July 14, 2019
Review by Colin Lacey
Superb set from Dylan after Neil Young’s performance raised the bar.
Highlights included opening three-hit slab of nostalgia with Thin Man, It
Ain’t Me Babe, and Highway 61 - all with crystal clear sound and great
vocals. Can’t Wait was rearranged into a funky shuffle, while the
unexpected appearance of Love Sick was another treat.
But of course one moment was unforgettable - a joyous mid-set duet with
Neil Young on Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Bob’s singing was superb. The
two giants meeting mid stage to shake hands felt like a climax but there
was much more top-shelf Bob to come, including a stellar Serve Somebody
and the closer It takes A Lot To Laugh.
Dylan seemed to be loving it all, looked fit and sang like his life
depended on it.
One of the best outdoor Dylan shows I’ve seen - though not everyone
agreed: on the way out of the stadium one attendee says: Dylan has lost
the plot. Hard to agree - at 78, he’s still amazing: more like the plot
Review by John Hayes
Where to start?
I got a WhatsApp message late one night from my daughter Alanna, asking me
if I knew that Neil Young and Bob Dylan were on the same bill in July in
Kilkenny. I replied that I did of course know, so why was she asking. That
would be a great family weekend she said if everyone was interested It was
in my mind a non starter as although my son Robert and I are both big fans
of both, the other 3 were pretty keen to see Neil Young, but had little
interest in Bob. To my surprise then, next morning I discovered that 5
tickets had been bought and we were in business. So on Friday evening
prior to the event, we were on our way from Dublin Airport by hire car
having flown over from Glasgow. We found our accommodation in Borris 30
min from kilkenny and made the best of the weekend eating in great pubs
and restaurants. Having a Guinness or two in pubs which not only sold the
wonderful brew but other essential items such as Wellington boots???? The
weather was excellent all weekend and on Sunday off we went to the show.
We were in a great spot on the pitch of Nowlan park. Glen Hansard opened
at 5 and was a great choice of support act. I will listen to more of his
stuff for sure. Just after 6 Neil Young and the band came on and put on a
truly fantastic performance, the crowd loved it all and Neil still can
perform with as much energy as he ever did. I have to confess to being
apprehensive when Bob came on stage. I had seen him for a 10th time 2
years prior to this in Glasgow and didn't think I would do an 11th. It was
OK but I thought that I'd call it a day at that For me at any rate my
misgivings were misplaced. Bob was on very good form, definitely enjoying
most of his final European concert for this year at least. From the very
start he got into it. I loved the first 4, all firm favourites regardless
of how he arranges them. Can't Wait I liked although I'm not usually that
keen on it. After Pay in Blood I told everyone to expect Like a Rolling
Stone. But of course, with him expect the unexpected. What a moment when
Neil came back on. It was great but all too brief of course. The new LARS
was very interesting and Girl from the North Country was probably my pick
of the night. All too soon it was over. Probably my last time for a
variety of reasons but high up my list in terms of enjoyment. 35 years
plus a week since I first saw him at Wembly thinking retirement was
imminent and he keeps on keeping on. Almost home now wishing I could do it
all again. Thanks to my wife for tolerating it rather than enjoying it, to
Giel Alannas boyfriend for putting up with the family for a whole weekend,
to Robert who was not only an excellent navigator but also got me the tour
t-shirt as an early birthday present. But most of thanks to alanna for
making it all happen.
Review by Tiernan Henry
The duet: of course it was out of the blue and unfolded so casually that
it caught most people off guard even as they started the song. Pay in
Blood wound down, there was a bit of movement and what looked like a
roadie wandering out and then Bob stumble started the first verse,
immediately righted the ship and off they went. It's easy to write too
much meaning into Bob and Neil duetting on a song they've both known for
decades and sung occasionally (and once together 39 years ago): the end of
both tours, Neil dedicating it to the late Eliot Roberts, no - so far -
new Bob dates on the horizon. Will The Circle Be Unbroken, indeed. You've
probably seen the video or heard the audio, and the version they sang was
were suitably rambling, rattly and so full of heart. It was a real joy to
be there to see and hear it. And it was lovely to see Neil wandering over
to talk to Bob, and to see Bob applauding Neil after the song. It was a
real highlight and a real pleasure to have witnessed it. Which means
they'll probably do this together for every show for the next 10 years.
