London, England

HMV Hammersmith Apollo

November 19, 2011

[Ian S. Blagbrough], [Dominic Nasmyth-Miller], [Mr Jinx],
[Stephen Haynes], [Geoff Marshall], [Sarah Daw]

Review by Ian S. Blagbrough

This was a good-very good gig depending on how high your expectation levels were.  Whilst not 
excellent or stand out it was much more than thoroughly enjoyable, especially for regulars, not only 
due to the voice which is holding up well, if not even better than for a while, but because of 
humour and rapport, general enjoyment on stage and even smiling and pointing to the audience 
making it feel a lot more that we were welcome than we were allowed in and witnessing a skilled 
final rehearsal.  For those who do not want to read the blow-by-blow:  there was an excellent 
mood and there was not one turkey in the 15 strong set with no formal encore.  Tickets are still 
available, standing or seating for Sunday and Monday, even without troubling the many touts, I 
would buy one if you are in any doubt.  Of course he is not going to speak to us, even the band 
intros are now only perfunctory, to hear many classics performed well (obviously reinterpreted 
from the albums) is, I think, worth the asking price.  I leave with a very good feeling, that sort of 
"now I can die happy".  If you want to do some preparation for the next two, listen to Pill Box 
Hat and Summerdays as loud and as many times as you can, you will be down in the groove. 
Arrived at 5.55 pm to a long snake of line, doors opened sharp at 6 and we were swiftly and 
smoothly inside.  Bob-cats had no doubt been there since 2-4 pm, and by 6.05 we were armed 
with a beer standing centre in row 7.  Whilst not a cavern like the NEC Birmingham where you can 
be fully 80 yards back watching ants (as there will be no large screens), here in Hammersmith Apollo 
(underneath Junction 2 of the M4 motorway) you are in a grey dull cave, but broad enough and 
with a slope enough for good sight lines.  Plenty seating upstairs, but totally lacking the marble 
pillars and balconies of tall green plants found at the Brixton Academy a few years back.  This has a 
sticky floor from the lots of plastic larger spilt from lots of plastic glasses.  It is not a pretty venue.  
A few lines about Mark Knopfler.  A set showing how good he was and still is, but really all similar for 
an hour.  Little variation made for lack of concentration.  The suggestions of numbers shouted out, 
I smiled most at "Play Freebird" (for the record, I did not hear "Judas" last night).  Think electric folk 
with a really talented band, but then performing the same indistinguishable numbers, Philadelphia 
and Brothers in Arms moved the crowd a little.  It must be really hard for any Dylan supporting act.  
The change in crowd volume after 9 pm was huge.  I know it is not etiquette to read someone 
else's texts, but in the dark it was really unavoidable.  The lady in front of me wrote "Oh my God 
(not OMG), Mark Knopfler has now been playing for an hour, feels like a century", I have to agree.  
I looked at my watch many times, he kept it to the hour as they had been at 70 min.  The many 
roadies switched everything, the nag champa had previously appeared in great clouds over the 
shoulders of the double bassist.  By 9.05 the great all-seeing eye of Horus was on the red lit school 
curtains (this never changed all evening), the crowd roared out its approval of the back history, 
some knowing it enough to join in about a haze of substance abuse, and here he was, carrying the 
broad brimmed hat and wearing cavalry trousers with a broad white stripe and a trimmed black suit 
jacket, the band all in buff coloured suits, a variety of black head gear, ... CRA Bob Dylan ...

