page by Bill Pagel
Review by Markus Prieur
Checking our 4th row seats (70 + 71) again before the show, my wife and I
had to find out, they were almost beside the stage, with a view obstructed
by speakers, so we would have seen only the front part of Bob's mike
stand. Fortunately we were offered row 10, (55 + 56) spots by two nice
Ladies from the other side of the Atlantic, as they intended to really go
up front. But when the same appalling security showed them back to their
seats during "Stuck", we had to move into the aisle. (Thanks anyway again
to Miss Lucy and to Mary J.)
Trying to avoid confrontation with security, we could move enough up front
to stand almost underneath the left speakers. Since security focused on
keeping the aisles clear everywhere else but very close to the stage
(where they certainly would have greatly distracted Bob and the band, as
it was a noisy business, conducted in a very disturbing manner for
everyone nearby), we ended up with rather excellent sights and sounds to
enjoy the last of the eight shows we came to Britain for.
And what a show it was, with only 19 songs again, but only seven
repetitions from the night before, most of which were well worth
repeating, most of all the brilliant opener, "I AM THE MAN THOMAS", which
Bob chose to sing for the third time in Britain this month, thus having
started eight shows each of both his tours this year so far with this
wonderful song about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(http://notdarkyet.tripod.com/man.html) This is something he probably
would not have done, if he would not indeed be hanging on to this Solid
Rock, he sang about to 15 audiences in Europe during this fine tour. He
won't let go no more the nail scarred hand of his wonderful Savior and
risen Lord that will lead him beyond the burning sand.
The nicest surprise of the night was the inclusion of the second acoustic
"If You See Her, Say Hello" of this European tour. It started with violin
and harp, featuring some lyric changes, and more violin by Larry
throughout the song. The second acoustic set (always three songs) deserves
special mentioning. Another soft "Mama", starting with harp intro,
preceded a good "HARD RAIN" (http://notdarkyet.tripod.com/hardrain.html) ,
which always is a lyrical high point for me and welcome to my ears,
especially if it is followed by a surprising and beautiful "FOREVER YOUNG"
(http://notdarkyet.tripod.com/young.html) , which actually even benefits
from a position further up front in the set. (Very nice choice indeed, as
this also meant, that London remained "un-tangled" this year ;-)
The only acoustic song during the encores was an intense and surprising
"Knocking", which knocked "Blowing" off its post-"Honest With Me"
position. Which brings me to another observation I made last night. Bob
performed five songs from "Love & Theft" during his set, and each and
every one of those performances he nailed (I mean NAILED), as if his life
depended on it (or to put it this way, as if 5000 copies of "L&T" would
have to be sold right after the show, and every one of them HAS to go). He
really put a lot into his newer lyrics (all his other songs last night
were at least 28 years old).
The way his voice delivered softly the lyrics of "Moonlight" and "Sugar
Baby", or the way he almost yelled the words of "Cry A While" and "Honest
With Me", was simply amazing. (It was the last show of the tour, so his
voice can rest for a while now.) "Summer Days" was brilliant as ever, and
remains my favorite "L&T" song I saw during these shows (did I ever
mentioned those guitars ? ;-), as "Mississippi" did not appear at all in
It is also great to watch how Bob can rely on these outstanding musicians
around him, who play all those various styles with ease, together in
perfect harmony; and always on their toes (as they had to be last night,
when they started "Drifter's Escape" and then Bob all of the sudden sang
"There was a Wicked Messenger"). They all seem to really enjoy playing
with Bob as well, even during the songs played often, visible last night
during songs like "Rolling Stone" (which was again more enjoyable for me
as the first encore song than it was as the second), and during the
perfect curtain closer, another rocking "Watchtower", which might have
been the last song in which we could have seen Jim Keltner in Bob's band,
a great drummer, who had been introduced by Bob Dylan in London in 1981 as
"a legend in his own time". Who knows who will beat the drums during the
next Bob Dylan concert?
