Auckland, New Zealand

Civic Theatre (The Civic)

August 26, 2007

[Derek Jacombs], [Dr. Peter O'Connor], [Rowan McArthur],
[Tony Wilson], [Marc Dombroski]

Review by Derek Jacombs

After seeing Bob every few years since 1978 I have to say that last
night's show - while not great by any means - it was the strangest I've
seen. It was also, in its own way, hugely enjoyable and had a good choice
of songs, even if a number of them didn't reach any great heights.

My overall impression is that Bob was tired and somewhat distracted, but
because it was a small theatre show (the Civic may hold 2300 but it seems
much smaller and is very intimate - my seat was 7th row, but still seemed
closer than 2nd row in Christchurch) he knew he couldn't just phone it in,
so he adapted by using a semi-spoken delivery (particularly on the slower
songs) and by keeping the band really interactive. I've never seen such a
high degree of conducted interplay - many of the songs were quite
different at the end from how they started.

Leopard Shin Pill-Box Hat kicked things off and was longer and better than
Christchurch, with Bob soloing well and using the bottom end of his vocal
range. That was to become a feature of the night - songs sung low, though
not growled.

No one who attended the meet-up before the show wanted to hear Times They
Are A-Changing, but that's what came next and it was surprisingly good,
with some OK guitar from Bob (though he hit a few wrong frets after the
solo) and a fairly committed sing. Donnie chimed in with some steel guitar
at the end which added a nice touch.

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere was similarly enjoyable, with some fine guitar
from Denny, though one can't help but wonder why a guitarist is simulating
pedal steel bends when the real instrument is right there. Towards the end
Bob gave Donnie the nod and he added some slinky country fills. Again,
Bob's voice seemed to be in a very low register.

.as it did on It's Alright Ma, which - unless I've missed it on recent
tapes (I haven't heard the Australian shows) - seems to have morphed again
arrangement-wise. Denny no longer plays the descending electric guitar
figure between lines and the song sounds even more stripped-out to give
room for the vocal. It also seemed slower. After Denny's solo Bob played a
guitar solo which went quite well though I suspect it came about because
he missed the vocal entry.

The "clouds" backdrop lit up for Levee Gonna Break, with Bob on keys and
orange stage lights. It was a fairly standard version and didn't seem to
reach the song's recent live heights. 

One of the night's high points followed: My Back Pages received a measured
semi-spoken delivery and was rather wonderful. Bob also cracked out the
harp for the first time, though didn't do anything particularly
interesting with it. And though the set-list looks great and I was over
the moon to see Donnie strap on the banjo for High Water, this is where
the show started going downhill.

Because there was something wrong with High Water. It just didn't seem to
sit. The band sounded uncomfortable, as though they were trying to play it
in a slower more restrained fashion, but couldn't nail it. The result
merely sounded tentative with short uncomfortable solos and a slow-down
ending which seemed messy rather than planned. Then things got worse.

The opening chords of Beyond The Horizon caused a ripple of excitement but
sadly it was all downhill from there. Bob was all over the place, coming
in at seemingly random intervals, while the band vainly tried to follow.
He didn't seem to remember how many times the tag line occurred before
verses and for most of the song everyone sounded totally lost. Stu gave up
at one point and stood laughing at George. It was a complete train wreck.

I Don't Believe You followed and was uncomfortable, with the band sounding
in search of a groove and Bob first playing bad keyboards and then simply
leaning on the instrument. This happened more frequently for the rest of
the show. Several times he wandered around the stage without any seeming
interest. Honest With Me was a pale shadow of even versions from earlier
this year. Again the band seemed stuck between playing hard and trying to
hold it back for the size of the venue. Again the song didn't sit. And Bob
was phrasing it in a dull and repetitive manner.

Things briefly picked up with Workingman's Blues, which seemed even slower
than usual and worked very well, with the most committed vocal of the
night. Again Bob went wandering round the stage.

Highway 61 was fine but nothing special till the end when Bob picked up
the harp and hoed into three very good rounds of solo. Unusually they
changed the sound for the harp and it had a reverby blues tone rather than
the usual shrill wail. 

Ain't Talkin' was very good. About half way through Bob showed Donnie a
violin line, which he passed on to Stu and the fiddle really made the last
few verses lift. Summer Days followed and was strange, with Bob mainly
leaning on the piano and a rather directionless jam. One thing I noticed
here (and elsewhere) was that when Bob stopped playing altogether Donnie
would stop as well and wait for Bob to do something - surely the lad
should be able to improvise on his own by now?

Harp brought in Ballad Of A Thin Man and again Bob was singing really low
and almost speaking. As throughout the night some lines were lost as Bob
sang off mic. During Denny's solo Bob, Donnie and Stu all stopped playing,
which was actually a really nice effect.

The eye backdrop unfurled for the encores and both Thunder On The Mountain
and Rolling Stone were OK, but again Bob obviously wanted to be elsewhere.
He was centre stage ready for the formation even before the band played
the last chords.

So. odd show. I'm looking forward to eventually hearing My Back Pages,
Workingman's Blues, Ain't Talkin' and possibly Thin Man on tape, but I
suspect most of this will not translate well without being able to see Bob
stalking the stage grumpily, which in itself was interesting enough in
such an intimate setting. 


