Rostock, Germany

Stadthalle (City Hall)

July 7, 2014

[Andrew Sheppard], [John Hayes]

Review by Andrew Sheppard

I live in the UK, but have a son living in Germany and my visit this July
was deliberately timed to coincide with Bob's Rostock show.

In the past, at shows with general admission floor tickets I have bought
one of those and joined the queue late afternoon to enjoy the company and
chatter of other hard-core Bob fans. But my son said he'd rather spend the
time seeing Rostock, so we bought tickets for numbered seats and spent a
few hours walking though the old town and beside the river, visiting a
couple of churches and eating schnitzel, frites with mayonnaise, and ice
cream; also drinking coffee and the local beer.

We arrived at the Stadthalle half an hour before show time to find long
queues snaking around the forecourt and down the side of the building. A
lone busker with amplified acoustic guitar and harmonica was doing a great
job with Bob songs of the The Times They Are A-Changin' era. The queues
were fast getting still longer and barely moving. Ten minutes ahead of
time, it looked as if there was no way we would get in before the show was
half over. Then things speeded up and we did actually get in at about
three minutes to eight -- though there were still hundreds behind us and
in the longer queue for the left hand seating blocks. Maybe this is the
price of Bob using smaller venues in smaller towns -- the management has
no experience of admitting and seating a big crowd in a short space of
time. They had been using just one guy to tear off ticket stubs and
another to make people dump their drinks in a bin. As we got towards the
front they stopped bothering with drinks and both tore tickets -- so I had
emptied my water on the ground unnecessarily.

Inside, the auditorium was already dark and as we searched for our seats
Stu began to play -- great sounding stuff, as usual. Then a roar as the
rest of the band and Bob came on stage and we flung ourselves into just
any vacant seat, not actually 'ours'.

Even before Bob began to sing we knew we were listening to Things Have
Changed and that we were back to the standard 19 song set list with
intermission of the past year or so. In Poland two days before, Bob had
shaken things up completely, but that was a shorter, intermission-less set
for a festival.

Bob was a little croaky, especially by comparison with Cork on 16^th June,
but not bad. The band fired smoothly on all 16 cylinders right from the
start. Bob wore the pants with a side stripe, a loose-fitting long jacket
and white boots; the guys their beige-side-of-grey suits. Bob wore his
usual hat with a black band (something between a cowboy hat and a straw
boater) and George his beret throughout the show. All 'as usual', judging
by what has been seen on YouTube and elsewhere in the past year or so.

From where I was sitting, way up high, not far behind the front of the
stage, I had a great view of the business side of Bob's piano, of Donnie
and all the gear he has stacked around him, and a side view of Charlie
that included his effects pedals, of which he made a lot of careful use.
My view of George was also a side view -- good for watching which sticks
he was using and how he handled them -- but because of distance and a
speaker stack I didn't see a lot of Tony, and almost nothing of Stu. The
last was particularly sad as Stu is generally left off YouTube clips too.

There was no lead guitarist flamboyance from Charlie, and he stayed 
right where he was the whole time -- between the drum riser and Donnie's
riser. Tony and Stu moved around just a bit more.All the guys were
concentrating on playing the exact right note at the exact right time.
Without a doubt, it's all been carefully worked out and rehearsed,
especially the co-ordination between Charlie on lead guitar and Donnie on
his steel guitars.

The only communication between band members that I spotted was between
George and Charlie, and not much of that. It seemed they all knew exactly
what they were doing and what was coming next, including when Bob would
come in with another verse or a harmonica break. Bob (again, so far as I
could see) communicated only with George, generally turning towards him
during the parts of his centre-stage songs when he wasn't actually
singing, as well as to indicate when a song should be drawn to its close.

When centre stage, Bob often had one hand or the other on the upright of a
microphone stand with a flat, round base, presumably heavy. It seemed he
felt he might need the support, but his walk between the piano and the
centre microphones, also on and off stage, was steady enough. At the piano
he sat but, to my surprise, never touched any of the (three) pedals.
Between songs he frequently visited his drink, which was so well-concealed
among some speaker gear behind the piano stool it took me a while to work
out what he was doing there (but for a few LED monitor lights, the stage
and auditorium being in total darkness between songs). Bob's Oscar (for
Things Have Changed in the Wonder Boys movie) and the classical bust were
both on top of an adjacent speaker cabinet, not on the piano.

