March 28, 2009
Review by Frans Mossberg
Whatīs the matter with me. I donīt have much to say, just sitting here,
watching the 2009 Bob Dylan show.
The first and most obvious response is of course then; "then donīt say it
man!" f-k off! However I feel intrigued by Bobīs concert as always, and
want to try anyway to give some words both to my enjoyment and my mixed-up
So just so nobody gets me wrong; The Bob Dylan show 2009 in Malmö, Sweden
was a great show.
It was as always full of great songs and performances, good singing and
often formidable playing by the group as well as good sound quality.
Evrything in the show was most proefessionally handled, and of course it
couldnīt have been otherwise.
I still canīt help but feeling a certain "but" somewhere inside.
Something inside also tells me Bob wouldnīt mind me saying so,
remembering him in the film "Donīt look back" asking a fan why they didnīt
you boo, if they didnīt like it. Not that there would be any reason for
booing at all for anybody at a BD show of 2009. I am so glad Bob
continues to tour giving us his concerts, being there in person and
sharing his songs. For one day he will not be.
One of the questions is though that one sometimes wonders if he really is
there with us! At these superprofessional shows it seems like we are
witnessing more of an endless rehearsal tour, or more like weīre are all
invited and have given our consentment to pay and join a mobile living
room, were the songswriter and performer sings for and to himself and his
band fellows letting the audience watch it from the outside. Yes, we move
into the songs getting moved by their drama and emotions, but there is
certainly something left that leaves me with a feeling of something
unpersonal about the whole attitude of not saying as much as one word to
the audience or hadly ever looking at it.
Sometimes I wonder what it looks like from where Bob is standing, looking
out over the stage and the auditorium. Does he feel " all the
dissapointment and pain" he has obviosly given voice to in some of his
writing? Maybe then all you can do is share your art, but otherwise avoid
trying to flatter anybody or "perform" for anybody in order to impress
Concert after concert, year after year, performing songs that are more or
less already well established since long time back is a formula Bob has
adopted since the 70īs, a fomula that you sometimes wish he could break.
I am personally still dreaming of a concert where he would challenge his
own formula - testing out new songs in front of an audience, tailoring
them to communicate as strong as possible. Daring to allow for the
vulnerability of a really acoustic set, something which has nothing to do
with any conservative folk puritism.
In many ways this concert was very much like the ones of previous years
with the exeption that he seems maybe a bit more relaxed now than earlier,
he is even moving around on stage more freely and even gesticulating whis
one free hand to promote his singing and vocal declamation. That
declamation is really something that has taken over so much of his vocals
in later years. Itīs always been there as a important part of his vocals
since the earliest days, but now, especially in live performances the
declamative part has taken over quite a lot. Like he has developed a
certain tonal declamaton that fills up 70-80% of his vocal performance,
where as the remaining part stands for the melodic singing today. This
being said, Bobīs singing today is far from the upslidedown vocal erasing
of the original melody lines that he indulged in on stage a few years ago,
when he seemed to force every song into a two or three interval line
consisting of first, fifth and the octave, ending each and every line a
fifth or an octave up. Those were sad days that are bygone now, thank the
Lord. (In the seats behind me some young guys missng their football game
shouted "Lord", "Lord" to Dylan at each and every applause - Times sure
have changed since he was called "Judas"!)
The setlist is published hereby so I wont follow that in any detail. Yet,
some words about certain performances;
The concert made a strong start with Maggies Farm, a start that showed us
from the first minute a band and a singer in focussed form. Very good
sound. Evrybody knew the song, there was no doubt this was going to be a
The man in me as no 2. was unexpected. I always enjoyed the song and this
was no exception. The voice was loud and clear. Well, maybe not exactly
clear, but somewhat hoarse and growling. Bob on a semi acoustic guitar, I
never understood if he played the riff himself though. Watching the River
Flow is an OK-ish song, but not so much more, but a nice country rocker if
you donīt scrutinize it to much. The harmonic changes where a bit diffuse
though, especially on the bass side.
When the deal goes down is a also beatiful song, that deserves a sensitive
treatmen, done a bit too fast this time and Bob didnīt seem be able to
decide if he was going to go above or below that rooster inside his
throat. So we had some muffled vocals there.
However that was the calm before the storm and when High Water started
rolling with Donnie Herron on banjo we knew the waters of energy were
rising again. An intense performance. From then on he definitely had
brought it all back home. Memphis blues got a new and fresh treatment with
Bob indulging in a short little organ phrase he played throughout the song
making it a pillar of the whole arrangement.
Then we were in for a real suprise when the started on an semicaoustic
version of The Ballad of Hollis Brown. A strong and expressive version
where the singing couldnīt have been better. Giving new maturity to the
Just like a woman was next, the lightning of the stage changed and the
song came out perfectly, Bob changing and underlining the meaning in the
lyrics by delaying the last words time and again. During the refrain the
audience sang the chorus and Bob soloed on the words and this time it was
really nice and emotional ,yet not banal at all. ("Sing along with Bob
Dylan", Iīd never thought Iīd see the day!)
After a rolling, walking bass, grooving insanely swinging Summer Days
maybe the strongest performance of the evening for me was the Lonesome
death of Hattie Carroll done in a featherly light 3/4 time with beatiful
brush drumming by George Recile (who by the way played masterly throut the
set) and a vocal that certainly rearranged the melody and juxtaposed
notes, but still kept its beauty alive, sung with thoughtful and tender
voice. Bob at his best.
The the program draw toward itīs rather predicable close with Like a
Rolling stone, All along the Watchtower, Spirit on the water and Blowing
in the wind.
After all it was a geat and in many ways satifying concert and evrybody
seemed happy, although as I hinted in the beginning I couldnīt help
feeling a tiny bit of empyness somewhere inside.
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