Reviews

Liverpool, England

Echo Arena

May 1, 2009


[John Corvill], [Alan Platt], [Trevor Townson], [Frank Keegan],
[Ian Corbridge], [Brian O'Connell], [PhilTheTill]

Review by John Corvill



No reviews posted yet for this show? Ok, here goes a half-assed
mini-review. From the very start, I knew this was going to be a special
show, a special night, without doubt one of teh best Dylan shows I have
ever seen. As a long-time hard-core Dylan fan, and a veteran of, I dunno,
I've lost count, but maybe 15 Dylan concerts, I reckon I'm reasonably
ready for the kind of curves Dylan throws us. But still, it took me nearly
a minute to recognise the fist song, Watching teh River Flow. It didn't
matter though, because it was immediately clear that the band were firing
on all cylinders. From where we were sitting, second row of left Lower
Tier, the sound was absolutely great, obviously it wouldn't have been so
good at the back of teh arena (where I usually end up sitting) so this
allowed us to fully appreciate how this band sounds when you can hear them
properly, which is a crucial factor - on some recent bootlegs or youtubes
all you hear is a sort of brash cacophony, but when you have good enough
seats to hear what they actually sound like (many thanks to the legendary
Gary G. for the great tickets), all doubts about whether this band is
right for Bob are blown away, never to return. Bob too was really puttting
his heart into the performance, absolutely no going through tehmotions, he
was clearly enjoying himself and the eager crowd were electrified by the
show, the vibe began happy and rose quickly to a state of ecstasy, which
on several occassions reached an almost unbearably high climax, not least
when the band started playing 'Something' by The Beatles, which brought
the whole house onto their feet, jumping for joy. For many, this will have
been *the* absolute highlight, and that would be hard to argue, but there
were others. During the second song, Don't Think Twice, Dylan pulled off
an astonishing harminica solo, the quality of his playing was dirt in the
eye for those who complain that the crowd lap up his every bum note but he
doesn't really play any more. Well, take that, blinkered and unknowing
naysayers and critics! Dylan really leaned into it last night, it was
worth the price of admission on its own. Po Boy was fantastic too, bluesy
and standing out as a worthwhile alternative arrangement, the sort of
thing you'd like to see the band do in the studio. A rocked up It's All
Right Ma was good enough that it would have been the highlight of any
ordinary show, but here it was just one of many peaks. Just Like A Woman
was great, and again brought several huge waves of audience response, it
was great to feel a part of that crowd, communing in their shared
appreciation and, more importantly, their *enjoyment* of the world's
greatest living artist giving a tight and heartfelt performance. But for
me, it was surpassed by the following song, Highway 61, which was another
blistering performance from the band and which Bob alwasy seems to enjoy.
The crowd were blown away by that stage, grinning jumping screaming
foot-stamping going out of their minds with adrenelin and pure
life-affirming happiness. There were a few incidents, some disturbances
towards the centre of the main section, a lot of security guards rushing
in, not sure what was going on. Later some idiot got on stage and although
the security bundled him off pretty quickly, he managed to get his arms
round Bob's neck and Bob did not look happy. The show seemed very short,
probably just subjective I know, but when the band came back on I couldn't
believe it was the encore, I thought they must be doing 2 short sets!
Spirit on the Water I can live without, as with all of Modern Times, I
just cannot get into that album. Strange he didn't do anything from TTL, I
would have liked to see him do Ever Go To Houston, but we don't pick the
set lists. All in all a fantastic show and a perfect end to a great day
out in Liverpool, lots of encounters with lovely Liverpool people, a great
atmosphere with everybody flooding down to the Albert Dock in the late
sunshine. A well-nigh perfect gig, and an abssolute end to any doubts that
Bob can still deliver live.

[TOP]

Review by Alan Platt


After a good gig in Birmingham, I was looking forward to the Song and
Dance man and his Cowboy Band coming nearer to home in Liverpool. My first
time at the Arena and a great venue. The place was fuller than the NIA and
the audience more responsive. There was a great cheer when the intro to
'Something' paid homage to a local band of the same vintage as Bob.

As at Birmingham the verbal intro missed out the Copeland, and garbled the
spiel, but got the show off quickly and pretty much on time. Also as at
the NIA I hadn't a clue about the first song and there was the odd dud,
but lots of oldies and up to the 11th song, the set list was different. It
was good to hear 'Boots of Spanish Leather' and 'Its alright Ma' going
back to the first Dylan  LP I bought back in the 60s and 'Thunder on the
Mountain;' and 'Just like a Woman' were highlights. The crowd reaction to
LARS was so great that they were happy to play an instrumental chorus
while we all sang along. That led into a great final three with 'Spirit on
the Water' fitting more comfortably in the middle than at Brum.