Anyway, Bob Dylan in May 2002 sang 163 songs in Britain (100 of them he
performed in the last five days alone). 63 different songs we got to hear
during these eight shows, 23 of them but once, and a further 15 of them
only twice. There sure have been some nuggets worth crossing the Irish Sea
for, and worth driving all those miles across Britain in our little red
Micra, which took me to 29 of my 40 Bob dates by now.
As I type in this last review, having found internet access in
Swansea/Wales again on our way back to Ireland (as I did before in
September 2000, when I typed in the last of ten reviews from Vicar Street
to Portsmouth), I have to say it was again a great way to spend our
vacation, as we also met many wonderful people along this trip (some of
which I already knew via email), like Geoff and Jeff in Brighton, J. J. in
Bournemouth and beyond (I told him already that I actually saw him yawning
twice last night during "12&35"), and the nice couple from Tel Aviv (who
flew in just for the two London shows, after waiting in vain for nine
years on Bob to revisit Israel); just to name a few. And of course we
would do it again, anytime.
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
Review by Stefan Czemerys
Having travelled down from Scotland for this show I expected perhaps more
than the venue could deliver. I had seen Dylan twice in Glasgow and once
in Stirling since 1995. I guess since they were all standing concerts I
made the effort to get near the front and having done so could become
thoroughly involved in the brilliant experience a Dylan concert can
deliver. Sitting in the West tier at the London Arena not that far from
the stage the concert was completely ruined by people not remotely
interested in what was going on on stage. A constant stream of people
walking up and down the stairs looking for more alcohol, in conjunction
with the endless prattle of surrounding concert goers discussing their
lives ruined the concert for me. Maybe this is the London experience? The
stewards were unable to keep control. The lighting in the venue was too
bright. Dylan only seemed interested in relating to the audience
immediately in front of the stage. What more can I say? The highlights
were a particularly sublime Hard Rain, and the material from TOOM and Love
and Theft. Dylan seemed tired but did make the effort sporadically
throughout the show. An ultimately disappointing show made infinately
worse by the disastrous venue. Maybe next time I'll travel to
continental Europe to witness his undoubted genius. It certainly won't be
the London Arena!
Review by Phil Teece
Another twist in the long road from OZ to the UK at London Arena tonight.
Contrary to many postings, I thought our man was tired and a little jaded
at Birmingham on Friday, after rocking our socks off at Cardiff. Hardly
surprising that he might be, since he's barely had a night off, and only
then to enable them to travel way up to Tyneside.
Knowledgeable reports said he was also 'unenergized' in London on
Saturday. I wouldn't know since I missed that one. But I do know he
played a really terrific set last night, his last for this tour. Verdicts
overheard on the Docklands light rail system and the tube ranged from
'wasn't he great' to utter ravings about 'best gigs I've ever seen' and
I AM THE MAN, THOMAS was a foot-tapping, enthusiastic throat-clearer. And
it was a relief NOT to get 'Times' at 2, replaced by a nice TO RAMONA,
with Mr Campbell's mandolin as pleasant as always on this one. I slept
thru MA, at 3, though I think it was quite a good version. But I woke up
with a start when I saw said Campbell's fiddle appear, and rejoiced loudly
when they burst into a fabulous IF YOU SEE HER, SAY HELLO....a real
highlight which, to use a tired phrase, was worth the admission price on
its own. Even more so than Tomorrow is A Long Time in Birmingham the
MOBILE and MOONLIGHT followed [both fine] and then another high spot for
me, a thumping, dirty SUBTERRANNEAN HOMESICK BLUES. An absolutely awesome
CRY AWHILE then had everybody well and truly going [Bob's last-verse,
last-line 'cry a-whiiiiiiiiiii-a-iiillllle' had to be his longest note for
ages.] . And then complete contrast with yet another personal favourite:
a 'sweet' MAMA YOU BEEN ON MY MIND with lots of soft terminal-elevations
in his voice. The greatest hits folks were then enraptured when HARD RAIN
followed, and fair enough - it was a good version.
