page by Bill Pagel
Review by Tobias Freimueller
Just back from Bonn – a few thoughts about the show...
It was a solid show after all, but nothing too exciting – maybe me hopes
were too high after listening to most of the US-warmup shows. All of them
were better on disc than this show live... Main problem was that Bob was
not really into it. He got lost in the lyrics on basically EVERY song at
least once (he woke up during Masters of war and was more concentrated
until the end).
Starting with Rainy day/Times was like letting the air out of a balloon.
Even worse than a Maggies/Baby tonight-start... Lonesome day was strong as
ever, Red sky maybe the lowpoint. Cheesy steel guitar combined with
throat-cancer-croaking, oh dear... Next few songs were business as usual,
Love minus zero another lowpoint. Did they play this in that silly stop &
go-polka-arrangement before? Wheel & Floater were great choices but again
suffering from Bobs quite hoarse voice (I thought the wolfman was gone?).
Another problem is maybe that most of the songs sound very much the same
these days (same volume, same level of power if you know what i mean...)
Interesting to see that the crowd is not going nuts when Bob plays the
greatest hits but when the sound of the whole thing changed a bit (for the
first time on Floater with Larry on fiddle - HUGE Cheer!) and during
Masters of war which was the highlight of the show for me. I was really
tired of it after so many versions 1994-2002 but tonight it was the first
song Bob seemed to really care about. Very intense, great spooky
arrangement with monster guitarparts from Stu between verses. It ain’t me
got a slightly changed instrumental part during the chorus (kind of a
break instead of the bursting out guitars), I liked the „older“ version
Don’t think twice was a flashback into 2002 with heavy upsinging, Lars was
Lars and Watchtower was the second highlight for me. Great steelguitar
from larry, good work from stu also, best version i’ve heard from 2004 so
Stu did a good job – I really liked freddy but Stu will bring more
variation on the long run for sure. Only problems for him were Alright ma
(when he played basically the same things he did earlier on Lonesome day)
and Summer days (Larry had to carry it alone more or less).
well, off to Worms...
Review by Stefan Flach
Some minutes after 8 pm Dylan (wearing a black cowboy hat and dressed in a
black suit with fiery red ornaments on the collar, the sleeves, pockets
and pants, which made him hilariously look like either a bell boy and a
conductor) and and his four gunmen came on stage to launch straight into:
“Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35”
If one regards the openers as a mainly warm-up songs – what Dylan rather
much does in recent years – this old crowd-pleaser is not a bad choice at
all. The delicious perversity of opening with a climatic song (which
mostly appeared in concert as one of the final songs over the years), adds
another nice quality to it. This was a tight and pretty short (no jam-)
version; Dylan sang four or five verses and the band ended the song over
his last, stretched “stoned”.
A major problem of the whole show got apparent right from the start – the
sound. Dylan´s vocals were much too low in the mix, so that they lacked a
necessary force throughout the evening, which was utterly disappointing.
Dylan´s art is very much his vocal art after all, and to push it in the
back too far is like presenting a Rembrandt painting in an almost darkened
room. All my comments here are inevitably based on this sound inadequency.
“The Times They Are a-Changin´”
was next, and I guess I´m not the only European fan to feel slightly
discomfortable when the first chords of this song appear, since it
“blocked” the setlists of at least two former tours around here. This
version featured some careful vocals by Dylan who clearly put an effort in
getting it (including its message) across in a credible way. At the same
time it lacked some immediacy for me and wasn´t up to the standards of
other versions from this year.
“Lonesome Day Blues”
is a song that has to be a wild (and even exhausting) ride in concert,
otherwise it doesn´t do the trick. Today´s version was partly successful
in this regard, as it picked up speed and saw Dylan spitting fire after
maybe half of the verses. The “forty miles from the mill” one had a
disturbing lyric change at the end, as Dylan sang: “I set my dial on the
radio, I´m telling myself that I´ll stay alive”.
“Under the Red Sky”
was to follow and made for a beautiful stay in the uncanny world of Hänsel
and Gretel for some minutes (“This is a song about my hometown”, Dylan
said in an interview once). The band was tight here and the song rocked a
bit more than usual (it seemed also slightly faster to me). Dylan again
put quite some care to his delivery, stretching some words in an
unsuspected way and cutting others short. The last verse was sung in a
tremendous way and it seemed as if Dylan truly grieved about the “old man
in the moon´s” return home and added a wonderfully humble emphasis on some
words here. A very good performance. The same can definitely be said about
a highly energetic
“It´s Alright, Ma”.
