April 14, 2007
Review by Clare Jenkins
Brilliant concert?...The answer my friend is blo…oh alright! Breathtakingly,
jawdroppingly, toetappingly, amazing! My very first Bob Dylan concert, and
I must say that I still can't believe I've actually been!! The build-up to "kick
off" was fabulous; not knowing what a treat I was in for. I'm 14 and
looking around I was shocked to find more people my age than I had first
expected, it seems the legacy of Dylan will carry on still!
The first notes of Most Likely You'll Go Your Way( And I'll Go Mine) rung
out around the arena leaving me quite comfortable that I could sit back and
be awestruck by the genius that is Bob Dylan and his Band. The crowd
seemed to settle in and get into the mood for what turned out to be an
The lights dimmed and after tumultuous waves of clapping and yelling, Bob
told us all that She Belongs To Me. The sound was just right and you can't
help but feel a shiver of pleasure knowing that you are actually hearing such
With Bob Dylan on electric guitar and his amazing band producing an excellent
rendition of Watching The River Flow; they all seemed to be on tip top form
tonight and it was a treat to witness it!
More clapping and whistling, then I was pleasantly surprised to hear, Its
Alright Ma(I'm Only Bleeding) , my favourite song, done in such a manner that
I had to wait a couple of seconds before I had realised what it was!
This was then followed by The Levee's Gonna Break and Spirit On The Water,
with Bob Dylan on the electric keyboard, giving it such feeling and proof of
how much he really cares about his music.
Highway 61 Revisited proved a shock to everyone as the electric guitars
pounded out the wonderfully loud notes, giving everyone a sense of why
they had gone that night.
In between all the songs, my brother and I kept up a running commentary.
"Oo that was amazing!!" and then the next one , " Ahh, that one was
absolutely fantastic!" We then realised it just became pointless for us to
keep on saying it, as all of the songs were immense!
All of the songs performed deserve an adjective-packed description here,
but I'm afraid that it would be too long for me to write at 11:53 pm tonight,
after returning home from my memorable night out.
The song that really stood out the most to me was Nettie Moore, although
I liked it on Modern Times, it just became something else entirely, when
performed on stage like that! Tremendous! The violin in it was gorgeous.
It seemed everyone had been waiting for the final song, and after the lights
had dimmed and returned, the first couple of bars had the audience on the
edge of their seats…yes it is isn't it?..yes it is!! The grand finale, Like A
Rolling Stone! Words escape me on this one… ( makes a change! ) The
audience went wild!
I can honestly say, my hands had never hurt that much before then, the
clapping, feet stomping,yelling,whistling went on for at least ten minutes
after Bob Dylan and his Band had disappeared off stage, returning for an
encore which, in my opinion couldn't be matched in … well, let's just say,
a very long time! This show was one of a kind and I feel privileged to
have been there.
A final song of All Along the Watchtower, left me in no doubt that Bob
Dylan is definitely my all time favourite musician, poet and "song and
Review by Trevor Townson
Being front of house tonight was not good sound wise for me but that is no
loud and going straight through the middle of my skull from the mega amps
right above my head. It was good to have invited a friend with me too
tonight who, whilst sitting much further back, commented later how good
the sound was, "just right, not overly loud" he said, to my all but deaf ears.
He really loved the show, his first ever Dylan concert, did not know all
the songs but was really glad to have had the experience and commented -
"just no solo greats like him anymore". So there we have it, the sound
was brilliant and not at all mono or going straight through the middle of
the skull and even with a band Bob is seen as a solo great and obviously
rightly so. My Back Pages was ticket paid for and still Nettie Moore and
High Water to come. Not being a stato I do not know when we were last
treated to My Back Pages but not sure I have heard it live before. How
can any Dylan fan have a fouvorite but if we are allowed a list My Back
Pages would be in mine as would She Belongs To Me. Bob as always gets it
right with the band and playing to the crowd as must to fill these
arenas. But what talent in that band that does not come through at venues
like this. So glad that Donnie Herron is now so better positioned and
seemingly working closer to Bob. I do not think the talents of Donnie or
what he has to offer with his sound to Bob's music can fully shine at
these big gigs but the little that comes through is enough. Even my
friend commented later by saying what was that instrument, is it a slide
guitar. Said, "don't know technical things but it was probably Donnie".
