Berlin, Germany
Berlin Arena
October 20, 2003

[Stefan Flach], [Sascha Krieger], [Reinald Purman]

Review by Stefan Flach

Fifteen minutes past 8 pm the lights went out, my beloved intro was spoken
and Bob & co. came on stage and went straight into:

“To Be Alone with You”

which first of all made for a welcomed change after two “Maggie´s Farms”
in Hamburg and also worked well, though there´s not much to say about it.
During the repeated bridge (“They say the night time is the right time”)
Dylan leaned nicely into some words and the two gunfighters by his side
gave him the usually fine cover … It also immediately went apparent that
everyone on stage was in a very good mood this night.

In the dark one could see Larry taking his seat on the pedal steel and -
oh well, it was time for yet another (unwelcomed)

“It´s All Over Now, Baby Blue”

But even though Bob again lifted his voice quite a few times at the end of
some lines (“you must leave NOW, take what you NEED” etc.), it was an
overall pretty good version (apart from the draggy arrangement). For once
Dylan caught some fire on the song and delivered a good third and a very
good last verse. Thumbs up here.

“Cry a While” 

of course was next and again it was splendid. It seems they play the
staccato part - especially on the tremendous instrumental verse near the
end – harder every night and one can see how much Dylan ENJOYS singing (=
belting/growling/spitting out) the terrific lyrics of the song. By the
way, he screams now every time: “I SWEAR I die before I turn senile” with
a scarry, nasty smile on his face …

Then both Freddie and Larry got their acoustic guitars and the
distinctive, always most appreciated percussive first chords of

“Desolation Row”

were heard. As soon as he started singing, Dylan put a lot in his delivery
of the grand tale, bending, stretching, howling and growling many words.
The “Ophelia she´s ´neath the window” verse for instance was a
firecracker. At one point Freddie approached Dylan as if he wanted to sell
him dirty books or something and played a GORGEOUS embellishment
comprising of not more than two notes on the lower strings at certain
points in the verses, which made for one of the best interplays of Dylan
and his band I can think of. And yes - we even got a fine harp solo
somewhere in the middle of the song. A major performance.

“It´s Alright, Ma”

was next and brought the house down as on the nights before. Dylan doesn´t
do any lyric flubs on the song these days by the way. He´s in full control
here. There´s a most exciting tension in the air when the “choruses” (if
one wants to call them this way) get near their resolution. One really
holds his breath when Dylan shouts “It´s people´s gaaaaames you got to
doooooodge” - drum crash, and almost a capella he concludes: “And it´s al
- right - ma! … Ahhhhh can make it!” And the drum picks up the speed
again. Great version again.

Then the question was raised what we would get in the “variation slot” # 6
today. Dylan was handed his sunburst Strat and they went into

“Don´t Think Twice”

that was a million miles better than in Hamburg on Saturday. Dylan
(looking a lot more grim here than on piano) played delicious electric
licks throughout the song and sung it very well for most parts. The last
verse was outstanding.

“Things Have Changed”

came next and worked again fine. The song in my opinion gained a lot by
the recent addition of an instrumental verse which somehow gives the
listener time to contemplate on the three verses he heard before. The
reading gets more serious and credible this way. And Dylan did again a
fine job here, singing with strength and care.

The usual “Highway 61” then was surprisingly moved from the next slot in
favor of

“Most Likely You Go Your Way”

A strange and interesting version. Dylan got the lyrics wrong (I mean
wrong) on many points, but sang it overall stronger than on Friday. The
band did a fantastic job: Larry and Freddie threw riffs towards each other
(both were stepping center stage, looking each other in the eyes and
smiling impishly) and raised the song on a very high level. It was one of
those performances where one actually is surprised that Dylan starts to
sing yet another verse (oh yes, Bob´s still here too), because one was so
much absorbed by the instrumental parts. The bridge by the way was sung
twice again.

