Review by Rex Schenk
To my ears and to my mind, last night’s show was clearly the best of Bob’s
shows at this venue. (He also performed here in 1991, 1999, 2000, 2002,
and 2003). I really liked the show at Globen in Stockholm, Sweden, just
about a month ago – which is the only other show in the current European
tour that I have attended, and which was somewhat underrated by (some of)
the Swedish newspaper critics – whereas what Bo Bengtsson wrote for these
pages was, I must admit, pretty close to the truth.
The most significant difference between the Stockholm and the Zurich shows
– the comparison being an arbitrary and personal one, of course – lay in
the choice of material. Bo Bengtsson was right in saying that the
Stockholm show soon turned out to be “predictable” – not only to a
returning Stockholm audience from 2003, but also in the sense that it was
very close to where Bob left off at the end of July. “To Be Alone With
You”, “Tweedle Dee”, “It’s Alright, Ma”, or “Honest With Me” hardly came
as surprises to anyone, although Bob was, as Bo Bengtsson pointed out, “a
fair bit more interested in the goings-on” at Globen than he seemed to be
As far as interest in the goings-on is concerned, Bob’s Zurich performance
was really quite impeccable. He was never “barely on-mike”, but pretty
damn on it all of the time. The way the consonants distinctly came through
made me think of the “every word counts” concept (quoted, I seem to
remember, by Elvis Costello at some stage) – which concept is arguably the
key to assessing Bob Dylan as a performer, even more perhaps, in an
interesting way, than to assessing him a as a songwriter. Bob may have
placed the falling sparrow in the wrong place in “Every Grain Of Sand”
(I’d like to hear that bit again), but that isn’t like confusing “her” and
“him” in the burying part of “Barbara Allen”. Bob’s typical “wild cat
growls” of late certainly didn’t seem to me to be “gathered by
coincidence” last night, and he seemed to be mentally involved even during
the Rolling Stone-Watchtower homestretch.
He did say “Thank you, friends” in the end (as he does in Zurich), and he
mentioned the places in the US where the members of the band come from. He
didn’t hate it all that much, I’m sure.
Getting back to the choice of material, things worked out quite
beautifully from the start. After a few bars of what I thought was going
to be “Maggie’s Farm”, the kick-off song turned out to be “Drifter’s
Escape”, the much cleverer one of the two. “Señor” in the number-two slot
is one of the best choices to have been made for that slot in recent years
anyway. “God Knows” was the version we have known for a while, but it was
just great to watch George Recile lifting them sticks and bringing them
down when the time came. “Times” was audibly greeted by the audience (it
was the first moment in the show when it actually responded), perhaps as a
reference to the No-Direction-Home context that seems to accompany the
current European tour in terms of TV programs.
“Watching The River Flow” sounded a lot better to me than its amazon.com
counterpart and was happily the only reference to the various B-plus songs
from that period. “Standing In The Doorway” and (later) “’Til I Fell” did
justice to the “Time Out Of Mind” album, which I think has been poorly
understood. Bob had performed a breathtaking version of “Not Dark Yet” in
Zurich in 1999, and had to some extent repeated it in 2000, but had not
attempted these two songs here.
“High Water” was really all that Bob’s 2002 Zurich show could boast, but
even here, the 2005 version was definitive.
The recently created new version of “New Morning”, which I hadn’t heard,
was a very pleasant surprise. So was “Highway 61”, in fact, in which the
boogie references seem to have shifted, between Stockholm and here, from
Tony’s bass guitar to Bob’s keyboard. Needless to say, “My Back Pages” and
“Visions of Johanna”, given Bob’s inclinations and involvement last night,
were magic moments in any terms.
The Zurich audience gave Bob a standing ovation by the end of
Worldwide thanks to Madeleine, who invited me to this concert and
persuaded me to attend yet another Bob Dylan show at that horrible venue
in my ex-home town.
Review by Sascha Mathys
I'd been waiting for this a long time (since July 2004): seeing Bob for
the 5th time!
Shortly after 8 pm the band hit the stage to the now familiar long intro.
They all wore matching grey suits & looked a bit like a cruise orchestra
as one of my mates commented. Bob himself in black with his new
Zorro-style hat, I liked the other one better. I'm thinking maybe he
changed the hat because of that Bill Maher comment at the Amazon.com gig.
