July 22 2012
Review by Laurette
After the Bayonne show I take three trains to go back home for a short night and a change
of bag. Next stop is Carhaix 200 km from where I live. The last of the shows on that
European Tour. Carhaix has a big reputation in France, not as crazy as Benicassim though.
Because it's Sunday and the trains are not running so often I arrive in the little village of
Carhaix at 4.00 p.m. On the train I learned that Bob's show will be at 8.50 p.m. and not
6.00 p.m. as previously announced. Good! I will have time to find myself a good spot.
The village is invaded by thousands of people; young or less young. I buy a ticket from a
scalper 40€ (not too bad) and follow the throng. The disposition is pretty much the same
as Benicassim; a huge parking lot, three main stages, some stands for food ans drink, a camp
site … the public is more eclectic.
I walk right away to the main big stage and slip as close as posible to the rail. A band just
finished a set and the crowd is moving away. I see Rita from Switzerland and her spanish
friend. I join them, second row left of the center mike. But realy far away from the stage.
There is a big security gap in front of us. Kate, Pierre, Simon, Frederika and some French
followers are packed right in front the center mike. Later Rita and Duddi will join them.
Roberto is here too. No Bobcats or Bobbycats from Germany. We're a handfull lost in a
crowd of anonymous.
It's sunny and hot but the security is using the hoose to water the public and distribute
bottled water. We will be waiting "only" 4 hours. A group named "the garbage" is on.
The name fits perfectly the music ; trash. So loud that I use the ear plugs.
At 7.30 p.m. Bob's crew is on, rolling and plugging the equipement. I predict the show
will start at 9.00 p.m. No delay for there is another group after Bob.
We wait for Stu to come on and do his blues riffs. Right on time. Bob is well dressed with
a lace tie this time and again the white pants. He seems to be in a better form than
Bayonne where according to be he had been a bit sick.
"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" is loud and clear. The bass of Tony is slightly too loud though.
The sound is weird from where I stand. The drums are disconnected from the rest of the
instruments. They don't seem to play together.
Bob is ok, starting a beautiful "This Wheel's On Fire". Well done Bobby, that one fits the
Centre stage for "Things Have Changed and "Tangled Up In Blue" with a final on piano.
Then successfully on piano
"Rollin' And Tumblin" beautifully done on drums. Bravo George!
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" that some Fans will sung along. Magnificent ending. The pick of
"Highway 61 Revisited" well started but suddenly the mike on the piano doesn't work
anymore. Bob is singing but we don't hear anything. Bob will stop singing and make a solo of
piano. Too bad! This one would have been THE hit of the night.
Fortunately Bob comes centre stage again for "Simple twist of fate" on guitar.
The stage is so far and the piano so back that the contact with the public is lost. That kind
of public needs contact! Most of the crowd is not Dylan Fans, they don't understand his
"Thunder On The Mountain" will be a disaster. The drums are not working properly. The
sound technician has to move from his board to reconnect some wires.
"Ballad Of A Thin Man" well performed and always theatrical.
"Like a rolling stone" of course will awake the 40 000 freaks behind me and arouse a thunder
"All along the watch tower" cut in the middle for the presentation of the Band. That effect is
Lucky Bob didn't forget to speak, for the crowd is hoping for more speech.
They are used to more gratitude.
The Band will be back for "Blowin' In The Wind" ….
Bye! Bye! Bobby!
Thanks for sharing with us! Have a safe trip back home!
Benicassim as Carhaix will not stay in my memory. Those festivals are not for Bobby Dylan.
Review by Hugues
It was a glorious summer day, after three months of miserable weather. And Bob Dylan
was soon to play on the main stage of what is by far the largest festival in France and
one of the larger ones in Europe. The show was originally scheduled at 18:00 but later
rescheduled at 20:50 as Garbage accepted to exchange slots with Bob Dylan.
