May 2, 2007
Review by Christian Matschke
Leipzig 2007 in a nutshell: Excellent musicianship. A very focussed
singer who weighs and values every syllable. An almost sold-out place
with a kind of nice & friendly, but sub-dued crowd.
Bob Dylan in his present live incarnation has a strange effect on me*.
The former raging glory of Dylan's live performances has given way to a
non-emotional and unassuming stage presence. I stand there, look at what
is happening on the stage, and I feel the magic is gone. But when I
close my eyes, my ears tell me otherwise: The magic is there, but it has
seperated itself from the man, and now only resides in the music.
Some observations in no particular order:
- The voice is in much better shape than I had expected from briefly
listening to some live recordings of this tour. It is shot, but the
power is still there. And he still can SING when he needs to.
- Masters of War followed It's Alright, Ma and thus reinforced the
impression that these performances of 40+ year old songs actually are
meant to be some sort of criticism directed at present-day US politics.
- George Receli is one of the most articulate, musical drummers you will
ever find. It's amazing how much SPACE he creates even while pushing
songs forward like he does with "Rollin' and Tumblin'". (This is
actually an observation originally made by my wife, who is a
professional in classical music)
- Some songs would benefit from tighter arrangements. Cold Irons Bound
for example meanders a bit too much without making a point. Some moments
on the other hand may benefit from a riskier approach, freeing the band
and the soloist from the limits of the song structure, and letting the
song go in unexpected directions.
- Many twenty- and thirty-somethings in the crowd, lots of grey beards,
* I have seen Dylan in Nuremberg 1978, in Munich 1987 + 1991 + 1995, in
Hamburg 2000 + 2002, and in Erfurt 2005.
Review by Nellie S.
The city the revolution of 1989 made it`s initial steps to end the Cold
War, you know. Civil right´s movements met protected under the roof of
St. Nikolai`s Church to realize the idea of demonstrating every Monday
and fight for democracy and free themselves out of a cage. To ring in a
new age! To react to injustice, peacefully, seethed with rage.
What was left? What has happened `round the awaited show? The
world in a time of woe!
That city was on fire the day before. `t was one of these days you better
shut your door. But to shut your door is completely wrong, cause those
people outraging aren`t strong!
And: The sun was shining.
Walking through the streets the day after the 1st of May, you wouldn`t
have felt so much laughter. Lots of windows destroyed, people hurt, or
And: The sun was shining.
Bob was in a strange mood.
The crowd didn`t react so loudly. At least one guy left. A girl stood
unintentionally little to close to him. Paranoia of theft? Some
aggressiveness – but hardly – and, partly, very friendly gestures
between those human beings waiting for…you know: the man (men!) of the
The audience was in a strange mood.
And everybody stared at the stage. And nothing moved. Bob, nevertheless,
tried very hard, even moving to get them grooving. He couldn´t get them
out of their cage.
Maybe, somebody listened at last?
A glimmer of hope, though the set list was fast?!
Music and words stick together!
The men left – I won´t know in what mood.
I´ve left, too, foot by foot.
Review by Stefan Flach
All is well that ends well - and the same goes for the contrary. The
second half of the Leipzig show was very much spoiled for this wordy
observer, if only because he traded his standing room in 4th row for one
in ... well, in the far-off area where rows can't be detected anymore. The
main problem about writing this review - five days late - is, of course,
that my experience of the show is inevitably tinted by the said
constraint. But let's see what there's left to tell ...
The Arena in Leipzig has two main entrances. When Annika and I arrived 3
1/2 hours before the show should start, we saw that one (on the sunndy
side) was already crowded, whereas the second (on the shady side) had
hardly 10 people standing around. That's where we placed our bet. Already
before Dylan's last show in Leipzig (October 21, 2003) I had spotted a
deserted side entrance where the band could be heard soundchecking. I went
there again, and - lo and behold: "Absolutely Sweet Marie" (minus vocals)
was played. It sounded just perfect and got the green light from me. After
Annika had tried her luck as well, she came back and brought the beautiful
news that she had heard "Senor". We tried to lower our ambitious
expectations by reminding ourselves of the basic rule: songs that are
rehearsed never get played. Other fans standing around knowingly confirmed
Security men at rock shows can be divided into two groups: those who
despise audiences and those who don't; there is no grey level. When we and
others ran through the Arena (the stage was opposite from the entrance)
bunches of musclemen tried to withhold us: "Stop! Don't run!", "You'll get
there early enough", "Show me your ticket again", "Why are you running?
