London, England

HMV Hammersmith Apollo

November 20, 2011

[Mr Jinx], [Ian S. Blagbrough], [Peter Cooper]

Review by Mr Jinx

At  the appointed hour Bob Dylan took the stage looking purposeful and
resplendent in white hat.  The opener, Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat was a
blast.  Bob  stretched out the lines and fooled with the timing.  The old
leg began to shake and twitch,  Elvis style.  It seemed we were in for
another lively ride . . . Highlights of this show came in the form of a
beautifully paced and sung Tryin’ To Get To Heaven, an inventive
Tangled Up In Blue and a searing Desolation Row. The only stumble of the
night, in my opinion, was the newly-arranged Blind Willie McTell which
somehow managed to lose much of its unique majesty in a cranky and 
unsatisfying treatment.  It is a measure of Dylan’s commitment to
change that he would tamper with the tune of such a revered classic when
he could simply have sung it straight and won the day.  Perhaps this new
arrangement will have its moment but it was not an instant success. I 
mentioned Tangled Up In Blue as a highlight.  When Dylan is on the kind of
form we have witnessed on this tour he can make new even the most
well-worn of songs.  Tangled tonight was utterly mesmerising.  He added
‘lawyers’ to the ‘truck drivers’ wives’ line as if being a lawyer was 
interchangeable with the profession of truck driver.  Maybe it is.  Both
are lines of work just like being a Columbia recording artist.  The only
difference being that a truck driver invariably heads for the planned 
destination! Desolation Row was the pinnacle of the show for me.  Bob’s
voice – a husky bark until about a third of the way in – seemed to
warm and then come to the boil until he could call down all of the voices
and registers he needed to do justice to this mighty song.  As is his
wont he found several new tunes in the lines and explored the song’s
layers and textures to the full.  This was worth the price of admission
alone and must have made the worthy but pedestrian support act Mark 
Knopfler feel like catching the bus home to Newcastle early.  To be fair
to Knopfler there are few would live with Bob when he raises his game as
he did  here. Ballad Of A Thin Man retained its jaw-dropping intensity. 
Bob, standing with microphone in hand, alone centre stage, cut a demonic
figure during this declamation.  Poor Mr Jones was bludgeoned to within 
an inch of his life by the song’s close.  The delay on the voice gave
the impression that we were in a dream - or  perhaps, more accurately, a
nightmare.  Even so, I did not want to wake up. It  struck me just how
physical Bob’s performances have been on this tour.  He is punctuating
his songs with movement in a way that he has not done for many years.  If
I move as purposefully and with such ease at 70 I shall be astonished and
 delighted. With the Eye of God backdrop peering down at us the show came
to a tumultuous close  with Watchtower and Rolling Stone.  As he had the
previous night Bob sang the latter beautifully and with great commitment.
 He made me think anew about the lines of a song I have heard hundreds of
times before.  He sounded both regal and emphatic. The lights came up
and the cheers rang out for the line-up.  Then our man was gone again . . .
until  tomorrow, the final night of this enthralling Hammersmith
residency.  I’ll be there. I’m a truck driver, not a lawyer. 

Mr Jinx 


Review by Ian S. Blagbrough

What a difference a day makes.  Maybe we had slept better, maybe they had.  
This was a world away up in the excellent category after Saturday's good-very 
good gig.  The voice still holding up well, better than for a while, more humour 
and rapport, general enjoyment on stage and even smiling (still, it is Children in
Need week and he has grown a beard for charity).  Not only not one turkey in
the 14 strong set with no formal encore, but lots nailed and such general 
enthusiasm (not many leaving - they left in droves from Cardiff and were most 
vocal in their disgust outside that night).  Two fainted, I think it was the banjo 
playing.  Tickets must surely sell for Monday, if you are there give cheer on my 
behalf.  It was indeed Pill-Box Hat and Summer days played loud, later on it was 
one song to the tune of another as everything adopted the Summer days style 
and rhythm.  Sunday night was excellent.

Arrived at 6.25 pm, the 6 rows of Bob-cats were all down by the rail, just 3 
more hours to wait.  Took a position towards the back leaning with (equally) 
oldies on a rail, the advantage of the rake being great sight-lines.  The 
Hammersmith hmv Apollo (underneath Junction 2 of the M4 motorway) with 
its orange, brown, and grey walls is not a pretty place.  There are two lit quarter
ice-cream cornets, about 12 feet tall stuck on the walls, not art, certainly not 
art-deco, just naff.  No charm and the sticky floor is not endearing, just tacky.

