Reviews

Dublin, Ireland
The Point Theatre
November 27, 2005


[Niall Ahearne], [Kevin Barrington], [John Dunne], [Markus Prieur]

Review by Niall Ahearne



How times have changed (again).  Bob has really 'gone Vegas' since my last
viewing, even resorting to the old Elvis opener, Richard Strauss's Thus
Spake Zarathustra, with a snatch of Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man
thrown in for good measure.  Was it also really necessary to include the
embarrassing record company introductory PR spiel ?  The audience also
seem to have mellowed with age and were a mite too respectful for this 60s
boy, long gone are the halcyon days of the Point shows of the 80s, when
Bob and (various) bands trundled on stage with unbridled energy and played
with utter incoherence, to the delight of the crowd.  I wish I could have
swapped tonight's gig for one of those unincorporated bashes.  However,
redemption came with the music.  Bob and band managed to snuffle out most
of the melody lines and replace them with straightened out lines of harsh
dissonance and over arranged, and unnecessarily extended set pieces, an
exception being Boots Of Spanish Leather, performing seals are still
confined to the audience at a Bob gig, and for this I was grateful.  There
were no big crowd pleasers like Blowing in The Wind, or Like A Rolling
Stone, but at least we got a cracking Highway 61 Revisited and a
reasonable if hesitant Every Grain Of Sand.  Bob relived his Bobby Vee
days with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (no pun intended), with a nod to
Little Richards Tutti Frutti, playing his little keyboards with a delicacy
and restraint that Richard would never have comprehended.  To whom does he
sing It's All Right Ma at this stage, the total lack of involvement in the
vocal delivery of this is startling and may have left some newcomers to
Dylan baffled, why is this song still in the set ?  It reminded me of a
comment made by Italian maestro Ennio Morricone in an interview. 
Morricone said that 'absolute music' should not have any meaning, Copland
incidentally also proffered this observation with Appalachian Spring.  It
is very obvious that Bob grasped this notion many eons ago.  Having said
all that this gig was a very happy one for me, even if my mind did wander
and drift at times.  How wonderful it was to have the greatest songwriter
of all time still strutting his stuff in front of a most appreciative
audience.  He looked very well and his voice sounded alarmingly normal at
times, but only during momentary lapses !  Full credit must go to a
marvelous band who have to concentrate hard at not providing the obvious,
what a delight to see a musician playing a banjo in an electric rock band,
reminds me that I must take out my old Kingston Trio LPS.  Pete Seeger
must be grinding his dentures with rage.  When it comes to sheer charisma
Mr. Dylan is in a sphere of his own.  Those little jerking rhythmical
movements sent shivers up my spine, and conjured up vivid memories of that
fabulous shuffle seen in Masked And Anonymous.  One of the highlights for
me was the introduction of the band, (what glorious musicians), I would
gladly buy a disc with this man ordering his groceries just to hear that
unmistakable and unique voice.  I hope he comes back soon.  Oh yeah, the
Christmas Tree was nice too, pity it didn't have those three angels on
top, that would have been something special to remember on Christmas
morning.

Niall Ahearne

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Review by Kevin Barrington



First came a musical intro that was so over the top iconic - combining
Superman (Zarathustra not Kent) with the Common Man-that it was more goofy
than ironic,then a promo one that epitomises everything he allegedly
hates. And then finally came the man in the long black coat. Looking like
a halfway house between Dustin Hoffman's Ratzo and some confederate
general all dressed up for war but so messed up on hooch that he never
made the battle, he launched into Drifter's Escape, a good ominous Senor,
a rocking God Knows, a messy It's Alright Ma and then the first bit of
musical magic of the night: Love Minus Zero. To get the Point Depot to pin
drop intensity is quite a feat. But we were almost instantly back on the
same reverential terrain for the inspired, if unrecognisable, Boots of
Spanish Leather. Dylan had the big barn in the palm of his hand. And more
so than Saturday night he started visibly enjoying himself as he juggled
his way through one spellbinding number after another without ever letting
the ball drop. Every Grain of Sand was shiver down the spine celestial.
The unexpected rarity of New Morning was as life enhancing as the  song's
subject.  A masterful mood flick came with the mournful "T'il I Fell in
Love with You." And just as you thought things couldn't get any better:
Visions of Johanna. A bemused band and a grinnin' Dylan then took the
emotionally devastated crowd through a stomping elongated version of
Highway 61 that was by far the best revisiting of this stalwart that I've
witnessed. Standing centrestage, flanked by his awesome bank, Dylan then
took the rapturous applause while doing a bizarre shadow-boxing like
shuffle. And then he was back again with Don't Think Twice and a great,
griity Hendrix-like Watchtower. Harmonicas in hand, the chuffed looking
old geezer treated us to another round of his shadow-boxing before making
his exit. The lights stayed low... but then came on. Unlike Saturday,
where he bestowed Forever Young on us, he didn't do the Irish encore .
But, hey, you couldn't complain. 