Bob just seems to get bigger and bigger these days so I think the dream
for a lot of people of later years intimate Bob has all but disappeared.
If it ever happens though I hope Donnie is there and Mr Garnier too
obviously. Yet another super night in Sheffield, Brilliant.
Review by Brian Steedman
My friend Jenny and I had a small tour of real ale haunts around
Sheffield in preparation, and so were well 'up for the experience'. The
arena is, of course a soulless barn, and not conducive to intimacy, but
we were lucky with seats and in centre fifth row. Sound and vision were
both good, well above average, and I think critical comments relate to
being unfamiliar with lyrics. I had listened to every gig of the European
leg on download (thanks EVERYONE) up to the second Amsterdam concert, and
felt there were heights and depths previously ...... This was a great
contrast because, though there were clearly 'band problems' - Stu and
Denny parked out on the wings and indicating by body language that they
were barely part of the ensemble - Bob was very much 'up for it'. This
was immediately indicated in song choice and, in beginning with "Most
likely you'll go your way' he reminded me straight up of the same regular
choice when he began so in 1974 - saying 'I am going for it'.
The opening five songs developed great momentum, and amazing
variations in vocal delivery. 'She Belongs to Me' and 'It's All Right Ma'
were great numbers with superb enunciation and by this stage George and
Tony were constantly giving one another 'this is great' looks, and
repeatedly bursting into laughter. Donny and Bob were very much on the
same wavelength and exchanged knowing looks as they swapped licks.
Increasingly as the concert moved on Donny became more animated and
relaxed, and by the midpoint was clearly also having a great time. Bob
had also cheered up because TWICE he actually half- smiled/half-laughed,
indicating that he must be deleriously happy!!! Denny and Stu 'sat
stone-faced while the building burned'.
The Levee's Gonna Break, sustained the momentum rather than
contributed to it, but things flattened out with Spirit on the Water,
which is a bit plodding for my tastes ...... However, all was revived by
Highway 61: booming and magisterial, great phrasing - and then into an
evening highlight 'My Back Pages' Jenny and I were by this stage
screaming encouragement for every great bunch of words .... we were alone
in this, because all around us were clearly unfamiliar with anything
other than Modern Times and and hardly raised a clap (encouraging us both
to be even louder in appreciation). We then entered the Modern Times
section, which feels slightly flat, but enlivens Stu and Denny. They
turned back into the group at this stage, because their role in practiced
solo and ensemble work was obviously clear. Things upped again with High
Water (a GREAT song) and continued into Mobile. I report at this point
that Bob is now smoking eyeballs rather than lids, and warn him that this
is MUCH more painful!! From here on we are on the way home, and I have to
confess I find everything about Summer Days to be now past it's sell- by
date; it either needs to be revived instrumentally or binned...... LARS
was great and there were no cock-ups this time - sadly it didn't get the
audience up front it deserved ....... and then on home with Thunder and
AATW. The latter had some great and atmospheric repetition of lines and
it felt almost as though prolonged by Bob to keep the experience going.
On balance: a poor soulless arena, unsympathetic stewarding, shit
beer, a crowd up front of Zombies from Central Casting, and a show
that will be one of my all-time highs..... We were hoarse and very
tired by the end. Move out of the arenas Bob, and lets get back to
standing. See you in Leipzig and Berlin - don't forget to look out
Review by Andrew J. Toner
This was also my first Bob Dylan show (had tickets for Manchester
2005/Amsterdam 2007 but illness meant staying at home) and I thought the
performance was excellent. The band were a little ramshackle to start with
but by the second number things were starting to take shape very nicely
indeed. The crowd was very appreciative and it is clear that Sheffield
likes Bob and his band.
