Reviews

Portsmouth, England
Guildhall
September 24, 2000


[Graham Cole], [Markus Prieur], [Terry Hanson], [Idham R.], [Peter Thwaites], [Martin Colyer]

Review by Graham Cole



Itís been a busy weekend for me and a very exciting one. A great day out
in France with colleagues from school yesterday, and then today looking
forward all day to seeing Bob Dylan at his two Portsmouth Guildhall gigs.
Now, I have just got in from the first of these two concerts at Portsmouth
and feel so excited I thought I would write down my thoughts and e-mail
them to you as a sort of quick review of the show. A set-list you will
already have from other sources so Iíll not worry about that, but suffice
to say that Bob continues to astound on this tour with his repertoire and
Portsmouthís first evening has not disappointed, with a concert that I
heard many say afterwards was the best they have seen him.

The atmosphere outside in the street was buzzing when we arrived around 6
p.m. and it was clear that something was going on (there were even traffic
wardens in the vicinity of the Guildhall shooing would be parkers away!).
The queues were everything that they have been at these gigs, it seems,
with great friendliness all around.

Once inside there was the usual scramble to get front-row places up
beneath the centre mike, and then the hour or so wait and anticipation
before the bandís entrance at 7.50 p.m. From the outset, it was clear that
Dylan was really focused on the task in hand and it was wonderful to see
the concentration in his face as he worked his way through the set,
leading the band well and with clearer direction than has sometimes been
the case in the past. In this sense, I feel it is as if Dylan has been
reborn and has far better control of things than previously. Furthermore,
his guitar work, often, I feel, underpraised in the past, was crisp and
sharply inventive tonight, again with Bob concentrating really hard on
each note and riff as he underscored the lyrics or melody line.

Following the tourís pattern, the opening set was acoustic, with the
wonderful imagery of "Visions of Johanna" (a personal favourite) appearing
in this section of the playlist. Even better was to follow with an
outstandingly majestic "Tangled up in blue", which for me was the
highlight of the whole show. Frequently during the song, Bob kept looking
up to his right Ė there was a woman on the balcony in that direction who
may have caught his eye during this and a couple of other songs Ė
something certainly seemed to inspire a gorgeous performance from him on
this song tonight.

Things then went electric and it made me reflect on the difference between
now and those days 34 years ago when the same transition caused such a
furore in the audiences. Surprisingly, since it was never a huge favourite
of mine, "Brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat" proved to be one of the
electric numbers I enjoyed most tonight, and Bob and the bandís treatment
of "Like a rolling stone" gained a gently subtlety tonight that I have
often found missing when played in anthemic style to a cast of thousands.
And if subtlety and delicacy were the order of the day, then we had plenty
more of both in the lovely "If not for you" and "Forever young". Added to
these, he also gave us two of my wife, Loraineís favourites with "Mama you
been on my mind" and "Iíll be your baby tonight".

Heís 59, yes, and a lot of us in the audience are chasing him age-wise so
thereís no worries about that. Nevertheless, here was a man offering a
performance of power and majesty, yet delivered with a sweetness and a
gentle touch that reflected how much he wanted us, his audience, to
appreciate his beautiful lyrics and his fine playing this evening. When
Bob and the band stood together looking at the audience at the end of the
main set and of the encores, they looked as if they had enjoyed
themselves. As people drifted slowly away after the end, it was clear that
we certainly had and the south-coast party isnít over yet! Itís now 11.30
p.m., Bob may be in bed somewhere nearby right now, after a wonderful show
tonight. My wife and I? Weíre just looking forward to more Dylanesque
delights tomorrow.

in peace

Graham Cole

[TOP]