Kilkenny was heaving and while the hurling team were in Dublin reminding
everyone that they haven't gone away it was just as compelling in their
home ground. Neil's set was admirably indulgent and backed by the Promise
of the Real (beamed in from 1976 in Ed Power's neat phrase) he turned the
clock right back to when duelling guitars and bongos were de rigeur for
any rock & roll band worth its salt. The crowd loved the big old numbers -
Keep On Rocking... and Hey Hey My My in particular (the acoustic stuff
seemed a bit perfunctory and didn't gel with what had come before), but
the real highlight was a gorgeous Cortez the Killer. In the wings for the
entire show was a beaming Charlie Sexton. And then Neil was done, bang on
8:15 - ever the professional. And, bang on 9:00 - ditto - on came Bob and
the band. I've seen him dozens of times over the past four decades and I'm
at peace with what he does and how he does it. Of course I knew what he
was likely to play and of course I'd seen and heard stuff from other dates
on the tour, but he still surprised me. The old CBS ad (no one sings Dylan
like Dylan) was quite accidently profound, and in the same way you can
hear all the audio and see all the video, but you really need to see him
live to get the other bit, the, uh... Bob-ness of it all. And it was in
full flow on the last night of the tour. He sang wonderfully, fully
committed to the songs and to getting them across, and the five of them
worked hard, a real band clicking and grooving. Where the Promise of the
Real offers Neil the space to jam and ramble, Bob's band move and swing as
a tight unit and you get the sense that nothing fazes them. A gem of a
Review by Nancy Cobb
I saw both the Kilkenny and London shows. The venues were both large and
outdoors, but otherwise they could not have been more different. The
sound was great in Hyde Park but there you could pay big bucks and not
even see the stage. In Kilkenny we were in a "park" of cement where
people were packed in like sardines. I was told it was designed for
hurling, whatever that is. I was happily in the grandstand instead of the
so-called grass of London. Even so, the seats were about 10 inches square
with about 6 inches of legroom, so you could call it intimate. The
screens were much smaller so you could see only a portion of the
performers at any one time and the sound reverberated around the
structure. Now for the good part....both shows were absolutely
fantastic...the best ever for me. Both Neil and Bob. In Hyde Park my
highlights were Can't Wait and North Country, both highly original
arrangements where Bob sang his heart out. In commentaries, I had seen
that people were leaving during Bob's set, but since the venue was so huge
and spread out I could not confirm this. At Nowlan park it was another
story. Even though Bob made some of the wildest changes to the original
recordings, especially on Like a Rolling Stone, people stuck around. The
man next to me in Kilkenny had never seen Bob live or bought a record in
the last 30 years so I warned him about what to expect beforehand. I was
happy to observe that he and his wife lasted till the end. I will agree
that at both venues there were probably more hard core Neil fans than Bob
fans present, but there was definitely no mass exodus during Bob's set.
It is poetic justice for anyone who did leave to miss the duet on Circle
which will go down in history. The blues numbers were the great ones for
me in Kilkenny, Early Roman Kings, Thunder on the Mountain, and the last
encore, Train. To me, Bob's music is like his art. On record it is just
a drawing, but in live performance it turns into a wonderful painting, and
that is why I cannot understand people who are healthy and can afford it
who intentionally avoid seeing his live performances. The difference is
that Bob has yet to paint his masterpiece whereas he has most likely
already created his musical masterpieces. But Bob is always vital and
new, and people who are sorry to miss these shows will have something to
live up to in the future.