I was taken completely by surpise when a nice FOREVER YOUNG appeared at
no 11. But once again nearly everything was soon overshadowed by another
red-hot SUMMER DAYS, with Charlie going beserk once again, closely
followed by the rest of 'em. SUGAR BABY slowed things down nicely - a
very good version, I thought. Straight back up the curve again though,
with a VERY solid WICKED MESSENGER, before as good a RAINY DAY WOMEN as
I've heard for a while ended a terrific set.
The encores were shortened to four, with two surprises: LARS first up
[much searchlighting of the very-enthusiastic crowd again] and then no
BLOWIN'. The abbreviated finale was probably reasonable enough. They'd
played a marvellous hot set, with some great variations; it's the end of
an arduous trek and they must be tired. It still amazes me that old Bob
can still get himself off the canvass like he did tonight though.
Knackered one night, and truly ripping into it the next. Long may it
MEMO : You guys who bailed up Larry Campbell for autographs before the
start - remember to bring a pen in future. I won't always be there!! And
safe journeys to all of you.
Review by Mick Gold
Ramona was a promising start, sounding both tough and tender. It's Alright
Ma seemeded a bit perfunctory. On Meet Me In The Moonlight, his voice had
never sounded more dubious & unconvincing to my ears. A senile drone
dancing around a 1930s jazz melody. Was that effect deliberate?
Mama You've Been On My Mind was definitely a first for me, a song he
doesn't do very often live. But it sounded like he had problems
remembering the lyrics and it didn't achieve lift-off. It took me several
seconds to work out which song this was.
For me the breakthrough was A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall which was simple and
beautiful, liken the voice of experience singing to the voice of
innocence. "Guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children"made me
think of all the massacres in American high schools, and sounded
infinitely sad and majestic. The interplay of the acoustic guitars was
lovely. This song was effortlessly followed by Forever Young which sounded
like another affectionate way of saying goodbye to youth.
Sugar Babe sounded tender and heartfelt, and he sang the words, "Some of
these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff" with great affection,
producing whoops of joy from the audience, many of them carrying digital
cameras and 32 track recording studios beneath their jackets.
>From here on the show had a really incisive rhythm. Wicked Messenger had
intoxicating guitar break, and Bob seemed to be so high on the sound, that
he grabbed his harp and started to lay down a Little Walter like sound on
top of the frenzied interplay of Campbell and Sexton.
Rainy Day Women featured Jim Keltner's polite version of the famously
frenzied Salvation Army band strut of the original. And Bob sang "They'll
stone you when you're trying to mae a buck" with great thoughtfulness, a
dry intelligence interrogating the madness of the song. He even introduced
the members of his band in a respectful way, as the familiar beat
continued to pound politely in the background.
Similarly, the first encore, Like A Rolling Stone, had a wonderfully
understated chorus. How does it feel? was sung as a melodious and
sympathetic question, not snarled or shouted, but an enquiry of quiet
A kind of middle-aged ecstasy seized the audience around me, and grown
women stood on chairs and waved their arms ecstatically in the air.
Honest With Me had a fabulously frenzied R&B guitar interplay. Knockin' On
Heaven's Door again sounded like a thoughtful farewell to life. A series
of lilting rhythm seemed to animate Bob's voice. Cigarette lighters and
flames were held aloft across the hall.
All Along the Watchtower was a lovely send-off, Larry Campbell's violin
and the guitars playing in a frenzied yet melodious fashion. After the
instrumental break Bob returned to the first verse and sang it again.
"None of them along the line know what any of it is worth" were the last
words of the show and he sang them with great clarity and conviction.
Review by Eben Hensby
For this last show, Kait and I were seated together for the first time since
Newcastle. We weren't nearly as close as Newcastle; we were up in the stands
on Larry's side. Nonetheless, the seats were pretty good. There was good sound
and we could still see quite well. We also decided later that it was best this
way because it was a way to unwind: seeing the last show from upfront might have
made us crave another more badly than we did (maybe).
Anyway, the first thing I noticed about this show, the last of the tour, was
that Bob was wearing a black cowboy hat instead of the white one he had worn at
the other four shows. It was brought to my attention that Bob also wore a black
cowboy hat to the Austin show - the last show from the last tour.
