Newcastle, Australia
Newcastle Entertainment Centre
February 18, 2003

[Nick Miller], [David Ramsey]

Review by Nick Miller

The Newcastle concert is the fourth time around for me this tour - and wow
it is a night to remember.

The excitement and loudness of Sydney are still ringing in my ears - as
others have written Sydney was a great night.

Newcastle (a couple of hours drive north of Sydney) turns out to me to be
even better - the Australian tour ends on a real high.

I catch the train up which stops outside the Newcastle Entertainment
Centre - more a large tin shed in the Newcastle suburbs - and where he
also played a great concert on the last tour. I meet my friend Russell who
I've seen many a Bob concert with and we aren't allowed to take our beers
into the venue so drink fast.

The Waifs play another great opener - it would be easy to listen to them
all night.

The venue isn't full - as has been the case at all venues I've been to
this tour - and there is the usual mix of ages and variety of fans - one
group of locals all wear made up Newcastle Dylan concert tee-shirts. 

Noise drifts in from the bar during the support acts - Ani DiFranco is
again next and plays a great set with some new songs. She seems hurt by
the heckling the night before but still does a poem (different) but
none-the-less receives some unnecessary abuse. 

The classical tape rolls, extended intro is completed and Bob eases into a
nice Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I like to think this is sung for George
W and John Howard.  We are sitting back on the flat a bit but have
binoculars and Bob seems happy.   

Then for the small country section with I'll be your baby tonight -
excellent except for a mother and daughter singing along behind us -
luckily they don't seem to know any more lyrics! The volume tonight seems
spot on - somewhere between the too quiet of Canberra and Melbourne and
noise of Sydney. 

The band all have a great night - Tony and George really pumping it out
and Larry moving between instruments with great skill. Billy is transfixed
by Bob and the overall sound is awesome. On to Bob - his keyboard playing
in Sydney and Newcastle is just stunning, his guitar playing as is of
recent times and his harmonica playing fantastic.  As for his voice - it's
strong and full of variety - as good as I've heard and just such a treat.

Highway 61 gets everyone going and It's all over now is fine.

Things have changed (like his other recent material) is played pretty much
the same as recorded and sounds great. I wonder how he'll rework this
recent material in say 15 years time.

Wicked messenger is truly wicked and wild - you can't help but smile.

Then the shift to acoustic and Bob pulls out Boots of Spanish Leather -
just remarkable and worth 10 times the admission price itself. Spine
tingling, beautiful - you feel blessed to hear this great song in 2003. 

The acoustic set is longer tonight with Masters of war poignant and
exhilarating again followed by a rollicking Mama, you've been on my mind.

It's alright ma is also just so good and I laugh to myself at the line
about the president standing naked.

Mr Tambourine Man follows - reworked and enjoyable. The guy in front of us
continues to call out for Isis and Blind Willy McTell - no luck on either
front tonight.

Then it's the Love and Theft section of the night - Honest with me,
Moonlight and Summer days - played well and Bob is really having fun -
even adding a joke at the end of the band who's who along the lines of
"well at least for tonight".

Bob leaves and returns for the current standard last two songs of Blowin'
in the wind and All along the watchtower - both great and show casing just
how easily Bob can move from acoustic ballad to electric rocker.

We go out into the warm Newcastle evening with sweet smells in the air and
try (to no avail) to track a tape down. This is one to seek out - Bob
saves a lot for his Newcastle shows.

The Australian tour is over - I've got no regrets - just anticipation for
the next one and an empty feeling that it is all over. Plus maybe it would
have been a bonus to have heard Cross the green mountain (like last time
when we eagerly awaited and got Highlands).

Thanks Bob and may you stay forever young.

Oh yes - and the trip home...due to track works the train is replaced by a
bus - as we get on the local radio station is playing Like a rolling
stone...prior to this we're treated to some nice early Dylan by someone
from Adelaide. We have to change buses near the end of the return journey
and the seven concert goers left (from all over Australia) trade
stories...hope you all made it home safely.  

