Birmingham, England
National Exhibition Centre Arena
NEC Arena
September 20, 2000

[Andrew Edgington], [Peter Webley], [Ian Blagbrough], [David Reid],
[Michael Evans], [Markus Prieur], [Andy Jenkins], [Antonio Terni]

Review by Andrew Edgington

What a great show.  Arrived at 7.30 and bought a rather fetching T-shirt. 
No support band.  Bob and the boys appeared at 7.45 sharp while a number
of people were still arriving.  Off we go with 'I Am The Man Thomas' - a
nice lively start to a wonderful set.  Bob wore the usual black suit with
the white stripe down the trouser legs.  The jacket fitted where it
touched as my mother says.  Great shoes - black and white winkle pickers. 
Then on to 'The Times They Are A'Changin' with a neat guitar solo from
Bob.  Bob's voice sounded fine to me, but my wife and friends seem to have
some difficulty with it!  He certainly sounded better than when I saw him
in '97 (Cardiff); and much better than on my Japanese 'Love Sick' import.

The lighting was a bit on the fussy side for me, unnecessarily distracting
and a bit dated.  However, the overall sound quality at this show was
superb, beautifully mixed and very clear - the NEC is a good venue. 

'It's All Right Ma' followed - Tony picked up his bow at the end and sawed
away very dramatically to finish it off.  'One Too Many Mornings' was next
- a real surprise to me although I see it had a couple of outings in
March.  Larry sat down for this one and produced a lovely sound. Then - to
great cheers from everyone - Bob picked up a harp for an all-too-short
solo.  And that was the last we saw of that particular instrument.

The band was magnificent throughout.  David's drumming really hits the
mark for me, often very subtle and understated, but occasionally pulling
out all the stops.  Larry looked super cool from start to finish - I often
found it difficult to follow what he was doing from my angle.  Tony looked
completely focussed throughout, how he watches Bob!  Charlie really
enjoyed himself from start to finish.

On we went with 'Tangled'.  I think it's a great arrangement and the band
did justice to the driving rhythm of the song.  Next was 'Searching for a
Soldier's Grave' - very moving - my wife loved this one and Bob was joined
by Larry and Charlie.

'Countrieeeeeeeeeeeee Pie' followed as we moved into the electric set -
presumably he's still playing this one from Nashville Skyline in memory of
his mother.  'Ballad of a Thin Man' - Joe Cliburn has explained this song
to me several times but I'm not sure I'll ever really get it.  This one
really got Tony prowling around the stage.  And then another surprise  -
'Down in the Flood'  - a really loud rocker with a super solo from

Two songs from Time Out Of Mind followed.  A very different sounding
'Trying to get to Heaven' which my wife and friends really enjoyed.  I'm
not so sure myself - you could certainly hear all the words clearly
though.  Cold Irons Bound emerged from a very loud crescendo and remained
strong and with a very heavy beat.  After Bob had introduced the band -
ending with  Tony 'Gaaaaaaarnieeeeaaaay' they jumped into an exhilarating
'Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat'  - they all enjoyed this one - a real

After what seems to have become the 'lets all stand to attention' line, we
were off to the usual stamping and cheering, and back they came for the
encores.  Between each song there was a bewildering sequence of guitar
changing.  It was amazing that they all ended up with the right ones.  One
quick start seemed to catch Tony Garnier out, but he soon recovered.

'Things have Changed' was played very straight, just like the 'Wonderboys'
cut - Bob holding his guitar out like a rifle.  'Like a Rolling Stone' was
a very fine performance.  We saw Bob crouching and flexing his knees, and
shuffling about on the stage, really getting into a song he must have
performed thousands of times before.  How does he do it?  This was
followed by a quiet and reflective 'It Ain't Me Babe' with Bob coming
close to the front of the stage and producing some subtle guitar work.

Highway 61 Revisited had all three guitars trading with each other.  This
was one of the highlights for me - I've always loved it and it lends
itself to this kind of setting.  A complete mood change followed.  My wife
had hoped for 'Forever Young' and here it was, sung with real feeling and
great clarity.  The band's sound on this one was sublime.

Back to the electric guitars for - wait for it - 'Everything is Broken'. 
Bob enjoyed this one to the maximum and Tony was on his travels again. 
This one was delivered with a twanging, driving beat, very unlike the
album version.

The show ended - all too quickly it seemed to me - with a very moving
'Blowin in the Wind'.  Charlie and Larry joined Bob in the choruses. 
Exquisite guitar work throughout, especially at the end.  And then they
all stood to attention again - were they waiting for someone to pin medals
on them?  And then off without a bow, wave or word.

