Mantova, Italy


April 8, 2018

[Jim Borrows], [Laurette Maillet]

Review by Jim Borrows

Just another night for Bob and the band, but for us Scots a special night
- probably our only pilgrimage to see him this year - to date there are no
gigs announced in Britain or Ireland. So we flew over for the weekend.
Mantova is a really nice town. Some fine restaurants, bars and cafes, and
surrounded by water on 3 sides. Palabam is a multi-purpose arena on the
edge of town. We took the bus from the town centre, and gave ourselves
plenty of time - or so we thought. Despite having done our travel
research, we were lucky - although we knew there would be no bus back, we
didn't realise that our 7.28 bus was the last one out to the venue - and
it left 5 minutes early! We just caught it. By the time the bus picked up
more passengers along the way - all bobcats I'm sure - it was full to
bursting. 20 minutes later after a very roundabout route we arrived, with
an hour and 20 minutes to spare. Tried to spot Laurette - not that we had
a ticket for her! - as we moved around familiarising ourselves with the
location, but no luck. Maybe she's already inside, or perhaps she can't
manage to absolutely every gig. We succumb to prosecco and chips just
inside the venue, as much to pass the time as anything else. As usual
before a gig we had our main meal at lunch time. We head for our seats.
Although we are in the back row of the (temporary) floor seats, in front
of the mixing desk, it isn't a huge stadium (capacity 4,800), so we can
see quite well to the raised stage. A walk down to the front confirms
Bob's oscar statue is in place as usual, along with a white sculptured
bust of somebody - I don't know who but no doubt many boblinks readers
will know - one for me to google later. There's also an odd round brown
object - it looks like a container of some sort - to the side of the
stage, behind the oscar and bust. It looks a bit like a piece of old
furniture - I wonder whether it's Bob's own or part of the venue's
paraphernalia. We're familiar with all the numbers in the set list. I've
been through all the lists since the start of the European tour (and
before) and we know to expect little or no change from the last gig in
Firenze. The security people are ferocious. By the time we sit down there
have been two warnings about no photos, no recordings - and absolutely no
use of mobile phones, all with a threat of ejection for the non-compliant.
And the security guys seem to be applying the rules to the letter - a guy
in the row in front of us is threatened with being thrown out very early
on, and he wasn't even taking a photo - just doing something with his
phone in his lap. (No reference to anything sexual intended.) There is a
heated exchange in Italian between him and the bouncer which I have no
chance of understanding, but it culminates in him passing the offending
piece of equipment to the bouncer who presses some buttons and returns it
to him. Did he check for photos? Or clear the whole gadget memory? My
first inclination is to think that, well, if he tried that with mine the
operation of my ancient blackberry would probably defeat him. But on
reflection I'm persuaded I'd better not take the chance - it's going to
stay in my pocket throughout the gig. Not that I want to take photos or
record anything - but compiling the set list for boblinks without a
scribble on the blackberry every now and then is going to be a challenge.
It's my usual - and only - way of noting the songs as they go along.
Lesson for the future, back to pen and paper - progress, haha! My brain
can register and recall whether Bob is sitting or standing at the piano
for the first half dozen numbers - until he moves centre stage for the
first "American songbook" song - then it becomes too difficult to retain.
Don't know whether that's a sign of age, too much alcohol (surely not,
only 3 or 4 drinks the whole day) or if that's just life. I conclude that
it doesn't matter. Being here is all that counts right now. Full house as
ever these days for a Dylan gig. The band are all smartly dressed in
impressive light blue suits with black shirts, and Tony, Stu and George
sport black hats. Bob is all in black except for a white tie - and no hat!
It occurs to me how nuts we are to be making such trivial observations,
but there you have it - it's the first gig I can recall that Bob has had
no hat throughout. A bit less important musically than his giving up the
harmonica on stage a year ago or so. Donnie and Charlie are in support -
they're hatless too. So to the music. Things Have Changed has a new
arrangement with at least one new chord - a major, one semitone above and
before the penultimate 5th chord in each verse, I think. The band seems to
be struggling a wee bit to get into the groove with this first number. Or
maybe it's just the mixing crew in the process of getting the sound right.
Anyway by the end of the number it's all good and the sound and
musicianship are excellent. And it continues in that mode throughout the
night. Bob is in incredibly good voice. Especially when compared to his
"upsinging" period of a few years ago. I speculate that his singing of the
American songbook numbers - which arguably need an alteration to his usual
method of singing, and an alteration which he achieves, although it's
clearly still the voice of the Bob we know - has encouraged him to sing
his own songs better. The set list on the European tour to date has had
between one and 3 old American songbook numbers each night. Tonight we
have 3, which is just fine - not too many! He sings them well, and there's
a very good audience reaction to all 3. He initially looked less than
comfortable 3 or 4 years ago when he began this episode of singing these
old classics out in the front of the stage. No guitar "prop" and no piano
to hide behind, he's very exposed! His movements are now less Chaplinesque
and he appears more at ease as the out front singer. And on the point of
exposure, Bob seems to us more visible tonight than at gigs in recent
years - the lighting is less subdued, and hatless helps too. Great to see
Simple Twist of Fate restored to the set list. It's a fine rendition with
a few new lines with which I'm unfamiliar - I wish I could remember them,
but they're here and gone in the moment - still, just great! This is what
we're here for! Honest With Me has a new arrangement which I immediately
warm to. Duquesne Whistle - a standard in the set for quite a while now -
is a crowd pleaser and is performed well, and still very close to the
original arrangement - it must be due for "the treatment' soon! Tangled Up
In Blue - always a favourite never mind what the arrangement is -
predictably has some new lines and some new chords too. A fine new
arrangement. I ponder whether he might be changing the lyrics to some of
the other songs which have become pretty much standards at the gigs and
which I think I know quite well, but I don't know them word for word.
Maybe I'm missing something! I resolve to study that big fat lyrics book a
bit more - the one that claims to have all the alternative versions (but
only up until it was published, obviously). Desolation Row has evolved to
something resembling a cabaret number - who would have thought that
possible when it was originally released?! Although I'm now reconciled to
the set list being the same as Florence the night before, a number begins
with a new riff in a major key on guitar - and I have absolutely no idea
what it is! It's an uptempo rocker, and the crowd attempt to clap along at
the start - good God, it takes me till the end of the first verse to
realise it's Thunder on the Mountain! One of my favourites, turned into a
rocking blues (12-bar with a wee twist I think?) The original tune is
great, but this new version is every bit as impressive. And we're treated
to a short but appealing drum solo from George. Although not always so
instantly successful or appreciated, there are some times when the
reworking of a number just hits the mark. We're nearing the end now, and
after a fine performance of Long and Wasted Years with Bob centre stage,
the main part of the gig concludes uneventfully with the lights going down
as the band quietly disappear off stage without fuss. A very understated
finale. But we know they'll be back. I recall that I've really enjoyed the
band's wee jams between numbers tonight, kind of intros that they do,
almost naturally it seems, before they break into the next number. The
crowd show their appreciation, and we don't have to wait long till the
band are back and straight into Blowin' in the Wind, followed by Ballad of
a Thin Man. No surprises, although some of the audience won't recognise
this tune to Blowin' in the Wind if they haven't been at a gig in the last
few years. Bob stays behind the piano for both encores tonight. There's a
modest rush towards the stage as Blowin' in the Wind begins - I've seen
much more active and successful attempts - but it's immediately repelled
by the security guys. We've stood up to show our appreciation, but - as
far back as we are, and blocking no-one's view behind us - we're told that
we have to sit down. Security seems a bit over-zealous - even telling a
young guy in his 20s or 30s in the corridor behind us, holding up a child
of pre-school age, that he must go back to his seat and sit down. It seems
unnecessarily intolerant, but I guess it's the price we pay these days for
safety. The band line up at the end, front of stage, as usual, no bows, no
waves, no apparent emotion, and I can't tell from my position if they are
smiling, but I suspect and hope they are. After all, it's been a great
gig, a fine performance. The walk back to Mantova along the unlit road
with no pavement and a lot of traffic will be tricky, but we're in good
spirits. On the way back I begin to wonder if there might still be tickets
for Brno next weekend. A flight to Prague might be possible, and Brno
isn't that far from there.


