From the Vaults (2): Knockin’ Around on a Sunday Evening

Here’s Paul with Bob Dylan singing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” recorded live in Sacramento on June 16, 1999.

The photo is by Jose Luis Villegas of the Sacramento Bee.

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After the jump you’ll find reviews from that show from the old site.


From the Sacramento Bee

Review: Paul Simon and Bob Dylan blend and bend their classics

By Chris Macias
Bee Pop Music Writer
(Published June 18, 1999)

Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are titans of rock ‘n’ roll and singer-songwriters who came of age musically in the 1960s. But Wednesday night, the two showed how far they’ve come in their artistry — in albeit differing ways — since their days as folk musicians in New York’s Greenwich Village.

The night featured nearly four hours of music, with Dylan and Simon each playing full sets. The two also sang four songs together in a section sandwiched between their separate sets. But even with the chance to catch the two legends singing together, only about 9,000 fans came to Arco Arena for a night full of engaging and varied musical styles.

Simon and his 11-piece band started the evening, and as usual, Simon looked like an anti-rock star, wearing a baseball cap and gray T-shirt tucked into faded blue jeans.

He opened his set with “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” one of his biggest hits from his Simon and Garfunkel days. Instead of playing the tune with its familiar sparse guitars and haunting strings, Simon’s 11-piece band added languid orchestration, which included layers of percussion from three drummers and synthesizer flourishes.

Even with all the musicians assembled on stage, there was a key ingredient missing from the song: a harmony to Simon’s vocals. Group vocals were, however, used to great effect with “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” a funky song featured later in the set; it brought many to their feet.

Still, Simon’s set was engaging for its rich mix of instruments, which included accordion, cello, mandolin and a firecracker horn section.

Spunky, plucky guitars and nods to African music were also heard throughout the set, which included the uptempo “Graceland,” with clap-along rhythms. “You Can Call Me Al,” the get-your-groove-on hit from the “Graceland” album, was also well-received, and was particularly well-suited for those in the upper tier of Arco, as the empty seats up there gave them plenty of room to dance.

Simon performed plenty of favorites during his set, including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Slip Slidin’ Away” and “Late in the Evening.”

Simon’s showmanship was spirited as well. He even joked about “The Capeman,” his well-panned Broadway musical, when introducing “Trailways Bus” as a song from his “flop musical.”

While Simon’s set spotlighted complex song arrangements and a melange of instruments, Dylan’s was powerful and dynamic, featuring a forceful country-blues-rock sound and his inimitable folksy flourishes.

Dylan and his four-piece backing group played “My Back Pages” at a slow gallop, with mournful violins that grew to a grand finish. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” ended in a rolling stomp that brought the crowd to its feet.

Dylan was equally compelling when in full-throttle rock mode. “Highway 61 Revisited,” which closed Dylan’s main set, was full of electric guitars and blues-rock flourishes. “Not Fade Away,” which ended the show, was a to-the-point rocker; revved-up and solid.

And then there was Dylan’s nasal-baritone voice, which moves between raspy and unintelligible. His vocals, however, sounded fresh and inspired. “Tangled Up in Blue” was, as one audience member noted, “so cool.” The normally poker-faced Dylan was at times animated when playing it, and he even cracked a few smiles while he kicked his legs around in a jerky dance during a guitar solo in the song’s close.

One of the big questions of the evening was how well would the two performers sound together. They began with the Simon and Garfunkel classic, “The Sounds of Silence.” Though it was a thoughtful choice, Dylan’s nasal whine needed a bit more juice next to Simon’s crisp vocals. However, the interplay between their guitars — Dylan on an acoustic and Simon on an electric — was engaging.

A better mix of the two musicians came from “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” the Dylan song that closed their 15-minute joint set, which was lively and well-supported by Simon’s calypso-happy band.

Dylan and Simon might not have always been in-sync as a duo, but they shined as solo artists. Much of Dylan’s performance was sit-in-your seat captivating, in contrast to Simon’s geared-for-grooving set.

