Nimes, France

Festival de Nimes
Les Arenes

July 15, 2012

[Charles Flannery], [GuillemTM], [Rick J.], [Graham Cole]

Review by Charles Flannery

The setting was amazing, the Roman Arena in the centre of Nimes. The concert was not 
a sell out, there were quite a few empty seats, despite this there were many people 
wandering around trying to buy a ticket. The opening act Adam Cohen was a little bit 
dreary, Cohen maintained the same monotonous tone and rhythm throughout. The only 
relief was his spirited rendering of "Marianne" which just happened to be the song which 
woke up the audience in the arenas the last time I was there, when Leonard Cohen was
singing it.

Dylan was elegantly dressed in black blazer and white pants sporting his wide brimmed hat. 
He was given a good reception. That is normal for someone of his stature. However after
that things were a little disappointing. The sound balance making it almost impossible to 
hear Bob's limited singing voice, the melody of the songs was completely lost in the battle 
between the driving hard rock accompaniment of the musicians and manly effort Dylan 
made to be heard, meaning that the majority of the audience had no idea which song he 
was singing, me included. I was happy to find your playlist this morning, while the concert 
was still fresh in my mind. However a decent review of the concert is difficult, as the only 
two numbers which were recognizable were Tangled Up In Blue and of course Like a
Rolling Stone.

The evening ended badly in a long and hard fought battle, to recover cameras which had 
been impounded by security men.


Review by GuillemTM

Reading the only poor and negative review in your site I decided to send
You the small review I posted in expectingrain, where theres other
interesting commentarys about the show with which I agree much more than
with the one in your site:

Good show yesterday, I think mostly thanks to the fact Bob was enjoying
himself at the grand piano. Voice better than last time I saw him, but
mostly reciting and not much singing. But what I enjoyed the most was the
piano, that sounds much better than the organ and the way Bob played it in
most of the songs. And most of them had a jazzy feel that I bnever heard in
previous shows.

The setlist wasn't the one of my dreams, but I enjoyed songs I didn't
expect to, like Rollin' and tumblin' or Summer days. I liked Things have
changed much better than a year ago. Simple twist of fate was great, and
Tryin' to get to heaven too, changing the singing from the version I heard
recently live in 2011 in Hamburg and 2008 in Encamp. Ballad of a thin man
was great too. It seems he felt inspired midways and ran to the piano.

When there was stage rush in Like a rolling stone, I ran there, ending in
front of the front row (where by that time there was nobody) with only two
more people between me and the stage. I think I never had seen Bob so
close, as he wasn't very far in the stage. In Like a rolling stone he
seemed to feel bad. I could see in his face that something was wrong. It
was his seat. He tried to move it while playing and singing at least twice,
but only at the end of the song he managed to do it properly apparently
with some anger. When he started All along the watchtower his face had
changed completely and he seemed way more pleased.

It is also remarcable the huge amount of cameras the organization didn't
let enter the venue, making some of their owners wait for half an hour to
have it back.



Review by Rick J.

A casual on and off fan of Dylan for the past - 40 (maybe more !) odd years or so - Bob
is someone I have many chances to see, always thought about it, but never actually 
followed through. 
This time he was close by in the southern French city of Nīmes - 1/2 hour from my 
home. Time to see Bob. Having been an on and off fan, and knowing Bob Dylan has 
gone through lots of permutations - and having been out of touch with his music 
recorded or live - I had no idea what to expect. Had heard some sour reviews (not on 
this site) - but I tossed them aside. I was here to see for myself. He has so much 
material - what a well to dip into !. What will he choose ? What will he sound like?

I was worried about parking, but as I arrived into the city center and got the parking 
for the Arenes de Nīmes, discovered that lots of other folks had the same idea. As I 
climbed the stairs into the city-center plaza, I remembered how well kept the area
around Les Arčnes is. In front people gathering outside lined up to get in. Hmmm, 
lots of grey ponytails - and the folks in the 50-60 range, though a nice smattering of 
younger folks too. Beautiful summer evening in the south of France. 

The venue: les Arčnes de Nīmes is a spectacular place to see a show. The only hiccup 
was the security guard, who quickly discovered my FlipCam and offered to confiscate
it. No thanks, back to the car. Finally in (with iPhone), I am reminded of what an 
awesome place this is. My seats are up in the vomitoire (I`ll not translate that one :-), 
essentially the first balcony - stage left. The show is obviously not sold out - perhaps 
folks will show up late - quite common in France. Later, my initial observations were 
confirmed, it was not in fact, a sold out show. However, the folks that were there, 
wanted to be there - and the vibe was very friendly - I was able to quickly make on 
the spot acquaintances with the folks around me, who seemed to be somewhat
knowledgeable both about Dylan and the surroundings. BTW - the sound in this place 
is excellent for an outdoor arena - the sound system is permanently in place and this 
house system was used for the show.