It's Alright Ma was very differently done from the Fall bootlegs and most
enjoyable. Tonight the words were coming thick and fast and well formed.
Bob's voice seemed to have taken on a new freshness, it was almost
powerful. My sister remarked it was difficult to understand the lyrics
because of his drawl. She also enjoyed her first Bob gig although she
could not see due to everyone on the floor standing and/or dancing.
There was so much going on and this being the first time it was
difficult to decide on whom or what to watch. Bob nods, waves and
dances and the band follow those leads like a well-tuned machine.
Highway 61 Revisited was the first song that the crowd really, really
warmed to in my opinion and the delivery was swashbuckling. My Back Pages
was great as where all the early Modern Times' numbers but the real show
stopper for me was High Water which Bob really enjoyed himself. Mobile was
a swinger but rather too short for my liking.
Nettie Moore pushed High Water hard for top spot. The atmosphere
created was beautiful. The show closers were fast and furious and, of
course, popular. The arena was completely upstanding with many arms aloft
as the Bob/band took the applause. They were VERY popular.
Andrew J. Toner
Age 38 (3-year Bob newbie)
Review by Mike Woodcock
Three years ago Bob in Sheffield was a bit of shambles. Voice shot to bits
and a band that trampled all over him. This time round he’s a revelation.
Some magnificent vocals, especially on songs from Modern Times. A great
band too. Can’t understand some of the criticism I’ve been reading about
the band on this site. Loved the new versions of old songs, especially
Like a Rolling Stone and My Back Pages. Only disappointment for me was
Stuck Inside of Mobile, which dragged until Bob brought the song to climax
with a great harp solo. A great concert. Bob looked to be really enjoying
himself. Just one wish: next time I hope he drops some of the sixties
tunes and gives us more from ’74 onwards.
Review by Geoff Wint
Four years ago I saw Bob at this venue. It was the firsrt time I had seen
him since 1987 and the tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
That night (2003) was made worthwhile by a stunning Highway 61
Revisited. The rest left me cold. I came away and vowed never again. Two
years later he plays Nottingham, nearer my home.Again I stump up my 30
quid, again I leave and make the vow. Highway 61 was superb but didn't
reach the same heights as Sheffield. As for the rest, it was all down hill after
the first two songs. Then came Modern Times. Am I the only person in the
world that finds this album dull? Apart from Thunder On The Mountain, that
is. The reason it is dull is it lacks memorable songs. In fact I find it even
more dull than the two albums that preceeded it. To give this album 5
stars as many reviews did is patently ridiculous, that means it has to
compare with Blood On The Tracks or Highway 61 Revisited, it doesn't merit
mentioning in the same breath as Slow Train or Infidels! And so back to
Sheffield... Things started promisingly with Most Likely and She Belongs
To me. ob's voice didn't sound nearly as wracked or abused as previously.
At this stage in the proceedings anyway. But again in my opinion things
started to tail off from here on in. I said to my girlfriend as Highway 61
started that it rocks like a mutha... what a let down when it was done and
dusted inside 6 mins. My Back Pages was a suprising and lovely addition let
down by Bob's vocals. Meanwhile,the guy two to my left is going
apeshit, and it's fair to say, so is most of the arena. I'm now beginning to
think are we all hearing the same thing, or is just that I'm the only
person to actually bother to LISTEN and not just respond in Pavlov's Dog
fashion? Because it's Bob doesn't mean it automatically equals greatness.
Memphis and Last Deal Goes Down are fine, well as far as the band are
concerned. It has to be said that their playing all night is superb no
matter what style they are required to play. Finally to Rolling Stone.No
arguments with the presentation, again just Bob.Oh and the crowd.Isn't this
song supposed to be a communal event, if so where was that spirit on
Saturday night? After this we're out of the arena and on our way
home. Truth be told I really wanted to leave a good half hour earlier bit
stayed out of hope. Last November Springsteen rolled into this venue. The
difference was stunning. Springsteen re-arranged his songs superbly, was in
good voice and communicated with his audience. Bob,again,did none of these.