Bob was never going to rival Clapton as a guitar hero, and his key board
playing is best described as adequate, but by putting it on 'organ mode',
where he can chunk out chords, is a good idea. (I recall a disastrous
'piano' solo at the NEC a few years ago.) They also put the sound balance
to increase the keyboard in the mix and that gives body to the band.
Otherwise Recile was great on drums and Garnier must have played half the
gig using stand up bass. George also showed a dramatic turn of speed when
some idiot got up on the stage during 'Blowing in the Wind' and he
augmented the security for a moment The guitarists were OK but you can
understand why they don't figure on 'Together Through Life'.

It was totally predictable that Bob would not do anything so predictable
as plug the new record; about as likely as finding him on the sofa for
GMTV, but he seems to be becoming predictable with age, or at least to be
comfortable with his current persona and style. If that carries on
producing great albums every 4 years or so, and doing twice the number of
gigs each year that most guys half his age manage thats all to the good. 

So that's it until the next time, and hopefully sooner than last time. 
Here's hoping!

Alan Platt

[TOP]

Review by Trevor Townson



Finding myself at the rail again, no not THE rail but the rail around the 
merchandise. It was the easiest place to stand to have my drink and watch 
Bob's people, also it was fairly quiet which was unusual as normally it is
a heaving mass that only the most hardened of shoppers would ever dare 
venture into. Watching I found myself thinking what on earth makes people 
interested in this stuff, what is their mentality?

25 minutes later I walk away the proud owner of an Eco Bag. This has got
to  be the collectors item of the future, lots of people buying programmes
and posters but not one taker for an Eco Bag and a snip at only 5. I had
visions of Bob having a shed load left over and having to do a car boot
sale (is  that not garage sale where he comes from) with them some day. I
was a  bit annoyed having to ask for a plastic bag to put it in and the
sales assistant was a bit rude by the look I got. Not sure that I have a
use for an Eco Bag  actually as the supermarket I use will supply you with
any amount of plastic carriers for free so I guess I was buying it purely
as a collectable. Always the case, the moment I make my purchase there 
is a run on Eco Bags and everyone is buying one to put their merchandise 
in so my collectable dream once more is no more as Mr Dylan proves yet 
again the better judge of human nature and what the beat on the street 
is. 

Inside it is down to the floor to see the score, one of those undecided 
events where it is unsure whether the seated will be standing or not. It
is all a bit of a jumble up front so I walk from 4th row to the front and
join  a  group standing. Turns out that most of the standing group are
queue  jumpers from the second row so they were eventually and justly
returned to their seats as the event staff finally decided to straighten
things  out.  

As a queue jumper from the 4th I was the last to be found out so I did win
the evenings event of musical chairs before being justly sent back,
Reeeesult. 

What a relief that I was found out as the sound at the front of block C
was easily and by far the worst that I have ever experienced with 
unbearable 
 
thumping vibrations from a pod of stage mounted speakers. I had taken a
break in touring mid week to have a filling done at the dentist but felt
that I was in danger of losing it tonight.

Returning to my proper seat on 4th the sound was still terrible, better 
than on front but still painful. Bob was singing Po' Boy so no way am I
going to  "seemingly" walk out on that, why can he not put Lonesome
Death in when I could  really derive some benefit.

Po' Boy done and it is into Its Alright Ma which again is sacrilege to 
walk away from but I just could not stand the noise. Through the 
thumping and pounding of the stage mounted filling extractor I heard 
something else, ignoring the vibration I heard Bob in brilliant voice and 
I wanted to hear it properly. 

I left my seat to begin walking back, the further away that I walked the 
better the sound became. Standing at the bar for a beer was better
sounding than on front row.  I went back inside to stand at the rear of
the floor on Row FF seat 44 and boy did it sound good, Row HH would 
have been better but there were  people sitting (standing) there. 

Really glad I had gone back as the sound was Something else standing 
alongside the people of Liverpool.

On the floor there was still an element of vibration which when going up a
tier was removed slightly. At mid tier they had put a curtain across the 
exit so standing behind this seemed to mute all the vibration and the
sound was outstanding, the visual was of course as bad as it gets staring
at a black curtain.

