Reviews

Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg

Rockhal

April 22, 2017


[Chris Rollason], [Laurette Maillet]

Review by Chris Rollason



Why Try To Change Him Now? Bob Dylan in Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg), 22 April 2017

The night of Saturday, 22 April 2017 witnessed Bob Dylan's third appearance at the 
Rockhal concert venue in Esch-sur-Alzette, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg's second 
city after the capital. Dylan had previously illuminated the Rockhal on 21 October 2011 
and 16 November 2013, and as a resident of Esch I was present both times. Tonight 
was therefore, for both Bob Dylan and the author of this review, and appropriately 
enough in view of the title of his latest album, a Ö triplicate occasion!

Since Dylan's last date in Esch-sur-Alzette in 2013, much water has flowed under the 
bridge, notably his 2016 Nobel award and his recent recording wave of jazz-era and 
Sinatra covers. Meanwhile, the setlist for this tour, though once again for the most 
part fixed or all but fixed, is somewhat more representative than has recently been 
the case. Tonight's setlist varied from that of the previous night in only one particular, 
namely that among the Sinatra covers 'Why Try to Change Me Now ?' replaced 
'I Could Have Told You'. The night's 21 songs break down as follows: 60s and 70s 
'classic Dylan' (up to 'Blood on The Tracks'), 6; 'later Dylan' prior to 2012's album 
'Tempest', 4; 'Tempest', 5; Sinatra covers, 6. It is an open question how many in the 
audience were actual Dylan followers and aware of the content of his recent albums,
and how many came away believing the evening's Sinatra renditions to be recent 
Dylan compositions!

**

Dylan opens with a gritty 'Things Have Changed', indisputably a suitable title for its 
author and an up-front warning to those expecting a full serving of 60s anthems. 
Next up, though, and as if to placate those who might walk out if Dylan performed 
nothing they knew, was no less an early-Dylan chestnut than 'Don't Think Twice,
It's All Right', complete with the evening's most folk-oriented arrangement. Then 
the 60s flame is fed anew with a blues-drenched rendition of 'Highway 61 Revisited' 
(with Dylan singing all five stanzas), after which we fast-forward to the 21st-century 
Dylan with 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin''.

Beyond there lies Ö something, indeedsomething that may start surprising the 
audience, in the form of the night's first Sinatra rendition and another appropriately 
titled song, 'Why Try to Change Me Now ?', with Dylan fully inside a committed 
vocal  and, as he will do with most of tonight's Sinatra numbers, treating the song 
as if he had written it. There follows the evening's first song from 'Tempest', 
'Pay in Blood', which, familiar or not, pleases the crowd, its Rolling Stones pastiche 
sound no doubt aiding. Dylan then reverts to Sinatra mode with 'Melancholy Mood', 
after which comes an upbeat country-blues version of 'Duquesne Whistle', again 
from 'Tempest' (well received, though how many recognised in 'at my chamber 
door' a quotation from Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem 'The Raven'?). Next, it's 
Sinatra time again, Dylan's fifth-ever performance (and probably the best of the 
night's shadow-of-Frank numbers) of 'Stormy Weather', one of the songs from the 
new 'Triplicate' album and premiered on 17 April in Amsterdam.

There follows 'Tangled Up in Blue', in its current truncated four-stanza version 
(alas - this song is too good to deserve such pruning) but with some interesting 
alternative lyrics (the couple split up 'somewhere in the wilderness'; the people 
they knew have - if I heard correctly - 'their names aflame'). Dylan then returns to 
the blues with a vengeance, with the Muddy Waters-inspired 'Early Roman Kings'
from 'Tempest'. The next offering, 'Spirit  on the Water' from 'Modern Times', 
while in this reviewer's opinion a minor song which could happily be given a rest, in 
a sense fits with the Sinatra material by reason of its jazz arrangement. It is 
followed by a melodramatic rendition of 'Love Sick - insistent, obsessive  but in 
the end impressive - and by another Sinatra cover, 'All or Nothing At All'.

The next offering is none other than 'Desolation Row', a song composed more 
than half a century ago but arguably still the best lyric Bob Dylan has ever written. 
For any performance of this song the bar is set high, and this version, while not 
the best ever, comes over as several notches above merely acceptable. It is rare 
that Dylan performs all 10 stanzas, and tonight we get 70% of the song in the 
form of stanzas 1, 2, 3, 6 (leather cup), 7 (Casanova), 8 (superhuman crew) and 10. 
The performance is almost word perfect, albeit stanza 1's'beauty parlour' has 
become a simple 'parlour': Dylan sings from inside the song, and the strongest 
moment comes in the 'superhuman crew' stanza with a memorably sinister 
rendering of the lines 'come out and round up everyone who knows more than 
they do'.

The unfolding evening now brings us 'Soon after Midnight' from 'Tempest' 
(another minor song due for a sabbatical), 'That Old Black Magic' (probably the 
thinnest of the Sinatra covers), and a second 'Tempest'-Sinatra coupling in an 
eloquent 'Long and Wasted Years' and a poignant 'Autumn Leaves'.

Finally, the encores offer a pleasant surprise, with arguably the two best 
performances of the entire evening, and that on two well-worn warhorses - 
'Blowin' in the Wind', now all of 55 years old, and 'Ballad of a Thin Man' - both 
performed with riveting arrangements and full vocal commitment (Dylan blasts 
the unfortunate Mr Jones with audible relish as he curls his lips around
'tax-deductible charity organisations').

**

There is no doubt that the vast majority of the audience have enjoyed the show, 
be they hardcore Dylan followers or not: applause greeted both famous and 
lesser-known songs. Dylan's vocals have been for the most part audible, and lyrics 
slips have been few, and at all moments the professionalism and versatility of his 
musicians has delighted and astounded, as they effortlessly mutate between 
genres, from folk to blues to country to jazz. The Sinatra covers might seem 
numerically disproportionate at 6 songs out of 21, but the sense of incongruity is 
reduced by the multigeneric nature of the night's music - in the end, these songs 
are as much part of Bob Dylan's musical heritage as those that have influenced 
him in other and multiple genres. Tonight he threw out the challenge 'Why Try 
to Change Me  Now?': the musical phenomenon called Bob Dylan is a complex 
nexus of influences, and some influences will come up stronger than others at a 
given time. Dylan has written no new songs since his Nobel consecration, but this 
concert should have offered the doubters more than enough evidence, in the 
songs of his own authorship, that songwriting can be poetry and, yes, Bob Dylan 
is indeed a meritorious Nobel laureate. 

[TOP]

Review by Laurette Maillet



The show was excellent. I could see Bobby smiling and chatting with
members of the Band. Obviously Bob was in a good mood. If you're happy,†
Iím happy too. The setlist didnít vary but it is for the best. The
quality of the show is improving. Charlie is now more free to do some
solos. The Band is enjoying some more personal solos here and there. The
public was the best so far, dancing on the floor and not surprised of the
crowner songs, even enjoying them. A lot of respect from a GA crowd packed
in the front. I will say with others ... the best show so far. I say it
every night, meaning there must be some good feelings getting higher and
higher.

So thank you Bobby , the Band, Barron and Big Bob, the technicians,† the
crew people.... Thank you the good hearted people and Fans who make my
journey a pleasant adventure everyday. 

[TOP]

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