Review

Naples, Italy
Arena Flegrea
July 26, 2001


[Antonio Terni], [Axel Jost]

Review by Antonio Terni



The Vesuvio was quiet when we drove into Napoli on Thursday morning. You
could not say the same about the town itself: thousands of neapolitans
walking in the middle of the road, driving without logic through roads
originally made for horses and donkeys,  riding small motorbikes three at
the same time..and my friend Roberto told me later on that these days the
traffic is very smooth as one third of Napoli's cars are outside town for
holidays. At the end we were able to pick up the tickets and we drove to
the venue, very near to the San Paolo football arena.

The Arena Flegrea is an open air theatre built while the fascist years and
it shows it's typical style: huge towers covered with white marble whose
only reason of beeing was to show how great the regime was. Now, after
having been abandoned for more than twenty years, it was totally restored
(15 million $ expense) and in fact Dylan's show was the inauguration
event. For this reason a huge quantity of VIPs from all the region was
announced. We arrived so early that nobody was there, the doors were open
and we went in to have a look. In fact we got lost and after walking up
and down through stairs and corridors we opened a door and we were behind
the stage were the roadies and security people  were having lunch. As in
Pescara there was a huge orchestra pit between the stage and the VIPs
seats and I suggested one of the security guys to let a couple of hundreds
bobcats into that pit to avoid all the problems that occur everytime they
have to stay behind the VIPs. In fact around 7.00 all people waiting
outside were allowed into that pit.

Everybody kept telling me how good Perugia's concert had been, what a pity
I wasn't there and so on and I thought they were all pulling my leg, but
after reading Vittorio's review I understand I lost something really big.
You cannot be everywhere after all.

Bob was more concentrated than in Pescara, he sang into the microphone and
he remembered the words quite well. The first electric triplet turned into
a quadriplet and maybe that was the best part of the show. I had my second
Shelter from the storm (first one was ten years ago in Bologna)  and my
third Lay Lady Lay. The rest of the show was very good but I cannot
remember special highlights except for Bob playing harp on Like a Rolling
stone.

Don't be angry with me, but I think the most remarkable thing we had that
night was an opulent Neapolitan pizza after the show. You have to forgive
everything to people that was able to invent such simple and still
extraordinary food.

a.terni@fastnet.it

[TOP]

Review by Axel Jost



When we roamed the streets of the beautiful city of
Naples on that special Thursday afternoon we saw a big
white helicopter doing a scenic flight over the old
town and the coastline - IMO a sure sign that Dylan
was in town, because we had experienced the same thing
in Santiago de Compostela in 1999.

Two hours before the show we finally got our tickets
from the most serious looking scalpers youíll ever
meet. Why buy from scalpers? Well, it had been
impossible for us foreigners to get a ticket via the
box office because the show had been sold out several
weeks before. Even many locals were frustrated because
they couldnít get a decent ticket. So we had to pay
80.000 instead of 50.000 lira which was quite okay and
still way below German ticket prices.

The Arena Flegrea is a fully renovated, no, Iíd better
say: a totally new and really gorgeous looking
amphitheatre, made from the finest of materials, the
nicest place Iíd ever seen Bob Dylan play so far. It
sits in a large park with big old large-headed pine
trees. Due to the arrangement of the seats in a
semicircle around and above the stage a totally
unspoilt view from every marble bench was guaranteed.
Beyond the stage, you could see a chain of rolling
hills. You mustnít forget: the Italians have got 2000
years of experience in building amphitheatres - and it
shows! So the setting was perfect for the night and
for Bob.

>From about 7.30 people began to fill the place and
everything and everybody vibrated from anticipation.
Dylanís gig was a big social event in Naples because
it was the inauguration of the arena, and about 2000
seats (out of 6.000) were reserved for important
people from politics, arts and music. So for example a
large applause arose out of nowhere when Eduardo
Bennato, a famous Italian singer, was guided to his
seat. The next day I read in the paper that Bennato
even was allowed to film the whole thing. I myself
finally ran into the best German Dylan-writer and we
talked for a few minutes - hey, G.A., may you stay,
too!

