Birmingham, England

National Indoor Arena (NIA)

April 29, 2009

[Roger Collings], [Steve Haynes], [Hugh Barney], [Patricia Stevenson],
[Steve Gell], [Mr. Jinx], [PhilThePill], [Arthur Deakin]

Review by Roger Collings

Such anticipation, 2 years without a UK visit. For those who made the
effort, we were not disappointed.The Arena was about 80% full. Spent the
train journey listening to 'Together through life' for the first time,
then a warm spring evening in the centre of the second city got the visit
off to a good start. Met two fellow anoraks, from Manchester, in  the
watering hole, they could beat me on number of concerts but not on
longevity (1963).
The concert started with 'Wicked Messenger' at a cracking pace and hardly
slowed throughout. Now we get some animation from the band members. This
is new, is this because it is a band now rather than a collection of
musicians? Is George the best drummer Bob has appeared with?
The sound system was pretty ok, except for occasional over amp. of the
guitars. This is subjective, of course, depending on where you sit or
stand.Once again I chose wrongly, seated right of stage, looking at his
back and hardly able to see Donnie at all. I don't think I have seen Bob
face on since with Tom Petty  at the NEC however many years ago.
The highlight song for me was, no question, 'Desolation row' a fantastic
sound which just built to peak after peak, the whole show was worth just
that alone.Thank you Bob and the Band for another great concert , hope
there will be another chance to see you again, sooner please next time.

Roger Collings


Review by Steve Haynes

My first Dylan concert was 30 years ago and like many contributors to
thisexcellent site I've taken in many along the way, some excellent, some
ordinary, all interesting!  Last night was special for me in two
particular ways - firstly I got the chance to go with George, my
oldest son - at 17 he's exactly the same age as me all those years ago -  his
first time seeing Dylan live.  Secondly I had excellent tickets and with
sympathetic stewarding at the NIA we were able to stand dead centre
stage, practically at the rail.  I have no idea how the concert looked or
sounded from way back, but from where we were it was a truly intimate enjoyable
experience.  Critics have accused Dylan and his band playing to each
other ignoring the audience, sharing their own jokes to the exclusion of all
others.  From where we were it felt as though you were somehow on the
inside - watching all  the exchanges, nods and twitches and hearing the
subtle resulting changes in the music.  Anyway on to the music, which is
what we were all there for; after some, at best, neutral press reviews
I wasn't sure what to expect this time around, and so ended up pleasantly
surprised. Compared to recent visits I thought Dylan's voice was in good
shape and the band were fantastic, no indulgent solos but some great
fills.  Others may do a song by song account, but I'll just mention a few
highlights.  Desolation Row and Aint Talking were magnificent:- 
careful, thoughtful and mesmerising.  Although the last 5 songs appear to be
standard, I really didn't get any sense of going through the motions and
the harmonica solo centre stage at the end of Blowing In The Wind would
have been enough for me on its own.  But the absolute stand-out for me
was Workingman's Blues. It's easy to over interpret Dylan's songs and set
list choices, but on a day when thousands of job losses in Birmingham were
announced due to a factory closing down, the choice couldn't have been
more appropriate or words more resonant. It felt as though the audience
all made the connection and appreciated it.  I warned George before the
concert that he might not like everything, but that there's almost always
a moment that's magical which stays with you - Workingman's Blues was that
moment.  Happily I've also got tickets to Edinburgh and based on last
night I can't wait, but from last night I'll take treasured memories and will
happily be sharing them with my son - thanks Bob

Steve Haynes


Review by Hugh Barney

Was it worth it?  10 hours driving and getting home at 3AM and going to
work the next day.

Yes it was!  But it very nearly wasn't.

No Newcastle gig this year so we had to take the afternoon off work and
drive down to Birmingham.  Our tickets were bought 10 minutes after they
went on sale but we still ended up right at the back.