Somewhere over the last years, someone should have stood up to Bob. A
years break every few years might just have saved his voice. This will
definitely be the last time.
Review by Hugh Barney
This was my 2nd Dylan concert in two days. The first being the wonderful
'House of the Rising Sun' in Newcastle. As 'House of the Rising Sun' is
one of Dylans least performed songs (only 8 performances listed on
http://hisbobness.info since 1960) we considered oursleves extremely well
Newcastle was a hard act to follow but Bobs performance in Sheffield last
night did not leave us disappointed.
Whilst queuing to get into the arena we watched a car pull up with the
registration D61 LYN and smiled as two ladies in their 60's got out and
joined the queue.
Yes there are some negatives with this tour (Denney Freeman's guitar
solo's kill the excitement and momentum of the songs, (see Iain Watson's
review for Glasgow 10th April 2007), All Along the Watchtower is tired and
boring, and the encore could be less predictable. But each Dylan concert
feels like a piece of rock and roll history in the making. Dylan is
taking great care with his singing and set lists. Each show is uniquely
crafted. The circus is in town.
The set kicked off with a surprise. The expected Cats in the Well was
replaced with 'Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll go mine)' which
worked very nicely as an openning number. Again Bob played electric
guitar on the first four numbers. Next came 'She Belongs To Me', one of
my top five Dylan songs which has never lost its appeal to me. I've
waited a long time to hear this one live and to be honest I was so glad to
hear it, I didn't notice or care how well it was performed.
The set list then became a little more predictable but we were treated to
six songs in all that had not been performed in Newcastle and felt we got
a lot for our money.
My Back Pages was a lovely surprise and Dylan gave us some great harp
playing. The guy sitting behind me tried unsuccessfully to sing along and
apologised 'Its one of my favourities'. No problem mate.
During 'Stuck Inside of Mobile' something was happening but I dont know
what it is. Denny Freeman screwed up the guitar solo's by over running,
but Dylan recovered the song by pulling out two distinct harmonica solo's,
one after another. The second one saw Dylan almost conducting the band at
the same time as playing harp, pushing the music and rythym to its outer
limits and then bringing it all back home for a final resolution. Dylan
transformed what could have been a disaster into something special.
World peace again decended on the crowd during Nettie Moore. I prefer
this live version to the studio recording. Its definitely one of those
songs where different lyrics hit you at different times.
The Sheffiled Arena seems better suited accoustically for rock concerts
than the Newcastle Arena. Simon (who has promised todo a seperate review)
and I were seated on the side of the arena about halfway back, just back
from the mid entrance tunnel. The sound is pretty good up there. Its
certainly a good place to see and hear the show, but it also makes it more
like watching TV and I think I prefer standing in the stalls with all the
hassel that goes with it. You feel more part of it. Just before the
cowboy music came on, signalling the entry to 'Please welcome Columbia
recording artist, Bob Dylan' I spotted my mate Ben from work waving to me
from the stalls with a huge grin on his face. He'd also been to Newcastle
2 days before. I didn't see him after the show but suspect he will still
have a smile on his face at work on Monday.
Thanks again Bob for fun and two great shows.
Review by Catherine & Steve Brown
At last ----- it's ONLY rock and roll
-and we liked it!
And for Bob's Baby Boomers the relief was palpable as we tuned in and were
turned on by a performance that flowered and flowed from the Lost World
of old-fashioned values-a musical genius eschewing modern-day bewildering
gimmicks and gizmos and relying on merely himself and his music to woo the
And thus the Homage to one grizzled, slight, stooped man began……..
The altar was unadulterated, stage stark, lights simply lit, performance pure.
The, swelling, but unacknowledged, whooping Welcome from the Sheffield
congregation, as we excitedly rose as one to the opening strains of Most
Likely You Go Your Way[and I'll Go Mine], faltered and died as it became
instantly obvious that this concert was going only Dylan's Way.