It's just Bob Dylan?!" Cynicism, contempt, power games - daily routine.
Days in which you don't have to deal with such guys are good days.
Needless to say that the first rows were already crowded when we got near
the stage, so that we ended up in row # 4 - level with Dylan's keyboard
and some men who were ... much too tall. The waiting time was cut short,
though, by a pleasant conversation with a fan who, as it turned out, lives
only a few streets away from me.
At around 7:40 Dylan (dressed in a black suit, wearing a white Zorro hat)
and the band (dressed uniformly in dark red suits) entered the stage and
actually started with:
"Absolutely Sweet Marie"
First impression: Wow. Dylan's guitar is incredibly upfront in the mix -
you can hear every single note he plays. Second impression: Huh? Where
have his vocals gone? There are sounds in the mix that remind of singing,
but you cannot really take them as such. We're baffled and wait for the
sound crew to adjust things. Nothing happens. "..ed for ..u when ... was
..alf-..ck, ..ted for ..u ..side of ...ozen ..affic." Sounds that remind
of singing. Some minutes elapse in sheer disbelief. Third impression: When
I turn my head to the far-right I can suddenly grasp him, tubby,
dislodged, but still. "... I can take him to your house but I can't unlock
it." As I cannot possibly twist my neck like that for the whole show I
accept my fate and turn back. "..ere are ..u ..ight, ..eet ..rie?"
Dylan's guitar playing, clearer than the clearest bell, could have been a
joy to behold, though.
When he picked some "random" notes in the darkness between songs I could
make out they belonged to a minor key scale, so that chances improved
"Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)"
Three "signature" drum beats by George Receli, which confirmed the song
was to be played, were followed my some uncertainty: Someone in the band
(not Dylan) seemed to either play a different song or went astray in the
harmonies of "Senor". The entanglement went on until Dylan started singing
- and made for an actually exciting variation. I would have liked the
"wrongdoer" to go on with his actions.
As vocals were still as quasi-inaudible than before, I leaned to the right
as much as possible. Dylan, with an earnest look on his face, was strongly
committed throughout and came up with some piercingly beautiful and moving
intonations, especially on the first bridge. His guitar playing - still
incredibly loud in the mix - made for a treasure vault of "assertive
nuances". I've never heard it like that before. Seeing his fingers move up
and down the neck, producing these wonderfully colorful sounds, was a
drastic experience. Sadly, my all-time favorite song lasted only for five
minutes, like it mostly does.
"Watching the River Flow"
has been played on almost every second show this tour; when you just read
it "on paper" (see setlists on this and other websites) you cannot get an
idea what Dylan and the band are out to accomplish with the song these
weeks. On no other song does he measures his strengths on guitar in an
equally combative way (on "It's Alright, Ma" he rather intersperses
"comments"). Sitting on that bank of sand"? No, he rather conducts his
raiding party through the latter, fighting with raging elements. The
sunburst Stratocaster is his map and compass. Again, his playing was a
revelation, even though his singing was still an indefinite sound among
others - drowned by others.
"It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"
was played in yet another new arrangement, after the hard-rocking one that
was debuted in Amsterdam (April 8). Being somewhat less aggressive, it
resembles the "old" variant again. George's subtle yet accentuated
military march-like drum beat I found most remarkable. As for Dylan's
singing, it was something of a standard version. Only the next day in
Berlin, when he was all fire and flame, it became evident what the new
arrangement "is about". On the Leipzig performance we were shown around
the newly furnished house but only caught a glimpse of its inhabitants.
