Talk From The Rock Room

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Put the Boot In: Joni Mitchell – September 14, 1979 Greek Theatre – ‘Particles of Change’


Playing in the ‘rock room’ today in a crispy audience recording spotlighting Joni Mitchell’s third show from a five night run at Berkley’s 6,000 seat Greek Theatre, September 14, 1979. Joni had taken a sharp turn away from commercial elements in her music since 1975’s Court and Spark and embraced a jazz aesthetic for her recent musical offerings. A testament to the strength of the performances is that taking place only a few days prior to this concert was a show in Santa Monica that would be mined for Mitchell’s official live concert document from the tour, Shadows and Light.

Joni’s 1979 set contained a substantial cross section of her career, mixing and matching her fan favorites with deeper catalog cuts and more experimental tracks.  Her backing group for the tour was made up of a stellar four piece collaborative of jazz musicians. Mitchell would feature on piano and guitar while famed jazz stalwarts Pat Metheny on guitar, Jaco Pastorius on bass, Lyle Mays on keys and Don Alias on drums backs Joni with new arrangements as well as instrumental approaches unique to Mitchell’s original recordings. In addition Joni would also have saxophone player Michael Brecker join for certain numbers as well as backing vocalists ‘The Persuasions’ who acted as the opening performers for the tour. This would be Mitchell’s first visit to Los Angeles in five years so the crowd’s anticipation is tangible on the recording.

The recording playing in the ‘rock room’ today was recorded from the 5th row of the Greek and lends a ‘being there’ aspect to the concert that is lacking from the official soundboard recording from Santa Barbara. The Greek Theatre is well known for its special acoustics which in turn results in amazing recordings. Crowd reactions are well balanced and every instrument is audible and nestled into the sonic spread. Famed concert recordist Mike Millard (known for his killer Zeppelin pulls) and archivists JEMS have provided us with a sonic dream from Millard’s first generation tapes made for a friend and a vital era of Joni Mitchell’s career. Millard recorded the show on his trusty Nakamichi 550 recorder and the result as you will hear is jaw dropping.

The show opens with a funky ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ in a rearranged rendition that grabs the crowd right away while also eliminating the need for cat calls for the song throughout the evening. The track reveals new nuance as it opens like a lotus. Joni’s professional backing band fist hand in glove to Mitchell’s esoteric arrangements and chord changes, yet also playing her more ‘standard’ songs with fresh arrangements and exciting approaches.

After ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ Mitchell plays three songs from three simultaneous LP’s. ‘Just Like this Train’ from 1974’s Court and Spark, ‘In France They Kiss on Main Street’ from 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns and ‘Coyote’ from 1976’s Heijra. ‘Just Like this Train’ slots perfectly into the station with its syncopated changes and sleek verses. ‘In France They Kiss on Main Street’ was a semi successful single, but here it is played with great success driven by Pastorius’s alien toned riffing. Midway through the song Metheny takes his first solo of the evening to great feedback. This instrumental break increases Mitchell’s intensity when she comes back from the break adding up to a killer version of the track.

‘Coyote’ begins with feather light percussion though the tempo is galloping at a full clip on four legs. Pastorius flicks harmonics on his bass lending sonic flashes to Mitchell’s churning rhythm while Metheny lends some contrary lead lines. Mitchell’s voice is perfection as the arrangement rises and falls with well-timed ornamentation from her jazzy pals.

The second song in the first group of numbers to hail from The Hissing of Summer Lawns follows with ‘Edith and the Kingpin’. A song Mitchell said, ‘Sometimes you write about the exact thing you saw, but other times you take something that happened over here and put it with something over there. In 'Edith and the Kingpin,' part of it is from a Vancouver pimp I met and part of it is Edith Piaf. It's a hybrid, but all together it makes a whole truth.’ The extended arrangement is a similar blend with the silvery drift of the verses intersecting with a ‘disco’ interlude.

Perfectly placed in the set, Mitchell plays a substantial, ‘Free Man in Paris’ next while also giving the ‘hit parade’ attendees their attention. Michael Brecker makes an appearance for a saxophone solo spot and stays on the stage for ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ a Charles Mingus cover (with added Joni lyrics) and closing song from Mitchell’s most recent LP offering Mingus. The next continuous piece of music is the expansive centerpiece of the concert with a running time of almost twenty minutes.