I Am The Man, Thomas
Bob used the same opener as he did yesterday in the Docklands arena.
Already, early on, Bob's phrasing was very good. That's one of the reasons
I love To Ramona in concert: it is the kind of song that allows Bob to use his
phrasing very well.
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
I don't get tired of hearing this song over and over - it's a great song and
I'm glad Bob realizes that.
If You See Her, Say Hello
This was the big surprise of the night. I saw Larry pull out the fiddle and
I started getting excited…what were we getting? My Back Pages? To Be Alone
With You? If You See Her, Say Hello? And as it started up I let out a little
shout of excitement…it was If You See Her, Say Hello! Some notes on which
lyrics he used: he sung "sometimes do" and "through and through", and he sung
"bone" and "alone". Then there were two lyric changes I caught: he sung "she
still lives inside my mind" instead of "heart" and he also sung (I missed
writing down the parts represented by "…") "…quick, / please don't mention
her name to me … just makes me sick". This, along with You're A Big Girl Now
from Birmingham, makes two Blood On The Tracks songs with lyric changes.
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
This was a so-so version of this song.
This was the third Moonlight I'd heard in the five England shows, but it was
in this version that I realized how amazing it is that Bob can smooth his voice
so when he wants to. Some say Bob's lost control of his vocals, that they're
getting too old and used, but I think he sings the way he does because he likes
it, because he can best express himself in that manner. Anyway, the smoothness
was hard to believe and it was very spine-tingling.
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Cry A While
Two great rockers, and I enjoyed them both (though I don't care for Cry A While
as much as other Dylan songs).
Mama, You Been On My Mind
It was great to hear this song start out and the beginning was very promising,
but Bob's phrasing just wasn't good enough and his guitar playing was a bit off,
so this song ended being just ok.
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
I don't know what it is about the current arrangement I don't like, but I just
don't like it. This version was a bit better, but it still doesn't do much
It was rather surprising to hear this song being played outside of the encore.
I've come to an opinion throughout these five shows: Bob's acoustic guitar
playing can be quite good and interesting, at the least. Bob's electric
guitar playing, on the other hand, is rarely good and often makes me scratch
my head. In some songs we get to hear Charlie and Larry show just how great
they are, but I don't think they're allowed enough freedom. In this song,
the only note I took was: "Bob, turn yer geetar down!". The instrumental jam
in Summer Days led by Charlie and Larry was like an intricate sentence in a
beautiful prose piece and Bob's guitar was like someone trying to shove
periods or exclamation marks in mid-sentence for no apparent reason.
I had been crossing my fingers and hoping to hear Mississippi (which I haven't
heard yet), but we got Sugar Baby (which I haven't really loved since Kemper
left). It was nice.
The Wicked Messenger
Again in this song, Jim's drumming sucked. Bob sort of made up for it by
delivering the lines very powerfully. The line "note in his hand" was very
well sung as was "Iiiiiiiii swear they're burning" (he growled out the
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
This song featured some very good jamming to end the regular set.
Like A Rolling Stone
Like last night, Bob opened the encore set with Like A Rolling Stone. I
really love this song in concert because of the crowd energy it brings forth.
Even people in the stands, who had sat all show, were up and dancing. I just
smile when I see all these folks having fun.
Honest With Me
Bob and the band rocked through this one. It just doesn't do anything for me
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
This is one of the encore songs I always hope to hear. This was the first
time in the five shows he played it. The current arrangement is just so well
done and I just love it.
All Along The Watchtower
Again, this song was very good, though not quite as good as yesterday (the riff
and interplay of last night was unsurpassable by this version). I only wish
they'd turn Larry up…he's doing some great stuff but is back in the mix for
Surprisingly, the show ended after All Along The Watchtower: Bob didn't play
Blowin' In The Wind this show! At the end of the show, Bob gave the thumbs
down, as he had done in Texas. Also, for the first time I'd seen, Bob blew the
audience a kiss. He was then gone, and my UK trip was done. Kait and I were
both very glad we'd gone and we'd seen four very good to great shows (and then
there was Newcastle…).
page by Bill Pagel
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