Leopard Skin Pill Box hat, as throughout this tour, but no regular opener and certainly not the 
tune-up number that Maggie's Farm had become.  Mark Knopfler mooching around and joining in 
the 12 bar blues.  Good sound, good tempo, greater opener.  Don't think twice was excellent, Bob
and Mark (can I say that) sharing centre stage on guitars.  I used to care, but Things have changed.  
Stayed in Mississippi marked the end of the 4 with Mark Knopfler, no thanks, no bow, no mention, 
regular guitar changes between every number in the dark, when the lights came back up, there he 
was, gone.  Honest with me was good, somewhat brooding.  I missed the next two words, but I 
did not miss "killed poor Hattie Carrol" and it was great to hear this again, I never thought I would.  
For sure, I never thought I would hear Hollis Brown, he lived on the outside of town ... Make you 
feel my love. H61 was ripped up and roared down.  See all 5 doing pairs of double knee bends to 
the right, exactly in time.  See Dylan shrugging his shoulders at us and then at the band, still smiling.  
The next of the which one is this? intros (surely it's Just like a woman?) was Hard Rain.  This the 
new you'll never sing along version with its totally altered timings and a vast amount of the now 
fair-ground organ sound playing scales.  Thunder on the Mountain.  Do you know what's happening 
Mr Jones? (Ballad of a thin man).  AATW, that is going to be followed by LARS, but no here is 
Jolene played as Summerdays.  Many of the songs, whether rock, country rock, or ballads got this 
very traditional 12-bar blues ending (wha-wha-wha, bash-bash), really extended and thoroughly 
enjoyable. 10.25, usual band intros, crash and LARS, lots of sing along, lots of cheering, but it was 
a done deal, not that we did not cheer enough, but now the roadie with the full ZZ Top is clearing 
away in the house lights, we drift out at 10.40, certainly satisfied.
Charlie and Stu shared leads.  There was lots of smiling.  Dylan standing front and centre and 
entertaining us, smiling and having fun with the echo in Ballad of a Thin Man, really having fun, he 
was never sure if it would be there or not, once or even twice (do you, do you, Mr, Mr, Jones, 
snarled).  That was a delight.  So, my thanks if you read this far.  My thanks as ever to those who 
write here, I enjoy your opinions.  My especial thanks to Bill Pagel for all his work, 29 million cannot 
be all wrong.  Back there tonight, I'll see him in anything.  I'll stand in line.

Ian S. Blagbrough


Review by Dominic Nasmyth-Miller

Having had the privilege of standing in-line, alongside some
genuinely lovely people at Bournemouth just a few weeks before, resulting
in front-centre at the rail, tonight's tickets for upstairs seating
provided a different vantage point.   Other than the soundtrack for the
Princess Bride (which if you have young children, then the film is highly
recommended) we have been unfamiliar with Mark Knopfler's music in recent
years. However, the past 21 days has been spent listening to some of his
recent recordings some of which have been played on the current tour - if
the opportunity exists do check these out, A night in summer long ago,
Piper to the end, Why aye man and Get Lucky.   Knopfler and his band were
excellent - and although difficult for another to support "Mr. Bob;" to
have had such a distinguished artist undertaking this particular role, has
made for a series of shows that will live long in the memory.   Enthusiasm
existed for Knopfler and his band however it was incredible to see how the
energy in the crowd raised to new heights once the lights dropped and it
was announced "Ladies and gentleman please welcome the poet Laurette of
rock 'n' roll etc.etc."    Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat kicked off like a
shot gun blast, a tempo which ran throughout the evening on the up-beat
numbers. His Bobness danced, smiled and gestured throughout, back-up by a
band who were inspirational - such a good sound.   With such a vast back
catalogue to choose from and with such a large fan base; it is impossible
for every concert to have all the songs that each fan would choose if they
could. Whilst Johanna, Black Coat and Grain of Sand would always feature
in my personal preference list; Mississippi and Hattie Carroll do so as
well - tonight we were treated to superb versions of these two, plus a
sensitive version of; as it is becoming infuriatingly referred on TV
talent shows "Adele's" Make you Feel My Love.    No longer are Dylan
concerts an evening of playing Name That Tune, each song now being
recognisable by the first word, that is if it hasn't being identified by
the first few bars of the introduction alone.   Honest With Me and Thunder
On The Mountain stood-out on an evening of stand-out performances;
whilst Rolling Stone which was orchestrated by the song and dance man who
punctuated the chorus as it had been written nigh on fifty years ago,
to enable this to become a sing-a-long finale. Add to the mix Jolene and
Hard Rain - an incredible evening; enhanced greatly by meeting up with
Mark and George from the Bournemouth queue.   2011 has been an incredible
year for concerts - looking forward to doing it all again hopefully in
2012 and the opportunity to be headin' for another joint. Thank you Bob.
Dominic Nasmyth-Miller


