page by Bill Pagel
Review by Markus Prieur
Now that was some show, the one in Galway, Bob's first concert in the
western part of this island. He has been to Belfast and Dublin numerous
time, he performed in Slane in 1984, which is north of Dublin, played two
shows in the south east (Tramore 1993 and Kilkenny 2001), and he had to
cancel Millstreet twice (1997 and 2003). So Galway's Pearse Stadium was
packed when Bob and his band walked onstage to perform quite a memorable
set during the seventh show of this European tour.
The show featured six new additions (all among the first ten songs), and
five songs were repeated for the first time on this tour. They also played
seven regulars, which appear more often, or even every night. But not many
would have cared to notice this among this huge crowd I was standing in,
about a stage width away from the left set of speakers. Most in the
audience just came to have a good time, which they obviously had, not
knowing that some of the greatest hits (and the Irish love to do sing
along to those) were among the new additions.
In fact Bob chose to start his show with such a crowd pleaser, "Rainy Day
Women". As I knew this is no regular opener, I figured that this would be
no regular set. Song number two confirmed this for me, when we got to hear
a fine "If You See Her, Say Hello", (including "her eyes were blue, her
hair was too"). "Tweedle" was next, the first repeat from the Belfast show
the night before (but in a different slot). [The next Belfast repeat would
be song number twelve.] The fourth song was another surprise, "If Not For
You", which rocked harder than I ever heard it, great drums here, and Bob
closed it with harp.
"Drifter" rocked hard as usual, before Bob pulled out a real surprise, a
very nice "The Man In Me", which also ended with harp. It was the first
appearance of this song since October 2002. Things really started cooking
with "Down Along The Cove", which I had expected as the opener. I had seen
the first two versions of this new arrangement in Frankfurt and in
Düsseldorf last fall, and even now, without Freddy, this one is great to
see live, extremely enjoyable stuff. Stu is a very able guitar player, no
doubt, and he delivered a lot of goodies in Galway (if he just would not
stick his tongue to his upper lip so much, looking like a first grader
trying to write his first abc).
The next song, "Mr Tambourine Man", was a breather somehow, and it started
and ended with Bob on harp. I was expecting "H61" after this, but to my
surprise there was "God Knows", which was quite an intense performance,
and its grave warnings (God knows there's gonna be no more water but fire
next time. . God knows it could snap apart right now just like putting
scissors to a string. . God knows you ain't gonna be taking nothing with
you when you go) were delivered with the same conviction as the
encouragement which closed the song (God knows there's a purpose, God
knows there's a chance, God knows you can rise above the darkest hour of
any circumstance). For me this gem was the peak of the concert.
Then all of the sudden I see Larry with an acoustic guitar, and we are
into "Tangled", which was unlike any other version I have seen or heard
(and I have seen and heard many, but then again, who hasn't?), as Bob
chose to sing (yes, sing) large parts of most verses with an altered
melody line. Quite interesting, but hard to describe. It was not quite a
"Towson Tambourine" or a "New Orleans Hard Rain", but it was refreshingly
Song number eleven was another surprise for me, as I did not expect it at
all (only one week after its latest appearance). It was Bob's first
performance of "Not Dark Yet" on the Emerald Isle (and besides "God Knows"
the other lyrical peak of the evening). This version was delivered with
care by its writer, and its last verse was even preceded by some harp. It
was only the second time ever (the first one was in November 2000) that
"God Knows" and "Not Dark Yet" were performed in one concert, and both
times they were separated by only one song in between.
Most regulars appeared after those first eleven songs, and the crowd
really enjoyed them, especially "Like A Rolling Stone". I enjoyed them
too, as I knew what to expect, hard rocking versions of "Honest" and
"Summer Days", of "Rolling Stone" and "Watchtower", as well as the new
"Don't Think Twice" with Stu on electric guitar. Yet I did not expect a
second encore, another hard rocking "H61", as song number eighteen. A nice
Song number thirteen is another wild card on this tour, and in Galway we
got "Forever Young", which unfortunately started with Bob's mike turned
off until ". climb on every rung", but it featured another fine harp solo.
All in all it was a great song selection for this show in Galway, I would
say, and even though I had seen every song before in concert, I have no
reason at all to moan about this set list. And the performance itself by
Doctor Zimmerman was pretty good as well. He clearly enjoys what he is
doing on stage, and as long as he does, it's not dark YET.
