Summer 2013: Noblesville, IN; Cincinnati, OH; St. Paul, MN; Greenwood Village, CO - by Caroline

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My AmericanaramA experience spanned 4 states and 4 weeks; I only wish it could have taken up the entire 4 weeks and many more states! But I’m happy that I got to see that many shows spread out over that period of time, and got to see a number of unusual occurrences during Bob’s set. People will always find something to complain about with Bob – part of the reason I have come to realize more and more that the reason why Bob said, when we met him, that he has ‘never had a fan club’ is because I truly think he perceived that there was not a place on the internet or wherever that people came together around his music out of pure appreciation and uncritical fandom. It always seems like it’s more to pick apart his work and talk about why they don’t like what he’s doing now as much as some other time, or, like now, that he doesn’t change his song list show to show very much. Be that as it may, each show I saw stands out differently in my head, and we saw a mess of songs that were played at just 3 or fewer shows.


Noblesville, IN

We started out with the 4th of July holiday on a plane to Indianapolis, Indiana, complete with a free drink – thank you, Southwest Airlines! The menu said the comp beverage was supposed to be for military service men and women but they asked neither for money nor proof of enlistment.  Perhaps an officer at the Bob Dylan Fan Club ranks similarly in status or, more likely, they just didn’t care. In any case, I was more than happy to abide by this ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.


Arriving on this day off and staying at the closest hotel to the venue enabled us to do a reconnaissance mission once we got there and checked in.  A mile or so walk through the incredibly sticky, humid Midwest evening got us to the old Deer Creek / new Klipsch Music Center. We expected to just scope out the entrances and wander around a bit, to come up with a plan for the morning action, but lo and behold the venue was wide open so that our wanderings could take us inside and right down to (OK, on) the stage! So we got into some shenanigans, including ripping some air guitar on the very stage where we’d see Bob not playing guitar the next day. To our credit, we didn’t take anything but pictures, though our souvenirs could have included some security uniforms and, if we’d had a vessel or two, some pitchers of beer from the taps behind the bars.  We vaguely discussed the options of stowing away in the bushes or a port-o-potty overnight, but decided against that in favor of our stylin’ hotel room.  We dined at the hotel, accompanied by the Washington DC 4th of July Spectacular on the bar’s big screen TV -- so my AmericanaramA experience began a night early with my first musical heart-throb, Neil Diamond, kicking it all off! Then we watched a number of local fireworks displays off in the distance from the bar’s patio, took a dip in the hot tub and pool, and bedded down for a few hours in comfy beds before it was time in what seemed like no time at all to get up and do what we do best, lay on the ground outside a gate waiting to see Bob.


I don’t even want to go into what a clusterfuck it was getting into this show – suffice it to say that our worst fears about the ‘flash’ tickets, which entail not having tickets at all but merely swiping a credit card, were realized. All of the venue staff were extremely apologetic and extremely unhelpful. Fortunately it ended up working out OK and we got spots on the rail about even with Bob at the piano.


I’m normally not one to favor opening acts for anyone, least of all for Bob, but this tour had ones that I was actually really excited for.  First time seeing Richard Thompson Electric Trio, and I have to say I love them! RT is an incredible guitar player with a wonderful British attitude and sense of humor about him, accompanied in this configuration by a fine bass player (who told us from the stage that he liked our ‘sparkles’) and drummer. A great way to kick off the day’s music and I’d be happy to see them any time opening for Bob.  We also got the first collaboration with RT and Wilco at this show; he would join the band for the old Fairport Convention song, Sloth, as well as Wilco’s California Stars.  


Regarding Wilco, well, let me just say that I’ve entertained the thought before of a Wilco / Bob double bill and it’s seemed like a beautiful dream, and then here it was! It’s a strange feeling to be thoroughly engaged in and enjoying the band that’s delaying Bob-time! I came to these shows a big Wilco fan and left with an even deeper appreciation of their music & Jeff Tweedy’s song writing (not to mention his sense of humor!) Their hour and fifteen minutes set each night seemed always completely optimized, with a range of sweet acoustic songs, including a good handful from Woody, who of course belongs prominently in the AmericanaramA lineup, then swelling to include some of their gorgeous edgier and louder compositions.