An hour before the show, I tried to find a nice place in front of the stage. I managed to
make it as far as in front of the center of the stage, almost, about 50 meters from the
stage, between the mixing desk and the stage. Good. I sat down and met some really
nice people from all ages. The atmosphere was cool and relaxed. People were happy.
It is always the case at that festival which has about 240,000 people over 4 days. The
audience was 60,000 on that day but it felt comfortable.
At almost 21:00, some minutes late, the band entered, stage left. All dressed in black.
They were immediately followed by Bob, white trousers, black jacket, white shirt and
cowboy necktie. Light grey wide-brimmed hat.
The band launched into Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat. It was immediately excellent and
exciting. Bob standing at his keyboard. The guitars were tense and controlled wild
animals. Very impressive. Great opener. The bass was a little too loud though.
The next one was a (great) surprise, This Wheel's on Fire, played for the first time on
this European leg of the 2012 tour. And what a wonderful gift to the festival that was.
Bob was on the grand piano and Tony had switched from lap steel to pedal steel guitar.
A beautiful moment, full of atmosphere. Melancholy too. A beautiful present from Bob.
Things Have Changed was fast and very intense, with Bob center downstage with harp.
I loved this version with some great work from Bob around the delivery of the lyrics.
And it is a great song.
Stu Kimball switched to acoustic guitar (Gibson J45?) for Tangled Up In Blue. Again,
there was a lot of atmosphere but I thought that version failed. I appreciated the
approach but it just did not work for me.
Bob came back to his piano and Tony took his double bass for Summer Days, Donnie still
on pedal steel. It took off instantly. It was superb with Charlie Sexton really going for it
in short sharp outbursts on the lead guitar. At the end they were in full flight and it felt
really great. Really good singing from Bob as well.
Sugar Baby came next and I thought that rendition was so-so.. A half success for me.
But some really good work from Bob around the lyrics. As he has been doing for years
now, he mumbled and grumbled parts of sentences to make other parts or even single
words come out It does work fantastically most of the time.
Donnie back on the lap steel for Rollin' and Tumblin', Bob still on the piano. The whole
band was really good and played some mean tight music there, George Recile excelling
on the drums. In the middle, Bob went into some syncopated patterns on the piano
and I thought it was all very stimulating. I looked around me and people looked happy,
smiling to one another, there were good feelings everywhere. And I myself felt very
That was followed by what was for me a very daring and surprising version of A Hard
Rain's a-gonna Fall. After the opening chords, Bob looked as if he was trying to find a
comfortable position on his stool. He found it. And it took off. It was a tense, almost
cruel version at times with some light piano as if to contradict that mood. Bob was
really going into the text and some fantastic things came out. I loved "I met a white
man who walked a black dog".
Then came Highway 61 Revisited. It was simply excellent. Terrific. Absolutely excellent!
Definitely a great moment of the show. There was this impressive shuffle which kept
developing and getting bigger and bigger to the point that Bob seemed to try to calm
it down a little in the middle as if it was almost too much, but it came back, relentless
and it became huge and overwhelming. It was magical. And Bob tried everything around
the lyrics, every intonation, intent, inflexion. And it worked so well, it was truly inspired
from beginning to end. It is really fascinating to hear what he can do with his songs,
how he can reinvent them through interpretation. He ended the song on an almost
angry register and let out a strong "We"ll just put some bleachers out in the sun and
have it on Highway 61".
A huge version. Very very impressive. It will stay with me always. As Desolation Row has
stayed ever since that Paris show years ago ("and then the kerosene" !!) and how
The Levee's Gonna Break has remained with me from that Santa Barbara Bowl show a
few years back.
Then, ah…yes? No? Yessss ! He picks up the guitar (sunburst Fender Strat) and I think
hmm Simple Twist of Fate and yes, Simple Twist of Fate it is ! Wonderful song. It is an
interesting version and something really moving and intimate floats in the big festival air.