At exactly 9.30 (showtime) our beloved Columbia
recording artist and his brethren entered the stage to
the sound of fanfares while the audience rose
collectively from their seats to give the man a
thundering welcoming applause. When he told us that,
hallelujah, he was ready to go, we collectively sat
down again and things really started rolling. I wonít
even try to describe the fantastic atmosphere of the
night, the fully risen (and from then on sinking)
half-moon, the amazingly disciplined, devoted and
loving audience, the great sound, the warm and fresh
south-Italian air, the friendly and good-looking
people everywhere - the night truly was a one of a
kind experience that Iíll never forget.

I wonít (and I canít) give you a song-by-song review
now because to me the music seemed to be a continuous
flowing river of sound, even the changes between the
acoustic and electric sets were so fast that you
wouldnít notice them. When a song was over you didnít
have the time to eye the stage because everybody
including myself was busy clapping or whistling or
beating their cellular phones to give their friends an
acoustic glimpse of the show. When the next song
started the setting might have changed from electric
to acoustic or vice versa.

Dylanís singing was extremely good. Impressive,
emotional, heartfelt, self-confident, strong
-convincing in every way. His voice was full and deep
and clear. And he - watch my lips - really s-a-n-g. No
one could have done it better.

But OTHO: his guitar playing. Call me a fool, but I
didnít and I donít understand it. Give a five year old
an electric guitar and it probably sounds the same as
much of Dylanís playing during that night. Way up in
the mix, it - at least to my poor old ears - destroyed
the cohesive sound of the rest of the band. Sometimes
he very slowly and persistently developed a solo like
a piece of minimal art, at last then you got the
feeling that his way of handling the instrument made
some kind of sense. He got applauded for that in the
middle of a song several times. Well, it might be the
truest form of art since the paintings of the stone
age people or maybe Dylan approaches music like
Picasso (sometimes) approached art. But maybe Dylan
makes a fool of himself or of us. Maybe I shouldnít
ask myself these questions because nobody did. And
nobody seemed to care. So be it. And let it be because
it wouldnít change a thing - the show was fantastic in
its own special way.

When he was looking for his harmonica, when he stopped
playing his guitar, the band sounded good to me. The
best rockíníroll band in the world in fact. Then Bob
joined in again and the sound was falling apart, and
maybe even this configuration of the band will: Dylan
and Sexton seemed to communicate all the time while
Campbell was busy doing other things like playing the
pedal-steel at the side of the stage. Strange,
estranging, enigmatic. But donít get me wrong: the guy
was in command, the audience was enthusiastic, I was
enthusiastic, the night was great.

To some of the songs: Hallelujah Iím Ready To Go -
very well done for an opening song, nice chorus, I
love it; Mr. Tambourine Man - yep, there was a diamond
sky that night, but I wasnít dancing (in my head )
because I got distracted from Bobís playing and the
mixing-up of words - does he do that on purpose? Lay
Lady Lay - what a nice surprise, sweet and soft; Gotta
Serve Somebody - strong with some new words, Masters
of War - anybody seen the pictures of the G8-summit in
Genova? Everything Is Broken - this one was flawless
from beginning to end, the first true highlight; Make
You Feel My Love - nearly all of its text sounded new
to me, anybody got a tape? Knockiní - sweetest version
Iíd ever heard and finally: Blowiní - well, did he
miss his entry at first or did he want the audience to
start singing (which we did)?

A very short formation at the very end; suddenly Dylan
held a bunch of long red roses in his hands and he
showed it to the public, sporting a Mona-Lisa-smile.
He seemed to be deeply touched. So were we. Clapping,
hoping. Maybe another encore. A new song. Something
really surprising. The fireworks put an end to that
wishing and hoping and praying and finally the lights
went on. The people walked up the stairs of the
theatre and left the building slowly, very slowly (and
I mean slowly). I looked around me and I didnít see
anybody who was not smiling or in high spirits.
You ainít seen Dylan yet till youíve seen him play
live in Italy.

The man himself was probably already back at his hotel
ďVesuvioĒ from where he embarked the next day to his
last date in Sicily close to an active volcano, where
he played another amphitheatre (this time a real old
one) and then sat and watched a fiery river flow.

[TOP]

page by Bill Pagel
billp61@execpc.com

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