It was another good, though not transcendent show at the brand new rehabbed Met in Philly. As he did in Atlantic City, Bob came out vocally strong and stayed that way throughout the night. Again the first few songs were pretty much warmups with nice harp on “Simple Twist Of Fate” The “Rumble” version of “Cry A While” was fun, but I’m still not sure this arrangement is better than the original. “When I Paint My Masterpiece” seems designed to be a highlight, but in this version, it comes a little short of hitting the mark. The song really needs the beat it originally had, and the lyric changes seem like changes simply for the sake of changing. That said, one of the thing happening on this tour and “Masterpiece” was a fine example, is Bob’s developed a cool habit of answering his vocal with what he’s playing on the piano.
“Scarlet Town” was one of the key high points of the show with Bob standing at center stage using the microphone stand as a prop, with Charlie Sexton adding guitar punctuations, and Donnie Herron sort of playing Chinese music on the banjo. Dylan has changed the melody slightly so the very last line of each verse now goes up instead of staying the same which makes the verses more effective, and the way he stands there hand on hip during the brief between verse interludes is simply fun.
The lyrics of “Pay In Blood,” easily the nastiest of any of Dylan’s more recent songs are diminished by the current arrangement, though he put a lot into the line, “Show me your moral virtue first.”
“Like A Rolling Stone” was quite good with the emphasis going to the last word of each verse with him stretching out meal, deal, steal and conceal as long as he could and putting a lot into it as well. It was the one song where the incessant talker sitting in front of me shut up and tried to clap along until she realized it was useless.
The second high point of the show was again “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” with Dylan on piano backed by bowed bass and very subtle pedal steel with the full band only coming in at the very end. It is an astoundingly beautiful arrangement that truly brings out the sadness inherent in the lyrics.
“Thunder On The Mountain” was quite good and a lot of fun, as was the revved up “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
The third highlight was the first encore, a slow simmering, “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” that found Charlie Sexton playing a Les Paul Gibson, taking his best solo of the night.
That said, there’s something missing from the band right now I can’t quite put my finger on. The easy answer would be Stu Kimball. But there’s a force that was there that’s missing, though one of the people I went to the show with who saw some of the shows on this tour in the South said it didn’t happen in the smaller theaters.
At the same time Bob Dylan is singing a hell of a lot better than he did ten years ago and I’m trying to figure out how he pulled that trick off.