November 9, 2011
Review by Roger and Claire Cutler
Scratch that off the ‘bucket list’! My best friend Claire and I saw Bob in
Europe last night! Twenty minutes outside Venice, in a lovely Italian town
called Padova to be exact. Presently I’m on the train to Florence where we
will see Bob tomorrow night in “another joint”. Thought I’d take a few
moments to provide some thoughts on last night’s show.
We’ve seen His Bobness right across North America; from Montreal to
California, and British Columbia to New Hampshire. Wasn’t sure what an
Italian crowd would be like, especially as we had tickets in general
admission standing on the floor. We got to Bob's show, as is our custom,
just as the opening act, Mark Knopfler, was concluding, so won’t comment
on him except to say his guitar is still strong and he was a pleasant
surprise playing with Bob during the first few numbers of Bob’s set. We
were at the far back of a very crowded floor as the intermission lights
came on. While there were some old timers, I was quite surprised by the
number of twenty-somethings in attendance. More than I’ve seen on the
American tours. Fortunately many of the fans positioned in front needed to
replenish their libations or relieve their bladder, or perhaps just came
to see Mr. Knopfler, and we were able to get about half way to the stage
by following a few Italian gents who were cleverly meandering their way
towards the front. That’s as close as we would get as those now between us
and the stage were not going to relinquish their much coveted turf. The
lights dimmed, we were about 50 feet from Bob’s keyboards and ready to
experience Dylan in Europe.
The first notes of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat brought the crowd alive.
Great opening number to get everyone going; and to once again feel Bob’s
contempt for an ex-lover. Why didn’t she just close the damn garage door?
Speaking of failed relationships, next up was ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ with Bob
on guitar. Very well done and especially pleasing to hear the Italian
crowd yelling “No, no, no!” Lots of fun! The show was on!
Bob was in fine form wearing his black troubadour hat and a black suit
with thick princely gold trim. He wears it well! The rest of the band had
pale beige suits with black hats.
The song of the night came in the fourth spot. ‘Mississippi’ was
spellbinding. It was slow and Bob’s voice crystal clear. The performance
provided further evidence that this may very well be his greatest piece
since surfacing from his “haze of substance abuse in the nineties”. So
demoralizing yet stubbornly hopeful. Thank you Bob!
The low point in the show for me was in the five-hole, ‘Honest With Me’. I
have heard this performed numerous times in concerts and it just doesn’t
work for me. I don’t mind the studio version but live, forgive me, it just
seems like filler and usually undermines the momentum effectively built to
this point in the show. Fortunately, Bob being the master he is, the show
was immediately back on track when the crowd heard the first few
unmistakable chords of ‘Tangled Up in Blue’. A wonderful rendition with
Bob changing the lyrics as he so often does with this song (“doctor’s and
lawyer’s wives” tonight). I was very pleased to hear the stanza with “an
Italian poet from the thirteenth century” as it is often omitted live, but
when in Italy... Sadly it was not without a price as Bob skipped both the
“topless place” stanza so no one “thinned out” and, as well, the “Montague
Street” stanza so no “revolution in the air”. But the crowd was
nonetheless tangled up.
Bob’s idiosyncracies sure are amusing. He continues to twirl his hair
hanging below his hat and make odd gestures with his arms but new, to me
anyway, is his frequent playing of the keyboard with his right hand in the
middle of a song while his left hand is placed firmly on his hip; very
relaxed! Perhaps the keyboard is just a prop?
Of note were two songs where Bob was center stage with a mic and his
harmonica. ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’ was mesmerizing, particularly with
Bob’s eerie harp playing contributing to the mystery of this hombre. But
what has now become the crescendo for Bob’s recent tours is ‘Thin Man’.
Bob’s performance of this oeuvre is almost operatic as he gestures with
his arms, contorts his body, and allows his voice and harp to convey the
complete and utter contempt for Mr. Jones and his ilk. Bob just spits the
words of disdain with no hope for eventual mercy or forgiveness. Sadly the
song seems always relevant. Perhaps there will be a law preventing the
Wall Street boys and bankers from “comin’ around”. It would be a shame if
a professional crew is not capturing these performances on video as they
truly epitomize the master artist and his craft eclipsing any designation
as musician, lyricist, songwriter, poet or “song and dance man”. It is an
Another very nice treat was ‘Desolation Row’. Done slowly with Bob clearly
enunciating the words. It was intriguing being in Europe and hearing the
references to “the Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Casanova” and looking at
the crowd. Don’t know how much they ‘get’ but then I’m not sure how much
any of us really 'get' of Bob? What I do know is given the choice I’d
rather not be “expectin’ rain”!
