August 11, 2007
Review by Nick Bollinger
I last saw Dylan in Wellington four years ago; that was a great gig,
tonight’s show in Auckland was even better. In spite of the Vector Arena’s
impersonal ambience and dubious acoustics, Dylan and his band delivered a
warm, dynamic, frequently startling show.
For a start, it was just so damn musical. All of Dylan’s current
musicians are masters, from the understated yet essential rhythm guitar of
Stu Kimball to Denny Freeman’s dazzlingly inventive solos (loved the way
he snuck few bars of ‘Blue Moon’ into ‘Spirit On the Water’); the rolling
New Orleans rhythms of drummer George Recile and bassist Tony Garnier to
Donnie Herron’s fluid, almost-orchestral lines on steel guitar and violin.
No one here is playing by rote, this is no copycat covers band lazily
replicating the records. The songs simply provide a structure, in which
the players have the freedom to create in real time – and they do. This is
fundamentally a jazz band playing rock ‘n ‘roll.
They all listen intently to each other, and to Bob. The unusual
on-stage configuration – a kind of arc with no one standing centre – is
presumably to allow them all maximum eye-contact and communication.
It seemed a particularly bluesy set, opening with ‘Rainy Day Women’ and
returning to the blues form throughout the night – ‘Watching the River
Flow’, ‘Rollin’ & Tumblin’, ‘Things Have Changed’, ‘Summer Days’. Yet the
blues was punctuated with some sweet folk melodies, in particular a hushed
and ancient-sounding ‘Nettie Moore’ that seemed to summon up the song’s
Highland ancestors, and a solemn pre-encore ‘Masters Of War’.
Dylan’s voice was powerful, high in the mix. He seemed very present and
engaged throughout. He used a declamatory, almost-spoken style for a
number of songs - ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, for example - which might have
disappointed admirers of the original melodies, and yet he made up for
this with the freshness of his performance, the sense of rediscovery
(‘Tangled’ seemed to have acquired one new or at least heavily revised
verse since I last heard it). And there were sudden, surprising moments of
tenderness, as in ‘When The Deal Goes Down’, where he found lovely high
notes you thought perhaps he’d lost forever.
And about half way through the set it occurred to me that I understood
completely why this man who could have retired decades ago chooses to
continue touring and performing, night after night, year in, year out. For
the sheer thrill of making music as great as this, who wouldn’t?
Review by Nik Dirga
At 66 years old, Bob Dylan ought to be a little silly up there still playing
"Blowing In The Wind." How many artists his age still seem really relevant?
When was the last time a new Rolling Stones album blew you away?
But at his show last night in Auckland, Bob showed us, as he put it in a
line from "Spirit In the Water" that drew big applause,
"You think I'm over the hill / You think I'm past my prime
Let me see what you got / We can have a whoppin' good time."
What a great fun show for the sold-out crowd of 10,000 people in Vector
Arena. I had fantastic seats, just 30-40 meters from the stage. Bob tromped
out on stage looking like a southern revivalist preacher, all clad in black and
croaking in his authoritative reedy whine, which has just gotten more rutted
and furrowed with the years (part of the fun of seeing Dylan live is seeing
how long it takes you to figure out what song he's singing). He's backed by
an outstanding band that's highly polished but never too showy, and Dylan
himself takes turns on guitar and keyboard.
The only other time I saw Dylan live was in 1990 in Mississippi, and it was a
disappointment to me, mostly because I barely knew who Dylan was and
only had one of his greatest hits albums. His raggedy voice and terrible
acoustics in the venue rendered most of his songs unlistenable and I didn't
really get all the fuss.
Nearly 20 years on, I'm a converted Dylan fan and his quirks became
endearing to me when I finally saw him live for a second time. His
"never-ending tour" has been going on for years and one of the reasons
Dylan can just keep playing his songs over and over is that he subtly
reinvents them every night. They rarely sound the same way twice,
There were a lot of highlights in the set, and stuff from his excellent 2006
album Modern Times shone particularly brightly, especially a hushed "Nettie
Moore" and a romping version of "Rollin' And Tumblin'" that sounded like
Muddy Waters meets Robert Johnson. I loved a stretched-out, still-passionate
"Just Like A Woman" and the stomping, nearly psychedelic take on "Highway
61 Revisited." His "Wonder Boys" soundtrack song "Things Have Changed"
was an emotional high point (and the Academy Award he won for that tune
was resting quietly on one of the amps). The epic "Desolation Row" was a
real pleasure to hear live, too, even if some wanker who thought he was at
a rugby match tried to rush the stage during it. The stark "Masters of War"
received a hypnotic rendition, the stage all bathed in crimson light, and as an
encore "All Along The Watchtower" had a fierce power to it. I was a little
bummed by his "Tangled Up In Blue," as one of my favorite Dylan lyrics got
a rushed take that jumbled up the classic melody, and Dylan zipped through
the intricate lines like an auctioneer.
If you were expecting lots of stage patter and Bob cracking Joan Baez jokes,
don't bother – the only time he broke away from the music was to introduce
the band on the second-to-last song. And that was cool – it kept the
element of Bob the mystic, down here to entertain us mere mortals.
Review by Marc Dombroski
Last night was special and Nick Bollinger's review sums it up well. I also
have fond, front row memories of the last time he was here in Auckland
2003. That night, security allowed us to stand at the foot of the stage
for most of the evening.
