page by Bill Pagel
Review by Ed Nash
What a totally bloody weird night. Having seen Bob in good spirits on
four out of four occasions, it seemed to me that that mythical beast, the
law of averages, would surely dictate that I was due something different.
Well, I definitely got that.
It was pretty obvious from the off that Bob was not in the same fine
spirits with which we had been blessed in Gothenburg. This suggested that
tonight would be one of few if any surprises as Dylan and the band went
into autopilot mode, an idea which seemed confirmed by the first three
songs. Moreover, some real problems with the sound were evident. Bob's
vocals were almost inaudible at first. This effected the audience, who
reacted very little to the opening lines of Tambourine Man or Tangled Up
In Blue, and this in turn made Bob seem even more as though he'd rather
have been somehwere else.
So, three songs, a querter of the main set, and it was not looking
promising. Then everthing went crazy. Maggie's Farm featured a very neat
bit of rearrangement involving prominent drums, which Tony and Charlie
especially seemed to find succesful, judging by their enthusiastic
grinning and nodding at Bob. The vocals were a little higher by now, but
still hard to hear, but it didn't matter as the noise of the guitars grew
and grew. We all know the words to this song. They weren't improtant
this time round.
Now, Maggie's Farm isn't one of my favourites, and if the show had at this
point returned to the autopilot thing, I would have been disappointed with
it. But it didn't, not at all. I think it was here that things took an
extra twist when Larry refused the acoustic guitar offered to him for
Memphis Blues Again - a quick shake of the head and he was at the pedal
steel. What could they be plotting, I wondered? Well, how about an
awesome rendition of I Threw It All Away, the vocals coming through quite
clear enough for it to be obvious that Bob was taking what had appeared to
be sheer boredom and making it into all kinds of other emotions, much more
interesting ones. There was pain here, there was anger, regret,
lonliness. These are all in the lyrics, but a good vocal performance and
sympathetic backing is needed to bring it out. Here we got that. As Matt
pointed out afterwards, it was all getting a bit Hard Rain-ish.
Larry stayed at the pedal steel for Sweet Marie, which was in all honesty
let down by the sound problems, which seemed once again to have worsened.
I shall be interested to hear the views of others further back in the
audience - I wonder if it was worse right up front, where we were.
Hopefully on the tapes it won't be too bad, but there was a definite
problem. I think it was after this, during the changeover to acoustic
instruments, that murmurs about the problem started to be heared all
around in the crowd. And then, as if by magic, the problem was solved and
we could enjoy the show, which continued to throw up a certain amound of
bizarreness and oddity.
My Back Pages was fine, if not wonderful. The harp solo, on the other
hand, was truly gripping. Then, following an average It's Alright Ma, the
opening lines of Don't Think Twice were somwhat fluffed. The first chorus
ended "Don't think twice, it'll be alright". Not that noteworthy,
perhaps, but comic nonetheless. But suddenly, more magic. For the second
half of this song, Bob sang with great emotion, finding the lovely melody
where he had previously seemed unable to. Finally, the harp was out again
for another perfect ending (including some interesting rhythmic play
between David Kemper and Bob, who at one point stamped out a short rhythm
on the floor which David and Bob's harp followed.)
Bob finally seemed to be with us, and with three songs left in the main
set it seemed like anything could happen. I told Matt, as they were
changing back to electric instruments, that the next song would be
Dignity. It was the one song that, at that time and on that day I most
wanted to hear. Then they played it. But to my ears, this didn't sound
like the paired-down, reigned-in version of 2000, or indeed any version
I'd heard. Bob's emotional roller-coaster of a night appeared to have got
round to the shouty, angry, generally-very-upset-with-the-world frame of
mind he has in the past displayed on songs like Idiot Wind (the album
versiong or one from '92). There's a really nice tune to the vocals in
Dignity normally, but in Helsingborg the other night it seemed to be all
about guitars and anger. It was brilliant and powerful, and weird too.
And maybe I'm overstating the difference to normal versions, but it sure
sounded different to me.
So, at the last minute, Bob really did seem to have shaken of his boredom.
But if he had, it didn't last long. At the start of Leopard-Skin Pillbox
Hat, he seemed reluctant to approach the microphone (maybe because of the
earlier sound problems) and the band were forced to play a long
introduction before he finally stepped forward. On Like A Rolling Stone,
he took a wander to the back of the stage (prompting chearing for a moment
when we thought maybe some harmonica was coming, daft as that sounds).
But he just chattet with a roady while the band played on. Throughout the
encores, Bob seemed like he couldn't wait to be gone. I thought he was
about to yawn at one point. His soloing was uninterested and unconcerned,
and he gave up on a lot of efforts halfway through a phrase. There were,
however, bonuses to this, since Larry and Charlie were forced to take
over. Larry played some fantastic steel on Watchtower and Charlie took
several solos. You have to say, he's a bit more dynamic than Bob when it
comes to soloing.
