AmericanaramA In Camden, New Jersey

Written by July 29th, 2013 at 10:06 am
Bob Dylan with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at Bonnaroo.

Bob Dylan with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at Bonnaroo.

Bob Dylan and Wilco, Susquehanna Bank Center,
Camden, New Jersey, July 28, 2013

Approximately 90 minutes before the Americanarama Festival was due to start, a rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning descended upon the greater Philadelphia area.  It was a hard rain, and that’s putting it lightly.  It turned out to be a record breaking storm dumping eight inches of rain on Philly and New Jersey in less than five hours.  If you’re a Philly resident, the smartest way to get to the Susquehanna Bank Center which used to be the E Center is to take the ferry.  It’s fast and its cheap.  The only problem is getting to the ferry from the subway stop, about a six block walk.  A block from the subway, an intense rain started, the kind where you’re drenched in one second and umbrellas are useless.  So we finally arrived at the venue in a truly soaked condition after another six block or so walk from the ferry to the venue just in time to see Wilco.

I really want to like Jeff Tweedy, I really do.  He has good taste in hats, he has really cool guitars, he can write really good pop and country songs that at their best are really catchy with good hooks and licks, but I don’t get this noise thing that’s going on.  I mean halfway through the first verse of the first song, “Via Chicago,” all hell broke loose with flashing lights, sonic noise, crashing drums, and then back to the song.  And the first half of the set was like that until somewhere in the middle they really played no bullshit country influenced roots rock and when they did, they were truly great, and it pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the night, bringing out Ryan Bingham and his entire band to join them on “California Stars.”

About a minute before Bob Dylan took the stage, I realized the guitars in place for the lead guitarist were not Charlie Sexton’s guitars, and sure enough once the full band took the stage following Stu Kimball’s acoustic strumming intro and sure enough Colin Linden took the stage making this the third lead guitar change on this tour.

Standing at center stage Dylan started off strong with “Things Have Changed” and his vocals were strong throughout.  I was keeping an eye on Linden to see how he played, what he played and how he interacted with Bob Dylan and the band.  He doesn’t use a pick, usually plays a Les Paul Gibson, switching to a wood resonator guitar for a slide solo on “Highwater” and Blind Willie McTell, and a Gretsch Chet Atkins for the prettier songs like “Soon After Midnight.”

The highlight of this particular show was a revamped “Tangled Up In Blue,” a song that’s been a work in progress for 39 years.  There were several new lines including one about making rhymes while walking in the snow, but there were melodic changes as well.  The arrangement started off similar to the tour earlier this year, but Dylan found a riff he liked on the piano that changed the dynamics of the melody, and the band quickly picked up on it.

“Early Roman Kings” smoked throughout with Linden echoing Donnie Herron’s slide and Dylan relentless on the vocal putting added emphasis on the verse: “I was up on black mountain/The Day Detroit fell/They killed ’em all off/And they sent ’em off to hell.”

The other highpoint, the showpiece of the night was the rearranged “She Belongs To Me,” with featured great harp from Dylan and “All Along The Watchtower,” which recaptured the spookiness of the original studio version.

While the concert did not match the intensity of the Bethlehem show I saw earlier this year, it was a solid show throughout with the only weak point being “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which never quite jelled.

However, that lack of intensity may also be due to musicians realizing they’re playing for an audience that could care less.  There were nonstop conversations throughout the sets of both acts.  When Wilco took the stage and we had 10th row sets, the entire row in front of me was not looking at the stage but at their cell phones. We had incredible seats right in the center and entire row isn’t even looking at the musicians on stage.  At one point during Wilco some beach balls or maybe balloons found their way up front and were continually bounced around until Jeff Tweedy suggested they cut it out.  I don’t understand why when you have great seats right at the stage, you’d want to look through some little screen, but this stuff is killing the experience of live music.

 

  • Mbf Iii

    Take some time to track down his other writings on Bob Dylan’s performances and you’ll find what I’ve found – Peter Stone Brown is the best reviewer we have of Bob Dylan live. I don’t think there’s anyone around who can match his 50 year history of seeing Bob perform, while bringing his insight as a musician and his talent as a writer to then illuminate unique moments from show after show after show. Dylan’s done 1000-plus concerts on the Never Ending Tour
    alone. And even among us fans who never waiver in our admiration for Bob, the sheer number of performances can have a way of leveling everything out to a kind of sameness from show to show. But then I read another of Peter’s reviews, and I can tell there’s new pleasure and inspiration to be had, show to show, year to year. If you accept Dylan’s genius (and that’s a pretty widely embraced notion at this point,) then you have to contend with the fact that he’s given more
    of himself to live performance than to any other aspect of his work. The Never Ending Tour era alone spans the last 25 years. And so night after night, year after year, we have this artist, now at 72 years of age, still bringing it to the stage.

