page by Bill Pagel
Review by Rick Pearl
Having heard that Dylan fans in the UK are among the most intense in the
world, I took a rare opportunity to check it out when I flew over to
Belfast after a week of business in London. Having booked my tickets well
in advance, I was disappointed that the Stormont Castle gig failed to
happen. From all reports, it is a magical place to see a live concert.
Apparently, the promoter wanted a commitment from the governmental
authority that runs the place to build a proper stage, etc., and it fell
through. The show moved instead to the recently-built Odyssey Arena,
which is more conveniently located to the City Center, on the other side
of the River Langan.
Dylan was the final of seven acts in a production that began slightly
after 2 pm and lasted until about 10:30. At first, the shift indoors
seemed prophetic, as heavy and cold rains fell on Belfast. But by the
time Bob and his band arrived on stage, it was a beautiful, cloud-free
evening that stayed light right up until the end.
As one of the few 150-or so people who took in all seven acts, I should
probably give mention to them. It began with two woman balladeers, who
each played a short set list. Polly Paulusma was the opener and seemed a
bit intimidated by the wide-open spaces. The next woman, Meadragh (not
sure of the spelling) was a bit better and played acoustic solo. Damian
Dempsey was a politically-charged Irish singer who seemed to get the crowd
into the arena (most were hanging out in the lobbies for a good portion of
the day/night). Paddy Casey was next and pulled even more fans in with
his songs. Gary Moore - formerly with Thin Lizzy - shook the rafters with
his rock-infused R&B. Finally, the new Irish "in" band, The Thrills, were
the last prep for Bob. They have a Beachboy sound with an edge, and are
obviously popular with the Irish fans.
Finally, after the fourth set change, Dylan and the boys hit the stage at
8:45 pm. The audience filled in completely by this point, so by the time
the strains of Copland's "Hoedown" came over the PA, the Odyssey floor and
seated area were filled to capacity.
Right from the start, one could sense that this would be a good night.
Bob's voice was strong and he seemed keyed in to the crowd's affection.
He started right off the bat with "Maggie's Farm" and the audience roared.
I have spoken in earlier reviews about the rest of the band - Stu, Larry,
Tony and George - and I have to say that they reinforced my belief that
they are a great compliment to Bob's vocals. After sitting through all
six of the previous performances, it was a pleasure to hear a professional
band that knew when to rock and when to let things roll for the boss. I
still feel that Charlie Sexton was the best lead guitarist for Bob (his
backing vocals are sorely missed), and that band's sound was superb - but
this current group is pretty damned good.
Highlights for the hardcore fans included the seldom-heard "Tears of Rage"
and a very clear, biting and soulful "Ballad of Hollis Brown." Bob also
pulled "Seeing the Real You at Last" out of the archives and played it in
the three spot. "Every Grain of Sand" is always a nice addition,
particularly in this set list, as it followed the rollicking "Cold Irons
Bound" and hard-rocking "Honest With Me."
But, quite honestly, the real thrill for me came in the encore. I know, I
know, we had the same two staples - "Like A Rolling Stone" and "All Along
The Watchtower" - but by opening the extra set with an acoustic version of
"Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," Dylan drove the crowd's enthusiasm up
to a whole new level. It was truly one of the great moments in my 20+
plus years and 30+ plus shows of watching Bob perform live as the
audiences sang along with him and cheered after every verse.
"Don't Think Twice" set the tone, and then two of the more heartfelt
versions of "Rolling Stone" and "Watchtower" followed. Was Dylan into the
moment? He was practically giddy in the band introductions. He stopped
and giggled twice, and had to repeat Tony's name. He pranced on center
stage during the bridge of "Watchtower" and for a moment I thought he
might even pick up the old guitar .... But no. It was enough. Dylan had
given the lads and lassies of Northern Ireland a thrill and his work was
Another one to remember, this time from the bonny shores ...