Kevin Barrington

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Review by John Dunne



On the evidence of two nights in Dublin (and the previous Monday in
Brixton) rumours of the death of Bob Dylan's voice have been greatly
exaggerated. Contrary to dire warnings by others and, to be honest, my own
expectations, his singing was much better than any time I've heard him
over the past five years; in fact, it was was an object lesson in how, in
the right mouth, the human voice can achieve a quite staggering range of
emotional connections. And, aided by crystal clear sound quality, his
enunciation was as perfect as he wanted it to be. 

For the simple reason that the setlist featured more of the songs I like
(and another reason outlined below), I preferred the first night, November
26th. Tell Me That It Isn't true, Lay Lady Lay, I Dreamed I Saw St
Augustine, Shelter from the Storm (alongside Visions of Johanna in
Brixton, one of the best vocal performances I have ever heard by any
artist), Hattie Carroll, Hollis Brown and Like A Rolling Stone all sent
something shivering up and down my spine. Another highlight was the fact
that he didn't go near the dreaded Tweedle Dee. If my attention wandered
at all, it was during Most Likely You Go Your Way.(I never liked the
song), Floater (where the band, especially Donny Herron, tried, but failed
miserably to capture the required mood), and All Along the Watchtower, the
current incarnation of which has become a mere crowd-pleaser.

For most of the night, incidentally, I found myself in the midst of  a
gaggle of young wans (for non-'Hibernophones' among ye; nubile maidens!)
who, when they weren't doing their best to sing along with every word,
screamed like Beatlemania ("Oh my Gawd, it's like, Hattie Carroll, Oh my
Gawd, it's like, my favourite song."). Honest to God, I didn't know which
was most at risk, my eardrums or my wedding vows. Someone has said that
the Scorsese programme has brought a whole new audience to Dylan. Maybe
so, but on Saturday night  I was surprised by the number of young women
there. 

Sunday's highlights were Senor, Love Minus Zero (what a difference a new
chord change makes), Boots of Spanish Leather (which surpasses the Brixton
version), the instrumental break in Highwater, and a Visions that almost
reached the rarefied heights of Brixton. Surprisingly, All Along the
Watchtower really soared and I suspect that this had something to do with
the fact that, unlike the previous night and Brixton as well, it wasn't
preceded by an awesome (how that word refuses to trip from my middle-aged
tongue!), magisterial Like A Rolling Stone. During Watchtower it was hard
to believe that such a mighty sound was coming from the mouth of that
frail figure on stage. Fashionistas among you may be interested to know
that Dylan looked like an ailing ranchero dressed up for grandddaughter's
wedding.  One song that failed to take off on both nights was It's
Alright, Ma. Played in a simplistic rock style, it comes across as a
plodding mix of a hundred middle-of-the road outfits. Compare this with
the 2000 band version - a compelling blend of menancing vocals and Larry
Campbell's filigree guitar- and you'll hear exactly what I mean.Which
brings me to the band. I've said elsewhere that I don't think either of
these guitarists is good enough to share a stage with Bob Dylan. During
Highway 61 on Saturday night I almost changed my mind, but on Sunday
particularly, their basic rock riffing buried too many songs in a blizzard
of homogeneity. Even Freeman, whose occasional jazz nuances caught my
attention on that Amazon show, seldom transcended the mundane. How I
wished for the furious, instinctive trading of licks that characterised
Larry and Charlie's time in the band. Here comes heresy, but for his very
occasional flashes of eccentric brilliance, I would prefer Freddie Koella
to either of the current guys. Kimball in particular seems a real
passenger. Yes, I know he did a good job on the acoustic Don't Think
Twice, but so would any average finger-style guitarist. I'm sure both
players have musical pedigrees as long as my arm but, based on what I
heard, I hope Dylan puts them out to grass as soon as possible. And I
won't be too disappointed if Donnie Herron rides off onto the sunset as
well. Apart from his banjo on Highwater, his presence added little or
nothing to the nights. Multi-instrumentalist? To my ears, he's more a jack
of all trades and master of none who, when called upon to swing during
Floater, for instance, fell flat on his face. Make no mistake about it,
these shows were elevated above the ordinary by the magic of Bob Dylan and
Bob Dylan alone. Well.. with considerable help from the audience and his
rhythm section. Apropos the latter, Tony Garnier in particular was
outstanding. Always solid as the proverbial rock, his four strings were
also more adventurous than the twelve of the other guys. And surely it's
time to acknowledge Dylan's keyboard-playing? Of course he's no Beethoven,
but what he does have is a  percussive style which propels the music and
occasionally surprises you with some melodic flourishes. 

