page by Bill Pagel
Review by Nick Wilkinson
I have just returned home from a remarkable and fascinating concert
performance by a true legend. I attended the Manchester show also (May
9th) which was extremely good, although I must say that what I witnessed
tonight at London Arena was much better value for money. As soon as the
house lights did dim at 8.10 and the band ripped into my 2nd "I Am The
Maaaaaan!" I could tell that the band were more together and ready to rock
than 48hrs beforehand. Dylan's vocal was clearer and more distinctive.
Dylan was a mesmerising presence in his large white stetson and black suit
complete with red stripe along the trouser. Then Bob picked up his harp
and played a beautiful opening to 'Times' - again a clear and polished
performance. 'It's Alright Ma' - a reworked and satisfactory rendition.
Then came one of the main highlights for me, 'Baby Blue', which I first
heard live on Thursday and sounded truely magnificent! the harp made
another early appearance during this. Outstanding! Then the 1st of the
fully rock numbers arrived in 'Solid Rock'. I'm afraid I have never been a
great fan of this song from Dylan's 'biblical period' but nonetheless it
was a good intro of Dylan's strat. During this number I left my seat,
towards the back of the forward facing chairs in the centre of the arena,
and began a quest to get near to Bob. This resulted in a central view 12
rows from him for the length of 6 further songs!! (at this point I was
kindly removed by an uncompromising steward). The atmosphere down there
was electric and Bob's character even more captivating. Then came the 1st
of 4 songs from L&T - 'Floater'. With Tony on a standup bass, this had a
real bluesy, relaxed vibe to it. Then quite a surprise in 'Subterranean'!
This performance of a great comical song was marvellous! Bob was almost
rapping out the words. "Don't follow leaders" Bob told us, but if you
must, he's the one to follow. Then the band really fell into rock mode
with 'LDB'. The diversity of the range and pitch in Dylan's voice was
clearly highlighted in this excellent new song. Also I noticed Dylan
performing some impressive guitar work through the course of this number.
I feel that he is an underrated guitarist.
Then came probably the best song of the night for me, a heartfelt piece
of harmonica led us into a breathtaking 'Mr Tambourine Man'. Can one ever
tire of this incredible song? I had heard this only once before in
Sheffield in Sep.2000 but the magic of this performance was something to
behold. If this performance was to be bettered then it was with 'Visions
of Johanna'. The reworking of this divine song is just beautiful.
Sublime. Then came 'Don't Think Twice'. The audience really appreciated
this song. Dylan forgot a line of it and simply mumbled, sharing a smile
with the audience! He seems to be in the habit of lifting the last word
of each line to numerous songs, exposed no more so than during this;
"treated me un...KIND....but I don't...MIND" etc. The atmosphere inside
the arena really lifted up a level during this song and remained there,
probably due to the beauty of the previous song. Then we were all treated
to 'Blind Willie McTell'. A glorious song! Then the lights shone
symbolically yellow for 'Summer Days'. This song is almost twice the
length of the L&T version, with a lengthy interchanging of guitar solos
from the three maestros. This was the moment I outstayed my welcome from
the 12th row and had to retreat to my seat! :( but at least i had had a
great view of his Bobness! :) Then came those familiar echoes from '97
and...'Cold Irons Bound'. This was a good rock performance and Dylan
appeared to be really enjoying himself, lifting his guitar up like a
rifle in a pose. It was about this point when I sadly realised that there
would be no 'TUIB' :( This is possibly my all time favourite Dylan song
and my only real complaint from this superb concert. He didn't play it on
Thursday either, although he did on Friday and I have no doubt that it
will get another outing tomorrow as well. Oh well. Next up, a strong n
heavy 'Pill-Box Hat'. After this the stage lights died down and the band
walked off stage in the shadows. After nearly 3 mins they returned for
'Rolling Stone'. In a critical aspect, I find the shining of the stage
lights across the audience during the chorus of this song a little
patronising. Are we all supposed to wave and cheer only at the chorus of
Dylan's signature song?! However, the delivery of this was excellent and
Jim's drumming at the close showed just why he has worked with some of
the best in the business. Then 'Honest With Me', an exciting song in
keeping with the rocky mood which was suddenly brought down with a
fantastic 'BITW'. Bob's harp made its final appearance at the opening of
this, after which he just threw it on the ground. He probably has a
couple more. The harmony he creates with Charlie and Larry on this is
very effective and was reflective of 'Forever Young' on Thursday. I
noticed that just one person (towards stage left) waved their lighter
throughout this in what must be the epitome of sentimentality. Sadly,
more people were waving mobile phones for the benefit of their friends,
or to bring a tear to their mums! The show closed with a remarkable and
Hendrixesque 'Watchtower'. This is a great closing piece. Then Bob got
down on his knees and lifted his guitar up for a final time. The audience
were in oblivion! With that he walked off stage again, but unfortunately
this time he wasn't to come back. As I watched his white hat move along
and into blackness, I thought he didn't say "thangooo" even once! Catch
ya next time Bob.
