Review by Werner Kehl
Not a cloud in the sky as Helmut H. and I made our way by car from Berlin
to Erfurt, a good three-hour drive into the heart of Thueringen, a state
that was once part of former East Germany. The ride went smooth and
thankfully we got there early enough so that we had time to stroll around
the old inner-city to enjoy the finer sites on offer, the finest being
once again - you guessed it right - a dome, the Marien Dom to be precise
that is absolutely breath-taking with the almost equally impressive Severi
church just adjacent to it. Unfortunately, Erfurt is known not so much
for these stunning buildings but rather more for a heinous crime committed
there by a very disturbed individual three and a half years ago. On April
26, 2002 a former student barged into the Gutenberg high-school with a gun
killing 16 people before taking his own life. Just like the killings at
Columbine High School in Littleton, Co. a few years prior had left the
world in shock, so did this episode. Was Dylan aware of this somber
chapter in the citys history you might ask yourself, and the answer should
be most definetly yes as he was touring Europe at the time playing in
Oberhausen the day after it happened. Was it on his mind as he stepped
out on stage sunday night? I believe I'm not in a position to speculate
on that nor make any further judgement hitherto.
The Messehalle is definetly a newer construction, a venue designed mostly
for conventions with concerts being held there from time to time; it is
quite frankly a rather dull place to hold a concert, devoid of any
ambiance. However, it was well-filled for sundays performance and the
best was made out of it. High-points for me at this rock-solid gig were
just like the previous sunday in Wetzlar the first 3 numbers, a rousing
version of "Down Along The Cove", an interesting new arrangement of "Can't
Wait" and the most awesome version of "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" which had
Helmut in tears! For me the show came down to above all one song: "Ring
Them Bells". I'm not gonna go into what this song means to me personally
(or for that matter 'Oh Mercy', the album from which it stems) but this
version was simply put: majestic!! Dylan was shinning on piano and the
others instinctively refrained from using their instruments too much,
leaving him to rise above, especially vocally in an unusually crispy-clear
pronunciation, the crowd hanging on preciously to each and every tone and
syllable, a quasi-religious moment that will remain with me for some time
to come especially since the Erfurt concert marks the end of my trek along
this fall tour.
In the past two weeks I have had the privilege of having attended 5 of his
shows, seeing new places in my home country and as always I'm o' so
grateful for those experiences, as everybody should be who witnesses one
or several concerts of his in these darkened days where even just a little
light shed by someone as special as Bob Dylan goes a long way in keeping
our resolve to handle life as best as we can on a day-to-day basis as we
all grow older. We should be very, very thankful for what we've got!!!
In diesem Sinn, bis zur naechsten Tour hoffentlich!!!!
Review by Helmut Mehnert
A wonderful sunny afternoon in the city of Erfurt invited me for a walk
through the town and left me with a pleasant view on the enlighted
six-tower-cathedral on the hill after getting dark. A I was told they
have got the biggest european bell from the middle ages up there, but you
can hear it only on religous holidays. So I was lucky, when Bob came up to
play "Ring them bells" in this evenings show for the first time on this
tour. With "Can't wait" we had another new one. Compared with the Berlin
concert, that I first attendede only 6 titles were the same, from that
point of view it was worthwhile coming. For me it was a good show with Bob
once again giving full expression to the words with a clear voice on many
songs. And he was much more moving than two weeks ago and probably had a
good time. His feet and legs were changing position all the time, it
sometimes looked like dancing. One time he even bent down so that his hat
was deeper than the microphone. Expecting more songs in rock arrangement I
was a little disappointed as well as those longing for acoustic titles.
Only "Girl from the north country" fitted for them with the red curtain
raised and the little blue lights in the dark. Beeing quite satisfied with
the band in Berlin and expecting a higher degree of coincidence with Bob's
singing, I was not really convinced, especially by the performance of
Donnie Herron who acted quite palish throughout the show. The applause
atthe end of the show was not so overwhelming that Bob could give away the
two harmonicas he was shaking when the band stood in line. See you again
Review by Stefan Flach
It was a show with an almost permanent alternation of ups and downs. I
personally was somewhat lost in thoughts throughout, so that my perceptive
strenghts were sadly limited (I noticed it of course, but could hardly
break my cage). My recollection of the whole show is dyed by that
restriction. Therefore I´ll stay away from a detailed song-by-song review
this time and simply put down some impressions.
- The sound was pretty bad in row 6 where my girlfriend and I stood
(unfortunately seperated by the drifting masses of bystanders already
before the first song started - that ain´t the way it oughta be; the next
time we´ll strap ourselves to a tree with roots). There was hardly any
seperation between the instruments and Dylan´s voice was muffled and
overpowered for the most part of the show. Friends who stood further back
in the hall later said they haven´t had any problems, though. Of course it
isn´t fair to comment on Dylan´s vocal art when there was hardly a chance
to hear him clearly! So you might kindly bear that restraint in mind when
reading the following ...