Review by Morgan Fullam
This was only my second Dylan concert but I don't doubt that it was a
classic. I arrived late so I only saw the last few songs of Paddy Casey
which were well received by the crowd. There seemed to be a lot of
regulars there as there was a surge to the front when the Arran Copeland
started. The crowd seemed fairly well oiled and Dylan won them over
instantly by opening with Rainy Day Women. From this point on it was clear
that it was going to be an incredible show. This was followed by If You
See Her Say Hello which confirmed to those worried about the poor reports
on Dylan's singing at the Fleadh in London that the Doc had recovered and
was better than ever. Dylan was laughing and smiling from the first and
there were regular good humoured chats among the band members between
songs. One such chat brought about a sublime rendition of Not Dark Yet.
(Perhaps Dylan noticed the majestic Galway sky as the sun set and couldn't
help himself?) Other great moments included Tangled up in Blue, Mr.
Tamborine Man and Summer days. I had brought my Dad and my seven year old
daughter, both of whom were more familiar with the earlier works of the
Oeuvre and less familiar with Dylan's newer singing 'style'. They were
both blown away by Dylan's performance. My daughter didn't seem to miss
the 'Freewheelin'' sound she is used to; Testament to the strength of
Dylan's singing on the night. The encore showed the same energy that I had
witnessed for the first time last November in the Point Depot (Dublin).
The acoustic version of Don't Think Twice was a magical experience. Dylan
remained in great humour right till the end which was perhaps the reason
for a second encore ( an eighteenth song!). Dylan finished with a rockin'
Highway 61. At Pearse Stadium, Galway, Dylan proved that he as good a live
performer now (if not better) as at any other point in his career.
Review by Theresa McMullin
Galway seemed like an unusual choice of venue, and there were a number of
other big gigs on this weekend in Ireland, so it wasn't too surprising to
see tickets on sale outside the venue. It was strange to see touts
offering tickets at below the original price.
The gig got off to a good, upbeat start with Rainy day Women (12 & 35).
It continued upbeat with a mixture of older, classic Dylan songs like
Tambourine man and If not for you and newer stuff like God knows.
The set included two songs from Blood on the Tracks, If you see her say
hello, and Tangled up in Blue, which rarely feature in Dylan's gigs now
and were well received.
After a lively, dancealong version of Summer days, Dylan and his band left
the stage. On their return Dylan addressed a number a remarks to the
audience, but I'm afraid I found them all totally incomprehensible. I
think he may have introduced the band (sorry boys didn't catch your names)
who were excellent.
The encore featured Don't think twice, and the by now expected Like a
Rolling Stone. the audience erupted to the line How does it Feeeeeeel.
After All along the watchtower we thought that was our lot and as we were
heading for the exit, Bob and the band came back onstage and did a great
version of Highway 61 revisited.
Dylan spent the gig sitting at the piano, but he appeared to enjoy the
gig, so far as one can tell. The audience was a cross section of age
groups, with the twenty somethings way in the majority. They danced and
bopped and seemed to have fun. I have attended 3 previous Dylan gigs
(1978,1984 and 1992) and this was by far the best and friendliest. The
venue was well organised and pleasant. My only gripe is that we paid 65
euro for our tickets while the rest of Europe is paying about 45 euro.
Theresa Mc Mullin
Review by Justin McCarthy
I should start by saying that my previous Dylan experience (the Point
theatre Dublin c.2000) was not a good one. I was unimpressed with his
reworking of classics to sound like the drab efforts of country crooners
without a hint of his talent. As if the inevitable country tinge to every
song wasn't bad enough it seemed to me that Bob's voice was gone. Beyond
repair. It was so bad that many couldn't even tell what songs he was
singing! For a man whose lyrics are so important this was not a good state
of affairs. After all when all else fails with Dylan there are always the
words. Now they could not be distinguished from the frankly not too
pleasant sound emulating from the stage. Harsh words I know but I mention
this by way of explaining just how great last night's gig in Galway was. I
was naturally dubious given my previous experience but even the slightest
possibility that the great man might pull one out of the bag was
encouragement enough. After the cancelled Cork gig there was even talk
that he owed us one and recent reviews have been more than encouraging.
Unbelievably prompt if not early my immediate thoughts (still in a cynical
state of mind!) were: 'great he wants to get on, get off and head for the
next venue as quick as possible'. How wrong I was. This was stirring
stuff. As he launched into a frankly unexpected 'Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35'
the first thing that struck me was the sound. Hallelujah, gone were the
country guitars and in was a band that rocked. They impressed throughout
the show and were a really tight unit. And back was the voice. Crisp and
clear Dylan put in an unbelievable vocal performance. It was strange to
hear a full band treatment of 'If you see her say Hello' not least because
it is such a personal song but the thrill of hearing this one live was
amazing. Next came 'Tweedle Dee and Dweedle Dum'. As you have guessed by
now I am not a fan of anything that sounds remotely like country music and
the album version of this song never worked for me but hearing it live as
a kind of a loose funky rock number it
suddenly made sense.