When Bob takes the stage tonight there are a few fireflies also enjoying the show, those quintessential sultry Midwest summer players, flashing him as he tells us how Things Have Changed and throws a question our way to make sure we’re paying attention: “Don’t get up gentleman… WHY?”  High Water stands out tonight, with a banjo and a guitar solo and some fancy footwork from Bob, with false endings and restarts seeming to get the audience pumped up.


I’m glad Bob’s kept Soon After Midnight in the set, it makes for a nice transition from the center stage to the piano, and I think he sings it so nice and it’s a perfect song to sway along to.  Got that 1950’s sweetheart kind of swooning thing.  Very contemplative and kind of matter-of-fact the way he almost speaks some of the words. Tonight Bob emphasizes, “And I don’t want NOOO-body but you” in the last line.  Early Roman Kings emphasizes quite a different side of Bob full of swagger, so that’s fun too.  With Duquesne Whistle I’m stumped at first because, though I’ve known it’s in the current set list, I’m swept up in the moment and I’ve forgotten! So it’s that unfamiliar thrill that doesn’t happen often at Bob’s shows for me anymore of, “What’s this?!” And the funny thing is, that’ll happen to me at each show on this tour for some reason.  I just always forget Duquesne Whistle is coming next, and I’m taken by momentary surprise. Ah, the beauty and benefits of short term memory loss!


Amazing how, however many years later, Bob coaxes a totally new song out of She Belongs To Me. The tone is either ominous or reverent or some combination of both. I’m sure it can change night to night.  I like Beyond Here Lies Nothing at the piano as a change from how he did it center stage last tour, and tonight it’s one of the highlights with very nice keyboard work. Bob seems fired up for Hard Rain and attacks many of the verses with great gusto, and also continues to incorporate some fancy piano work throughout, particularly during a musical interlude before the final verse.


Back to center stage for Blind Willie, and it’s a great one, with inspired harmonica playing offset by Donny’s banjo adding just the right feel, and a perfect swing to it. The band is really tight and there is lots of music between the verses and a long outro during which Bob returns for a long time at the harp, with some stunning drawn out notes and they are just all in lock-step with each other.  This version tonight doesn’t have the false endings and starts like at some of the other shows. It doesn’t need it, being complete the way it is!


By the time we get to Simple Twist of Fate I am thoroughly approving of this new standard show that Bob’s put together; I could hear this song every night for the rest of my life and not tire of it. We get some more Socratic method with Bob quizzing us about the note she left behind – “What’d it say?” Well, if we tried to answer this one tonight, we would’ve been wrong, because what the note said is that “you should’ve met me back in ’58!” Things coulda been different, but instead I got another simple twist of fate (or something along those lines). This will morph a bit with each show we see (as will Tangled). I feel sorry for those reviewers each show who inevitably and incorrectly say the words are unintelligible. It’s not that hard, you just have to pay attention.  Their reviews are usually what are incomprehensible to me; Bob’s singing is clear and I hang on each word to see what’s gonna be reworked and new. It’s a wild and entertaining ride.


Cincinnati, OH

On to Oh-high-ho! Feels like we were just in this state seeing Bob a couple months ago, and that’s a great feeling! Though the day breaks dark and rainy, and I have an important two-hour work call I need to be on before I can get down to what’s really real , it feels nonetheless that we’re more in the swing of things today and, well, it’s just good to be out of Indiana. We go over in the morning and survey the scene at Riverbend Music Center, an amphitheater in an amusement park, though due to the downpour no one is availing themselves of the amusements today, which include a ride called the Flying Bob and a ride called the Tempest.  Today’s wait in line is shorter, cooler (though it does stop raining, also good), and with a friendly and (even more importantly) competent group of ticket takers at the gate who get us in smoothly and without incident, and as a result we get a topnotch spot on the rail front and center, baby! Everything just being easier today and I am now fully on vacation since my looong phone call with my boss for final edits is DONE and now there’s nothing to do but party on, woo-hoo!