Review by Dr. Peter O'Connor

Front row seats!  And in a beautiful venue with great acoustics.  Having
seen three shows in the last two weeks to finally see a show in a venue
which seemed just right was almost too good to be true.  The voice was, it
seemed to me, in top form and Bob was the most animated of all his NZ
shows, on occasions coming around from behind the keyboard to prowl the
stage. Some highlights included a stunning Aint Talking where Donnie's
violin almost tore the place apart, a blissful My Back Pages and a romping
and a rollicking Summer Days (Tony really getting down to it) . A sweet
LARS closed it all off for many of us kiwis who've followed him around
over the last few weeks.  For those making it again tonight, enjoy, enjoy.
It's been a great few weeks, and now its back to following the tour from a
far.  Kia ora Bob. 

Dr. Peter O'Connor


Comments by Rowan McArthur

It was a terrific show but if you ask me there were times when dylan was 
feeling ill. he looked agitated and unwell for periods and missed quite a 
few lines, verses and musical cues (not the usual playing round and 
changing). it seemed to us that he was struggling at times to keep it 
together.  but he seemed to gather himself with what looked like major 
acts of will and get himself back on track. he's 66 and at times it must be 
hard to keep up the pace but in the end he did the business.

it was intense, and dramatic from where we sat, i think he worked hard 
to deliver and he so deserved the standing ovation.

Rowan McArthur


Review by Tony Wilson

I’d never seen Bob Dylan in concert, but that changed last weekend. He had 
been here a few weeks previously to play our enormo-dome, but since every 
report I’d read about the place includes some mention of the execrable sound 
quality (yes, Vector Arena management, I’m talking about your hall), we didn’t 
want to lose our Bob virginity, so to speak, at a terrible venue.

Joy was unconfined when the hardest working man in show business (now 
that James has gone) booked two additional dates at our fine 2000-seat Civic 
Theatre.. on Sunday, twenty rows back, nestled in to one side of the mixing 
desk, we settled in to enjoy the show.

I’d read about how there’s not much communication going on on stage and 
how Bob plays the songs the way he wants to, not the way you want him to. 
Let me shoot down those two particular points of view right here..

One: Bob’s current band knows what it is doing, and so does Bob. He might 
throw an extra bar into a blues now and again but, hey, it’s the blues. I’m 
reminded at this juncture of a story of Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins, 
delivering a withering stare at the bunch of white boys backing him who dared 
to suggest a twelve bar blues should be exactly that, and reminding them, 
fearsomely, that “Lightnin’ change when Lightnin’ want to”. Bob does that 
too. And the band changed with him.

Two: They’re Bob’s songs. He’s 66. He knows them inside out and he can play 
them however he likes. If you want some kind of Greatest Hits show, go watch 
the Chili Peppers or the Stones or someone. Or better still, stay at home out of 
our way and put a CD on for that perfect ‘pipe and slippers’ evening you so 
obviously crave.. half the fun of seeing a great artist like Bob is the surprise of 
a reworked song.

A couple of jaw-dropping moments on Sunday had me grinning like an village 
idiot: ‘I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)’ played with a 
‘Cindy Incidentally’ styled swagger, and the sheer surprise value of “Is this.. no.. 
he can’t possibly play it like this?” moments on favourites like ‘You Ain’t Goin’ 
Nowhere’ and ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.

Of course, ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ is the blues and always will be.. and that’s 
the territory Bob marks out in concert and on CD these days. A generous 
helping of songs from his two most recent waxings slotted right in alongside 
the classics, but the bar band feel persisted throughout. And a great band it is, 
especially the rhythm section.. fantastic drumming from George Recile, I have 
to say. I could be picky and wish for one of Bob’s old cohorts to be filling the 
lead guitar spot, but that would be doing Denny Freeman a disservice. Bob 
spends most of his time behind the keys and wheezes some harp every now 
and again, which adds to the overall sound just fine.

So what else did they play? Well, the Bob-heads out there had the set list up 
almost before the show finished. Here it is. ‘Summer Days’ swung like a madman.. 
Tony Garnier on the bull fiddle really getting into it. An honest and affecting 
‘Workingman’s Blues #2', a dramatic ‘Thin Man’ was definitely a highlight ..
great great music.

Thanks, Bob.


Review by Marc Dombroski

What a warm, intimate environment the Civic provided for our second
viewing of Dylan in as many weeks. Our seats were a lot more comfortable
than those we squeezed into at the Vector Arena a few weeks ago. We had a
clear, centre stage view about halfway back on the floor; perfect.

It was a completely different show with only three songs the same in the
set list, so the entire evening felt unique from start to finish.

Bob is one playful pup. He kept me guessing on a number of intros, but I
always managed to crack the code before he sang a note. This is always a
major source of fun at concerts - as it is for anyone who loves to listen
to live shows repeatedly between tours down under.

The Times They are A-Changing was just one of those completely absurd
intros and versions that sounded so refreshingly different, with just the
right elements to pique the interest after all these years and all these
versions. I have not warmed to the album version of The Levee's Gonna
Break but this swampy live version,(as others have mentioned) was the band
simmering on a low boil. Brilliant. Moments like this make the current
line up the best band Bob has had to play with that I've ever seen - and
I've seen every Auckland show since '78.

The new material was lovingly presented:
Beyond The Horizon, a bit tentative and vulnerable in its second live outing.
Workingman's Blues #2,sung convincingly with thoughtful dynamics.
Ain't Talkin',my favourite of the night, got the treatment it deserved to
give us sublime listening pleasure.

Great night,supurb band in the best venue Auckland has to offer. Thanks Mr
Dylan for keeping it real. How does it feel?...
Just right.

Marc Dombroski


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