Bucharest, Romania

Zone Arena

June 2, 2010

[Trevor Townson]

Review by Trevor Townson

Choice, sometimes you can have too much and you would be far better off  
with less, have you ever tried buying something as simple as a can of white 

Not that it is possible to buy a can of white paint theses days in the  
first place unless you know the colour of white needed plus all the other 
technicalities of the mixture. No good seeking advise either as that guy 
employed by the DIY store for his many years of experience will only advise you 
that in the end it really comes down to personal Choice as all white paints are 
pretty much the same.

Bob Dylan can also give some of us a lot of Choice, the Choice of which  
concert to go to  for instance. As with white paint you can seek advise but 
nobody can really help as it comes down to you in the end to make your Choice 
 and wait and see the result once the job is done.

My previous Choice was Chicago during the last night of which I experienced 
 such a precious moment between a father and his young daughter standing in line
 waiting for Bob. A moment when you just wished that these two people could not 
only see Bob but meet him. Two people who were not going to take anything at all
 from Bob but for who he could have given them so much from just two minutes or 
less of his time.

OK so lots of minutes times thousands of people pretty soon adds up to  
become totally impractical which is why I understand the need for Bob to vanish 
 quickly as we are all still left standing there in the dark clapping. 
Anyway how  much can one guy be expected to give and did Bob not once say
“just because they  like my stuff does not mean that they own me” or
something like that. 

Bob included almost totally new lyrics to the Chicago opener Gonna Change  My
Way Of Thinking which is a good Choice in any guise. I never even noticed the 
lyric changes at the time which shows why I tend to be living in the moment 
during concert rather than gathering information for review. Slow Train as a 
Choice is one of my favourite albums (and songs) and I never even noticed such a
 radical change of lyrics to one of the songs from it at the time things were 

Opener aside it was those two people attending the third night that are my  most
cherished memory of Chicago, just two more of Bobs people from Chicago,  people
who like me were just fans. Attending that concert with her dad that  night was
a memory that would no doubt some day a long way down the line go to  the grave
with her as it was so obviously a profound and cherished loving memory  that you
did not need to be a mind reader to pick up on.

My next Choice after Chicago was seeing all those night on night GA dates  and I
really wanted to go to Japan as it sure seemed the tour to do, Intercity  bullet
train style with concerts at each stop. Turned out that the train tickets  were
the only tickets that I could  guarantee getting at face value so the  costs
were soon looking far too prohibitive to making the trip. I was once asked  what
I would do if Bob stopped touring, “Probably pay the mortgage off” I 
replied! I think that I would have had to take out yet another loan on top 
though in order to have made Japan.

Fortunately at the present time Bob Dylan concerts are not unduly rare and  the
chances are that there will be another show in a town near you soon. Like  buses
if you miss one there will soon be another one coming along so catch that  one

With the Far East tour in full flow other dates where flooding in for just 
about every Eastern European country that most of us had never thought about 
ever going to. Even that some of the places existed let alone us knowing where 
they all are. Bucharest, Sophia, Skopje, Belgrade, Zagreb, Bratislava etc, etc. 
Can you decide? How do you make a Choice? For example, in which one of these 
places are we most likely to get Romance In Durango or Tombstone Blues 
reappearing on the set list again, see what I mean just far too much Choice. 

“Even its fiercest advocate would readily admit that when taken at face  value
Bucharest is Europe’s most unappealing capital” so said the guide book. 
 This however was inconclusive evidence for the particular purpose 
Bucharest held  for me so I remained undeterred for now, right or wrong, I was
sticking with my  Choice. The guide book goes on “But let’s be honest, you
probably aren’t coming  for the sights”, how does the writer of the guide
book know me so well I  thought..

I was beginning to realise now just why it had proved so difficult in my  
local shops to get a tour guide for Bucharest, impossible actually as mine was 
eventually obtained via mail order! Bucharest and Romania were not probably on 
many peoples Top Ten list of places to visit. With me not being a person who 
would buy a white car at present because they too are now the popular Choice, 
Bucharest Romania was becoming far more appealing and my Choice was really 
starting to suit me now, however, “IF DOGS RUN FREE“. 

This can be very troublesome to residents of Bucharest as it can also be to 
 visitors too. The biggest safety issue you are likely to deal with in 
Bucharest  is the 70,000 stray dog population as more than 50 people a day are
bitten by  dogs. Visitors are told to prepare them selves for at least one
encounter with  barking dogs. My hotel was at least 4km from the venue before
getting lost and I  was planning on walking there. Anyway not since 2006 was the
last tourist killed  in a dog attack and he was a Japanese businessman.

The additional advise was that if encountering dogs you must not run but if 
 bitten get to hospital immediately to have the wound cleaned and to get an
 anti-rabies injection. In my case however the “immediately” bit would 
need to be  a little bit flexible on time scale dependant on whether I got
bitten going to  or bitten coming away from the concert!

First day (evening) before concert day it rained, poured it down actually 
flooding the city streets. The guide book had said “There is no getting away 
 from the fact that Bucharest is miserable when it rains”. If you want a
second  opinion from this particular visitor “There is no getting away from
the fact  that Bucharest is miserable when it rains”.

Second day and off I go to the second Choice of venue for Bucharest  having
changed location from the Iolanda Balas Stadium to the Zone Arena  although the
original marked tickets for the Stadium remained valid for the  Arena. 

Walking to the venue there was the odd stray dog around but most of them  
looking like it would take all their might to just bark never mind bite so 
perhaps the real savages were residing further out in the suburbs.

