October 14, 2011
Review by Graham Cole
The two Portsmouth shows in 2000, the three London 2003 concerts, and the five-in-a-row at Brixton
two years later, pretty well fill a top ten of my favourite Bob-shows, but maybe there is just room for
tonight's wonderful Bournemouth performance to bubble under there with them. For it was a fabulous
and memorable show, seeming to reflect a new phase in Bob's never-ending development.
Coming on at 9.15, the band took up their new positions, in a sort of quarter circle roughly facing the
bandleader, looking as resplendent as ever in white hat over a black suit with green piping, and sharp
white and black boots with what I think may still be called Cuban heels. Only Charlie, who surely has
brought back to the band a real excitement, and a definite stage presence, dared to come down to
stage front with his tremendous guitar work.
Yet this seems to be a new Bob Dylan, with a vitality and verve to his performance, especially his physical
movement, that has not been seen for some time, and it made for a great, great show. Loraine was on
the front row just left of centre, and Sam and I just behind - we'd never managed that close before,
and Sam suggested afterwards it was the best he has ever seen Bob.
Inevitably there were plenty of variations from preceding nights, with This Wheel's On Fire an early
highlight, but right from the start of opener Leopard-skin Pillbox Hat, Charlie stamped an authority on
the proceedings that perhaps none of the other guitarists have dared to do in the past, and which in
many respects belongs by right to the wonderful, long-serving Tony Garnier. But if Charlie shone on
guitar during the night, Bob too showed he can still pick a tune, with some much more effective guitar
playing than he displayed a few years ago. And he found the energy to really blow the harp in a
meaningful way on several numbers, to the point where his renewed vigour showed just what energy
he is putting into his songs these days.
I really enjoyed Tangled Up in Blue, where he seemed to be using his whole body to give out the words
of the song, and there was some fine interplay of harmonica and guitar in the break. As the lights went
down at the end of this song, it became apparent in the gloom that there was a seventh player now on
stage, as Mark Knopfler had sloped on to join the three leads already in the band. He stayed and traded
licks with the others very amiably through Beyond Here Lies Nothing. It looked as if Bob had been so
delighted to have him on stage, but if he was being asked to stay for one more, he declined, and left the
stage whilst Bob and the band set about Make You Feel My Love, the one tune tonight where I did not
think the harmonica added anything significant.
Honest With Me came next and saw Bob moving one minute to his left, the next moving to his right, and
the whole thing being wonderfully animated. But it was the next up, Desolation Row, which for me, was
the jewel in tonight's crown. Under soft lilac lighting, this was by far the best I have heard Bob sing this
extraordinarily powerful song in the last 20 years or so. Everything about the performance was just
beautiful, and this, for me, was the one that was worth the admission price all alone.
Nothing reached the same heights as this fabulous piece, though it is always pleasing to hear Blind Willie
McTell in show, taken at a pleasant jaunty pace this evening, before the final four relatively predictable
As ever, it was good to meet new friends Gordon, John and partner, but missed you Paul, though I
suspect you too enjoyed it as much as we did. I hope so anyway, and know you'll look forward to London
in a few weeks time. Oh and Bob C, I hope/think you'll enjoy the Paris show just as much as we did
Review by Alan Kerslake
Just a short review this time of the concert at Bournemouth, which having slept on it, I still
cannot fathom what I saw from Dylan.
Mark Knopfler was superb as his own act, with an eight piece band and smooth, slick songs. Sailing
to Philadelphia, Brothers in Arms and So Far away were real treats. His sound was crystal clear
and of course his guitar tones were amazing from his various strats and les pauls.
Dylan was a different kettle of fish, from the off the soundboard decided to turn up the volume
which just muddied the sound and was not necessary. Pill box hat was a good opener and Bob actually
engaged in the vocals. This Wheels On Fire had long harp breaks and I'll be your baby tonight was a
bloodbath, ruined by Bobs guitar style. It makes me cringe when Bob now reaches for the strat.
Tangled was chopped down to three verses (early/burner/back again) which made the song lose all
narrative. Beyond Here Lies nothing was a real treat, with Knopfler taking the lead guitar parts.
A graunchy and gritty song that worked very well.
Honest with me was filler, nothing else. Make you feel my love was nicely done but had all of its
tenderness and subtlety ripped out of it. Desolation row started off nicely but Bob leaned towards
some strange phrasing in the second half.
Blind Willie Mctell was a jaunty re-arrangement and Thunder on the mountain seemed to be rushed,
with the vocals turning into one long chainsaw like sound. Highway 61 rocked hard and finished
brilliantly, probably my favourite performance of the night which is a slightly strange admission.
Thin man was nailed as it has been for a while, nice echo and shadowy stage. Watchtower is now a
choppy simple version that works well, just a shame that Bob cut off Stu's only leads of the night,
as I would much rather hear Stu's guitar work than Charlie's. Like a rolling stone made people
sing, thats all.
