Countless Foes (Tambourine Man Records TMR 160/161)
Alumni Field House, SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY – November 19th, 2008
Disc 1 (78:01): Intro., The Wicket Messenger, It Ain’t Me Babe, The Levee’s Gonna Break, My Back Pages, High Water (For Charley Patton), Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Honest With Me, Workingman’s Blues #2, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, When The Deal Goes Down, Highway 61 Revisited
Disc 2 (36:04): Nettie Moore, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, crowd applause, All Along The Watchtower, band intro., Blowin’ In The Wind
Countless Foes presents an excellent sounding recording of Bob Dylan’s penultimate show in 2008 in Oneonta, New York. An excellent write up about the show can be found on the blog MORE RICE AND BEANS which writes:
It was a glorious road trip to Oneonta. I enjoyed the two hour bus ride from the Port Authority to Kingston while listening to Tell Tale Signs. After checking into a forlorn Super 8, my long-time friends King and Blaze picked me up for the last leg of the journey. Sticks, deer, a mountain and ninety miles of road headed west were all that separated us from Oneonta. It was a cool crisp autumn eve. We listened to Tell Tale Signs all the way – “Some of us turn off the lights and we lay off/ In the moonlight shooting by/ Some of us scare are selves to death in the dark/ To be where the angels fly/ Pretty maids all in a row lined up/ Outside my cabin door/ I never wanted any of them wanting me/ Except the girl from the Red River Shore.”
The Alumni Field House at SUNY Oneonta was quaint, smaller than it sounds. The basketball backboards were raised to the low-lying rafters and the concessions consisted of bottled water for $1. They took our tickets from us and put them in a yellow sack and returned them after the show instead of giving us stubs. I’m not sure what that was all about. Dylan set the tone by opening with “The Wicked Messenger.” Getting up front was a hassle-free experience and the music was thundering. Under dim lighting, Bob looked dashing in a black suit with matching silver medallions, gold tie and white top hat.
Bob slipped out from behind his organ for a stroll to center stage on “It Ain’t Me Babe.” He side saddled by the microphone twisting to his right. Between singing lines, he added some tasty harp licks, circa 1966. His gesturing and posturing was fascinating all evening. Garnier’s bass was blasting my brain during “Levee Breaks.” Dylan taunted the college kids singing, “I was so much older than/ I’m younger than that now.” Donnie’s banjo sounded great on a brilliantly rearranged “High Water.” Near the end of each verse, the Cowboy band switched gears from thrashing blues to a feel good ragtime sound – the world of American music has gone berserk.
Dylan’s Wolfman howl worked over my eardrums as he shuffled to center stage for “Stuck Inside of Mobile.” Somebody yelled out, “Hey Dylan, eat some soup.” We were swimming in a sea of organ as Dylan chastised us with “Ballad of a Thin Man.” His organ playing was infectious, marching to its own beat. He also treated us to one of his patented and repetitive two note harp solos. It never grows old, only keeps getting better. The rock and roll bombardment continued on “Honest with Me”, “Tweedle Dee”, and “Highway 61.” Stu’s playing more leads than I can ever recall, it mixed in nicely with Denny’s jazzy touches. The Field House was dark during Tweedle, as Dylan was orating/ lead-singing – at times he looked like he was balancing himself on a surf board; then he looked like he was trying out for the lead role in West Side Story. There was a lot of finger pointing and gesturing to the audience. “Tweedle” was powerful and wonderfully strange.
The highpoints of the show were the slower numbers from Modern Times. “Workingman’s Blues # 2” was immense – booming vocals with chilling poignancy against a delightful arrangement. There’s nothing wrong with living on rice and beans. His vocal inflections and word play on “When the Deal Goes Done” and “Nettie Moore” was gripping. Denny really added some creative touches pulling out those Wes Montgomery – Grant Green like riffs. Bob was extremely animated during his vocal presentation of “Like a Rolling Stone.” He laughed into the microphone several times, as well as laughing in Donnie’s direction. Dylan further riled-up the crowd by playing a Gibson Guitar that was thrice his size during “Blowin in the Wind.” The crowd was pleasant, but not the type of crowd you would expect to whip Dylan into a frenzy. Whatever the reason, Dylan had IT going on in Oneonta, New York – a small old-time railroading town with two colleges, a Minor League stadium for young Yankees working their way towards the Majors, and the Soccer Hall of Fame. It was another new stop for the Bob Dylan Show, in its 20th year – one of its most innovative, strangest and finest years. Here’s to the next twenty.