Review by Graham Cole
Bob Treats Us Kindly
Day three and half-way through the five-night marathon - I yawned half-way
through a lesson at school today - I think the kids noticed! They think I'm
crazy - in fact even my colleagues and friends think I'm obsessive, but no, as
several of us agreed tonight, the word is enthusiastic.
And tonight for me was more about the event than it being a great show.
As ever there were highlights, and as enigmatic as ever, Bob and the boys
ensured we see and hear absolutely nothing the same way twice. Although
I missed Paul and Bokkie this evening, John was there from Pompey (enjoy
France, but go steady on the vin rouge!), it was great to meet up with
Duncan again - that hat stands out - and meet new friends. It is fantastic to
see folks from all over at these shows, some old and some new. Tonight
Ssandro and Luisa must have made it to the front as they were so near the
start of the queue, and inside we met people from Berlin, Caen (Bon retour!),
Lahn-don and all points everywhere, and since so many are there all five nights
the comparisons and discussions are fruitful, engaging and very entertaining
whilst we wait for the Fanfare to strike up.
A few minutes later than previous nights, but with no gaps in the lead up to
the "voice" and then the band to come on in the dark and rumble into the
now familiar opening, before, for the second night running, launching into the
breakneck that is Maggie. Tonight the band were in all black, as on Sunday,
though not all with ties, and Stu and Tony, like Bob, wearing a low black hat,
whilst George had on his trademark beret. And tonight Bob wore a deep red
shirt, with the piping on his jacket sleeves matching the opening lights on the
back curtains, whilst the collar of his shirt sparkled under the lights.
From that fiery opener, there was no time at all before Love Minus Zero/No
Limit countered, edging into our heads with simplicity and serenity - Bob singing
softly and tenderly whilst Denny offered a short guitar solo in the lower reaches
of the fourth, fifth and sixth strings of his Fender guitar. If nothing else tonight
the band showed what a good blues outfit they can be (yes, jazz and country
last night so they really can and do stretch themselves to the needs of Bob's
arrangements) and Lonesome Day Blues saw our first such workout. Whilst it
may be true that we had fewer big surprises tonight (and certainly nothing to
match Million Dollar Bash), what we did have a-plenty was a number of very
different arrangements of familiar songs. Positively 4th Street carries a lyric that
can be so vicious, but tonight's gentle, less venomous offering suggested
otherwise, although Bob's almost plaintive yet forceful delivery carried the
message by its very low key nature. Indeed towards the end there was still
something of a snarling "what a drag it is to see you". It was also lovely to see
George playing these acoustic numbers with his brushes, and indeed my
sightline tonight gave me a clear view of George's solid rhythm section working
and pounding away throughout the evening.
As on the first two nights, the sound was excellent again, and showed clearly in
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine), where the backing allowed
Dylan's words to shine through in a version that was refreshing to these ears.
Although the favourites tonight were less thrilling than on Monday, an acoustic
Girl From the North Country was certainly one of them on the setlist. This,
along with the later John Brown showed just how ready Bob is to return to
styles that were a staple of his early days as he explores his own catalogue, first
with an almost traditional folky performance, and then something approaching
the talking blues of those wonderful early albums. I Don't Believe You (She Acts
Like We Never Have Met) squeezed itself in workaday fashion between these
two songs, but John Brown, with its still immensely strong message, proved
another of the evening's highlights, delivered with power and conviction as a fine
example of latterly fashionable Americana.
Bob played some excellent harp again tonight, but did not come centre stage to
do so, although he made several walkabouts to confer with the band, most
notably with Tony, who really seemed to be enjoying himself. For most around
me, Mississippi was outstanding, and since it was one Duncan and I were putting
on a wish-list for tonight's show at seven o'clock, satisfaction was thus delivered.
And so, the pure country of Waiting For You aside, we wound down to a familiar
trio for the last three songs. Yet although the titles were familiar, the
performances differed from those previously heard, even from the night before.
