Reviews

Melbourne, Australia

Margaret Court Arena

August 14, 2018


[Jeff Lang], [Simon Hastings], [Peter Elliott], [Laurette Maillet], [David Young]

Review by Jeff Lang



Well, Bob Dylan and his band have just taken a last bow after an
absolutely fantastic show, and one that was quite different to the last
time he was here in 2014 (which I also loved) in many ways. That time
Dylan played hardly anything from earlier than 2000, leaning heavily on
the recent albums Modern Times and Tempest with a couple of songs each
from the 60ís and 70ís (from how I remember it). Tonight was a real
trip through the years with something from every decade of the manís
recording career. No pre-show music, just the house lights dimming as a
lone Stu Kimball walked on playing an acoustic guitar, the sound fat and
punchy, as he intoned a major key tune that verged close to Waltzing
Matilda but wasnít exactly. As suddenly as it started the picture melted
as Donnie Herronís pedal steel started playing disorienting lines in a
different (minor) key. It was like the intro dissolved before my ears, and
then there was Dylan himself, striding around the stage, full of energy,
readying himself as the band joined the minor key buildup before he walked
to the piano and they launched into Things Have Changed. Dylan was singing
it standing up as he played the baby grand facing the audience. He played
piano for the entire set, sometimes standing for the whole song, other
times sitting down for the most part but usually standing back up as they
hit the last instrumental breaks, leaning his shoulder into the bandís
accents, pounding the keys, leading from the front. Gotta take a minute to
praise the mix, which was superb, every instrument clear and in a great
balance, great dynamics, Dylanís voice right up front all night,
whichever instrument was soloing sitting where it should. The highlights
for me: Lovesick had a great rumbling, muscular feel, Dylan exploiting the
pianoís ominous lower range, the band peaking in all the right places.
Thunder On The Mountain was killer, reworked with more of a Chess Records
vibe, Charlie Sexton dishing up some tasty Les Paul solos, having
introíd the song with an interlocked motif together with Herron on a
mandocaster. Dylanís vocals built up a real head of steam as the song
roared forward into an unexpected but quite welcome drum break from George
Recelli, which was almost reminiscent of Wipeout. The riff from Peter Gunn
underpinned Gotta Serve Somebody, which was a delight as Dylan spat out an
almost entirely new set of lyrics. This isnít a guy phoning in his gig!
You wanna see an engaged performer, then look no further than a guy who,
in his 70s, without a cheat sheet or teleprompter in sight that I could
see, delivers one of his well known songs with a new set of lyrics and
slays it. Stu Kimball got to cut loose with several stinging Stratocaster
breaks too. Shit yes! Donít Think Twice Itís Alright was given a
beautiful treatment with the first two verses done in free time, the
chords simply changing where Dylan phrased the melody lines. As the song
progressed the band fell into a groove as Bob put a harmonica to his lips
as he did to lovely affect several times through the night (another
difference from last time where he didnít touch it). Desolation Row
mightíve been the high point of the gig for me. It was a majestic,
golden, warm arrangement with Bob - going against his reputation -
sticking very close to the original melody and singing it beautifully.
Just wonderful. There were other highlights - the great three-way dialogue
between Dylanís piano, Sextonís Les Paul and Herronís pedal steel on
When I Paint My Masterpiece; the sprightly romp through Duquesne Whistle
complete with new riffs punctuating the verses; the tough Muddy Waters
stomp of Early Roman Kings; the early indication of Bobís energetic mood
behind the piano as he slammed into the propulsive shuffle of Highway 61
Revisited. I also dug how the band segued between songs with a single
player - usually Donnie Herron on pedal or lap steel - would start playing
in the key of the new song just as the applause started to die down from
the number preceding it, then the other players would join in, the clouds
of tonality swirling until the drums would commence the groove of the next
tune. It was a really effective way to keep the show moving with every
player getting a chance to swap instruments without awkward dead air. Tony
Garnier employed various bass guitars to tremendous effect throughout the
night, moving from the clicky attack of a Fender Bass IV to the warm purr
of a Precision Bass to the rich timber of an upright. Some songs were
given drastically different arrangements to how they sounded previously.
The only one of these which I wasnít so keen on was Tangled Up In Blue
which became a minor key number but was stripped of much of its melody
along the way (still one of the greatest songs ever written so Iím
hardly gonna complain!). However changing Pay In Blood from the song noir
version played last time out here, all minor chords and doomy banjo, to a
major key worked far better than I wouldíve anticipated and Trying To
Get To Heaven was also marvellous. I should also give due credit to
Dylanís skills on the piano, which he employed with a lovely sense of
playfulness, the sound of someone enjoying climbing into their mighty
catalogue of songs with fresh ideas. In fact the whole gig had a
wonderfully loose-but-tight mood, a welcome contrast to the usual overly
slick large concert experience. It felt intimate, the band members all
confident of their place in the music, grown ups not wasting a note.
Thatís it folks, I left plump and contented with a head full of
incredible music and a happy heart as I walked along the river with
Melbourneís beautiful city skyline ahead of me. A bicyclist rode past me
in the other direction with music pumping out into the night air. The song
they had playing was Desolation Row. Perfect. Thanks Bob!

