St. Herblain, France

Zenith Nantes Metropole

July 1, 2010

[Nicolaas Koldewijn], [John Gallienne]

Review by Nicolaas Koldewijn

I was there and I see there isn't any review yet. So I give it a try: It was my
second Dylan concert and I was as exited as the first one. Offcourse I'm
prejudiced because I'm a big big fan. In spite his age and his voice (better
than in 2008 Toulouse), his preformance is irrisistable, he has this attraction
all over him that makes you enjoy the whole concert. It was hot in the theater
but he stayed for almost 2 hours. I don't mention all the songs, they were all
good and special but leopard skin and stuck inside of mobile really were
beautifull. Just like a woman, with the crowd coming in (I understand it's there
every night) I don't really think Dylan-like. What good am I was special and it
appreared like he was alone on the stage. Shelter from the storm wasn't
regonized by my husband (a bit lesser Dylan-fan) because even I thought it
wasn't a very good version. But on ballad of a thin man he was fabulouse, very
theatratical. After the three encores I was sorry it was over. Unfortunately he
didn't sing Blind Willie McTell like on a lot of other nights. So I still have
something to wish for. Hopefully next time!


Review by John Gallienne

An evening of mixed emotions. 

I listened to Bob every day during my university days in the 60's. I was
astounded by his lyricism, which could swing from deceptively simple to
downright enigmatic. I had all his albums. Part of me identified with his music.
Fond memories.

Life moved on, and my musical tastes moved with it. I then rediscovered him a
few years ago, and have been catching up ever since. Now, more than 40 years
after my university days, I look virtually every day on this Boblinks site to
look at the set lists and reviews of his ongoing tours.

Mixed emotions then, as I was saying. 

But first of all, regarding the show, hats off to Bob and the band for the
incredible stamina and quality they maintained throughout the show despite the
unbearable, overpowering and energy-sapping heat. It was the muggiest, steamiest
day of the recent heatwave, 34° and stifling when I arrived in Nantes at around
5 o'clock in the evening. I honestly wondered whether the show would have to be
called off because of health risks to the artists on stage, or at least put back
a couple of hours till it got cooler. 

God knows what the temperature was on stage during the concert. All I can say is
that everywhere you looked people were mopping their brows, fanning themselves
with whatever papers they could lay their hands on, and taking on board large
draughts of water or beer. 

The show was sold out. Not a seat to be had anywhere, hardly surprising for the
first Dylan appearance in Nantes since 1983. No standing room left as the show

On the whole, a very good show with several highlights and privileged moments.
So why the mixed emotions ? Well, let me say that even if I enjoyed the concert
immensely myself, along with most of the crowd judging by the cheers and
applause, I know for a certainty that some people didn't.

The people sitting next to me, roughly my age, who I'd been talking to before
the show and assured me they knew Dylan's music, seemed to be totally bemused by
what was going on, and could hardly raise a perfunctory ripple of applause after
each number.

Drifting towards the exits afterwards, I heard one lady say "un peu déçue, pas
vraiment ce à quoi je m'attendais" (a bit disappointed, not really what I was

Drifting further on towards my car, I heard a man of my age, bewildered, dazed,
baffled, singing out loud over and over again in a distinct French accent "The
answer my friend is blowing in the wind", but in the original tune, as if
reminding himself how the song really should be sung, rejecting Dylan's total
rework of this ballad..... "Blowing in the Wind" is the one stand-out Dylan song
that everybody knows worldwide, simple but devastating lyrics, the epitome of
protest against mankind's folly. And this guy had been betrayed by Dylan, he
couldn't accept that this particular yardstick in his youth could have been
somehow smashed to smithereens and rebuilt. Thus Dylan is Judas once more.

I can understand the disappointment. I respect these people's opinion, even if I
don't agree with it.... I can understand people not accepting Dylan going
electric, I can understand people disliking the new arrangements of certain
songs. Sometimes they have been reworked to the point of being almost
unrecognisable, only the lyrics remain, and even the lyrics, as we all know, can
shift a little, a little poetic licence here and there. Even the 1 song he did
from his most recent album ( Jolene ) had part of the musical arrangement

Add to this, dare I say it,  the likelihood that a lot of the spectators present
may have a basic working knowledge of English but not the level of command
necessary to grasp the subtleties and lyricism. It's a bit like native English
speakers with a smattering of French listening to a rendering of Rimbaud's
poetry, a strong influence on Dylan's work, and unable to grasp the sheer genius
of a man who gave up writing when he was just 19 years old. 

But did these disappointed people really expect Bob to turn up on stage some 50
years later with the same acoustic guitar, sit down on the same stool, and start
crooning the same old tunes the same way ? Isn't this somehow a bit like
expecting Picasso to sit in front of the same object 50 years down the line and
paint it the same way ?....Didn't Picasso move from his "Blue period" to Cubism,
Guernica and beyond ?...did these people realise that Dylan has produced more
than 40 albums in a career spread over 50 years, covering folk, country, rock,
blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel, you name it ...the last 3 of which all went
to the top of the tree in the UK, US and some European charts, including 2009's
Together Through Life ?...(.It should be said in passing that, of the 17 songs
performed, 7 were written in the period 1997-2010, nearly half the show).