- The loud and aggressively rocking songs work better in concert these
days than the softer ones. Dylan seems to need a wall of sound against
which he can stand his ground. On the softer songs he has a tendency to
become stylistic in a sometimes tiresome way (at least on an "average
day", if there is such a thing). The "upsinging", even if it is thankfully
featured less on this tour, is the most prominent means in this regard.
- A truly surprising and delightful moment happened during a blistering
"Highway 61" when Tony (stone-faced) went center stage and played a bass
solo that was mighty impressive. The song´s instrumental verse went twice
as long as usual thereby.
- "Senor" saw one of its better readings from recent times. Upsinging was
absent from the song completely (as it was during most of the show; only
"Girl of the North Country" featured it very heavily). He used some moving
intonations that I´d never heard before.
- The addition of two extra verses on "God Knows" (they are on the album
but weren´t used before the present tour year) work great on the song.
They´re rapid sequence at the end of the song have a casualness that
contrast excellently with the impact of the lyrics and the wall of sound
created by the band. A very strong performance.
- "You Ain´t Goin´ Nowhere", while being exhileratingly lively concerning
the instrumentation, doesn´t really work in concert these days. It needs
backing vocals on the choruses badly. Hearing Dylan sing “Whoo-we” with an
(at times) quite thin voice has an almost geriatric quality. Exuberance –
the song´s main quality – gets lost very much thereby. At one point the
"wolfman" came out of his cage, though, looking for booty, and throw us a
terrifically impudent "chair!" at the end of one chorus, which was
- Dennie Freeman has an almost unbearably waxen, "zero tolerance" look on
his face throughout – he could be a prison inmate, a prison´s turnkey or
even part of the prison´s governing body! To say he looks unsympathetic
would be an understatement. Again it was really difficult for me to unite
these visual qualities with his – again – splendid musicianship. He played
at least one true killer of a solo on "Like a Rolling Stone" that signaled
a gorgeous understanding of the song. Annika was also very fond of his
solo on "Girl of the North Country", but I don´t have a specific
recollection of that one.
- Dylan´s singing on the second verse of "All Along the Watchtower" was
perfectly and marvelously theatrical - the song really was transformed
into a hard-rock ballad told both by a manic preacher (with his sermons
coming from the Old Testament exclusively!) and a spectacular stage actor.
- "The Times They Are a-Changin´" was surprisingly strong and naturally
faithful to its original statement. Dylan seemed to really have wanted to
sing the song. At the end he went center stage to play a very extended and
fine harp solo.
- On both "Can´t Wait" and the heavily upsung "Girl of the North Country",
Dylan seemed to wear a vocal corset of which he couldn´t get out. Two
disappointingly rhetorical performances were the result.
- "Stuck Inside of Mobile" has lost all and every nuance of life
meanwhile. The song is nothing but lacklustre filler material these days
and weeks. This must have been the first song I heard Dylan perform in
front of me for which I didn´t applaud (or only very courteously).
- “A Hard Rain´s a-Gonna Fall” also suffered from being rather contrived
and lacking spontaneity overall. The huge crescendo at the end of the song
(when the instrumental backing as well as Dylan are getting louder and
louder) is indeed quite spectacular, but too deliberately so, at least for
my feeling. The "real" "A Hard Rain´s a-Gonna Fall" was still somewhere in
that performance, but neither the singer nor this listener could make
their way through to it.
- "Ring Them Bells", while sadly missing the usual double run-through of
the bridge and the last verse, was performed with beautiful conviction and
mindfulness. It was only on this song that Dylan displayed that
magnificent authoritarian "conqueror" attitude that we (or most of us)
love. He sat on top of the performance as if there was hardly a tomorrow -
or as if tomorrow was nothing to think about. Excellent.
- "Down Along the Cove" is maybe the most overly joyful song in his live
catalogue these days. If there was one performance in Erfurt to bring a
smile on your face and a twist to your legs, it was this one.
- Dylan wore the Zorro hat and a black suit with broad white stripes at
the edges of the collar (white shirt and tie underneath). The band was
uniformly dressed in dark grey. When being applauded center stage after
the last song, Dylan didn´t hold up one harmonica (his talisman on this
tour, as it seems), but two, making it look as if he held up his thumbs.
The expression on his face was vicious in an ironic way thereby.
Review by Markus Prieur
Today my wife and I came back to Ireland after spending two weeks on the
European mainland, mainly to visit relatives and friends, and yes, also to
see four Bob Dylan shows. The first three during that fine October weekend
in Rotterdam, Oberhausen and Wetzlar I have already reviewed, but I also
want to share some thoughts on the fine show in Erfurt last Sunday, which
we had the extraordinary pleasure to experience from the exact same spot
at the rail, close to Stu's guitar rack, from where we saw the Wetzlar
show seven days earlier.
