Berlin, Germany

O2 World

October 29, 2011

[Wolfgang Strehl], [Werner Kehl], [Reinald Purmann], [Stefan Flach]

Review by Wolfgang Strehl

I can’t really remember how many Dylan concerts I have heard and seen. I have
seen him in Dublin, New York, many German cities and I’m going to see him in
Rome in two weeks time.

So, how to judge yesterdays evening? It’s been a good gig from the Dylan point
of view. He played well, the voice was good. All in all the mood, the spirit was
more than acceptable.

There had been people that left early. But I can’t remember a concert where
the people in average looked so old. Maybe they only came to see Mark Knopfler.
Or maybe for some of them the music was too loud. That shows the main minus for
that concert. The acoustic in the O2-World was close to a catastrophe. Any piece
of music, being a little bit more noisy, the sound crashes and was nothing but a
mishmash of rubbish. Only the pieces more quiet came rather good. Netty Moore
(very nice), Hollis Brown (astonishingly good) and Mississippi (completely
different from any version I have heard before, but very interestingly well). I
remember reading a critic of an Amy McDonald concert in the same venue. The
critic wrote, that that maybe a venue for sport events, but not for music. The
acoustic is nonsense. But nonetheless, the way the levelled in the organ of Mr.
Dylan, is hard to understand and follow. But maybe the bad sound of that is due
to the acoustic situation in that hall.

So, that was my first visit of that hall it maybe the last one as well. But this
had for sure not been my last Bob Dylan concert, despite of that I’m going to
see him in two weeks time somewhere in the rubbery streets of Rome.


Review by Werner Kehl

Yet again Berlin's been under the spell of golden 'n' glorious october
weather not unlike when Bob Dylan & band last played in this city during
an autumn season, that being in the fall of `05.  Back then I was on a
roll attending the concerts in Hamburg, Berlin, Oberhausen, Wetzlar and
Erfurt.  This time 'round I stayed put for this one show only mainly
because I travelled earlier in the summer to the gigs in Mainz and

The atmosphere of the outdoor shows in said cities was much more pleasant
than inside the 02 enormodrome but the accoustics in sec. 216 (7 rows in,
8 rows up on the left) were flawless, just as good as when I saw Leonard
Cohen and also Neil Young there not too long ago (not to mention the great
view thru my binoculars).

Just like in `05 and also in `07, I was accompanied by someone who'd never
witnessed Dylan live before.  Günther, the most avid Beatles-Fan I know,
is also pretty knowledgeable in matters concerning Bob and he managed to
recognize many of the songs almost instantly, no small feat for someone
attending his first Dylan show...

But first, a few words on Mark Knopflers set which was solid; nothing
more, nothing less.  He played mostly solo-stuff which was fine with me
but why chooses not to play classic early Dire Straits material like,
let's say: "Water of Love" or "Six Blade Knife" is incomprehensible to me.
 By the time he played "Brothers In Arms" and "So Far Away" late in his
set, I kind of lost interest in what he was doing.

When he joined Bob later for the first 4 numbers, that turned out to be
very special indeed (too bad you folks in Irland and England were deprived
of such a treat)!   How good that part of the show had been became
apparent with the following two tunes which were absolute clunkers in my
opinion, "Summer Days" (boring) and "Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll"
(very tedious to listen to when performed live).

But then came "Hollis Brown" to the rescue and it was a jaw-dropper just
like in Mainz, Bob again nailing this one right on!!  

"Desolation Row" after that was fantastic and "Highway 61 Revisited"
roared, rocked 'n' rolled!!

I'll be honest here: I would have preferred "Forgetful Heart" as opposed
to "Nettie Moore" but the rendition of the latter was down-right heartfelt
and sweet.

Then it was on to the show-stoppers, the highlight being (as so often has
been the case in the past couple of years): "Ballad Of A Thin Man".  The
slots in the set where Bob takes center-stage with nothing but mic. and
harp to virtually act-out a song are nothing short of magnificent and
"BOATM" is the song which is `performed´ best of all.  It may have taken
him a while to get comfortable out there on his own with barely an
instrument between him and the audience; but nowadays he commands the
front of the stage majestically like no other performer I know!!!

After having seen a pretty lousy show in Basel in `09, I'm really relieved
to have found out that in 2011 and at the age of 70, Dylan and his band
can still be found firing on all cylinders!!!

Long may you run, Bob!!!!

Werner Kehl


Review by Reinald Purmann

I was not able to get a ticket for the concert in Hamburg at 26.6.11. The
ticketmaster for this open-air-event started in early april and I was a
little lazy. Could’nt  beleave that a concert for 6000 people in the end
of June  should be sold out in the very first days of april. What it was.
–  But what not indicates  that you could not get a ticket at all. !You
could very easy buy them on the huge “Secondary Market” ( = nice word
for scalping) for 4 or 5 times upwards he normal price. I put some money
in some auctions but they ended with offers I could’nt beleave. I
decided  to miss this concert and  forget about this year. Speculations on
Tickets for a Concert ! In this night the ghost of Albert Grossmann
appeared to me: There is a real big sum in ticket-earning, that will not
go to Mr. Zimmerman, he whispered. That proves the tickets are much too
cheap or the venues are too small or both.  With this he vanished in the
air. –  Consequently just the day after the last European Summer Concert
the Dylan-Management announced this Autumn -Tour, with Mark Knoepfler,
bigger venues and higher ticket prices. But this will led to other
fixtures & forces & friends: E.g. seated audiences for a three hours plus
event, strict security to avoid stage-rushes And different
expectations in the crowd from the Sultans of Swing to the Watchtowerians.
But – it really worked  and I can only say by experience: Don’t dare
to miss. I will not say much to the Knoepfler part of the show, but it was
very interesting too. It is a very fluent-floating music with a lot of
irish sound in it. And the very distinctive guitar of this Mark Knoepfler, who 
thanked “Mr. Bob” to be on this stage. When he played “Sailing for 
Philadelphia” in the 3rd place he had  the 12 – 13.000 folks in this very 
functional  O2-Arena  under his spell. He finished with a nice “So Far Away”.
This part of the show was very worth to hear!

