page by Bill Pagel
Review by Peter Randau
Like a bucket of fresh water
on the burning foreheads of the hard labourers trapped in an ancient
Bavarian salt mine, Dylan’s Bad Reichenhall performance of July 18th had a
lasting impact even on those among us, who usually do not see the
necessity of breaking away from it all from time to time (and think that
life’s but a joke). At least when in the very moment that Dylan pronounced
the words „... the wind began to howl" (cf. Playlist Nr. 17) a swift
breeze, falling from the surrounding rock faces of the alps, swept through
the audience, everybody knew that this was not an ordinary show, but one
of those rare magic moments that you can only experience, when the
chemistry between everybody on and in front of the stage is just right.
To explain the above, it might be of some importance to mention that the
overall consumption of psychoactive substances in the aging audience was,
more or less, to be neglected - a couple of pints of Bavarian beer would
fix it, so the intonation would laugh up in your ear... However, the
setting in the middle of the Bavarian alps, close to the Austrian border,
helped a lot to create this special synaesthetic impression, where lyrics
and music interfere with the elements of nature. The concert took place in
front of the entrance of a hisoric salt mine (Alte Saline). The visible
part of this monument of pre-industrial hard labour displays solid red
brick walls of typical factory buildings, that surround a central square,
originally used for storing the salt, befor refining it, now still big
enough to give room to a well packed crowd of 6000 spectators. The stage
had (wisely) been put up in front of the entrance hall to the mine, so
that everybody could face the band as well as the pittoresque fassade
featuring three huge gothic windows, through which the enormous drawing
wheel of the mine still can be seen turning, and (of course) a chapel with
an impressive belfry, topped by the roman-catholic cross. Behind the brick
walls - exuberating growth of green, like a promise, but all around that
the dark, steep slopes of the alps, as if to say: there’s no escape from
here without climbing really high. And to make the picture complete: a
dirty sunset, heavy dark clouds all above the valley and the nervous
silence before the storm.
Club gig accoustics
In spite of what an open air concert might suggest, the old salt mine at
Bad Reichenhall does not require mixing at high volumes - the surrounding
brick walls foster early reflections - an almost ideal setup for a most
natural amplification of accoustic instruments at moderate levels (and for
recording bootlegs... oops). Unfortunately, the sound engeneer got a
little confused about the club atmosphere and boosted the bass drum to
dancefloor/tekkno levels during the first three songs of the set, which
ironically were thougt to be accoustic ones (see list above). Although
Dylans voice was, at least at this point of the performance, not quite up
to the mark, this complete ignorance of the man behind the mixing console
surely didn’t help to make things any better. Then, when going electric
(with Maggie’s farm), the overall level increased and the sloppy drum
sound became less prominent - so by the 7th song of the set all
instruments could finally be heard at recording quality. From then on, and
I really want to point that out, the music sounded as sweet and pure and
close, as it is very, very unlikely to be heard outside of a midnight jam
on a small club stage. Kneedeep in smooth sound, you could feel free to
close your eyes and start to enjoy this evening with Bob Dylan.
The perfomance - a successful struggle
To keep it short: All the material performed this evening was presented in
wonderful, fresh and unpreceeded versions. The more pedantic readers now,
of course, would like to know exactly, where Dylan added a new chord to a
song (yes, he did - e.g. a two bar riff ending in an E minor chord after
each of the verses in „Knocking on heaven’s door") or where he replaced a
well known line with a new one (yes, he did - e.g. „I can’t fire them
anymore"), but this is not a surprise, but part of Dylan’s philosophy,
never ever to play two identical versions of one song. What’s more
exciting than that, is the question, whether the experiment works, i.e.
how the audience reacts to these changes and, last not least, how Dylan
reacts to that reaction. In this respect you couldn’t have asked for more
than on the Bad Reichenhall concert! After it had been almost impossible
to recognize „Maggie’s Farm" because of the poor sound quality, the
audience seemed to become more and more willing to accept the fact, that
this man with the black coat in the middle of the stage was really Bob
Dylan and that he had the right to play his songs the way he wanted to -
and, as the sound was getting better and better, in the end even were
prepared for the possibility, that they might get the opportunity to
listen to a version that was even better than the one they had in their
mind. And it was when Dylan began to play „It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue",
when the first spectators tried to sing along not the way, they knew the
song, but the way Dylan tried to perform it right now, in this very
moment. As Dylan had created a very complex new pattern to pronounce the
syllables of the verses, this singing along didn’t sound to fine,
alltogether. But you could feel, hear and see, that Dylan honoured the
courage of his audience and finally rewarded them (or us?) with pretty
straightforward and comparatively easy to sing along, new versions of
„Don’t think twice", „Like a Rolling Stone", „All Along the Watchtower",
„Knocking on Heaven’s Door" and „Blowing in the Wind". In fact, many of
the Dylan maniacs I spoke with after the show confirmed, that they had
never heard these titles performed live in a more exciting or more
authentic way. This was not Dylan’s past playing games with the attitude
of his fans that tried to bring back the sixties, this really was Dylan at
his best in a successful struggle against a very critical audience.
All the best to you, wherever you are, from Munich, Bavaria
Review by Anna
I just got back home from Bad Reichenhall and thought I should write a few
lines about yesterday's concert. Since I had waited in front of the entrance
for four hours I managed to get in the first row - a bit right from Bob.
Before we were allowed to get in there was a lot of confusion because of
different entrances - nobody knew which one he/she should choose and every
time we asked someone of the security they said something different than
the persons we had asked before.