Dylan proceeded with plenty of numbers from the late 60's early 70's
period wit New morning and John Wesley Harding getting plenty of
attention. This tone suited a nice summers evening well and kept things
ticking over nicely. One of the great things about not being a Dylan
completionist (yet!) is that there is always the possibility of
discovering previously unmined gems and on last nights evidence 'The man
in Me' could well fall into this category. I guess it's the cynic in me
but I never expect to hear Dylan play what you might call obvious numbers.
i.e. his commercial hits and those songs with mass appeal. But tonight he
was out to please and to this extent 'Mr. Tambourine Man' was a pleasant
surprise. So to was 'Tangled Up in Blue', with Bob seeming to sing the
verses as he felt fit, in no particular order. (Although I am sure that
there are plenty of Dylan interpretators out there who will find all sorts
of significance in it!) 'Not Dark Yet' was particularly resonant as the
sun went down and after 'Honest with me' and a not as rousing as one would
have expected Forever Young Bob finished with the obligatory and fitting
'Summer Days'. Now I'm as cynical as anyone about the stage managed
encores that are so clearly part of the set list of major artists, (Hmm
they still haven't played their big no.1 hit, oh look they're coming back
out, fantastic!) but you cant help feel Bob is unpredictable and there is
always the suspicion that if he is not in the mood he wont come back out!
So I was a happy man to see him take up his stance at his electric piano
and launch into a fantastic 'Don't think twice' which blended into an even
greater 'Like a Rolling Stone'. This one finally had the Old Geezers in
the back stand, up dancing and the place was really rocking. 'All along
the Watchtower' was almost too good to be true an amazing version which
definitely took on the Jimi Hendrix arrangement. Indeed the guitar solos
were up there with Jimi. Final goodbyes, a massive ovation, the lights
came on and it was all over. Outstanding. We were being told to make our
way to the nearest exit over the PA when Bob and his band reappeared. This
one was definitely not scheduled and I cant imagine it was too popular
with organisers but Bob was really pulling out all the stops and launched
into 'Highway 61' To be perfectly honest after 'Like a Rolling Stone' and
'All along the Watchtower' this one was never going to be as great but it
was still amazing if only to see how much Bob was enjoying himself. I'm
sure many will disagree but for me going to a Dylan gig is never going to
be the ultimate big concert going experience. Dylan's songs by their very
nature are personal, full of emotion and stirring. To this extent they
naturally suit smaller more intimate venues. In a way big venues are more
suitable to high-density rock n'roll bands with a lot less about them. It
is noticeable during the better moments at Dylan gigs that many people
(myself included) don't know quite what to do with themselves. You can't
exactly jump up and down or dance to a lot of his songs. That said last
night's show was up there with any concert going experience purely on the
quality of the output. A real nights entertainment from the song and dance
man. Problem is I am scared to go see him again in case ill be
disappointed and once again have a sour taste in my mouth. This is how I
want to remember Bob Dylan.
Review by Sean McArdle
I'm just home from the Galway show and what can I say, only wow!
Apart from a great set list the man was singing terrific last night.
Some quick highlights.......
If You See Her... with new lyrics and the last verse done twice. lovely
If Not For You, ...top notch performance all around,
The Man In Me.....have never heard this live before and it was as tender
as it should be,
Mr. Tambourine Man, ..I LOVED this arrangement, phrasing was spot on,
God Knows, .... eerily brilliant,
Not Dark Yet :- STUNNING. As Dylan was singing this one (superbly) the sun
was going down behind him. It was a totally unforgettable few minutes.
Forever Young .. sung and played as gentle as it always should be.
Highway 61 because a fourth song at the end was so unexpected. Everyone up
and dancing to this one.
The rest of the show was merely great (!)
My best show to attend since Wembley Arena 2000 (second night).
Review by Adrian Cusack
I'm just back from the concert in Galway and it was another fine evening in the company of Dr Dylan.
Concerts on the scale of this one are extremely rare in Galway and that meant there was something of a
buzz in the air throughout the day. I think that Bob and the band picked up on this special atmosphere
and that's why we were treated to a second encore of Highway 61.