Jeff Lang
Melbourne, 14th August 2018

[TOP]

Comments by Simon Hastings



This wonít be an entirely positive review but what I hope is a balanced
one. Iíve been seeing Bob all around the world since the early 90s and
know that a Bob Dylan show can include moments of transcendence but then
dip easily into the unexceptional and sometimes veer into embarrassment
but then soar back to the extraordinary when you least expect it.

Last nightís show didnít have any of those massive highs or lows,
although Donít Think Twice ventured into transcendent territory. It was
a good, solid show, and Bob was in fine fettle overall. I hadnít been
following the setlists on purpose to give myself a surprise, and was happy
with the variety. The positivity in which others have written about the
tightness of the band, Bobís delivery and his arrangements I concur
with.

So I took my teenage daughter who knows some of Bobís classics but as we
know that doesnít prepare you for listening to him live. It has to be
said, Bob doesnít make it easy for new fans, particularly younger ones
who are used to auto tuned vocal íperfectioní and stage theatrics.
Early on, I feared she would be bored or worse, disillusioned, but I
clearly donít give her enough credit. I was delighted that she genuinely
enjoyed it and afterwards thought he was Ďgreatí. She generally liked
the newer songs more than the old which I found interesting - we played a
little game during the show where she would guess which was Ďoldí and
which was Ďnewí and most she got wrong! But she loved the rockier,
bluesy numbers like Honest With Me, Duquesne Whistle and her favourite,
Pay In Blood.

I do want to mention one quite material negative and that is the Bobís
positioning behind the baby grand. That piano has to go! We had scored
seats second from the front and right in the centre which I was thrilled
about - but it some ways they were the worst seats possible. This hulking
instrument was directly in our line of sight to Bob. Every time he sat
down (generally every second song, and always for the quieter, slower
songs) he would completely disappear from view and all we could see would
be the top of his hair and his legs. I can accept the lack of big screens,
I can accept Bob not being front and centre on the guitar. But I canít
really understand why he has to be hidden behind this barrier. Thereís
no question we enjoyed the songs more where he stood up and we could see
his face - itís just about connection. And we all know that Bobís
connection with his audience in a direct sense is pretty non-existent -
and thatís fine; itís the music that matters. But to cut off line of
sight to himself goes beyond that. Itís just unnecessary. Heís a
charismatic guy. A smile (or a grimace) and a bit of his funny dance gives
you a thrill, it connects you with the music. When you canít see the guy
youíve paid to see, well itís a bit of a downer. There was a woman at
the end who was really angry and ranting that sheíd paid $2,000 to see a
piano. Well bad luck to her, she got ripped off. But I could partly
sympathise with her. If Bobís people ever read this, please ditch the
grand guys and go back to a simple keyboard like previous tours - or at
least position it better, as Elton John would do. Itís not like Bob is
Chopin on the piano, letís face it, he doesnít need the grand!

OK, my mini rant is over. As I said, despite this I really enjoyed the
show, as did my next generation. Please try to make it just a little
easier though Bob, and you might gain even more younger fans!