    To my thinking, it’s the most unexamined aspect of Dylan’s work. Fortunately for us, we have Peter Stone Brown’s accounts scattered through the years, and still appearing into the present, always with new insight.

  • The Wayside Shakeup

    Were those beach balls blue with The Wayside Shakeup logo on them?

  • dhelling

    Another wonderful Dylan show review, Peter. Thanks for that.

  • franzdavis

    Good review. By the way Dylan himself said somewhere- I forget where- that the never ending tour will end sometime – obviously. It is nice that there is a respectful tone in this article. Obviously a hard rain had fallen on the way to the show so maybe it upstaged the song. Marty Clear ought to look at this review and perhaps learn from it.

  • Jim

    I was there. I have to say that it is disappointing that Dylan can no longer play the guitar, and his singing is unintelligible. While Bob Weir and Paul McCartney can still sing and play and rock, Dylan cannot. It is hard to believe you are reviewing the same show I was at. I think you are reviewing from nostalgic lenses. I love Bob Dylan, but he should hang touring up. That being said, the other 3 acts did rock, and did well.

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    “by the way, don’t be bewildered by the Never Ending Tour chatter.
    there was a Never Ending Tour but it ended in ’91 with the departure of
    guitarist G.E. Smith. that one’s long gone but there have been many others
    since then. The Money Never Runs Out Tour (fall of ’91) Southern Sympathizer Tour (early ’92) Why Do You Look At Me So Strangely
    Tour (European ’92) The One Sad Cry Of Pity Tour (Australia & West Coast
    American ’92) Principles Of Action Tour (Mexico-South American ’92) Outburst Of Consciousness Tour (’92) Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Tour (’93) & others too many to mention. each with their own character and design. to know which was which consult the playlists.”

    BD World Gone Wrong

  • yelnick Mcwawa

    This band that bob brings out on the road the last few years has got to be the lamest band that bob has put together.I have seen bob 3 or 4 times since this americana band was put together and as much as i try to find a reason to see more shows the show in camden made up my mind and i have seen bob for the last time.I was fortunate enough to have seen 130 shows give or take and this band is just to fucking boring .95 %of the shows i have seen were with larry,bucky and j.j not all at the same time.I saw my last dylan show ,I am getting nothing out of this band,no energy AT ALL.I never thought i would say this but Bob needs to get a better band or just retire.These shows are the exact same nite after nite and they really suck. Does anyone else feel the same way?

  • yelnick Mcwawa

    Did you say wonderful just trying to make people laugh? Can you maybe enlighten me on these so called wonderful shows. I have not seen a wonderful show since larry left the band not a single show.Someone needs to pull bob away and ask him why does it seem that your heart just ain’t in it.And the shows are boring start to end? I

  • Luke Stromberg

    I was at this show and thought it was solid. For me, the highlights were “Dusquene Whistle” and “Summer Days.” This particular band sounds best on the jazzy numbers. “Love Sick” and “Early Roman Kings” were also very nice. Dylan’s voice is rough, of course, but I thought his vocals were all right. He sang pretty clearly through most of the concert. Wilco were also excellent. I was glad to hear them play their folkier, country stuff. Ryan Bingham was good, but I missed the beginning of his set. Of all the acts playing, I knew the least about My Morning Jacket. They were okay, but the highlights of their set were The Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground covers!

  • Babette Holland

    I don’t believe that anyone can write about Bob Dylan with more knowledge, honesty and we all agree – experience – than Peter Stone Brown. He’s slammed plenty of Bob Dylan’s concerts over the years and praised those that he felt deserving.

    Compare Peter’s writing on Dylan to other reviewers and like most of us, you’ll always be drawn back to read what Peter has to say. In my opinion, which you can take or leave, I find Peter Stone Brown to be among the foremost scholars on Bob Dylan today.

    I’m very happy to read an alternate opinion of the concert review by PSBrown and how I feel about it as well. It’s just the crankiness and what feels like tantrums in opposition to this piece that’s given me a quite a charge. Produce your cred or stop howling at the moon.

  • Aliana Mcdaniel

    Great photo.

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