All in all, though, this was a very hard show to fathom. Quite how Bob
managed to lift himself out of his seemingly bored and tired state (this
was the 4th show in 4 nights in 3 countries, after all) to some amazing
emotional peaks and then sink back down to total apathy I don't know. But
I am very glad that he was giving the night's proceedings his full
undevided attention for that middle section, since it produced some
spectacular music. Moreover, I am very glad that even a pissed off Dylan
these days completes a full length, entertaining show. It doesn't seem
like he would have made it through in '91. I don't know how the tapes of
this show will sound, or how much of the weirdness of the night they will
capture, but I can't wait to hear the show again. There was some amazing
stuff going on for a while there.
Review by Jonas Valthersson
Everybody must get...
This was not like Gothenburg two days ago, but alright anyway. The rain
was hanging in the sky trying to get down, but it didn´t. The whole group
didn´t seem to be in the mood and the audience was just standing there in
a lazy way. We were many there listening to Bob and we all like it. But
whe didn´t jump and scream like we did in Gothenburg. Maybe it was because
of the weather. Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan and he walks his own paths and
that´s because he´s so great. He always change his setlists and that´s the
best with seeing Dylan live. Heard "I threw it all away" for the first
time live - like that song. I can´t pick out a favourite I love them all.
I lied before! This was my 7th liveshow with the man and I hope there will
be many more.
Review by Tobias Levander
Early in the afternoon of July, I arrived to Helsingborg with my friends
Peter and Fredrik, who had attended the Gothenburg concert with me. We had
spent the previous day relaxing in a small cabin outside Gothenburg,
waiting for Sunday and the next Dylan concert on Swedish soil. Because of
our limited funds, we could not attend the Roskilde concert. Our limited
funds also forced us to try to find some place to set up a tent in
Helsingborg. It turned out to be an easier task than we had imagined, as
we were allowed to set up our tent on a meadow near the castle.
Helsingborg is a small town in the south of Sweden, beautifully located by
the sea. The venue was once again special, Sofiero castle garden just a
mile or two outside central Helsingborg. The stage was placed right in
front of the castle. We decided to spend the last hours before the concert
on a lawn just outside the entrance, drinking a few beers while listening
to the soundcheck. We watched some dark ominous clouds in the sky, hoping
for the best. The soundcheck started with an instrumental version of
Dignity, followed by Country Pie, Thin Man (twice), This Wheel's On Fire
(with Larry and Charlie singing the choruses) and a version of Somebody
Touched Me with Larry on lead vocals. Then a downpour started. We had to
relocate to the car, and missed much of the rest of the (very lengthy)
soundcheck. The downpour ended as abruptly as it started, and we could go
back to the entrance, listening to the band playing an unidentified
bluegrass song, with someone who sounded like Bob on lead vocals. It was
probably Larry doing a Bob Dylan impersonation. The volume was now much
lower than it had been during the first part of the soundcheck. Then, we
heard something that sounded like an electric version of Hollis Brown. The
soundcheck ended, and they started to let people in to the castle garden.
Bob Dylan's concert in Helsingborg was his fourth concert in four days.
Considering the fact that his concerts are often more than two hours long,
that's a pretty grueling schedule for a man who just turned 60. We would
soon find if this in any way would affect the quality of the performance.
It was obvious from the start that this was a far more drunk and loud
crowd than in Gothenburg. A few minutes after 8 o'clock, Bob and his band
came onstage. Bob immediately adjusted the microphone so that he would
have to bend down to sing into it. I was hoping for Somebody Touched Me as
the opener. It was, after all, a Sunday and the band had been playing the
song during the soundcheck. It was not to be. Instead, we got another
Duncan & Brady. Unfortunately, Bob's vocals were very low in the mix on
the first two songs, which, considering the extensive soundchecks, was
quite surprising. After Duncan it was time for a version of Mr Tambourine
Man, with some weird phrasing. Tangled Up In Blue was absent in
Gothenburg, but here we got in #3 slot, and it was a nice high-energy
version. It seems to have regained some power. A highlight, and that's a
word I rarely use when talking about live performances of this song. It
was obvious that Bob was a little tired, but he managed to bring at least
some life into Maggie's Farm, a song that I often find dull. The new
arrangement is superior to many of the previous NET incarnations of this
song, but it's still not very good. Actually, I don't know if he's played
a great version of this song live since the Rolling Thunder days.