I hope we all realise just how lucky we are to be living at the same time
as Bob Dylan and to have the privilege of witnessing performances as
miraculous as the first night in Dublin. Maybe I'd been listening to the
wrong shows, but, over the past year or so, I had begun to question my
faith in Dylan as a live performer. How wrong I was..
 
John Dunne

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Review by Markus Prieur



The strong performance by Bob Dylan which we had the pleasure to behold
from our first row center positions in Dublin on that Saturday night
during his penultimate show of this wonderful European fall tour 2005 was
of course an incentive to come early on Sunday afternoon as well, to
secure another good vantage point for the last show of the year, which
promised to be another special one for me, as I just love those recent
Sunday set lists. The weather was still dry, still cold, but not as windy
as the previous day, so the hours passed quickly, and my wife and I ended
up again at the center of the rail.

Going by Saturdayís song selection, and the set lists of the previous four
European Sunday shows, two of which (in Wetzlar and in Erfurt) we had the
honor to attend, I just knew that we would hear at least ten to twelve
songs we did not hear on Saturday. It turned out that we would hear
fourteen songs (the record for the tour) not performed on the previous
night, and five of those fourteen new songs for Dublin we also had not
seen in Rotterdam, Oberhausen, Wetzlar, or Erfurt. Only two of the last
three Sunday songs in Dublin, "Highway 61" and "Watchtower", would be
songs also performed on Saturday. But as I said already in my review of
that show, this I didnít know yet. 

So during the six of the 31 European shows (one Friday, two Saturdays,
three Sundays) we had the pleasure to be a part of the audience, we heard
51 of the 84 Dylan songs presented on the tour (not counting the three
tribute covers, or parts thereof, which were performed in London). Five of
those 51 Dylan songs I had never seen live in 47 shows from 1981 to 2004.
Anyway, in the second Dublin show Bob Dylan sang sixteen songs from twelve
albums (half of them, both songs and albums, not from the 60s). No new
song for the tour was introduced during this last show, but that was not
necessary, as ten of the songs performed during that last memorable night
had only appeared three to five times during the other 30 European shows.

Eleven of the songs we were privileged to hear again at that Dublin rail
we heard already before on that tour, but we did not mind that at all, as
Bob was focused on each and every one of them. Nothing was performed on
autopilot, or going through the motions (after 30 gigs within six weeks),
no, not at all. Dylan put everything he had into every single song he sang
that Sunday, wearing that black flat rim hat this time, standing behind
his piano, which was tilted more diagonal toward the audience than on any
other piano show I had seen before. The strong opener, "Drifter's Escape",
which we saw already in Wetzlar, was the first of five songs featuring Bob
on harp, and another fine "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" as the first
encore (we had seen one already in Oberhausen) featured the last harp solo
of Bobís touring year.

The two repetitions from Saturday, "Highway 61 Revisited" and "All Along
The Watchtower", were as good as they come (it was great to see them fine
musicians toy with "H61" once more), and I enjoyed very much another
strong version of the new and fresh arrangement of "Itís Alright Ma" (with
Donnie on fiddle and bow) which we saw already in Oberhausen; as well as
the new start stop arrangement of "Cry A While" (again with Donnie playing
banjo), which we already had seen in Wetzlar. Also welcome was another
focused performance of "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" (my tenth), which I
always love (and I mean love) to see live. This time it was hard to decide
whether to watch Bob singing, or to behold Georgeís incredible drumming on
this song.