Bob provided other classics including ‘Highway 61’, ‘Watch Tower’, and a
nice rendition of ‘Thunder on the Mountain’. The finale, which it was
clear the crowd came to see, was ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. Doesn’t matter
how many times one hears this song, live or otherwise, one can’t help but
recognize its distinct greatness and how it changed the course of popular
music. To hear the Italian crowd, of all ages, belt out “How does it
feel?” gives one a chill. The audience’s reaction confirmed the impact the
artist and his work have had on so many generations across the globe. A
masterpiece in any culture!
Roger and Claire Cutler
Review by Kevin Carolan
I suppose it had to happen, after a run of great shows starting in
Herning, the show last night was a clunker of monumental proportions.
Dylan seemed jaded, disinterested, and totally unfamiliar with his own
arrangements.It aint me was dull beyond belief, he totally F***ed up
Tangled, even Mississippi was uninspired and his timing was all over the
place throughout the whole set. Lets hope it was nothing more than a bad
touch of dispepsia after a heavy lunch and that normal service will be
resumed in Florence tomorrow night!
Review by Brian Steedman & Jenny Garber
Jenny and I made the second of our European trips of the year, the
previous having been to Hamburg in June for an excellent and intimate
performance in a small open air arena. Our aim is to avoid the big places
- no interest in clutching the binoculars to aged eyes ........ and find a
place worth visiting instead, stay there a few days and see the sights as
well. So, we saw Giotto at the Cappella degli Scrovegni, excellent
competing frescoes at the Baptistry in Padova, wandered the streets of an
attractive but rather over-affluent medieval hangover city, and spent two
great days in Venice/Torcello, dashing around. The Bob started very late
and out of town in what could have done as a carpet warehouse or a small
No one in town seemed to have heard of the gig, and there was no publicity
to be seen. There was no security either to speak of, and I guess taping
would have been as easy as filming. There was loads of this going on on
phones, enough to get in the way of seeing. The floor was flat and so the
further back you were the less you saw. Add on that there was no need to
go, as Roger above, suggested to the bar for a beer, because hawkers
shoved you aside to sell it right there in the crowd. It was a bit like
the time we spent trying to watch a football match in Palermo last year
where shots on goal were regularly obstructed by ice cream sellers!
We suspect that those going back through the crowd were Knopfler fans who
had seen enough of Bob; in any case, as time went on we moved gradually
forward into small gaps. We had got there a bit before Knopfler started,
more by luck than design, and knowing nothing of his recent stuff.
Personally, as well-composed and performed as it clearly was, it seemed
rather tame, cliched and pretty. The locals, mostly young and noisy,
seemed to be there for Mark, and seemed to know all the songs; couples
stared dreamily at one another during songs ....... We didn't dislike the
performance, but felt it to be a bit too 'fashionably folky'. It makes you
realise that Bob's take on folk is much more raw than others. I began to
crave 'stronger stuff', and noted that some of the over-repeated chorus
lines (over-repeated by the locals too) offered rather banal and
So, we were up for Bob. The crew sweated mightily to turn things round and
we began in high expectation. The sound was a bit muddy, which is
unsurprising in a large tin can. I'm with Roger rather than Kevin as far
as quality was concerned: there were no 'stiffs', and TUIB was certainly
NOT a poor performance (though we haven't been following the tour around).
The opening four songs with Knopfler-added did not add to the quality.
It felt to me that the band settled into it's true groove only when he
left, though this was not to detract from the quality of THC and
Mississippi. There was, as others have said of this tour, no weak song
within a reduced set list. Songs I can take or leave generally, such as
TOTM, sounded better and for me, having heard now a lot of the new BOATM,
the high spots were TLGB, DR, and MITLBC. Certainly Desolation Row was the
best version I have heard in a long time. I had this sense that the
'posing' a few people have commented on was a bit like Bob playing
Commedia dell'Arte imitations (rather like the section in Visconti's Death
in Venice with the street singer) and posturing in an exaggerated way. The
keyboard playing wasn't for effect and is, in fact, if anything becoming
more virtuoso - there is a lot of playing off Donnie and Charlie and
jamming together increasingly loudly, and the hand on hip, one-handed
playing came often in these moments. Stu Kimball fits now, much more than
in the Dennie Freeman days, and Tony seems on better form and more able to
joke around with George. I don't have the feeling any longer that I want
this band to change, though I suppose that Bob, as ever, will have the
final word on this.
In summary, then, another good gig on another good trip, begun and ended
with long train journeys across a Europe in the midst of crisis, but
looking as beautiful and productive as ever. We hope that Bob goes on
giving us further opportunities for trips to places we don't know well -
maybe, who knows, next year even to his homeland.
Brian Steedman & Jenny Garber
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