The poetry of His lyrics was initially bewilderingly muffled, as his voice, nasal
and knotted, muttered its regret for lost love, yet we never found it hard
to care as the simple, eloquent beat pounded through the arena and we
were moved and did move in stark juxtaposition to the stillness of Dylan's
Such hypnotic rhythm continued as His electric guitar led unintelligible but
thundering, powerful renditions of She Belongs to Me, Watching the River
Flow and Alright, Ma[I'm Only Bleeding]and the Uninitiated could only grasp
snatches of lyrics but the Believers mouthed the reams and rhymes of
poetry and writ performance into every nook of this vast Church.
Then all were rewarded as Dylan silently shuffled to his keyboard and the
familiar, comforting strains of the harmonica heralded a romantic-rockabilly
version of Spirit on the Water .Our need to scream our love and approval
was yet again rendered meaningless and hushed as gut-wrenching words
of loss, love and longing resounded with crystal clarity, burning into our
hearts. The croaked-out poignancy of 'And you think I'm past my prime'
reverberated around the stadium and pulverised present pop culture's
obsession with youth as his quiet, assertive delivery reassured, making us
surely know that age and loss of youth mattered not one jot. Only the
raw, unadulterated, simply-sung emotion was there for us all to embrace.
And the band aped the laconic delivery of their Master as My Back Pages,
Highway '61 Revisited and Rollin' and Tumblin' revealed themselves to us
from behind the disguise of their rockabilly-bluegrass reinventions.
Precision-play poured from them and they had no need of showmanship
or frenzied pyrotechnics so quietly secure did they seem of their skill to
let the music speak alone.
As the music flowed on, unimpeded by Today's obligatory litany of
contrived and humourless Thanks and Salutations, Dylan allowed the
songs and their intricate musings to grow in stature and the Congregation
grew evermore silently reverent as the complexity of such simplicity
moved us all. And then the first climax gripped us as Like A Rolling Stone
thundered out, catching us at first unawares with its unknown rhythms
but then suffusing the Arena with ecstasy as we eagerly screamed out in
joy and relief at its familiar chorus. The release of our ecstatic applause
was short-lived as the Band left the stage as perfunctorily as they had
performed and the cries for an encore seemed strained and embarrassed
as if we felt He might disapprove of too much vociferous emotion.
But here the band at last played to convention and returned to deliver
raw, raunchy renditions of Thunder on the Mountain and All Along the
Watchtower and our Faith was rewarded with one Blessing as Dylan finally
lifted his head, looked us in the eye and paid brief Homage to his fellow
musicians. One simple wave and they were gone, leaving our gratitude
to fall on stony ground.
And in final Reverence we filed out semi-silently, pondering on pieces He
didn't play, longing to listen anew and reinvent and rediscover for
ourselves- as the Master would surely have us do.
Genius-simple and pure.
Review by Steve Vallely
Some thoughts on Sheffield.
This show blew the Newcastle concert out of the water for me.
Bob took a couple of songs to get into the groove, but when he did himself
and the band went into mega overdrive! I was lucky to get onto the barrier
at the front so it was easier to see Bob laughing a lot with the band and
generally looking relaxed. Highlights? Nettie Moore was mindblowing...you
could have heard a pin drop amongst the 12,500 capacity crowd. The set
list might make others believe it was a fairly mundane run of the mill
show, but Bob and the band blasted new life into Like a rolling stone,
Summer days and Highway 61 revisited. An inspiring show, I wouldnt have
missed it for the world even though my doctor told me not to drive with a
pot on my arm!! I wouldnt have rather been anywhere else on the planet
Review by Simon Warren
"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now". Art comes to life
as a reinvigorated and rocking Bob Dylan blasts through an outstanding
set to produce an evening that I will never forget. 'My Back Pages' was
just one of the many highlights.
We were all expecting things to kick off with 'Cat's In the Well' but the
'Most Likely You Go Your Way' was the first of many set changes from the
previous concert in Newcastle. My wife thought I was mad for going to
more than one concert 'It'll be exactly the same, what's the point?'. Who
else can treat his fans to such a varied menu?
