Posted by: Cory | August 31, 2008

REVIEW: Bob Dylan @ Horseshoe Casino (IN) – 8/23

Last Saturday, August 23rd, Bob Dylan played the Horseshoe Casino (formerly Caesar’s) in Indiana. This was my fourth time seeing Bob Dylan & in each of the previous times I was very upset by what Dylan had become. The first time I caught Dylan was in 1996 when he was on tour with Aimee Mann. Prior to last Saturday, this performance was the best of the several shows because, although all electric, his lyrics were still audible. Although an enormous fan already by the time of that first show, I found myself continuously digging deeper and deeper into a seemingly endless discography of one of the greatest lyricists I had ever encountered. Bob Dylan was a true poet, because he was not only able to find, bend and adapt words to his will, he was able to convey and express emotions, moods, and sentiments like none other. With songs like “Visions of Johanna”, Bob Dylan could tell a story along the lines of Kerouac’s “On the Road” in only a few short minutes. Listening to it, you instantly knew the social-political context of the era and could come to understand it’s characters. Songs like “Percy’s Song”, “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol”, “Hurricane”, “Seven Curses”, “Blowing in the Wind”, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” and “The Death of Emmett Till” make me want to cry for humanity every time I hear them, and even as I type these words. He could also convey the trials of love with songs like “Most of the Time”, “Silver Dagger”, “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)”, “Isis”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Just Like a Woman” & “Lay, Lady, Lay”. Just as quickly, Dylan could raise your spirits with a quirkiness that very few carry off so well, with songs like “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “If You’ve Gotta Go, Go Now”, “Million Dollar Bash” & “Tombstone Blues”. With each subsequent performance I saw, in Nashville and later in Noblesville, I wanted the Bob Dylan of 1963 or 1964 or 1968 or 1972. Despite going electric, his albums continued to have a very folk feel for years to come. After being branded Judas at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, his live performances were never the same again. Even now, even once his albums such as “Modern Times” and others have regained his folk sensibilities of yesteryear, his live performances remain all-out rock and roll tirades.

Finally, after a series of let downs, I had come to understand who Bob Dylan has become. Once you are able to accept Dylan for who he is, you can appreciate that his talent has never waivered and he remains the brilliant musician he has always been. With that in mind, I’ll turn to last Saturday’s performance.

Unlike previous performances, Dylan put his guitar down after the first song and stuck to banging away at the keys. At 67, with a knack for hard, fast, electric music, I would imagine that he has a hard time keeping pace on guitar. When a musician reaches Dylan’s level, you can act as a composer or orchestrator of sound and leave the guitar riffs and drumming to the younger and more agile. Almost immediately Dylan began playing those songs that the audience had come to see, namely “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Some of Dylan’s old songs translate very well to electric while others don’t fare so well. Amongst the folkier of songs, I think that “Mr. Tambourine Man” translates quite well. It could be in part that I’ve heard the song so many times played with an electric guitar that it has come to replace the original in my mind, but I think in large part what allows or doesn’t all a song to translate well is the message of the song itself. I want to note that some of Dylan’s electric songs such as “Isis” and “Tangled up in Blue” have been some of my favorite songs he has ever recorded. In fact, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was the first Bob Dylan song I had ever heard & was the reason I picked up “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits” at a yardsale in 1994″. What Dylan sometimes fails to recognize or accomplish is that he is more of a lyricist than a guitar player, pianist, or orchestrator. It is his lyrics that have resonated within us. Even in his early electric days, he never obscured his message, but these days it feels like he is hiding his voice behind a jam band. One of the best examples of the night was “Visions of Johnanna”, a beautiful illustration of a sort of late night diner scene and internal struggles and justifications of love and lust. The beauty of the lyrics, the earnest sentiment and emotions with which they were written are utterly stripped of their very soul as the band jams on, and the songs come off as just covers or interpretations of themselves. The story Dylan once wished to share, the emotive inflections he baited us with are replaced with barks which almost seem angry. If that is the case, on behalf of Dylan fans the world over…sing your electric songs, don’t just sing old classics because that is what the fans want to hear. If you going for to please the fans…sing folk music with just you and your guitar. On Saturday, much of the work had to be done by the listener…we had to recall the feelings we felt, and to catch glimpses of words here and there and imagine that the sentiment is still there under the rock.