Review by Markus Prieur



We did get tickets for my 30th Bob date after all, as we were offered
seating tickets by a friend of an American I tried to furnish with a Vicar
Street ticket. Since we already have standing tickets for the second show,
I didn't think twice and ended up on the balcony of this old and small
venue, third row center (I mean CENTER). Watching from above with or
without my binoculars I enjoyed a perfect view and a lear and loud sound;
an of course a brilliant setlist. Only eight repetitions from the night
before in Cardiff, but again, some were as fresh as could be. Even "H61"
(my 9th on this tour) was most enjoyable. But we do go to multiple shows
not to hear ten times the same songs (although some I wouldn't mind at all
seeing every night, as I didn't mind the fourth omission in a row of
"RDW"), but to hear the rare ones, don't we? And Bob did not disappoint.
The third appearance of "THE WICKED MESSENGER" was as intense as possible.
Three songs were performed for the second time ! on this tour: The
wonderful opener "SOMEBODY TOUCHED ME", which didn't surprise me, as ,
like in Glasgow, "it was on a Sunday". And "TO RAMONA" and "CAN'T WAIT" he
had performed before only at Vicar Street. But the real nuggets were among
the six new songs for this tour, three of which I had never seen before:
"VISIONS OF JOHANNA" was a very nice change in the number three spot,
delivered beautifully. I'm glad I finally got to see it. "IF NOT FOR YOU"
I didn't recognize before he started singing, and it was sung quite
powerfully. "FOURTH TIME AROUND" was new to my eyes as well, and performed
for the first time this year. He told it like a recent story is told to a
small circle of friends, like someone eho says: Guess what happened to me
the other day. Bob does that at times. The other three additions to this
tour-songlist I had heard before, "I'LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT" even eight
times, but the arrangement always changes a little. "MAMA YOU BEEN ON MY
MIND" (which featured a nice harminica this time), we had seen before in
Muenster 1996 and in Munich 1999. My favourite addition and probably the
peak of our ten-gig-journey (if he doesn't pull out "EVERY GRAIN OF SAND"
tonight, before we had home to Ireland tomorrow), was a superb,
magnificent and rocking "GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY" at the ninth song of the
night, which even surprised me, as I was expecting it to replace "COUNTRY
PIE", which it didn't. We were hoping to see it but once on this tour,
flashing our cloth sign between songs whenever we stood close to the
stage. (My wife had never witnessed Bob performing this gem, and I had not
seen it since 1991), Bob performed it for the seventh time this year and
he performed it well. ("You might be Bono, you might be Sting") Whoever we
are, Bob Dylan still seems to believe that we all are created to serve the
Lord; the Lord, whose hand keeps touching him, while he is praying, and
whose nail scarred hand alone imparts lasting glory.

Markus Prieur 
http://notdarkyet.tripod.com
notdarkyet@eircom.net

[TOP]

Review by Terry Hanson


Don't agree with the recent reviews. Last night's show was a letdown.

1. One of the reviews of the concert refers to enthusiasm. Really? Studied
disdain for the audience would be nearer the mark. Especially at the end
of the show. 

2. Dylan can sing wonderfully well. He has proved it time and again in the
studio. He even proved it last night, but only in the songs he didn't
write! In his own songs he has applied a formulaic minimalism to them all.
Where they all once had melodies, now they all sound the same. If it
wasn't for the backing music it would be hard to recognise each one. (One
exception: Fourth Time Around). Re-working the originals is great but that
doesn't mean abandoning all semblance of melody.

3. His guitar solos were embarrassing. As Andy Kershaw once said, this is
not not Bob's strong point (I paraphrase).

4. I would prefer him to quit touring and get back to creativity. 

5. I'll be back again tonight for more punishment.

Not dark yet, but ...

Terry Hanson

[TOP]

Review by Idham R.


As always, because I don't carry pens and paper to write down the setlist,
so 
 I have used Bill Pagel's site as reference.

Arriving at Portsmouth, hours before the concert, I had decided to take a
small tour around the sea port.  A very quiet and peacful city - perhaps
because it may have been a Sunday and everybody's at home, relaxing.  Saw
a couple of fans wearing Dylan shirts, and walked past the venue where the
pre-performance meet-up was held.  I thought I come back to it later.

Touts were offering standing tickets for "Eighty quid, but I could do it
for you for seventy-five " even though the local newspaper
predicted that black market prices would be in the region of £100.  By the
way, FYI, the newspaper had an article about Dylans concert the day
before, about how they had to increase security, not because it was Bob on
stage but to protect the equipment.  They had to sweep the whole venue
just in case someone was hiding or something along that lines.

Anyway, the venue itself, the building is very elegant, imagine St Pauls
(for Londoners) but the dome bit turns pointy and the steps are a-plenty. 
Lines were forming once I got there (14:30) and thanks to someone who gave
me information about the venue the venue is literally within a stones
throw from the station.  

The tickets stated "Photography forbidden" but yet there were a lot of
flashes.  Security, sadly, are like dinosaurs, non-existant/extinct.  A
couple brought in a bottle of red wine, everyone should know that glass
bottles are not allowed into the venue, nor into any venue for that matter
for safety reasons.  Fans were not searched so people could have brought
in camcorders or other recording devices (despite the fact that they were
forbidden).

The concert itself.  I only stayed for the main set because I had a train
to catch.  Bob came on at 19:50-ish with a song that I was able to sing
along to, Somebody Touched Me.  First time I heard it live.

Then came to Ramona which was welcomed with cheers from the standing
crowd.  Next, for me was a surprise, Visions of Johanna, another song that
I was able to sing along to.

