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Review by Alan Davis
The arena seemed completely full - 3000 standing, 3(or 4?)000 sitting - we
had excellent seats on the right hand side of the stage, - the only way of
being closer to the maestro was to stand at the front and we, being the
lazy old decrepit creatures we are, preferred to sit. We were there about
45 minutes early and the place was just starting to fill - the atmosphere
was fantastic ... I was strangely nervous, for although I've steeped
myself in his music, I'd never seen him live before ... my wife was
'expecting to be overawed' (she said). At 7.45 prompt all the lights went
off, there was an enormous, ground shaking cheer, and there he was!!!
First song took a few lines before I realised what it was - 'Duncan and
Brady' - very unfamiliar to me! - then into a good 'Times they are
followed by one of the evening's masterpieces - 'It's Alright Ma' - surely
he can never have sung this better? It had me utterly spellbound, focused
on avery nuance of expression. Next up, continuing the acoustic set,
another surprise - 'Delia'. . Again, a good performance.
So far, so good. Tangled up in Blue followed - started very well - then, a
couple of verses in, it somehow started to lose momentum - I can't
describe quite how - but it was as if Dylan himself had started to lose
the meaning of the song and was just going along with it. He sang the last
verse - and you could tell that he was really trying to get back into the
song, but it wasn't quite working ... but he picked up a harmonica, and
began to play, tentatively, a few notes, crouching down in a corner
towards the back of the stage - a minute later I thought the thing was
still not working, but he plugged away at the harmonica, and you could
just feel him searching for something - and then - wow!!! I could feel the
hair rising on my neck as the music just started to grow - to take off to
some other level - and the other members of the band picked it up,
following his lead, and within a few seconds the arena was filled with his
incredible wailing harmonica and blazing guitars, reaching for heaven and
tearing the hearts out of the audience. Unbelievable - I have never been
witness to anything remotely like that before.
The last song of the acoustic set was 'Searching for a soldier's grave'
which I presume is a traditional song? I'd never heard it before. Away
went the acoustic instruments to be replaced by electric - and a rockin'
version of Country Pie - radically transformed from its 1969 origins. The
songs which followed were good - there wasn't a bad performance in the
whole set - Standing in the Doorway, Memphis Blues Again (which seemed to
go on a shade too long and I lost a bit of concentration), and another
Skyline song 'Tell me that it isn't true' - again, barely recognisable at
first, so different was the new working. And then - the most probing,
fierce, quicksilver guitar riff started up and led into the most
incredible version of 'Wicked Messenger'. And just as you thought it
couldn't get any better, out came the harmonica again and lifted the whole
thing up to one last level higher before it ended. After that, Rainy Day
Women signalled the end of the first session and Bob and Co. went off.
They returned for 7 encores, with the inevitable Rolling Stone and Blowing
in the Wind, but some of the choices were really interesting - the new
Things have Changed, a most unexpected 'Man of Peace', and a version of
Forever Young which - well, call me an old softie if you will, but I think
everybody there must have felt that they were receiving a blessing of some
kind - at least, my wife did, and I felt something similar.
What an experience. Utterly unique. All day, today - I just haven't been
able to get back onto the lowly plane of ordinary living .....
Review by Markus Prieur
This was a nice show to watch. We were standing all the way up front
underneath the left speaker. Bob was very animated, made plenty of funny
faces, danced around a lot and was clearly enjoying himself, especially
during the songs he plays often. "LIKE A ROLLING STONE" was very intense
and "TANGLED UP IN BLUE" was crowned with the finest and longest harp solo
on this tour (so far).
Bob threw in five more songs into this tour, four of which I had never
seen him perform in the 25 shows I had been to before. "DELIA" was
delivered very plaintively (this was the first show on this tour with
three cover songs). "TELL ME THAT IT ISN'T TRUE" was sung as if it was
written yesterday. On good nights Bob does that with certain songs. It's
part of his gift as a performer, and it simply amazes me when he does
The show stopper this time was another of his first-time-in-Europe
performances, a magnificent "STANDING IN THE DOORWAY", which by itself was
worth the price of admission. Superb phrasing! It was the eighth (!) song
from "Time Out Of Mind" in five shows. This time Bob conveyed his
conviction, that even when the flesh falls off of his face, someone will
be there to care. Must be his Lord and Savior, who touched him so many
times with his nail scarred hand and who will lead him beyond this burning
sand. Bob sure is ready to go.