Review by Laurette Maillet

I will be meeting a friend in Mantova a the train station. 
I catch a bus to the station,  a train to Verona then a train to Mantova.
I arrive early afternoon and stay at the station reading my magazine. Then
with Italian friends we stay in a Cafe before driving to the venue. It is
a sport arena in a commercial center. I buy myself a peace of bread to eat
and wait spacing around the venue. Nothing much to do. They open the doors
at 7 for a show at 9 but I start asking for a ticket only at 8 pm. Many
fans are selling extra ticket with difficulty so it should not be a
problem for me. A nice couple hand me a ticket. The Lady seems to know me
from Montreux Jazz festival few years ago! I am popular,  sometimes for
good! I walk in and immediately go down to the floor. I stand next to the
sound board all the way in the back. I dance and sing under the curious
eyes of the security guards. Only for the encore I try a stage rush but
the security is tough and I have to go farther back. Anyway I see him
close again, and again I have a strange feeling. I move out rapidly after
the show and wait for the friends to drive me to Bergamo to have a nice
sleep. I sleep on and off as usual when I am on the road. That show was
the best since the beginning of the Tour. Bobby's voice was clear and
loud, so was the piano. "Tangled up in blue" was special with a poetic
phraseology and "The early Roman kings" was grandiose. All the songs were
technicaly perfect. The public was responsive though not over
enthusiastic. Always those applause before the Sinatra songs that I don't
quiet understand.


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