Nick Wilkinson (19)
By Bob's own high standards, the first London show was a decidedly
mediocre offering. However, even the dodgy Dylan shows nowadays have good
to be found in them and, sure enough, shining like a polished gem from the
midst of this ashen dross, was a passionate reworking of 'Blind Willie
McTell'. I felt a certain trepidation as Bob struck up those magical
chords, hot on the heels of his systematic destruction of 'Mr. Tambourine
Man', in which he struggled to fit the words together in any kind of
coherent order, and 'Visions Of Johanna', which at one point ground to a
virtual standstill, deserted not only by the muse, but also by the band.
'Blind Willie Mc Tell' was different- it had mood, a dusty atmosphere, a
feeling of history- augmented by a poignant, beautifully judged solo from
Charlie. In fairness, the rest of the show had occasional peaks to give
some perspective to the depths. The 'Love And Theft' material, as ever,
stood out with vigour and menace: excellent renditions of 'Floater',
'Lonesome Day Blues' and, in particular, 'Honest With Me' showed London
that Dylan could do more than simply massacre his 'Greatest Hits'. 'Solid
Rock' was perhaps the tightest band performance of the night, and Dylan
growled this one out with fierce intent. The only other highlight was an
immaculate 'Blowin' In The Wind', embraced by a lovely harp intro and
caressed with sympathetic phrasing. Indeed, by the time the show ended Bob
had just started to become interested- perhaps a good omen for tonight's
finale? I would hope to see set-list changes: last night we endured
'Times' and 'It's Alright Ma' at their most sloppy and turgid at 2 and 3;
the show never had a chance to gain any momentum. In spite of the
occasional sublime moment of transcendence, Bob was for the most part
struggling to conentrate last night (much like the crowd who, from where I
was sitting about a mile and a half from the stage, were more interested
in talking about their social lives than listening to the music), whilst
the band tried in vain to get out of second gear (Keltner in particular
struggled last night). Bob has already delivered more than we could
possibly have hoped for or expected on this latest UK leg of the NET:
could there be one last twist of genius tonight?
Review by Richard Maynard
Another Saturday night, another Bob show, after last week's outing to
Brighton. What a difference a week makes.Bob has only had one night off
since then and it's starting to show. After a storming opener of 'I Am The
Man, Thomas' we had one of the worst renditions of 'The Times They Are A
Changin' I've heard for ages, as Bob struggled to find his voice and
gabbled through the words.In fact it took Bob an hour to really find his
voice, and much of the singing was indifferent compared to a week before.
'Visions Of Johanna', despite some lovely playing from the band, was
almost unrecognisable to begin. That said, it was certainly a more
interesting set than last week, less dependant on crowd-pleasers, and so
there was a rare outing for the likes of 'Blind Willie McTell' and 'Solid
Rock', and a nice 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright'. It was a shorter set
tonight, with fewer encores, but I think the old boy enjoyed himself,
judging by the way he dropped down to one knee at the end. Now what was
that all about...