Around the city posters for the event are put upon any spare piece of wall  or
board or even lamp post. This must be some kind of official fly posting as 
other recent or up and coming events were side by side with Bob including 
Metallica, AC/DC, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, Elton John and most surprising
 for me my sisters favourite band Rammstein (who?). My sister managed to wander 
back stage at one of their gigs once and met up with them but my sister is like 
that, she will talk to anyone.

Two support acts proceeded Bob on this night the first being Zan Bucium  
followed by Nicu Alifantis who were both from and performed their songs in 
Romanian I believe. Would have been better in English (actually due to the 
styles of both bands Irish may have been better still) but no matter, if the 
Romanians were not going to understand a word of Bob that followed it was only 
fair that the small foreign contingent of travellers received similar treatment 

Whilst most of us can live without any support act at all when going to see 
 Bob these two bands were not that bad and of the two I preferred the first Zan 
Bucium and not just because it included the most gorgeous female violinist you 
could ever wish to cast eyes on and she sounded to be a really good player too. 
Most amazing was the fact that she had such a long high maintenance hair style 
that I could not help wondering how someone could have time to both look after 
hair like that and also have enough time left over to learn how to play the 
violin as good as that.

Support acts over it was time to set up the stage for Bob during which some 
 spoken monologue was played at low volume through the speakers 
interspersed with  the odd Musical soundtrack. It was not possible to catch all
that was being said  in the spoken monologue due to the noise of setting up the
stage, instrument  tuning and the like but from what I did manage to hear I
think I got the gist of  what it was about!

Still daylight, the stage is set up to the usual present arrangement and  
out come the band followed closely behind by Bob to heightened cheers from the 
audience as they break into the opening number as previous nights, Rainy Day 
Women # 21 & 53 for which unusually Bob starts on keyboard but very soon  steps
out to pick up and put on his guitar to continue the number (or is it #12  & 35,
apologies if I have got it the wrong way round as I know how important  these
things are).

Overall during his performance tonight I thought Bob seemed far more  
confident in general and his guitar playing was much more aimed at the audience 
rather than at the toes of his shoes. Tonight you did not get the impression 
 that it was a keyboard show even compared to other shows where he has 
included  guitar and the centre stage harp “solo” . How can we know if Bob
stages things  at all but I am sure that the predominantly Romanian audience
would have been  expecting guitar and harmonica from Bob and feel they would h
ave been less  satisfied if Bob had hidden slouched over his keyboard for the
full show so  however things came about I believe that it worked well for the
home crowd and  visitor too.

I read on someone saying that the sound quality was not good  but
this certainly was not the case from up front where I was standing.

Bob had found a way to perform Just Like A Woman to please both the  
audience and himself with a kind of compromise phrasing by timing the chorus so 
that everyone gets a turn to sing without Bob getting drowned out until third 
 time then both audience and Bob are almost singing in synch.

Tonight we had a whole new style of centre stage microphone performance  
during Can’t Wait. This was not the “crooner” style seen previously 
developing  but this was Bob marching it in another direction, much more Rock &
 Difficult to explain when there are no comparisons but who is there to 
compare  Bob against as any comparison would be totally unfair on Bob, him being
the  unique performer that he is and always has been. Bob had taken the
microphone  off the stand then moving himself free of the stand and holding
microphone in  hand he does a series of crouches whilst singing boldly into the
microphone from  a low down posture. The crowd seemed to love it from the cheers
that came in a  wave from far back and as is usual in such cases Bob backs off
in fear of  building things up too much.

After the show I bump into fellow Bob fan Steve Adams who had also really 
enjoyed the show but whilst I am flying back home next day he is heading to the 
airport after the show in the direction of the next one as he had made plans to 
follow the tour for a few more follow on dates. We walk out of the Arena 
chatting before we break away in different directions, Steve heading for the 
public transport system and me for something to eat.

It was about midnight when I finally got back to mid way down Calea  
Victoriei in the central part of Bucharest where I was staying. Night time in 
Bucharest was a far different place and “DOWN THE STREETS THE DOGS ARE  BARKIN

I was following a bunch of Romanians walking down the street and having got 
 to almost the last junction before my hotel I notice close to the 
intersection a  small pack of dogs milling around. They were barking
occasionally but at nothing  in particular as two cars approach the intersection
and stop. The Romanians were  not crossing the road and both cars had stopped. I
was not sure who had right of  way and the Romanians made no move but they were
talking loudly as I think they  had been out drinking.

As we all just stood there and the cars stationary I was mindful that it  
was time for me to start running without actually running. We had all been in 
 this stalemate for what seemed like an eternity but was actually only a 
fraction  of time probably but long enough to start getting the dogs attention
and they  start to wander in our direction. I think the cars had actually seen
the  situation and had stopped to let us get across the road and keep slowly
moving  along but the Romanians where not noticing anything that was going on as
they  stood in the road talking loudly.

Suddenly one of the cars takes off at speed and the dog pack chases after  it
and one of them even catches up with it growling and snarling at the car as  it
drives along. I then clearly understood why the guide book had said do not  run
as basically no chance was your odds. With the dogs now pre occupied with  the
fleeing car I walk off to complete the final few hundred yards to my hotel  as I
reflected on the fact that the guide book had narrowly missed needing a  reprint
by changing Japanese to English, businessman to visitor and 2006 to  2010. The
fate of that poor Japanese businessman then took on a far more  frightening
reality and the guide book had been right all along in stating to  expect at
least one encounter with barking dogs.

Well I have already made my next Choice so that is all from me until Linz  in
Austria, well all except what has happened to Tombstone Blues? Was it really 
last played in 2006 and then only once as an opener. Looks like 2006 was not a 
good year for one particular Japanese business man or that song. I hope that at 
least the song can be brought back to life one day as a Choice, Brilliant!

Trevor Townson


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