Helsinki, Finland

Hartwall Arena

June 24, 2019

[Trevor Townson], [Juhani Heino]

Review by Trevor Townson

Arriving in Helsinki I find myself with time on my hands, alone in my
room, so I do a bit of browsing on You Tube. I guess You Tube knows me now
- of course You Tube knows me now, everybody and everything knows me now,
my computer, my phone, my credit cards, my store loyalty cards, my Amazon
thing that I bought and that I am still trying to figure out how to work,
and no doubt even Bill Gates knows everything about me now too, absolutely
everybody and everything now knows me better than my mother, everybody and
everything now even knows me better than my best friend would do if I had
one, well any friend actually if I had any, thankfully I do not have a
proper partner anymore to know everything or that would surely be divorce
number three on the books. How on earth does anybody evade arrest these
days, if I had failed to visit my local Co-Op to collect the Saturday
morning newspaper before noon, I think a squad car would come screeching
to a halt in front of the house for me to be hauled out and asked why not
and what have I been up to. Inevitably, on signing into You Tube it is
not long before Bob Dylan pops up on the list that "Suits you Sir". I must
confess that due to self inflicted financial constraints I have not been
so fanatically into Bob tours recently in the way I had been in the past
but he still comes up above Buddha and Classic Cars so the roots must
still go fairly deep. That could however just be due to some alphabetical
selection process, a kind of algorithm for words. My last previous Bob
Dylan concert was Southampton 2015. The following day started with a six
hour train journey back to Yorkshire, a very early morning start with
stops in London and Birmingham in a race home for my other passion, to get
over to Turf Moor in time to take in the Saturday home game to watch
Burnley v Huddersfield Town with a kick off time of 3 O'clock. If you work
in an office on a computer, you will fully understand my frustration when
having typed a review for best part of four hours whilst travelling back,
it comes to that point to save it, so you do and you move on, then that
cold feeling came over me. Oh no, did I actually save it? After an urgent
and frantic restart of the computer my worst fear is proved correct, I had
closed without saving. There is no way that you can ever write that review
the same way again, there is no time left to even write that review again
even if you had the energy and the will left within you to do so, it was
gone, it was lost without trace. Well, probably not totally, I bet Bill
Gates could still find it on the basis of him knowing everything about me.
Thankfully it was not a Shakespeare sonnet or a Mozart symphony, only a
few fairly inconsequential words from yours truly so the world would no
doubt still keep spinning on its axis with no real harm done over the
loss. OK, if that had been your presentation for next weeks National
Business Conference that you had just spent hours doing and then gone and
lost it by not saving, that then would surely be a dilemma and the cause
of some serious frustration together with some agonising late nights in
order for you to put it right, believe me, I feel your pain. For me it was
just brush it off and move on. It is however good to set the record
straight and say that I did actually review my last concert but in the end
it never came to print. So why after best part of four years do I find
myself once more in some strange land to see Bob Dylan in concert one time
more. Well, having worked best part of thirty years of a forty year career
for a Finnish company, Finland is not such a strange land for me. Having
visited numerous times during various business trips over the years this
was actually the first ever time that I had been to Finland during the
summer. Till now I had only seen Finland in winter, till now I never knew
that Finland had tarmac roads, till now I thought that everyone in Finland
drove around at rally speeds on ice, till now I thought people in Finland
rushed along ice covered pavements without slipping or falling over, till
now I thought everyone in Finland looked grey and got drunk in bars every
night because there was nothing else to do in the dark. But actually
things are really not always that way in Finland and I now know that
Finland can actually look so much better sober and in the sunshine. Having
recently given up the day job to retire early from the corporate world in
order to pursue other interests, whilst I still try to work out exactly
what those other interests may be, other than helping out as a volunteer
in the local Buddhist Centre and World Peace Cafe. I was browsing one evening to catch up on yet more boot leg albums being
released to add further to the already amazing canon of work. Then I have
a further look around and browse the latest Tour Guide. I had previously
been considering going to the Hyde Park concert in London as this would
not only have the added advantage of being in England, but it would also
give me the opportunity of seeing Neil Young who I have never seen live. I
do not have a vast spectrum of artists I would love to see before I die so
Neil is probably in a bucket list of one in that respect. Then I
remembered my last experience of attending a concert in a London Park
which was not an overly pleasant one. Anyway I decided if I was going to
make the effort to see Neil anytime I best check his tours out more
carefully, as like Bob surely he must do more intimate shows at times.
Seeing him on stage the size of an ant or pixelated and blurred on a large
screen is not my idea of a quality experience, more a day out with Neil
Young just being thrown in the back ground for good measure. As it has
subsequently worked out, it would actually probably now have fit in as I
would be down in Wimbledon for the Mens Semi Finals on that day with my
friend Jenny as we were lucky enough to be selected for tickets in that
public ballot they run. An expensive day out for us anyway without the
cost of premium concert tickets on top plus all the additional logistical
costs as well. Not really knowing why, it was somewhat like one of those
drunken "Buy Now" moments whilst browsing E-bay. Fortunately I was not
drunk at the time so had not bought a sailing dingy from someone in
Aberdeen on a buyer to collect basis, or a time share in a static caravan
in Clacton-on-Sea, two things that I would have absolutely no chance of
putting to good use. No, I had in fact invested in a premium Bob Dylan
Front Row Experience at the Hartwall Arena. What, Where, How, Déjà vu.
As a lot of you will know, providing that your credit card will oblige,