Mama You've Been on My Mind was a fab song that sounds great live.  I've
ehard it from a bootleg so I was able to recognise it.  Then came "Tangled
Up In Blue" which got everyone going since that's a song well known to
both hardcore fans and the casual fans.  The acoustic set was finished
with, "Searching for a soldiers grave".  

A running trend for the UK sets is "Country Pie" opening the electric set,
oh me, oh my.  "Can't Wait" was next followed by "Gotta Serve Somebody"
which sounded different to the studio and previous live versions. IMHO.

The show ended with, "If not for you", "The Wicked Messenger" and "Leopard
Skin" which has the teasing intro of "Rainy day".

After that I left.  I missed the encore, but should have stayed just to
hear, "Love Sick", "Firth Time Around" and, "I'll be your baby tonight" -
Oh well ;-) At least I was there.

[TOP]

Review by Peter Thwaites



I don't know if Bob realises how close he is here to the Isle of Wight, a 
mere hovercraft ride away from the scene of his "English Woodstock". This 
time round the Fab Four don't drop by to play tennis and the set is twice 
as long! Arriving in Portsmouth by train I discover that it in fact appears 
to be called Southsea but the sight of the impressive Guildhall convinces me 
I'm in the right place. Some people I gather have been queuing since the 
afternoon for front of stage places, my overpriced seat ticket courtesy of 
a London ticket agency absolves me from having to do the same.
It was on a Sunday and Somebody Touched Me. Yet a further 10 song variation 
from last night with an exquisite Visions of Joanna and rockin' I'll Be Your 
Baby Tonight. The intimate setting is ideal but I can't help feeling that some 
of the audience are a little too reserved and would rather be back home in 
their Hampshire studies listening to Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands with the 
lights off and a glass of claret on the side - as opposed to letting the music 
take hold of their hands and feet. Unfortunately my applause is also restrained 
as my palms are just plain sore after the previous nights revels.
Each night has contained some wonderful surprises and 4th Time Around produces 
some gasps tonight. I suddenly have this terrible temptation to shout for 
Forever Young just before I am certain Bob is about to launch into it but 
hesitate as I know it's a cheap trick that Bob will immediately see through 
and possibly switch into All The Tired Horses. I resist but it would have been 
the right call. 
I read an article where the interviewer suggested to Bob that his guitar playing 
was very much in the style of Django Rheinhardt which appeared to please Bob and 
no doubt encourage him to continue in the same vein. From my perspective its 
more akin to his own harmonica playing, he worries away at the same 3 notes 
until suddenly he finds his opening and it takes off (usually). During Rolling 
Stone however I notice that he consciously refrains from said worrying and 
allows both Larry and notably Charlie full rein to express themselves - which 
they do with a vengeance.
As the last notes of BITW fade I resign myself to a weary trip home the next 
day, money , tickets and time off work all drawn to a close but 39 songs in 
3 days is good going by anyone's standards - and this was some standard. 
Thanks Bob.

[TOP]

Review by Martin Colyer



Water From A Deeper Well

There are five men on stage in a variety of western-wear. The drummer wears
a big white stetson, the bassist a menacing leer, a pencil moustache and a 
black hat (very Charlton Heston in 'Touch of Evil'). Stage left is Antonio 
Banderas, stage right - Matt Dillon (well, it looks like them, but it's dark 
in here), both armed with acoustic guitars. The fellow in the middle is no 
film star. In fact, in the white spotlight he resembles a ghost, or a 
character from Dickens, dusted in talcum powder, and looking distractedly 
into the middle distance. He's wearing a dark western suit with white piping, 
sort of Tom Mix crossed with Hank Williams. They light into the opening song, 
a bluegrass gospel number called 'Somebody Touched Me', and their voices 
swoop into the air on the refrain "It must be the hand of the Lord" in true 
Louvin Brothers style.

They finish to whoops and hollers from the crowd, and launch straight into a 
gorgeously dreamy romantic waltz, with a Mexicali feel. Antonio plays 
delicate filagree lines, Matt plays self-effacing rhythm guitar and the 
backroom boys swirl the beat around like a carny ride. The funny little guy 
seems to be the lead singer, and he wheezes into the opening lines in a sly 
fashion, imparting the words sideways from his mouth. The song's a timeless 
marvel called 'To Ramona' and the next one that they ease into is even better. 
'Mama You Bin on my Mind' has a melody both Moby and Mariah Carey would kill 
for, and it is so gorgeously played and sung that for the time it lasts you'd 
die and go to Boot Hill, happily.
The band then swing into a groovy vamp, the singer twitches and shrugs, and 
the audience roars its approval. "Ain't it just like the night to play 
tricks/When you're tryin' to be quiet". This is hip-swinging stuff, and the 
audience is almost forced into dancing along. Antonio rips off another fine 
solo and then the funny guy starts playing. He plays like his fingernails are 
too long , and the jerkyness makes the audience blink from their reverie. He 
pays no heed if he hits a bum note, instead searching for a kind of repetitive 
intensity, almost a Chicago Blues version of Philip Glass. But it's an 
intriguing approach and it keeps the band on their toes as they try and figure 
out where he's taking the song. Antonio in particular wears a look somewhere 
between terror and joy. 

