Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour - Oakland, Fox Theater, June 11, 2022
As usual I splatter my thoughts in no particular order:
- The whole darn show, recorded from within someone’s phone lock bag: https://youtu.be/nwK8kAVNrrI
- Better recording here: https://youtu.be/wrrPZU_-jjA (this one appears to have been removed)
- A recording of the previous night: https://youtu.be/P-yNR855s3g
- I loved the show. My attention was fixed the whole time.
- Oh my God they ended with a cover of Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" which was amazing. (Better recording: https://youtu.be/YZj3pjskjPU Bootleg recording, from same source as above: https://youtu.be/TmNBhpQtqz8) From my post on Expecting Rain:
Oh My God, they closed with "Friend of the Devil" on the June 11th Oakland show! Crowd went berserk! The version was absolutely beautiful, one of the best sounding songs of the evening. I was stunned. I was expecting "Every Grain of Sand" (and now I want to hear that live), because I'd read the set lists and I knew they had been unchanged for many shows. I think it's very cheeky of Bob to replace one of his most explicitly Christian songs with "Friend of the Devil". But Bob's always loved a little shock/blasphemy to make you sit up in your seat.
After the band introductions, there was a brief huddle on stage between Bob, one of the guitarists, and one of the other musicians (I forget who). It wasn't more than a second or two. I saw some heads nod, and then they went it to it. It sounded excellent, the way the guitar parts interacted, and the way Dylan's vocal sort of floated on top of it, with more extended, "legato" phrasing than on the Grateful Dead studio recording of the sone we're all familiar with. I don't think it was slapped together on the spot, it sounded too good for that. (But of course I know musicians who tour and record with Dylan have to be ready for sudden changes, so maybe it was?) There was such palpable love for the song from Dylan, and it was the one song where the whole crowd was on its feet.Leaving the show, I checked in with another fan who had been at the other Oakland shows, and he confirmed that this was unique to tonight's show. What a treat! What a gift!I seriously hope there's a good recording of this. It's a treasure.
- The band sounded very good to me. (I'm not comparing it to the same band on other stops of the tour, just to my own expectations of how good a band should be.) I want that band to be my band. They seemed to be able to slip into grooves effortlessly. They were intensely focused on Dylan, and seemed to be taking cues from him and giving space for his vocals. I do wish Dylan would let them cut loose a bit: I suspect they were under-utilized.
- Set list (from Expecting Rain):
Oakland, CaliforniaFox TheaterJune 11, 20221. Watching The River Flow (Bob center stage on guitar then on piano)2. Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine) (Bob on piano)3. I Contain Multitudes (Bob on piano)4. False Prophet (Bob on piano)5. When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob on piano)6. Black Rider (Bob on piano)7. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Bob on piano with harp intro)8. My Own Version of You (Bob on piano)9. Crossing The Rubicon (Bob on piano)10. To Be Alone With You (Bob on piano)11. Key West (Philosopher Pirate) (Bob on piano)12. Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob on piano)13. I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (Bob on piano)14. Melancholy Mood (Bob center stage)15. Mother of Muses (Bob on piano)16. Goodbye Jimmy Reed (Bob on piano)-- Band introductions17. Friend of the Devil (Bob on piano)
- Dylan seemed very frail. He couldn't stand for very long at all. He sang Melancholy Mood standing at the mic. It's a short song, but it looked as though he couldn't make it through. He seemed much more comfortable when seated.
- Dylan's voice was very expressive and he seemed emotionally present and invested. (Again, I'm not comparing it to other shows on this tour: the Dylanologists are constantly tracking his vocal health between shows.) His voice is a gargled wreck of a ruin of itself. In some ways, it's very sad. But sometimes what he does with that wreck of a voice is so expressive. Especially the songs from the Rough and Rowdy Ways album, which were often written for that voice.
- Dylan seemed like he was having a great time and enjoying performing.
- Dylan was not presented particularly well: he was behind an upright piano most of the concert. He wore a stylish hat with a brim the prevented the light from fully hitting his face. There were some lights shining on the audience throughout the show which made the performers harder to see. I wish there had been a screen with a closeup on his face like they sometimes have at arena concerts. I think I'd just put Bob in a nice chair and let him sing, and let other musicians handle the instruments.
- I didn't particularly care for Dylan's piano playing much of the time. During verses and choruses it was perfectly serviceable, but when he soloed I felt it was weak. He just doesn't have the technique or melodic intuition on the instrument, and he suffered in comparison to the other musicians who just seemed so fluid and tight.
- I stayed masked the whole time. I hope I didn't get COViD.
- Show was about 100 minutes long. No intermission.
- Individual song comments:
- Watching the River Flow: nice guitar solo to open up, sounded much better than much of his piano playing.
- Most Likely You Go Your Way: Of all the songs from Blonde on Blonde, why pick this one?
- I Contain Multitudes: I really like this song. I think his voice is a better fit for this one than the previous two. Similar to the album, but I think there were some different words at the beginning.
- False Prophet: This had a more minimal presentation than on the album, with a traditional blues lick.
- When I Paint My Masterpiece: All the songs Bob sang were songs I could really picture an 80 year old singing. The older the song (and this is an old one), the more different the version was than the recorded version.
- Black Rider: This worked very well live. Similar to the album version.
- I'll Be Your Baby Tonight: I liked this one. Nice harmonica intro from Bob (better than his piano playing), and I liked the boogie-woogie treatment this got; very different than the country version on Nashville Skyline. This band can get groovy so easily.
- My Own Version of You: I liked this one live better than on the album. The live version had a nice spooky "ghost story around the campfire" vibe.
- Crossing the Rubicon: This version had an extra chord in it to try to increase the tension before the final line in each verse ("...and crossed the Rubicon) but I didn't like that extra chord. I like this song, but prefer the album version.
- To Be Alone With You: A very different take on this song.
- Key West (Philosopher Pirate): This song tries to cast a spell on you. This spell doesn't work on me. I don't like the album version and I didn't like the live version. It rambles. It talks about how great Key West is, but I don't know, I just don't find myself caring that much.
- Gotta Serve Somebody: Very groovy version. Very Christian. Very different words than on the album.
- I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You: After this song, my wife said, "You have to learn this one for me", and I probably will. It's so beautiful. I do prefer the album version, but my wife liked the live version better. The "oo oo oo oo oo oo oo" background vocal part was played by the guitar in this live version, and I like the human vocal better. Great fusion of romantic and religious devotion in this song. One of my favorites from Rough and Rowdy Ways.
- Melancholy Mood: A short Sinatra tune (I think, or one he made famous at any rate). Fun to see Bob come out from behind the piano, but I was worried he'd fall over. In the 2010s, Bob recorded five albums worth of jazz standards, many of which were performed by Sinatra. And his concerts were dominated by this material. I didn't follow Bob into Sinatra land, but you can hear how it informed his vocal delivery when you listen to Rough and Rowdy Ways.
- Mother of Muses: I like this song. Not too different from the album version.
- Goodbye Jimmy Reed: When Bob sang this to us live, it struck me as even more about himself than it does on the album. The Christian influence is strong here, but it comes filtered through a blues persona. "Thump on the Bible and proclaim a creed!"
- Friend of the Devil: see above. It was beautiful. It was a surprise.
- I was sad we didn't get a live version of "Murder Most Foul", the 17-minute masterpiece incantation that concludes Rough and Rowdy ways. I think this band could have underscored it beautifully.
- So glad I went!