buying the ticket is the easy bit, now comes all the hard logistical bits,
where is this place, how do I get there, and how do I get back, plus all
the other bits in between. Buying this ticket in some ways seemed meant to
be, not least to finally close out a large part of my up until now working
life and give me a brief glimpse of Finland by daylight. So of course the
other bits would naturally fall into place and so they did. Just one late
scare, as my mum had been suffering from some difficult to diagnose
illness and was taken into hospital for an operation the week before I was
due to fly out, and she would remain there for the duration of my trip. Of
course, like all good mothers would do, without fuss she stoically tells
me to go and not to worry about her. So once again I find myself sitting
before the man in the hat, well actually I was not sitting in front of the
man in the hat for most of the concert as the hat only appeared during
Thunder On The Mountain. That great fanfare for the Columbia recording
artist now being a long lost thing of the past, this time the show was
preceded by just a short but appropriate introduction
of classical music. For the most part before the hat appeared, it was
like watching the Bob Dylan of earlier times. I was going to say how
strange it is that Bob still has pretty much the same hair style that he
had in his early years, but that was before I realised that I have also
had the same hairstyle for best part of sixty years myself. These
days however Bob wears a piano for protection rather than the guitars of
old, whilst overhead seven large offerings of yellow light glow down on
him from above the stage. Gone are the days when Bob positioned his key
board off the stage. I remember at one show hearing people discussing
which one was Bob, another time one lady even watched a complete show
thinking she had seen Bob Dylan when she had actually spent the whole
evening watching Stu Kimball on guitar. What happened to Stu Kimball on
guitar by the way, and was he actually plugged in, and if so how come it
does not sound any different now without him. No, now the piano is
positioned pretty much centre stage so people are left in no doubt as to
who the main man on stage is. That was apart from the slot in which George
Recile did his party piece during which Bob and band just stood silent at
their instruments, Bob with a bemused expression on his face as he just
let George get on with it whilst no doubt thinking something to the effect
- well nobody is going to mess with that! George Recile is easily the
best drummer that I know of, well that is probably not as impressive as it
sounds with George Recile being the only drummer that I know of. I do
however believe that he has some level of notoriety within more qualified
quarters than I can offer on the matter. Sometimes though George can be
there in Stu Kimball mode where he hardly features, take the majority of
the Triplicate album for example. Well, believe me this night George got
his chance to stand out, to get properly noticed and to shine when during
Thunder On The Mountain he bursts into a drum solo in which he crashes,
bangs and wallops every bit of his drum kit many times over to create an
amazing crescendo of sound, following which he receives a well deserved
acknowledgement from the crowd. No flowering around with Triplicate
brushes during this one, this was powerful drumming delivered with force
and machine gun energy which made everyone sit up and take notice with
even Bob seemingly standing to attention at his keyboard. Actually,
thinking about Triplicate and to a degree the Fallen Angels and Shadows In
The Night albums that proceeded it, but certainly Triplicate. I do believe
these albums have made Bob much more focused on his voice and delivery of
the vocals which has probably had a knock on effect to why his overall
singing now seems so much more improved and the lyrics clearer no matter
how much a song rocks. OK, so in the fullness of time we will probably be
proven wrong in some of our views about the Triplicate album and it will
no doubt prove to be a masterpiece of genius creation once sufficient time
has passed and we are all more fully understanding of it and thus able to
appreciate the album properly. I must admit having now forced myself to
listen to Triplicate a few more times, it has actually grown on me a bit
more and I am beginning to notice that the songs do not actually all
sound the same once you become more familiar with them. For me the album
does in fact make pretty good background music and if it has helped Bob in
other ways so much the better. We now seem to have settled on a set list
mix that no one is going to grumble about too much, I do however wonder
where that closer has come from. Still amazing to read some recent reviews
where people say best show they have been to, even people who can go back
over many decades. Personally I cannot say which is the best show in the
context of songs sung and song delivery. You are never going to get a show
where every song performed in it is the best version you have ever heard.
There are just far too many variants and who could remember them all
anyway, surely it would be beyond even the most accomplished of musicians
to decide on that never mind someone like me with the musical ear of a
snake. What you did get in this show however is something that you can
only get, not only through the maturity of both the song and the artist,
but through the maturity of yourself having listened to a particular song
for decades and in various styles. As an audience member you too also play
an active part in the performance by being there to listen. Like a fine
wine, or should that now be fine whisky, somethings can only come fully to
fruition after time. This is certainly the way with the now vintage Bob
songs, and non better than with It Ain't Me, Babe and Don't Think Twice,
It's All Right as performed on this night. It is not possible to either
perform or experience songs like that without having past history to back
them up. Two truly unique moments that you cannot get the experience of
anywhere else. Forget You Tube, you need to be In The Room and In The
Presence and looking through your eyes not a lens, you need to get out
there and be a part of it. One reason why you just have to sometimes buy
that ticket and go. The seat to the side of me tonight although being
prime front row remained empty throughout. Just before the show starts,
the guy sitting to the other side of the vacant seat says to me "Do you
think seat 13 will show up". I really had no idea but the show was about
to start at that point so I just said to him "No, it is for a friend who
is otherwise engaged tonight" Brilliant!  