My seat last night was not as intimate but we had a perfect view and well
balanced sound, centre stage and a few rows back. What stood out for me
was all the new material from 'Modern Times'. To hear the musicians who
laid down these tracks with Dylan so recently and then present them live,
fresh and kicking just for us was a wonderfully rewarding listening
It was also pleasing to see that the audience seemed to appreciate the new
material as much as the old gems.
Denny Freeman's playing was suitably quirky; a perfect foil for the
eccentric, circus style keyboard of Mr Dylan.
We went home sonically satisfied and looking forward to the next show in
Auckland at the beautiful Civic Theatre. How lucky are we to get three
shows in one city. Dylan and his band are obviously enjoying themselves.
As the great man himself said last night," Thank you my friends".
Review by Dr Peter O'Connor
Watching my 20 year's old face as the lights came up on Bob was like
seeing her when she was 4 or 5 on Christmas morning. A picture of total
excitement and awe. There was so much to enjoy last night. Again the new
songs seem to sit more comfortably with the voice, but then it managed to
sweetly deliver Desolation row and Don't think twice. And Bob as ever
seemed to rise just above the whole night. In Auckand we have an ever
increasing host of small town celebrities, where lots of people are stars,
icons, and living legends, most of them famous for nothing in particular (
I guess that's the way everywhere) but when the roll of adulation swamped
the stage at the end, you got the sense of the scale of Bob Dylan. What it
must be like to be on the never ending tour, facing those expectations
night after night. No wonder there is a detached aloofness, otherwise how
would it feel to have no direction home. You're in for a real treat in
Australia, before we get to see him here again at the end of the month.
Dr Peter O'Connor
Review by Sean McCarthy
Having read all reviews on this page so far, I am forced to disagree some
of the sentiment contain therein.
I went to the Vector show and was glad I did, because I enjoyed most of
the show, but I have been fortunate enough to see Bob perform with Larry
Campbell and Charlie Sexton. Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman don't hold the
proverbial wind blown candle to those two guys. I am firmly of the belief
that Larry, Charlie, Tony Garnier and George Receli / Jim Keltner have
been Bob's best ever touring band.
Personally, I hated the way the way Denny snuck few bars of 'Blue Moon'
into 'Spirit On the Water'. What do you get if you ask a jazz band to play
rock 'n 'roll? Bad rock 'n 'roll.
Review by Amanda Milne
Dylan night at last!
It had seemed like a long wait. I've seen Bob twice before in my life:
1978 at Blackbushe airfield, England when I was too far from the stage and
too stoned to really see, hear or remember much at all. Then in 2003 here
in Auckland at a dreadful venue on the North Shore, with seats too far
back. This time though my hopes were high, it is 29 years since my first
time, and I'd managed to get seats in row 4 at the newish Vector arena
which seats 12,000 in central Auckland.
The Frames were quite good as a warm up. I liked their song about
The interval was very short, only about 15 minutes passed before Bob
stepped onto the stage.
His voice was strong and clear on every song, which was wonderful to
behold. He seemed to be enjoying himself too, doing a little jiggly dance
while standing at the keyboards.
I thought it was a shame he only did 3 numbers on guitar before heading
for the keyboards, but the 26 year old guitar player who came with us
thought it sounded better without Bob on guitar, "it sounded cleaner" was
I used the binoculars quite a bit, even with seats this close it was hard
to see Bobs face very well, due to the hat and the lighting.
He was standing sideways to the audience. I did think his fingers looked a
little puffy, maybe explains why he doesn't stick on the guitar very long?
Anyway, to sum up, it was a wonderful experience to be there. My favorites
were a great "Tangled up in blue" with Bob giving real drama and emphasis
on the "TAANGLED", and a beautiful "Nettie Moore", which is a track I
wouldn't class as a favorite on the album, but Bob really brought it to
life last night. The encore with "Thunder on the mountain" "Watchtower"
was really rocking. A young guy made a run for the front, leapt the waist
high barrier and was hauling himself onto the stage when security quickly
grabbed him and hauled him away. Otherwise the audience was reverential
and well behaved.
I wish I could see Bob again in 2 weeks for the "intimate" gig at the much
smaller (2,300) Civic theatre but my trip to Europe puts me halfway to
Bangkok that evening. I wonder if there will be another chance down under.
Review by Bill Hester
It is difficult to be a Dylan fan in a place like New Zealand . Twelve
concerts in New Zealand in the previous 40 some years, and now three
arena concerts in four days.
The arenas in New Zealand are primarily boxes, for sports and trade
shows – the sound quality for music is dubious – horrible in Wellington
in the 1998 Dylan show there, but the best of the NZ bunch in 2003.
All reports from the new Vector Arena in Auckland led to belief that it
would be lousy – the largest arena by far (12,000 seats) and sold out
for the Auckland concert. So after a great show in Wellington the
night before, expectations were mixed.
But from my seating (seventh row, but far right on the floor – the sound
was very good. And the set list even a bit more to my liking that the
previous night. “Things Have Changed” was done as good as I’ve heard it.
“Nettie Moore” was listened to in silence – a great concert piece near
the end of the concert. But the highlight for me was “Desolation Row”
evoking so much of the past and present.
A very strong concert – a artistic tapestry with strands from the past –
“Don’t Think Twice” and “Masters of War” and five songs from “Modern
Times” – the first four tracks of that plus “Nettie Moore” - all of
these newer songs work well for me in concert.
NZ has been blessed with a “Time Out of Mind” tour in 1998, a “Love &
Theft” tour in 2003, and now a “Modern Times” tour in 2007. This
latest NZ tour (with two special shows still to come) is a continuing
part of the construction of the Dylan performing legacy.
Long may that continue.
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