All in all an average night from Bob, the voice was very rough, worse than my last outing at
the Feis in June. The sound volume was too 'hot' compared to Knopflers crystal clear set. There
was lots of harp, some decent, some not. Obviously people will say the show was clear with strong
vocals and cracking arrangements but I didn't get that feeling. It all seemed a bit heavy handed,
with even the tender songs being given a kick up the backside. There was too much poncey lead
swishing and fringe flicking from Charlie. I wish Stu would play more lead like he used to years
Mark Knopfler is the class act on this tour.
Review by Joe Neanor
It was the late, late show for Bob tonight. With Mark Knopfler on the
first, and Bob topping the bill, it was 21:20 when he finally took the
stage. He opened with a blistering version of brand new Leopard Skin
Pillbox Hat, with clear vocals, hitting notes and using as much vibrato
technique as man in Bob’s circumstances can employ. In short, he was
trying hard. He then headed for the centre stage microphone, and to my
delight, gave a fine performance of Wheels On Fire. It’s always fun to see
what emphasis Bob will give to particular lyrics and I was quite taken
with the way he expressed doubts about the ownership of that lace.
I like this venue, even though it is more of a conference centre than a
concert hall. You have a reasonable chance of getting a good view of Bob,
even at the far edges. So the big screen that is so often required, but
rarely provided, is not needed here. From the stage I reckon that Bob and
his cowboy band could pretty much see everyone in the venue. Most of the
audience was standing on the ground floor. Apart from a small number of
seats at the back of ground floor the rest was high up and no more than 10
rows deep, set back around three sides.
Next up was an upbeat version of I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, with Bob
playing guitar. Tangled Up In Blue followed with Bob remaining centre
stage. He put down his guitar to take the microphone from its stand, while
holding his miked-up harmonica with the other hand Its all relative of
course but at this point Bob was almost “working the room” as he twisted
and turned and fronted-up to the audience. During the song and throughout
the evening he played the harmonica with all the force of a trumpet
player, you wonder how long each lasts with the treatment he gives them.
Driving to and from the show I played the excellent three set CD Dylan.
It so happened that I had gotten up to Tangled Up In Blue as I parked up.
One mystery for me was why the Italian poet reference slipped from the
15th to the 13th century tonight! Still, what's 200 years in Rock and
Mark Knopfler joined Bob for Beyond Here Lies Nothin, which put an awful
lot of guitarists on stage, including Dylan. He did not comply with the
dress code, Dylan and his musicians wearing dark jackets and mostly with
hats (Bob in his white Ibson). Knopfler, in a white shirt, looked like he
was attending a rehearsal. He can of course play that guitar and he
brought a pleasing Dire Straits twang to the performance. Bob acknowledged
his contribution with a pointed finger, from in an open palm, towards
Bob returned to his keyboard to perform a gentle, clearly enunciated Make
You Feel My Love, which was one of the standout songs of the night.
Honest With Me was then delivered at break neck speed by Dylan, holding
the microphone free of the stand. He shuffled around the centre stage
manically as he performed the song. In truth, to my ears, it sounded like
a bit of a racket and the lyrics were virtually impossible to make out but
Dylan's energy and movement, together with the rattling accompaniment made
the performance interesting. Quite what the uninitiated made of the song’s
performance I can only guess.
Dylan was back behind his keyboard to deliver Desolation Row, I think a
nearly complete version of the song. Mostly the lyrics were sung clearly
but others were completed mangled as Bob hunched down behind his keyboard,
banging out chords with his right hand, and at times seemed to be trying
to drive the instrument across the stage. It would be easy for him to go
centre stage and strum the four or so chords needed and to sing all the
verses evenly. But let's face it, that is not his game and when you see
how energised he becomes as he distorts his songs, seemingly searching to
find something new each time. For this song alone it was worth making the
journey from London.
Back-to-back with Desolation Row was Highway 51 Revisited and a dammed
good version it was too, even though I have heard it loads of time and
it’s not a particular favourite of mine. I was fortunate enough to be
standing about 30 yards back from the centre of the stage and so had a
pretty good view of the full sweep of the band. For this song they really
seemed to enjoy themselves, with Tony Garnier facing the floor, his double
base at a near 45° angle as he played along. The musicians were having fun
and the mood was infectious.
Bob was centre stage again with his harmonica for Blind Willie McTell,
this version was a bit too fast for me but still atmospheric and with some
nice banjo by Donny.
Three of the last four songs were performed with Dylan behind his
keyboard. Thunder On The Mountain was album true and delivered with pace.
Ballad Of A Thin featured a delay effect, making Dylan’s vocals echo
eerily across the floor. The repeated lines, Bob centre stage, animated,
almost preaching and finger-pointing made for a great performance.