So that's it  - until the next time.  I wish I could get to all of the
remaining shows - he's clearly mixing up the sets wonderfully and giving
great value to his devoted fans.  Catch him if you can.


Review by Peter Webley

We travelled from Bristol with my friend John who had last seen Dylan at 
the Albert Hall in 1966. I saw him first at the Isle of Wight in August 
1969. My second show was the NEC at Birmingham in June 1998 when I was 
able to joke with the girl sitting next to me that I planned to see Dylan 
regularly every thirty years!

However, time is short and I'm trying to see him as often as possible … 
"before they close the door". I had the chance to see him at Portland, 
Maine in February last year.

This time at the NEC we were standing about ten yards from the stage. The 
first number was a short opener, who wrote "I Am The Man Thomas". The 
next was great, "The Times They Are A-Changin". Dylan seemed to me more 
animated than before and from what I can glean from reviews of other shows 
was on tip top form.

The third number "It's Alright, Ma" had the spotlight directly and solely 
on him and he looked almost like the Dylan in "Don't Look Back", 
performing on his 65 UK tour.

"One Too Many Mornings" was out of sight. Dylan took up his harp and 
swayed from side to side on the stage. The lights through up a large 
shadow, which looked like the phantom of the opera. The sound was superb.

The band sounded like The Band on "Searching For The Soldier's Grave".

The electric numbers were loud. He seemed to be really enjoying himself 
and what a laugh "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" was.

The second part, I cannot really see it as an encore got even better. All 
ten thousand in the audience seemed to cheer "Like A Rolling Stone" and 
"Forever Young" song with, what seemed to me to be real tenderness was a 

When he finished with "Blowin in The Wind" I felt I had just heard 
probably the finest show I had heard or read about.


Review by Ian Blagbrough

The NEC Birmingham (England) is a huge arena that will take 9,000, and 
maybe 8,000 turn-up for this concert, so no difficulty in getting tix, but 
"the computer" had sold our row in LL block several times over, which was 
taken with general good humour as the stewards discussed it with the 
fourth and then the fifth couples, even during the concert, but it was a 
good set ... 

I have been reading closely (studying even) the set lists and reviews for 
this leg of the Sept 2000 European tour to have an idea of what was coming 
up, but still there were surprises.  Seeing that Dylan performed 80+ songs 
(elsewhere on this Website) earlier this summer, I do not know why I 
should be surprised.  Having seen Saved as an opening number here at the 
NEC previously, I suppose I should know anything is possible.

The venue means that binoculars are all around me, the band will be 
fully 50 metres away and must look like stick insects.  All hopes are all 
in the sound system, but the stage has some old grey school curtains across 
the back, so clearly there are economies being made, even though my $40 
ticket requires an additional booking fee and then car-parking … (our 
petrol crisis is all over now).  7.20 pm still more than 60% empty, 7.30 
and goes, nothing new here, 7.45 many people have said, and here we go.  
Not so much incense as I imagined, but the (ludicrous) "Ladies and 
Gentlemen, Columbia Recording Artists present …"

Plenty of stewards, standing tix are tightly controlled, no crowd rush, but 
many with seats stand from the off.  I Am The Man, Thomas, what's this - 
hardly any required warm-up?, vocals strong and clear, plenty of sharp 
white light to contrast with the pitch black, never mind the school curtains.  
Lots of goodwill from us to them, the acoustic set is off.  White silk shirt, 
black leathers, the rock and roll artist is performing.  The Times They Are 
A-Changin' is immediately recognised, but now close harmonies, developing 
those Unplugged ideas.  It is really not for me to say, but I think that 
Dylan is in good health, voice and vocal ability fully recovered, even 
enhanced.  This is singing in harmony, it is not to last, snarling takes 
over, lights go purple.  Then It's Alright Ma is even more purple and we 
are getting the stick insects moving about.  One Too Many Mornings and the 
harmonica makes a brief appearance, when fished out of a pocket to usual 
cheers, I've never understood this
.  It is not played with any real life and is soon away, not to reappear.  
Let's concentrate on the actual singing.  Twitching about on the stage, 
even more familiar chords - Tangled.  Now real singing, not a voice over, 
not a groan, but an acoustic set.  The lighting takes off, an earlier 
review of last week highlighted this, a most stunning set of computerised 
lighting points.  Searching For An American Soldier's Grave ends the 
acoustic set, but it was excellent.  The double bass a delight, hardly 
any percussion, with clarity, tight, together, a real treat.