And I don’t know how much of it is my more relaxed mood compared to yesterday but I find this show to be much more loose and fun than last night.  From the opening banter with Richard Thompson (“You people should get paid for being here so early!”); to another fabulous Wilco set with some amazing highlights including kicking things off with a one-two of Either Way and When the Roses Bloom Again, guitarist Nels Cline seemingly going into seizures on Impossible Germany, and some playful sparring between Tweedy and the audience (“We had fun… we played some music, we argued…”); to, finally, Bob’s emergence sans hat and ready for a good time!


He is high-spirited and playful tonight, with lots of smiles and uniquely Bob gestures.  Some of my best-remembered moments, in no particular order: There’s a distinct fist pump at the end of an amazing and multifaceted harmonica solo that concludes Blind Willie, as if to acknowledge, “Yes! Nailed it.” (Which he did). Duquesne Whistle is particularly juiced up and jammed out and dancing along to it is sheer joy and met with plenty of approving Bob smiles  -- and of course it’s got jazz hand parts too, always fun.  As he often does when he gets particularly into Hard Rain, Bob drawls out a good number of “YEEEAH”s throughout the song and we respond with the same.  There’s an audience clap-along on Watchtower. By the time Summer Days rolls around I guess we are pretty amped up – and it is a really good summer days with Charlie really getting down so that it’s even a bit reminiscent of the totally amazing Summer Days of days gone by. Bob ends it with an enthusiastic double-fisted point, one hand for each of us from behind the piano, on the last note of the song.  Swoon! I know a place where there’s still something going on, and that place tonight is right here, front row center!  


St. Paul, MN


As soon as the St. Paul show at Midway Stadium was announced, I knew I had to go. It is, after all, the venue at which we met Bob in 2005 and, as such, the place where The Bob Dylan Fan Club got its start (see Origin Story). Extremely disappointed that Kait ends up not being able to make it, and entertaining some inkling of ‘being responsible’ (I know, what’s that about?), I think for a few minutes of trying to sell our tickets and not go. I’m not sure why I have this momentary lapse of judgment, I guess because we just got back from the Indiana and Ohio shows, and we just spent oodles of money buying tickets to see Bob in Blackpool and at the Royal Albert Hall later in the year, that I actually think for a minute or two that this trip, with its travel expenses and time off work for just one show, is unnecessary.  Mr. Jinx has said all along it’s up to me and we can do what I want, but fortunately as I start hemming and hawing and being indecisive, he is the true voice of reason. I think it’s when I mumble something about being responsible that he’s like, OK enough of this nonsense, I’ve never seen Bob in Minnesota and we’re going.


And I’m so glad we did! Despite the complete and disappointing lack of any open liquor stores upon our arrival at around 10 PM the night before the show (we’re on vacation and need beer!); despite the sad fact that I stupidly miss my very favorite Wilco song during their sound check; even despite the fact that there is an unbelievable crowd of 80 or so people who have purchased the early entry tickets for this show – which makes it so that we end up second row, horror of horrors! – we have a fabulous time and I think it’s my favorite one overall of my four AmericanaramAs.


Bob seems comfortable and happy to be there right away, taking his time with his phrasing and adding some little asides on Things Have Changed, as well as doing a side step shuffle thing with outstretched palms. Lotta water under the bridge – yeeeahh – lotta other stuff too. Trying to get as far away from myself – ha ha – as I caaaaan! This home-state, sold out crowd is pretty tuned in and enthusiastic from the get-go, and Bob seems to get a kick out of our responsiveness to whatever he does, a hand jerked sideways, a sly smile, a leg-kick in time to a beat. He strikes me as very cool and collected on these first center-stage songs, despite the muggy North Country evening that evidently isn’t hot enough for Bob, who has two tall gas heaters flaming on either side of the stage. He’s taking his time, pacing in place, singing lines to maximum effect, listening to his band. He turns and watches first Charlie and then Donny, as they both get their turn at solos in between the verses of High Water.  And as High Water wraps up he puts back his microphone and is actually dancing and clapping along, with a couple jazzhands thrown in for good measure!


