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Bob Dylan Tours US, Plays OC Fair: Review by Guest Blogger Ron Wells

July 16, 2011

Like me, Bob Dylan is on the road this summer. (Okay so we both go on road trips often–see the video above to learn about his first trip to NYC–it’s great!)

Bob Dylan’s 2011 road trip started at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday July 14 then the Orange County Fair last night July 15; from California he headed to Vegas, tonight he’s in Phoenix and from there other US points  then to Europe (obviously he’s not driving like we are!)

Below is a list of his upcoming shows in the US along with a link to buy tickets. Here’s a link to the OC set list and here it is below as reported by guest blogger Ron Wells along with his review.

1.Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking

2.Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

3.Things Have Changed

4.Tangled Up In Blue

5.Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ (Bob on guitar)

6.Sugar Baby

7.High Water (For Charley Patton)

8.Tryin’ To Get To Heaven

9.Summer Days

10.A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

11.Highway 61 Revisited

12.Forgetful Heart

13.Thunder On The Mountain

14.Ballad Of A Thin Man


15.Like A Rolling Stone

16.All Along The Watchtower

17.Blowin’ In The Wind

Bob has played the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, CA previously. I guess he just can’t stay away from that carnival atmosphere. So, on a clear, pleasant night in Southern California, with the roller coaster, ferris wheel, and other thrill rides, along with farm animals and giant pumpkins all within a short distance of the venue, Bob Dylan brought his Cowboy Band to play before music lovers and thrill seekers in the outdoor Pacific Amphitheater. The 8,500 seats seemed to be filled and hundreds of more people sat on the grass behind the fixed seats.

I was seated to the side of Bob as he stood at the keyboards, and in the first seat next to the stage. This gave me a great view of the band members as they focused their attention on Bob, and an even better view of Bob himself when he stood center stage at the mic. From where I was sitting, it was fascinating to watch the band members stare at Bob so intently, even on the encores which they had played practically every night. They took nothing for granted as they watched every twitch and gesture from him throughout the night and during every song.

The band came on at 8:15 with Bob decked out in a dark suit with greenish stripes down the pant legs and around his jacket collar, while wearing white and black boots covered by his pants, and wearing a white broad-brimmed hat with a gold band around the center of it.

Right from the start, you could hear his voice loud and clear. Obviously the recent break from being on the road added to its strength and it was a joy to hear the words so clearly.

Of the seventeen songs played, he stood center stage for seven of them. Those included: Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, Sugar Baby, High Water, Forgetful Heart, and Ballad of a Thin Man. He also came out front near the end of Blowin’ in the Wind.

He played guitar only on Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, and he was really into playing that guitar. It was great watching him play while at center stage and you could see the intensity in his eyes as he fingered the guitar strings.

It is again worth noting how animated Dylan is when he stands center stage. On those songs, he bends at the knees, slightly crouched to the side of the mic stand, and uses his hands and arms to almost pantomime every song, like a master storyteller using his body to add emphasis to his words. So theatrical, so dramatic, and so dynamic.

Sugar Baby was certainly one of the high points as the hushed crowd hung on every word, every phrase, and Bob used his hands so expressively to get his meaning across. It was an extremely powerful song the way Mr. Dylan sang it, and then led into High Water in which the poet/storyteller/singer told another story in which “things are breakin’ up out there/High water everywhere.” And at this time in our country’s history, don’t we all know it.

During Summer Days, he took the line “you’re a worn out star” and emphasized the word “STAR!”, which was funny as hell. Charlie, who didn’t move around the stage much at all throughout the night, really rocked on this song as he seemed to channel Les Paul, and then played off of Bob’s keyboards as they jockeyed back and forth filling in the musical gaps. Great version of this song. In a similar vein, they would also build off of each other near the end of Highway 61 taking a so-so version of the song to another level.

The audience was especially attentive during Hard Rain and many felt Forgetful Heart was the highlight of the show.

Ballad of Thin Man was spooky scary as Bob stood center stage amidst the light and dark shadows and warned everyone to not end up like a certain Mr. Jones, who knew something was going on, but had no idea what it was. The audience, eternally grateful for the warning, gave the master poet and songwriter a standing ovation.

The three encores were typical crowd pleasers as everyone in the amphitheater stood through all three songs, singing, dancing and clapping along. For those who were not hardcore Dylan fans, they definitely got their money’s worth during the closers.

One might have hoped for a little different set list, but there’s no way he can please everyone every night. Still, it’s probably not an exaggeration to say every person there had at least one song (and probably more) that was worth the price of admission alone. And to hear Bob in such fine vocal form singing around, behind and over his tight band, made for a spectacular night.

After All Along the Watchtower, he said, “Thanks, friends,’” and then introduced the band members.

Soon it would be over and he’d be on his way to another gig, leaving the cows, pigs and horses of the county fair for the neon night and slot machines of Las Vegas. Summer days and summer nights with the incomparable Mr. Dylan. When you see him, you know something is happening, and you’re damn glad you know what it is.

  • Jul16
    Las Vegas, NV
    The Pearl Concert Theater at the Palms
  • Jul18
    Phoenix, AZ
    Comerica Theatre
  • Jul19
    Tucson, AZ
    Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheatre
  • Jul21
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hard Rock Casino Presents: The Pavilion
  • Jul23
    Thackerville, OK
    WinStar World Casino
  • Jul24
    New Braunfels, TX
    Whitewater Amphitheater
  • Jul26
    New Orleans, LA
    UNO Lakefront Arena
  • Jul27
    Pensacola, FL
    Pensacola Civic Center
  • Jul28
    Atlanta, GA
    Chastain Park Amphitheater
  • Jul30
    Memphis, TN
    Mud Island Amphitheatre
  • Aug1
    Nashville, TN
    Ryman Auditorium
  • Aug2
    Evansville, IN
    Roberts Stadium
  • Aug3
    Toledo, OH
    Toledo Zoo Amphitheater
  • Aug5
    Kettering, OH
    Fraze Pavilion
  • Aug6
    Cleveland, OH
    Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica
  • Aug7
    Rochester Hills, MI
    Meadow Brook
  • Aug9
    Canandaigua, NY
    Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands PAC
  • Aug10
    Scranton, PA
    Toyota Pavilion
  • Aug12
    Bethel, NY
    Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
  • Aug13
    Wantagh, NY
    Jones Beach Theater
  • Aug14
    Asbury Park, NJ
    Asbury Park Convention Hall
  • Aug16
    Columbia, MD
    Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Aug17
    Philadelphia, PA
    Mann Music Center
  • Aug19
    Gilford, NH
    Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion
  • Aug20
    Bangor, ME
    Bangor Waterfront Pavilion
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