The oh so hip Greek crowd is ready for a bit of jazz fusion and from the recording the ‘rock room’ can deduce that this is one of the highlights of the concert. Swirling melodies, freeform Mitchell vocalizations and top shelf musicianship are on full display. ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ leads into a disorientating Jaco Pastorius bass solo settling in complete contrast to the preceding songs. Pastorius’s solo is massive, using delay pedals he creates grooves from space and accompanies himself through distorted landscapes. Heavy chording, harmonic displacement and dissonant four string expressions put the crowd on the edge of their respective seats. Midway through Jaco quotes Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone from the Sun’ to the crowd’s pleasure.

Jaco’s bass spotlight then segues into a Mingus bookend with ‘The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines’ opened on shuffling snare hits. Joni jumps in with her finest scat singing, moving around the scale, ending syllables with vibrato, emoting a horn, grooving, levitating to falsetto and back to the base. Brecker and Pastorius break into an improvisational jam, the music sounds heavy. A mind bending ‘Berkley’ jam develops out of Des Moines and concludes in perfection on a drum mute.

After a brief pause Mitchell strums the guitar opening to ‘Amelia’ from 1976’s Heijra. The air is full of dramatics as Joni’s vocals enter.  This reading is only Mitchell and her hollow body electric guitar until late in the song Metheny plays a series of cloudy swells. The show thus far has been weighted in Mitchell’s mid to late 1970’s work to the ‘rock room’s great joy. ‘Amelia’ is full of space and sonic vistas, Mitchell’s voice crystalline as 30,000 feet to which the crowd’s rapt engagement can be felt on the recording. Every inflection and waiver as detailed as Mitchell’s compositions themselves.

Revealing the plan for the second half of the performance ‘Amelia’ seamlessly falls into the arms of a Pat Metheny spotlight. Metheny plays a chorused and clean guitar etude that is more a painted pastoral left coast scene than a ‘show off’ solo spot. A soft bed of keyboards appears and assists in easing the band into the title track of Mitchell’s 1976 LP Hejira. Mitchell’s voice now returns as the band navigates their way through the song’s restless drift. This is the first ‘folk’ construction of the evening since the concert opener. Again, tasteful playing by the pro’s in the band result in a fresh dynamic reading of ‘Hejira’. The band emotes movement and melancholy with nary a line or punctuation missed with a finite detail. Joni replaces Michael Brecker’s name for Bennie Goodman during one of the lyrics to which he responds. Hejira is full of pithy lyrics and stunning conversations,

Brecker also gets an opportunity during the end of the song where he takes a stunning horn solo. Drummer and percussionist Don Alias now gets to display his talents for his solo spot. In opposition to self-indulgence or bombastic displays, Alias uses delicate hand percussion and tribal drums to speak to the crowd. Nary is there a crash cymbal to be found as Alias picks up on a rhythm that the crowd can jump on. Mitchell collaborates with the discovered groove and begins to sing ‘Dreamland’ from her 1977 album, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Everybody joins in with the percussive instruments as a series of images from pastoral vacationing to the vile claiming of lands that do not belong collaborate as one aural image.

Soaring out of Mitchell’s ‘Dreamland’ comes the ink dark ‘Black Crow’ soaring against the deep blue sky of Berkley. Another track from Hejira, the band leans into the rhythmic interplay of one of Joni’s shiftiest songs.  Still heavy with Hejira, ‘Furry Sings the Blues’ follows in a similar arrangement to ‘Amelia’ with Mitchell’s guitar in the forefront and Metheny painting in lush strokes over the verses. Butterfly drums apply just enough motion to keep the song from hanging weightlessly.

‘God Must Be a Boogie Man’ from the tour supporting Mingus album lends Mitchell a bit of ‘bop’ in her vocal. She also gets some assistance from the crowd during the call and response portion of the chorus. Jaco again gets loose in this portion of the show quoting the melody and passing it around the stage. ‘Raised on Robbery’ gets a welcome cheer from the audience as Joni turns op the temperature with a run for the back door reading of ‘Raised On Robbery’ from 1974’s Court and Spark. Giving a bit of grit in her honey sliders smooth throat, the band’s digs in with Mitchell for a set concluding masterpiece. While not available on the this recording, during the tour this is when Joni would introduce the band.