The show started a bit later than it was scheduled with "Hallelujah, I'm
Ready To Go". Bob was in a very good mood over the whole show - he "danced"
and jammed nearly during every song. The second song this Night was "To
Ramona" - great!! I personally like this song and especially its current
version very much. "Desolation Row" was next; also very well played.
The weather was not this good - it had been cloudy all afternoon and it
rained several times during the show - but it was not too much; only a bit
(nothing compared to Schwäbisch Gmünd). Bob used the Harp in "Maggie's
Farm" with real enthusiasm. "Million Miles" and " Most Likely You Go Your
Way (And I'll Go Mine)" followed. During "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" a
guy behind me - he surely was drunk - started whistling and screaming.
Since Baby Blue and after that "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Don't Think
Twice, It's Alright" are rather quiet songs this was very annoying because
he didn't stop it during those songs. But finally he stopped - or was rather
stopped by other fans. So we could enjoy the following songs without those
annoying and very loud whistles. "Tombstone Blues", "You're A Big Girl Now" -
with Larry on pedal steel - , "Drifters Escape" (Bob played the harp on this
one again) and "Rainy Day Women" closed the first part of the concert. Bob
and the band disappeared after a short formation and it took a bit longer
until they appeared again. While they were playing "Things Have Changed"
three security people came out from under the stage and took a camera from
a man who had taken some photographs. Apparently Bob had seen him with the
camera or even taking photographs and told the security to take his camera
away. I think that's the reason why they had stayed behind the stage for a
longer time. The show went on with "Like A Rolling Stone", "If Dogs Run
Free", "All Along The Watchtower", a fantastic played "Knocking On Heaven's
Door" - the audience liked it very much (me too) and "Highway 61 Revisited".
While they were playing this song I thought he would look at the guy (whose
camera had been taken by the security people ) singing: "If you see me comin'
you better run". I might be wrong but at least he looked in the direction
where this person stood.
Once - I don't know after which song it was - he seemed to look at me nodding.
Just a dream or imagination? I really don't know but it would be great if
this was true. :-) After "Blowin' In The Wind" - the last song for this
show; unfortunately no second encore - during the last formation he started
to look at somebody and said (don't know the words exactly; he didn't speak
through the microphone): "Really? You really want that (it)?"As I said I'm
not sure about that but it's at least what this person told me. She had held
up a piece of paper - don't know what was written on it - and threw it onto
the stage after he had said the words I mentioned before. She also said it
was then picked up by a roadie.
I think it was a great show with Bob singing, dancing and even laughing a
lot (I saw him once laugh with Larry - don't think Bob ignores him as some
people said in the last time; they looked at each other very often - there
was a lot of communication). I also liked the songs and how they were
played - for me it was a really great concert.
See you next year in Europe, Bob!!!
Review by Vitek Zelinka
This was my seventh concert in seven years since seeing Dylan for the
first time on the fantastic 1994 concert in Prague. I could not afford to
see more shows in a row this year so I had to hope this is going to be a
good show. And it was, for the most of it.
We reached the beautiful sleepy spa town of Bad Reichenhall, surrounded
by mountains with Hitler s historic villa high above, just on time to hear
the soundcheck. Funnily enough (I read this somewhere, so I was not that
surprised) the band was rehearsing everything except for the songs that
we would later hear. So we heard a run through Somebody Touched Me, Dignity
and This Wheel's On Fire, among others. I could even see Charlie Sexton
through the gates, mocking Bob a bit, paraphrasing Bob stage moves.
In we were, listening to classical music, surprised as Czechs to hear
Dvorak under these circumstances. More surprises were to follow, as Bob
and the band entered the stage into the triumphant sounds of Dvorak's
Largo Desolato. Hallelujah, I m ready to go was a warm-up as far as
Bob's singing was concerned, but a very powerful song.
To Ramona had a bit too much sugar in it, especially in Larry's
mandolin, compared to the version I heard last year in Frankfurt. It is
one of my favourites, but it did not hit me fully.
Desolation Row is a favourite song of mine and it is always nice to hear
the changes in the flamenco texture into which the song is now woven.
Maggie's Farm was very nicely done, with Bob s singing improving, and a
nice contrast between the anger and the fury of the lyrics and the country
touch to the arrangement.
Next was one of my personal highlights, Million Miles, as hard a blues,
as it could possibly have been. Bob made also some lyrics changes, as if
playing a "see if you can spot it" game with some of the audience - "I
am looking for somebody (who d) put me up for a day or two ...)
Most Likely You ll Go Your Way and I ll Go Mine was another song heard
for the first time, and although Bob got lost in the expression for a
while, trying to find a new position, but unfortunately ending somewhere
where he probably did not want to, before finding his way back, it was a
very fine rendition.
The next accoustic set was a delight. I am constantly surprised by the
way It s All Over Now, Baby Blue changes all the time. This was my third
take in three years, and all the arrangenments were rather different.
Hard Rain and Don t Think Twice had Bob singing at his finest, tenderly
and with soul.
The four electric songs in the last part of the core set were also all
delightful. I was surprised to hear You re A Big Girl Now, pleased to
hear Drifter's Escape done the thunder way and not even embarrased by
Rainy Day Women...
The more or less standard encores were done surprisingly freshly and
enthusiastically and none of the songs was a mere run-through. Even
Knockin' On Heaven's Door, profane as it may be, sounded f... well.
Generally speaking, this was a very fine concert with an almost club
atmosphere (despite -or maybe because of- the outdoor setting), the
stage was high enough for everyone to see and it even ceased to rain for
the time of the concert.
See you somewhere sometime soon!
Vit Zelinka, Czech Republic
page by Bill Pagel
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