Review by Mr Jinx

Black hat and jacket, newly grown whiskers: Bob Dylan skipped like  a
pugilist onto the Hammersmith stage for the first night of this residency.
The roar went up.  Round One.   London expects . .  . For  the next hour
and a half Bob led his merry men through a set that raged and  roared,
hissed and spat, rocked and rumbled.  The overall tone may have been
deadly serious but the famed ‘song and dance man’ was having a ball .
. . so there was  some serious fun to be had along the way. It  was clear
from the playful moves and shoulder dips during opener Leopard Skin 
Pillbox Hat that Bob was fully engaged and ready for a scrap.   The 
set’s highlight (for this listener at least) was Hattie Carroll.  Bob
found new expression in this old warhorse.  The extended harmonica  solo
at the end took the hall down to a hush.  It was beautifully phrased and
clearly came from the heart.  Gooseflesh time. Things Have Changed
worked extremely well in its new arrangement  Tex-Mex arrangement.  It had
shades  of Ennio Morrocone’s wide screen Westerns, Bob playing his role
as gunslinger  extraordinaire to the hilt.  Alias?  You  betcha! Hollis
Brown was plain terrifying and blood-curdling.  By the time the shots rang
out I was  almost relieved.  Bob’s black-edged  growl suits this darkest
of tales and the new stop-start arrangement only  increases the dramatic
tension and sense of menace. Hard  Rain was a tour-de-force.  Bob
found several staircase melodies in this one.  By the final verse he had 
set up a sort of ‘call and response’ effect  within the lines that made
it seem as if there were two souls present.  This had a pendulum 
effect that became utterly hypnotic.  This was a very powerful 
performance indeed of arguably Dylan’s greatest statement in song. 
A  man behind me in the crush of the crowd keeled over and fainted.  It
was very hot in the auditorium and  maybe the pendulum effect in Hard Rain
did for him.  He seemed to be all right but I wondered as he lay there
– people fanning his face – why there were no medics on hand.  Also
there was a woman next to me who seemed incoherent on drink or drugs. 
Her eyes rolled back in her head as her partner supported her.  Such are
the  vagaries of a N.E.T. crowd!  We  denizens of Des. Row are not always
a pretty sight. Meanwhile Bob had switched to super-human mode for a
searing, echo-drenched Ballad Of A Thin Man.  He stood, centre stage,
microphone in hand and punctuated the lines with dips of the knees and
shakes of the shoulder.  It was extremely theatrical, almost camp!  It
struck me as a new kind of dark theatre, a performance of such venom with
showman moves is essentially at odds with itself.  But then Bob  Dylan
has been wrong-footing us for almost half a century.  We really ought to
be used to it by  now. The encores rushed by.  Rolling Stone was
noticeable for Bob’s continued projection.  Sometimes he coasts on this
one, but not tonight.  No coasting for the Champ.  The jabs kept 
coming. Before I knew it the lights were on and we were stumbling out into
the foggy November night.  The hawkers were selling Dylan calendars for
2012.  If that turns out to be as glorious a year for Bob as 2011 we are
in for a treat.  Tomorrow night I’m back for the second night of this
Hammersmith residency.  To coin a phrase:  I Can’t Wait. 

Mr Jinx


Review by Stephen Haynes

I love this venue - 8 years ago I was lucky enough to be at "the Romance
in Durango" gig here  - and last night , as then,  the atmosphere was
fantastic in the build up and throughout the evening, the sound was also
excellent.  I've recently been reading "The ballad of Bob Dylan" - a
biography of the great man by Daniel Epstein.  Of course a lot of familiar
stuff - but one interesting quote from Bob came to mind last night  "I'm
usually in a numb state of mind before my shows, and I have to kick in at
some place along the line, usually it takes me one or two songs, or
sometimes it takes me much longer.  Sometimes it takes me to the encore!" 
Well last night I honestly think he "kicked in" from the very first line
of pill box hat - and stayed on his game throughout.   A great set list
for me mixing classics from the 60's with some of his most recent work and
each song delivered with care, passion and apparent enjoyment that was
stunning given how long Bob's been doing this.


