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Concert Review: Bob Dylan And His Band At The Moore Theatre, Seattle WA, 10/04/09

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Bob Dylan's fall American tour doesn't officially get underway until this Monday at Seattle's WAMU Theatre. But for a few Seattle fans lucky enough to get tickets, Christmas came a day early as Dylan and his band performed an intimate warm-up show at the 1,300-seat Moore Theatre on Sunday night, October 4.

As someone who has seen Dylan live numerous times over the years, I can tell you from experience that his shows can be hit or miss affairs — sometimes wildly so. The last time I saw him play with his current band, for example — back in 2006 at Seattle's much larger Key Arena — the show felt rushed, and Dylan only played one song, "Thunder On The Mountain," from his then current (and still brilliant) album, Modern Times.

Tonight however was a completely different story. Playing in the much more intimate confines of the Moore Theatre, Dylan was about as loose as I think I've ever seen him. Rather than stay behind his keyboard as he has on recent tours, Dylan prowled the stage, singing several songs without playing any accompanying instrument other than his mic.

He was also uncharacteristically animated, waving his arms about as he sang, and giving cues to the rest of the band by pointing his fingers at them. Dressed from head to toe in black, this was a much showier Dylan than you'd normally expect. On several songs, he also played his signature harmonica, which made for a nice touch on songs like "Shooting Star," "Ballad Of A Thin Man," and "Not Dark Yet."

Speaking of the band, they sounded simply amazing playing in such an acoustically perfect venue as the Moore. Returning lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, in particular, was a house of fire — he literally tore the joint down on rockers like "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Thunder On The Mountain."

Bassist Tony Garnier and drummer George Recile made for a rock-solid rhythm section, although Garnier seemed to be having some sound problems during the early going (which were eventually ironed out). Rounding out Dylan's band were second guitarist Stu Kimball and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron (banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel, trumpet).

Dylan himself was in great form, reinventing his songs as he so often does in his concerts, but this time doing so more through his vocal inflections than with the actual arrangements.

On a stunning version of "Nettie Moore" from Modern Times, for example, Dylan's voice went from a deep, low register to a high-pitched wail. He bit off the lyrics with rapid fire delivery, sometimes going from single to double phrases within a single line. The way Dylan emphasized the word "black" in particular — from the line, "The world has gone BLACK before my eyes" — gave this song a much darker feel than the recorded version. If there are any bootlegs out there of this, I would love to get my hands on one. It was a standout even on a night where there were so many of them.

Even such Dylan standards as "Ballad Of A Thin Man" and the warhorse that is "Like A Rolling Stone" took on new urgency as Dylan's phrasing breathed new fire into them. When Dylan sang the familiar line, "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones," he once again double-phrased the lyrics, giving the song even more of an angry feel than the original. Anyone who says Dylan is a lousy singer obviously knows very little about vocal phrasing — an art Dylan has mastered like very few singers around, outside of maybe the likes of Sinatra himself.

Dylan also did something on this night that he hasn't done in awhile — he picked up the guitar for a few songs. Although you could see he was clearly struggling with it somewhat (Dylan rarely plays guitar live anymore, reportedly due to an arthritis condition), he sounded just fine trading licks with Sexton on "Don't Think Twice, Its Alright" and "High Water (For Charley Patton)."

Other highlights included a letter-perfect "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" from this year's Together Through Life album, and a fierce sounding "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking," a song from Dylan's Born-again period which made for a very surprising choice to open the show.

Dylan and his band played for two solid hours — which is a little long by his usual standards, and seemed to have a great time for the duration. Dylan even smiled a few times.

Here is the complete setlist courtesy of Boblinks.com:

1. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking

2. Shooting Star
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
4. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right [Bob on guitar]5. Lonesome Day Blues
6. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
8. Not Dark Yet
9. High Water (For Charley Patton) [Bob on guitar]10. When The Deal Goes Down
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Nettie Moore
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man

15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. Jolene

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Greg Barbrick

    Wow, sounds like a great show. Wish I had been there.

  • gdhubly

    Was there an opening act?

  • Matt N

    Not meant critically, but a correction: Bob has been playing guitar again for the last few tours. Usually he plays the first 4 or 5 songs on guitar, then moves to keyboard.

    Gonna see him in November in NYC. Can’t wait!

  • Josh

    Actually the last tour it has been 2 0r 3 on guitar.

  • Wade Cottingham

    “he literally tore the joint down on rockers like “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Thunder On The Mountain.”

    Are you sure he literally tore the joint down? With his bare hands, or did he also use a wrecking ball?

    We all know you mean he ‘REALLY’ tore the joint down, or he ‘FIGURATIVELY’ tore the joint down. We know you didn’t mean he ‘LITERALLY tore the joint down’.

    We got your back.

  • Well I guess it stands to reason that if I’m writing about a wordsmith like Dylan, someone is going to find a quibble with my words. It’s called creative license Wade.

    As for Dylan’s playing the guitar again, at the last three or four Dylan shows I saw, he didn’t pick up the guitar once. And even here, you could see he was having kind of a tough time on the couple of songs where he did play it. Either way, as a longtime fan, it was pretty cool for me to see him with a guitar around his neck again.

    There was no opening act. Thanks for the comments.


  • John Lake

    Man, those critics really tore you up.
    They don’t remember what it’s like to be a high school kid, a coupla’ girls hanging by your locker every morning, looking for meaning in a world of Blue Suede Shoes, and Good Golly, Miss Molly.
    Dylan prededed the Beatles and the Stones.
    Seems he was right around the time of Roy Orbison who was himself doing the bass part of Falling, and Crying. But Orbison sold out to do Pretty Woman.
    But Dylan was a whole new thing.
    You used to be – so amused
    At Napoleon in Rags, and the language that he used.
    Go to him now, he calls you,
    You can’t refuse. when you ain’t got nothin’
    You’ve got nothing to loose.
    Don’t follow leaders
    Feed the Parking Meters..

    He was the first to put a philosophy of the street to music.
    He set me on fire. He set the high-school on fire. It was that.

  • They didn’t tear me up all that bad, John. I’ve certainly gotten worse…anyway, it kind of comes with the territory I guess. You say potatoe, I say…well, you get the idea.

    Thanks for weighing in.


  • kathy

    Great review I agree that he was much more animated & happier & connected to the band than before.
    Actually, his Key Arena show in 2001 was pretty amazing, but his subsequent tour at the Paramount in Seattle was a letdown.Last night he was having fun & so was the audience. It was the Bob & Charlie show. I wish I could go tonight.

  • I saw the Key show in 2001 Kathy and agree that it was a great one. As you said though, subsequent shows at both the Paramount and the Key in 2006 were letdowns.

    Last night was the loosest and most animated I’ve seen Dylan in forever, and it made for a very fun night.


  • Dale

    I saw the show in seattle in 2006. actually bob did 3 songs from Modern Times, including Workingman Blues and Just Walking. I’ve seen bob and it was one of the greatest concerts he’s done. I was at WaMu last night and Bob burned the house down!

  • jim b

    its nice to see some positive concert reviews about Mr. Dylan. Have read some whining. I’d love to tell those people that
    Dylan can do what he wants. He’s more than paid his dues. If you have any problem with his music don’t go. Am looking forward to my 13th Dylan concert nov.6 detroit.

  • judd

    Bob dylan came over my house yesterday and fixed the hole in my roof. Nice guy!