Wednesday, May 13, 2009

post tour hello

Just a quick post to say thanks and hello to all the people who responded to my tour reviews. I can't seem to work out how to reply individually!
Especially to Angela, Roderick from California and Jay from Duluth, apologies. If I don't have your email, you can email me directly on

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review of 2nd Dublin show.

So, 6th May arrives and the end of the road dawns for this eventful Dylan tour.
I was at the opening night in the tiny Stockholm Salon Berns club, and here we are, 32 or so shows later (Bob, that is, not me - I wasn't at the whole tour needless to say!) in the massive new 02 Arena (Point), for the 2nd of 2 nights.
As widely discussed, the 1st night was extremely strong, everyone I spoke to thought it had been an exciting, adventurous and appreciated performance, with one obvious highlight when Bob finally debuted a song from the new album.
Sadly, the Irish Times had another opinion, Tony Clayton Lea, in a mean spirited review seeming to be mainly disappointed that Bob wasn’t very chatty. If you want to hear Bob be chatty, I suggest you go download one of his radio shows (for free). If you want two hours of ambitious albeit uneven, and passionate, music, communicated via some very hard work from Dylan to a young enthusiastc Irish crowd, well you could always pay 49 euros (plus booking fee), and come down to the Point either of those two May evenings. Or you could choose not to.

Anyway, on to the music. I was also at the 8 UK shows, and both the Dublin’s easily rivalled Glasgow for best show I saw. Other contenders being Birmingham and Sheffield.
3 standout moments - ‘Billy’ in Stockholm, ‘Something’ in Liverpool and 'If You Ever go to Houston’ in Dublin. Meaning I missed ‘One More Cup of Coffee’, but you can’t have everything!

Dublin 2 opened with a strong hat-trick of Wicked Messenger, Girl North Country and the much admired new Man in the Long Black Coat. Following it with Stuck Inside of Mobile could be construed as a bit of an own goal, but it was well performed, and was followed by a superb set of 4 very heavy hitters – Blind Willie McTell, Desolation Row, It’s Alright Ma and Po’Boy.
Simply put, these were as good vocally as you will hear from Dylan. They were sung quite straight, with less eccentric phrasing than the previous night. Dylan was also slightly less animated than the previous night. He was very much concentrating on his musical performance, giving it one last shot I supppose, before leaving Europe. I was front row, and could see between songs how weary he looked, which is not surprising after such a long tour. 10 years ago, he was doing 20-25 show tours. Now at the age of almost 68 he has upped the stakes to 30-35 shows!

In conclusion I may have seen better shows in the past, but I’ll be surprised if I see better in the future, and if we never seen him again over here, well he sure went out on a high.
Closing highlights were another strong Rolling Stone, another delightful run through the new song (this time with harmonica solo), and the tour wrapped up with his current closer Blowin in the Wind, Bob then taking another long bow at the front, peering out, tired but appreciatively, into the cavernous arena.

Finally, a quick point-out to the band, who despite some criticism from fans and (it seems) Bob, were superb tonight. Watch out especially for Tony on bass on the new song when you download the show – some nice and unusually extrovert playing from the bandleader.

If Bob continues 2009 in this form, and the other new songs are as successful as ‘Houston’, it will be a good year indeed..
See everyone again soon I hope.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

brief 1st Dublin show comments

Just a few comments on Dublin, post gig, and post pub, so somewhat weary..

- Extremely young and enthusiastic audience, or so it seemed where I was
- 1st 4 songs astonishingly good, Bob very animated, feeding off the crowd, strong strong vocals
- Next section lulled somewhat, Bob losing it ever so slightly, some more eccentric than usual vocals
- Main set, nothing too exciting in terms of song choices, perhaps other than Red Sky
- Any fears of the gig going down hill in audience terms were waived though by a very strong closing Thunder and Rolling Stone
- and, of course, the encores included the long awaited new song debut, with Bob opting for If you Ever go to Houston. Spectacular performance, way better than the album, excellent vocals, Bob leaning into every line like he'd been waiting for weeks (31 shows?) to play the damm thing!

.. oh and yes, the organ (almost) perfectly replaces the accordian!

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?


the Scottish shows

So, Bob wraps up his UK tour with a fine brace of Scottish concerts!