The show closed with a two song encore. All Along The Watchtower and Like
A Rolling Stone. For me both of these were performed much better than at
Finsbury Park in June. All Along The Watch Tower built up to an
atmospheric, sinister crescendo. Like A Rolling Stone was delivered with
spirit, seeing the effort Dylan puts in you would never guess how many
times he has performed that song.
As he took his bow Dylan looked pleased, and had every right to be. I
don't know what goes into Bob’s tea before he performs here but this is
the second occasion I've seen him deliver a really good show. Perhaps the
relative intimacy of the venue helps.
The show ended at 22.50, the latest finish I can recall for a while.
Review by Ian Young
A very disappointing night in Bournemouth
A combination of Bob`s limited vocal range, a band that played every song too
loud and too fast and a sound mix that the average pub band would have been
ashamed of led to many people around me heading to the pub long before
the end of the show.
Furthermore a short 14 song set, Bobs continued reluctance to acknowledge his
audience and no encore (for whatever reason) left many feeling at best short
changed and at worst having been treated with contempt .
For hard core fans like myself, seeing Bob on stage may be enough to justify the
ticket price, but the average punter, paying £70 or £80 for an evening's
entertainment, expects and deserves better than what was on offer tonight.
There is no point kidding ourselves this was a very poor show, I have no
highlights to report.
Review by Stephen Jordan
For me, this was the best Bob gig since 2000, ....no really!!
The spirit of the man, the vitriol and attack in the vocals, the snarled
yet clear delivery, the excellence of the backing band, all contributed
to what was the finest gig in a long time; from the punchy opener of
Pill Box Hat, it was obvious Bob was on a roll, and the song was almost
a comment on us as audience, a welcome, a grimace and a promise! Wheels
on Fire - what a choice.. it was on fire, a soaring flame of a track
that had never even had a studio release!! One for the aficianados,
indeed! The greeting theme continued with Baby Tonight, and, believe it
or not, the guitar playing was excellent from those aged fingers! Then,
if what had gone before wasn't excellent enough, he proceeded to launch
in to the most animated, awe-inspiring Tangled ever performed. The love
song travelogue was transformed into a sinister, threatening
cri-de-couer for the new century; each of the many jagged movements
adding to the venom and bile of the words, as he loped and paced like a
cross between Vincent Price, Charlie Chaplin and the Riddler! The white
shoes flicking and twisting and emphasising every word. Bending almost
double with the mouth harp mike, blasting out siren calls in to the
night; then.. as if this wasn't too much, for Beyond Here, the lights go
up to reveal Knopfler, standing mid stage in jeans, looking like the
caretaker in a Mafia card shark den, but squeezing a fantastic solo out
of his old Les Paul, as Bob rhythmed alongside; Mark nodded to Charlie
and handed the second solo to him, and a frail travelling coincidence
was launched into the amazed darkness! Make You Feel My Love was torn
tattered and bleeding from the hands of Adele and reborn as a plangent
plea in a desperate world, Honest With Me was a rattlebag of machine gun
fire, spraying hope and despair in equal measure, loud, cataclysmic and
fierce. Desolation Row flickered the flame slightly with its upward
draughts of rephrasing and strange metrical revisions. Highway 61 gave
us Georgia Sam's verse twice, which was OK by me, and yes, Blind Willie
did sound strangely Things-Have-Changed ish in its chord structure, but
was great none the less. Then the big four juggernauts rolled down the
hill, scattering all before them. The strangest thing happened in Thin
Man, a clear echo was in place of "Do you" and "What it is?" giving an
almost ghostly re-emphasis to the cynical put down of the song. I
thought it might be a sound problem, but looking down at the desk from
the excellent front row balcony seats, there seemed no undue concern
there, and those nearby thought it was deliberate.. Any way, it didn't
seem to put Bob off his stride and the massive sound and fury of the
closing numbers rolled on through. What a night! I hope even Federica
got in (she was out by the buses and out the front near show time with
her placard - no luck that far!)
Roll on Hammersmith.. if it's half as good as this it will be excellent.
A two hour drive and a very late night could not dim the euphoria of
this !! "I'd go crawling down the avenue.." Indeed....
Review by Martin Gayford
'Great show, eh?'
'Did you recognise that one?'
'His voice sounds great!'
'I thought that was really good'
'His phrasing on Desolation Row...'
'The lead guitarist is really good...understated'
'The band created a kind of wall of sound'
'Did you recognise that one?'
'Highway 61 was almost rockabilly'
'Honest With Me was great!'
'The harmonica is his best instrument'
'Did you recognise that one?'
'Brothers In Arms was good'
'What was the standout for you? Thin Man?'
'Blind Willie Mctell - the best ever'
'Did you recognise that one?'
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