Tulsa, OK - October 12, 2018

Girlofthenorcalcountry's picture

I leave for Tulsa approximately 48 hours before show time, not out of such extreme enthusiasm (though I am excited), but because I live 5 hours away from the nearest viable airport and my flight east is at 6 AM. It's an epic journey for one show that starts with a night (not) sleeping at the airport in San Francisco, but it is 100% worth the trip!

The excursion is filled with old-school fan meet ups both planned and unplanned, starting with a surprise encounter with my old pal Joanna also making the trip from SF on the same flight. Wichita friends Lex and Robin are front and center and it's great to see them; and of course I have a great time with Andy at the casino before and after the show as well as in our perfect seats stage right in ideal sight-line with Bob at the piano. We've gone to so many shows together! I feel like Bob is happy to see us as we are to see him, and especially the center stage songs bring a number of smiles and “jazzhands” directed our way. Bob once told me he loves seeing me 'out there' and I have to say that he demonstrates that truth whenever we cross paths.

Smiles from the man notwithstanding, this is a show where Bob is mostly concentrated, focused and intense. Which isn't surprising given the depth and intensity of some of these song arrangements. I'm happy to report that tonight's audience seems to match him in engaged concentration, hanging on every word and then responding with swells of cheers and applause at all the right moments. Everyone always talks about how Bob is rearranging and reinventing his songs and I have to say that at this show I feel like that has been taken to the max, as much as any other time I've seen him. And these dramatically and newly reworked arrangements are some of the most exciting to me!

When I Paint My Masterpiece is a re-imagining of the song that no one could have guessed. It is slow and sonorous and contemplative, a journey that feels more like looking back then looking forward to the 'some day' when everything is gonna be 'beautiful'. Then it picks up, becomes subtly jaunty, with lovely piano riffs. It takes its time with long musical interludes and new lyrics. We get:
Sailing round the world full of crimson and clover
Sometimes I feel that my cup has runneth ooooovvvver
It strikes me as reminiscent in both lyrics and feel to:
My hear is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothing but affection for all those who've sailed with me.
And harmonica! I love that Bob is playing some sweet and soaring notes from that instrument this tour – it's been a while!

Another knockout new arrangement is Don't Think Twice It's All Right. The song takes on whole new dimensions of remorse that belies the words, similar to narrator in Most Of The Time; we know he really does care, and he's definitely thought more than twice about this song's subject, even if it is all right. You can hear the Great American Songbook influence on this one. Such vocal control! Piano-heavy, with beautiful runs and fills. And then that harp. The pedal steel. It all weaves together so beautifully. Then it gets a little sassy with the last verse, a spring in its step, hearkening back to the original as it closes out.

Then there's Like A Rolling Stone, back in the show once over the summer after only two outings in about the last six years, and now a staple in the set – and so weirdly new! It's one of the songs that myself and a handful of others in the venue are standing and dancing for (how can you not?), but it's so funny to dance to because of dramatic pauses and tempo fluctuations. You can't help but get the feeling that Bob's messing with us. Somehow, though, it totally works. It's like meeting up with an old friend you haven't seen in a while who has inevitably changed but is also at core still the same.

I feel like the lack of a second guitar has given more space to Bob's piano that he is admirably filling, and on no song is this more evident than Cry A While. Again, another slowed down version, but hot and bluesy and crashing. Bob attacks it both vocally and at the keyboard, pounding that thing. It's awesome.

The songs from Tempest are reliably good. Scarlet town, one of two center stage songs, is mesmerizing with a vaguely far eastern sound to the music, deep and mystifying. Bob draws out the ends of the final line of each stanza – you wish to god that you'd stayed riiiiiiiiggggggght here! He is a master storyteller, illustrator and conjurer rolled into one with this song in which every line is filled with strange characters and vivid images.

The other song sung mid-stage is Love Sick, a recent mainstay with a whole new feel. Bob seems to be so into experimenting with his vocals, and on this one it is, like on others tonight, slowed down and sung in a controlled and dramatic manner with the music pulsing behind. It has a spooky and vaguely sinister feel.

I admit to a wee bit of sadness when I saw that It Takes A Lot To Laugh (It Takes A Train To Cry) was out of the set list, at least for now. But when Bob lilts into the replacement song, Soon After Midnight, another off Tempest, I have no regret in my being. Though the former is obviously much rarer and I do like the languid, bluesy arrangement I've heard from this tour, my heart never fails to swell at the opening lines of “I'm searching for phrases to sing your praises, I need to tell someone,” and to amaze at hearing Bob sing ever so sweetly about dragging someone's corpse through the mud.

All too soon it's over, but that's not to say I'm not satisfied. What a great night of music this was! Such a diversity of songs from different stages of Bob's career, ranging from so quietly done you could hear a pin drop to a surf-rock tune with drum solo, but somehow all tied together with a common vibe that is a blend of swampy blues, honky-tonk piano, Rat Pack, torch ballad, and all unmistakably Bob. I'm thanking my lucky stars that I have two more shows to attend later in the tour. More to come!