I mean, when was the last time he played a bad show in Glasgow? Amazing audiences in this city. Bob really appreciated it too, standing out front for ages at the end, and touching his heart in a gesture of gratitude. Jeez he even looked like he might have meant it!
Some people like a nice quiet audience, but I reckon gigs are a two way street, and for atmosphere, Bob’s best audiences are arguably Glasgow and Italy, plus possibly Ireland.
Anyway, the SECC was also the best and most consistent show I’ve seen on this tour. Extraordinary vocal performance on many of the songs, certainly as good as those battered vocal chords will currently allow.
He opened with this newly countrified and rocked up Maggies Farm and followed with a perfect Don’t Think Twice. The harmonica is having a good tour, and I suggest you check out this performance for a fine example.
Next we got the great current arrangement of Till I fell in Love with You, a good example of this bands strengths, despite Bob’s current habit of keeping the guitar players tightly reined in.
Other highlights of this fine concert were a contender for my favourite ever vocal on Workingman’s Blues and a gorgeous Every Grain of Sand.

On then to the prettiest city on the tour, and despite rumours that Edinburgh audiences are too posh to cheer (?!) there was a great atmosphere in the beautiful Playhouse theatre for what I thought was a fine show. Some others thought it a bit dull.
Again, a good night vocally with Tangled and Trying to get to Heaven early set highlights.
But, the real meat of this show for me, was the fact that he played FOUR songs on guitar. This really gives everything a lift, it was just like old times with Bob out front, quite a bit more animated than usual, and playing some ragged but solid leads on this nice new guitar he has (a Gibson?).
The best of these songs was I Don’t Believe You, a song that is usually a bit of a snoozefest for me. And, of course, to get Just Like a Woman on guitar as 2nd encore instead of the relentlessly overplayed Spirit on the Water was a big bonus. Other well performed songs were Po’ Boy, Rolling Stone and a seemingly slower than normal (?) Blowin in the Wind.
Admittedly there was no ‘rare’ song in ‘slot 12’ as hoped for, and I don’t really find the song he played in this slot, Ain’t Talkin, too exciting any more, but hey, a good show overall, and fingers crossed for two good nights in Dublin to wrap up this long and eventful European jaunt..

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Liverpool Review and other recent tour thoughts..

Well, as a friend of mine said about the Liverpool show last night, it was the show that had everything!

-Bob was in furious mood most of the night, glaring and fuming at guitar player Stu, who at one point stopped playing, put his hands in his pockets and did a bit of his own fuming
- Chaotic security, obviously unprepared for the usual stage rush by audience en-masse when the lights go down at seated Dylan arena shows. It took them almost half the show to get everyone back to their seats
- Exuberant, young, drunken, but good natured audience
- Bob 'attacked' by a well meaning stage invader during the last song, Tony Garnier putting his life 'on the line' to keep his meal ticket (sorry, I mean, his boss!) safe, although it really took sound guy Jools to semi-rugby tackle our new friend off the stage, and Bob carried on relatively unflustered..

- Also, it was the normal 2009 solid show. Some decent song performances, some snoozing opportunities

- BUT, of course, the only thing REALLY worth talking about, is Bob's oh-so-appropriate cover of The Beatles' George Harrison penned, 'Something', right in the Fabs' hometown of Liverpool. Who'd have thought he'd do this?!
As a Beatles fanatic (fresh off the 'Magical Mystery Bus Tour' the day before!), it was a very emotional moment. Not something I'd admit to normally, but hey, I'm among friends.
He seemed to give it a lovely vocal rendition, similar to his only other rendition of it, in 2002, when he dedicated it to his 'buddy' George, around the occasion of George's 1st anniversary.
A nice band arrangement including a thoughtful rendition of the song's famous guitar solo by Denny Freeman.

Otherwise, I don't have too much to report from the tour. I was planning to review Roundhouse, Cardiff and Birmingham, but I just didn't have much to say about them. Solid shows all, enough has been written about the Roundhouse and it's (to say the least) anti-climactic setlist, while Cardiff was good, and Birmingham perhaps the best overall show I've seen. That, or Sheffield.

The main talking points of the tour seem to be;
- Roundhouse setlist
- the new album
- Bob's problems with his guitar player(s)
- the rare songs he has played

I've mentioned all these points in this blog at one point or another, but I just wish he'd sort things out with the band, and stop stropping around in an apparent hissy fit every 3rd show or so. It's entertaining in it's way, but not really what the audience is paying for, and surely it's very unfair to his hired hands, who SEEM to be trying to play what he wants them to play, or more importantly what he wants them NOT to play. Sack 'em, or, sort it out in rehearsal, would be my humble suggestion!

But, this is a positive review. Liverpool was unforgettable. Let's see what Scotland and Ireland will bring forth..