Sydney, Australia

ICC Sydney Theatre

August 18, 2018

[Luke], [Fernando Viotti], [Nick Miller], [David Mills]

Review by Luke

The show didn't start till about 8:10. I suspect this was because of major
train problems and delays that were occurring tonight- but I could be
wrong about that. They were still soundchecking Charlie's guitar at 7:58.
So then Stu comes on stage and does his doodling around on the guitar- it
was a different tune than what he has typically been playing for the past
few years. The setlist was the same as previous nights. Because the show
started late I thought that maybe they might not play Ballad of a thin man
like they did in one of the earlier Asia shows, but they played it in its
usual spot. There seemed to be some problems going on with Stu's electric
guitar for the first few songs- there was a lot of turning nobs on amps
and someone ended up bringing him a new guitar. I was surprised by how
much Bob walks around after each song. After every song he would turn and
talk/laugh around with Donnie behind him and would sometimes go over and
have a chat with George on drums. Also after every song he would go and
fiddle with something behind him. I think maybe he was powdering his
fingers or something, and there were afew times I think I saw him have a
drink. Or maybe he was just picking out a harmonica. I think Things Have
Changed is underappreciated. I think because he always opens with it that
you sort of dismiss it, but it's such a great song and for him to have it
in the set is a treat. It's arrangement has constantly evolved through the
years of the 'static set'. It's less rumbly than before, its also less
bluesly then before. Great opener. It has always fascinated me how he
plays Tryin To Get To Heaven in his live shows every since he started
performing it. It never has the mournful haunting vibe like the album,
they seem to play it with more major chords and uptempo. When I Paint My
Masterpiece has been a great addition to his setlist during this current
tour. Alike what I've heard on recordings of this tour already, he always
seems to sing the first line of the song before the band seem to be ready.
Pay In Blood has undergone a very interesting evolution. It now has this
rising melody that sorta like goes up the scale. It makes the song less
feisty than what you'd expect from the lyrics; but nonetheless it was
great. Tangled Up In Blue has had a new arrangement since the first leg of
the 2018 tour. Although the songs structure and form remains in place, to
the untrained ear it would sound unrecognizable. I thought it was amazing;
i sensed alot of similarities between it and the 'original' bob recording
of it from the new york sessions. Don't think twice has evolved into a
mournful almost solo piano performance. At one point Bob was playing piano
with one hand and playing harmonica with the other. I haven't listened too
closely to the previous recordings, but I sensed at the end after all the
verses Bob impromptuly decided to pick up speed and bring the band in to
finish it. Tony's stand up bass sounded terrific in it. There was a bit of
kafuffle at the end of Gotta Serve Somebody. Tony huddles in closer to
Charlie and Bob to signal the end of the song, but charlie and bob seemed
to keep going for a few more bars. It was abit of a messy ending but it
just made the band laugh. Off to the next joint.


Review by Fernando Viotti

Six years had passed since my last Bob´s concert in Brazil, more specifically in 
Porto Alegre with Cassim, Eduardo Bueno & his family (I miss you, guys!). The 
Brazilian leg of Never Ending Tour back there in 2012 was the last one before 
the static setlists´ era, and I definitely never expected that Bob, on his 77, 
could do better than those magnificent six concerts that I had attended in 

He did. 

The local fans were apprehensive about the venue, what is understandable if 
we consider that on his last Australia Tour he played on Sydney Opera House 
and State Theatre. Of course that ICC Sydney Theatre can´t be compared 
with those iconic venues, but I would say that nobody can complain of this 
brand new facility, at least in terms of sound quality. From our seats at the 
6th row the acoustic was perfect, period. For me the only small “but” is that 
Charlie Sexton´s guitar has been almost inaudible until “Tangled Up in Blue”. 
In return, when we finally heard him it was above any doubt how fantastic is 
the job he has done.  His performance in “Tangled”, “Early Roman Kings” and 
“Gotta Serve Somebody” showed a great guitar player walking on that thin 
line before the virtuoso excess, something that he certainly does not without 
the help of his demanding boss. 

Talking about him, since the first song Bob Dylan made crystal clear what sing 
means to him these days. We watched last night a singer truly convinced of 
his powers, in the full possession of his vocal resources, using the rhythm and 
the prosody and the sound and the silence in that way that he and only he 
can do. His rendition of “Don´t Think Twice” was beyond any expectation 
even from a fresh listener not used with the way he changes the songs alive. 
He sung almost a capella, and it was really moving to see a man who already 
conquered everything he could crave so engaged on doing his job after 57 
years on the road. 

Forget the mumbles, the grunts, the man who sometimes in the past seemed
almost embarrassed on singing out loud the magnificent verses of his own pen; 
“Trying to get heaven” (“before they cloooooooosed” the door, as he says), 
“Love Sick”, “Early Roman Kings” (with a different meaning altogether) and 
above all, “Desolation Row”, were sung with more than “passion”, a word 
probably a bit worn in this case; you could hear the absolute joyful and delight 
the old man feels on manipulating the height, duration, pauses and emphasis 
on a way that, he knows, is simply unique. During “It Aint me, Babe” he built 
empty spaces between verses or in the middle of a single verse, reaching 
through the voice and the breathe the very same poetical effect that his 
syntax and his rhyme does: the creation of the unexpected. 