Other highlights were:-
. Spirit On The Water - Bob on harmonica. Am I the only one who never
wants the solo at the end of Spirit On The Water to end? . Nettie Moore -
. High Water (For Charlie Patton) - my two musical heroes. One the
singer the other the subject of the song. Bob & Charlie sound more
alike these days.
. Thunder On The Mountain - lightning strikes the stage. Awesome.
Not so good bits:-
. All Along The Watchtower - Yyyyyyyyaaaaaawwwwwnnnnnn. Good song but
Jimi owns this one. Pick another finale please Bob.
. I could have done without the robotic 'Guitar solo by numbers'
produced by Denny Freeman. The band works well together as a unit but
seemed to lose their way during the guitar breaks.
. The frequent standing up and sitting down as people made trips to get
liquid to fill their bladders, and then trips to empty it again a few
minutes later. Why couldn't they do it during the guitar solos?
Those minor blemishes aside this was an electrifying performance by an
outstanding artist enjoying his craft. The only bit that Bob didn't
appear to enjoy was taking the applause at the end. He seemed to be
uneasy and uncomfortable with the adulation. Lap it up Bob because you
thoroughly deserve it.
My biggest disappointment of the night- not having tickets for
Wembley & Birmingham. Still there's always the bootlegs and hoping
that the never ending tour will arrive in England again - soon.
Review by Paul Jenk
I was looking forward to tonight's concert as I hadn't seen Bob since his
concert at the same venue in 2003. I was amazed at the quality of Bob's
voice very clear and powerful with lots of tenderness and feeling in the
The opener most likely worked well although the sound didn't seem right
until halfway through the song. Great to see Bob with the guitar. I've
long been a great admirer of Bob's guitar playing. Through his first four
songs he played great she belongs to me was tremendous crystal clear vocal
same with river flow. Then the most venomous Its alright ma ive ever heard
superb drumming and Bob nailed this wow Nice to hear the new stuff
Nettie Moore was amazing I was on the 7th row and had a good view of Bob
leaning into the mike delivering every word perfectly. The orange stage
lighting for my back pages worked well and once again Bob was word
perfect. The harp on Mobile was jaw droopingly great. Thunder on the
mountain and summer days rocked
Who knows why Bob goes on and on? I'm just glad he does. To witness his
genius is something never to forget. The band where terrific too. I still
don't get the line up thing but it's nice to see Bob gazing around. I felt
a little sorry for the parts of the huge audience who saw bobs back for
most of the show .But hey please come back again Bob
Comments by Andrew Johnson
Am I the only person who is tired of being force fed Highway 61 every time
I go to see the great man? Anyway, Bob could be forgiven anything after
his stunning offering of Nettie Moore at Sheffield, a performance to make
the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and proof positive the guy can
still do perfect justice to any song that's appropriate to his aged vocal
chords. He doesn't need to hide behind big noise.
Review by Matthew Ash
We travelled the journey from Lancashire to Sheffield on 14th April
excited at the propsect of seeing a legend, whose records and songs form
a central part of our listening. Unfortunately, we were to leave
bitterly disappointed. It was our first visit to the Hallam FM arena,
and we won't be making a return visit. The acoustics are appalling and
the sound from the back half of the arena was dreadful. To put on a gig
of this size and depend on only front of stage speakers and fail to
provide monitor screens is just not good enough. It was virtually
impossible to make out the lyrics to many of the songs from our position
in the arena and much of the gig was a constant battle of echoing and
From what I could make out, the band were pretty tight but Dylan is no
keyboard player and should stick to focusing on guitar, vocals, and
harmonica. His interpretations have become pretty mannered these days
and familiar songs lost their wonderful melodic shape. The final
refrains of 'My Back Pages' were rushed, and the usually soaring
question of 'How does it feel?' in 'Like A Rolling Stone' was reduced
almost to monotone. There was too much from 'Modern Times' on the set
list as well. These are not great songs and, when you can't make out
the lyrics, tend to lose their point. Where were all the truly GREAT
Dylan songs? I wanted to hear 'Blowin In The Wind' and 'Its All Over
Now Baby Blue' etc. - not the second rate stuff he's penning to make
money these days. Talking of making money, the programme was a rip off
as well. I am well used to paying over the odds for glossy souvenir
programmes, but not finding them to be full of interviews about his film
acting and full page adverts for his book, latest album, website, and radio
Overall, it was like watching a puppet show in an closed-off case.