I find it hard to estimate crowd attendances but I'd say there was somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand
people at Pearse Stadium. I wasn't interested in seeing many of the (mainly Irish) support acts, but I
came in during Gary Moore, who played fairly bland blues-rock. Moore was followed by Paddy Casey.
Casey's style is not really for me but some of his songs are pleasant enough and the crowd lapped it
up. Then it was time for the main attraction.
Before Bob came on, I noticed that there was no lyric-cards or cue-sheets in front! of his keyboard. I
wondered if this meant we were in for a 'greatest hits' performance with no unusual song choices, but I
think Dylan ultimately struck the right balance between relatively obscure tunes and the popular songs
that a festival crowd likes to hear.
The opener, Rainy Day Women, was certainly a festival tune but one that has been rarely performed on
recent tours. I was surprised and amused to hear it. The group of people in front of me, who were in
the process of lighting joints as the song started, were ecstatic. Bob stretched out a middle word in
most of the lines, eg. "they'll stone you when you're driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiv-ving inyourcar, they'll
stone you when you're plaaaaaaaa-ying yourguitar" which made for an entertaining delivery. All in all,
it was a good start.
It was about to get better, too, as Dylan mouthed something to new guitarist Stu Kimball and the band
launched into If You See Her, Say Hello. Blood On The Tracks is my favourite al! bum and I had never
heard this song live so I couldn't ask for a more perfect choice in the second slot. It was a fine
version too, replete with the 'new' lyrics:
"I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off / Her eyes were blue and her hair was
too, her voice was so sweet and soft"
Also, Bob sang the final, "Sundown, yellow moon" verse twice, with slight variations each time. The
first time he sang it as on the album, except with a small change from "Tell her she can look me up,
if she's got the time" to "Tell her she can look me up, if I've got the time". Then there was some
lovely harmonica from Bob before he sang the verse again, only this time with the new ending: "If
she's passing back this way, and I sure hope she DON'T, tell her she can look me up, I'll either be
here or I won't". It was an interesting journey around the song and it was a treat to hear it.
A standard-issue, but enjoyable, Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee was followed by a nice If Not For You. Then
it was time for a terrific Drifter! 's Escape. I thought that this one rocked harder and was much more
enjoyable, in person than on many of the concert recordings I've heard.
Next up was the rarest of the night's rarities, The Man In Me, which (I learned afterwards) had not
been played since 2002.This song has never really excited me. It contains one of the few annoying
Dylan lines - "The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen". Why else would a person
hide, other than to keep from being seen? Anyway, the album version of The Man In Me is the most
enjoyable of the ones that I've heard. Live, it never seems to rise above being 'good' or 'solid'.
Both of those descriptions applied to its performance here.
Then came a really excellent Down Along The Cove. It was great fun to hear Bob belt out a line like
"Lord have mercy momma, you make make me feeeeel just like a baby boy!" Unfortunately I thought
Mr. Tambourine Man was a patchy performance. Bob skipped a few of the lines and! didn't seem very
interested in it. Ho-hum. But things picked up again with God Knows. This is a great live song and
Bob particularly emphasised the line "It could all snap apart right now just like putting scissors
to a string". Great stuff.
Tangled Up In Blue was something of a surprise and this was a wonderful version, full of energy and
life. As Markus Prieurmentions in his review, Bob sang the verses in an interesting style that's
hard to describe. The crowd loved this reading of the song, and so did I. Hot on the heels of Tangled
came a mellow and beautiful Not Dark Yet. This was one of the best performances of the night as Bob
carefully teased out each line.
Honest With Me was a standard version, albeit with a lot of mumbled lines. Then Bob's mic was cut off
for the first few lines of Forever Young. When it came back on we heard a sweet version of this
touching song. Summer Days brought the energy levels back up and it was a crowd-pleasing version with
a long instrumental break. The audience weren't the only people h! aving fun, as each band member
seemed to crack up at some point during the song!
The encores were very well-done, particularly Don't Think Twice and a Like A Rolling Stone that had
several thousand backing vocalists. Bob came to the centre of the stage for the band introductions
and he seemed genuinely touched by the great ovation he received.
After Watchtower and the band's final formation, I turned towards the exit. But then there was a
commotion and I saw the band march back on stage for a surprise 'bonus' encore. Highway 61 seemed to
pass by in an instant and then it really was all over. Night was falling on Galway after a Bob Dylan
performance that was as enigmatic and enjoyable as ever.