Then a song called 'Tangled Up In Blue', stage lights dramatically throwing 
the band's shadows onto the wall on the title line, which builds up to a 
crazily intense climax that leaves the audience exhausted. They revert to the 
style of the opener for one more song (about standing on a soldier's grave, 
it seems) and, in an atmosphere so intense that it's hard to see where it can 
go from here, the front line ditch their acoustics, and choose electric guitars 
from racks at the side of the stage.

First up is a jagged slice of country funk, 'Country Pie', with the guitarists 
going hell for leather, one moment Clarence White, the next Jerry Reed, sweat 
flying from the dashing brow of Matt Dillon as his fingers claw their way up 
and down the frets. But the party time mood is just a distraction, as the show 
turns a dark corner in the road for the anguished blues of  'Can't Wait'. 
Blistering vocals, blistering guitars, the wail and thump of a Howling Wolf  
band in the early sixties brought to life in this municipal hall on the south 
coast of England...

The menacing strut of the next song, 'Gotta Serve Somebody' - featuring an 
intense, preaching vocal - keeps the energy level high before the gentle coming 
down of a country strumalong on 'If Not For You'. This innocuous song features 
an extraordinary moment: after playing his solo right at the third attempt 
(nobody minded, you understand), the singer looks down into the audience with a 
piercing stare, a hint of a smile at the corners of his lips, and sings the 
middle eight straight at them - "If not for you, My sky would fall, Rain would 
gather too. Without your love I'd be nowhere at all, I'd be lost if not for 
youÖ" And you feel it's true. Playing live seems to give the singer a powerful 
reason to keep going.

'Wicked Messenger' and 'Leopardskin Pill Box Hat' keep the high-voltage 
approach going, although the downside of pounding into the songs like this is 
the danger of coming off  more Foghat than ZZ Top, which happens in 
'Leopardskin'. 

'Messenger', however, is apocalyptic tonight, and possibly a definitive 
version - the combination of the whiplash guitar playing and a stunning harp 
solo is simply overwhelming.

An hour has passed and the band line up and face the audience, and stare at 
them. That's right - they don't bow, and they don't wave, they just stare out 
from the stage. They resemble a Brady photograph of captured Confederate troops. 
It's deeply spooky. The hall goes wild , the band disappear for five minutes 
and then launch into part 2 - it lasts forty-five minutes, too long to call an 
encore.

'Love Sick' is next and its weary fatalism rebounds around the room. The singer 
hunches and swivels, for all the world like a moody Chuck Berry, driving the 
band with his Freelance Guitar Stylingsô. They all seem to be enjoying it, 
digging deep into the music. Even 'Like A Rolling Stone' is energised.

Appropriately for a concert hall that last looks like it was refurbished in 
1966, the singer chooses a song called 'Fourth Time Around' and sounds like 
no-one else on planet earth. He grimaces his way through the storyline, 
savouring the gnomic lyrics. A swift canter through 'I'll Be Your Baby 
Tonight' and 'Forever Young' lead into a coruscating 'Highway 61' with a 
fabulous T-Bone Walker-drenched solo by Matt dropped into the Allmans groove, 
before a reverential reading of old-as-the-hills 'Blowing In The Wind', where 
the voices rise up as they did at the beginning, mountain music for the mind 
and body.

And in the end, that's what it all comes down to - the music. It's not about 
the history of those on stage, really, or a glib perception of what a 
'dinosaur rock tour' will be like. It's about great music in the here-and-now, 
about its power to move you. It's about the fact that the next night the singer 
and his compadres play the same hall and only play five of the same songs, or 
that when they play Wembley a week later, the set is different again. It's 
about the well that this great stuff is drawn from, and the fact that it still 
hasn't dried up.

End note
Starring in Water From A Deeper Well were: Larry Campbell as Antonio, Charlie 
Sexton as Matt, David Kemper as The Man in the White Hat, Tony Garnier as The 
Man in the Black Hat and Bob Dylan as The Singer.

© Martin Colyer/Rock's Backpages

[TOP]


Return to Current Tour Guide page
Return to Bob Links
Go to the Set Lists (by city) page
Go to the Set Lists (by date) page 1999 Tour, 1998 Tour, 1997 Tour, 1996 Tour , 1995 Tour, Pre 1995 Tours
Go to the Cue Sheet page