Review by Ted Coakley
What a nice surprise that Bob has now re-invented his voice- has not
sounded so well in a long time. This was an outstanding show but if one
had little idea of his songs, what would it sound like? The costly
tickets, even by Irish standards did not ensure we had access to water
even to pay for it - the food points were chaotic which was the
organisers/promoters fault and the long lines of people trying to get
access to the grounds were to be seen to be believed. Otherwise, Neil
Young had a huge part in making it a great day- musically, at least. Is
there another great album in the offing- it would not surprise me? What
could be done to round it all off; a version of Kilkenny`s national
anthem, The Rose of Mooncoin.. and it would not be the first irish song
Review by Ken Cowley
All of the omens were positive leading up to Nowlan Park's big outdoor concert
of 2019 in one of Irelands loveliest small cities in the southeast of the country,
and for what was to be the final Dylan concert of the current tour. Let's see -
the weather was co-operating, Kilkenny's hurling team won a big match in
Dublin earlier in the day, the town was buzzing with not a hotel room to be
had, no 'golden circle' VIP sections down the front, ticket prices were
reasonable when compared to the same artists' Hyde Park (London) prices
two days earlier - meaning that plenty of young people were in attendance,
all in all 40,000 people were absolutely hankering for a great day's music, so
what could possibly go wrong? Well - it's true to say that neither Neil Bob put
on a big visual 'bells and whistles' show nor even barely get around to speaking
to their audiences, meaning that the two guys would have to deliver purely
based on their music in order to engage this stadium-sized audience. So, could
they? Would they? And some.
Opening the day's proceedings at 5pm sharp was a well-received 40-minute
solo set from Glen Hansard before Neil took to the stage with his backing band
Promise of The Real. Comprising two of Willie Nelson's sons amongst their
number, POTR are a noted band in their own right and over the last few years
have shown enough breadth of musicality and flexibility to be able to support
most of Neil's genre-dipping proclivities, and are thus capable of being ranked
reasonably close to some of Neil's other bands and collaborators throughout
the decades such as Crazy Horse, Stray Gators and CSN.
Tonight though, Neil was very focused on his heavy and loud guitar-based
material. For example, offering us long burning versions of the likes of 'Over and
Over', 'Love to Burn' and 'Throw Your Hatred Down'. From where this reviewer
was standing, the sound was a shade too loud and the bass a shade too high,
but not enough to really detract from any enjoyment.
And to be fair, there were sufficient lighter and quieter songs to balance things
up, particularly during Neil and band's semi-acoustic countrified mini-set halfway
through the show, giving the crowd their first (and possibly final) opportunity
of the day to really sing along with well-known classic songs, for example 'Heart
of Gold' and 'Old Man'. Lovely moments all.
After this Neil straps on his famous guitar Old Black once more and the volume
is cranked seemingly even higher for the final electric section, the highlight of
which was a slow searing 'Cortez the Killer', Neil truly showing us here how
much he lives these songs each night on stage and how much he relishes
playing them with a band he is highly in tune with. No matter how many Neil
shows you see it is rare that you could accuse him of going through the
motions, as his body racks and rocks in time with his attempts to seemingly
force the music (and the muse) out of his guitar.
The show ends with a predictable but highly enjoyable 'Rockin' in the Free
World', concluding an excellent 2-hour concert, but perhaps not the last we
would see of Mr Young on this fine Kilkenny night?
Up next was our other co-headliner, and Bob starts out proving that things
have indeed changed by opening with 'Ballad of a Thin Man', instead of 'Things
Have Changed', this being something like only the 3rd show for several years
where the opening song was NOT 'Things have Changed' (his Oscar-winning
song from 2001). Anyhow, the change is welcome and Thin Man gets a
rousing reception, as indeed do the next few songs where (for the moment)
the 'hits' keep coming, such as a thunderous 'Highway 61 Revisited' and a
tenderly phrased 'Simple Twist of Fate' which has had a few recent lyric
Next up ain't no hit though, as track 5 of the concert is a stupendous new
presentation of the song 'Can't Wait'. Here, one should mention, as indeed
many commentators regularly do, our Bob does like to radically rearrange his
songs, including even his most recent songs. This song is a case in point,
'Can't Wait' being one of four songs tonight from Time out of Mind, now
turned in to an absolutely stomping funk work-out, if not worthy of James
Brown, than at least a nod to the Rolling Stones' song 'Miss You'. Also on this
song, Bob comes out from behind his piano, and affects the kind of
mini-dance/shuffle routine which we have all come to know and love. And
nobody holds a mic stand quite like the 78 year-old Bob Dylan!