I didn´t look forward to the song since I heard it on quite a few shows
before and felt somewhat tired of it overall, but was very impressed and
moved by it at the end. Dylan found a great vocal groove throughout (or at
least on many lines; it seems difficult for him to sustain one constant
level of energy on the song anyway) and added some terrific impromptu
mannerisms on some words.
“Love Minus Zero”
with its not too successful new arrangement (on which Larry plays a
Telecaster, not the pedal steel anymore) brought things somewhat down, at
least for me. Dylan´s singing had an “auto-pilot” quality and didn´t
display any inspiration, so the song seemed an unlucky choice this time.
“Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum”
surprisingly worked on a whole other level then. Of course most fans are
tired of this song in concert, and so am I. Only on some rather rare
nights the song opens itself up (so does the terrific Borgesian
psychological drama of its two protagonists) and it becomes apparent why
Dylan sticks to it so much. This was one of them. Kimball and Campbell
traded licks and riffs in an excitingly tight way and laid the foundation
for a truly smoking version. I was so absorbed by its many facetted
instrumental parts, that I hardly remember anything about Dylan´s vocals
“This Wheel´s on Fire”
was an appreciated choice then (in the “minor and dark” slot), also since
it´s always something special to hear this not too regular song in
concert. On the other hand I hardly get rid of the feeling that it lacks
something live, though I don´t know what (interestingly the same problem
occurs when one plays it by oneself on a solo guitar). The song mostly
sounds a bit “the same” and - while still being beautiful - this version
made no exception to it. Dylan “entertained himself” by adding a hilarious
“natural” vocal echo to the choruses, as he sang “this wheel´s on fire”
and attached a second, more subdued “fire” to it. He looked at George
while he did this and laughed out loud (so did the best drummer on the
stage and an otherwise rather stone-faced Tony).
kept the energy flowing and turned out to be an excellent reading on the
vocal as well as on the instrumental level. Larry played a delicous and at
times even adventurous violin part throughout to which Doctor Kimball
added an appropriate and intense, short solo on the instrumental verse.
Dylan leaned much into certain lines and words (while again the intensity
maybe wasn´t fully sustained) and spat out some of them in an emphatically
vicious way. His singing of “I left all my dreams and hopes buried under
tobacco leaves” kept a multitude of things in it: sorrow, poison,
belligerence, grief – and was one of his strongest statements of the
“I Don´t Believe You”
followed and didn´t please me too much as it started (I stopped being a
fan of this song in concert a while ago), but grew on me as it went on and
suddenly I realized that I really enjoyed the performance, about which I
don´t remember much, though, except that it grooved in a beautiful way.
“Masters of War”
then saw the return of a less than welcomed facette of Dylan´s vocal
delivery: the up-singing. It wasn´t as obtrusive and permanent as it was
two years ago, but it spoiled the song for me nevertheless. The band
provided a suficient strong beat, but to think of the tremendous versions
from the spring tour when the great Freddie Koella was still among them,
was bound to make me long for something different. A word on Stew Kimball:
since he was incredibly much better in Worms the next night, I guess he
didn´t have a good day in Bonn, where his contribution was hardly more
than perfunctory and sometimes even sterile and barren – as it was the
case on “Masters”.
“Honest with Me”
escaped my memory almost completely, and since Dylan´s singing didn´t
provide anything above average here, I spent most time admiring Larry´s
beautiful copper-colored guitar (which he almost exclusively uses for this
song but also played on “Watching the River Flow” the next day) and his
thunderous slide riff that I somehow don´t get tired of listening to.
“It Ain´t Me Babe”
sadly worked rather much on the same level as “Masters” for me, even
though Dylan put considerably more energy in his vocals here and it was
fine to witness the song building up to the huge climax in the chorus
which is the heart of this new, pounding 2004 arrangement. The energy
slightly lacked authenticity for me, though, and the song didn´t get off
the grounds of the (really) “well excecuted”. This can´t be said for
which was below average in almost every way, except for Larry´s inspired
and satisfying soli on the instrumental verses. Stew´s contribution was
really poor here not only in comparison to what Charlie and Freddie did on
the song in earlier days, and I couldn´t help but thinking I was seeing
the weakest guitar player in Dylan´s band since who knows when.
“Don´t Think Twice”
started the encores again and was another mixed affair. This time the
instrumental parts were well done, but Dylan´s vocals featured way too
much up-singing again to make the song a good experience for me this time.