After a short break Dylan & Band appeared at 9 o:clock. BD in a black
suit, with white trimming and a black-white polked shirt, white hat and
his band in light-tan suits. Oscar on an Amp. - They opened up with
“Ain’t Gonna Go To Hell (for anybody)”, what they surely did’nt.
He replaced it with “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat”. From the very first
moment the pace of this night was set : Very much energy, a crystal-clear
sound-mix, even  the organ well mixed, a perfect band. And the voice ? I
was surprised what a mercurian-metallic sound he offered, every word and
syllable perfect nailed down. Sometimes he stood in the middle of the
stage, fingering with his mikes  (one for singing & for the mouth-harp)
accompanying his words with gestures in dignity, like an opera singer. All
the songs together they weave a beautifull pearl necklace, each song
perfect in is own way. For me the highlights – a wonderfull “Baby
Blue”, with Sexton, Knoepfler and Dylan on duelling guitars.
“Mississipi” wich  I’ve never heard live, Desolation Row with many
verses, "Highway 61" with very poisonly howling guitars. During “Ballad
of Thin Man” he used an echo-effect for his singing, wich was really
magic. (I’ve heard this echoing in his concerts sometimes before, but
this performance was something lovely.) “Netti Moore” not to forget.
But – as I said before, it was all in a whole. When it was over, Dylan
stared down on the audience, mostly from that generation he denied to be
the spokesman for. We stared back – and off they vanished in the dark.
The red lights on the amps were glowing, we hoped for a final “Blowing
in the Wind”, but he did’nt strike another match for us. – So,-
don’t dare to miss it. This concert was among the best I had the luck to
be with !  Many thanks to Billy Pagel for his fantastic work and Good Luck
for You all! 

Reinald Purmann


Review by Stefan Flach

While it has become notorious in the media to hype virtually everything
Dylan does these years – a dubious compliment, as he is often praised
for the sake of being praised, not for what he actually does, on stage for
instance –, a concert review in yesterday’s “Berliner Morgenpost”
made an inspired remark. It compared Dylan to “the speaking dog” – a
famous humorous TV cartoon by the German comedian Loriot. In that cartoon
a big fluffy dog sits next to its master who makes it repeat words and
complicated phrases. What the animal does, though, is simply bark one and
the same hoarse vowel over and over. His master, pleased with these
results, is perfectly oblivious to what the dog actually does. As for the
comparison with Dylan ... you get the picture. After not having seen any
Dylan show in the last 2 ½ years (and not having heard any new live
recordings either) it took the first two songs on Saturday for me to
realize that   a)   Dylan truly cannot sing anymore b)  he indistinctively
barks his way out of the conscious raising of a)
c)  he doesn’t seem to care a bit about the lyrics nor the
songs’ melodic requirements anymore   In a song like “Thunder on the
Mountain”, whose lyrics I don’t know by heart (so that I couldn’t
fill in their blanks on autopilot) I realized that it was practically
impossible to make out what Dylan was singing, and – what’s even worse
– that he didn’t seem to have any interest in exploring the sounds he
made, as they generally all sounded similar: puffed, hasty and unstable.
OK, after Mark Knopfler’s set which was as solid as it was uninspiring,
Dylan’s singing on the first few lines of  “Leopard Skin Pill-box
Hat” was something of a revelation. Wow, I thought, that guy’s STILL
on a completely different level: tough and punkish. But only a few verses
later it became frustratingly clear that Dylan just cannot diversify that
approach anymore. He barked the hell out of everything that came along,
with the result that everything sounded the same. What at first seemed
tough now seemed shiftless in the first place. The “barking” singing
style, which he’s been cultivating since 2003 (back then, fans spoke of
the “wolfman’s voice”, tongue in cheek at first but more and more
literally and bitterly in the years that followed), has taken a turn for
the worse. It is arbitrary and helpless by now. His singing barely touches
the songs’ original singing melodies, which wouldn’t be so bad if he
wasn’t all that careless and trashy. But as it is, Dylan seems to have
lost touch with the lyrics almost completely. When the singer isn’t
borne by what he sings, the lyrics become blind, they cannot speak to us.
What he did to “Hattie Carroll” later in the show wasn’t so
bad because his singing was harsh but because the harshness was the
result of disinclination (regarding the reading) and indifference
(regarding the lyrics and their story).   Things that were good, though:
- Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing on the first four songs. In contrast
to Charlie Sexton (a shadow of himself when you think of the times when he
traded licks with Larry Campbell, 1999 - 2002) and Stuart Kimball, who
both are unwilling to play decent lead guitar parts, Knopfler is able to
make his instrument a voice that follows the “main roads” of each
song, that explores and celebrates them, instead of digging around in the
thicket of their “backstreets” like the two other guys. With Knopfler
on stage there was something burning in the songs which was their own
light. “Things Have Changed”. Of the many, many versions I heard of
that song, either live or on tape, this was one of the best and hottest.
The slightly altered arrangement, which features a beautiful little
melodic invention between verses that enriches the whole song, stimulated
the band and made them find a profound, dark and pulsating groove which
drew my all my attention. For once (or twice, as “Ballad of a Thin
Man” worked in a similar way) Dylan’s barking was very much on the
proper place.   So much for that.   

Stefan Flach


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