasant evening settled on the Freedom Hill Amphitheater as we entered the venue to the unmistakable sound of Jimmie Vaughan’s guitar, floating across the perfect Michigan summer evening. They started right on the dot at 7:00 if not even a minute or two early, and we’re later than we ever normally are. Our friends that we went with were funny though, telling us to ditch them and, “Get in there!” So we do, and I’m glad. Jimmie is so cute, looks thinner than last summer and maybe a little more gray. What a charmer! I really meant it when I told him he was my favorite Bob opener, he’s the easiest to take in a lot of ways. His notes float across the perfect Michigan summer evening. We’re the only movers, and the suns kinda beatin down on one half of the pavilion so they seem a bit sluggish, not to mention that the place is still pretty empty. Jimmie takes a few long smiling appreciative looks our way from stage right. Between his set and Bob I’m walking with Candace to the bathrooms, and we’re cruising along the fence by the buses on the way, and who should be on the other side strolling there with a couple of guys but Jimmie himself! Without even thinking I say, “Hi Jimmie, great show!” He at first smiles politely and gives a perfunctory nod and thanks, but then looks a second longer and declares, “Hey, it’s my dancing girls!” Sure enough. Well, one of them anyway, but now that Kait is a super blonde Candace could pass for her from that distance, evidently. He comments that, maybe because of the sun, people were kind of just sitting there, mouths agape. But that was OK, he says, he didn’t mind, “I just looked at my dancing girls!” Aw. I remind him that we actually met last summer, after the last show in Fargo. I remind him that we talked about the Bob Dylan Fan Club and then the semi-recognition that’s been behind his eyes comes out fully, and he smiles and says it’s good to see me again. Candace tells him that she saw him play 20 years ago and he’s like, “Impossible, I wasn’t even born 20 years ago!” And she says, oh yeah, she was only three, heh heh. We try to shake hands between the chain link fence but it’s more like wiggling fingers together which cracks me up and I say see you in Toledo. The other person I see on my pre-Bob wanderings is an old friend who used to go to lots of the same shows as me, especially around the greater Michigan / Illinois / Indiana region. Good old Abe, he’s looking cute with longer curly hair and is with a hip looking girl. We’re in line together at the bar (and they actually have a good bar here with premium liquor, only $8 for a double) and he says to me, “You may not remember me but we used to go to a lot of shows together.” Of course I remember, he was actually one of the first Bob show regulars that I met, along with Mike from Connecticut and of course Icy. We have a nice chat in the drink line there. He’s taking the bar exam this summer so this is his one night that he’s picked to get hammered and see Bob. He’s hoping for Shelter or Simple Twist, neither of which Bob will play, but hopefully it all went great despite that, man! Time to hurry on back to my seat in the 14th row, which sounds a lot worse than it ends up being. I had prepared myself for being far away, but as soon as we got in there during Jimmie Vaughan I was quite pleasantly surprised. The first rows at this place are just tiny semi-circles of a handful of seats, and since we’re far over on the left and there’s quite an arc to the rows, we really seem to end up being more like 6th or 7th row, in how far away it feels. The whole place has really excellent sight lines due to the relatively small size and its curvature, and happily our seats are pretty much the perfect trajectory, especially when Bob gets behind his organ. Hell, Bob Seger’s seat is just a few rows in front of us! Things get started with Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, appropriate for having flown into the Motor City from the weed capital of the country a few days earlier. It’s a strong version of the song and the crowd responds to enthusiastically. As often is the case with this one I think I detect some alternate lyrics throughout – could be flubs or could be intentional adlibs or some combination. One line I think Bob says is, “They’ll stone you when you’re even in your seat” which we are not. Or maybe he says “leaving your seat” which we are. We’re rocking away and I’m waiting for the usual belligerent requests for us to sit on our asses like the rest of the audience, but miraculously it never comes. We’re fortunate to have a bunch of empty seats in the area behind us, so not only are Steve and Candace able to join us, but people who want to see but remain seated are able to move around a bit to keep their view. I guess a couple of fat women do complain a bit but Steve and Candace take on the role of our body guards and explain that we have to do what we’re doing. The fact that we had several visits from our stagehand friends when we first got in there helps people understand what’s happening I think. Anyway, it’s for sure one of the best seated show experience I’ve had; not only do we get left alone to our dancing devices, but several guys repeatedly tell us how awesome we are and that we rock, as they scoot by us on several trips to the beer lines I guess. The two back to back “baby” songs are well done. Bob’s singing is awesome on It Ain’t Me Babe, and I like the new arrangement a lot. On I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight he messes with the timing with his signing a little bit, waiting an extra beat to come in and like that, but the band is tight with him and it sounds great. Bring that bottle………. I say bring it over heeeya! Donnie’s floating pedal steel fills the pause beautifully. There’s a lot of musical interlude on this one and, even though the sound is not optimum where we are, I am impressed by the strength of the band and how good they sound together. Next song up vies for my favorite new-ish arrangement of a song, It’s Alright Ma. The way the band builds and then explodes at the end of each verse with that swinging rhythm reminds me of some incarnations of High Water. The band drops way down when Bob sings but you know they are about to explode again on those last lines of each