Christchurch, New Zealand

Westpac Arena

August 8, 2007

[Derek Jacombs], [Les Memory], [Dr. Joe Boden], [Dr Peter O'Connor], [Paul Fielding], [Bill Hester]

Review by Derek Jacombs

Well it was a pretty standard set-list (as per the last couple of tours),
and - dare I say it - a pretty standard, but at the same time solid and
committed, performance.

The Frames did a pretty good half hour opener (sounding to me like
Coldplay with a fiddle added) before Bob hit the stage about 8.30, the
band in grey, Donnie with a beard again.

"Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat" kicked things off and was rather short and
perfunctory, though nothing semed to go wrong. As with "Don't Think
Twice", which followed it, nobody really soloed until perhaps the final
instrumental break - they just chugged along in the instrumentals doing
not much. On DTTIA Bob was singing intimitely and like he meant it (no
upsinging nonsense as it was a year back). Playing it on the guitar seems
to have refocused him.

"Watching The River Flow" (played in G for you musicians) seemed to be Bob
somewhat on autopilot, though it livened up towards the end. Denny, by the
way, was playing his Les Paul and I couldn't help thinking the band
sounded pretty much like any pub blues outfit at this point.

"It's Alright Ma" was very good. The movement of Stu to acoustic has freed
up more space for Bob's vocal though it seems odd that Donnie doesn't solo
on the fiddle since he's playing it.

Bob switched to keyboard for "Workingman's Blues #2" and made a very nice
job of it (the keyboard was low in the mix all night), with what I thought
were even more new lyrics, though I couldn't tell you what they were. He
was "barking" the last wrod of each line as he did towards the end of the
recent US jaunt. Denny played a rather unusual and angular solo which
worked very well.

After that Bob came out for a band chat - which only led to an energetic
"Rollin' & Tumblin'", featuring some fiery slide from Denny. Unlike recent
US shows Donnie did no more that strum sparse upbeats on his mini-guitar
(is it an electric mandolin? It didn't seem to have enough strings). The
last recording I heard of this had quite a prominent part from Donnie, but
it was gone on this version.

"Just Like A Woman" saw Bob finally looking at the crowd and was sung
well. He also broke out the harp for a fair solo, and his shoulders
started getting a bit jiggy. "Lonesome Day Blues" had the band smiling and
built up a fair head of steam (though is still much more laid-back than
the Charlie/Larry days). This time Bob skipped the "mother" line and was
glad that he was still alive.

"Most Likely You Go Your Way" had more harp and another clever solo from
Denny and Bob sang a lot of it (choruses especially) as a higher harmony
to the original melody. I'm not sure it was a particularly good idea, but
at least he had a consistent plan...

Best of the night - to my surprise - was "Tangled Up In Blue", which has
lost the acoustic guitar opening (even less for Stu to do!) and now runs
the first two verses largely on a slow electric figure from Denny. George
played brushes and was almost swinging it. Bob muffed the "Atlanta" verse,
but recovered quickly and sang with focus and committment. He found a
strange 3 note melody and rhythmically rapped the entire last verse...
which actually sounded fantastic! Bob also got seriously jiggy with his
"shoulder dance". It also had a lyric that I don't think I've heard before
- "3 times he went out on the road and 3 times he got destroyed" (the New
Orleans verse). 

"Spirit On The water" was quite fast and just fine. Denny's solo is now
very different from the original and seems to change from night to night.

"Highway 61" was lean and tight with lots of room for the vocal. Stu was
playing nothing but the odd offbeat chop on acoustic. Odd. "When The Deal
Goes Down" followed and was very pleasant, then "Summer Days" which cooked
in a Western Swing way. Bob looked at Stu when it started (back on
electric) and he backed away to the farthest reach of the stage (he slowly
wandered back as the song progressed). Best thing was when Bob sang
"Good...(long pause)... Luck" - both Tony and Donnie were looking at him,
waiting for the second word and all three of them cracked up when he sang

"Master of War" had the red lights and was suitably spooky without rising
to any great heights.

The encores were good too - he didn't just throw them away as he had
"Rolling Stone" and "Watchtower" last time he was in NZ. "Thunder on the
Mountain" was cooking and "Watchtower"... well, like "Masters" it was fine
without ever being more than just fine.

So... a good show but kinda nothing special. A safe show, but at least Bob
was "on" the whole time, if not "ON".

Oh, and when he introduced Tony he said "He's so cute!" Fair enough. Tony
looked younger than he did 5 years ago. Let's see what the rest of the
tour brings... 