A word now on the band. Bob himself these days is playing a baby grand piano
situated centre stage. Since Stu left the band last year it is apparent that
some spaces have opened up in the arrangements. This is mainly a good thing,
as it not only allows Bob to tinker a little more with his stubby but effective
piano chops, perhaps more importantly it allows Charlie to expand somewhat
on his various guitars. Like all of Bob's musicians Charlie can switch effortlessly
from rock to jazz to blues to country and many shades in between. Indeed if
you listen very closely to a Bob Dylan concert you can hear these multiple
genres being constantly played with and affectionately messed with, in 2019
as much as at any of the previous 30 year so the Neverending Tour. Also
benefiting (if that's the right word) from the loss of Stu is bandleader Tony
Garnier who played some lovely bass throughout the show, particularly
noticeable on the quieter numbers, albeit always in service to the song.
Donnie is also highly prominent these days and his contributions on pedal steel,
slide guitar, dobro and fiddle were all much welcomed. And George remains
one of the great Dylan drummers, flexible, subtle, yet powerful when he
needs to be.
If a minor quibble was to be made about the current Dylan concert
presentation it would be that there are just one or two too many up-tempo
rock/rockabilly/jump-blues/country hoe-down songs that are either;
(1) completely unknown by the audience, and/or (2) played in a similar
arrangement. Actually, it could be argued that the arrangements of 'Honest
with Me', 'Thunder on the Mountain' and 'Gotta Serve Somebody' are almost
interchangeable, and for an artist/band with such high levels of musical and
arrangement-creativity, they could probably drop, swap, or rearrange a couple
of these numbers. Also, I felt those three songs missed the bedrock of Stu's
rhythm guitar (Stu never seemed to get much credit, but he was a decent
After the opening section, the concert goes in to not so much a lull, as a
slightly quiet period in terms of audience engagement. The new piano-driven
quiet arrangement of 'When I Paint My Masterpiece' is a brave effort though,
and 'Pay in Blood' is shown off in yet another re-arrangement, plus perhaps not
everyone in the crowd twigs that Bob is playing Adele's big hit 'Make You Feel
My Love' (indeed many may not know that Dylan wrote it) until at least a
verse or two in - but it is at least a well-known song which is welcome news
for a stadium audience on a co- headlining bill where to be fair not everyone
will be a Dylan fanatic.
But soon the audience gets a big reward when our other co-headliner
Mr Young comes back out unexpectedly. Naturally Neil comes on completely
unannounced by our reticent host Mr Dylan! But it's a lovely moment as the
two old mates give us a spirited rendition of the folk/country classic 'Will the
Circle Be Unbroken'. Why Kilkenny got this treat, and the bigger show in Hyde
Park two days earlier did not, is a mystery which will probably never be solved.
Maybe the two boys just felt at home here in rural Ireland and said to each
other 'why the hell not'. Anyway, the chemistry between them on the day
was palpable and everyone enjoyed it. And London has done pretty well
from Bob over the years! As we all have.
Anyway before we know it, Neil has departed the stage, and Bob is straight in
to 'Like a Rolling Stone', his most famous song, which the crowd love, despite
a new eccentric slowed-down bit at the end of every verse. Well, why not.