[TOP]

Review by Peter Elliott



Wow. I try to go and see Bob twice whenever he is in Melbourne so that I
can get the nervous excitement out of my system on night one and relax a
bit more to fully savour the show on the second night.

What a show to savour.

Can't say which night was better but this show was no less brilliant than
the night before.

Please, please Bob record this concert and release a live album- such
majestic music needs to be retained for posterity.

Every song was a delight and played by Bob and band as wonderfully as last
night.

I have to say that the new version of "Don't think twice" is one of those
absolutely magical reworkings Bob has done so many times throughout his
career. It was a thing of rare beauty and poignancy and such a privilege
to witness.

The piano playing, the harmonica playing and the singing were out of this
world. How can an artist of this age and with such an extraordinary body
of work behind him keep evolving and creating stunning re-interpretations
of songs that were already glorious classics. Thank you Bob for being
alive at the same time as me.

I know it's a long way to this land but please Bob could you come back
sooner than in four years next time. I can't wait that long to see the
next amazing chapter from the greatest performance artist ever.

The only sad thought for me is that Paul Williams, my favourite writer on
Bob, isn't still alive to see him at this incredible stage of his career.
Paul would have absolutely loved these shows.

"May God bless and keep you always" Bob.

Thanks so much for making the soundtrack to my life so magnificent.

[TOP]

Review by Laurette Maillet



I catch the same train as yesterday but half an hour later.
Really soon a Good Samaritan hands me an excellent ticket. The seat is
second row on the extreme left.

The view is the opposite of yesterday.†

I see Bobby's face at all time, except when the light spot is in my eyes.

Stu and George are hidden by the stage elements. 
Bobby enters the stage and immediately walks towards me. Oops! Not
exactly. But towards Stu and George. He chats with Stu before taking his
position at the piano. I am pretty sure by now they will start with "All
along the watch tower". But I am wrong. It is "Things have changed". For
some reason unknown to me the 5 persons on my right are moving away. That
left me alone on the aisle of the second row.

Awsome!

Now Bobby is playing....in my living room. So I feel. 
I am ready for a good karaoke party and a good dancing.
But at no time I will stand up to dance. It's against the policy, it had
been all over Europe already. Where it's coming from? Only G. Knows. But
the venue security will not let anyone† (even the front rows) standing
up.†

I am a Peaceful person so I will not fight. I'm just bouncing on my proper
seat.

Bobby is a bit nervous tonight, passing the stage from right to left,
chatting with Stu or George or Tony, murmuring something to Charlie.

His walk is more like a trotting. At some point I do believe he didn't
start the singing on time. But to my surprise, there is no changing in the
set. The same "old" songs but to me a lot more powerful than last night.

The harmonica is great, even on "make you feel my love"! (As you know by
now, not my cup of tea!).

I still don't get the slow motion on "Don't think twice it's all right"
just as I was getting used to "Tangled up in blue". The public will stand
up for "Desolation row " and "Thunder on the mountain ".

I hear the ringing of the bell as Bob states "my bell still rings ".
The same Super Fan is following.†

Not a single move to the stage for the encore, not even the first row.

Another collective bow, as it seems that Bob gives some kind of signal to
the Band members. I enjoy my personal self! It was me and Bobby D.
tonight.

I walk rapidly to the train station,† suddenly remembering where I am;
Melbourne Australia.

If only the dream never ended.
But what this a dream?

Good night Bobby. Safe flight to Sydney. 3 days rest...in Peace.

[TOP]

Review by David Young



This was the fourth Bob Dylan concert Iíd seen and it was a sensational
team performance, beautifully led by Mr Dylan and the magnificent drumming
of Mr Recile. Near the end, I could feel somehow Mr Garnier on bass get
the nod from Mr Dylan, get really excited, stop playing, move towards the
drummer, then bend and point to him with two outstretched arms! Boy, it
was a sensational, hard-hittting drum solo from George Recile! It was
breathtaking. Thank you Mr Dylan for a truly awesome show - very
heartfelt, professional and generous! Amen!

[TOP]

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