Mark Knopfler really is good, his set with a seven piece of not just talented, but 
world class musicians, 1st flute and whistle and sackbut?, Andy Parson's twin 
brother on 2nd flute and 1st violin, together with Captain Slow and Bill Oddie 
guesting on organ.  It was going to be all really similar for an hour, so little 
variation, and then it totally changed with (Lonnie) Donegan's Gone (but then 
"Donegan's gone" 12 times a verse - Bob Dylan it ain't).  It must be really hard 
for any Dylan supporting act.  Let's say 1,000 more arrived between 8.30 and 
9.00, so unlike those Italy (and elsewhere) reviews where fans of Mark came 
and went, this London show was for (as Mr Mark said) Mr Bob.  They played 
75 mins and showed their clear electric folk talent.  They can do it, if you really 
like it, it is what you get, and you get it constantly.  The clouds of nag champa 
rolled in.  By 9.05 the great all-seeing eye of Horus was on the red lit school 
curtains, the crowd roared out its approval of the back history, and there he 
was carrying a white broad brimmed hat and playing with his hair, this went on 
often between songs.  The band all in dark charcoal grey suits, ... CRA Bob 
Dylan ...

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box hat, as throughout this tour, no regular opener to which 
to tune-up, but setting the high standard.  Mark Knopfler mooching around and
joining in the 12 bar blues.  Great opener then to the centre stage for a guitar 
duet of It's all over now.  I used to care, but Things have changed.  The first of 
the What song is this? intros was Tryin' to get to heaven.  Then Mark Knopfler
was gone.  I do not want to be damning with faint praise, he did add, it was a
guitar-fest, you could hear him and tell that it was MK.  Nailed Honest with me. 
Nailed TUIB.  Nailed Summer days.  What song is this?  Blind Willie McTell, the 
extended 3 endings were a hoot, on stage smiling, the audience laughing and
then roaring our approval (perhaps you had to be there).  H61 was ripped up, 
fun extended ending; each number just getting better.  Desolation row, lots of
verses, smiling and fun.  Thunder on the Mountain.  Do you know what's 
happening Mr Jones? (Ballad of a thin man) with fun with the voice echo.  
AATW, those perfunctory band intros, and the massive sing-along that is LARS 
even without the white spotlights directly picking us out as happened often 
enough.  10.40, we cheered a lot, but no BITW for us.

Final comments, the fair-ground organ playing was made to be appropriate.  The 
one-hand fey on hip, the other playing scales may grow on me, but it was
entertaining.  Charlie and Stu shared leads.  Charlie did not rip it up as much as I 
would have liked/thought, he is on a short leash, Stu certainly dominated his two
leads.  There was lots of smiling.  I have come through the post-guitar period 
when the piano/organ was set exactly at a right-angle to the stage, and with 
the broad-brimmed hat pulled down we never saw his face once and certainly 
never centre stage.  I have come through that period when the microphone 
was set ergonomically far too low so he bent down into it with never a glance 
towards us.  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.  
If you are there tonight, enjoy.  Bob Dylan, front and centre guitar strapped back 
on; Bob Dylan, front and centre just a microphone in his hand working the crowd;
Bob Dylan, front and centre, smiling.  Wow!  Things have changed.  Enjoy!

Ian S. Blagbrough


Review by Peter Cooper

Bob full of beans. Chaplinesque. Gunslinger. Hank Williams. Actor. Song
and dance man. It had the lot. I'm a regular on the UK legs of the tours
for 20 years. Seen the good the bad and the very bad and the very good.
This year only managed Manchester though until last night. He was good
then. He was better last night. Stand out songs were the obvious (Ballad
Of A Thin Man and Like A Rolling Stone) and also great renditions of
Tangled, Blind Willie and Desolation Row. And occasionally the staccato
rasp the cracked vocal chords even softened out to tuneful melody. Looked
from where I was that all dished out in great humour too. Not just
laughing around but good spirits all round. Would be great to see Bob pull
out the acoustic guitar every now and then and dare we ask for an old time
solo slot - just bob and Gibson and blue harp? Go on Bob just for a couple
of songs.... You know if he did it, it'd be great.

Peter Cooper


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