Just prior to beginning ‘Shadows and Light’ Joni is asked by an audience member what her theological symbol is to which she responds, ‘Question mark’. Sung with a poetic intensity, ‘Shadows and Light’ is one of Mitchell’s finest lyrics. A perfectly fitting encore, Joni is joined by ‘The Persuasions’ who bring the lyric and song to stratospheric levels. A stunning display, the recording seizes this musical moment which teeters on religious experience. 

Following this cool interlude, Mitchell performs the final two songs of the concert which are only the second and third cuts taken from any pre-1974 Mitchell albums. It's obvious the Joni was focused on the current and new and not past glories. Joni sits at the piano stool for an intimate 'The Last Time I Saw Richard' originally found on Joni's 1972 Blue record. Here Joni investigates every nook and cranny of the song with her current emotions and place. At the song's conclusion Joni thanks the crowd for their enthusiasm.

A proper send off follows with 'Woodstock', a song Joni had to play or she wouldn't have made it out of the venue. The encore rendition leaves the band behind and features just Joni and her guitar. The reading is everything the hopeful could ask for, sparse, rearranged and beautiful. The crowd is silent except for announcing that they love favorite lines and with that Joni bids farewell while concluding an amazing evening of music. The 'rock room' per usual wants to thank enterprising tapers like Mike Millard who took their chances to deliver us sonic treasures all of these years later.

Constantly an artist in flux Joni Mitchell's 1979 tour expressed the intimate and diverse recordings that she had been collecting post Blue. With a stunning group of contributing musicians Mitchell was able to present her already unique brand of music with musicians who understood her direction and would not be fooled by any sudden changes in the creative winds. Mitchell twisted up and disregarded any sort of misdirected pop leanings into a pure distillation of loose jazz influenced compositions and tributes. Her 1979 Shadows and Light tour was the exclamation point on Mitchell's previous 5 years of high level creativity.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Now Playing: Grateful Dead - Calibration August 30, 1970

Now Playing in the ‘rock room’ is a long time circulating audio and video performance by the Grateful Dead. Taking place on August 30, 1970 and broadcast on KQED San Francisco as well as local television the performance has long been a favorite of 'Deadheads' over the years. Shot in glorious color the available unreleased and heavily bootlegged footage has always been marked by shaky tracking, bleeding film and generally below average visuals. To the 'rock room's' great satisfaction, a restored version has recently been making the rounds online. Broadcast on the local San Francisco show Calibration, the cameras capture the dead smack dab in between the release of their Workingman’s Dead and their famed upcoming LP American Beauty which would hit the shelves in November.

As previously stated, in addition to being shown on local television the performance was also broadcast on FM radio. There are only a few minor glitches sonically, the rest of the show has been upgraded in supreme soundboard quality. Due to the lack of Grateful Dead footage from this particular era this footage is particularly important. Here, we get to see ‘Pigpen’ in all his bluesy glory, Garcia playing his Live Dead Gibson SG and the hungry two drummer primal line up. Recently a much welcome restored and upgraded of this show has made its way to the interwebs and has made its way to the flickering flat screen of the ‘rock room’. There is an assembled studio audience full of excited hipsters and tripsters in addition to an extremely psychedelic lightshow by Jerry Abrams Headlights. The band blasts their way through a six song set that is made up if tunes from both American Beauty as well as the yet unreleased Workingman's Dead

The show begins with a hearty version of ‘Easy Wind’ freshly pulled from the grooves of the group’s recently released Workingman’s Dead album. ‘Pig’ grips the microphone stand tightly as Weir looks in focused concentration... or he’s just super high. The drummers immediately crash around their kits in beautiful stereo. Chasing their own tail the group forms a fire breathing circle around the Pig placing him in a groovy musical pen. While later era Grateful Dead footage is often (in the ‘rock room’s humble opinion) marred by unneeded visual effects and digital manipulation, here the psychedelic display is organic and actually adds to the vintage of the performance and capture. That being said, per usual it does get a bit bothersome later in the show.

As Pig stands at the mic, roughed up cowboy hat cocked on his head its easy to understand why Garcia always considered him the front man. Pig takes a harp solo the first time around before Weir splays a snaky solo spot while setting the stage for Garcia’s reading. The cameraman misses Bobby for his solo spot but nonetheless catches Garcia’s exclusive rhythm chops. Garcia then precedes lays down a fat and rotund solo spot; his classic Gibson SG sound in full aural display. While this may not be the ‘best’ performance of ‘Easy Wind’, just having the visuals alone is enough to stun this humble viewer. As the on screen imagery pulses the band moves their way through the chord changes with a funky attitude. Jerry is loosey goosy, riding the earthy breezes conjured by the drummers. Lesh while somewhat buried in the mix is describable flailing some frenetic fretwork. The group returns to the verse right on time and Pig finishes it up. Priceless stuff.

