Bob Dylan – Beyond Here Lies Seattle (Stringman Records SR-087-088) CDR

Beyond Here Lies Seattle (Stringman Records SR-087-088)

WaMu Theatre, Seattle, WA – October 5th, 2009

Disc 1:  Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, Lay, Lady, Lay, Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, Spirit On The Water, Honest With Me, I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met), My Wife’s Hometown, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Forgetful Heart, If You Ever Go To Houston

Disc 2:  Highway 61 Revisited, I Feel A Change Comin’ On, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone, Jolene, All Along The Watchtower

Beyond Here Lies Seattle features a very good albeit muffled and bass heavy audience recording of the October 5th, 2009 Bob Dylan show in Seattle. 

A good show, a review posted in the Free Republic states: 

Well, this was about the dozenth time for me seeing Bob Dylan live in concert. Starting with his tour in support of Slow Train Coming in 1980 at the Paramount Theater, I’ve generally made the effort to see the Bard from Hibbing as he passed through the NW. Best show: a triple bill with Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell in 1998 at the Columbia River Gorge Ampitheater. The worst: Dylan touring with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backup band in sometime in the 1980s. Unbearable, frankly.

Fortunately, Dylan has since decided to tour with his own crack bands, and has been on a Never Ending Tour since the late 1980s.

Last nights show was darn good. It featured the return of guitarist Charlie Sexton to the band (replacing Denny Freeman) and Charlie’s energy seemed to inspire Bob, based on the interplay the two had all night long. Many of the songs were the same as from the previous night’s “rehearsal” show at the 1300 seat Moore Theater. This was my first show at the (soon to be renamed, I’m guessing) WaMu theater. The WaMu is really just a large exhibition hall that they roll bleachers into and hang curtains to make it into a ‘theater’. Not particularly inspiring, to say the least. The good news was they did serve drinks in the lobby. The better news was that the sound was surprisingly decent. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is my wife and I thought we had seats reserved, but in fact, we had general admission (despite seat #s on the tix) so we had to stand in the cavernous floor area. (Wife is short, so not good for her viewing)

The show kicked off at 7:45 with an aggressive, stomping version of Slow Train’s “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”. I doubt most folks ever heard of this tune, but it is one of the gems from Dylan’s overtly Christian period (Which Don-O wrote about yesterday here on FR).

Next up was “Lay Lady Lay” with Bob on guitar. A bit louder and infinitely gruffer than the delicate studio version of Nashville Skyline, it was done well and was well received.

Then they launched into the chugging “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” from this years Together Through Life (TTL) album. Dylan was center stage with just his Harmonica which allowed him to really concentrate on the vocals. A fine version of just a so-so song, IMO.

Same for the next song, 2006’s “Spirit on the Water” with Dylan on organ. Well played but more a filler to me. But for some reason the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

Bob returned to center stage with just his harp for a raucous version of 2002’s “Honest with Me”. For me, one of the highlights, as the band really slammed it hard and Dylan was highly animated.

Bob guitared back up for 1964’s “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”. Dylan’s vocals, as gruff and hoarse as they are these days, were excellent. I enjoyed this version.

The best was next. Keeping his guitar on, Bob and the boys played, for the very first time live, TTL’s “My Wife’s Hometown”. The tune is an old Willie Dixon blues stomp, with Bob’s new funny-dark lyrics. They hit this one out of the theater, and Dylan’s ragged voice was a perfect fit.

Next up, with Bob back on organ, was the rollicking “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”. Seen it many times live, seemed to please the crowd, especially due to the extra guitar umph that Sexton gave it.

The ‘sparest’, most intimate song of the night was TTL’s “Forgetful Heart”. The band quietly played acoustic guitar and bass (and congas?) while Dylan sang and blew harmonica at center stage. He put alot of effort into it, and it received one of the best ovations. Also the shortest song of the night, by far.

They quickly returned to rocking the place with TTL’s “If You Ever Go To Houston”. I like this texas romp song on the album, and I’ve seen Youtubes of it live from his summer tour, but this was by far the best version he’s croaked up. And everyone on the floor was grooving.

Next up, “Highway 61”. Loud, rowdy, and great, as usual.

Next: TTL’s “I feel A Change Coming On”. Many folks must have purchased TTL, because they responded very well to this soulful groover when it started. They nailed it this one.

“Thunder on the Mountain” from 2006’s Modern Times was next. A fun, loose rocker, but the best reason for playing it is to let the band roll hard between the quickly spit out verses.

The final song before the encore was “Ballad of a Thin Man”. Great version. They changed the lighting to a eerie yellow for this song and Dylan really hammered the lyrics and his harmonica. Couldn’t help but think he was singing about Obama on it. LOL.

The encore consisted of the ancient but crowd pleasing “Like a Rolling Stone”, the new Texas rocker “Jolene” and a powerful Hendrix-ish “All Along the Watchtower” which left the crowd wanting more. But that was it.

If you are not familiar with the evolution, or devolution, of Bob’s vocal abilities, you’d probably not be impressed with his singing. But if you understand what he’s doing to work with what he has left for vocals chords, you would be impressed. I was.

Very, very few in popular music, in my book, have pulled off what Dylan has. He has managed to stay not only relevant, but has made some of his best music in his latter years, despite having the gold standard of his early and mid career masterpieces for critics and fans to compare. Have the Stones released a great album since 78’s Some Girls? Has McCartney made anything close to his Lennon collaborations or early Wings pop? Where did Roger Waters’ muse go? Or Ray Davies, or Pete Townsand’s?

The Indian casinos have a regular smorgasbord of former hit makers from the 60s, 70s and 80s passing through, trying to squeeze a last nickel from their heyday years. Dylan’s heyday started in 1962 as the snot nosed Woodie Guthrie wannabee on the streets of NY, and continues to this day as a 69 year old bluesy, grizzled troubadour who shows no signs of slowing down.  (Bob Dylan concert review – October 5, 2009, Seattle, WA). 

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