The unpolished version of I Threw It All Away that followed took most of
us by surprise. This was, if I'm correctly informed, only the third
performance of this song on the Never-Ending Tour. I had heard the band
soundcheck it in Gothenburg, but I was still surprised. It was a nice,
maybe slightly ragged, performance of one of my favorite Nashville Skyline
tracks, with Larry on the pedal steel. Larry remained at the pedal steel
for a fine Absolutely Sweet Marie with a strong country flavor. The second
acoustic set started with Larry playing the familiar My Back Pages intro
on his fiddle. Unfortunately, it was not a great version. Bob messed up
the lyrics, singing the "romantic facts of musketeers" verse twice, but he
played a really fine harp solo at the end. It's Alright Ma was not as good
as in Gothenburg, and then we got a solid version of Don't Think Twice,
where Bob experimented with his phrasing and once again he picked up the
harp at the end. As Bob, Larry, Charlie and Tony were handed electric
guitars by the ever-present and always hard-working "guitar man" I could
hear the first bars of Dignity running through my head. I was quite
surprised to hear the same bars from the speakers a few seconds later. It
was a brutal version. Bob sang as if his life depended on it, mixing up
the lyrics with great panache and throwing in new lyrics such as "so much
in love, I'm at the edge of the lake". It was not perfect, but it was the
highlight of the concert for me. The new arrangement of Cold Irons Bound
(introduced about a year ago) is pretty startling if you haven't heard it
before, but it's not a highlight if you have heard it several times
already. Anyway, it was the first performance of a TOOM song in three
concerts, and it was pretty good. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat wasn't exactly
a surpring inclusion, and it sounded as it always does, but without the
impromptu shouts we had heard in Gothenburg. The band introductions came
near the end of the song, and it was once again the first words we heard
Dylan say during the entire concert. The once so frequent "thanks
e'rybody!" between songs are gone. Not that I mind.. Bob and his band made
the formation, and then briefly disappeared from the stage. After a short
while they returned, and they played a fairly solid Things Have Changed,
as usual followed by a dull version of Like A Rolling Stone. Something
interesting happened during that performance. Before the last verse, Bob
seemed to walk towards the exit. He stopped, and just stood by the
amplifiers for a while. The "guitar man" (does anyone know the name of
that guy?) approached Bob to find out if something was wrong, but
everything seemed to be OK. Bob then returned to the microphone and sang
the last verse and finished the song. Two days later, in Borgholm, we
would find out what Bob probably had been thinking about. If Dogs Run Free
was If Dogs Run Free. A pleasant oddity. No more, no less. All Along The
Watchtower was great. The same odd arrangement as in Gothenburg, with one
major difference. Bob sang the first verse twice, finishing the song by
stretching out the last words of the first verse for as long as he could.
I love the new arrangement of I Shall Be Released, with the strong backing
vocals. I first heard it in London last October, and as long as Bob isn't
trying to sing the chorus in some peculiar timing, and thereby making it
impossible for Larry and Charlie to follow him, it works just fine. A
highlight. Highway 61 was Highway 61, no better or worse than other recent
versions. Blowin' In The Wind was once again convincing. I wrote something
about Charlie's guitar in my notes, but I can't interpret my hand writing,
and I can't remember what I noticed about it. Then, after a brief
formation, they left the stage. They all returned for another perfunctory
Rainy Day Women. The concert was over. It was good, but something of a
disappointment after the Gothenburg concert, despite the nice setlist. Bob
often seemed to be very tired, but that also meant that he had to focus
more on his vocals than on his guitar playing, which, at this point in
time, is a good thing. Some particularly loud members of the audience made
it hard for me to focus on the music. I can only hope that the tapers had
better spots. Anyway, we went to a pub in central Helsingborg and met some
very nice British fans, before walking back towards the castle to locate
our tent. After a few hours sleep, it was time to once again hit the road.
Next stop: Borgholm. To be continued..
Review by Asa Hojer
My own reflection to my first ever Dylan concert.
Believe I was one of the few non-Dylan fans in the audience this sun
spelled summernight. Sharing the joy of thousands of middle-aged Swedes
and Danes who all had come to see their favourite musician. It was a cosy
feeling, friendly and warm.
The man himself, Bob Dylan, seemed old and rather off to start with. He
sang his songs, he played his guitar, after a while he even played his
harmonica. But he looked sad. He didn’t smile. He hardly ever looked up.
He definitely didn’t look like he enjoyed being up on that stage. Then,
all of a sudden, it was like he lets himself loose for a while. He gave us
a small smile, took a few steps around and almost performed a small dance.
Dylan’s presence on stage is clear. When he’s up there the audiences get
like paralysed, old ladies start to dance, man in their 50’s clap their
hands, and young girls have eyes for no one else.
I got a feeling Bob want to be a one-man-band although he has his band
with him on stage. He seemed terrified that one of the others would steal
his show, if so only for a second. So every time his young guitarist,
Charlie, did something that could have catched someone’s eyes, Bob looked
at him with anger in this eyes. Charlie then took two steps backwards and
looked down the ground with the sight of a puppy getting caught peeing in
The other persons in the band seemed to already have realised Dylan’s need
to be the only man on stage being looked at, so they were all pretty
The last half-hour of the two hour long concert Bob let himself loosen up
a little. He smiled through a few songs and once I even say him open his
eyes wide open.
Mind you, to me the audience didn’t seem to care weather or not he smiled
or not. To me it did. To me the smiling Bob was cool, but the non-smiling
one I prefer to call Uncle Bob.
I am glad I got the chance to see this big little man. It was an
experience just to be in the crowd of all the Dylan-lovers. And it was an
experience to see Dylan live. Next time I wish he will give me a few more
Until then I will keep smiling while listening to his music.
Keep the incense burning Bob!
page by Bill Pagel
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