The opening act: Adam Cohen. If the purpose of an opening act is to make the headliner 
look good, Mr Cohen couldn't`t have done a finer job. His sort of folksy, groovy new age 
whatever, with two other multi-instrumentalists was cute for a song, maybe two. It wore 
thin quickly. Say no more. When is Bob Dylan going to take the stage ?.  It can`t come 
soon enough. Thankfully (have mercy), the clock runs out on Mr Cohen,  45 mins later. 

Main event: As the sound crew begins to move the instruments in place for Dylan's band
I see a pleasant surprise - ah, nice grand piano center stage. So Bob has a piano 
player - cool. A pedal steel. Like that. No music in between acts - just folks talking, mingling. 
I am able to see through the curtains behind the stage a bit - I see a hat - here he and 
they come. Suddenly I hear a cranking guitar riff - hmm, this is gonna be a rocker. The riff 
continues, the band enters and suddenly - Bob Dylan in White had enters the stage, the 
the stage lights are up, Bob`s at the organ - the band is rockin - it`s the blues rocker 
"Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat"; The crowd is delighted, not frenzied, but warmly welcomes 
this. NIce applause and quickly - yes - Bob is at the piano himself to lead the band in a 
country boogie version of an old favorite - "Don`t think twice it`s all right".  The band 
segues into a shuffle towards the end - it`s an interesting twist on the song. Dylan known 
for playing around with his songs - expected. The crowd is pleased, subdued applause. 

The next song I don`t recognize, but I do like it . Then he picks one of my all time 
favorites - "Tangled up in Blue". Would he play stuff from "Blood on the tracks" ? Yes he 
would. Other highlights "Tryin to get to Heaven"  - which I had never heard before - but
thought it was one of the show`s best songs - Bob at the piano again - soulful singing. 
Loved it.  Other high points (of course again tunes I recognized) "Highway 61", a moving 
rendition of "Twist of Fate" (Bob`s only song on the Fender Strat if memory serves me 
right).  Here again Bob shows that he is no Mark Knoffler by a long stretch - but folks,
that's not the point here - it's Dylan doing it his way and it fits - and so...? The show`s 
highlight for me was "Ballad of a Thin Man". Here Dylan seemed to come alive - out front 
with the harmonica and then sitting at the piano - stabbing, almost angry tone to " 
you, Mr Jones?". The crowd rushes to the stage in the pit seating section for "Like a 
Rolling Stone". Here I am in awe at the sheer longevity of this song - the one that has 
been covered so often buy so many - now it's Bob Dylan right there not so far away - at 
the piano "delivering" on this song. Solid rendition. A bit of a downhill slide from here as 
"Watchtower" and the encore " Blowin in the Wind" were pleasant, but nothing special. 

Summary: I`ve heard an awful lot about Bob Dylan's voice. "Its a growl, you can`t 
understand it",  and so on. Yes, and.....?  It's authentic - real, naked and" it is what it is"
in a way that so few other face-lifted, polished to the fingernail nostalgia acts are not. 
I`ll take it. 

The Piano: fantastic touch - it HAS to stay. It's just right - it gives Dylan the opportunity 
to create a varied experience - out front, at the organ, on guitar - and yes, back at the 
piano. He seemed to like - and it showed. The Band: this is a road-seasoned tight little 
unit that is just right for Bob now. The country and western touch is great about now. 
I sincerely hope these are the musicians on the upcoming record. The unit is tight, gels 
very well together and clearly has some solid gigging under it`s belt. I love the pedal 
steel. Always liked "Nashville Skyline" - guess Bob does too. I enjoyed - and if Dylan 
comes back - so will I. 

Rick J.


Review by Graham Cole

A BobFan's 115th Dream?

