Regensburg, Germany


November 11, 2015

[Richard Schwarz]

Review by Richard Schwarz

Judas again

Knowing Dylan's “Shadows in the Night”, but also knowing his set lists of
June and July, I bought tickets for the Donau-Arena in mid September,
about two month before the show. I considered the new album a kind of
kink, satire perhaps, as in fact almost none of those Sinatra songs
appeared to make it into the show.

Come October, after the tour break, the set list changed to include seven
Sinatra pieces, nicely interspersed with Dylan's own material. Had I known
this, I would never have even thought of going to a Dylan concert again.
But now we had the tickets, so we went there in spite of ourselves.

Well, let's say this first: Dylan is in perfect shape these days, he
doesn't quite look it, but his singing is impressively strong and
articulate, no mumbling, no slurring. The band, too, is very tight,
producing highly professional sound brilliantly led by Sexton's guitar

So far so good. The show is pretty routine, not the slightest space for
the musicians to improvise and shine with special solos. They're doing
their jobs, but no more. One song mechanically follows the other, with a
break halfway through the set list. In Regensburg that same list was
worked through for the 31st time (if I counted correctly). In former times
the list used to change from day to day, and individual songs were
performed, more or less, unpredictably, with a lot of improvisation and
spontaneous extension. Some sucked, and some really rocked. But all were
authentic and actually created in the very performance. That was once the
hallmark of Bob Dylan shows.

Other artists, eg Cohen, also have fixed set lists and routine
arrangements, like it or not. What I did not like in Dylan's list were
those alien interludes – almost every third song another silly, pathetic
piece of solid schmaltz. They ruined even the well-done “Tangled up in
Blue” and “High Water” for me. Isn't Sinatra exactly the kind of music
that Dylan marked a counter point against when he became famous in the
first place? Is this the “poet laureate of Rock 'n' Roll”? Now, in his old
days, crooning stupid lyrics after worn-out sentimental tunes? Does he at
least bring anything “Dylanesque” into it? Nope, it's worse than the
original. I mean, if you're into it, you'd better go for Sinatra himself.

Why then does Dylan do this? It is unnecessary, as he has more material of
his own than any other singer-songwriter, and many times has shown his
relevance and creativity as an artist. But this is neither relevant nor

But then, it is just the same trick Dylan has been playing all over again
during all of his career. Build up an image, so nobody will think you
would be able to do certain things. Then do exactly one of those things in
public, and the shock will add to your publicity. The pattern can be seen
from Newport, to his Jesus trip, to kneeling before the Pope, to
Victoria's Secret and now Frankie Boy. It was successful at times. It did
move Dylan on. But this time, I'm sure, it will not.

The true disappointment is not the Sinatra crap, it is the fact that you
have to discover how cheap the tricks of Robert Zimmerman actually are. I
never was with the “Judas” heckler, and I would certainly not have stood
up against electric guitars, but on a more abstract level I'm beginning to
understand him.

P.S.: The audience applauded the Sinatra stuff a lot. There were
relatively many younger attendants, and relatively few Hippie veterans.


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