During songs, the lights gradually rose to something just adequate to see
everybody (which is good: how many other big stars have equal light on
their sidemen?). A bit of light centre front spilled onto perhaps 30
members of the audience, presumably so Bob could see something of who he
was playing to, but I never saw him acknowledge their presence, unless you
can call the unsmiling formation he and the band make at the end of the
main set some sort of acknowledgement. He spoke only once, to announce the
intermission -- no band introductions!

Highlights were whatever your favourite songs happen to be; all were well
played -- and sung, with just a few variations in the words. (In A Simple
Twist of Fate the "I should have left you in '58" line came out again.)
The songs I thought went best were Workingman's Blues # 2, Love Sick,
Forgetful Heart and Long and Wasted Years. The audience too particularly
appreciated Workingman's Blues, listened well throughout and did its best
to communicate real appreciation of the whole show, even holding out hope
for a third encore song after Blowin' in the Wind, but I guess that by the
time the lights came up 'Elvis' was already out of the building.

After we returned to my car and hit the road, the Tempest CD we had 
played on the way to Rostock started up again. I wouldn't normally 
listen to a Bob studio album immediately after a Bob show, but I let it
roll and was soon struck by three things. Firstly, Bob's voice had been
much the same at the show as on the album -- neither more nor less raspy
(and no more hesitant than in the studio about any of the hundreds of
lines he had sung). Secondly, sound separation at the show had been just
as good as on the CD -- way better than all the YouTube stuff. And third,
anyone with ears to hear could have been in no doubt that the drummer on
the recording and at the show were the same. George's skill and
distinctive style are absolutely not to be underestimated -- nor that of
any of the six guys on stage that night. May they all enjoy good health,
long life and many more great shows.


Review by John Hayes

When the news of this summer's tour was announced with no UK shows, I had
to try to get one to fit in with my vacation etc So a truly international
event ensued> I a Scot, was lucky enough my German friend's Italian wife,
who lives in Spain to get the tickets for me! Yes my friend Holger, also a
fan, offered to take me up from Hamburg where he lives to Rostock for the
concert. It started with a cycling trip to Lubeck on the Sunday, with
bikes kindly lent to us by his Swedish cousins. It was a fantastic day
which included bumping into a beer festival in the city centre and still
being able to cycle home after it.

On Monday we went up north in plenty of time and had a fantastic lunch at
the seaside, before making our way to the Stadt Halle. We were in the
standing are and took our chances of getting a decent view, by just going
there an hour early.  This proved to be perfect.  We were 10 metres from
centre stage and waited for the hall to fill.  In front of us were Michael
and Doris (who cannot be as old as 35!) They are English teachers who had
made the trip from Munster, after being given the tickets as a present by
some of Michael's students (I must remember to tell mine how much I like
Bob!)  Michael is a big fan spotting many of the songs after 3 notes etc.

The concert started bang on 8 as expected, with the fantastically powerful
Things have changed.  Any fears of Bob being "over the hill" were
immediately put aside.  He was in truly fantastic form all night.  Anyone
who says that he just goes through the motions, are so so wrong, he puts
in a huge amount of effort, every line, every note thought out.

We all knew what the set list would be, but were unsure as to whether
"Workingman's blues would be included.  A huge roar went up when it kicked
in.  It was fantastic.

For me personally only "Waiting for you" and "Spirit on the water" were
songs I could have done without.  The rest, were amazing.  The Tempest
songs were all even better live.

The crowd although fairly subdued, showed him a huge amount of respect,
showing their appreciation without drowning him out.

The band never disappoint.  In particular Charlies subtle guitar was great
throughout, and Donnie's talent on the various instruments really did add
to it all.

Bob however, was still the real star.  The piano is so much better than
the organ ever was, and his singing as good as I have ever heard it.

So all too soon it was over, and it was time for the long trip home.
(Thanks again for that Holger)  We also gave the 21 year old stranded Max
a lift home to Hamburg.  A fine example of the numerous young fans in

So thanks again to Holger for everything, to Caterina for getting the
tickets, and to Lubeck City council for the beer festival.  See you next
year Bob.


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