The usual intro '...  please welcome columbia recording artist - Bob
Dylan' kicked off at about 7:40pm, very muffled and distorted. It was
clear right from the start that there was something not right with the
sound. This seems to be a problem at all Dylan concerts.  Why dont these
guys do a proper sound check ?  It took what seemed like an age for us to
recognise the first song, Wicked Messenger.  The sound being so poor, the
song had no chance of winning me over.  Bob quickly moved onto electric
guitar and gave a rather boring version of 'It Aint Me Babe'.  The sound
was still poor. I begin to think this could be the worst Dylan concert I
had been to.

I was delighted to hear High Water and Stuck Inside a Mobile. Dylan did a
harp solo at the end of Mobile and I started to feel more positive.  I
could tell the sound was improving and somehow the mixing desk seemed to
get it just right by the end of 'Man in the long black coat'.

By the time Dylan played 'Desolation Row' the sound was perfect.  You
could hear every word. Dylan was in fine voice.  That lived in a box car,
out of a suitcase rasp, seems to get better and better.  What a great new
interpretation, his electric organ making a two chord backing sequence
mimicking the accordian sound on 'Together through life'. I was totally
spellbound and won over.  By the end I was practically praying for a
harmonica solo and Mr Dylan did not dissapoint.

After a lack lustre 'Honest with me', stripped down to the point of
loosing any melody, Bob kicked into a beautifully moving performance of
'Workingmans Blues #2'.  What a great song for our MOdern Times. '... it
seems low wages are reality, if we want to compete abroad'.  'Highway 61'
and 'Ballad of a thin man' followed and it was now clear this was going to
be 'Highway 61' night.  Great vocals, both crystal clear and 'Most Likey
you go your way' became the icing on the cake.

'Aint Talkin' was a little lifeless but cant complain as the vocals were
carefully done. Thunder on the Mountain was a little predictable but great
fun, and the light show was pretty good for a dylan concert.  Then came
one the best performances of 'Like A Rolling Stone' that I've heard for a
long time.

I braced myself for the now predictable encore but was totally surprised
and delighted with an almost Mowtown-esq rendition of 'Blowing In the
Wind'. I kept expecting some announcement like 'Ladies and Gentlemen, put
your hands together for Martha Reeves' etc.

All in all, my 9th Dylan concert turned out to be a great evening that
started on a low, but ended on a high.

Hugh Barney
Newcastle Upon Tyne.


Review by Patricia Stevenson

Why oh Why would I go to  a Dylan Concert? Never was much taken with the
guy anyway, Yes my friend Trevor Townson is a mad Fan of Bob how he keeps
up with the concerts I will never know fitting in work Reviews and driving
all over the Country to see this man who has been in his life forever. So
back to the Question why would I  go to a Dylan concert? Cos  Trev bought
me a ticket and as I had heard some of Bobs music, well why not after all
these years of me saying Bob Dylan! Yeah Whatever time to go and see if I
had been right.

We arrived at Birmingham early in time for a look around and something to
eat and plenty of time to stroll up to the venue have a drink and take
our time getting to the front where our seats were. Having been moved
from the rail to our seats Trev said when the lights go out hit the
rail!!! What? Scramble when we had seats ? The lights went out and don’t
ask me how, I was at the rail Trev had literally lifted me there, (
that’s what Stella does) . Suddenly the man himself walked out on stage,
and I  was lost, something happened to me and I realised I was in the
presence of Bob Dylan, Every emotion it is possible to feel I felt , I
found myself lost in the music and  thought how crazy I had been all
these years not to have listened to this man in a hat, with what seemed
to be rubber legs that went anywhere. Once I looked to my right and a guy
half my age was singing every word to Bobs songs , he reaches people of
all ages, and as he is from my generation some of his fans are shall we
say the wrong side of 50, but he does not have to worry as youngsters as
young as 12 were there so Bobs music touches all ages. Trev was just
himself, could not imagine him at a concert now I was seeing him .Young
and old alike love this guy  queue up to see him , hope he sings the song
or songs they like the best, if he doesn’t its ok cos  most songs he
sings all his army love anyway, Does Bob Know how much his fans go
through to see him? I hope so, Does he see the dash to the rail just to
be near him? I doubt it, but Bob if you read this Your fans adore you and
your band, you have a following that takes people round the world
following you, and if you are interested a long way down the line you
have me as a fan now. 