A formative version of ‘Candyman’ follows and is a favorite of many fellow Deadheads as it features sticky sweet Garcia vocals in addition to subtle harmonies by Weir and Lesh. After a small stumble at the top the band moves through an endearing yet rickety version. Taken at faster pace than later versions of the 1970’s, Garcia is animated and fully invested in the reading. It’s also interesting to note how different the song sounds with the band’s earlier guitar line up of Gibson guitars. Garcia’s solo spot is an obvious highlight as the band makes a dynamic return to the verse.

The assembled crowd howls their approval at 'Candyman's conclusion.. As the camera pans it’s easy to see the majority of the crowd have just been transplanted from the Fillmore West to the confines of the recording studio. Garcia counts the song off and ‘Casey Jones’ smokes out of the station following the ‘Candyman’s departure. While not straying too far from the tracks of the original studio version, the band’s youthful enthusiasm for their plethora of new music is tangible on the recording especially as we are able to see their clear investment in the number. The band plays, a cornering locomotive chugging down the track. It is here that the effects get slightly annoying but nothing to majorly detract from my major enjoyment of this upgraded footage. The band accelerates toward the destination, an album worthy reading by the group.

Following what was a television commercial break, ‘Broke-down Palace’ the closing track from the yet to be released American Beauty is played in wonderful fashion. The song had only made its debut two weeks prior on August 18, 1970 at the Fillmore West along with other American Beauty tracks. Similarly to the previous ‘Candyman’ the band’s harmonies are on point and their approach as fresh as a sprouting flower. No dirge here, a brisk thoughtful rendition of one of Robert Hunters finest and most endearing lyrics. The later rejected outro ‘do-do-do’ vocals are especially inspired.  As an aside, there are still some inherent tracking issues with the film and some ill timed skips. But nonetheless, this upgraded version is welcome.

With only a brief pause, the opening song from Workingman's Dead, ‘Uncle John’s Band’ is the closing song for this performance. Again, and it sounds crazy saying this, the harmonies are a highlight of the song. Billy and Mickey play active and delicate drums that are often lost on later live versions of the track. It’s thrilling to see Garcia, Lesh, and Weir at three close mics focused on the changes and invested in each other’s fret work. Garcia peels off the first solo which rides on the rapping of Hart’s percussive additions. Every lyric is nailed, every nuance revealed, I feel lucky to be able to watch. The band takes the concluding jam out for a walk just around the front yard, staying relatively close to the original studio cut while hinting at the majesty of future versions.

A brief but stunning capture of the ‘Grateful Dead’ when footage and in some instances tapes are in short supply. ‘Primal’ Grateful Dead, the era recognized as 1966-1970 is the vintage sought after by virtually all fans of the band. This particular and critical piece of celluloid is an important glimpse of the group. In less than six months Hart would leave the Band in in a bit over a year Keith Godchaux would be on boarded as the new pianist. Thankfully by excavating tapes like this, we can enjoy all of the varying faces of the group's history; as well as the number of faces that they stole.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Rock Room on the Road - Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour: Cleveland November 5, 2021

Bob Dylan and his ‘Rough and Rowdy’ band of musicians made their third tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio on November 52021. Dylan, never one to pander to any sort of expectation real or imagined has taken to the road for a tour that is earmarked to run through 2024. Following a strikingly consistent and critically acclaimed 2019 tour that found Dylan in fine fettle. Dylan now hits the road with a sheath of new compositions hailing from his stellar 2020 record Rough and Rowdy Ways.

The 3,200 seat KeyBank State Theatre in Cleveland hosted Dylan and his group providing wonderful sightlines, intimate seating and crystalline sonics. Dylan played for an hour and forty minutes and while like the tour moniker suggests, focused on his recent songbook he also sprinkled in a variety of older classics that fit into the evenings aesthetic hand in glove.

Dylan ‘band leader’ Tony Garnier returned to his usual bass duties along with guitarist Bob Britt and long time instrumentalist Donnie Herron. Former Dylan fixture and guitarist Charlie Sexton was not present for this evening or the tour. He was replaced by guitarist Doug Lancio who is now learning trial by fire. Dylan also newly added dynamic drummer Charley Drayton who offers the group a series of tasteful and unique percussive approaches.