Derek Jacombs


Review by Les Memory

Marianne Faithfull recently said of Dylan that in 1966 he was the hippest
man on the planet.  Last night he still was and such a tour de force for
close to two hours.  This was my fifth time of seeing Bob from the six
Dylan concert tours of New Zealand since 1978.  What can one say other
than that he is not past his prime!  He was on song from the opening words
of Leopardskin Pillbox Hat and his song delivery was in the style of the
recently concluded American tour (slightly rougher on the edges than the
recent European tour).  Overall the concert was of a very high standard
with songs appealing for different reasons.  Watching the River Flow for
the cohesiveness of the playing; It's All Right Ma in its 2007 livery was
stunning; Just Like a Woman surprised in ways that were new; Lonesome Day
Blues, 2007 arrangement is just stunning; Tangled up in Blue had new life
breathed into it and a few new lines.  Masters of War, Thunder on the
Mountain, All along the Watchtower were an incredibly powerful finale and
yet we dared hope that he might return again for Blowin' in the Wind.

Dylan's voice was a bit rough around the edges but he used this to great
effect especially in Working Man's Blues and Tangled up in Blue, where he
forced the band by the sheer presence of vocal delivery to go with him. 
Sadly the harmonica solos were more fill than solo.  The band gelled
really well and I was pleasantly surprised by George Recceli's drumming. 
The crowd mix was really interesting with large numbers of teenagers and
young adults through to people who looked to be in their 80s.

Dylan is a beat poet (and he knows it).  How did it all feel?  We had a
whopping good time.


Review by Dr. Joe Boden

The Dylan show last night was terrific. We had good seats, the sound was
pretty clear, and his band was quite good, particularly the lead guitarist
(played on a Les Paul with a very nice tone).

I have to say it was something of a transcendant experience for me to be
the same room with Bob Dylan... in my own personal pantheon of artists,
he's only just slightly below The Beatles in terms of what his music has
meant to me over the years. And whatever some may think of his current
singing style, it works - it's genuinely affecting.

I had been looking at his recent set lists and saw that he had been 
playing quite a few unusual songs, so I was hoping we might get to 
hear some of those last night... and we did. He opened with "Leopard Skin
Pill-Box Hat" (a big bonus for me), then into "Don't Think Twice", then
"Watching the River Flow", followed by "It's Alright Ma". Along the way we
got an absolutely incandescent "Just Like a Woman" (the highlight for me -
I literally had tears running from my eyes), a rollicking "Most Likely
You'll Go Your Way...", a lovely "Tangled Up in Blue", and quite a few
more recent songs in lovely renditions.

I was very pleased that he closed with "All Along the Watchtower" 
rather than "Blowin in the Wind", which he had been using quite a 
bit. I like "Watchtower" a lot better. The guitarist copped some of 
Jimi's licks along the way.

It was also nice to see that, amongst the oldies like ourselves (and
older!) there were quite a few young people at the show. It's encouraging
given the usual horrid blare that emanates from young people's annoyance
machines, I mean sound systems these days.

Dr. Joe Boden
University of Otago, Christchurch


Review by Dr Peter O'Connor

Watching Dylan last night was one of those occasions for those of us down
this end of the planet we look forward to for years.  So, yes the set list
was predictable if you are a regular reader of these pages (like me) and
have a sense of what he's currently doing, or are lucky enough to flow him
on the road. But hey last night I heard him sing maybe ten new songs I
hadn't heard him do live before in NZ.  So for me it wasn't a need to hear
one of the classics or my old personal favs. It was just cool to listen to
someone playing tunes from their recent number one album. Although I'm
with Joe I was just loving Just Like a Woman. This afternoon I flew home
to Auckland and had my ipod on.  I checked the Dylan Greatest hits ( I
think from about '98) and realised he had only played 2 songs from the
whole CD. Is there another artist on the planet who can do that?   What I
found really cool was that the warmest reception often was for the new
stuff from Modern Times.  On Saturday I'm taking my 20 year old daughter
to her first and my tenth Dylan gig. She is so excited its nuts.  Roll on
Saturday.  And then I get to see him at the Civic theatre again at the end
of the month. He's playing what they're advertising as an intimate show in
the theatre they filmed the crazy scene in King Kong in.  It's a beautiful
theatre and I got front row seats.  God is on my side. 