Review by Liam Carson
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35: great opener, especially with the bar-room piano
tinge. Best version of this I've heard in ages.
If You See Her, Say Hello: nice surprise, changed lyrics, but vocals a bit
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum: I'm getting a bit fed-up with this one live -
it never quite catches the rolling ambience of the recorded version. Too
often sounds limp.
If Not For You: not bad, but not great.
Drifter's Escape: took me a while to figure out if this was The Drifter's
Escape or The Wicked Messenger, as Dylan's singing was
nigh-indecipherable. That said , he compensated with some beautiful
The Man In Me: I'm not a great fan of this song, but it was a passable
Down Along The Cove: another nice surprise, again with changed lyrics.
Mr. Tambourine Man: sorry, but Bob totally slaughtered this. It wasn't a
patch on the lovely version he did back in 1995.
God Knows: this is where the gig took off for me - superb stuff,
blistering guitars, rocking, apocalyptic, delivered with conviction and
Tangled Up In Blue: another highlight, with an oddly changed but effective
vocal melody; words clear, distinct. Great crowd-pleaser, and good to hear
it back in the set.
Not Dark Yet: sung as the sun began to set over Galway, and by far and
away the best vocal of the night. Played and sung with sensitivity.
Honest With Me: I'm getting a bit sick of this one too - it's a standard
fare rocker which needs retirement.
Forever Young: has to be the best version of this I've heard live - a bit
like the version on the gospel tour, slow and stately, and SUNG with
tenderness. Dylan's voice is best on quiet numbers, where he's not forcing
Summer Days: the crowd loved this one, and it is a great live number.
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right: fine version, but would have preferred
"Cat's in the Well"
Like A Rolling Stone: finally, the chance for the audience to let roar
All Along The Watchtower: great stuff, but not as good as version played
at the last Dublin gig.
Highway 61 Revisited: this is the one song on which Dylan never fails to
deliver, and it was a joy to see him produce another encore. Top-class
General comments: I thought this was a gig of two halves. Dylan's voice
curiously goes from an indecipherable rasp to careful phrasing and
precision. "God Knows" is where the whole gig picked up - you could feel
the audience wake up when he pulled this one out, even if a lot of the
audience didn't know the song. On balance, it was a finely arranged set -
and I was delighted to see "Not Dark Yet" performed. And unlike Kilkenny a
few years back - where the presence of Ron Wood meant the set never
strayed beyond the sixties - we got an imaginative mix of old and new that
worked a treat.
But what I would really LOVE to hear next time is "Senor"....or "Blind
Willie McTell", or "Jokerman". Any chance, Mr Dylan?
Rahney, Dubli, Ireland
Review by Conor O'Mahony
Just thought I'd share my thoughts on another great Bob show. This was I
believe his first visit to Galway, so there was a real sense of
anticipation in the crowd. Bob began with a crowd pleaser Rainy Day Women.
Next up was the highlight of the set for me: If you see her say hello.
This got a country-ish arrangement with Larry on Lap Steel, but it was the
new vocal which blew me away, such as "If shes passing back this way and I
sure hope she dont/Maybe I will look her up or then maybe I wont".
At this point Bob left his keyboard and spoke to each of the guys in the
band individually. He was keeping a close eye on the new guitarist Stu at
all times. I thought he was great by the way. I reckon he was ripping up
the set list as the next surprise was If Not For You, one of my personal
favourites which was re-arranged (of course). We were subsequently treated
to The Man in Me (!) a completely new Tambourine Man (un-like any I've
heard before), God Knows and Tangled (during which all five were smiling
and laughing, clearly loving it). Not Dark Yet was timed as the sun went
down (perfect). Don't think twice was lovely and just when I was about to
head home, they returned for a second encore, Highway 61, a rare treat!
All in all a great show, the old man's still got it!
Comments by Rebecca Coffey
Pre june 27th my feet stood firmly in the Non-Bob Dylan fan camp.
Post 27th i am happy to report to all Dylan fans that i have now been
converted....No only kidding! - Let's not get carried away!...-Swayed
Bob and his band were in top form, conveying both energy and enthusiasum;
with the latter showing off their brilliance in their fantastic rendition
of "Summer days" - The ultimate crowd pleaser. Disappointing down play of
"forever young". But the crowd sing -along made up for it. Not a single
word was uttered by Bob to his worshippers. But ah well ,he came out for
not just one but TWO encores -So i guess we can't complain. So...Whilst i
wont be rushing out to buy all of Bob's 40 something albums - The one
thing i know for sure is this...Bob Dylan is by no means ready for the
retirement rocking chair just yet....