Submitted by Frank Jenks

Just got back from the Sacramento show. Great show almost identical to the ones I have been reading about in this site. Paul opened the show with one of the best sets i have ever seen. The transition with Bob was fantastic. “Sounds of silence” was great. Dylan’s set also great. Who was the best? Hard to tell, as I had never seen Paul before. Was not disappointed. Only problem was with who ever sold us the tickets (I think Ticketron). We bought what was advertised as the best tickets at $86 per seat and there was probably about 2000 people in front of us. Could not closely see either of the two. My advise is, don’t buy the $86 tickets. They are a rip-off for what you get.

Submitted by Dave Cheit

“You know, I’m really stupid. I was reading – I don’t know why I read ‘em, but I do. I guess I’m just stupid. This next song is from The Capeman. I just read: “He did a song from The Capeman, his flop musical.” I want to tell you something. It’s really great. I loved it.”

Paul Simon, introducing “Trailways Bus,” Arco Arena, Sacramento, Calif., 6-16-99.

Well, folks, it was great having the Paul/Bob tour come to Sacramento, just 20 miles from where I live, when they also have shows scheduled at Concord (50 miles away) and Shoreline (100 miles away). But last night’s show must have been 5,000 short of a sellout — a combination of the Bay Area dates, the high ticket prices, and the risk of a typically underwhelming Dylan set.

Paul went first and delivered his typically terrific set. Smaller band than the ’91 tour, so more amplification and less subtlety. He’s gonna keep reworking Bridge Over Troubled Water till he completely reclaims it from Garfunkel, but it was wonderful. Mrs. Robinson had a solid, rocking Dire Straits-style beat (think “The Bug”), which worked great. Still Crazy was transposed down a step or so, maybe in fear of diminished vocal range, but his voice was as clear as ever. The arrangement for Slip Sliding Away seemed a bit rough, but it didn’t detract from the song. The Graceland songs got the crowd rocking as always, and the intro to Boy In The Bubble is still a “money’s worth” moment all by itself. He opened “Trailways Bus” with a nice non-apology for the Capeman, which I sent to the Lasers site. I’m not sure he was going for crowd response by sticking with three of the more esoteric numbers from Rhythm Of The Saints. If it’s the only Paul Simon set you’re ever going to see, you might want a few more chestnut in there instead. (Kodachrome? Loves Me Like A Rock? Something So Right? Lots of possibilities…)

I have friends who didn’t go because they were tired of being let down by Dylan. No letdown this time. I got the feeling that he *did* treat it like it was the only Dylan set some people would ever see, and he gave ‘em the classics, he did it like he meant it, and I bet most of the people who had wanted Paul to close the show (including me) went away more than satisfied with Dylan’s performance. “Don’t Think Twice” and “It Ain’t Me Babe” were phrased into completely different songs, and they were still fabulous. The band was tight and solid throughout, and the last encore, “Not Fade Away,” was perfect. “He owed me a show like that after the last time I saw him,” one friend told me today.

The duet portion was clearly a work in progress. Dylan’s phrasing defies harmony, and he’s not exactly a harmony singer himself. But just seeing them up there at the same time, trying not to step on each other’s styles, was really nice. Just don’t look for that Paul/Bob duet album any time soon.

Bottom line: I had very high expectations for Simon, and he met them; I had more modest expectations for Dylan, and he blew them away. Great, great show.

Submitted by Emily Nichols

I recently attended the Paul Simon and Bob Dylan tour in Arco Arena Sacramento. The concert was amazing. Most impressive were the musicians. I am a teenager and was taken by my father and despite early premonitions, I really enjoyed the concert. Simon was exciting and enjoyable and Dylan was memorable. The saxophone player greatly impressed me as did Simon’s incredible percussion trio. This concert is a must see for all ages. My only regret is that we left in a hurry and I did not have the opportunity to purchase a poster…oh well I guess I missed my chance. Again let me say the music and the performers were incredible and well worth it!:)