Thus it was that Summer Days gave a us a great, almost rockabillyish main set
closer, and with some clear piano from Bob to boot, and the first of the encores,
LARS, showed yet again what a great song it really is, scoring good marks with an
And then, again, they were gone, though not before that lovely line-up of five
modern-day cowboy figures (George staying on his drum riser) watching out at
the audience and taking in our cheers whistles and clapping. What do they think
as they look out? How do they feel about their show to us? Perhaps the answer
lies in the small thumbs up gesture from Stu Kimball to the crowd as the six men
walked off into the night. I'm sure that's what a lot of us were thinking.
Especially those who, in Bob's own lyric, were thinking "I'll see you tomorrow."
Review by Fran Scott
A VOICE WITHOUT RESTRAINT
Another fine old evening in the company of the great man in South London
Not much on the harmonica tonight and no harmonica solos away from the
piano as on Sunday night (I wasn't at last night's gig) but a memorable
concert that really came to life after a stop-start beginning with Bob
once again relaxed and in terrific voice.
At 7.45pm precisely, after another roaring reception from the Brixton
faithful and the obligatory 30 seconds of Rumble, the band launched into a
strong rendition of Maggie's farm, volume well up and Dylan tearing into
A dramatic change in tempo followed with Love Minus Zero, the band gently
accompanying a much more restrained vocal, the song never attaining the
tenderness it can do in concert and the singing sounding a little
Back up-tempo with a rip-roaring Lonesome Day Blues, Bob singing
passionately and beginning to enjoy himself, followed by another change of
pace and a fairly modest Positively 4th Street.
Then, the evening took off and never looked back, one outstanding vocal
performance after another. Most Likely was as good a version as I've heard
live, miles better than Cardiff 2004 and Shepherd's Bush 2003. It's a tune
which asks a lot of the band and they duly obliged. Cold Irons Bound was
tremendous, Bob enjoying himself enormously during this one and throwing a
few shapes from behind the keys (reminded me of the kiwi cricket umpire,
Billy Bowden, signalling 4 runs at one point). Girl of the North Country
and I Don't Believe You were nicely done and then came the highlight.
John Brown was absolutely stunning. The band played quietly along in the
background with the full focus on the impassioned delivery of the lyrics
and Bob really poured his heart into this one. The blood red curtains
behind and the sharp floor lighting giving a visual edge to the
Stuck inside of Mobile was really polished, ever so slightly better than
Sunday night which was a pretty good version anyhow.
The inclusion of Mississippi in the set will have caught many an eye
(receiving its first airing outside the US I believe) and it was a pretty
decent rendition but not the crowd-pleasing highlight one might imagine.
The song was driven by George's steady two-step rhythm on the drums which
sounded very similar to the treatment given to 'Till I Fell In Love a
couple of nights back. It got stronger as it went on and was still one of
the moments I guess tonight will be remembered by.
Highway 61 was rock solid, the band have got this one down to a tee and
then Waiting for You got its second consecutive outing. I'd never heard
the recorded version of this and it proved to be an endearingly simple
number about a love lost. Summer days rocked.
No surprises for the encores but Like a Rolling Stone was truly
magnificent. To me, this perfectly emphasised how this band are more than
the sum of their parts, Denny Freeman's solo being technically
unspectacular but he really let the right notes ring and arpeggiated the
chords to great effect. The guitars sound so warm and rich, a real tribute
to the old (valve?) amps being used. Bob was laughing his socks off during
this one, he spotted something / someone in the front row and tried to
point it / them out to George, not sure quite what was going on!
Band intros and then a stunning Watchtower with Stu Kimball let loose and
it was time to bid farewell. Really great reception from the crowd tonight
and Bob (in black with red trim, red shirt and tie tonight) seemed to
recognise this by peering around the hall for fractionally longer than
usual, abruptly waving the V-shaped harmonicas before exiting stage left.
Shane McGowan spotted in the crowd tonight, let's hope there's no "Viral
Laryngitis" on the horizon..........
