So, this uneven but relatively interesting tour winds it's way to the UK, and kicks off with a surprisingly high standard show in the less than inspiring venue that is the Sheffield Arena.
1st 3 songs were a bit of a snoozefest, but, from Boots of Spanish Leather through It's Alright Ma was as good a run as I can remember.
A simply gorgeous Boots; Bob out front on guitar, with the stage backdrop bathed in some sort of bizarre lighting. Great vocal too. Levee was as hot as ever. Sugar Baby, one of the best songs from it's album, given a nice rendition.
Tweedle was great (wow, did I really just say that?!) - Bob out front, sans guitar, cowering and diving like an old bluesman with a hand held harp, doing this thing where he sings and blasts the harp almost in the same breath. Quite innovative really, similar to Lovesick earlier in the tour.
Po' Boy though, was the song of the night. This complicated song (melodically anyway) has been given a fine subtle new arrangement, and Bob nailed the lyrics.
It's Alright Ma has gained from a new punched up riff, but after this, the show became more predictable.
A good opening UK night though.
On to London, and the o2. A lot of people hate the venue, and it is ENORMOUS. But, I kinda like it. A very iconic structure, all out on it's own down there in north Greenwich. And post-gig, I'm happy the Underground was off, as travelling by boat down the Thames (as many did) sure was a novel way to attend a Dylan show.
Anyway, gig wise, possibly a shade under Sheffield in overall quality, and nothing extraordinary setlist wise, but again at least 4 or 5 songs that were worth the trip hands down.
Chimes of Freedom is not always sung well, great song or no, but tonight was the best I've seen, since the songs re-introduction. ie it was nearly as good as those great 2000/2001 versions.
I won't dwell on the songs that bore me as it is possibly my own fault for seeing too many shows, but stuff like Hattie Carroll, Things have Changed, Rollin Tumblin, Highway, Mobile.. you get the picture. Anyway, there were only a few nap opportunites tonight.
Other highlights were a slower quieter (almost acoustic) Hollis Brown, an amazingly well nailed vocal in Workingmans Blues, and tonights great visual moment - Bob out front on his own for Till I Fell in Love with You. I haven't seen him strike so many poses since 1995! He's still no Mick Jagger needless to say, but good to see him come out from his batcave in behind that keyboard, have some fun, and actually interact with the audience. Well, almost!
Oh, and the sound was perfect tonight. Incredibly well mixed, Bob's voice booming out on top of the band. Sheffield had been good too, albeit marginally too loud.
Band wise, they are ok. Doing well on the new arrangements, and Stu Cimpball is slightly more to the fore than in the past. Even gets to play a 'classic rock' style solo in Watchtower, which I suppose makes a change from Denny Freeman's more rootsy endeavors. Don't get me wrong though, I am a big Denny fan, but why on earth has Bob stopped him playing his amazing solos in Spirit on Water and Deal Goes Down?!! Surely, it could'nt be because he used to get spontaneous rounds of applause from the audience?!
Anyway, onwards and upwards.. Roundhouse tonight..