In typical early tour Dylan fashion his band was swinging, slightly rickety but offered an undulating canvas on which Dylan’s endlessly creative vocals could nestle. A hallmark for the evening was Dylan’s obvious investment in his new songs, while also injecting his catalog numbers with soulful singing and poetic dictation.  While on his 2019 tour Dylan played both guitar and piano, on this evening, he stayed close to his stand-up piano unless coming center stage with a silver bullet mic, legs astride and steely eyes for a bit of focused crooning. There was a stack of lyric sheets on the piano top which Dylan would thumb through prior to each number. Throughout the evening the band kept their respective eyes on Dylan’s black and whites, with Garnier using dynamic bass plucks to signal changes that his recent bandmates may not be familiar with.

Dylan has been enjoying a slowly ascending late era peak as he begins his 80’s. Starting with his triad of ‘Sinatra’ and ‘standard’ records in 2015, Dylan’s stage shows, vocals and then finally a full LP of original music has cemented his current renaissance. In addition, Dylan’s 2020 pay per view Shadow Kingdom also assisted in fueling his current inspiration and fresh tour with rearranged readings of songs from Dylan’s back catalog.

Dylan and band took to the underlit and stately stage opening the show with a percolating and rolling over rock’s rendition of ‘Watching the River Flow’. A fitting opener for what Dylan may or may not have been doing during his pandemic time off. The sound was dialed in quickly just in time for the following ‘Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine’ from 1966’s Blonde On Blonde. The band’s playing is brisk, slightly funky and disseminates the new arrangements of old warhorses dynamically. A musical framework in which Dylan’s newly improved vocals can be the focus.

The first two songs from Rough and Rowdy Ways followed the band’s well received opening numbers. ‘I Contain Multitudes’ and ‘False Prophet’ are a well thought out one, two punch as successful on stage as on the grooves of the LP. Silence, space and breath are key for ‘Multitudes’ which drifts drumlessly on Dylan’s vocal melody. In complete biographical contrast the jump blues ‘False Prophet’ grooves at a higher tempo than the official recording. Dylan is already exploring the nuances and clandestine opportunities for conjured melodies and unique approaches to the recently immortalized songs. Dylan digs his heels in for this one, kicking up dirt and causing a ruckus.

‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ follows in a fun countryfied rendition highlighted by Dylan’s only harp playing of the evening. Deftly setting the table for another new song, Dylan shuffles to center stage for ‘Black Rider’. The band’s strength for this song is restraint. Each sung line is its own encapsulated moment, the airy instrumentation allowing for a singular focus on Dylan’s imagery. Dylan, breathy, gruff, and melodic all at the same time. A highlight of the evening for this listener.

The spooky waltz of the newly created ‘My Own Version of You’ is bracketed by an acoustic based and violin dressed ‘To Be Alone With You’ from 1969’s Nashville Skyline, as well as a churning version of the John Wesley Harding closer “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ and in an anticipatory and high tempo performance. The triad of tracks, similarly to the construction of the entire set list have a silver thread of resonance that connect them in some sort of ambiguous way. While having a couple of minor lyrical stumbles on the sinister ‘My Own Version of You’ (forgiven as these songs are brand new), Dylan still emitted a shady attitude. His searching and singing obviously interested in birthing something new from his approach. The band followed his moves deftly hitting well times exclamations and pulling back when appropriate.

                                 Photo: Nate AC

Over the last few years of Dylan tours the blues of the ‘Early Roman Kings' has been a standard of his sets and here it acts as a token blues cut. Dylan, in what is a theme for the evening tries on and discards a plethora of vocal approaches to the 12 bars adding up to a version that kept my interest and kept the excitement high.

‘Key West’, the major number from Rough and Rowdy Ways is an epic and a cut that excites with its sonic possibilities. On LP the song emits a warm drift and a hazy view. In concert the song in in a state of becoming. Dylan played piano for this reading, whereas according to reports this was not the case at the preceding two shows. An additional welcome inclusion was an accordion part, aptly played by Donnie Herron and lending welcome instrumental detail.