Of course that it wasn´t just the voice. Last night I felt, probably unlike any 
other Dylan concert in the past, how he can, in less than two hours, walk 
through a century of American song tradition. Folk, jazz, rock, blues, you name 
it. Even a heavy-rock fan could be amazed by what that band did with 
“Thunder on the Mountain”; the spirit of Muddy Waters sneaked in the venue 
during “Early Roman Kings”; some of the so many Bob Dylan´s that Robert 
Allen Zimmerman has created on the almost six decades seems to show up 
each time he turned his back to the crowd and went back again to his piano. 
The non-hierarchical and heterogeneous mixture of past and future, myth and 
reality, has always been the core of his language and watch him alive is an 
experience that makes his engine palpable. The transformative approach to his 
own material keeps his art relevant and creates new meaning for songs already 
fulfilled with different levels of meaning. Among so many highlights, nowadays 
this engine reaches full power on his rendition of “Desolation Row”. But this is 
a subject for a next review. 

Fernando Viotti 


Review by Nick Miller

Bob and his band dropped into Sydney's International Convention Centre -
ICC last night as part of his Never Ending Tour. The ICC Sydney Theatre
opened in late 2016 and has replaced the Sydney Entertainment Centre where
Bob played many times notably in 1986 with Tom Petty. Despite its size
(9,000) the venue has fantastic sound and views.

Arriving to the concert (40 years since I first saw Bob - in the mud at
Sydney Showgrounds) we are greeted by a huge image of Bob (the current
photo at the piano) on the outside of the venue. Seems every concert on
this tour there's something memorable outside the venue - in Adelaide it
was the many wood fires around the tent to keep us warm and then in
Melbourne the bike cabs were all blaring Bob songs!

No need to detail the set list as no change here - what made this concert
stand out was the fantastic sound and joy and passion shown by Bob and his
band. All 20 songs hit the mark and Bob has really let the shackles off
the band - highlighted by Stu's intro on Things have Changed, George's
drumming on Thunder on the Mountain, Donnie's violin on Blowing in the
Wind and Tony and Charlie's  energy all night. Bob's voice is strong,
keyboard work standing and sitting excellent plus harmonica playing spot
on and well received.

In summary this concert was a masterpiece. Cant' wait until seeing Bob and
his band up the road at the Enmore tonight!

Nick Miller


Review by David Mills

Last time Bob played Sydney it was at the 2,100 seat State Theatre.  The
stage design and lighting worked perfectly in that space and the sound was
as good as I’ve heard at a Bob show; really well mixed so you could hear
every note that was being played onstage.  His band wre terrific, you need
to hear them.  You could hear every word Bob sang too, his voice sat on
top of the arrangements.  I’ve been going to see Bob for over 40 years
and that was a standout show.

This time he was at the 9,000 seat International Convention Centre.  Last
time I went to the ICC it was to see PJ Harvey.  Great show with fantastic
sound.  Last Saturday I was in Row S of the stalls slightly to the side of
centre and the sound was erratic and particularly poor early on.  Things
Have Changed was a mess and you could see that the band struggling with
the stage sound too.

Some of the arrangements the band are playing at the moment are like
chamber music, you need to hear the interplay between the instruments.  
Too often I couldn’t hear it.  At one point I watched Stu play a series
of chords in the transition of one song.  He played them very deliberately
and with great care.  Couldn’t hear any of them.  I don’t understand
how that gets away from the sound crew.

Last time in Sydney Bob only played a handful of old songs, this time the
set was about 50/50 pre- and post- Time Out Of Mind.  His voice was pretty
inconsistent and he started upsinging the end of lines about three songs
in, one sign of a tired voice.  He paced himself much better last time
when the set was mostly songs written for his older voice.

The set had some great covers of his back catalogue but some clunky ones
too.  Dylan played a lot of percussive block chords on the piano and when
he was off the beat it didn’t sound pretty.  At other times the
simplicity of his approach worked beautifully, as on Don’t Think Twice. 
He delivered some lines on Desolation Row like they were written yesterday
and others were thrown away; it wasn’t the most convincing performance
of that great song.  He followed it with a fantastic performance of Love
Sick then Don’t Think Twice, which I thought was the highlight.  So
quiet and still, simple piano and his voice to start.  His singing was
great.  I love those moments at Dylan concerts when the songs from his
youth are delivered as songs of age and experience  The whole band came in
but the arrangement was very gentle and delicate.  It felt like it could
fall apart at any moment but you know that band won’t drop the ball.  It
felt like less was more and the contrast with other arrangements was very

The last time I was at the ICC PJ Harvey covered Highway 61.  She stood on
the lip of the stage with her fist held out and sang it like like an Old
Testament preacher.  Absolutely compelling performance that reminded me
how potent the song is.  Bob’s band played it like they were trying not
to offend or overexcite anyone, swinging along perfectly competently but
frustrating when the band and the material's so good.  The same with
Ballad Of A Thin Man.  No edge.  Ballad Of A Thin Man's meant to have
edge!  I saw Mavis Staples sing Gotta Serve Somebody like she meant it and
I’ve heard Bob sing it with passion but not this time around.  There
were too many polite performances of great songs.

I was with four friends and we all felt a bit underwhelmed.  But, like all
Bob shows I’ve been to, the standout moments were magical and I
wouldn’t never pass up on the chance to see the Bob Dylan Band.  The
following night they played the 1,600 seat Enmore Theatre in Newtown, a
more atmospheric venue.  I’m sure this show would have worked much
better there.


Click Here
to return to the
Main Page

page by Bill Pagel

Tour Guide
Tour Guides
Bob Links
Set Lists
by Date
Set Lists
by Location