Frederiksberg, Denmark

Falconer Salen

October 8, 2015

[Niels J. Dinnesen]

Review by Niels J. Dinnesen


By Niels J. Dinnesen

I see the current Bob Dylan set list as the artist's attempt, using a
fixed string of songs, to present one integrated and progressive tale
which has a beginning, a middle (pointing in different directions), and an
ending. The songs, and the sequence in which they are performed, are
carefully planned. During these last few years the order is never in any
way random. Every show is one powerful tale which deserves to be seen and
heard as such - and to be taken literally for what it is.

The major theme is about love and love lost, about the pain and suffering
of having lost a true love. It is the tale of "A worried man with a
worried mind / No one in front of me and nothing behind". These are the
very first words of the opening song, "Things have changed". Following
this, the next two songs "She Belongs To Me" and "Beyond Here Lies
Nothing" deal with romantic love:

Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
(She Belongs To Me)

We'll keep on loving pretty baby
For as long as love will last
(Beyond Here Lies Nothing)

Things begin breaking up with the fourth song - and much later, at the end
of the show, the final song presents the ultimate expression of the sting,
hurt and ache of the narrator's heartbreaking lost love.

I'm sick of love; I hear the clock tick
This kind of love; I'm love sick

Sometimes the silence can be like the thunder
Sometimes I feel like I'm being plowed under
Could you ever be true? I think of you
And I wonder

I'm sick of love; I wish I'd never met you
I'm sick of love; I'm trying to forget you

Just don't know what to do
I'd give anything to be with you
(Love Sick)

The song ends with a strong and passionate contradiction. The narrator
says "I wish I'd never met you" and "I'm trying to forget you". But then
he pleads, "I'd give anything to be with you".

The love lost theme is initiated by the fourth song where one sad night,
the lovers "call it a day". From this point many of the following songs
deal with this common thread, including most of the old songs uncovered
recently by the artist for the "Shadows In The Night" project. Seven of
these songs are now in October 2015 part of the current tale.

Many reviewers refer to these traditional songs as "Sinatra covers", but
this is a huge understatement. Originally, these songs were sung by (among
others) Frank Sinatra, but that is not why the artist chose them. The
songs were selected for the "Shadows" project, and now for the current set
list, because they are genuine expressions of the narrator's emotions and
feelings in relation to love and love lost. The tunes are catchy, yes, but
the words of these songs are what is essential to the tale.

The titles alone of some of the old songs point to the love lost theme -
"The Night We Called It A Day", "What'll I Do?", "I'm A Fool To Want You",
"Where Are You?" - and the lyrics are quite explicit: "All life through,
must I go on pretending? / Where is my happy ending, where are you, where
are you?"

Towards the end of the tale comes "Autumn Leaves", which originally was a
French song, written by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma with lyrics
by poet Jacques Prévert. The English lyrics were written by American
songwriter Johnny Mercer in 1947, and the song has been recorded by dozens
of artists, one of whom was Sinatra in 1956.

Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I'll hear
Old winter's song

But I miss you most of all
My darling
When autumn leaves
Start to fall
(Autumn Leaves)

The tale is not only about love lost. Other themes in the middle part of
the show deal with different aspects of endings - from feelings and
thoughts about the narrator's own death, all the way to the end of time
and the ultimate destruction, the chaos of the great flood. "It's rough
out there / High water everywhere":

High water risin', six inches above my head
Coffins droppin' in the street
Like balloons made out of lead
(High Water (for Charley Patton))

In the opening song, the "worried man with a worried mind" is well
dressed, "waiting on the last train", standing on the gallows with his
head in a noose. "Any minute now I'm expecting all hell to break loose".
Similar images of time running out appear in "Duquesne Whistle" where
sometimes the whistle sounds as if the train is on its final run, as if
"she ain't gonna blow no more".

Even tougher images of destruction and endings appear in "Pay In Blood"
and "Early Roman Kings". These are expressions of the dark sides. The
words are threatening and menacing. Disaster lurks behind every corner:

Well I'm grinding my life out, steady and sure
Nothing more wretched than what I must endure
How I made it back home, nobody knows
Or how I survived so many blows
(Pay In Blood)

I can strip you of life, strip you of breath
Ship you down to the house of death
One day you will ask for me
There'll be no one else that you'll wanna see
Bring down my fiddle, tune up my strings
I'm gonna break it wide open like the early roman kings
(Early Roman Kings)

Scarlet Town is a mix of it all - from good and evil and beginnings and
endings to "The black and the white, the yellow and the brown / It's all
right there in front of you in Scarlet Town".

In the context of the current set list and the tale of lost love and rough
endings, the old classic "Blowin' In The Wind" takes on a new meaning and
becomes a quiet and naïve reflection of the extreme events and emotions we
have witnessed. "How many times must a man look up / Before he can see the
sky?" We have seen the sky and heard people cry - and we know that too
many people have died. It's time to go and to round it all up. "So much
for tears, so much for these long and wasted years".

The show in Copenhagen on October 8 was tight, emotional, well crafted
with a clear sense for every detail in musical arrangements, vocal styles,
stage lighting and the entire setting.

I see the current set list and the current show as the artist's successful
attempt, through a carefully selected string of songs, to present one
integrated and progressing tale. I hear the entire show as one sublime and
tender expression. The narrator portrays himself as a worried man with a
worried mind. He is nearing the end of his day and sometimes sees the
world on the edge of going under, but he is still on the move and longing
for his true and lost love, pleading "I'd give anything to be with you."
Not quite a swan song. It is not dark yet.

Now I'm going back again
I got to get to her somehow
Me, I'm still on the road
Towards another joint
We always felt the same
We've had our different points of view
Tangled up in blue
(Tangled Up In Blue)


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