Review by Michael Bamford
How does the song go "what a difference a day makes, 24 little hours" and
an audience who were there to both listen and enjoy another good show from
Bob and the Band, A bit garbled in places but instrumentally WOW!!!. In
addition to Bobs overall performance the jams in the middle of Summer
Days, Rolling Stone and Watchtower were awesome. The rundown of the set
list song by song has already been done so I'll not bore you with that,
but as this was my last show of this UK tour, I'd just like to say that it
has been one of the best tours for quality of overall performance and
variety of songs played that I've attended in many a year.
Review by Markus Prieur
Featuring only 19 songs, being the shortest show on this tour so far, the
first of the two concerts by Bob Dylan in London was excellent, a
faultless performance! It had been the first appearance of the world's
best and most important artist in Europe's largest city since September
11th, so I for my part was very pleased that he chose to sing two of the
first five songs about Jesus Christ.
As in Brighton a week before, the show kicked off with a strong and
energetic "I AM THE MAN THOMAS" (http://notdarkyet.tripod.com/man.html) ,
being the seventh time during this tour this song had been performed.
"Times" ended with a harp solo, and the fifth "Ma" in a row featured great
drums. "Baby Blue" started with harmonica, and as one week before in
Brighton, it was followed by Bob Dylan's confession that he still is
"hanging on to a SOLID ROCK" (http://notdarkyet.tripod.com/solidrock.html)
; and solid rock it was indeed, this brilliant song, rocking the 15th
European venue on this tour. A true high point.
My personal concert experience however went downhill from that hight
point, not because of the performance on stage, which remained strong
throughout, but because of "Gestapo like" security behaviour, for they
were starting to clear the aisles, which had been filling up during an
early stage run followed by a continuous stage walk. Gradually we were
moved back to our original seats, which were on a corner of a block on the
right side on the floor (the first 5 songs I saw from the center behind
the first block of rows), so security remained our major obstacle to enjoy
this great show, as they constantly kept clearing the aisles, asking
everybody walking towards the front for their tickets, in a futile attempt
to have everybody stand in front of their own seat only. Most disturbing
All the 19 songs I had seen before during this vacation in Britain, but
some of them only once or twice, so it was a pleasure to hear another
"Floater"; and the second appearance of "BLIND WILLIE MCTELL"
(http://notdarkyet.tripod.com/blind.html) within 49 hours, including
another great guitar solo by Charlie, did not bother me at all. "Summer
Days" was a pure invitation to dance, and the first London version
(including those great guitars which I believe I had mentioned before ;-),
was as good as it gets.
The most redeeming part of "Pillbox" for me is always the band intro,
especially when every member gets to play a short solo (I'm still not
giving up hope to hear "Cat's In The Well" tonight ;-). After a short
break Bob cut short the encores by two songs (not only by one song like
the day before in B'ham), but he did it in a very interesting way, by
cutting them at the front and in the middle, thus leaving out the first
acoustic encore, and moving up the ever present "Rolling Stone" to start
this shorter part two of the show.
This was a most effective surprise to my ears at least, as it was
unexpected; and a powerful version it was, very fitting in this spot,
making this 26th version I have seen in 39 shows the most enjoyable
version I can recall. Following this "Rolling Stone" directly with "Honest
With Me" kept the energy flowing; and another "Blowing" (starting with a
harp intro once more) preceded the final song of the night, a smoking
version of "Watchtower", which was one for the history books. Rock at it
should be, with great drumming by Jim Keltner. What more can you ask for?
One more show with this fine band in London tonight, four hours ahead of
us, hopefully with less disturbances by security. I checked our seats
already last night, they will be in the fourth row, but all the way to the
left side, 70 and 71. I suspect it will be another top performance, and it
might even include some more surprises. "Mississippi" would be nice,
NOT DARK YET
A WEBSITE FOCUSING ON SOME OF THE SONGS
PERFORMED OCCASIONALLY BY BOB DYLAN
IN 2002, IN 2001, IN 2000 AND IN 1999
For the first of the two London shows, my seats started out up off the floor and
behind the mixer. I decided these were too far back so I managed to get up to
the third row and stayed there, standing, for the entire show.