Nick Miller


Review by David Ramsey

i arrived in newcastle as if in a dream, still high from seeing bob in
brisbane last week, and full of great expectations, as i was towards the
back of the arena in brisbane, and tonight i was to be ten rows back.  i
was full of memories of dylan's newcastle show less than two years ago,
and amazed that he had returned so soon, armed with new material from love
& theft, which i had been dying to hear live.  i deliberately avoided the
net leading up to the gigs, to maximize the element of surprise.  i was
somewhat sadly surprised that charlie sexton was no longer in the band, as
his contributions were definitely a highlight of that transcendent tour of
2001. billy seemed to be struggling a bit in brisbane, but by the time the
show had arrived in newcastle a lot of things had fallen into place.  a
happier surprise for me was to see bob at the electric piano.  i've always
enjoyed his distinctive, rhythmic keyboard style, and the addition of this
sound to the band has added warmth and depth to the numbers on which it is
played. my seat turned out to be to the right of the stage, which i
thought was a shame until i realised that as the keyboard was facing to
the right of the hall, dylan was looking right my way as he played and

throughout the show a light illuminated the audience from above the stage,
and i wondered if this was done for other shows, or if dylan had requested
it so he could see the people he was playing to.  i had to wait eleven
songs in brisbane before i heard anything from love & theft, but tonight's
set opened with 'tweedle dum & tweedle dee', which was an absolute delight
to hear.  the next five songs were also played in brisbane, and that,
along with the fact that a fellow a few rows behind me kept (mostly)
unerringly calling out the names of the songs before they began, made me
wonder if the sets were becoming somewhat predictable.  not that i'm
complaining - i wouldn't dare complain about hearing 'highway 61' done
live again, especially as i joyfully remembered during that song that bob
is 61 at the moment.  a great 'baby blue' was followed by a wonderful
'things have changed'.  a few days have passed now, so i'm struggling to
recall specifics...  i remember a very cool moment when bob took over lead
guitar duties in 'wicked messenger'.  no dazzling dexterity or showy
technique, just a real honest-to-god dylan lead guitar solo.  nothing like
it.  i pretty much melted after that to hear the chords of 'boots of
spanish leather' start up.  i thought 'could it be?', and then sure
enough, bob sang 'i'm sailing away my own true love...'.  it was just
beautiful.  this was my ninth dylan concert, and after a while each song
never heard done before in person takes on special significance, and as
this song has meant a lot to me for years, it was extra-special.  it was
followed by 'masters of war', a much more successful performance than in
brisbane, but somehow it seemed not as powerful and intense as the version
from newcastle two years ago.

also performed in newcastle in 2001 was 'it's alright ma (i'm only
bleeding)', and tonight we were treated to the new arrangement featuring
bob's keyboards and a heavy beat, which was just sublime.  the set ended
with three songs from love & theft, which left me howling for more. 
before 'summer days' bob introduced the band, along with a muttered
comment which i couldn't quite catch (he spoke!).  during 'summer days'
the boys were on fire, earning a standing ovation, and general movement as
people left their seats and made their way to the front of the stage for
the encore.  first up we got 'blowin' in the wind'.  there was a short
fellow in front of me who stood on the chairs so he towered above
everyone.  he swayed in drunken ecstacy while bob sang.  he had the time
of his life for about a minute before security got to him and told him to
get down and stop blocking the view.  the two-song encore concluded with a
great groove version of 'all along the watchtower', which ended (as did
'masters of war') with the first verse being repeated at the end.  as the
band stood for the final line-up for the crowd, bob appeared pleased,
pointing his index fingers at us, and even giving us a little clap.  that
made me feel so damn good.  thanks again, bob, see you next time.

ps - the next day i saw a friend of mine who i hadn't seen for years.  i
told her i had returned to newcastle to see dylan.  she told me she'd also
been at the concert - she saw it for free by just walking in without a
ticket.  she told me she felt she'd been in the presence of a divinity,
and i felt the same way talking to her.

review by david ramsey


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