“Like a Rolling Stone”
continued the uninspired flow of things and didn´t provide anything worth
Thankfully the band introduction made for a nice change then, as Dylan
picked up a microphone center stage and told his usual short phrases
there. At one point he laughed hesitantly – one could clearly hear it –
which was much more of an authentic expression than his singing on at
least the last three songs before. George had to bear the now familiar
“best drummer – on this stage” joke (if one likes to call it one), which
he again bravely did.
Larry then took his seat on the pedal steel and played the “Exodus” intro
“All Along the Watchtower”
which clicked in with tremendous power. I somehow managed to forget about
the prominent killer drum roll by George after the first verse and was
literally shocked by it. After a bunch of lackluster songs, this was a
terrific performance that didn´t make me long for anything which wasn´t
there. One of the best arrangement ideas of this year is (whose?) decision
to make Larry play the pedal steel here. He set a marvellously uncanny and
yearning foundation over which Stew played a highly exciting solo on the
instrumental verse and Dylan growled his way in great style. Everything
was right on its place here and it was beautiful to see this happen at the
end of a show of so many ups and downs.
Review by Jeroen Bol
Attending a Dylan concert resembles a lottery. Which of the more than 500 Dylan songs will they perform?
Of course there are the guaranteed ones from this period like All along the watchtower, Summer days,
Honest with me and Like a rolling stone. But the rest is a surprise. So many Dylan lovers go to a concert
with their personal 'list of gifts wanted'. Having the prospect of my birthday the next day and being a
Christian believer, this time I had Forever young and I believe in You on my list. But nothing was
delivered and visiting Bill Pagel's Tour Guide it became clear to me I should have been in Stra, Italy
on July 2. He did both songs there. Anyway, I really enjoyed the concert the concert in Bonn, and so
did the enthusiastic crowd. The open air venue, a very nice museum square, was a pleasant entourage.
I'm not gonna mention every song they played, I'll stick to my personal highlights. The band had a kind
of tough start. Nobody laughed, faces were a bit tense, nobody smiled. It made the impression one of
them had just received some really bad news from the family back home or that they had had a quarrel
right before the show. Things started to change in song number seven, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle dum. They
played this one very well, sparks flying all around, Larry very much into it. From that point the band
started to relax, smiles appeared on their faces, they kind of defrosted. From then on the master seemed
to enjoy himself too. Having to do without Forever Young and I believe in You, I was treated on two other
gems: Under the red sky and This wheel's on fire. Both songs are no regulars on the setlists. Under the
red sky is one of my favourites, as a matter of fact the song is based on a traditional children song.
Another proof of the troubadour's drawing from multiple musical and literary traditions. Bob sang both
very well and the band did a great, kind of a bit spooky version of Wheel's. Another treat was Masters
of war. Dylan did this one really strong and intense. It was very impressive indeed, nailing the
verdict into the coffin with the words "And I'll stand over your grave till I'm sure that you're dead".
Would there have been a weapon trader/designer among the audience, the man would probably have had two
options: leave the spot there and then or applying for a re-education program the next day. All along
the watchtower was impressive as always. It's amazing and breathtaking how Dylan delivers this classical
one concert after concert and how the song shows no signs at all of wear and tear. One of the reasons
must be the various deep layers of meaning in the words, making the content kind of timeless. Stu Kimball
delivered some nice Jimi Hendrikx like licks. All in all it was a good concert that everybody seemed to
enjoy a lot. Anyway, seeing the living legend with this amazing track record of 42 years in the music and
on the road and more than 500 own songs in his backpack is a very special treat in itself. Thank you Bob
and keep on keeping on as long as you enjoy it.
Review by Nate Demars
The show Tuesday in Bonn was good but I arrived only 30 minutes before the
start of the show and was waiting in line outside until 3 songs into the
show and was standing far from the stage. The venue that night was a nice
outdoor tent amphitheatre. I was sorry to miss Times are Changin' because
this is always a favorite for me but I could still hear well from outside
the walls and it sounded like a good version. One of the highlights for
me was a warm version It Ain't Me Babe where Bob seemed to put some more
feeling into it. Summer days was solid as usual. Watchtower is always a
high-energy end point and I very much enjoyed Stu's playing on this song.
The crowd had decent energy but compared to the other 3 Dylan shows I'd
seen in the past 2 years it was quite average overall.
page by Bill Pagel
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