The R&B finds a country boy with Country Pie.  Loud and driving, into a 
well received Ballad of a Thin Man (no applause or cheering for any 
particular Presidential lines here in Birmingham).  Will he sing this is 
Wales, I wondered?  A treat in store, Gonna miss your best friend now 
(Down In The Flood), then another Trying to Get to Heaven.  This is as 
said in other recent reviews, a delight.  Then from 20 miles out of town 
we find Cold Irons Bound and close the 65 minute set with Leopard Skin, 
driving R&B, forgetting all that acoustic nod towards folk, just good R&B, 
but the crowd know the score, and the applause is muted.  The band leave.  
On another occasion at the NEC he never came back, 65 minutes was your lot, 
but not last night.  After 12 numbers there is to be an encore set.

Well, "I used to care, but times change" kicks us off, then well trodden 
chords for Rolling Stone (some moron has been shouting this title for over 
an hour, but that is not as bad the one who thinks Dylan has not arrived 
on stage yet and keeps shouting for him to "come on").  Splendidly tight 
band, they are really enjoying this, the lighting effects changed 
everything, the crowd are illuminated, the control over the now fully 
scalloped-shell back drop is amazing.  No, no, no it ain't me babe, many 
joining in, but the party is now in full swing, lots of enjoyment in the 
air.  H61 at a fast and furious pace, who can ask for more?  Lots of 
volume, the party must be over, pure driving R&B, a master more than 
just a professional at work, a delight to see and hear.  Just my own 
hope for Forever Young, but here are the chords and here is Forever Young 
and that must be it for tonight.  Yet, there is to be a final take, a 
sixth - broken, broken, everything is …  So we are all happy, real appla
use, real devotion (literally), cannot ask for anything more, enough 
standards and two treats, but now a long (unknown to me) acoustic 
introduction, something is in there, but I can't make it out, even 
longer chord progressions, Blowin' in the Wind, huge response.  Massive 
calls for more, we were left wanting more.

Throughout there was singing, right from the very start.  Clear, strong, 
together.  The band certainly were having fun.  I imagine that they are 
now trusted, not so obviously messed around.  Plenty of machine heads 
pointing down, some stick insect leg twitching (a stub that fag-end out 
dance).  Best wishes to those with tix for the rest of the week.  Thanks 
to those whose reviews I've enjoyed, I hope this is a fair description.

Ian S. Blagbrough


Review by David Reid

Expectations were high.  I had not seen Bob in two years.  I knew he was
playing well this time round and the set lists  of previous nights included
much that I had not heard live before.  I was hoping for 'Delia' and
'Standing in the Doorway' but Newcastle had heard those songs so I did not
think they would appear again tonight and they did n't.  I met up with my
friend Steve in the queue, not seen him since 96, so much to talk about. We
were in the first 50 in line but by the time we hit the stage there were
already 200 there!.  Nevertheless, we had a good spec, dead centre with
5 rows of people smaller then me in front of us - great view with plenty
of space.

Bob was on at 19.45. and opened with 'I am the man, Thomas'.   Then
'Times' came up again.  I would have liked to hear something else but this 
was well played and sung.  'It's Alright Ma', very clean and tight.  The 
sound, even from close up, was excellant, lound yet evenly balanced so that 
every voice and instrument could be heard clearly.  Some nice emphasing of 
ends of lines and 'lonely' song so quietly, as if a voice lost in a 
wilderness of cacophanous sound.

Some deliberation at what to play next.  Larry beginning to strap on a
guitar and then told to head for the one at which he sits.  We get, 'One
Too Many Mornings' with some lovely singing making me feel tingly. 
Harmonica solo plus a dance - you know, that funny, lightly stepping duck 
thing. How a 59 year old man can do this and look cool, I just don't know,  
but he does.

I 've seen old geezers in pubs in Liverpool do this - they usually get
chucked out on the street.  Anyway, Bob seems to be enjoying himself.
'Tangled'  follows with a slightly changed opening - not so forceful,
more jangly sounding.  Bob enjoys this song and its a sharp and compact
rendition.   I  have heard this manty times of late and this as good as

'Soldier's Grave' and 'Country Pie' follow.  The former is a group
performance with Bob just one singer in three.  I begin to notice the
lights and the curtains /drapes at the back.  There's curtains there like 
in an old cinema and they are catching the lighting colours.  The songs 
are colour coded.  There are lights on a support which is set low across 
the front of the stage.  Sometimes large shadowa of the players are 
projected on the back of the stage. { I am thinking of David Lynch, Orson 
Welles as I watch all this].