"Masters of War"
was an unsuspected choice for the first "keyboard" song of the evening, if
only concerning its comparatively early appearance in the set. Dylan's
vocals also improved - yet only concerning their audibility: the
microphone he used on the keys must have had a different line to the
speakers in front of us. Otherwise I thought he sleepwalked through the
song. Once again, it was revealing to see how specifically a less than
animated vocal is bound to influence us. My thoughts began to wander off
with no direction or aim, and returned only after the last line was sung.
I was reminded of a story by Henry James in which the protagonist is so
featureless that no one ever notices him. Only visually I could establish
a connection to the song: Like in Hamburg, the stage was bathed in dark
yellow light, which impressively accentuated the song's gloomy keynote.
This time we only saw some furniture within the house, and didn't even go
from one room to the other (don't worry, the metaphor wo
n't come back).
"'Til I Fell in Love with You"
made me think that Dylan might still be faithful to his "weekly routine"
(playing the same songs on specific days of the week), as both "Masters"
and "'Til I Fell" were also played in Hamburg - another Wednesday show.
The band was tight, the song represented its usual hard-boiled,
intransigent self, Dylan's singing was solid - yet nothing prepared for
what there was to come when he picked up his harp (for the first time ever
on the song) during the second instrumental verse: playing one long
drawned-out note and repeating it over and over, he connected to a whole
new source of energy within the song. The newly gained momentum turned the
song upside down - it was hard to imagine it ever went without these
notes. They seemed a vital necessity. At the end (last instrumental verse)
Dylan follwed them with a different, more elaborated harp solo that was
also quite convincing, yet without connecting to the first. The most
revealing and adventurous performance of the evening. In rem
"When the Deal Goes Down"
then recurred to common ground again. Similar to "Masters of War", though
thankfully less consequently, Dylan sang it in an overall solid, yet
rather absent-minded way. It's quite possible that some characteristic
phrasings and accentuations may be ingrained by now (26 shows on which the
song was always played), and become static elements on "lesser" nights.
Owing to its harmonic requirements the song hardly invites Dylan to draw
on unlimited resources of invention when singing it. The broad outlines
are preset (cf. "Make You Feel My Love", "Moonlight"). If he doesn't
embellish them enough (with varied intonations, interspersed growls etc.),
the statics become obvious. Anyway, this is a general assessment, it
doesn't have to be applied to this particular version.
A gorgeous moment occured when George looked over to Tony and "commented"
on the lyrics by putting on an entranced face and widening his eyes, like
he was saying, "Sure, dear, that's the way it is" ... Tony was enthralled.
"Cold Irons Bound"
followed and sounded as if the glorious 2006 versions had never existed.
For unknown reasons they recurred to the arrangement that was used (with
variations) between 2000 and 2005. It worked mildly. The Gibson "jazz"
guitar that Dennie Freeman used throughout most of the show was especially
out of place on this song, Dylan's vocals felt solid yet hardly committed.
Still, another debut was to be marked: During the intro, Dylan played harp
on the first time on the song, which made for the most invigorating
moments of the performance.
"Spirit on the Water"
has become something of a twin to "When the Deal Goes Down", concerning
the moderately slow tempo and the "major 7sus4ishness" of the songs'
harmonic physiognomy. Unlike "Deal", "Spirit" gives Dylan more room to
roam, though. He also generally uses the lower registers of his voice on
the song, by which his vocals seem more natural. Dylan, executing little
dance-steps and moving to the rhythm throughout, stroke a spark on the
second verse: He (accidentally?) stretched "mean" on "Life without you
doesn't mean a thing to me", and proceeded with the emphasis on the next
lines: "If Aaaaaaah can't have you" ... Moments that the audience loved.