Review by Adrian Gilmore
Thank goodness this all day festival was moved indoors to the odyssey
arena especially after the wet few days here in northern ireland. This was
my 3rd dylan show ever and the 1st in 12 years,my wife had never seen them
before and neither of us had high expectations. Main support band The
Thrills were surprisingly brilliant,i have seen so many average festival
bands those guys have a future. Bob came on on time at 8.45 to the strange
intro about "substance abuse in the eighties", i know this is common every
night now but its odd to say the least.1st song ""maggies farm" is one
song i could do without but it's evident this is a band that rocks. Then
"watching the river flow" is much better,"moonlight" was a song i was not
familiar with but bob sang it well,his voice has not deteriorated near as
much as we thought in recent years. "Tweedle dee" should be left off any
setlist,quite why he plays it so often is beyond me,a strange intro
brought is into "stuck inside of mobile" which produced a terrific crowd
response. "tears of rage" was a real surprise for me and it was
great,doubtful if the many teenagers in the audience knew it though and i
see he plays it rarely.My wife had always hoped to see dylan play "every
grain of sand"so it was too good to be true whan this classic was
produced,and a great version it was with the band quietly playing behind
one of dylan's greatest lyrics. A belfast crowd still waited for bob to
speak a word to us but only a rushed band introduction before "watchtower"
was all we were to get. In the encore the acoustic"dont think twice its
allright" and "like a rolling stone" were both brilliant",though
"watchtower"suffered from slide guitar being too loud.And then the
customary stare out at the crowd with bob sharing a joke with recile on
the drums and they were gone. All in all a brilliant concert with bob
singing well backed by a well drilled band that know how to rock and
Review by John Trinder
Well, it was worth the wait and the pain. Last year I made my own personal
odyssey all the way from Belfast to Millstreet (one end of Ireland to the
other) only to get off the train and be told on the platform by some
"railroad man" in a fluorescent jacket that Bob had laryngitis and
wouldn't be singing. Like many of the doubting Thomases who had made the
trip I had to walk the 2 miles into the village to see for myself - and
sure enough the stage was being dismantled cos Bob's doctors had told him
he shouldn't sing. Tonight he didn't sing so much as croon....and I only
had to travel a couple of miles from my front door to hear him do so. The
band were spectacular - clearly having a ball, with Bob directing the
whole thing while banging on the electric piano. First off was Maggie's
Farm - rocky as you'd expect. This was followed up by Watching the River
Flow - haven't heard it live before and this wasn't the only song we were
treated to which hasn't been a regular on his playlists. Seeing the real
you at last bettered the album version considerably but the paced slowed
for the exquisite Moonlight - Tony's double bass keeping the swing
spot-on. Stu Kimball excelled himself in the first half of the set, but
seemed to lose it around Tears of Rage - Bob kept nodding his direction to
take the lead in that song but it never really came. The hugely talented
Larry Campbell let Stu have the limelight early on but Larry's
contribution was magnificent - every instrument he turned his hand to
delivered, and it all appeared so effortless - Mandolin, acoustic,
semi-acoustic, telecaster, saving the pedal steel for the encores. Bob's
piano was low in the mix until near the end but his noodlings on the piano
were likely outclassed by the musicians he's assembled around him. His
variations from the one note staccato harmonica provoked whoops and cheers
as usual. George's drums were solid throughout with Tony glued to the beat
all the way. Highlights for me, apart from Moonlight, were Every Grain of
Sand - where Bob replaced the original line "I'm hanging in the balance of
the reality of man" with "I'm hanging in the balance of a perfect,
finished plan" (verrrry significant, no?) - and Don't think twice.
In one way it was a shame that the event today was moved indoors to the
Odyssey - Stormont is a great outdoor venue, but Bob's voice came across
surprisingly strong indoors so...all is well with the world (apart from
everything that's broken). I nervously took a couple of friends along who
wouldn't have been big fans and they thought it was a great gig. All ages
were represented in the audience and Bob had to laugh during his attempts
to introduce the band cos he could hardly be heard over the cheers. He
seemed to enjoy himself and looked fitter than I was expecting - had the
odd skip in his step across the stage. What a night - the closer
(Watchtower) was blistering with both Larry and Stu making strong
contributions. Come back soon, Zim.
Review by Markus Prieur
I was hoping for a European debut of "Saving Grace", but it was not to be, during Bob Dylan's first
show in Belfast since 1998. It was also the first show in the north of this beautiful island since
my wife and I have moved over from Germany in 1999. Well, we live in County Cork, some 300 miles south
of Belfast, but Dylan shows down there tend to get cancelled. When we bumped into Tony Garnier at a
record store some eight hours before the Belfast show, and chatted for five minutes or so, he asked me
to remind him why, as he forgot that it was Bob's viral laryngitis. Friendly chap, this bass player of
the finest rock band around.