At tonight's show, Bob had much better singing than yesterday in Birmingham and
he was much more animated (mind you I was further back in Birmingham so that might
affect my judgment).
I Am The Man, Thomas
Bob decides, after two shows, to return to opening with a traditional song.
This is a cool opener, so I was pleased.
The Times They Are A-Changin'
For some unknown reason, Bob occasionally decides he's going to try to sing
this song. And for an equally unknown reason, Bob rarely remembers all the
lyrics. In this version, he managed somehow to mess up the lyrics in the
first verse. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a good version.
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
A great song performed very well, but one I've heard numerous times over the
last few shows so its effect is unfortunately wearing off.
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Another solid performance, but nothing too special about it I suppose, except
that it had a pedal steel and intro harp.
When I first heard this in Newcastle, we were forced to sit through it and
that really took away from it. Today, we were up dancing around. This
version rocked, and man it was loud! I noticed an interesting lyric change:
he sings "never give up till the battle's won" whereas the Saved version has
"lost or won". I think leaving "lost" out is significant in relation to the
Middle East conflicts.
I had been talking to Kait before the show, telling her I'd seen every Love
And Theft song except Po' Boy, Bye And Bye, Mississippi, and Floater. Today
I got one of those: Floater. It was better than I had expected it to be (I
don't like Floater as much as the other L&T songs).
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Again, Bob really rocks this one! Wow. I just love the arrangement of this
so much and hope he plays it often. There were lots of flubbed lyrics, and
I've come to the conclusion that Bob is the best there is at making a mumbled
word sound like a real word.
Lonesome Day Blues
And another great blues rocker to close the first electric set, and what a
set it was. In this one, Bob really growls out some of the words, like
"throwing saaaaaaaaand on the floor". Great.
Mr. Tambourine Man
Visions Of Johanna
These were both average versions of great songs.
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
This song was a surprise highlight. It was full of energy, emotion, and was
great! When Bob sung out "ain't no use in callin' out my name babe" someone
in the crowd yelled out "BOB" and Bob sort of turned his head and scanned the
crowd. Then they did it again when Bob sung that line the second time. Bob
was making funny faces and really getting into it. It really was cool.
Blind Willie McTell
Just like two nights ago in Manchester, Charlie picked this song up to another
level. It wasn't quite as good as in Manchester (it seemed as though Charlie's
playing wasn't quite as good and he didn't play quite as much) but it was a
very good version anyway.
Cold Irons Bound
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
These three last songs of the regular set were all well done. Summer Days
had its wonderful instrumental jam, Cold Irons Bound started with its
spine-tingling intro, and, during the band introductions in Leopard-Skin,
Bob let the band do their jams after their names were mentioned - this was
the first time I'd heard this. Larry had a cool solo, Charlie had a longer
solo (though it wasn't as good), and then Jim and Tony both had solos. It
Like A Rolling Stone
It was odd to hear this song opening the encores, so I kind of wondered what
was going to happen. During an instrumental jam in this song, Charlie lost
his guitar pick once again (he had been breaking or losing them all night),
so Bob hilariously offered Charlie his pick. :)
Honest With Me
Blowin' In The Wind
Again hearing these two songs in these slots was odd. I started to think
that either Bob was shortening the encore set or he was going to give us
All Along The Watchtower
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love this song. And the current
arrangement just rocks. This version was probably the best of the five England
shows I saw. Larry was absolutely on fire. Later in the song, Bob found this
really awesome riff on the guitar, then Charlie and Larry picked up on it; the
interplay was great. This is one of the songs I need to hear again.
And with that, the first London show came to an end. It didn't seem to matter
too much that the encore set was shortened by a few songs. We had received a great
show, and I had been close enough to really enjoy it. This and Manchester turned
out to be the two best shows of the five I saw.
The next show was to be in the same arena as this one. We went back to our hotel
and got rested up for tomorrow's show…
page by Bill Pagel
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