Watchtower in the Gents was better than on front (believe me it must have 
been) but Spirit on the Water did not fare so well, if only people would
not pee so loud.  Best place of all for both sound and vision was where
the disabled were  put. This show you had a choice, do you want to see 
Bob or hear Bob, you cannot have both.  Well unless you are me who did,
Brilliant.

Trevor Townson

[TOP]

Review by Frank Keegan



As we drove to the venue the new album was having its umpteenth play. To
this listener the new album was something of a departure in so much as
what struck me first was the sound of the album and the words followed.
Usually, I am so intent on the words that I tend not to "hear" the music
until several plays down the road.

I enjoy listening to this album.

As we arrived at "The Beehive" our friends were already there. Discussions
were afoot with regard to what we might expect. All were sufficiently
experienced to know that the only thing that could be the expected was the
unexpected! Reports in the press, as usual, seemed to concentrate on his
voice being shot, his constant rearranging of classics and the fact that
he never talks to the audience.

His voice is a matter of fact and his arrangements of his songs are his
prerogative. It's where he is at now and how he hears those songs. We
don't have to like them but for me it is performing art and it is
constantly changing. It is part of the live music experience. If we want
to hear the songs how they were sung when they were recorded then that is
what the recordings are for. 

I have to confess I do not understand the latter. Like most who read this
I like other artists and thanks to our intrepid recording colleagues I get
to hear a number of their shows from various tours. Some artists, it is
true, talk and some don't. Those that do invariably say the same thing at
the same point in the show to all audiences so they are not relating
personally to that audience it is all part of the show.

Bob's show is to come on and play for us. The set lists vary sufficiently
for each audience to get "their" show. The more ardent fan can go to
several shows and hear numerous set changes. You look at the tour stats
and see the sheer number of songs played. No other performing artist does
that. The set list is therefore Bob talking to "that" audience.

Like many I wondered before the show whether we would be privileged to
hear a first live performance of a new song. That was not to be and in
some ways I'm glad. Whilst the up-tempo tracks will work live I am not
sure of the slower ones on the album which have Bob's voice just
whispering over great melodies.

I thought this as neither Po' Boy nor Sugar Baby worked for me. But this
is live music, it is an art form to be experienced; you "take what you
need and you leave the rest"

So we never got to hear something from the new album but we did get to
hear "Something". As a native of Liverpool Bob playing that meant more
than a thousand words to me and from the reaction of the crowd many with
no Liverpool links whatsoever they, too, appreciated the gesture.
Journalists please note.

The show had its highs and lows and comments heard when leaving covered
the full spectrum but for me as we wandered out of the Arena into the cool
night air and took in the magnificent waterfront and skyline I felt
privileged to have seen him yet perform again.

Frank Keegan

[TOP]

Review by Ian Corbridge



Well I said it after the Sheffield show, and tonight's performance only served to 
confirm it - Bob and his fine band have not sounded this good in many a long 
year in my own humble opinion. Liverpool was buzzing tonight and the sound 
quality sounded superb from where we were in Block A. Apart from the arena 
stewards (more of that later), this was a perfect evening in the company of our 
very own living legend. What's more Bob seems to be having so much fun, 
which certainly feeds back into the audience.

Anyway, 7.40pm arrived; the announcement was made and out came Bob to 
huge applause and all of us on the arena floor level stood up to enjoy the show. 
Tonight we were treated to an opener of Watching the River Flow, and it was 
indeed a treat. A great opening number with a real swing to it and some great 
organ sounds throughout.

Don't Think Twice followed in what was a very simple but magnificent 
arrangement with a superb upbeat ending. At this point, myself and my mate
Clive were reflecting how life just could not get any better than this - of all the 
places on the planet Earth at this point in history, we were very much in the 
right place!

The next 7 songs mirrored the Sheffield set list from a week before, but that 
was never going to trouble us. A perfect Things Have Changed was first up, 
followed by Boots of Spanish Leather; a lovely arrangement with Bob on guitar, 
and his animated left leg showing that he was having as much fun as we were.

A rocking Levee's Gonna Break was driven forward by a pounding back beat 
courtesy of Tony Garnier's upright base, with duelling guitar breaks providing 
everyone with a challenge to guess who was going next. Awesome!

A lovely, sauntering Sugar Baby led to the rockabilly rhythms of Tweedle Dee - 
another one to keep all those of us on the floor of the Arena firmly rocking on 
our feet.