Didn't these people realise that Dylan has moved with the times ? Or should I
say that Dylan has even sometimes shown the times which direction to take ?

Isn't it the artist's right, his privilege, and maybe his will, to evolve ?
Isn't it his right not only to write new stuff, but also to take a look at the
old stuff with a new eye ? ..Isn't that part of fulfilling himself, part of
letting his creative juices run where they want to go ? 

True, there are so many artists from the 60's, 70's making come-backs these days
to bring in some cash. Some, not all, no names, are happy to churn out the same
stuff, the same set list, the same arrangements, night after night, they have
nothing more to say, their creative juices have dried up, but they're keeping
some people happy. Easy money...

Dylan, in my humble opinion, is not really in it just for the cash, he's up
there on stage night after night because he thoroughly enjoys it, it's the place
he wants to be more than anywhere else. He still gets a massive kick out of
being up there on stage, that is blindingly obvious to anyone who was present.
No two shows are the same. His huge repertoire enables him to radically alter
his set list night after night. Only 7 of tonight's 17 songs figured on the
previous set list in Bordeaux, and those 7 include the inevitable kingpins like
Highway 61 and Like a Rolling Stone.

10 changes from the previous show. What other living artist can offer this
amazing variety ? ..There can't be many, maybe Aznavour in his heyday ?. Please
tell me, folks, I would love to know.... No, Dylan's not happy just sitting
around collecting royalties from the hundreds of cover versions. On stage is
where it's at. My two sons are both making a living in music, both guitarists,
both struggling to make ends meet, but they will tell you that the place they
want to be most is on stage. That's where they get the ultimate sense of
fulfilment. Fulfilment along with the never-ending search for improvement and,
hopefully along the way, a glimpse of satisfaction. I hope they will be saying
the same when they get to Bob's age of 69.

Talking of age, one remark I accidentally overheard in passing, was "il faut
savoir s'arrêter" (best translated as "you have to know when it's time to call
it a day"). I'm not 100% sure, but I'm almost certain he was talking about
Dylan, and the fact he was past it. If this is the case, words fail me. Bob was
so obviously enjoying himself and giving it his all, despite the draining and
impossibly stifling conditions, when most people would have opted for staying
indoors with shutters closed, sipping a margarita. You can dislike his
arrangements, you can dislike his newer songs, you can prefer what he used to do
50 years ago, but you just can't say he's over the top, especially after this
performance. You can't take away the guts, the stamina, the outstanding quality,
the raw emotion. If he can play and sing like tonight, if he can carry on
sharing with us the fruits of his lyrical brilliance, his place is right up
there, on stage, till the day comes he decides it's time to hang up his guitar
and harp. Only when the enjoyment, the thrill, the kick have waned. Only when he
feels he can't keep up the same level of quality. Only then. No reason,
meanwhile, to deny the artist the right to love what he's doing. 

So a few negative comments spinning in my head walking to my car, but relief was
to come. Faith restored. Youth to the rescue. I came across 2 young French lads
who had parked their car next to mine. They both thought the show was fabulous.
They knew their 2010 Dylan. And then a young Danish girl, trying to hitch-hike
her way back to Paris with her boyfriend, told me it was absolutely terrific.
There were thousands of young people there tonight, my generation was probably
in a minority, a tribute to a man who has written great music spread over 5
decades in so many different styles, and who is still writing today. I'm sure
these young folk all felt the same way. I headed back towards Angers in a good
mood after all, safe in the knowledge that Dylanology was alive and well. 

Right, after this outpouring of my thoughts, a few brief words on the show. It
was a privilege to hear such classics as Visions of Johanna, Shelter from the
Storm, but the real highlights to me were High Water, Love Sick, Jolene, What
Good Am I (which further convinced me that the Oh Mercy album from 1989 is right
up there with the very best), and the real show-stopper, Ballad of a Thin
Man.... Simply unforgettable. The ultimate enigma of Dylan's lyricism, nobody
can agree what it's all about (even Dylan himself must be wondering where his
Muses had taken him when he penned that song).

Dylan is sometimes so much like a painter who puts different brushstrokes on to
his canvas. Each brushstroke makes sense, so many brilliant one-liners, but put
them together, and sometimes the ensemble remains a blur and open to
interpretation. It's up to the observer to look at the finished canvas and draw
his own conclusions. In Dylan's case, the canvas can often look mysterious,
juxtaposing colours in a Jackson Pollock-like abstract, often impenetrable and
opaque, but other times he can paint a beautifully simple Modigliani-like
portrait with straightforward, down-to-earth lyrics like in Love Sick, and What
Good Am I.

I thought his vocals were as clear as a bell, probably better than in Paris 3
years ago, the acoustics were better, even though some of the guitar licks were
sometimes slightly overpowered by the rhythm section where I was sitting. I
thought Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat was an excellent choice for curtain-raiser,
and set the tone for the rest of the night. Overall, tonight's show was probably
just that bit better than Paris. Congratulations to Bob and his band. Long may
they carry on.

Remember one thing. It's not for nothing that Dylan is nominated year after year
for the Literature Nobel Prize. He will of course never get it, but the special
Honorary Pulitzer Prize he won in 2008, the first ever given to a "rock"
musician, does justice at least to his incredible talents.

Mixed emotions, as I said, but of course, I'm only too pleased to have been

John Gallienne


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