However, on to the show:
Strong start with "Drifter's", the opener I wished for. Up next an equally
good "Señor", also a favorite of mine. When Stu started "God knows" I was
even happier, a perfect version of the great song followed. Receli on
drums really impressive!
Up to here, everything was REALLY good. But next came a mediocre version
of "Times", forgettable for me. Things got back on track with a fine
"River flow", where especially the last word "floooooww" in each verse had
me smilin', I just love it when he stretches the words like that. A (to
me) new arrangement of "Standing in the doorway" followed, didn't like
that one too much, although Bob seemed to make an effort to get it right.
Anyway, "High water" was next & they did it justice. Liked Donnie's Banjo
playing when audible - it was at times buried in the mix. "Every grain",
in my opinion a great song, was up after that. Some upsinging, didn't like
the arrangement too much - forgettable. Actually he played it in Zurich
back in 2003 in a very similar way. So I hope I'll finally witness a great
version of the gem one time.
"New morning", a song I didn't know but recognised in the chorus when Bob
sang these exact words, was great. I'll check that one out on record SOON,
hope it's as exciting as the version (new arrangement as I heard) I
listened to yesterday at the gig. A powerful & lengthy "HW61" followed
that, GREAT & rockin' hard. They even turned it into some kind of jam,
featuring Bob with a solo attempt on keys. Funny stuff!
At the end of the first (instrumental) verse of "Back pages", I recognised
it and was like - "wow, what a great set list up to here!" - another song
I love. Unfortunately, I didn't feel Bob was all that into it, some
upsinging again and a mediocre version - what a pity! However, I didn't
have much time to think about how great it could have been, "'Til I fell
in love" followed, and I was all smiles again. A FANTASTIC, bluesy
version. They really played that one as cool as possible. Some nice unison
kicks for "extra spice" in there, too (as in HW61 btw).
After that, I was wondering if we'll get another special number before the
most probably set "Summer days" as last song before the encores. "Visions
of Johanna" it was - again a forgettable version with LOTS of upsinging
and rattled off lines. Not too much to say about "Summer days" either,
although it was a pleasant version with some jamming (also involving Bob
on keys) again.
I was hoping to get "Don't think twice" as 1st encore, but with lots of
people rushing to the stage and a generally heated up mood in the
audience, "LARS" seemed more appropriate after all. "Watchtower" wrapped
up a very nice show with LOTS of highlights and some low points for me.
The band was better than I expected (heard some recordings and read many
reviews), I got to like Stu and Donnie. The only one who didn't please was
Denny, too much "children's" soloing on the slow numbers. He really has
his own kind of spastic phrasing at times, but hey, maybe that's just me.
On some of the bluesier and more rockin' numbers, he managed to pull off
some nice licks anyway. But it would've been nice to hear some more solos
from Stu. He seems to have primarily taken over the role of rhythm
guitarist now, contrary to the first tour with Larry (where I'd rather
have heard some more solos from THE MAN - still sad he left!).
Enough said, keep on rockin' Bob & Band, see you next time 'round!
Review by Bernhard Roth
I'm not an expert capable of comparing shows on a song-by-song basis,
so I just write down some of my impressions...
Zürich was my 19th Bob Show since the legendary Nuremberg 1978 concert.
Every handful of years he showed up in Germany and I tried to attend
at least one show each time. In the last couple of years the frequency
of attendances increased, parly because he showed up more often, partly
because I occasionally took the chance to combine business trips into
the US with one or more shows, as in 1999, 2002 and last March. That's
when I saw him last, at the two Denver stops. These two I liked very
much, mainly because the violin of Elena Fremerman brought a fresh
listening perspective into a lot of songs.
I had hoped that I will have the chance to experience that once more
in Bob's Europe shows but already in April/May I had to learn that this
was not the case. So I prepared mentally for a 'normal' show with no
surprises. That's what I got. Well, maybe I was surprised to see the venue
almost fully occupied. I was not disappointed, not at all. For me, there
were some ups and few downs, mainly based on personal preferences of songs
I know. So I played the little game of how long it would take for me until
I recognize a particular song. Most of the cases were really easy, only
"God Knows", "Standing In the Doorway" and "'Til I Fell In Love With You"
took a bit longer, none of my favourites anyway. To talk about favourites,
I was very pleased to see him perform 'Visions of Johanna', my highlight
of the evening. Tightly followed by the compact 'My Back Pages'. The usual
encores "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Watchtower" were very powerful, as
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