I noted above the emotive inflections that Dylan uses in his albums and once used in his live performances. For years, Dylan has been given a very hard time about his voice, but for so many of us, it is his voice that is the foundation of what we love about him. It was a real person singing real music that we could relate to in our heart of hearts. While the bulk of it was written before I was born, I will unlikely ever relate to other music in the way I relate to Bob Dylan, which is largely to blame for the length of this article. I think of Dylan in Cambridge with Eric Von Schmidt, learning “Lay, Lady, Lay”, of him sitting with Paul Clayton learning “The Wind and the Rain” which would eventually become “Percy’s Song”, and of so many others I wonder what these, the people to whom he owes so much of his creative success to and what they might think of Dylan today. I was glad that Eric Von Schmidt lived to see the release of “Modern Times”, which, in my view, was a return musically to the country-folk aspects of 1963, only to die in February of the following year.

Nevertheless, some of Dylan’s most political folk songs such as “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol” somehow manage to translate perfectly, and last Saturday’s performance was one of the most incredible renditions of any song I have ever heard live. The anger that swells within my own heart towards Billy Zantzinger could be found in the hard riffs and vocal delivery that night. His delivery was particularly interesting as he used a series of very accentuated iambs throughout, for example “for penalty and repentance” where the bold is strong and the rest isn’t. It was on this song, for the first time, that Dylan truly seemed to be enjoying himself, and that enjoyment only seemed to build into “Highway 61 Revisited”, where he looked like he was having the time of his life. It was infectious, because the tracks now began to mesh with the sound and Dylan was on fire. The crowd was dancing, cheering, and Bob Dylan’s band was absolutely shredding the set. A few songs later, “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” was simply incredible, apart for the slightly awkward drawn out “met” of the chorus. Shifting between darker songs like “Ain’t Talkin'” and poppier jams like “Thunder on the Mountain” made the last half of the set not just enjoyable, but fun, and even mesmerizing.

As the first set came to a close, and they walked off stage, I was cheering fanatically, elated with the last half of the set I had just seen and excited for the encore. If I were Dylan, I would have listened for the applause and gotten into my tour bus and prepared to leave. Despite the thousands of people there, there was hardly a whisper of a clap, cheer, chant or yell. I was repulsed and clapped louder as though I could offset the otherwise uneasy silence. Without noticeable appreciation, the crowd felt as they were owed an encore. Thankfully, despite the thanklessness of the crowd, Dylan came out & performed an incredible encore of “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowing in the Wind”, which you can catch below.

In the end Dylan, if you want me to, I could be just like you, and pretend that you never a folk singer. I understand that you are many men in one, each of which correspond to a time, place and mood. Coming into this show, I gave that sentiment a trial run, and the show blew me away for the first time.

Bob DylanEncore (Like a Rolling Stone & Blowing in the Wind)

Setlist:
Mr. Tambourine Man [Bringing it All Back Home]
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again [Blonde on Blonde]
Ballad of Hollis Brown [The Times They Are A’Changin]
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum [Love and Theft]
Visions of Johanna [Blonde on Blonde]
The Levee’s Gonna Break [Modern Times]
I Believe in You [Slow Train Coming]
Honest with Me [Love and Theft]
Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol [The Times They Are A’Changin]
Highway 61 Revisited [Highway 61 Revisited]
Make You Feel My Love [Time Out of Mind]
I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Have Never Met) [Another Side of Bod Dylan]
Ain’t Talkin’ [Modern Times]
Thunder on the Mountain [Modern Times]

Encore
:
Like a Rolling Stone
Blowing in the Wind

*note: I failed to recall the first song played

More pics below the break…


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Responses

  1. The first song was Watching the River Flow. It was the first time Dylan has picked up the guitar on the current tour.

  2. I won $400 at the casino…that was a lot better than the show.

  3. My wife and I were at this show. Could you please re-up the encore link ? It always reminds me of my emergency appendectomy two days later !!! Thanx !!!


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