Hotter Than a Crotch (Milwaukee 4/8 review) (long)

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Adam Selzer

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Apr 9, 2005, 9:44:18 AM4/9/05
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Ahhhh. There's something about seeing a really exciting show that just
puts me in a good mood. Even though I must say that the Rave is the
worst venue in history.

Mike, Julia and I drove up to Milwaukee in the early afternoon; a
remarkably easy trip from Chicago, and arrived at just past two. Spoke
with Disco Stu, Iowadylanfan, Federica, and others of the usual crowd. I
haven't missed GA shows much. All that stress.

At about 3:30 the soundhceck could be heard coming from an open upstairs
window, and, to our delight, the first song was "Tough Mama," followed
by "Baby Blue," "Dignity," and another shot at "Baby Blue." Of course,
I've learned over the years that the fact that he soundchecked Tough
Mama actually meant that it wouldn't be played for months, if at all.
You do hear strange things at soundchecks from time to time - but it was
still cool to hear.

At roughly five the venue moved the line (after sending us past a
pat-down guy AND a wand-down guy before getting to the ticket guy) in a
dimly lit bar inside. Why would they do this, you may ask? It was
strictly because they could then sell us drinks - it certainly didn't
make things run more smoothly. The line became a jumble, the light in
the place was so bad it was making me sick in the head, and, after a few
minutes, they stopped allowing people upstairs to use the one available
bathroom. I was annoyed to say the least. Then they kept sending more
and more and more people into the bar, until the place was filled
entirely past whatever the maximum occupancy should have been, and I
went from feeling nervous to feeling genuinely unsafe. I began to sing a
few bars of "1913 Massacre" and wondered what the fire marshall would
think of this setup. We'll find out; I'll be writing letters about this.
I shouted to some poor security guy that he should tell his boss that
this is the worst venue ever and it deserves to go out of business. This
is the first time I've said this about a venue.

The concert hall itself is an odd place; like being in an egg that was
designed to be a boxing arena (as it was in the 30's). The room is an
oval shape, but instead of having the stage at the narrow end of the
oval, it takes up most of the long side. Some of the box seats were
practically behind the stage. Might've been an okay venue to see a
boxing match, but it must be a strange place to see a show if you aren't
up towards the front.

While I'm not much interested in the rail (too much drama to get there),
I was very close, and dead center, infinitely closer than I was at any
of the Chicago shows, which meant that the sound was remarkably worse,
but the show was something of a different experience. Elana was wearing
a black dress with some sort of silver design, and I was glad to be
standing right in front of her so I could see that grin without
binoculars. But she wasn't doing all of the grinning tonight - Bob
looked like he was having just as much fun as she was - and that's a lot
of fun.

To Be Alone With You - was better than it normally is; I had to adjust
my ears to the sound a bit. The Rave certainly doesn't hold a candle to
the Auditorium on any level. The sound in the front is never as good,
either (such is the drawback of the rail).

To Ramona - first since 10/03! Quite a surprise, and an above average
version with the band sounding great.

Cat's in the Well - rock n roll! This was a particularly hard-rocking
version, with Dylan spitting out the lyrics with what appeared to be
delight and Elana sawing away.

To Make You Feel My Love - the surprise here was that the performance
was so great. The band provided a lovely backing as Bob sang it as well
as I've heard him do in years, with a terrific center stage harp solo.
Probably would have sounded simply gorgeous in the auditorium.

Highway 61 - really got the crowd moving; I'm becoming more of a fan of
this arrangement than I was at first. That DUN DUN DUN before the chorus
line is fun, and Bob was still singing like he was having more fun than
usual.

I'll be Your Baby (NOT TONIGHT I'LL BE STAYING HERE - this was a mistake
in the setlist). Better sung than usual, nothing terribly special here.
Please note that I'm not certain the order on the setlist is exactly
right after this point, but I'll write about the songs in the order they
appear for convenience sake. It seems like Tough Mama was earlier.

anyway....

LOVE SICK! What an arrangement! The band, with DOnnie playing that weird
mandolin/guitar thingie, sounded like the ghost of Kurt Weill leading an
all-skeleton oompah band in the middle of a dark forest (either at night
or on a grey, windy November day - skeleton oompah bands stay home when
the skies are blue). No band does scary like this one, and Dylan sang
the hell out of it. It was always a bit spooky, not it's another kind of
spooky. Yay violin!

