Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bob Dylan in Lowell

We broke our oath to never attend a concert in a hockey rink again (kept since 1979) and went to see Bob Dylan at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell before he dies, and to see Dawes open.

Had a nice dinner outside at the Lowell Beer Works beforehand (it was finally warm enough to sit outside!), and then a nice walk over there down a scenic canal with a beautiful pre-sunset sky.

I was really looking forward to seeing Dawes and they played well but the sound sucked.  Their drummer sounded like he was sunk in a pit of mud and their bass was so loud and sharp it was almost painful.  The sound in the arena would probably have been better if it was full, but at its peak the crowd only filled half of the arena.  OK, here are my bitchy points and then I'll stop bitching:
  • the sound sucked, especially for the opening act
  • even though the arena was only half full they crammed us into little seats, worse than Fenway Park
  • everyone stood up throughout Dylan's set ... not because they wanted to dance but because they couldn't see; the stage was too low
  • for some periods of his set, Dylan was just coasting on the value of his songs and it was not an inspired performance
Now the good points:
  • it was Bob Fucking Dylan and he has written some of the best songs ever
  • his band was great and almost overcame the lousy sound; they were drums, two guitars, bass, and pedal steel; the pedal steel player also picked up the mandolin and the banjo on a few songs
  • Dylan was up front singing without an instrument for a few songs but for most of them played electric piano and harmonica, and he had some great runs on piano
  • they opened with Things Have Changed and of course they had, they did this with almost a reggae tempo and it was great
  • they did a few of the old songs, like Visions of Johanna, All Along the Watchtower (though they cut this short after 2(?) verses), Tangled Up In Blue, and Ballad of a Thin Man ... I was very glad
  • they did a few excellent numbers from the recent album, Tempest: Soon After Midnight (a song I love but the sound for this was terrible), Early Roman Kings, Pay In Blood, and Scarlet Town (one of the best songs in the set, Dylan was just on fire)
  • another high moment of the set was the pair of Beyond Here Lies Nothin' (with words by Robert Hunter) and a scorching, funky, soulful version of Blind Willie McTell
  • saw our friends David before the set and Kathy at the encore
Here's the set list:
  1. Things Have Changed
  2. Love Sick
  3. High Water (For Charley Patton)
  4. Soon After Midnight
  5. Early Roman Kings
  6. Tangled Up In Blue
  7. Pay In Blood
  8. Visions Of Johanna
  9. Spirit On The Water
  10. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
  11. Blind Willie McTell
  12. What Good Am I?
  13. Thunder On The Mountain
  14. Scarlet Town
  15. All Along The Watchtower
  16. Ballad Of A Thin Man (encore)

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