October 24, 2022
Review by Nicholas Hatfull
There are various moments from Bob Dylan concerts over the past twenty
years that I treasure, but I’ve never witnessed anything quite like the
two curtain calls on this final night at the Palladium. As the lights
dimmed on the figure somewhat impassively - at first - accepting the
applause (after the endorphin hit of the harmonica signoff in Every Grain
of Sand), previous form told us that would almost certainly be that. Techs
were collecting things from around the stage, people were beginning to
file out. But the house lights had not come back up. When Bob and the band
reappeared, and were illuminated once again by the distinctive underlit
tiled stage, the surge of affection and celebration in the theatre was
resounding. Bob cast his eye around the audience, and appeared to be truly
savouring the moment, even a little startled or moved by the reception.
And then it happened all over again - Bob making a gesture of
acknowledgment or perhaps even ‘calm down’. What else? A looser, but
perhaps more assured feel to the music than on previous nights. The other
day, trying to settle on an image that evoked the interplay between Bob
and the band, I thought of a waterboatman and the ripples on the water’s
surface from their unpredictable steps. Tonight, I think more than once of
moonlight, or golden light playing on the surface of a lake. And once or
twice, when Bob delivers lines, of a potter turning vessels on wheel -
probably because someone else noted the ‘caress’ he gave to the lyrics
of Every Grain of Sand. Tonight I am struck by Charlie Drayton’s
discreetly articulate drumming on the best Key West I’ve heard. The
curtailed, darting licks of the guitarists here and there. How different
Masterpiece was, delivered as if on tiptoes. The sumptuous, bowed bass
from Tony Garnier on a hymnal Mother of Muses. But Bob’s singing, in all
its chameleon guises…what an adventurous, magical performance.
Review by Steve Pearce
It’s 20 odd years since I last saw Bob in concert and to be honest my
expectations this evening were low. I’d already written the review in
my head…not as good as the old days, why doesn’t he vary the set list
etc etc. Such thoughts were demolished part way through the first song.
This show is a completely different enterprise to the never-ending Dylan
of old. Whereas those shows were improvisational, this one is all
precision. Of phrasing. Of instrumentation. Of artistic intent.
There was a mesmeric quality to the new songs. I am not the biggest fan
of the RARW album, finding it a bit one-paced to listen to in one go.
Live, however, the songs seem to cast a spell - such that even fantastic
re-imaginings of older material like I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight seem like
interruptions. Not far from the Palladium, 150 years ago, Charles Dickens
entranced audiences by reading his works aloud. Last night, the audience
was similarly entranced by a master artist. There was largely silence as
he sang. We craned our necks forward, eager to catch every inflection of
that singular voice.
And what a voice! In 30-odd Dylan shows I have never heard him sound
better. It’s rich, textured, nuanced. The band is elegant, restrained.
(Tony G in particular impressed - surely he goes down in musical history
as one of the great sidemen?)
The word that kept coming to mind throughout the evening was apotheosis.
A man needs to have shed plenty of skins to sing songs like these this
well. Sixty years of hard travelling imbue every word. If this is the
final act, it is one of sublime artistic integrity. This set captures the
worldview of the artist in old age as perfectly as the 1966 shows
showcased the vagaries of youth.
Who knows how long he will keep on keeping on? On tonight’s evidence,
we must catch him while we still can.
Review by Mr. Jinx
Dylan last night was incredible.
There he stood in the shadows , hunched like an apocalyptic crow,
croaking, cawing and coaxing the songs from his 81 year old larynx. He was
mesmerising. There were moments of pin-drop authority (Crossing the
Rubicon, My Own Version Of You and Black Rider) and moments of real
tenderness too. During Mother of Muses I must have had something in my
eye! Before the show, and before meeting up with my lovely friends Amy and
Ocean, I stumbled upon Dylan's famous tour bus: black, sleek, tinted
windows. This is where the man lives as he tours the globe endlessly,
rattling along highways. What motivates him? Maybe the feral raw that
shook the Palladium at the end of the show will help sustain him as he
travels to his next show. Or maybe the music itself nourishes him like
some kind of strange elixir. God knows. I'm just grateful I got to see
him. I feared I might never again when lockdowns intervened. Keep raging
against the dying of the light, Bobby, lad!