Freeman didn't have his very best day in Leipzig - his soli on this and
other songs were all reliable but hardly more. Only on the next song,
"Rollin' and Tumblin'"
things changed. He traded the "jazz" guitar for his traditional Fender
Stratocaster and played slide - to great effect. Of all the ten songs
repeated one day later in Berlin, "Rollin'" was the only one that was
considerably better in Leipzig. Dylan stretched, kneaded and spat out the
words as if there was no tomorrow, and the band was both tight and
footloose. Even Dylan's keyboard playing - otherwise hardly noticeable -
was most appropriate, as he added some delicious "fairground" banalities.
No, the review ends at this point. My personal show-spoiling indicent
occured after "Rollin'". Some guys who had repeatedly pushed me in the
back (it was awfully tight near the stage) weren't responsive to my plea
to give me more room, so that I lost control and - wandered off. Standing
around in the latecomers' area, where the sound was even more boomy and
louder than up front, was no fun. As I was mainly concerned with the
irreversability of my departure, there wasn't much to gather from the
songs that were to follow - and still less to comment on. That's at least
one problem with acting affectively: only after the explosion you see the
damages it has caused. Already some minutes after I had departed I felt
One impression from the far-off area: People are actually dancing there.
Sure, they also carry tons of beers around and talk on their mobile
phones, but they also dance. Not least, because there's more room. This
might be something that casual hardcore fans don't know. Or do they?
Dylan, by the way, introduced Denny Freeman with the words: "... Denny's
got some CDs out on his own. You may find them in the lobby." (It wasn't
true.) Of course, I learned about the exact wording only one day later,
when I standing again in line with others, die-hard early risers who might
never know how row # 518 looks like - as I didn't want to make them
jealous, I kept quiet.
Review by Reinald Purmann
The Leipzig-Arena is another sports-hall with an u-shaped seating-area around
an infield general-admission zone, where is the dancing tonight. So there is
big distance between the "seaters" and the stage (and the right side will
mostly the back of the Man) what, i.m.o. changed the advantages (and prices)
of this "sitting" completely. - This place with very easy access filled with
4 - 5000 friendly, very mixed crowd.. many young people too! - The crowd
seemed not to be in-depth-researchers like the readers of Billy Pagels faboulus
page, but a very open-minded folk, ready for wait-&-see. - The start was an
unexpected great song, one of my all-time favorites with his enigmatic
saying that honest people could/should (?) live outside the law. The band in
burgundy-red-suits and black hats or cap (Georg R.) . Dylan in his black
suit with trimming, white shirt and white, round hat with wide brim. The
appearance of Mr. Dylan remindet me to the new (very readable!)
Billy-the-Kid-Biographie of M. Wallis "The Endless Ride", when author
described all this "Kids" roaming around Lincoln-County-Road: "The genus
"Kid" wore his hair long, and in curls upon his shoulder in cow-boy or scout
fashion; had an incipient moustache, and sported a costume... ornamented
with fringe, tassels and strings... His head was covered with a cow-boy hat of
phenomenal width of brim...Upon his feet ...very high-heeled, stub toed
boots...." (Wallis "Endless Ride"p.120) Exactly so ! Good description ! Fitting
but unexpected was "Senor" too and followed by a real high-light "Watching
the river flow".. Followed by another high-light with a stunning "busy, busy
beein born". So we had in the first mostly unexpected 4 great songs 2 real
high-lights - Dylan & Band had conquered the crowd with bravado ! - After an
excellent "MOW" (in the poisenous sulphurous light, arranged like a movie-scene)
the crowd realized that the chance to keyboard was not an optical gag for one
song. (Next day in Berlin they would be surprised in reverse for his "return to
Fender" for the first songs) . The center of the show was an excellent CIB,
followed by an majestic TUIB. This song was fixed part of shows for many years,
recently abandoned and tonight (newly arranged, great keyboard in front)
perfectly reborn. "Highway 61" was steam-hammer R&R, D.Freeman lashed in
with lead-guitar. - Only, little let-down was "Watchtower" -newly arranged
nevertheless - when they cushioned the change between the more quiet parts
"There must be some way out of herre..." and the fucking loud "Watchtower.."
little too much to some in-between. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic. So were
we. Waiting for Berlin !
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