Have I missed a lot having just found Bob? I don’t think so, once you find
Bob he stays, he’s like a drug you just want more. Will I go to another
show ? yes! Will I settle for any old seat no! will I dash to the rail
yes! But if I am with Trev no problem he will simply lift me to it . Do I
have any more to say no! except  thanks  Trevor for introducing me to your
world of Dylan, and to Bob I say, Man You Rock!!!!! 

Patricia Stevenson


Review by Steve Gell

As I drove down to Birmingham last night my mind wandered back to Earls
court in 1978; queuing overnight for the tickets, begging for an hour off
work so I could get down to London, the excitement of seeing Bob for the
first time; even if he was a mere dot in the distance....pure magic. Then
onto Blackbushe, then the gospel shows at Earls court again. Then along
with Santana at Wembley stadium; singing "It's all over now baby blue"
with Van Morrison...more magic. Onto the N.E.C. shows in the
1990's...fantastic versions of "Girl from the north
country"...brilliant...brilliant stuff. So I settle down into my seat
still thinking back to those past shows, lights go down, Bob comes on....I
can't tell what the first song is; the hall is so big and the sound is
only this side of bad. My ears become accustomed to the boom and echo of
the hall. On it goes into the next song, Bob on guitar...this is a bit
more like it. As the show goes on and each song begins to sound more like
the one before, I started to think again. "I wonder how Manchester United
are doing in their Champions league semi final?" and then the it came to
me.... Bob Dylan had turned into the Leeds United of music. Leeds United
are an English soccer club who at one time where the top of league, they
were the best in Europe; the world even; then it all went horribly wrong,
and they now languish in the lower divisions of English football. Trading
on their past. Still have a loyal following, still able to be surrounded
by some adoring fans wherever they play; but lower league by anyone's
reckoning; and they can only dream and think back to their glory days.
This is where Bob Dylan is at the moment. Lets hope he can still make a
comeback. He was a contender. But if you do go to see him for the living
legend that he is, please don't applaud too hard, it will only encourage
him to do more shows like this one! Of course we could all club together
and take him along to see Bruce Springsteen or Leonard Cohen!

Steve Gell


Review by Mr. Jinx

Have you ever seen a dead man?  I have. 
There was one standing behind a keyboard at the Birmingham N.I.A.
tonight. His name was Bob Dylan.  

For the first four songs of this show Dylan looked
washed-up.  His voice – that most
controversial of instruments – was a husk, a whisper, a croak.  He
staggered centre stage clutching his guitar for an It Ain’t Me, Babe that
frankly had me wondering if he would reach the end of the show without
oxygen let alone produce anything resembling art.

Let me declare an interest here: I sometimes play the role
of ‘Mr Jinx’ on the Rec.Music.Dylan newsgroup and am generally considered
to be in the positive camp about Dylan – so you will have some idea of
just how poor the opening salvo of this show was.

Then it happened.

During Stuck Inside of Mobile, from somewhere deep inside
his guts, his biggest internal organ, pride, kicked in and Dylan, like
Frankenstein’s monster, began to animate.  The rasp turned to a croon and
the fog dogging him dispersed.  From that point on we had lift-off ... and

Suddenly Dylan was all action.  Lazarus was risen.  By sheer hard work and
bloody-mindedness he hit top gear.  Desolation Row was a master class in
sly phrasing.  This was a noble version filled with vocal vaults and

Lonesome Day Blues - normally a barked, rhythmic thing, stomping
up dust – had real melody and feeling to it, as well as venom.  Bob was
operating in many spheres now, emphasising a word here, a phrase there. I
heard lines angry and others conciliatory. The voice had a black edge to
it plunging down at the line ends. Clearly Bob was ready to take on
something seriously challenging.  It came in the form of Ballad of a Thin
Man.  And he nailed it.  With withering sarcasm and full-focused rage he
put poor Mr Jones in his place once more in front of the huge cheering
Birmingham crowd.

