April 1, 2007
Review by Frans Mossberg
Frans Mossberg Review of Bob Dylan - Gothenburg concert April 1st 2007
When Dylan came to Scandinavium in Gothenburg in 1978, it was even then
with an persona of an older and mature man (as opposed to the curly haired
revolutionary folk rock beatnik of the sixties), with a rich and
retrospective repertoire during a generous two-set show. The sound was
good even then, the band was good and Dylan was good. It had at that time
gone twelve years since he last had been in Sweden in 1966 in his roaring
and myth-covered tour with the Hawks/the Band. Twelve years during which
he had produced a row of albums, of which many had deeply affected the
course of the Rolling River of Rock´n Roll Music. Between 1978 and
yesterday evening, when Dylan was back in Scandinavium, almost another
forty years has passed, a time during which Dylan has visited here a
number of times with different musical makeups. Every concert I´ve seen
before so far has been good, but always left something to wish for. There
has been many moments of boredom, although electric. At times one has
wondered "Why does he really bother?". I didn´t ask that question tonight.
Dylan is back, with a vengeance and a revenge!
Yesterday night was the first concert I´ve seen since 1978 that was, damn
it, perfect. Of course Dylan is never perfect, nor is his band, if they
were, they wouldn´t be doing their thing. You can always count on that
there will be some misses, some song swaying around considerably before
finding its form, some notes will be out of tune, Dylan will pick up the
wrong harmonica and suddenly you find Arnold Schönberg soaring over the
steady rock´n roll accompaniment. But never mind. It was never meant to be
perfect. But still tonight, it is perfect. Again the sound is good, the
band is good and Dylan is good, but it´s forty years later and Dylan´s got
an older and more mature audience, although mixed in age for sure. In
every concert I´ve seen with Dylan there has been a certain uncertainty:
Will he make it? Will he break during the show? Will his voice hold? But
not tonight. He was confident and seemed to be totally in control,
together with the band. All this in the framework of the improvisation
that is the heart core of Dylans live performances, and has been so for so
Dylan often seemes to open his concerts with a medium tempo rocker
choosing a rather mediocre song for this, and did so also today with
"Cat´s in the well". It´s all right, but it doesn´t move any hairs. Not
mine anyway. Maybe a reason is that he needs a song during which he can
adopt to the situation and give the audience time to do it to him, and
don´t want to waste a too demanding material for this?
Bob plays guitar here, nice to see him on guitar again. He´s never been
much of solo guitarist and this hasn´t changed considerably, but it sorts
of signals that we´re gonna have some fun tonight and a whoppin´good time.
Next song is a totally rearranged and very lyrical version of "It ain´t
me babe". Still the old man says "Don´t think you´ve got me framed, I
am my own person and artist" Yes, the statement of freedom, strength and
independence. We shouldn´t forget it.
"Watching the river flow" follows, another good, but medoicre song with a
chord progression that doesn´t succeed a 100 %, but nice anyway.
Now what is this.? The band starts out with some heavy declining harmonic
sequenses and Dylan comes in after some rounds spitting out words at 200
mph. What is he singing? Suddenly it dawns on me "It´s all right ma."
It´s all right, Bob, I was only ..not really with you there... Great and
unexpected treatment of the song.
Now something is really happening. The tempo loweres down and the first
song from the recent "Modern Times" album appear "When the deal goes
down". Beatifully played by everybody in the band and Bob´s voice comes
out hoarse, but clear as a bell. He´s relaxed now and dares to experiment
with the notes. The PA-system is good and he obviously has got a good
foldback. This is really, really beautiful. Lights are lowered down
between the songs to admit the musicians changing intruments and stances.
Seemes well rehearsed, and gives a minute to cool the figures that tend to
rise up in their seats, oblivious and uncaring for the people in the rows
"Highway 61" begins boiling up, and reaches to a driving trainlike beat
that really hits the roof. Incredible! I´ve always loved this song, but
this treatment is just superb. One of the best perfomances in the show.
I won´t go into every song, but want to mention a beautiful acoustic "Girl
form north country" in a most unusual accompaniment, very light and
smooth. Vocally Bob is being back with a soft and very balanced way of
doing thetoung-in-cheek nasal bit from his early days. He sings better
than ever here. Not to mention "Tangled up in blue" which is given a
semi-acoustic treatment here, beautifully played. Listen and behold: Bob
actually does some alterations of the lyrics he not done before, in a few
places, forgets a verse but sticks it in afterwords next to the last one.
A very good performance of one of the best songs ever written.
The absolute highlight of the whole concert to my mind was "Nettie Moore"
a great and moving song as well as performance on the album, but live,
this stopped the time.yes, we were with you there Bob, starstruck,
following every breath in that song. I´ve actually never heard Bob sing as
good as this. The voice is focused, but gentle and full of feeling and
sentiment. The words ring true like burning coal. This couldn´t have been
The ending of the concert topped up with a splendid and rocking version of
"Thunder over mountain" and the classic "All along the watchtower" with
Bob on some ghostly and disharmonoius organ chords, and with some
showstopping drumfills from drummer George Recile.
All in all it was a lovely evening. Thank you, Bob, for keeping on keeping
Already waiting for your next tour...
I´ll be there.
p.s. Careful about that volume, Eugene. Being not too bad in general,
sometimes though, there were some dangerous levels about. Small criticism:
stay out of too many twelve bar blues rockers, the best are great but one
or two could have been exchanged for more interesting material.
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