Review by Geoff Marshall

Having seen Bob every time he has been in London since 1966, and knowing
that the voice lacks the range it once had, I went to Hammersmith last
night with modest expectations. This was of course the venue for perhaps
Bob's best ever concert in October 2003, still referred to as the Miracle
of Hammersmith, when the version of Romance in Durango just blew the place

Mark Knopfler opened with an edgier set than he usually performs with some
hard-driving stuff well-received by the crowd. He said he had had a great
time on the tour and was grateful to Mr Bob for inviting him along. He is
a global superstar but knows his place! He seemed genuinely touched by the
huge applause and played what looked like an unplanned encore.

After the interval MK was back on stage with Bob's band and did homage for
the first four numbers.

At this point I am almost lost for words. Bob roared into a definitive
version of Leopard Skin Pillbox hat - played Fucking Loud- and was clearly
up for it, dancing behind the keyboard and very animated throughout. His
voice was terrific and the sound just about perfect. He was totally
committed to the performance and gave his all. Every note throughout the
evening was considered and his phrasing was immaculate.  A solid set
followed, the highlight of which was ballad of a Thin Man with Bob holding
2 mikes and standing centre stage, stalking around like a man possessed.
Nothing happens by chance at  a Dylan show so the delay/echo on the voice
must have been deliberate and was very effective " Do ya do ya do ya Mr
Jones. Dark, threatening, full of emotion and just plain loaded with
genius. A total re-working of Honest With Me ripped along with Charlie and
Stu on great form and Highway 61 was the best I've ever heard and I've
heard hundreds.

A small criticism was that the new nursery rhyme cadences of Hard Rain did
not fit the mood of the song - "before I start singing" to Doh Re Soh Te
Doh, just not right..and To Make you Feel my Love lacked the poignancy the
lyric demands.

But these are small quibbles. I learned that Bob does not decline. He just
changes from one brilliant manifestation to another, rediscovering and
re-inventing himself as the years go by. We might like some manifestations
better than others but what cannot be denied is that he is
stratospherically better than any other singer/ songwriter/performer than
all the rest from all time.

We got 15 songs straight out. No encores. He had a right to go. He had
given us everything.


Review by Sarah Daw

Showmanship & Horsemanship
19th November Hammersmith Apollo, London

Producers of competition horses know that first finding a horse with both the 
mental ability and the willingness to do the task required and demanded by 
the discipline is as crucial as its breeding and training. 

There is huge expectation when attending a Bob Dylan concert - it is not an 
event that can be experienced via web stream or web world. You have to 
show up, clock on and work at it. You need to live it and pay attention.

There is never announcement prior to Bob Dylan coming on stage - no 
warning - at best, a ripple of movement under dimmed lights stage left. The 
ghost of a shadowy figure dressed sharp, cut with white piping and matching 
military trousers, the silhouette of a Spanish bandit hat,  the myth and legend 
of Zorro. 

Many International horses, trained to competition level, secure successful 
careers on the circuit. Once in a lifetime, a horse bolts into the spotlight 
acting outside the accepted criteria of championship competition and 
astounding us all. Quirky, too small, tight in the back, unpredictable or 
temperamental but possessing  flair and genius for doing the job required 
and throwing the rule book out the window. The outsider, the odd-ball, 
the outlaw who wins hearts and rouses the rebel in us  … Welcome to the 
World of Bob Dylan.

Life is difficult. 