Even better was a brilliant version of "MAN OF PEACE", which had been
printed already on the cue sheet in Glasgow (see my review). "RING THEM
BELLS" at Vicar Street and this "MAN OF PEACE" in Newcastle are the only
two songs from the eighties performed on this tour so far, fitting however
thematically very well to some of the cover songs and some of the "Time
Out Of Mind"-songs Bob did perform during the three other shows,
especially "THIS WORLD CAN'T STAND", "HIGHLANDS", "NOT DARK YET", "TRYIN'
TO GET TO HEAVEN", HALLELUJAH I'M READY TO GO", "I AM THE MAN THOMAS" and
"SOMEBODY TOUCHED ME". As "MAN OF PEACE" was performed for the first time
this year (and this warning about the craftiness of the father of lies was
performed masterfully), I do consider to include this song on my website
"Not Dark Yet", when we get home to Ireland next week; and maybe "RING
THEM BELLS" as well. But first we shall try to find our way down to
Birmingham, and Sheffield, and Cardiff, and Portsmouth.!
This tour is like a gold rush.
Review by Neil Dunlea
I decided aftermuch deliberation and some trepidation to spend a week of
my hard won holidays on the trail of Bob Dylan in England. Little did I
realise that I was effectively entering another dimension soon to be
labelled the Dylan dimension. Took a ferry from Dublin port early in the
morning before the dawn had broken and drove furiously from Holyhead to
Newcastle. Correction - navigated while my compatriot (who shall
henceforth be known as Mr Kearns) drove. Met some Dylan people that night
in Newcastle and I have to say I was at first wary of them but also
initially surprised by the extent of their dedication to the Dylan trail.
Many tales of Dylan delights were recounted and a graph was drawn
describing the quality of Dylans' live performances over a period of ten
years. The graph bottomed out in 1992, had a high peak in 1995 and the
highest peak for most present was 1999 - 2000. There was consensus on the
overalldebate centring around a switch of peaks as in 1995 instead of 2000
being a peak. Armed with all this information, I was still not overly
excited though I could point to exhaustion as an excuse after the early
morning drive and the tasty Spitfire ale and ferry trip.
Queued in the pissing rain and wind outside the venue but met some
interesting people. Time has dimmed my memory of the show but I
rememberbeing blown away by the white heat rock and roll of many songs
once the band found their groove. I found Dylan to be simply superbly
professional in Newcastle and in Birmingham and Sheffield. He rarely put a
foot wrong except perhaps when his guitar sounded a little out of tune on
Rolling Stone in Sheffield but even that sounded charming. I had a small
theory that Dylan was almost playing a greatest hits package in these
shows to keep his name in lights in England for his next album. Cardiff
was the real eye opener for me. Dylan was forceful and in total command
from the off. He sang with such assurance and authority and emotional
power that the combined effect was almost overwhelming and I now have a
strong inkling why people keep coming back again and again and again. They
believe in the man and the redemptive power of his songs. They adore his
ability to come back from the brink of despair and be reborn before there
very eyes on stage. A living breathing monument to self willed action.
Something very simple happened in Cardiff. A bunch of overexcited fans
caught Dylan's eye as he was romping his merry way through Country Pie.
They made him burst into laughter spontaneously and you could see him
doubling over as the band played on and a huge grin crossed his face. From
that point on the show seemed to explode into life as Larry and Charlie
sensed the rising energy levels of Bob. It was like a ripple of
inspiration emanating from Bob in reponse to the crowd spreading like
wildfire to the band and back to the crowd and Bob again in an ever more
active oscillating loop. His version of Frankie Lee was poised and
perfect. His voice like an archers arrow ready to be unleashed and hitting
the target with supreme precision. Tangled up in Blue was a pure adrenalin
rush of poetry and classic rock and roll. Watching the River Flow a
rythmic masterpiece. Harp playing of sublime expressive and unusually
melodic power on Dont Think Twice. Man I want to hear it all again.
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