October 17, 2011
Review by David Girard
The band was tight and focused. In between songs Tony Garnier would come
closer to Bob than Bob would go to his place and shuffle through notes. Once the
proper sheet was found the song would start. Outstanding tonight were the
renditions of "Honest with Me" with a martial beat way upfront, "Blind Willie
McTell" with a swing touch, "Highway 61" with a Neil Young frenzy to it thanks
to Charles Sexton. "It's All Over Now", "Desolation Row" and Ballad of a Thin
Man" were quite beautiful as well.
Tonight everyone was committed to success and all musicians were staying in eyes
contact with one another. The sound was good and not too loud too at the
beginning though maybe Charlie Sexton could have been slightly pushed in the
mix. The real surprise on top of the numerous and always mysterious dances Bob
did was his "singing" which seemed from time to time to escape from its recent
limits. His harp playing was real good too.
All in all a great generous and professional show squeezed in a relative
short time. It is still worth to see Bob in 2011.
Review by Bob Clary
I arrived early for what was to be only my second Dylan gig, the last being
Paris 2009. Then the sound had been poor and the band perfunctory, but Bob had
performed several of my favourites, so I came to Bercy with mixed expectations.
After a very good set from Mark Knopfler and his excellent
multi-instrumentalists, warmly received by an appreciative crowd, the
announcement for Bob Dylan came over without a trace of seriousness and we
were straight into Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. It was loud and rocking, but
Bob's vocals were quite audible and the instruments reasonably defined, all in
all a great relief. Charlie Sexton stamped his mark on the band straight away,
delivering a genuine rock feel and having a captivating stage presence which had
been lacking last time. Bob stuck to the keyboard for It's All Over Now Baby
Blue which was performed as a delightful rhythmic shuffle with good singing.
Bob then moved to centre-stage and established what would be the tone for
most of the gig. He tore into Things Have Changed with surprising ferocity,
slightly crouching, spitting out the words as the band rocked faster than I
would have expected, the harp came through bluesier than normal, the crowd stood
for a better view and the atmosphere changed. Bob stayed in the middle for a
shortened Tangled Up In Blue in an arrangement on which I'm less keen than a lot
of other fans (sorry Graham) and remained there for Honest With Me, treated with
What followed was for me little short of wonderful. The band struck up the
jaunty swing of Spirit On The Water and I was in heaven. I know that a lot a
fans feel that this doesn't rock strongly enough, is too long and some have even
suggested that Bob tends to fall asleep in the middle of it, but to me it is a
wonderful imaginative paean to love full of fantasy, lust and humour and set to
a really distinctive accompaniment that you don't find anywhere else. In 2009 I
was delighted to hear it complete with the harmonica coda that graces the studio
version, but tonight Bob had strapped on a heavy guitar which he played really
well, his simple licks trading with Charlie's more complex play. There was not a
harmonica to be heard. Bob certainly didn't drift into somnolence but went
through all of the different phases of the song with much enthusiasm and
delighted at least one listener.
The lights went down, Bob appeared to be preparing a return to the keyboard and
then the second major highlight of the evening occurred as Charlie was revealed
at the back of the stage with a very interesting large-bodied antique looking
guitar on which he plucked the opening riff for Summer Days. Now this was truly
great. Yes, it rocks, but it's that little touch of swing, the old-style guitar
tone and the little changes in rhythm that make it much more interesting than a
regular rock arrangement, plus, of course, the mature witty lyrics. I couldn't
stop moving and loved every minute of it.
Bob stayed at the battered old keyboard for Desolation Row, which was good
to hear, with interesting rhythm, but I can't help but agree with other
commentators that it would be quite good with a couple of acoustic guitars
and Tony Garnier on upright bass, wouldn't it? However, Bob had already
decided that this was a rock concert and had started to enjoy himself so
much that on this and on Highway 61 Revisited that followed he felt it
appropriate to start trading jabbed organ licks with Charlie’s guitar and
Donnie’s pedal steel. He was having fun and he does what he wants, doesn't
There was a certain restlessness now in the all-seat hall as people moved
around to see, argued about standing and sitting, complained about not
hearing the words and there were some shouts requesting sad or slower songs. I
was hoping for something like Forgetful Heart, Not Dark Yet or Tryin’ To Get To
Heaven, but it was not to be. Bob wanted to rock tonight. Some people were
walking out. It felt like a Bob Dylan concert.
Blind Willie McTell was good to hear with Bob back in the centre, chanting
and gesturing pointedly insisting on telling us something. I think it was in
this song that he picked up the harp and teased out a couple of notes winking
and smiling at the front row. Just for a second I thought I saw the cheeky
self-confident smile of a cocky folk singer in New York circa 1964.
After another regular rocker (Thunder On The Mountain) the presentation of
Ballad Of A Thin Man was fine. The lighting changed the mood, the echo was
very effective and it made a good climax before the standard run-out of All
Along The Watchtower and Like A Rolling Stone. The former was more regular rock,
but the latter was performed with surprising energy by Bob and was a totally
appropriate crowd-pleasing closing anthem despite its predictability.
The band were all really excellent tonight. Charlie brings true stage
presence and great rock guitar, Stu Kimball is not to be ignored and you
have to look closely sometimes to check that it is he taking a good solo,
Tony Garnier was perfect on bass, rocking and swinging, George Recile was
exceptional on drums and Donnie Herron added some delightful touches on
pedal steel, banjo and electric mandolin which could actually be heard if
you listened very hard.
There was no encore. I had been hoping for Blowin’ In The Wind as I am not a big
fan of Forever Young, but I feel that if Bob had chosen to play anything more,
it would have been Jolene. It was that sort of night.
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