Dr Peter O'Connor
New Zealand


Review by Paul Fielding

Five Dylan fanatics (ages ranging from 40 to 63), one car and an 800
kilometre round trip in less than 12 hours. That was the recipe for my
first ever Dylan concert after 33 years of listening, analysing and
debating. And I am still left wondering. Initially I was disappointed, He
really can't sing that well can he? The voice was croaky, almost
unintelligible, all gutterall and tuneless. There was no audience
interaction, no eye contact, no banter. Was he going through the motions?
Was he bored? Or is this the way it's always been? Songs I knew off by
heart seemed butchered with new arrangements and shortened lyrics. Each
song raced into the next after a brief darkened interlude. Yet the band
was superb, clear, tight as a drum, loud and clearly enjoying themselves.
I'd heard they were good and they exceeded my expectations. Dylan too
seemed happy within the confines of his interactions with his fellow band
members. Songs off "Modern Times" fared better than the others. They
suited his ageing voice box and were well received by a knowledgeable and
appreciative audience. The set lasted two hours and it got better,
climaxing with three riveting songs covering Masters of War, Thunder on
the Mountain and All along the Watchtower. All played with an energy and a
passion befitting a band and songster in their prime. This wasn't Dylan on
a farewell tour of greatest hits. This was Dylan as if he was just
beginning all over again. Once he said flippantly that he was just a "song
and dance man" Well now he's more of a song man, the light shuffle of his
feet and his hunching shoulders the only sign of the latter. Still it's
the songs he laid out stripped bare of trite introductions or
explanations. It was the songs that he wanted the audience to judge the
night by. It was the songs that stood tall, without the lighting,
backscreen videos or slick movements of backup singers. It was Dylan 2007,
a 'Modern Times' Dylan, a challenging Dylan, a performance that has grown
on me in the two days since.

Concert over, we assembled in the foyer. Three teenagers who we knew well
who had travelled up from Dunedin with their parents bounded up to us.
"How was it" I asked expecting a similar reaction to my own. "It was
awesome" came the reply. "Wasn't he fantastic" Their eyes beaming and
glowing with the excitement of a concert that they clearly did not want to
end. I was bemused. Here was Dylan, a geriatric Dylan, a tuneless Dylan
confirming his iconic status not with the fan of over thirty years but the
modern set, the under twenties, a new generation. Its was at that point
that I began to understand a little about the power of this man. But I am
still left wondering!........ Thanks Bob.

Paul Fielding


Review by Bill Hester

The troubadour has started his tour down under. Well, a tour to New
Zealand by Bob Dylan is not a common event. He’s had 12 concerts in New
Zealand over the years - that’s it. And now there are five shows on this
tour - three now and two theatre shows later after he does the
Australian leg of the tour.

His NZ concerts sold out (except for a few empty seats in Christchurch).
Wellington sold out in a day, and the much bigger arena in Auckland in
a week or so.  No promotion needed.  No publicity. The word is out there
beyond my understanding.

The audience is mixed, young and old. Maybe very close to 50/50 in
gender these days. It’s great to be there with crowds who appreciate
something special.

Me too. I went down to Christchurch on Wednesday and had a great seat
for the concert - front row nearly centre. “The Frames” from Ireland
rocked loud as the openers - enjoyable - though New Zealand has many
fine local acts of similar or better quality. Bob’s previous two tours
here had Patti Smith and Ani diFranco - “The Frames” are not quite the
same. Not a complaint though - they are fine.

Bob and his band were further back on the stage when they performed - so
a bit of neck stretching to see them because there was no standing
allowed until the final couple of songs .It was a very solid performance
- rhythm and blues for two hours. Professional and usual Dylan
non-communication - maybe because it was the first show of the down
under tour there were no surprizes in song selection yet. See BobLinks
for the setlist.  Bob did an interesting ‘nursery rhyme’ version of
“Tangled Up in Blue” - best description I can give. It had changes of
lyrics…. and changes of his vocal presentation. The concert
recordings will be interesting to confirm the charm of the presentation.
And a good emotive “Just Like a Woman”…..

Everyone around me was smiling through the whole concert which means
something - it is great when people enjoy…. Each person in the audience
is on their own journey - I am sometimes surprised that he seems to
appeal to others. No one was complaining on leaving the concert.I met
some friends - which is a nice aspect of Dylan tours - from
Christchurch, but also from other cities in New Zealand, and also the
really dedicated over from Australia.  

A fun night in Christchurch.

But, with Dylan enthusiasts…… it’s always the next Dylan concert that is
the best Dylan concert - at least in the thought dreams ……. Long may
that continue.

Later tonight in Wellington will be the night! Last show here was
something special - show number 1500 of the Never Ending Tour in 2003.
Now show number 1968.

But who’s counting?


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