Absolutely Sweet Marie - the line tonight was "railroad bridge," if
you're keeping score. Another rocking version with the violins standing
out; not sure I'd say it was better than Chicago, but I've no complaints.

and then we heard it. That opening chord of

TOUGH MAMA - and what a version! The band played this much faster than
every other NET version I've heard, following the album version pretty
closely, and Bob didn't just sort of sing it, he dove right in and
attacked it with a smile, looking like he was having the time of his
life. He smiled between lines, and, between verses, he often simply
threw his head back and laughed, like in that picture from the BIABH
sessions. He smiled BIGGER than Elana. It included ALL the verses,
including the "hotter than a crotch" line that I'm not sure has EVER
been sung, and had the fun add-in "you know who you are and where you
been...I HOPE!" I didn't want this song to end.

Floater - sounds great with the new band and a regular violinist. Dylan
usually sounds sort of threatening to me on this song, like an evil
hitchhiker, but tonight he sounded like a friendly bum holding court on
the stoop clowning for the entertainment of all the other hoboes - until
that last "if you ever cross my path again" verse, where he effectively
told the hoboes "whattaya think I am, some kinda clown?"

Standing in the Doorway - at the beginning, I thought Bob was
experimenting a bit with the vocals, and it wasn't exactly working. But,
by the second verse, he had pulled it together, and by the end of that
verse, it was an absolute stunner, and actually included the "maybe
they'll get me, maybe they won't" verse, which I've certainly never
heard before.

Down ALong the Cove - a fun closer. I was hoping for something quieter,
like we had for the closer the last few shows, but I can't complain when
I have a good time.

Mississippi - another knock-out version, despite some very minor lyric
flubs. Not sure it was as good as in Chicago (partly due to the inferior
sound), but Dylan got nice and intense when the lyrics allowed him to.

Watchtower - is a song I just don't tire of seeing.

There were high-fives all around. The show had overcome the lousy venue
to become one of the strongest of the tour by all accounts. History and
tapers may record that it suffered slightly from a lack of pacing - no
particularly quiet moments, even the slower songs were fairly intense -
but I'll let history whine about it. There will be many good mp3s from
this show, I hope (along with maybe a really, really jaw-dropping two
disc best of Chicago comp? Please?) and I have a pretty good idea that
if this band is doing this well after all of a month, by the time the
fall tour rolls around (assuming that there is one), the show will be
HOT HOT HOT and there's no guessing what the setlists will look like. As
it is, in the last six shows alone, I've seen 61 unique songs out of a
possible 84 - a very high percentage indeed. It's not impossible that
the band will have played 100 songs by the end of the Willie tour.

Anyway, after some drinks and some laughs, we were back on the road
heading for home. Unless something very unexpected happens, that will be
my last show of the tour. Have fun with the rest of them, folks, and I
hope to run into you all again this summer!

www.adamselzer.com - homepage
www.edlis.org/last - How Long Has It Been Since Dylan Played...

frinjdwelr

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Apr 9, 2005, 10:42:14 AM4/9/05
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Everything Adam says here is right on the money. It was one of those shows
that goes way over the top. Absolute magic in a shithole.
And yes it was definitely "railroad bridge" tonight. And yes - like I've
never seen him do before - he did that throw his head back in pure joy just
like the picture from BIABH. He was having so much fun he kept cracking
himself up, the feet were never still, and he played little teasing riffy
things on the harp. Lots of long really great harp, where he'd almost toy
with the audience.
The twin violin attack meshed the best yet. Somehow he and his very young
acting energetic band pushed through to that place where nothing else
matters but the music of that moment, and they all felt it.
Because of the way that venue is when people talked in reverberated around
twice as loud. Amos was a bit miffed that he could barely be heard over the
din. The loud drinking, smoking and talking even kept up for Merle. But he
knew how to handle a bar crowd and jacked up his set. Jackson and Milk Cow
Blues helped for awhile. Unforgetable was unhearable. Bob gradually shut
them all up but the tapes probably won't be pretty.

"Adam Selzer" <ad...@adamselzer.com> wrote in message
news:MYidnWBWBIi...@comcast.com...

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