As this was the second Sunday show for us on this tour, nine of the
Wetzlar songs were repeated in Erfurt, four regulars, and five rarer ones.
Another four songs we had seen already in Rotterdam or Oberhausen, so only
three songs of the night we had not yet seen before during this tour. Not
one song was performed which I had never seen live at all, unlike in the
previous three shows. But to hear new or rare songs is only one reason to
go to multiple shows. With a vocal performance like the one in Erfurt, Bob
could have sung the yellow pages, and I still would have loved it. But he
delivered not the yellow pages, but a mighty fine Sunday set list.
I do not recall a weak performance of a single song in Erfurt, even the
numerous regulars were all delivered very strong and focused, both by Bob
and his fine band of musicians. "H61" for example is one song which
appears every night, and one might think, "not again", but seeing that
they have so much fun on stage while performing this intense rocker, I
think that it would be a crime to deprive any European audience of this
version. So I am bound to enjoy it two more times in Dublin at the end of
the tour. Even the "Summer Days" instrumental jam comes along fresh for
me, as it is not only focused on duelling guitars, but also Tony and
George taking center stage.
"Times" featured some nice guitar by Denny, and a rather long center stage
harp solo by Bob. One of the three songs, which I had not seen on this
tour, was the tender "Girl Of The North Country", which Bob ended with
another harp solo. Another fine part of the show was a focused performance
of "Hard Rain", only the 8th German "never ending tour" appearance of this
gem, followed by the 10th ever European performance of "You Ain't Going
Nowhere" (the last four of these were during this tour), with some nice
work by Donnie on fiddle and bow. Donnie had used this instrument already
earlier in the show, to accompany Bob's somber reading of "Can't Wait",
which was a new addition for this tour. A very good version of this song,
which I had last seen in Brighton in May 2002.
A very enjoyable moment was the ending with ". baaaaaaaby boooyyyy" of
another fine performance of "Down Along The Cove", exactly two years after
I had seen the first appearance of this new version in Frankfurt. Which
leaves me to mention my favorite three songs of the Erfurt concert, two of
them performed back to back, as already a week earlier in Wetzlar, and the
third an addition to this tour. The combination of "SEÑOR" and "GOD KNOWS"
after the opening song is a very strong one, especially when performed
focused and with conviction.
"SEÑOR", which featured fine vocals and another strong harp solo by Bob,
was performed for the 9th time in my native Germany during the "never
ending tour", and somehow my wife and I seem to be present more often than
not. We saw both German appearances of this gem in 1995 (Aschaffenburg in
March and Dortmund in July), both in 1998 (Nürburgring and Essen), and
both on this tour. Only the three German appearances in 2003 we did not
"GOD KNOWS", the only constant typical Sunday song these days, felt even
stronger than a week before in Wetzlar, both versions featuring the rare
last verse of the song, this time even delivered with more conviction.
"God knows there's a heaven, God knows it's out of sight, God knows we can
get all the way from here to there even if we've got to walk a million
miles by caaaaaaaandlelight". But also sung with the same intensity and
conviction were lines like: "God knows you ain't gonna be taking nothing
with you when you go", "God knows there's gonna be no more water but fire
next time", and even "God knows everything".
Since 04/04/04, which saw the first performance of "GOD KNOWS" since July
2001, this song has been performed only on a Sunday; 14 times in 2004 and
another 14 times in 2005 (and audiences in Zurich, London, and Dublin are
most likely to witness this song as well during the next three Sunday
shows). Since Galway in June 2004 "GOD KNOWS" appears during every single
Sunday concert by Bob Dylan, and most of the time in combination with two
or three other songs, for which some strong biblical references would be
not hard to find. Some of these other songs appear more often than others.
During the concert in Erfurt Bob Dylan chose to sing one of the rarer
ones, which was performed for the third time only in 2005 (and as both
earlier appearances in April also in the same set as "GOD KNOWS" and "Hard
Rain"); his 31st ever "RING THEM BELLS", definitely the high point of the
entire show. It was only the 8th time Bob pulled this one out in Europe,
and only the 2nd time he ever sang it in Germany (after Hannover in May
2000). The version in Erfurt was as good as it gets, with Bob Dylan
singing these beautiful lyrics with authority and conviction.
I had the pleausure to see "RING THEM BELLS" already once before, more
than five years ago, during a small club performance in September 2000 at
Dublin's "Vicar Street" venue, at the beginning of a European tour. I
would not mind at all if he sang it again in Dublin's "Point Theatre",
during the last show of this tour (in April 1995 he did exactly that once
already, more than four years before my wife and I moved to the Emerald
Isle). Since we live outside of Cork, we have seen every Irish Dylan show,
and I am looking forward very much to attend the two Dublin gigs at the
end of this fine European tour.
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