And this band rocked the Odyssee Arena allright, at least for eleven of the usual seventeen songs. The
first rocker, "Maggie's Farm", whichhad opened already last November's Dublin show, was followed by
"Watching The River Flow" (starting with harp), which rolled along just fine. The third one, "Seeing
The Real You At Last", was even stronger (we had not seen it since 1996). Things slowed down with
"Moonlight" (DOCTOR, lawyer, indian chief), before "Tweedle" and "Stuck" rocked on. Good stuff.
"Love Sick" was the first "surprise" of the night, and the 50th song for this European tour (not bad,
considering that this was only show number six). "H61" was its usual steam roller, and Dylan seemed to
be loosening up a bit more toward its end. Then there was this short conference mid stage, and I knew
some thing special was welling up. So we got to witness a sublime "Tears Of Rage", beautifully
delivered, with harp, "Strawberry Fields", "Penny Lane", and "Willow Garden"; for me the high point of
the concert, and the only song of the nightI had never seen live before in my previous 45 Bob shows.
Then "Cold Irons" rocked again, as I knew by then "Honest" would, and "Summer Days", and "Rolling
Stone", and "Watchtower", and they did, every single one of them. But I also knew, that songs 11, 13,
and 15 were not yet fixed, although song number 15, the first encore, ended up as "Don't Think Twice"
again, as it did at both Glasgow shows. It was very nicely done, and started and ended with harp; the
Belfast audience loved it, and sang along, as they did to other greatest hits as well.
So the songs before "Honest" and before "Summer Days" were to be the last two "surprises", the first
one was "Every Grain Of Sand", almost as word perfect as some of the four versions I saw last fall.
But no complaints, as I always love to hear a fine performance of Bob's most beautiful song. Great
stuff. The second one not fixed yet was not "Saving Grace", as I had hoped, but a very strong "Hollis
Brown", which was another high point of the show. One of the best vocal performances of the night.
Bob was moving around a bit in Belfast, especially during the second half of the set, for example
during the jam session of "Summer Days", which seemed to be longer than normal. He interacted a lot
with his band, and almost cracked up laughing during the intro, which he made from the mid stage mike.
His piano I could not hear too well somehow from my far right position at the rail, as for most of the
time I could not see Larry, George, and Tony, due to large monitors set up minutes before the show,
unfortunately blocking my view, which was straight across the stage toward Dylan.
So I also had a good view toward Stu, the new guy, who played his guitars very well, almost too well,
very slick and polished. As for me, I would have preferred to see Freddy standing there, it would have
been more interesting, and less predictable, more out on the limb. But hey, who wants to waste his time
on futile complaints on comparisions. Freddy or not, Pearse Stadium, here I come. Life is brief.
Comments by Patrich W.
The first thing to strike me about Bob's performance was how clear
and committed was his vocal performance. Maggie's Farm unleashed his new
fire power vocals and the band hammered the point home. It is hard to
pick out any specific high points because the whole show was so
consistent with almost evry song being a high point. Moonlight, Hollis
Brown and Summer Days were good examples of the rich musical heritage Bob
draws on. The encore set consisted of sing a long Don't think twice and
Like a Rolling Stone. Bob moved to centre stage to introduce the band and
for some reason bust out laughing. he seemed to be sharing a joke with
the drummer. They finished off with All along the watchtower building it
to a thunderous climax. All and all a show that really rocked with some
subtler touches like Tears of Rage and Every Grain of Sand. Hope Bob
comes back to Belfast soon. Patrick W
Comments by John Caruth
Great show. Bob, at the end, was in stitches (that means laughing over
here!) introducing the band. The audience response obviously tickled him.
He may not have spoken once during the performance but the singing told
the story. The highpoints? Love Sick (steaming) and Highway 61
(stirring). And at the end? Don't Think Twice - it was simply splendid. A
good mix of material from early, middle and late periods. You can't ask
Comments by Andrew Hynds
Once again Bob (at the keyboard) was in full flight as he rocked the roof
off the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. With other artists on the bill,
especially Belfast's own Gary Moore, the afternoon and evening's
entertainment was topped perfectly by Mr Dylan, who along with his usual
line-up played a very tight two hour set. Most will agree that the
atmospheric rendition of Hollis Brown' was incredible, as was 'Highway 61'
among many others, including 'Tears Of Rage' and of course 'Like A Rolling
Stone' with the audience joining in on the chorus. In conclusion, another
great Dylan gig, hope its' not to long before he comes back to Belfast!
thankfully on this occasion it was without Van Morrison!
Co. Armagh - Northern Ireland.
page by Bill Pagel
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