But it ends up in a slight mess, a kind of nowhere as Bob himself embarks on a strange
guitar solo, weird, ill-defined. He himself looks and sounds unconvinced and the song
ends up like this, almost unfinished although it was. A pity.
Next comes the full force of the band for Thunder On The Mountain. They are really
rolling as one great pack although Tony and Charlie are a little too loud. There is a lot of
enthusiasm there, a lot of drive. It really is one of the great songs of recent years and
one which immediately entered my personal selection of Bob Dylan's great great songs.
The version today is faster still than the original, I think, and the voice is less "rockabilly"
at times. But it sounds absolutely great. In this superb rendition, Bob finds some more
gems and nobody will be able to say or write that he grumbled " Shame on your greed,
shame on your wicked schemes "…
A really great rendition and also a happy moment. Wow. It is crazy sometimes at Bob
Dylan's concerts. You can get several different films inside the one song.
Then it is that incredible version of Ballad Of A Thin Man ! What a version ! So surprising
and exciting. Bob Dylan uses delay on his voice ! And he goes for it full blow ! All the acid
remarks to the "thin man" are heard twice. It is a modern, "technical" version and there
is a lot of depth in it. Bob goes straight into the characterization from the beginning and
does it very strongly "You walk into the room, with your pencil in your hand", clear, sharp,
determined. Later he offers a dry and definitive "There ought to be a law against you
coming around ". Just in front of me, a 17 year-old high school girl (who had come from
La Roche Sur Yon with her parents, as I wrote, you meet nice people before a Dylan
show) turns around, looks at the crowd behind her, smiling, she's visibly overwhelmed by
the strength of the moment. On the "Do you, Mister Jones?" it is as if time was
stretching, as if Bob Dylan was adding bars there. A really fascinating version. Great art.
It leaves me very very impressed despite some crackling in the P.A. towards the end.
Then it is Like A Rolling Stone. It grooves immediately and the audience recognizes the
song and is happy. I find it elegant from Bob not to modify the song too much and to
offer an almost straight rendition of the chorus. He goes for a classical approach,
unrestrained and the crowd sings " How does it feel?" raising their hands and clapping.
A very good moment for everyone. And I found Bob's singing excellent with lots of
attention to vowels and, as always, super rhythmic work around words. Very convincing.
It takes less than two chords to know that we now go into All Along The Watchtower.
Tempo is close to the original recording, I think. After 2 seconds of intro, a woman near
me, short black hair, glasses and black top, says loudly and for herself "Ah !! I will not have
come for nothing !" She is totally into herself and into the song. She is enjoying every
millisecond of that wonderful mysterious song, so complex and yet so simple. There have
been dozens of versions and tonight's version is just superb. And one can hear the lyrics.
It is a great moment, of course. And as always with that song, it ends much too early…
But Bob, hmm, really, introducing the band in the middle of All Along The Watchtower??
And now comes the encore. Blowin'In The Wind. A different rhythm, a different tempo,
some big differences in the melody but a really interesting version. Donnie has switched
to violin and on that rhythm and that slowish but tense tempo, his violin evokes a tex-mex
accordion. It is beautiful. And Bob Dylan is totally into his song, eager.
The band comes downstage, they salute. Bob is slightly in front of them and points to
the audience twice, with both hands and both indexes out. I've seen him do this before.
Maybe like saying " Yes, I know you're there, yes, you".. Maybe. Something like that.
Something anyway and not nothing.
The French press did not seem to have liked the concert much but what do they know,
really, do they bother to listen and frankly who cares? For me, it was a good show, great
show at times, with a couple of failures. And once again, I had heard a concert. A real
concert, not some pre-hashed thing, totally rehearsed and repeated day after day. I had
been in the presence of a true artist, one willing to take risks, to challenge, a unique
artist, a juggler playing with his art. It was a privilege to be there sharing a Breton
summer evening with Bob Dylan.
And that Highway 61, wow….!
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