Bob's organ took centre stage in a fine arrangement of Po'Boy and then it all 
went upbeat again with a rollicking It's Alright Ma. Strangely, during this song, 
the arena stewards decided that we all should sit down and take a rest which 
caused a fair amount of confusion for a while until their task was complete. 
Now shoot me down in flames but I pay good money to see Bob Dylan, not a 
bunch of stewards running about the venue, getting in everyone's way and 
telling everyone they should sit down like dummies instead of dancing to some 
damn fine rock'n'roll. I know they are only doing their job, but whoever defines 
that particular job needs a psychological assessment. If the Queen enters a 
room, all should stand up, and I believe the same philosophy applies to King 
Bob. Anyway, that's my rant done, so on with the show (sat down now!).

We then moved to another variation from the Sheffield set list. The lighting 
changed and Bobs organ swelled throughout another highlight that was Just 
Like A Woman. Then Highway 61 rocked the house, even though we were 
still supposed to be sat down. I was drawn to George Recile's drumming 
throughout much of this song as he marshalled the troops in very fine style 
ensuring order was maintained at all times. 

What came next was the big surprise of the night, indeed one of the big 
surprises of the tour which will generate numerous headlines. The opening 
chords were unmistakeable as the band kicked into George Harrison's 
Something, a nod to both the home of the Beatles and his old compadre in 
the Wilbury's. The crowd rose to their feet as everyone recognised the song, 

which as far as I am aware had only been sung live by Bob once before back 
in November 2002 just after George had died. Truly a special moment and a 
fine arrangement, with great singing by Bob. 

A thunderous Thunder On The Mountain led to a majestic Like A Rolling Stone - 
and those hairs on the back of my neck were dancing once again. This closed 
the main set, but not for very long. The expected encore followed with a 
storming Watchtower followed by Spirit In The Water. The latter is clearly a 
song which Bob has so much fun performing and we certainly have fun 
listening to him. The closing Blowin In The Wind was particularly notable for the 
fact that an over-enthusiastic fan down at the front decided to climb onto the 
stage and approach Bob whilst he was playing his organ. Some nifty footwork 
by Tony Garnier, accompanied by his bass guitar assisted the stage crew in 
ensuring Bob was not put off his stride by this stage intruder (who was led 
away stage right) and Bob carried on with barely a moment's hesitation to 
more rapturous applause. He then took centre stage to close the song and 
the show with a harp solo. The whole Arena created one huge noise as the 
band milked the applause and then exited stage right under bob's direction - 
and we all knew they would not be returning however much noise we made, 
but they certainly deserved it.

All in all, another magnificent show which I will not forget in a long time. 

[TOP]

Review by Brian O'Connell



The Liverpool Arena is on the banks of the River Mersey. It is a
wonderful venue, holding about 9,000 people.

The concert started at 7.30pm. Bob and his band took to the stage a few
minutes late to a great reception.  'Watching the river flow' seemed very
apt as the first song due to the location. 'Don't think twice' and 'Things
have changed' came next with Bob enunciating every word on the latter
song. Bob was centre stage with an electric guitar for a wonderful version
of 'Boots of Spanish leather', then back to the keyboard for 'Levee's
gonna break.'

So far so good, but then 'Sugar baby', Tweedle Dum' and 'Po' boy' dragged
a bit. Things got better with 'It's alright ma' and then 'Just like a
woman' almost took the roof off the Arena! The audience reaction was
phenomenal! There is a lesson here for Bob if he cares to take it!
Everyone was singing along as it was very like the recorded version.
'Highway 61' was great, and then the familiar chords of George Harrison's
'Something' filled the Arena.

For the second time I looked up to check the roof was still intact! 'Like
a rolling stone' finished off the set prior to the expected encore, which
consisted of 'All along the Watchtower' (Jimi Hendrix style of course), a
jazzy 'Spirit on the water' and 'Blowing in the wind' which was a very
uplifting finale. The downside of the gig was the lack of screens that I
had seen used to good effect at previous shows at this venue. We don't
care if you've got wrinkles Bob, we love you anyway. The constant
interruptions by people going for drinks and standing up in front of you
waving beer bottles is enough to put anyone off who came to listen to the
genius that is Bob Dylan. I'm glad I went but I still treasure the
intimate gig at the House of Blues, Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas in
2000 as the best show I have ever seen.

Brian O'Connell
Liverpool   

[TOP]

Comments by PhilTheTill



Great venue, Great Crowd.
Highlights:-
Boots of Spanish Leather
Really nice touch by Bob to do -
"Something"  tribute to the great George Harrisson.
I am not the only critic of Spirit on the Water, some guy jumped on stage,
Toni was like a Pitbull protecting his master. Great City, Great Crack in
the pubs.

PhilTheTill  

[TOP]

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