Another song I simply loved to see again was my third "New Morning" (the
fourth of the tour, performed on all Sunday shows but one, we had seen it
already in Wetzlar). I also had seen one of the 17 European performances
in 1991, but those four 2005 appearances were the first in Europe since
then. The Dublin performance of this rare gem was extremely enjoyable for
me, it was definitely worth "cominí down the road for a country mile or
two". And I also did not mind at all hearing another very focused vocal
performance in the form of Bobís ninth "High Water" of the tour (my
second, after seeing it already in Oberhausen). "Things are breakin' up
out there, high water everywhere." Amazing stuff.

Two of the finest songs from this tour, "SeŮor (Tales Of Yankee Power)",
this time with Bob on harp, and "God Knows", were predictable choices, as
they had appeared as songs number two and three on all four previous
Sunday shows of the tour, but that was not a bad thing. For as I agreed
with Bob singing these lyrics in Wetzlar and Erfurt, so I agreed with him
in Dublin. "Let's disconnect these cables, overturn these tables. This
place don't make sense to me no more. Can you tell me what we're waiting
for, SE—OR?" "God knows there's gonna be no more water but fire next time.
Ö God knows everything, God knows it could snap apart right now just like
putting scissors to a string."

Which leaves me to comment on the five songs I had not yet seen during the
other five shows. Three of them were slow, old, and extremely beautiful.
"Love Minus Zero/No Limit", featuring nice harp by Bob and nice guitar by
Denny, appeared in a new arrangement (performed for the fifth time on this
tour), which I think worked really well on stage. Amazing vocal
performance by Bob here, as well as during his fourth "Boots Of Spanish
Leather" of the tour, again with a harp solo, featuring also Donnie on
fiddle and bow. My sixth "Visions Of Johanna" (my first since London 2002)
was the sixth of the tour, and it featured some more nice guitar work by
Denny, but most of all some more great singing by Bob. Another special
treat for this Dublin audience was the fourth appearance of the new
arrangement of "'Til I Fell In Love With You", very well done by Dylan and
his band. "I know God is my shield and he won't lead me astray". I had
seen this song four times before, but not since I saw the only version in
2000, performed for 900 people in Dublinís Vicar Street club venue. 

The peak however of this awesome Dublin Sunday concert for me was a word
perfect rendition of the most beautiful song Bob Dylan ever wrote, his
fifth "Every Grain Of Sand" of this fine European tour. I had seen the
fourth ever live performance of this gem in Hamburg 1984, and then, almost
20 years later, four of the 27 fine European performances in the fall of
2003. In June 2004 I heard him sing it Belfast. And on this 2005 tour of
Europe it was as fitting a choice for the last show as it was for the
first one. The Swedish, the Swiss, the Scottish, the English, and the
Irish got to hear this time around those most meaningful lyrics of the
entire tour, as Bob Dylan confessed to his audience: "I can see the
Master's hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand. Ö Then
onward in my journey I come to understand that every hair is numbered like
every grain of sand. Ö I am hanging in the balance of a perfect finished
plan, like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."

53 times I have seen Bob Dylan perform since 1981, and 32 of those
concerts I saw since Vicar Street 2000 (so this is my 32nd review here).
This Bob Dylan concert was as good as it gets these days. This performing
artist still got what it takes, thatís for sure. Who knows, maybe he will
retire from touring next May, after turning 65, and we will not see him
again on our European stages. Maybe he will stop coming to Europe each and
every year. Or maybe he will continue as he did in recent years, ever
reinventing his fine songs, and presenting not only the greatest
entertainment available on any stage, but also more of his beautiful and
thought provoking lyrics. But whatever he will do in the future, let me
make it plain as day, I belong to those who are immensely grateful for the
great art this finest living stage performer has so generously shared with
his manifold audiences over the years. And as long as he performs concerts
as awsome as those two in Dublin, Iíll be "cominí down the road for a
country mile or two", gladly standing in line again.

Markus Prieur
www.notdarkyet.org

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