Now we are galloping towards the end of the show, with the audience hoping
for a few more 'wins' prior to hitting the pubs of Kilkenny, and after a stomping
'Early Roman Kings' (I know some fans aren't mad about this song, but for me
it has been reinvigorated in the last year or two) they are rewarded with a
show highlight in 'Girl From the North Country'. This is played pretty much
solo on piano and vocal by Bob with some minimal accompaniment from a
couple of the band members. As a vocal performance it proves that, not only
yes, Bob can still actually really sing, but also that he seemingly took plenty on
board in terms of vocal-influence throughout all those years (circa 2013-2017)
of recording and performing great American songbook songs. True, he still
ain't no Sinatra or Crosby, but as we all know he can get a song across when
he wants to. Another great moment.
The show wraps up with a few rockers, sandwiched in between which he
plays a wistful 'Soon After Midnight' (one of three songs still in the set from
the Tempest album) , before bringing it all back home to the 1960s with a
steady two-song encore of 'Blowin in the Wind' and his classic blues song 'It
Takes a lot to Laugh, it takes a Train to Cry'.
This brings the night's proceedings to an end, four hours of enjoyable no-frills,
no-compromise music from two artists who have been doing exactly what
they want for almost 60 years each, with many of us still going along thankfully
for the ride. Neil looks stronger than ever. Bob perhaps a little frailer but still
vibrant, still doing his own thing and doing it well. As of now, he has no
further concerts scheduled. We may not get many more days like this. But
what a day it was.
Review by James Nolan
When it was announced that Bob was going to play a double whammy with
Neil Young in Kilkenny I knew we were going to get something very special
indeed and I was not wrong! If you only went to one Bob show in the last
five years, then this gig was the one to be at.
This was Bob's third visit to Nowlan Park, having played there in 2001 (with
Ronnie Wood guesting for a lot of the set), and again in 2006.
So on Sunday around noon, myself and my elegant companion set off to pick
up a friend from NYC from his hotel near Dublin airport before zipping off on
the 90 minute drive to Kilkenny. After getting great parking, courtesy of two
more friends in situ, we arrived into the sun-baked venue about 30 minutes
after 'gates opening' time and proceeded to find a great spot right-of-centre
about 4 or 5 rows from the front.
Glen Hansard kicked things off in fine style, coming on at about 5 pm and
playing a short but high energy set, alternating between stand-up piano and
acoustic guitar and with one song (Grace) without any instrumentation at all.
He had plenty to say between songs too and the crowd gave him a wonderful
reception. 'Revelate' was particularly wild, performed in a very Pixies-esque
style, so much so, that Glen slipped in 'I Got A Broken Face uh-huh' snippet
At about 6.15 pm (and after a super-fast stage change by an army of Neil
roadies) out walks Neil, dressed in black, including his hat, with his backing
band 'The Promise of the Real'. A few wild feedback notes and the crowd
whoop in pure delight, and then we were off!
First up was 'Like An Inca' performed for the only time on this European Tour
and only about a dozen times since 1982, according to the boffins on Sugar
Mountain (the NY Set List Archive.) And what an incredible song it is, a real
companion piece to 'Cortez the Killer'. Neil of course, has a huge amount of
songs to choose from, and for me the Kilkenny set was an absolute
humdinger with three songs I had never seen Neil sing before.
The set included four epics from Ragged Glory and was interspersed with
rarities and other old gems, along with an acoustic set of four songs including
'Human Highway'. It is a joy to watch Neil sing and play as his whole body
seems to become part of the music, vibrating and trembling, like a gazillion
volts are flowing through him. And TPOTR band are a perfect foil for him to
ebb and flow and go wherever he wishes to go. Neil didn't say very much,
(He does not need to) …'What does it sound like there at the back?' (the
crowd at the rear cheer their approval) ..'yeah it's pretty much the same up
here' says a laughing Neil. 'Cortez' deserves a special mention, as it is a song
that Neil sings in such a profound fashion that makes it seem like it was
written only last week. The show finished on a long workout of 'Rockin' in the
Free World' which had the crowd baying for more! All in all, this show was an
absolute powerhouse performance by one of the truly-great road warriors.
- Long May He Run.
