August 14, 2014
Review by Michael Mueller
First things first: the Riverside theatre is an excellent concert venue. I never
thought I'd ever get to see Bob Dylan in so suitable a space, but now I have.
And mercifully, Bob was on song. I've seen Dylan four times now, and this
was easily the best performance I've seen him give.
Dylan once described himself as a 'song and dance man'. Though (likely)
originally meant as a throwaway line, it's become an increasingly apt summation
of what Dylan is about. It's the songs. And surprisingly, the dance gets a look-in,
too. Indeed, there are few septuagenarian performers who can convey so
much with a well-timed and fierce leg wiggle.
As he has done for many years now, Dylan appeared on stage at precisely 8pm.
Dressed in what looked like a cowboy's dressing gown and smart wide-brimmed
at, the concert fairly rattled out the blocks with a gunslinger version of Things
Have Changed. It was obvious from the very first notes that Dylan was in
strong voice; a treat that any serious Dylan fan knows is never guaranteed.
It swooped, hollered, menaced and growled out layers and layers of meaning
from song after song.
Things Have Changed quickly gave way to a selection of songs old and new.
Workingman's Blues #2 was beautifully rendered; High Water (for Charley
Patton) rolled and thundered. Dylan alternated from lead vocals (behind a
bank of microphones) to piano, which he played with barrelhouse flair. Many
of the arrangements tonight had a swampy, New Orleans vibe; there was a
lot of sweat and grunt, particularly in songs like Early Roman Kings.
It was great to be able to hear the interplay between the members of Dylan's
band and take such pleasure in appreciating their tightness as a unit and their
talents as instrumentalists. Tony Garnier has been playing with Dylan for almost
a quarter of a century; and his experience is crucial to give the band its
cohesive power and Dylan the support he needs to continually stretch and
rearrange his songs as his moods take him. The arrangements of Pay in Blood
and Forgetful Heart were radically different from the album versions, and were
all the better for it. The former pulsed along, all dark menace and steely
grimness, while the latter was imbued with a hard-edge melancholy, which
leant considerable weight to lines like, 'The Door is closed forever more, if
indeed, there ever was a door'. Pretty hard to overrate a line like, "I pay in
blood, just not my own', either.
And that's the thing with Dylan; it's the words. He delivers them as though
they have real meaning for him. His delivery is steely and determined when
the songs call for it, and winsome - and even playful - when these qualities
are needed, too. He inhabits the songs from inside out; living them,
transforming them, transfixing his audiences with them.
A personal highlight was his lilting delivery of the Blood on the Tracks
masterpiece, Simple Twist of Fate. Sung by a man who knows a thing or
two about fate, Dylan wove the words around the folk-drawn sentimentality
of the music, and left his audience rapt.
At 73, Dylan is in stellar form. The brilliant albums just keep on coming, when
it comes to his shows, he's as far from phoning it in as his been in decades.
Bob's been a living legend for decades, and it finally seems like he's comfortable
with it. His performance exuded class and confidence. In form like this, one
feels like he could 'keep on keeping on' for a long time yet.
Review by Susan Laing
I’ve seen Bob 10 times now..only seriously following him since ‘Time Out
of Mind’….so there’s a gap of 3 years between each experience. The last
shows were 2 consecutive nights at the Byron Bay Blues ’11….high energy,
huge crowd…songs like “Rolling Stone” with a 20,000 audience dancing,
singing and practically drowning out the sound system…total oneness in the
Just got home from 2 consecutive nights in Perth (travelling distance
780km) and my feeling is that Bob is more relevant now than ever, a true
artist, poet, philosopher, truth teller.
He opened with “Things Have Changed” and like he said in his acceptance
speech for the Oscar ‘its a song that doesn’t turn a blind eye or pussy
foot around about human nature’. I felt the weight of these words
especially when this sentiment was echoed in the eternal questions we
must ask ourselves are asked yet again in “Blowin’ “…how many times can a
man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?…
Just fantastic stuff from him….a very different performance to Byron Bay
but perfectly suited to the times….He is deserving of the respect and
reverence and high esteem that surrounds him. My next show will be at the
Sydney Opera House. I imagine by the end of his tour here many lucky
enough to attend the shows will be examining their consciences a little
more closely. His love songs show the beauty of what we are capable of and
his modern times ‘new’ material shows how far we haven’t come in our
treatment of fellow inhabitants on this precious planet.
Review by Michael Findlay
When I was 17 I stumbled, off my head, up the stairs to the rear of the
Entertainment Centre. It was my first ever concert and I was very excited
to be breathing the same air as my idol. Last night, many Dylan concerts
later, we breathed the same air again and I was still awe struck. I knew
what to expect because I was there with my mate Aaron who reviewed the
previous nights concert. Again, I was up the back in the cheap seats but
this time it was a smaller venue and I could almost see. Distance wasn't a
problem but Bob lets his music shine brighter than the lights. He has
become the shadow man who only briefly steps out of dark spaces that
conceal him. I was hoping like hell that this was going to be a second
great concert and it was. It was so good that we are going again tonight.
I love that the set list is not a best of. I've danced in the aisles to
the big hits in previous concerts and am happy to be an old fart sitting
and listening intently to a man who knows his craft. Bob still has a great
vocal range - it just starts a lot lower these days. Those who don't have
ears to hear tell me he can't sing. They just don't get that the power of
Dylan's great lyrics is fuelled by his unique vocal delivery. His voice
fills his songs with emotion and humour. Bob has simplified his harmonica
playing and replaced the shrill high end rifting with deep melody. This
was particularly moving in Simple Twist of Fate. The band, always great,
has become one with Dylan's performance. Charley Sexton in particular
mixes his beautiful guitar playing with Bob's piano. It was so good during
their interplay during the quiet part of 'Watchtower it brought a tear to
my eye. Some disrespectful idiots left during the encore to reunite with
their cars but the vast majority hung on every nuance of Blowin' in the
Wind, hoping but knowing that Bob wouldn't pay a surprise extra song or
two. What a great night. I'm so glad I'm going back again tonight.
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