Review by Robert Wilkinson
Much much finer than Manchester & Docklands '02 and Sheffield Arena '03,
even than Shepherds Bush '03 - my last Bobdates. Let's face it, the old
band was getting a little stale & predictable and the new three players
are working their way in awesomely. How exciting & invigorating. And what
a difference a few days make! A quantum leap from Nottingham. Or was it
something to do with Brixton Academy itself - such a classy venue and
crisp clear sound. Also I did get within feet of the front rail first time
ever..! Perfect place, slightly right of centre. And such an appreciative
audience. Because of my position, the venue, the crowd - and Bob so
focused, his voice and harmonica right on song (upsinging under better
control) - possibly my best show ever. Though some of those Hammersmith
Odeon/Apollo gigs in the early 90s were pretty damn good I seem to
remember - through the haze of years...
Highlights for me were: Lonesome Day Blues, Cold Irons Bound, Girl of the
North Country (tear in the eye - His Master's Voice poignantly tender),
Stuck Inside of Mobile (when the lights dimmed and following riotous
applause Bob raised his hat to the crowd after this one - not sure how
many noticed as it was in deep shadow), Mississippi... Had to smile when
Bob fucked up again his keyboard solo in H61 - as he did in Nottingham.
But perhaps those plonking crashes were the solo? Fabulous..! We love you
Fran, I think you're referring to the time when he pointed to an exuberant
and vociferous young German guy who was standing near me. I think he was
acknowledging his enthusiasm. Now, how do I get tickets for tomorrow
night, for Chrissakes?
Review by Jon Harley
You could tell right from the first three seconds of “Maggie’s Farm” that
this was going to be a great gig. This was not just a make-pace opener, he
meant it. There was an extra frisson of excitement in the place even
before the band walked on stage, which they did, not with more commitment
than last night, but somehow with more punch. The sound was fantastic –
very clear and well balanced and not painfully over-loud. The band was
tighter than last night and Bob was singing from the inside of every song.
Once again the question has to be asked, what has happened to his voice?
It was GREAT! Range, pitch, tone, variety, massively expressive, upsinging
used judiciously – what a great vocal artist. And it was the same with
the harp solos – they were the best I have ever heard – he must have been
practising in his time off! Positively 4th Street” was a revelation – not
sung as a finger-pointing song, but sung poignantly, full of pain and
regret with the kick-back coming in at the end. “I Don’t Believe You”
felt like it was bridging the personal and the universal. “John Brown.”
What can I say? With utmost gentleness subterranean fury, he reached out
through the force of his delivery and brought every one of us into this
drama and said “this involves you and me, this is now, it matters, feel
it, think about it, what does that leave you with?” “Missippi” what a
joy to hear live. “Highway” you go storming down that road with him.
“Summer Days” the musicianship was stunning. “LARS” and “Watchtower”
moody, powerful, magnificent. You could tell that Bob and the band were
really pleased with how it had gone and the reception they got. The crowd
was utterly ecstatic.
Tony Garnier – what a great guy. He really seems to support Bob, and I
don’ t think just musically either. George’s drumming was absolutely
right and is, with Tony, the foundation of the band. Bob, Tony and
George, a fabulous triumvirate. The communication between the band
members was great to watch. Bless them all. What a night.
Review by Raf
I realise this is a day late but I've read a couple of the reviews
and they're interesting but.............could we be a bit more 'in the
zone' about this just so you know my view anyhow! The concert was
fantastic - some of the playing was out of this world - Lonesome Day was
totally rocking, Mississipi was wonderful, Highway 61 was sensational, a
masterful rendering of a modern-day masterpiece.
The crowd went crazy for Like a Rolling Stone - and it was great to hear
Hendrix touches, both on that song and Watchtower, adding to the uplifting
feeling - the final word of All Along the Watchtower staying in the mind
as Bob sang a raised up and down note on each beat (the 1 2 3 and hold I
think) - quite unusual to hear and quite mournful - almost eerie!
The other reviewers have said quite a bit about the songs and all the good
bits are true!
This was a great night to remember and to be inspired by - brilliant songs
great singing and a tremendous band - the playing was really magnificent
you would need many more paragraphs to highlight the varous elements
My son and I have been to 2 Bob Dylan concerts together - Le Zenith
October 2000 and last night 22 November 2005 Brixton Academy - both
concerts have been wonderful experiences for us.
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