This show in Nīmes will go down in all my musical concert-going as a peak thanks to a fine 
"deception" by our dear daughter Hannah and an equally wonderful friend of hers (and 
definitely ours too) in Ed Ward.  We have been staying in Montpellier (just along the road 
from Nīmes) with the former and between us had arranged tickets for this show without 
Loraine knowing about it.  So yesterday afternoon was just a little trip to look around 
Nīmes and its Roman heritage buildings with Ed, followed by "some free local concert" in 
the evening.  First stop the famous arčnes and Loraine asking "Why are they selling Bob 
Dylan tees?" by the merchandise tent outside.  So out comes the explanation, followed 
by a smile of delight over her face whilst Ed wanders off to make a call on his mobile.  
Then Hannah steps in with another explanation to both of us.  The phone call Ed is 
making is to (long-time friend) "Tony" and he is arranging fresh tickets for Loraine and me
in the VIP area! and a backstage pass to meet Tony and Charlie!!!  I leave it to you to 
imagine our faces (quite a picture apparently!) and the truth a while later was the kind of 
thing we could only dream of.  So a quick drink in a cafe outside (spotting Charlie out 
strolling pre-show) and then in to our fab seats in the VIP zone, row G.  Ed then rings 
Tony again and he comes out to meet us, and we have the time of our lives chatting with 
him off to the side of the stage.  He then takes us back to the dressing rooms area (the 
loges), and there we meet, and eat, with Charlie (and I sneak an autograph from Donnie 
too!).  What a way to preface the concert and with two such gracious musicians.  And 
given how close we were to showtime, Bob must have been in one of those loges just a 
few metres away from us.  This will never be topped for us both - if you're going to get a 
backstage pass (it was our first ever!), one for a Bobshow must be the best possible!  

So, on a high already from our time in the dressing room area, the concert was in any 
event the best I have ever seen Bob and the band play, yes.  Even songs which I have 
sometimes passed on (Tweedle Dee, Summer Days, for example) were given a new fresh 
treatment and we enjoyed every one of the familiar seventeen songs.  It looked like Bob 
had a good time too, frequently seeming to laugh across the top of that grand piano at 
the band members.

There were no surprises in the setlist, which on any other night might well have led to a 
humdrum show, but not a bit of it, with Bob seeming to find new energies for every song, 
all backed up by some zealous piano work.  Bob was wearing a natty outfit as he always 
does onstage these days.  A dark five-button collarless jacket over white trousers, a bolo 
tie at his shirt-neck and topped by his familiar white skimmer.  Under the pale blue sky
above us the band looked cool in their all-black suits, and we're ready and running from 
the off with clear vocals on Leopard Skin.  It has become difficult sometimes to figure out 
which song Bob is launching into, and Hannah and Arnaud up in the "tribunes" found it 
hard from time to time (this being their first ever Bob show), but down in row G, it 
seemed to us that the sound was really clear (I guess the Romans knew a thing or two 
about acoustics!).  Bob's start into Don't Think Twice slowed things down nicely before an
early Things Have Changed, which we were surprised to hear so soon.  I really liked the 
fast story-telling pace of this treatment of a great song, and there was real showman stuff 
from Bob throughout over Donnie's delightful pedal steel, and culminating in some really 
hard blown harmonica to round it out.  

Can you bark tenderly?  At least this is what I asked myself as Bob moved into Tangled Up
in Blue, with what became a trademark stride manner across his piano stool and again lots 
of mouth harp and harshly chopped words in his delivery.  Rolling' and Tumbling', like 
several of the evening's tunes was the solid work of a great blues band in top drive, and 
Bob really worked the keys through this song.  There were several effective mood changes 
during the evening, and the highlight of the night for me, Tryin' to Get to Heaven, was 
one such beauty.  With the skies above looking down on Charlie's sweet soloing, and a 
lovely harmonica ending, everything seemed to fall into place.  Summer Days had a strong 
jazzy feel under a stage bathed in white light and Bob performing with such strong vocals.  
Sugar Baby crept into view with some low stand-up bass bowing from Tony, and the 
bassist, who earlier had talked to us about his meeting with Paul McCartney in Mexico, 
clearly enjoyed Bob's powerful chords on Tweedle Dee.  As Loraine said, a live Visions will 
never top the album version, but tonight's was sweet under blue lighting, and the piano 
worked perfectly for this, and Ed noticed Charlie playing a Clarence White string bender 
guitar.  More blues band was to follow with Highway 61 and later Thunder, with more
tender vocals from Bob (on guitar) and sweet Donnie steel on Tangled.  Thin Man turned
out to be the talking point of the night for many, understandably with that wonderful 
piano work on it from way way back, and there was also some curious echo on Bob's 
singing - it didn't detract from a great version of the song. The last three tunes were more 
than familiar and played out what was for us the most memorable show ever. Arnaud asked 
me afterwards what I would have said if I'd actually seen Bob backstage, but I know it 
would have been gibberish.  Meeting and talking with Tony and Charlie, without any doubt, 
will never be topped for us, and it will forever be a case of this time a dream did come true,
however unexpectedly.  Thank you Tony and Charlie for that, to all the band and Bob for 
such a great show in such a great venue, and thank you to Hannah and Ed for making it all 
possible (Ed's blog of the day is great to read at	 

Graham Cole


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