This order of songs as I recall them here may not be quite right.
'Thin Man' and 'Crash on the Levee' come and go.  I would have liked
some other songs.  At least I get to hear 'Trying To Get To Heaven'.  The
band are into this quickly with Bob's singing after only a chord or two. 
These chords  have a lovely big jazz  guitar feel to them.  Bob's voice is
deep, resonant.  The arrangemnt is slow, majestic.  All the parts are
wonderful but they don't seem to work together.  I want them to and I love 
Bob for trying it like this but it does not seem to hang together very well. 
Maybe that Lisbon version was too perfect for comparison.  If only Bob would 
be as adventurous with 'Pillbox' or "H61R', both of which appear tonight,
unfortunately for me.  'Cold Iron Bound', Bob really gets into this - it
is magnificent.  

At the end of the main set and the encore Bob and the band do this
strange standing in a line and cooling looking at us while we look at them. 
They hold this pose for sometime.  Only Bob really pulls the cool of it off,
every one else looks slightly embaressed - its like some scene out of a
Fsssbinder film or something.

The first of the encores is 'Things Have Changed'.  So good,  did I hear
Bob sing   '....she's got black skin and...'  ?
"Rolling Stone', 'Ain't me Babe', 'Forever Young', follow.  All well
done with good Bob guitar touches.  'Everything is Broken' hits a bouncy
groove but the singing sounds a little tired.  Blowing in the wind finishes 
the show.

Now on to Sheffield.

David Reid


Review by Michael Evans

Went to my first Bob concert at Birmingham last night.

I was very, very impressed.  I am extremely naive in anything Dylan but I
enjoyed it none the less.  The music was terrific, the band he has with
him is excellent.  I wasn't mad on there arrangement of Blowin' in the
wind but "plus ca change" eh?!  I think my favourite track was Highway 61
Revisited, and being a blues fan I would have preferred more 12 bar stuff
than the "country" influence but I understand he's been there already.

Probably the best concert I've been to.


ps It was great fun playing spot the hippy.


Review by Markus Prieur

Initially my wife and I had planned to skip the shows in Birmingham and
Aberdeen. But we did go to both of them anyway, and we are glad we did. By
the time we arrived at the N.E.C., we found out at the box office, that
only seating tickets were available, way in the back (standing was sold
out long ago, because it was only a small section in front of the stage at
this one). The scalpers outside wanted 50 Pounds for each standing ticket.
It was almost opening time and they had let some standing ticket holders
inside to a small area next to the box office. I asked at the window, how
many standing tickets were sold, and found out that three of those just
went back on sale. So we bought two for 46 Pounds and joined the small
crowd just mentioned, waiting for the “real door” to open. Now, we had
heard, that at other shows on the tour security people had picked out some
people out of the waiting crowds outside, and had led them through side
doors to the very front, before the doors !
opened; to ensure that Dylan and the band would not always see the same
faces. Well this time they chose to do it another way, and two minutes
after we purchased our tickets, we were walked in and ended up front row
center (I mean like “CENTER”).
One hour of chatting to our next neighbour from Spain, and to a friendly
security guard (as this was not Newcastle), and we were almost as close to
Dylan as we were at Vicar Street a week before, but this time with no one
obstructing our view. And a memorable view it was. The only downside with
having the best spots to watch this show was our position exactly between
the main speakers, which meant, that Dylan’s voice in the mix was not so
clearly audible for us; but his guitar we could hear very well through his
Fender amps. So I am really looking forward to hear a field recording of
this show some time.
For again it was a fine setlist with four additions to this tour. “ONE TOO
MANY MORNINGS” we had not seen since Gotha 1994. Bob was playing his harp
at the end, dancing and bending his knees. “BALLAD OF A THIN MAN” and the
new and powerful version of “DOWN IN THE FLOOD” were performed back to
back, and Bob’s third eighties-song for this tour, “EVERYTHING IS BROKEN”,
even had his first stage appearance for this year, after appearing already
on the Glasgow cue sheet.
Two notable first repetitions for this tour were the challenging opener “I
AM THE MAN THOMAS” and the magnificent show stopper, “TRYIN’ TO GET TO
HEAVEN”, both of which he also performed at the second Dublin show. Again
simply beautiful.
For him who has ears to hear I would like to add some observations about
the order of the setlist by quoting some lines of some songs in the order
he performed them. I know, some of them are quoted out of context, and I
don’t want to read too much between the lines which is not there, but I
juxtapose them anyhow, in order to spotlight what Bob Dylan actually said
last night merely twelve feet away from us, starting with his own vocal
spotlight on his risen saviour: “They nailed me to the cross … they laid
me in the tomb … in three days I rose … I am the man … look at these nail
scars here in my hand … the first one now will later be last … not much is
really sacred … the day is getting dark … the night comes in a-falling …
something is happening here … if you go down in the flood, it’s gonna be
your fault … I’m trying, trying to get to heaven before they close the
door … people are crazy and times are strange … I’m well dressed, waiting
on the last train … it ain’t me you look!
ing for … you are looking for … someone who will die for you and more …
may you have a strong foundation … may you always know the truth … people
bending broken rules … everything is broken … how many ears must one man