Like life - for the uninitiated, the music of Bob Dylan can be hard work - a 
road for many that will remain untravelled. I have never attended a concert 
yet where I didn't hear somebody moan and lament the absence of their 
favourite song … or not recognise it! For those who choose to persevere, 
listen, delve and question, a musical wonderland and endless journey unfolds  
with every archetype, character,  and conundrum  you have ever pondered. 
While Bob Dylan's background and breeding continues to be endlessly 
analysed, scrutinised and written about in umpteen books & biographies, he 
remains silent - a force to be reckoned with, doing Bob Dylan, what he does 
best: turning up to play live music. A folk musician friend of mine, who knew 
Dylan in the early Sixties, told me that she has never witnessed anybody 
who worked as hard as he did at song writing - with such intent and focus 
for their craft. Displaying, at a young age, both the courage and 
single-mindedness needed for the endless highway and commercial 
racetrack, the young head-shy colt with a mop of black curls, easily 
spooked by the herd, was never destined to be a one-trick pony.

Bob Dylan, the entertainer, understands both showmanship & horsemanship. 
His current stable  is recruited for stamina, endurance, temperament and 
never ending consistency: Donny Herron watches every chord Dylan's hands 
span with the protectiveness of a brood mare; Tony Garnier - the stoic 
schoolmaster, uphill ground-covering paces, displays one-time tempi changes  
with ease and equally capable of a flying buck when the occasion calls; 
George Receli on drums:  compact, forward-thinking, a big presence with 
correct paces; Stu Kimble - a warhorse of power and bravery; Charlie 
Sexton - his high head carriage and Arab cheekbones, high-stepping action 
and cadence - but hold him too tight and he will double-barrel you with a 
military capriole. The prized gem inside the quadrille, the revered steed and 
world class musician, Bob Dylan, evokes biblical wisdom born out of years of 
evolution. Skilfully balancing and retaining the necessary duality of professional 
arrogance and humility, Dylan half passes, extends, collects, pirouettes, and 
counter-canters effortlessly through his show. At times, he lopes with the 
modest style of a crooner or old music-hall entertainer … skipping, reeling 
rhymes … this is world class dressage - hooves rooted, embedded in years 
of roaming wild wasteland and forgotten traditions, with etiquette and 
persistence - perfectly held levard, a reworked piaffe between the pillars, 
poised musical balance - surprisingly athletic, elastic vocals, gymnastic harp 
blows with a real look-at-me attitude. Things have changed but Dylan still 
knows his songs well.  Aware of a global collective conscience, something is 
happening here tonight. Playing with echoes, the lines preached by 
transparent leaders is thin as he sings his old ballad in modern times.

I think of the bay Kentucky racehorse, Sea-Biscuit, with birthday on 23rd May,
a day before Bob Dylan's, who shares with him an inauspicious start in life. 
Sea Biscuit's shyness of publicity, knobbly knees, fondness for lying down and 
taking long naps, secured his individuality off the track as much as the records 
he broke on track and he became the unlikely champion-of-hope to many 
Americans during  the Great Depression. In 1965, Bob Dylan woke a generation 
and shook them from apathy with an electric guitar. There was never a more 
loved horse embraced by America and I doubt we will ever see or hear a 
greater song & dance man than Bob Dylan.

From the age of 17, when I heard the spine-chilling chords, chaotic organ and 
lyrics of 'Like A Rolling Stone', I was riveted and paralysed. It jumped me, 
tricked me and tripped me up and put me in a spin. My contemporaries were 
doing Pirate punk. Seeing many here tonight, some attending their first Dylan 
concert in their late middle years, gives me as much pleasure as the cassette 
tapes I made for friends in the late 80s, nudging them towards the music. 
Witnessing a slow erosion of their disbelief and growth in their the satisfaction - 
the music got  them in the end. Dylan's body of work reminds me of a long 
Ingmar Bergman or Fellini movie, a huge striped circus tent or an art gallery 
flooded with Northern light. It reminds me our greatest painters: the 
draftsmanship of Leonardo; the magic of Picasso; the knotted twists of Van 
Gough; the debated autism and wonder of Michelangelo; the dream-time of 
Dali; the explosion of Warhol and Matisse's magnificent Chapel - built when 
he was 69 - he also saved his best until last.

Every world class horse event is unique - no two performances are identical - 
ultimately proven only in the moment, performed live on the track, in a show 
ring or cross country … it has to be live. 

Ladies  & Gentlemen: Roll up, Roll up for the greatest never-ending 
musical tour.

Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

Sarah Daw
29th November 2011


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