Similarly to Dylan’s instrumental exploits on guitar during his ‘Never Ending Tour’ Dylan will hit on a melodic lick on piano and then pass it’s smoking embers around the stage. Sometimes his aural creations turn to flame, sometimes they smolder to ash. But such is the ramshackle creative energy that Dylan has emanated since his earliest coffee house days. He did this a few notable times in Cleveland, once at the conclusion of ‘My Own Version of You’ and again experimenting with the flow of ‘Key West’.

Part of the dramatics of the song and performance is the feeling that Dylan’s aged and fragile musical ship may be busted apart on the creative rocks. But that’s where Dylan works the best, the razors edge, running the red light toward high-speed artistic expression. The closing song from 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways, ‘Key West’ is the perfect recipient of this familiar approach. Part of this can be attributed to new band members but the other bit is Dylan’s refusal to stay stationary musically. An obvious factor in his longevity and creativity.

This was a peak for me as a listener at the concert as it seemed from this point on in the show every single performance topped the last. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ followed ‘Key West’ in a white-hot guitar attack, a highlight of the evening. The arrangement which is like the 2019 version also recalls the incendiary 1981 live renditions. Dylan has also updated the lyrics as he is apt to do. The crowd responded in kind to such a substantial reading of the ‘gospel trilogy’ classic.

‘I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You’ appears as if out of a mist, it’s weightless central melody a highlight of the Rough and Rowdy Ways record. Dylan sings as if he’s trying not to wake a baby. In the middle of the verses, he unexpectedly stretches the warmed syllables while gently rising his voice into the honey of the sun; before ending the line in his lowest light of the moon. Small stumbles and tentative changes are forgiven as once again the effort for inspiration and dissemination of these new songs is notable. As Dylan states in the song, ‘My heart’s like a river, a river that sings’.

The one song to remain from his ‘standards’ set is Frank Sinatra’s ‘Melancholy Mood’, somehow also fitting perfectly into the context of the set. The song being one of the more important standards to inspire Dylan’s current vocal approach. In Cleveland, Dylan stands up front with microphone in hand, other hand outstretched, prowling the stage during a typically wonderful reading.

A second pairing of Rough and Rowdy Ways conclude the set proper with the anthemic vocal ballad ‘Mother of Muses’. A dramatic sermon sung to influence and inspiration and quite unlike anything in Dylan’s canon. The song contained some of Dylan’s most emotive vocals of the evening. The crowd realized this and listened in assembled silence as Dylan closed his delicate series of lines with the perfect finale, “I’m travelin’ light and I’m a-slow coming home’. Before the applause had faded for ‘Muses’ the band cracked open the intro to a fizzing ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’.

‘Jimmy Reed’ acts as a cathartic release from the prayer like dictation of ‘Mother of Muses’. Dylan attempts several bluesy meters and vocal twists that expand on the official recording. The only blemish on the song’s attempt this evening being a microphone missing half of the opening line. The song soon starts a slow roll over the edge and picks up intensity as it gains momentum. Dylan feels his way around the new song, finding comfortable places to put up his feet.

What happened next was a highlight of my previous 24 Bob Dylan concerts. The two earlier Rough and Rowdy performances had concluded per usual with the expected two song encores.  But on this evening in Cleveland we were in for a different approach. Dylan and band didn’t leave the stage prior for an encore call. Instead, Dylan stayed on stage for band introductions and then gathered the group around his piano in a tighter than previous formation.

Dylan then began to play the opening chords to his ‘Every Grain of Sand’, played for the first time since 2013. The closing song off Dylan’s 1981 LP Shot of Love was perfection in its chosen place. Tony Garnier nodded his bass to the band members signaling important changes. The song’s original melody was still discernable and delicately expressed by Dylan’s emotional vocals. I, as well as others sat in stunned silence. It’s moments like this that cannot be adequately explained. Nothing else could be said by Dylan and band. Any additional music would certainly be welcome, but superfluous.  

Since this night in Cleveland the setlist has slotted into comfortable positions first explored on November 5, 2021. Dylan had to have felt he got the set right. As Dylan continues to take his Rough and Rowdy Ways performances to venues around the world the new songs are already expanding and morphing into unique and different disseminations. Only a week removed from this concert and the nuts and bolts of the performances are already being tightened down. The constant allure and mystery of Dylan concerts are his continuing search for alternate ways of musical expression. The pandemic break did nothing to Dylan but strengthen his resolve and his need for creativity on the live performance tight rope. The music on the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour is going to get better and better and Dylan is going to keep chiseling away at the arrangements with the chance that he may finally paint his masterpiece.