Comments by John McCarthy
Not a die hard fan but really like bob, however the gig in general was a
let down, the sound was extremely poor!! been at louder gigs quarter
capacity, no artistic effort on stage set up as in murals, or back drops
etc.. very poor lighting also, and i guess as usual !! bob NEVER spoke a
word, i felt there was a real vibe coming from the audience wishing him to
even say HI !! it would have made the evening.. the venue was a large
football stadium and those at the rear would have needed telescopes to
spot bob!! he should see about getting some big screens..
Would love to see him at a small 2 - 3 thousand cosy indoor venue... i
live in hope!!!
john mc carthy
Review by Patrick Crotty
Bob was the final act at a day-long festival. He and the band came on
stage to a huge roar of approval at 8.20 pm. Many had chosen to skip the
earlier performances, so people were still streaming into the stadium as a
hard, heavy but unmistakeable ‘Rainy Day Women #16&35’ blasted from the
stage. Though the late-arriving Dylan exclusivists were mostly in their
forties and fifties, the average age of the crowd was much younger. The
majority seemed to have been born around the time of Infidels and Empire
All the young men,
With their young women lookin’ so good.
I’d change places with any of ’em
In a minute if I could.
By the time I reached the edge of the crowd massed before the stage, Bob
was singing an uptempo version of ‘If You See Her Say Hello’. Both the
tune and the lyrics were substantially changed. Musically this didn’t
sound wholly unlike the electric, misogynistic version on the Genuine
bootleg series, though it was a deal less bitter. The band then went
almost straight into ‘Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’. As with the previous
song, Bob moved the pitch up at the end of every line, rolling his head
sideways and downward towards the mike on his piano as he did so. How did
his hat stay on? I sure wished he’d take that thing off his head, his
absurd looking, turned-up cowboy hat.
So far the music had been efficient rather than inspired. The first sign
that there was going to be anything special about the evening came with
‘If Not for You’. The melody was flattened in a way that robbed the song
of its emphatic edge and yet Dylan’s singing was so sweet and plaintive,
and so appropriately supported by a richly lyrical ‘Love and Theft’-style
arrangement, that every one of them words rang true and glowed like
burning coals. There followed a pile-driving version of ‘Drifter’s
Escape’, a song which I confess I failed to recognise in this form. Right
hand on keyboard, left on his evening-sun-catching harp which – for an
instant – I thought was a glowing cigarette, Bob rocked vigorously but
autistically. I had the feeling that many in the audience were being left
behind. Had I recognised the song perhaps I wouldn’t have thought so.
All the while I was making notes on a folded sheet of A4. I was doing this
mainly so I’d remember the proceedings in detail, though it occurred to me
as I wrote that I might file a review if I managed to decipher my
scribbles the next day. People noticed I was writing and – much to my
surprise – began to make way for me, with the result that I got nearer and
nearer the stage as the evening wore on. ‘Who’re you writing for? The
Irish Times is it?’ asked a man, more or less my own baby boomer age: ‘I
hope you’re telling them that it’s absolute shite.’ He’s enduring a
hoarse, guitar-led rendition of ‘The Man in Me’ as he complains. This is a
notably melodic treatment of the song, though, with really excellent
playing from Stu. I guess it’s true that tonight’s performances can’t make
much sense to people who don’t know the canonical versions of the songs.
Behind all these stage texts lie the ur-texts of the studio versions, and
folk unfamiliar with these must find it nearly impossible to get their
bearings. There’s a further problem in that Bob’s voice seems too far back
in the mix all evening, with the result that you’ve really got to
concentrate to appreciate his vocals. It’s worth the effort though: his
phrasing is very subtle on ‘The Man in Me’, his closing harp solo
The tempo now accelerated for a hard, bluesy, surprisingly long version of
‘Down Along the Cove.’ The melody and even the rhythm had been
substantially altered. Excellent guitar break. The number seemed to exist
mainly to showcase the tightness of the band: ‘Lord have mercy, honey!’