Trevor Townson


Review by Juhani Heino

"Oh yeah.. take 2"
Time for me to write my feelings in English too.
My Monday was a total success! It was my 13th Dylan show, all 9 in 
Finland and a few in foreign countries. But now academically the most
important for me! The first ever Nobel Prize concert in the history of
Finland, which is now the 28th country who has got its first ever Nobel
Prize concert in 2016 (USA) and 2017 and 2018, now it was Finland's turn.
I enjoyed my total success!

Intro, Stravinsky "The Rite of Spring" (thanks to the newspaper for 
naming it).

Things Have Changed, Oscar 2000
Nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, nobody can sing "I'm-Locked-In-Tight" the
way Dylan sang it, using his unique barking style! Wonderful.

Highway 61 Revisited, Cry A While, Honest With Me, all rock'n'rolling
favourites. Scarlet Town, this time not standing on center stage, but
playing his grand piano on center stage! Note, Helsinki 2019 was the first
show when piano was not on the right but on center stage. I had a very
good sight to Bobby's face from my 2nd row seat. Very interesting to see
what he did on stage, and he did many things, he even went to drink a
little from his glass of water during a song, incredible, my heart sang to
me in joy. Pity I didn't note it down during what song.

Like A Rolling Stone was the much waited crowd pleaser. Even ordinary
Finnish people recognized it. I love his new brilliant arrangement which
he invented last year in New Zealand, but I missed his wonderful sharply
cutting vowels before every chorus, scrounging for your next meal.. .do
you want to make a deal..

Don't Think Twice, the excellent ballad with piano, Bob singing calmly and
beautifully, as if he's saying to the cruel stupid world, yes I really can
sing, listen to me, or at least read my MusiCares Person of the Year
speech in 2015. Use your ears, not your prejudices.

My highlight was Gotta Serve Somebody! It was the song I waited to hear
alive in new form, yes he's still Christian after all these years. He
sings "They may call you Peter, they may call you Paul" and he means the
apostles, not ordinary male names like Petteri or Pauli.

I like to hear him sing:
"May be someone's neighbour, searching for the Son" but I'm sorry I 
can't be sure.
This is the song which has his first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal 
Performance 1980 (later he has got two more, yes he can sing).

Thanks to all the good people who enjoyed with me, about 25 persons, some
true bobcats & other friends and strangers: in pre-concert meeting, in the
Arena, in post-concert meeting, one of the happiest days in my life. Now I
feel a little empty after waiting all these months. I got it all. Thanks

Juhani Heino


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