Bergen, Norway


June 21, 2019

[Amund BÝrdahl]

Review by Amund BÝrdahl

Bob Dylan's performance in Bergen on the West Coast of Norway after six
weeks off tour was strong from the outset. This was the third time he
played in the City of Rain; like on his earlier visits (2001, 2011), he
brought good weather with him. The opener "Things Have Changed" (with yet
another new modulation of the refrain since last i heard him last year)
was followed by masterful versions of three classic songs. "It Ain't Me,
Babe" was simply beautiful: voice up front; a musical arrangement stripped
down to the essentials; melodious, heartfelt. Piano-Bob now controls his
instrument and backing band as if he was on stage alone with a guitar like
in the oldest days, except the guitar is now a dobro; the effect is
difficult to describe in any other way than with a happy sigh. Next,
"Highway 61", in a version which was truly Revisited; each line was
articulated with an intensity as if the text was being created then and
there, with the singer both surprised by and proud of his rhetorical
dexterity; Dylan's facial expressions as the song developed were
priceless. (He is glad to be back on his job, two aficionada girls in the
crowd whisperingly agreed). Considering the number of times he has sung
these lyrics, it borders on the inconceivable that he can do this (but of
course he can). During "Simple Twist Of Fate" the white grey clouds
receded until the stage was bathed in sunlight. In between spirited
versions of the 'Love and Theft' rockers "Cry A While" and "Honest With
Me" an astonishing version of "When I Paint My Masterpiece" - again
delivered as if Dylan was solo on stage, with the band in his hands; what
a band, what hands, what a piano. And on it went. What a harp. Dylan is
without a shadow of doubt the strongest harp player on earth these days;
nothing is premeditated, it's hit or miss - and he hits it. Stunning
beauty, absolutely crowd-pleasing. And the way he has blown new life into
"Like a Rolling Stone" and "Don't Think Twice" is nothing short of
miraculous. As to the overall picture, is it as if he fuses his musical
experiences from Tempest and Triplicate (and its forerunners) into an
idiom different from both, with an early and mid-sixties blues- and rock
'n' roll layer through it all. There seems to be no limit to what can be
done under that hat. One would love to hear many more of his songs done in
the present style (imagine Subterranean Homesick Blues, A Hard Rain,
anything), but that he cannot on top of it all master a variation of
program as he did until a decade ago, is, how should one put it,
excusable. If you know his songs from the twenty-first century well before
he starts singing them (and those newspaper reviewers and concomitant
sapheads who do not certainly have no excuses expect their own stupidity),
you will be well entertained throughout the whole of this show.

Amund BÝrdahl


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