April 6, 2007
Review by Paul Denham
Forest National is a delightful venue located in a suburban shopping
precinct next to the supermarket car park. Round the corner is friendly
row of cafes playing Dylan; perhaps I even sensed revolution in the air.
The stewarding was light and the staff actually seemed concerned that we
had a good time. The only irritation was 50 cents charge to have a pee.
Nevertheless, without any trouble we were soon embedded, with drinks,
amongst polite middle aged European fans within country pie throwing
distance of the stage.
Dylan's sets have become so formulaic that my partner and I were
competing to see who could best predict the list. One point for each
song played and two points for the right order. She won with 14 points
and it would have been a lot more if Dylan hadn't caught us out by
playing 17 songs rather than the 16 usual in Scandinavia.
After several false Aaron Copeland starts and that Coumbia Recording
Artist guff, the band were there with Garnier and Recile in pimp mode
and the rest looking like US Treasury agents circa 1960. Except for
Dylan, in a kind of Mexican black suit with a stripe down the trousers
and an open necked white shirt. And a white hat with a flat brim. It's
the kind of hat that is worn in westerns by crooked gamblers and slimy
lawyers. It left me with the feeling that he'd become one of the
ranchers who has it in for Billy the Kid.
So, what was good, bad and indifferent? Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum is a
rubbish song, even when it's sung well as it was here. "Throw me
somethin' Mister please", as Tweedle-dee Dee might have put it. And he
did! It Ain't Me, Babe and Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues were solid gems,
and you could almost sing along to Bob's phrasing. Stuck inside of
Mobile was a rocking number and it was grand to hear that cascading riff
again. Then an harmonica introduction to This Wheel's on Fire that
managed to send a shiver across one's back. His harmonica playing was
consistently good throughout the night. Later he seemed to flirt with a
harp intro to Girl from the North Country that turned into Boots of
Spanish Leather. He sang that song with something approaching passion
but oh, no Bob, that electric organ break towards the end was
embarrassing pub standard doodling. And Mr Herron's simplistic melody on
electric mandolin was just an irritating frill to a pretty good
There were songs that kind of worked, like Highway 61 which was lively
but there was no magic about the crescendo and you can't help thinking
have you come to this, Bob, churning out the same stuff every night? By
the end, his crisp annunciation had fractured and he was doing that
thing were his voice goes up at the end of lines. During the first part
of the concert Dylan was leading things and driving from the front, but
as the night went on he retreated behind the organ and seemed to rest
more on the band. In a couple of numbers, notably It's Alright, Ma, they
created a kind of wall of sound that ought to have been atmospheric but
just seemed to go on a bit. Earlier in the day I was watching a big
bulldozer pushing sand around a beach and this seemed like a similar
demonstration of power and dullness. All Along the Watchtower wasn't
John Wesley Hardin or Jimi Hendrix: it was a bit of a mess. And in Like
a Rolling Stone Mr Freeman's solo sounded in the wrong key.
There were five songs from Modern Times, and I don't think songs like
Spirit in the Water lend themselves to the big arena setting. I see
Dylan in a blazer, cravat and straw boater, having regrown that rather
creepy moustache, leading his band through these numbers at the end of a
pier somewhere while people eat cream cakes. On the night, I didn't care
less who killed Nettie Moore but the crowd continued to applaud so
obviously somebody likes it. The same ones, I suppose, who like Summer
Days which I imagine will still be in the set list next time we see Bob.
Review by Vernon_ Briscoe
EASTER TIME TOO.
A fiendishly committed performance of velocity and power from Bob and
the band tonight but, in truth, something of a curate's egg of a set.
The highs: a spine-quivering This Wheel's On Fire complete with
spectral harp and a patently sincere Nettie Moore which silenced the
noisy Brussels crowd and brought a lump to my throat.
Bob's voice had plenty to offer in the upper and lower registers
tonight but something of a gravelly void between. This forced him to
be extra-inventive with his singing and tended to suit the rockers
better than the ballads. Rollin' & Tumblin' was particularly venemous
and It's Alright Ma rocked like a caged demon as Bob revelled in the
rough edges of his vocal.
He seemed to be searching for some kind of new rhythmic attack in much
of the material tonight. When he found it the effect was mesmeric.
When he did not find it - as on the beached, muddled and cruelly
exposed Like A Rolling Stone - it perhaps sold the material a little
Tom Thumb's Blues was a song where he found it in spades. Re-cast as a
rollicking blues and played, no doubt, for it Easter theme, it had the
crowd punching the air and me with them.
I lost count of the number of references to Christ's crucifixion and
Easter resurrection in the show. I gave up around the fifty mark!
The "darkness at the break of noon'' from It's Alright Ma; the ''High
on the hill you can carry all my thoughts with you'' and ''I'm gonna
be with you in paradise'' from Spirit On The Water; the ''He's buried
in the rocks'' from Stuck Inside Of Mobile; the ''I'm going with you
to the top of the hill'' from Nettie Moore; the refrain from Like A
Rolling Stone and the conversation with the thief from Watchtower all
hit their Calvary mark.
Clearly Bob was in the mood for proposing a toast to the king. And
for at least four songs in this raging set he touched regal status
himself. The remainder of the songs were hugely and crankily
entertaining and will no doubt have their day.
Roll on Amsterdam.
Roll that stone.
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