Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan in Omaha 11/3/12

After seeing him three times within the last 16 months, I finally feel like I am getting this Bob Dylan concert thing down. The first thing you do when he starts playing a song is, spend two or three minutes trying to figure out exactly what song he is playing.

It's not always an easy task.

Because his set list is commonly full of songs he wants to play and not necessarily songs that are on your immediate radar, and because his song list spans almost 50 years, and because he is constantly changing his songs there's a great divide between what's being played on the stage and what your mind is searching for. For instance, about a quarter of the way through "Every Grain of Sand," I was pretty sure I was hearing "Visions of Johanna."

However, I was confused because Bob never seemed to get around to the refrain on each verse in which he mention "Johanna" by name. The tempo was very similar to the original recording on Blonde on Blonde, and I am not real familiar with "Every Grain of Sand." So I leaned over and asked John, who had accompanied Sarah and me to the concert, if he recognized the song. He did, and he corrected me... but admitted that with the constant tempo changes of the music and the distinct cadence of Dylan's voice, it was certainly hard to tell the difference.

And so it goes at a Bob Dylan concert. As I've said before that's the beauty of Bob Dylan's music, at least from a live standpoint: His music, like life, is constantly in evolution.



Bob Dylan and his band, The Neverending Tour, in Omaha Nebraska
(Click to enlarge)
Dylan seemed to enjoy himself very much as he sat behind his piano. In Maine last August he was accompanied by his Wurlitzer organ. In Des Moines several weeks ago, it was mostly guitar and very little piano. Last weekend in Omaha, he was ALL about the piano.

He played the keys with fervor and audacity and at times, he seemed to take personal liberty with the solos. Mark Knopfler joined Dylan onstage for the first four numbers and it seemed almost as if Bob had him on lockdown. Just when you thought Knopf was about to go crazy on a guitar solo, Dylan would take the solo himself, either pounding it out on the piano or blowing it through his harmonica.

It's sad to say, but Mark Knopfler was kind of a non-factor in the Dylan set, except for the occasional (and unmistakable) utterances that he draws out of his Stratocaster.

Song highlights from Dylan's set were "The Levee's Gonna Break" and "Thunder on the Mountain," from the Modern Times LP, "Blind Willie McTell," from his Bootleg Series, and the always great "Ballad of a Thin Man" from Highway 61 Revisited. When he did actually get around to playing "Visions of Johanna," (coincidence I'm sure)  I recognized it right away. But being the master of fools that he is, Bob had me second guessing myself again...

Mark Knopfler and his band opened the show which made this concert that much more enticing.

We probably wouldn't have made the three hour drive to see Dylan had he played on his own, but because it was a rare opportunity to see a two legends on the same stage, we deemed it a must-see. Knopfler played with a group of musicians that came from all over the world, many of  whom had played on his solo recordings. There was all kinds of instrumental monkeyshine on display, most of which I had never seen before, or knowingly heard. The music was very different than what you would hear at a Dire Straits concert, but oddly enough, extremely similar.

One cannot mistake the sound that Mark Knopfler brings out of his guitars. It's almost primal.

Not being real familiar with his solo career, I didn't recognize many of the songs that Knopfler played. The only two that were familiar to me were both Dire Straits songs - the title track to Brothers in Arms - and off the same album, the self-loathing "So Far Away." The rest of the set was made up of songs he recorded on his own from such albums as Shangri-La, Sailing to Philadelphia, and his latest release, Privateering. Each song had a very mellow quality, like they were being played in slow motion. In all of them, Knopfler's guitar work was incredibly fascinating. I especially enjoyed "Song for Sonny Liston," and "Marbletown." I also enjoyed the two Dire Straits songs, mostly because they came late in the set and by then I really wasn't expecting to hear songs I recognized.

Mark Knopfler in Omaha with his band.
(Click to enlarge)
It was a unique and fun night of music with great friends. The Century Link Center is a great venue, with incredible acoustics and very few obstructions to the stage. One downfall, and it might have just been because it was a Bob Dylan concert, was security. There was a no camera rule in effect, and they were very serious about enforcing it. Other than that small factor, it was a concert for the ages.

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Mark Knopfler's Setlist:

What It Is
Corned Beef City
Privateering
Kingdom of Gold
I Used to Could Play
Song for Sonny Liston
Done with Bonaparte
Hill Farmer's Blues
Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits)
Marbletown
Encore
So Far Away (Dire Straits)

The Band:
 
Mark Knopfler - vocals, electric, slide, and acoustic guitars
Richard Bennett - guitars bouzouki, and tiple
Guy Fletcher - keyboards, vocals, string arrangements
Glenn Worf - bass guitar, string bass
Ian Thomas - drums
John McCusker - violin cittern, whistle
Jim Cox - piano, organ, accordian
Paul Franklin - pedal steel guitar
Michael McGoldrick - flute, whistle, uilleann pipes

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Bob Dylan's Setlist:
 
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight*
To Ramona*
Things Have Changed*
Tangled Up in Blue*
Beyond Here Lies Nothing
Every Grain of Sand
The Levee's Gonna Break
Blind Willie McTell
Highway 61 Revisited
Visions of Johannah
Thunder on the Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower
 
Encore
Blowing in the Wind

The Band:

Bob Dylan - Vocals, piano, harmonica
Stu Kimball - Guitar
Charlie Sexton - Lead guitar
Donnie Herron -Pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, banjo, violin
Tony Garnier - Bass
George Receli - Drums
*Mark Knopfler - Guitar
 
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