Bob signed off with a keyboard flourish. (His piano work had been only
intermittently audible up to now. Seemed to consist of fairly basic,
space-filling chords rather than anything absolutely integral to the
overall mix.) After a pause and change of instruments the band began
playing something slow, with an unrecognisable introductory melody
courtesy of Bob’s harp. I thought it was ‘Shooting Star’ at first, but it
turned out to be a strange, dirge-like ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. Deep, gravelly
vocals gave astonishing authority to long-familiar lyrics like ‘My
weariness amazes me.’ ‘Play a SONG for me’, sang Bob, pushing the pitch
and the volume up on the noun. This was one of the great re-workings of
the evening: the melancholy inflection brought out something that has
always been implicit in the song. The vocals were wonderfully warm on the
chorus, though the melody had undoubtedly been coarsened. The double bass
and acoustic rhythm guitar didn’t go as far as one might expect in giving
the performance a non-electric ‘feel’ – perhaps because of the scale of
the amplification necessary in an open air venue. The harp solo at the end
seemed the particular object of the big applause that this song received.
Bob appeared to be wearing the same hidalgo jeans as at St Andrews last
week. By now I was close enough to the stage to study the lines on his
As the applause died away Bob began singing ‘God Knows’, an unfamiliar
number delivered with such emphatic articulation that, unlike almost
everything else in the concert, it made an impact purely on its own live
terms. Many of the lines opened with the title phrase. Bob held the long
note at the end of each verse in a manner reminiscent of ‘One of Us Must
Know’, dropping an interval to signal the arrival of the delayed close.
This was followed by a rollicking ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, where everything –
and everyone: the drummer really earned his keep on this song – served the
riff. The glissading scale of the verse was one of the most interesting
and innovative of the evening’s melodic variations. Amazingly elastic
phrasing took liberties with the temporal values of some of the lyrics:
‘keep o-o-o-o-o-on keepin’ o-o-o-o-o-o-on’. Very energetic performance all
round, crammed, strumming, busy. I loved it. Utterly unlike any of the
numerous and diverse versions of ‘Tangled Up in Blue that I’d heard
Bob left the piano to consult with the bass player; almost as soon as he
resumed his standing position at the keyboard, chiming guitar chords
reminiscent of Robbie Robertson’s on the Basement Tapes version of ‘I
Shall Be Released’ introduced ‘Not Dark Yet’, the most impressive vocal
performance of the concert. The voice sounded frazzled, trodden on,
terminal, just as it should before being engulfed by ultimate darkness.
Bob sang with great feeling and deliberation, emphasising ‘dark’ in the
last line of every verse. Surprisingly, he climbed an octave on ‘whirlpool
of lies’. A haunting melody entirely new to the song was described by the
lengthy guitar breaks, where the weeping axe was joined by Bob’s anguished
harp-blowing. This would make an excellent track for a live album. The guy
beside me – another oldie – wasn’t impressed, however. ‘What do you
think?’, he asked. And answered for himself: ‘He’s gone, isn’t he?’ Then
the stage lights went down as the song ended. It wasn’t (quite) dark yet.
Things speeded up again with a straightforward version of ‘Honest With
Me’, pretty faithful to ‘Love and Theft’, though with the notes at the end
of some of the vocal lines held almost forever. The rhythm guitarist
played organ on this. And then everything slowed down again for an
immaculately crafted version of ‘Forever Young’. The chorus had lost a few
of its top notes, perhaps because the voice couldn’t reach that high
anymore. In the first verse the voice didn’t seem capable of very much of
anything, but the raspy, almost strangulated singing of the opening soon
modulated into something much more tender, of an age-worn quality that
gave a new poignancy to the chorus: May you stay forever young. (I noticed
the beautiful young women in the crowd and thought of ‘Highlands’.)
Tasteful, subtle interaction between organ and lead guitar, with Bob’s
harp adding further darts of delight. This was followed by ‘Summer Days’,
in an arrangement that at first sounded almost identical to the ‘Love and
Theft’ version with but soon developed into a semi-improvisatory
rockabilly jam that Bob seemed to enjoy. After the last chord had been
played he went to the front of the stage and bowed shakily, too
theatrically, like a flushed local at the end of a bad amateur drama
The lights eventually went up again after the sustained cheering of the
crowd. The five musicians appeared from the back of the stage and resumed
their places, launching immediately into an acoustic version of ‘Don’t
Think Twice, It’s Alright’. The song had never sounded so woebegone, so
poised between cynicism and sensitivity. Bob’s soulful singing was
supported by a noticeably disciplined accompaniment. The encore seemed the
most proficient, minutely rehearsed part of the evening, as evidenced by
the way the big bass finale of ‘Don’t Think Twice’ left the rhythm
guitarist free to get ready behind his organ for next song. ‘Like A
Rolling Stone’ was greeted with such enthusiasm that one wondered whether
the crowd had recognised any of the preceding songs. A good, hard,
unrelenting rendition, though, with lead guitar and organ pumping the
whole thing forward with mighty force and the crowd joining in on the
choruses in apparent exhilaration. Bob brought a very playful attitude to
the last verse, stretching and contracting his phrasing and throwing the
melody about like a beachball. Like a rolling beachball.