verse, and it creates a thrilling tension. Donnie’s violin chases the melody and accents it perfectly. Denny starts doing some crazy staccato bursts that offset the violin’s plaintive wailing. We’re taken gently into Just Like A Woman, the intro is beautifully done. Bob does a talk/singing kind of thing on this one which works well. It’s funny the way he sings, “Lately. I see.” Very matter of fact. I’m thrilled to hear the first organ song as it’s a Modern Times song that I didn’t get to hear in the fall – The Levee’s Gonna Break. It fucking rocks hard and I am truly blown away. The band again does an excellent again of dropping down during the appropriate moments and building up to jam wildly when needed. Bob’s fired up and when he sings, “Without you there’s no meaning in anything I do,” there’s a big smile and a left hand thrust out our way in time with the music. My Back Pages is next and Bob shows several sides and styles in this one. He alternates between a vocal style that is more melodic and quite heartfelt and the playful staccato style that he sometimes employs. The first harmonica solo of the evening takes us out, and it too alternates between staccato notes and notes that are more plaintive and wailing. Highway 61 showcases this band at the powerhouse heights they are can achieve. Tony and George are playing to and off of each other and cracking up. I think there’s some reverb on Bob’s vocal at the close of each verse, making it spooky and cool. Bob gets over-stimulated and trips over his tongue once or twice, but no one seems to care. Bob does some fancy organ work within the closing music. They aren’t bringing this song down all quiet in the middle like they were a couple tours ago. On Moonlight the band and Bob do a great job, best I’ve heard in a while. Bob draws out the first word on each chorus and makes the second one almost comically short, and the band plays along synchronously, kind of mimicking his vocal up and down and punctuating it by all dropping out at the end of the lines: Woooooooon’t you. (silence) Meeeeeeeeeet me. (silence) There are yet new lyrics on a verse Bob’s changed before, here’s a stab at them: Purple blossoms soft as snow
Trailing moss and mystic glow
My heart just (something) a skip
All day long on the windswept sea
(Or maybe I’ll take you along on the windswept sea)
All the way from here to eternity
With you along, I’d gladly take the trip J Some really nice harmonica noodling on this one, kinda jazzy. Bob brings it back around to the fist verse at the end and I strongly encourage anyone who doubts Bob’s current vocal ability to listen to the end when he sings, “Out in the moonlight aaaaaaaaaloooooooooooone” way down into his lower register. It’s awesome. Most Likely bounces up next and I’m sorry but I can’t understand anyone who knows Bob’s music saying, as I read in a supposed aficionado’s review somewhere, that this song was unrecognizable until catching some of the lyrics late in the song – it’s got one of the most recognizable intro riffs around! Denny does some cool note bending on this one, giving it a bluesy, down and dirty sound. Bob’s getting into it and sings a few real drawn out lines: Yeah! I believe you doooooo-OOO-ooo! And then, yay, one of our favorites, ‘Til I Fell In Love With You. Bob knows a good thing and he’s stuck with this hot version of it for a number of tours now. The timing of everyone in the band has a lot to do with making this version great, and they nail it tonight, all of them really strutting their stuff. It’s thunderous and furious, but with all the right subtleties. Denny gets a cool sound on this one too. They all hold the last note together for a long time. The best moment for me in a night of good moments is when I hear the opening music of Spirit on the Water. I had hoped for this one earnestly in the fall at every show, and ended up on that tour just missing it a couple of times, which was aggravating to say the least. This time, I’m not thinking about it at all I’m just in the moment and there it is, wafting across the arena. I think it’s my favorite song on Modern Times, partly because of the intimacy I feel in Bob’s singing and how it just sounds like him talking, looking out the window of his bus or something. I adore it live, and from the versions I’ve heard from the fall tour I’m kind of glad I had to wait for it (especially since that’s made up by hearing it at every show I go to this time out!) because I’d say that now Bob’s really found how to sing it to an audience, with the perfect combination of swagger and sincerity. The audience honestly seems pretty rapt, which is often not the case on a slower, newer number. Denny plays cool licks that sound like water bubbling up, and I think his playing meshes really nicely with the steady and soaring notes from the organ. In addition to the obligatory cheering that comes after the last verse, about not being over the hill and having a whompin’ good time, the renegades in the audience give a holler tonight after, “I been in a brawl!” As for us, we howl after quite a few lines, because there are so many good ones! When Bob sings, “I’m wild about you gal, you oughta be a fool about me!” I think he gives a little chuckle mid-line, noting that there are at least a couple of fools out there. After Summer Days we get our only Like A Rolling Stone of the tour. A bit of an irony because I always feel most like I’m back home at the first show I hit of the tour. That’s how it feels! The show closes out with Thunder and Watchtower for encores. Bob’s doing Thunder different this tour, with the lines sung more like couplets and he sings the first line up and the second line down. It’s good, but I kind of miss the momentum of the song when the lines all gallop into each other and Bob’s doing all he can to keep up! Our good friend and charter fan club member Steve is blown away by, of all things, Watchtower. I say “of all things” because he’s certainly seen his share of Watchtowers, performed by Bob and others. He really digs this arrangement and says he’s never seen it like that before. Bob’s the man, ever surprising, always making it sound different!
Review Location: 
Sterling Heights, MI
Review Date: 
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Review Author: 
Caroline Schwarz