Paris, France

Grand Rex

April 12, 2019

[Jim Borrows], [Laurette Maillet]

Review by Jim Borrows

The Grand Rex is pretty central and right beside the Bonne Nouvelle metro
station, an easy journey from our hotel on the other side of the river.
The venue lives up to expectations - although apparently the largest
cinema in Europe, it's still a small venue to see Bob these days. I think
Bob's 3 nights here are his first time. He's in good company - Jane
Birkin, Harry Connick Jr and Joan Baez have all played here.  An Art Deco
building from the 1930s, it's beautiful inside; Romanesque sculptures and
statues peer out at us from the nicely lit faux balconies, and a starry
sky ceiling overhead completes the classical ambience. The French know
how to do decadent. The leather seats are truly sumptuous. And we're in
the 3rd row in the stalls, the closest I've been to the stage in seeing
Bob over 30 times now. We feel very fortunate to have such good seats.
The French also know how to empty one's pockets - at €9 for a tiny flute
of champagne in the foyer - the only alcoholic alternative to beer, no
wine on offer - we feel a tad fleeced. The young, smiling stewardess
escorts us to our seats and very politely informs us that - as far as I
can make out with my poor French - she's a volunteer, and her only income
this evening will be tips. We part with another few Euros. Welcome to
Paris. A few minutes later we realise she's directed us to the wrong
seats. We shimmy along the row, a little bit closer to the middle. But
we're in a good mood - it's all fine. The Band are about 15 minutes late
on stage - unusual. We speculate that it's to give the audience time to
fill the place - at 8pm there were still a lot of empty seats. Surprising,
as the entry arrangements seemed fast and efficient when we arrived 40
minutes before. But everyone is patient, and by 8.15 it's a full house.
There are no surprises in the set list. Bob is hatless, and we are close
enough to see his expressions - at least we are when he's centre stage,
but he only graces us with that central presence once, for Scarlet Town.
All other numbers are delivered either standing or seated at the
piano. Bob's singing is good, and in most of the songs the lyrics come
across very clearly. The harmonica is back for several numbers, and
happily Bob's moved away from the arpeggio 3 or 4 note repetitive type of
playing that had become a feature in the last few years - his harp playing
is more diverse and interesting tonight.
Many of the arrangements bear little or no resemblance to the original
tunes - but we've come to expect that. I detect a wee hint of the old
"upsinging" in Make You Feel My Love, but despite that it's delivered with
feeling and passion. Bob's singing is generally pretty good throughout.
The band are all in fine form, and appear to be enjoying the gig. Bob
turns to say a few words to one or more of them at the end of nearly every
number - sometimes shuffling right across the stage to Tony and George and
back again to the piano.

It's a good gig all the way through, with good quality sound. Highlights
for me were:Highway 61 Revisited - an excellent rock version, sung and
played very well.Simple Twist of Fate - Beautifully sung, top classCry a
While - Much more rocky than the original, an unexpected treat.Gotta Serve
Somebody - As already noted several times in reviews, an excellent
version, with a lot of new lyrics - my first time hearing this new
version.It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry - the original is
a favourite of mine, but although tonight's version is far removed from
the original tune and tempo, it's one of those where the new arrangement
just works 100% - it's worth the trip from Scotland to Paris just to hear
this number. I hope to hear it recorded some time. 
The audience is well behaved and appreciative, and Bob and the Band get a
standing ovation for the last number of the main set and the encore. There
will be no words from Bob - he abandoned his introduction of the band
members several years ago. There's just a brief acknowledgement of the
audience, not quite a bow, but certainly a nod, as he moves centre stage
for just a few seconds before disappearing off, placing his hand on
Charlie's shoulder on his way past. 
The audience gets the chance to show its appreciation of each individual
band member as they slope off one at a time during the final instrumental,
with Bob already gone. It's a nice touch, and Tony in particular shows a
bit of character as he fools around on the way off stage behind the
equipment. I can't identify that final instrumental - as I know some have
done - as Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, although it's a song I know very
well. To me it just sounds like an unidentified blues. Ah well, I'll get
another chance to recognise it in Braunschweig in July.

Jim Borrows


Review by Laurette Maillet

Paris II.I promised myself to sleep late but I can’t.Even if my home is
a family home.We talk a lot with Dominique. We eat a lot with Dominique.By
3pm, finally, I move out.A short and direct metro ride to the venue.I
arrive right on time to see Bob walking few steps to the venue for the
sound check.No commotion like in Prague. He seems even relax and
tranquil.He will step inside his bus one hour later. Again relax and
peaceful.Fans should understand that he will never sign an autograph or
accept a photo.This is highly disturbing for him.Ben arrived in the mid
time and we move to Café Bonne Nouvelle with members of the French Bob
Dylan Fan club. We discuss some….Bob Dylan stuff then it is time for me
to go for my search of a ticket.I have no more money to spend for a ticket
so I have to believe in miracle!And a miracle did happen.A gentleman hands
me a ticket after asking me what “friendly” means.I answered
‘free’.I had the feelings he knew me but after I entered the venu
 e and asked him, he said no.Well! So, thank you so much Yaakov.My seat is
a folding chair on the aisle, row 3, right in front the piano.On that Tour
I had never been so close to the stage.I can’t believe my luck!The Band
and Bob walks in right on time.Bob is elegantly dressed with a white
jacket all embroidered with white threads.His pants are black, also
embroidered on the side with white thread.His shirt is black with a
tie/scarf around his neck, white with black dots.The Boys also have
beautiful embroidered jackets, light grey.The show is as good as yesterday
but for me a lot better for I can read on Bobby’s lips and follow each
one of his words.He is playing with “The early Roman kings”, reciting
more than singing.“When I paint my masterpiece” is
excellent.“Scarlet town” is done entirely center stage.“Love sick”
will be the highlight for me tonight.The audience is reacting widely on
“Like a rolling stone” ,clapping for each end of a verse.At times he
is laughing with Donnie or has a chat with Tony.Though I found him less
intense than yesterday he is excellent in his expressions.“Don’t think
twice” is again holding the breath of the audience. Not a word is heard
from the Fans.I move one more step for the encore but no one will be able
to reach the rail.Bob’s face is white and his eyes had been shrinking
somehow.I am not sure how much he can see. But he is rarely looking at the
public anyway.He is leaving the stage as the Band keeps on playing. A
routine by now.That was again an excellent performance.I am proud of the
French public, so polite and reactive at the same time.I move to the Café
next door to say goodbye to some friends as I will not do the show
tomorrow!Thank you Bobby.Thank you the Band.Thank you Yaakov.Thank you all
the good people.Be well and see you soon on the road in …


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