So, another lightning-fast stage change by two armies of roadies, a short burst
of music over the P.A. and we now found ourselves at the front rail. Then on
the dot of 9 pm, from stage-right comes Bob, in black with a white hat and
strolling with purpose, in tandem with the band.
And boom! The show starts in high gear with a rollicking 'Ballad of a Thin Man',
instead of the usual tired opener for the last six years or so, 'Things have
Changed'. 'Thin Man' also happens to be one of my all-time favourite Bob songs.
(So a big Huzzah!)
Bob's voice sounds wonderful and the overall sound is simply superb. I doff my
hat to the sound techs!
It should be noted too, because of the big screens we seemed to get some
theatrics between songs with Bob ambling out from the piano to have a little
word or a nod to each of the band members between numbers.
So many other highlights to mention but I'll just focus on a few…
It Ain't Me Babe: A really strong multi-layered outing in the #2 slot.
Simple Twist of Fate: Very powerful vocals and the first lovely harp solo of the
evening which made the crowd whoop in delight.
Can't Wait: Wow! What a revelation this song was! Bob walks out from behind
the piano, grabs the mic stand and drags it back towards George. He sang the
song with real gusto and it was totally reworked into a funkadelic style with an
impeccable delivery by Bob. This song was worth the admission price alone!
When I Paint My Masterpiece: Again reworked and a live debut for me after
attending in excess of three digit shows.
Pay in Blood: Another astonishing reworked outing that had me punching the
air as I spotted Neil stage-left watching proceedings from the wings with a
smile as broad as the majestic Shannon.
Will The Circle Be Unbroken: After Pay in Blood ended Neil walks out to wild
cheers from the audience. After a brief set up by two of Neil's roadies, Bob,
perhaps inhabited by the spirit of Ralph Stanley himself, launches straight into
it. They take turns throughout with Bob leading the charge. It was truly an
unforgettable and very special historic moment. At the song close, Bob
applauds Neil and he in turn puts his hand on Bob's shoulder in mutual
admiration. ..It was just beautiful!
Like A Rolling Stone: Bob's fifty plus year old epic now reworked and sang with
real power. The Irish crowd still managed to sing alongside Bob for the chorus
which made Bob sing 'Try That Again One More Time' which we did!
Girl From The North Country: Stripped back to its bare bones with little band
accompaniment and with a stunning vocal by Bob this was simply sublime.
Lovesick: Another makeover, and sounding grittier, more up-tempo and more
forlorn than the outings I've witnessed in recent years, just fantastic!
Gotta Serve Somebody: This was a very up-tempo rocking rendition, with new
lyrics thrown in for good measure and was the perfect main set closer.
Blowin' In The Wind: This song sounded really fresh and with Donnie's fiddle
way up in the mix, it was superb.
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry: A great Blues work-out and
the ideal closer to what was a genuinely magnificent show.
After the show I met up with a great friend and two good friends from Italy.
We then left through a different exit and it took us longer than expected to
find our way back to the preordained landmark to find our friend from NYC
patiently waiting. We then left Kilkenny for Dublin, all three of us tired but
So there we have it, 35 years (and six days) since my very first Bob Dylan gig
in Slane Castle on July 8th 1984, Bob continues to surprise and astonish me
with a show that was, hands down, the best one I've seen since the
marvellous Dublin and Cork gigs in 2014 and is up there with the best I've
seen over the last four decades.
A great friend informed me that Neil sang with Bob at the very first NET show
and with no new concerts announced (as yet), could this phenomenal concert
be his farewell NET show, a tour bookended with a Neil duet? I dearly hope
May the road continue to rise with you Bob…My sincere thanks!
Comments by John O’ Callaghan
It was exactly 18 years to the day that Bob Dylan last played in
Kilkenny. 4 or 5 songs from that day in 2001 were on the setlist again
this time round. Among the many highlights of this Kilkenny 2019
concert was his rendition of ‘Girl from the North Country’. The 78
year old Bob singing a song written by his 22 year old self was special
and perhaps sung with a greater sensitivity now than when it was first
released in 1963.
John O’ Callaghan
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