Bob struts his stuff through Early Roman Kings with particular self-assuredness tonight, offering up a series of sidearm jazzhands, intermixed with hands on his hips, and all peppered with many smiles, starting with the line about “All the women going crazy…” His cool collectedness that is prevailing tonight is accompanied by a grand amusement that I am completely sharing, and I’m sure my smile seems about to split my face wide open.


The lyrical evolution that Tangled has been going through on this tour has been fun to follow. He’s working it out as he goes along. Tonight they split up on a dark sad night, somewhere in the wilderness, saying they might meet again someday “on the lonely avenue.” There are more complete new lyrics on the last verses, which I discern to be:

“She lit a burner on the stove and brushed away the dust

Well she looked at me, and she said to me you look like somebody I could trust

Then she opened up a book of poems and she said just so you know

Memorize every one of these lines, and you can use it when you’re walking to and fro”


And whereas a few shows ago in Indiana it was Bob who was trying to stay out of the ground, tonight we get:

“Some went up the mountain, some of them went down in the ground

Some of their names were written in flames and some of them, they just left town”


Great harmonica solo on She Belongs To Me, which Bob too acknowledges with a decisive nod of his head when it’s over, yeah that’s the stuff. Back to the piano for the tribal tango stomp of Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, on which Bob and band are particularly in sync tonight. Bob sings, “Beyond here lies nothin’... nothin’…  but the moon and stars,” and the band plays a crisp downbeat on the second ‘nothin’, then pauses like an intake of breath for just the right amount of time, coming back in reflexively as Bob finishes the line. It’s like the song is a living, breathing organism.  Charlie does a nice solo and then the big finish.


Hard Rain up next and it strikes me again how relaxed Bob seems. Leaning back with his hand on a his hip, then playing a few piano notes, looking out at the front couple rows and smiling and nodding in between verses. I do like it when Bob looks around and appears happy with where he is and what he sees!


Simple Twist of Fate, always one of my favorite moments of the show, is sublime tonight. I’m transported into the story of the song and the gentle swelling and ebbing of the music around Bob’s singing. We get a couple of lyrical embellishments as Bob declares, “Maybe he’ll see her once again… if he’s lucky!” Sweet. And then a little later, with a slight intonation of alarm, it’s, “What I DO with the weddin’ ring?!” A second gorgeous harmonica solo wraps it all up.


After Summer Days, Bob leans forward into the microphone, not to sing but to speak! At first I think he is going to introduce the band, but his “Thank you, friends!” is followed by quite a bit more than that. It goes more or less as follows:


“Thank you ladies and … thank you friends. Uh. I lived here a while back. And uh since that time I’ve played um, all over the world with all kinds of people… and uh, everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna. And everybody in between… I’ve been on the stage with most of those people. But the most meaningful person I’ve ever been on the stage with is a man who is here tonight who used to sing a song called Suzie Baby. And I want to say that Bobby Vee is actually here tonight and uh, maybe you can show your appreciation with just a round of applause... So we’re gonna try to do this song, like I’ve done it with him before once or twice.”


And they do, and it’s sweet. Bob as 50s crooner, what could be bad about that? A wonderful and surprising moment that is well-appreciated by the crowd. Bob finishes out the set with Watchtower and then, perhaps, feeling old-school, graces us with a soulful Blowing In The Wind which is the perfect end to this soft summer evening. And tonight we even planned accordingly and have a mixed 6-pack of local microbrews waiting for us back at the hotel room. Did I mention I was happy we made the trip? 


MORE TO COME SOON... (Fiddler's Green)...