Review by Chris Job
A momentous concert tonight to end Bob’s four night London engagement.
From the outset the capacity audience appeared to know that it was
witnessing something truly special. As we know, Bob’s vocals have been a
remarkable element of his shows over the last few years but rarely have I
heard him sing with such commitment. Indeed his voice was by far the most
dominant “instrument “ on stage and the audience was hanging on his every
word. The atmosphere throughout was reverent, and it is no exaggeration to
state that one could hear a pin drop in the quieter moments. The audience
exploded once Bob picked up the harmonica for Every Grain of Sand and the
rapturous applause at the show’s end seemed even to take Bob somewhat
aback. What happened next is, I believe, unique to any show in the last
few years. Once Bob and the band had left the stage we thought all was
over but after several seconds of continued deafening applause they
returned to the stage. This was momentous enough but when they returned a
third time everyone knew what a significant moment this was. Bob looked
totally drained but was clearly overwhelmed by the continuing ovation,
looking all around the venue as if trying to capture the moment. Did he
know something we did not? Is this possibly the last concert that he will
ever perform in London? Only Bob knows but if that is the case, he could
not have made his final exit on such a glorious high. It was truly a
privilege to witness.
Review by Jonny White
Well, after giving a somewhat negative review of the first night, here I
am again to give my tuppence worth on Bob’s final night in London and,
I'm pleased to say that, for several reasons, I enjoyed it much more.
I’m still unconvinced by the harsher, harder sound that cuts through all
of the RARW material- I really don’t think that the choppy guitar chord
parts and little lead licks high in the mix are an improvement on the rich
sound palette used on the studio versions, but at least I was expecting
it, having been here on night one. It didn’t grate as it had before and,
as usual, Bob’s delivery was mostly superb.
Tonight I had a seat in the third row of the Royal Circle so, as Bob
spends much time sitting or standing behind his piano, it’s actually a
much a superior vantage point that sitting in the stalls. I’d also
bought a good pair of binoculars, something I’d never thought of before
and it really made a difference to my enjoyment of the show as it meant I
could see how much Dylan was enjoying it too. Shrouded in darkness, only
hearing his disembodied voice from way back, it’s sometimes easy to miss
the commitment, passion and sheer thrill that is emanating from the man.
I’d recommend a pair for any seated show.
And the end of the show was as special as many reviewers have already
mentioned but I’d like to add one final nugget of mystery that’s not
been mentioned and, to be fair, it was very easy to miss. I was only made
aware of it by the man in the next seat to me who was obviously tickled
and delighted as ‘Every Grain of Sand’ began. Like many others surely
noticed, Bob began playing and then said/ sung/ mumbled something before
he began the first verse that visibly amused him (thanks binoculars!)- I
assumed that he was having a final joke to round off the band
introduction, perhaps at Tony Garnier’s expense. I assumed my neighbour
had heard the joke, but I had not. After all, if you’re expecting to
hear “In the time of my confession” and something entirely different
comes out of Dylan's mouth, well, you’re probably gonna miss it- he’s
got a little better of late, but his diction is still unclear on many
occasions! When the curtain calls were finally over, I didn’t even have
to ask the man in the seat next to me, who’d come from Israel to see all
the London shows, what was so funny; he was dying to tell me: Bob had sung
the first lines of The Grateful Dead song ‘Friend of the Devil’ (which
he encored with a couple of times in LA earlier in the year, in place of
EGOS). My new friend also said, rather enigmatically, that Dylan had done
this “because I asked him to”. I wanted more info but he said it was a
long story. Perhaps there is some secret conduit by which uber fans can
get a message to Bob and hell, they’re not sharing that! Sounds fishy?
Implausible? Deluded? Maybe, but I’d challenge anyone to have noticed
the joke if they’d not been expecting it.
Whatever the truth is, it feels a little special to have been there for a
rare Bob Dylan musical joke, albeit one that had to be explained to me. A
couple of days later my curiosity lead me to the inevitable YouTube
recordings of the show and yes, there it is, almost plain as day: “I lit
out from Reno, chased by twenty hounds……"
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