Ain’t Talking was extraordinary too.  Dylan could do no wrong with it. 
Every line had a fresh spin and the choruses, normally bludgeoning and
barked, turned sinister and blue.  It was bright in the heavens and the
wheels were flying all right!

The encores the previous night in Cardiff had seemed perfunctory.   Not so
tonight.  Like a Rolling Stone was simply magisterial.  It was a delight
to hear Dylan vaulting the line endings and careening into the choruses
with such obvious relish. 

Watch tower, Spirit on the Water and Blowin’ in the Wind
were treats too and I found myself wondering how the man had wrestled such
a glorious performance from such unpromising beginnings. 

Dylan can never be written off, it seems.  Somewhere inside that
terrifying little man there lies a spark that could drive a nation to war,
or pull one back from the brink.  Tonight, without a voice or inspiration
at the start he turned the iron will upon himself and a field of flowers
bloomed.  We lucky people saw the measure of the man; and the measure of
the man was beyond scale.

Mr Jinx


Comments By PhilThePill

Nice Venue better than NEC.
Bob play's guitar, It Ain't Me Babe
Thunder on the Mountain.
Man in the Long Black Coat.
No new songs from latest album.
Hate to go on about missing Charlie, but these guys seem like rabbits in
the car headlights! Sorry Bob



Review by Arthur Deakin

Having been to Sheffield, London O2 and Roundhouse plus
Birmingham  NIA (omitting Cardiff because ...) its important to say
this is a great tour - good voice (comparatively) and great band; superb
choice of songs - with some sort of mathematical formula - = 7 common to
every concert +/- 2 plus 7 +/- 1 new to the tour items.  Sheffield was a
strong UK opener with # 2 son, Phil, in tow - great set = 9.2 - see set
list.  London O2 with #1 son, Rob plus Chrissie plus Kate  was even better
(9.3) - made in part by brilliant seats sourced by John and the UK fan
club (thanks capital T) - was better - stronger set list and audience
reception plus (because of London Underground inadequacy a superb trip by
boat on the Thames in bright afternoon sunshine).  Reading the press
reviews on Sunday I believe either a. the journalist was not there  or
they have an agenda that fails to appreciate the ambiance of a Dylan
concert of the last 2 or 3 years i.e. minimal communication ( other than
through brilliant songs - lyrics and music: yeah at times transcendental
wordage underpinned by ethereal music with a conduit to 'above' ).  I will
not comment on set lists  in this review - other than for Birmingham - see
later. The Roundhouse was a mild disappointment - score 9.0.  After all
the hassle of getting the tickets, Rob and I were confronted by a huge
queue which snaked past many a street. The ambiance once we got in and Bob
hit the first chord was extremely good - at the start. BUT the brilliant
beginning drooped disturbingly rapidly, but then picked up to a
magnificent crescendo. However, two thoughts hold sway - if this was a
special event for the new album (forgetful heart is superb ) and the whole
album is quality, then why in a special event, did we not hear any of it?
- coupled with - how can Bob's people allow the mighty 'co** up' of the
web-based ticket application to take place? Having said all this, 'twas a
good night, despite the 1 mile or so long winding queue to get in. Monday
was a day off. Tuesday was Cardiff - 'nuff said - my previous experience
was of good people, great welcome but modest venue and appalling
acoustics: I gave it a  miss. Birmingham was a different story. Of the
tour so a in UK best night:  no slow stuff (por boy binned) Bob up for
everything - rocking  strongly, leg trembling on some, brilliant set list
- best night of my 4/6 - helped by old mate John and his two friends. Now
for  Liverpool and Edinburgh - can it get better?  Thanks John B.

Arthur Deakin


Click Here
to return to the
Main Page

page by Bill Pagel

Tour Guide
Tour Guides
Bob Links
Set Lists
by Date
Set Lists
by Location