November 18, 2013
Review by Stephen Crump
Bob's first night in Glasgow was to a sellout audience in a visually
stunning concert hall in the shape of an armadillo. It also proved to have
excellent acoustics, at least where we were sitting. It was a chilly night
outside, with snow falling for the 1st time in winter, but Glaswegians
seemed immune to the cold and proved to be a warm and wonderful audience
to join: a) they were all seated well before the concert started, and b)
very few people spoke during the songs - which is a courtesy to Bob and
others in the audience that Sydney audiences could learn.
Bob opened with "Things Have Changed" and I wasn't sure whether the
audience even recognised it, and thus whether they were expecting a
60's greatest hits night, or what. This doubt lingered as Bob launched
into "She Belongs to Me" which got a rapturous reception, and
well-deserved, the song getting a new (to me) cutting edge and intensity,
bringing me back home to the feelings raised by the song the first time I
heard it as a teenager. I took immediately to "Beyond Here Lies Nothing"
the first time I heard it and hearing it really live (not on a live cd)
only enhanced my enjoyment, and my relief as the audience also responded
enthusiastically. "What Good Am I?" was delivered deftly and with burning
doubt - this is a song which really shows how good a band Bob has; to play
so restrained yet have so much impact on how the song comes across - and
they can play any style of song / interpretation Bob asks for.
Compared to BHLN, I never took to "D. Whistle" but it proved to be a
great song for the band to play live and had people tapping their feet and
starting to boogey! And, I sensed for the first time, either this audience
was well up-to-date with Bob's latest albums and/or were prepared to enjoy
anything he played - just having him there in Glasgow was enough (and
everyone we spoke to in town knew he was there and proud of it!). "Waiting
For You" got less of a response, being quite "new" I guess, but a diehard
group of bobcats up the back went nuts over this and I was so glad to hear
"Pay in Blood" was sharp, with Bob almost spitting out some of the
lyrics, bringing the dark side of life in 2013 right to the surface,
tangible in Bob's body language and attitude, and boy does he have
that in spades (and I mean that as a compliment). "Tangled Up in Blue"
didn't get the sort of recognition I'd expected, maybe because of the
low-key start to the song, and it went wrong somewhere about the 3rd
verse, with Bob missing a line (the band unusually out of sync?) with Bob
bringing the song to a close shortly after. "Love Sick" closed the set
before intermission, again not generating the type of response often found
for a song this popular to many audiences. But this is good news; Bob
ended up doing 5 songs from "Tempest" and every song got a huge response,
which, if he could hear it all, must be heartening to him and the band (in
Sydney, I'm sorry my friends, most people would be moaning he didn't play
songs they knew).
After Interval, "High Water" kicked us back into having a good night out,
Donnie's banjo always stealing the show for me on this one. Then, again,
it seemed the audience didn't recognised "Simple Twist of Fate" but,
again, responded rapturously at the close and I knew I was sitting with a
couple of thousand soul-mates. "Early Roman Kings" rocked, but it was a
tender, bitter-sweet, emotion-drenched "Forgetful Heart" that brought the
house down for the first time and you could've heard a pin drop throughout
the whole performance. Bob's harp moaned in the cold night air and, it
seemed, all of us turned inwards, reflecting on our own abandoned, or
"Spirit.." is a lovely song and great mood-setter, and changer - from
confusion to surety, from lost loves to re-finding friendship and meaning.
The mood and impact of "Scarlet Town", next in the set, lies somewhere
between the last 2 songs perhaps, gaining strength played live and putting
some of the audience on the edges of their seats. "Soon After Midnight"
followed with the same great live feel and reception, me texting some of
the lyrics to a friend on first hearing, so a great Bob-night-out
But then Bob stepped forward and all hell broke loose - the band
seemed to turn everything up a few notches, a bit like "play f'ing
louder" made famous long ago, almost to the point where the sound was
distorted, with Bob howling and jeering and mocking and challenging and
cajoling and pleading all in one song - yet another "Tempest" masterpiece,
"Long and Wasted Years". I knew nothing was gonna keep me in my seat when
that song ended, and I wasn't the only one, with a spontaneous standing
ovation from people scattered across the audience.