Markus Prieur


Review by Andy Jenkins

I have been a fan of Bob since 1965 but, until tonight, I was in the 
anomalous position of having seen Jimi Hendrix live, but never Bob
Dylan. "Hard to believe!", I hear you gasp, but in the early years the
concerts sold out before I knew about them (there was no Internet then). 
Later, I was put off by a number of poor TV appearances ("Hard Rain" was the
exception. Wish I could buy that video!). Finally I was reluctant to see Bob 
in one of the large 'factory farm' venues, when I believe he is at his best 
in smaller stadiums.

When the UK tour dates were announced I got the worst of both
worlds: no Manchester date and the nearest practical venue was Birmingham NEC
with a not very intimate capacity of 12500. Despite that, I decided I really
had to see Bob before either his or my "Never Ending Tour" ended. I went 
along with my young daughter (29 going on 30) in tow. In fact, it was she, 
who suggested we go in the first place. I can't thank her enough.

Based on the excellent set lists and reviews on this site, I was
able to predict the opening song, "I am the Man, Thomas!". Ruth, was very
impressed. How could I have known . I don't know who had the idea for 
Bob to open with a rousing 'folk' song but it seems to work on two levels.
Firstly it may be relatively easy to sing and so gets Bob's voice quickly 
into gear. Secondly, no-one in the audience feels disappointed that he has 
not opened with their favourite 'Bob' song.

The vocal for "One too many mornings" was good; the harp was a real
bonus. I wonder why Bob usually only plays harp on one song per concert. I
suspect that it is because he becomes the complete centre of
attention during a harmonica solo and for a change he prefers that
not to be the case too often because he is enjoying so much being
part of the band.

Strangely, "Tangled up in Blue" was a disappointment for both Ruth
and me. I liked the country folk feel of "Searching for a Soldier's Grave". 
It would have been even better had I known the words.
"Tryin' to get to Heaven" had an unusual arrangement, with the new
tune I had heard about from other reviews. I'm sorry, but I don't think it
quite worked: although it was a brave effort to deliver the song in an even 
more sombre fashion than on "Time out of Mind". I'd like to hear this again 
so that I can convince myself that my assessment is wrong.

So far, the concert had been merely good. It went up several gears
with "Cold Irons Bound" and never looked back. Almost every song in the set
list was delivered with panache and ever growing enthusiasm and commitment.
We clapped until out hands were sore. "Blowin' in the Wind" had the same
arrangement as "Best of Bob Dylan, Vol 2" so it sounded reassuringly familiar.
With over 10,000 of us clapping, I even faintly hoped for a second encore 
(despite the well established 12 + 7 pattern of the earlier dates) but it was 
not to be and no-one was really disappointed.

This was a truely great concert. Subtlety isn't easy in such a large
venue and, as a performer, Bob needed to 'belt' out some of the songs but
he did it with feeling and meaning and finesse. His voice was unbelievably
powerful and strong.
Overall, the concert was everything I could have hoped for.

Andy Jenkins



Review by Antonio Terni

This is not a review. This is a short commentary about what's been 
happening on this fall tour.  With the excuse that Mr. Bob Dylan doesen't 
like seeing the same faces in the front row every night, Mr Bob Dylan's 
security people, ignoring the rights of those who began queueing 4 or 
5 hours earlier, choose a hundred people from the back of the queue 
and let them in in advance so that they can occupy the best positions.
There are laws and there are rules. You cannot break a law without 
being prosecuted. You cannot break a rule without being impolite. 
No law forbids me to pick my nose in front of Mr Bob Dylan while he is 
playing, but if I do that, I'd break a rule and I'd be impolite.  An obvious 
rule in every civilized country is that a queue creates a right of 
precedence and whoever makes it impossible to be the first in the queue, 
to be the first in obtaining what he is has been queueing for, breaks a 
rule and behaves impolitely.  I think that if Mr. Bob Dylan doesent want 
to see the same faces every night, he should stop touring instead of 
breaking the rules.  I think that the "chosen ones" at the back of the 
queue should refuse to become first. I understand that offering a first 
row place is like offering candy to a baby, but you must realize that 
they are manipulating you and denying the rights of those who arrived
before you did.

Antonio Terni          
a.terni >


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