Bob then went to the front of the stage to introduce the members of the
band to the audience. Does he really talk like this? His slow drawl seemed
one hundred per cent affected and very close to ridiculous. He went back
to his piano and launched into ‘All Along the Watchtower’. The song was
given the most inventive arrangement of anything in the concert: lovely
spacey intrumental breaks between the verses, with great pearldrops of
organ descending from the darkening sky. Bob growled low on ‘howl’, once
the last word of the song, and returned after a final, very protracted
guitar and organ interlude to the first stanza and the many times repeated
title. (It’s great that he’s no longer intimidated by the Hendrix
version.) Tumultuous applause followed as the lights went down and Bob and
the band disappeared. The crowd thinned out (or began to). I was just
about to do the same when back strode Bob and his musicians for a
blistering finale – ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ in a regular though spirited
rock version. And so an excellent concert ended, two and a half hours
after the man came on stage.
Derry, Northern Ireland
Review by Owen Martin
It was a great day in Galway, with the rain staying away. After a line-up
of Irish artists, including Damien Dempsey, Gary Moore and Paddy Casey,
Bob came on stage at about 8.40. He stood at the left of the stage, as
usual, at the keyboards. He had sheets of paper behind him on a bench,
which he referred to once or twice, along with his harmonica's.
Occasionally, he would pick up a harp and play it for a few seconds,
before looking displeased with it, and going back to his bench and picking
up a new one. He had to stoop down to sing into the microphone, standing
on one leg. I thought his voice was great this evening. He opened with a
stormer, "Rainy Day Women", which everyone sung along to. After that, some
of the audience did not seem to know what he was playing until "Tambourine
Man", especially the younger ones. The reaction was subdued to say the
least, until this well-known number. However, I thought No.2 "If you see
her, say hello" was a great rendition- one of the highlights. A lot
different from the folky acoustic version on BOTT, it was played as a pop
song on electric guitars. I thought it was better than the album version.
Next up was the rocky "Tweedle Dee"- which featured great lead guitar. "If
Not For You" is always nice to hear. Bob’s vocal style is quite different
from his style in the earlier days and off the records. He says the lyrics
almost more than he sings them. He does not try to fit the line in with
the music- he never draws the words out. He just says the phrase into the
microphone quite quickly. It is humorous to watch. "D Escape" was a full
on rock and roll number- brilliant, although the music drowned out the
words. "Man In Me" is one of my favourites, so it was great to hear. The
band rocked it up again with "Down Along The Cove"- some long guitar runs
thrown in here. Next up could have been anything at all, until Bob sang
"Hey Mr Tambourine Man". A complete reworking- with acoustic guitars, that
fitted in with Bob’s talking nasal vocals. "God Knows" was great. Everyone
enjoyed this, and everyone recognised the next one "Tangled UIB". A
different version, bob’s vocals on this was top. Bob played a harp solo,
but it wasn’t as virtuoso as on record.
Bob wandered across to the middle of the stage after most songs, talking
to Stu, Tony or Larry, sometimes sharing a joke with them. He would then
nod to them to get a song started. He rarely looked into the audience, but
when he did, he was laughing and smiling. He seemed to be enjoying
himself. "Not Dark Yet" was a highlight, wonderfully delivered, with some
great guitar fills. Those lines "though it seems like I’m moving, but I’m
standing still" "behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of
pain" are some of the best lyrics ever, and he delivered them brilliantly.
His voice was perfect on this one. One of my favourites tonight. "Honest
with me"- i dont particularly like this one on the album but it rocked
tonight. "Forever Young" was unrecognisable for a while but soon everyone
was singing along. This was a slowed down stripped version- Bob did not
stretch his voice too far. "Summer Days" sounded great- everyone was
dancing to this. The predictable encore was next up- DTTIA featured some
acoustic guitar picking. The crowd cried for more, and Bob duly responded
with "H61 Rev". Then Bob walked to the centre, along with the other
musicians, and stood there, staring out at the audience; his left hand
side slightly bent to one side in a Charlie Chaplinesque manner and he was
gone. This was a great night for me- with 5 songs from one of my favourite
periods of Bob Dylan: 1970-1975. Come back again Bob!
page by Bill Pagel
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