For the encores, we got the 'greatest hits', but in a way that
acknowledged their continuing relevance, not jukebox status. And the
audience cried for more, this time everyone on their feet. As Bob
hadn't introduced the band yet, I did, naively, expect a 2nd encore,
but the lights came on and that was it - except I've also never seen
so many, huge numbers, of people queuing to buy programs and
merchandise on the way out.... I guess we all wanted to remember this
night for a long time.
Review by Paul Ryan
This was a strange one for me: I already knew the complete setlist before
he even stepped out on stage, which was a first. Moreover, a noticeable
feature of the last few years has been the relative consistency of
performance throughout a tour, which means that if you hear a show from an
earlier date then you've got a good idea of what you will get at your own
concert. Add those together and there wasn't likely to be any surprise in
Long gone are the days when you just never knew which Dylan was going to
turn up. Never mind the constantly varying setlist - and the continual
reworking of the actual songs themselves - the real question was whether
our troubadour would put his heart into it or instead give every
appearance of wanting to be somewhere else (too often anywhere else . . .).
Mind you, any concert experience is as much about the audience as it is
the performer. Your own mood, physical comfort (or lack of discomfort),
consumption of alcohol and so on. I loved Newcastle 1984, but the tape
hasn't worn so well. I did not like being at Glasgow 1998, but the
recording seems to be of a different show entirely. What probably
explains these discrepancies is that my 1984 trip to Newcastle was a gas
whereas I was in a foul mood in 1998 (and it was one of the crappier halls
at the SECC to boot).
No-one likes the SECC, even allowing for the much improved sound achieved
in recent years. Braehead Arena isn't bad as a venue (and the shows there
last time were good), but it has some drawbacks, principally that it's a
bit soulless. Barrowland is a special venue, but it's also very small and
cramped. The Academy is really good, with a consistently good atmosphere,
but it would probably feel like a step down from the point of view of
Dylan's tour management. (They'd be wrong . . . he could sell out five
nights in a row . . . and it's my end of town.)
The Clyde Auditorium (known to all as the "Armadillo") is an option that
I've argued for myself in the past. Acoustics are good and sightlines are
superb throughout the venue, no matter where you are sitting. I was happy
enough with the choice of venue this time round.
I'll leave it to others to give you a song-by-song account of the actual
concert. What struck me most was how disciplined a performance it was by
the band. Every song was counted in by George for a co-ordinated start.
Not to be seen at all was a meandering jam at the end of a number,
followed by an exaggerated strum in unison to bring the thing to an actual
close. Instead, it seemed that the musicians were working to a scripted
score: songs came to a definite conclusion. I'll bet that the timings
won't vary from night to night. The rumours that the shows are being
recorded began to seem well founded.
Dylan himself was less animated than last time (no stomping round the
stage), but that may have been as much a reflection of the material as
anything else. It's already been commented widely that this tour isn't a
greatest hits show, being heavily weighted towards material from his last
few albums. The mood for much of the show is almost mellow as a result.
He bends his right knee a bit and plays piano with legs akimbo, but that's
about the extent of it.
The mellowness did take its toll, I have to admit. There's a section of
the show which features song after song in the same general tempo and
with similar delivery. Crying out for a rockier number to break things up a
I began to wonder also about the venue. Although I had been in favour of
the Armadillo, there was no doubt that something was missing tonight in
terms of atmosphere. The crowd was noticeably older than of late - the
extortionate ticket prices will have played a part in that, I'm sure.
Maybe we've all gone mellow ourselves. Perhaps it's just that Monday is
not the best night for a party mood. Certainly, it didn't feel like a
traditional Glasgow audience.
The daughter I was with tonight hadn't seen him since 2004. Apart from
the musicianship, what impressed her most was the singing. There was a
bit of upsinging to be sure, but I think it's a decent enough strategy for
someone in his physical condition. There was also a touch of the wolfman
- which I can't argue away - but fortunately not a lot of that. The
decision to stop being bent double over a keyboard must be the best he has
made in the last decade of performing.
Most of all, there was passion in his voice. He may not make much
acknowledgement of the audience, but at least he seems to want to be there
performing and it makes all the difference.
So, the verdict is: good, very together musically, but needs a bit more
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