There was just no atmosphere, and after seeing brilliantly involving
shows at the MEN Arena in Manchester by Sting, Elton John, Fleetwood
Mac, and many others, both Bob Dylan and the Hallam FM Arena were
a big let-down on Saturday night.
Review by Mick Bamford
Just back home from what was a memorable show by Bob and the boys.
Somebody will no doubt provide a setlist but from memory some of the
highlights, not in any order:- A haunting Nettie Moore with George keeping
the funereal beat and yes you could hear Donnies violin. The slower MT
songs Deal and Spirit were very well received and excellently sung and
played Stuck inside of Mobile ended with a truly magnificent Harp solo
from Bob which went on and on. Rollin and Tumblin really rocked with
Denny providing some great bottlekneckin. The sound in the Ice Rink that
is the Sheffield arena was excellent right from the 1st song which was a
rocking You go your way theought THe lat Watchtower. Overall a
memorable show with the new arrangements of the older tracks both
confusing to start but delightfull when the penny finally dropped and Bob
was in great voice throughout. This should be greta boot when it comes
out. My next show is Birmingham but those with tickets for Wembley, as
the poster says, Don't You Dare Miss It !!!!!!
Review by Robert Wilkinson
It's a certain fact that this band is on very good form now after a few
years on the road with Dylan. So many gigs over the decades have been
marred by a poor sound mix, Bob's voice in bad shape or simply abused by
too loud a band, his seemingly negative mental state pervading the
atmosphere of whole series of shows and so on. You never quite knew what
to expect. But last night was a revelation - upbeat, well-rehearsed, an
old master on top of his game. Here was Dylan more focused than I have
ever seen him for years, keen to get it right, fluffing little (just one
or two lines here and there), up-singing under better control, cleverly
using his not-forever-young voice to best advantage, confident enough for
it to come through way up front and clear and naked in the mix (you could
hear most every word) - the songs not compromised or muddied by any long
interludes of pointless guitar solos. Dylan and his band fit very well
So our attention was focused on the Voice and the delivery and the
performance, as it should be - and, of course, the reason we were all in
attendance, the timeless lyrics and the tunes - and that Voice spat
prophecies (The Levee's Gonna Break), crooned love songs (Spirit On The
Water), deconstructed American culture (High Water), exposed hypocrisy
(It's Alright Ma), mythologized womanhood (She Belongs To Me) and made the
transience and burden of life slightly more bearable and immeasurably more
beautiful and poetic - "We all wear the same thorny crown" (When The Deal
Goes Down) - just as that Voice has always done.
The audience was well up for it and relished every second, but the special
highlights of My Back Pages (wow!) and Nettie Moore (this is stunning live
and had the whole arena spellbound) were the songs that sent the shivers
down the spine. Altered versions of Summer Days, Rolling Stone and
Watchtower surprisingly and pleasingly injected new life into these -
truncated reworkings of the last two were a delight and a relief as the
versions of a year or two ago were becoming very stale - and for the first
time I can ever remember no lights were turned on to the audience during
the signature song Rolling Stone - thank goodness (not that Dylan
audiences aren't a good looking crowd, you understand..!) Finally, I loved
the new songs from Modern Times sung live - they seemed far more upbeat
and energetic than on the CD which, for me, can become a little wearisome
after repeated plays.
Catch this present European tour if you can. It's a transfigurative
experience. Yes, there's life in the old shape-shifter yet.
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