Then Dylan went back on the keyboard and started a song I always look
forward to live (gladly I already had the chance to hear it three times
before), the driving and atmospheric

“Can´t Wait”

and Bob went deep into the dark waters of the song, moving around like a
manic gunfighter on the keyboards and delivering likely the finest vocals
of the evening. Very slight lyric change: The “oh honey” in the last verse
(in which the bridge runs so magnetically) was a “oh sweet honey” this

Then a belated guest arrived and kicked the entrance door open: it was
time for

“Haaawaaaaaaay sixtyyyyywwwwhone”

which was my favorite song of the night. Unbelievably powerful and full of
colors and nuances. This was the song where Larry really stepped into the
light. Looking completely cool and stoic on the right side of the stage he
grabbed deep into his lick- and trickbag and surprised us (at least me)
with some seldom heard and exciting inventions. The most impressive riff
was played somewhat against the overall drive of the song, on the two
lowest strings, sounding somewhat like “badab adadab adadab”, displaying
monumental power. A version for the history books …

The next song I only recognized when Larry played some “signature
embellishments” on pedal steel, and after Bob played some delicious intro
melody notes on the keyboad: another version of

“Love Minus Zero”

Better than on the first Hamburg show, sung with much care and interest on
Bob´s part. Well done.

My beloved nasty, dirty monster rocker

“Honest with Me”

crashed in then and was again a delight, though I can´t say much about
anything unusual here. Larry´s riff that runs through all of the song
sounded to me better (= rougher) in Hamburg, the slide down the neck (the
“get back in first position” after the riff) had more grim and snotty
power up in the north …

Since my friend Kerstin who came from Leipzig to see the show badly wanted
to hear “Man in the Long Black Coat” here, I crossed fingers they´d play
it now, because this seemed like the last chance. But after a few chords
it was clear they did

“Every Grain of Sand”

instead. A song I usually don´t care for neither live nor on the album and
which gets approached by Dylan vocally in a (to my ears) uninteresting
way. This version made no exception. It was listenable, but again I
thought: hurry up, boys.

What they did of course with the closer of the main set:

“Summer Days”

Since I didn´t think immediately: best version I ever heard (what usually
happens when I´m at a show where it´s played), I think it wasn´t as hot as
on the two shows before, mainly because Freddie seemingly wasn´t in the
same great mood. But of course the song brought the house down

When they did the line up and got cheered by the 6000 in the Arena, Dylan
held his left hand behind his back as if he´d hide something from the
audience, but the secret wasn´t solved, he just walked away with the
others after a while.

“Cat´s in the Well” was the now usual first encore again and it worked
great. For the first time maybe I noticed what a fine song it is after
all. The centering of recent performances around the three bridges (two
times “The cat´s in the Well and grief is showing it´s face, the world´s
being slaughtered and it´s such a terrible disgrace”, one time “The cat´s
in the well and the servant is at the door, the drinks are ready and the
dogs are going to war” in between) - making them somewhat major statements
- works splendidly well. Bob caught fire on this song again and delivered
a great vocal with many different shades. Great.

“Like a Rolling Stone”

inevitably was next and again it was very well done. The addition of the
harmonica (this time promptly after the second verse, not after the
instrumental verse as the nights before) was again a huge improvement.

“All Along the Watchtower”

made for a grand finale again and was tremendously fine performed. Bob
howled/growled out the lyrics in the usual great style and Larry actually
played some hot and gripping licks here that I never heard before (and of
which I now have no precise recollection; hope he does them again
tomorrow). Much as on the last nights, there was something dignified and
“grown up” about this version. The structure: intro (with monster harp
again) / sung verse / solo Freddie / second sung verse / solo Freddie /
third sung verse / solo Larry / first sung verse again + dramatic “outro”
– is more visible than ever before, I think, adding more severity to the
song. It´s a bit as if the song these days lived inside a glass house …

And again they did the line up. Bob again held his arm/hand behind his
back. Again the secret wasn´t solved. Ain´t that the way it ought to be …

Stefan Flach


Review by Sascha Krieger

Recently, Bob's Berlin shows have been rather special. Especially the last
two at the Arena - a former bus depot in the southeastern part of the city
- are remembered fondly by all those who were there. This one was no
difference. It was cold and grey outside and not much better inside the
bare structure to which for the first time at a Dylan show had been added
stands at the side and in the back. Up front it was a tight and narrow as
ever but I'm sure people couldn't mind less.

Let's start with the end. Considering place and atmosphere, there was a
hope among many we would see a return to the four piece encores of the
start of the tour. What we got, however, was the usual: a solid, rocking
Cats in the Well, an equally strong LARS (which seems to get better every
time I hear it) and a mindblowing, mad, unbelievable Watchtower (both with
nice harp solos from Bob). Then a faint smile, a few nods, and it ws over,
after just two hours.

It had started unusually late, around 15 minutes after the scheduled time.
The band launched right into a forceful To Be Alone With You. Bob was
right there from the start, his voice sharp, clear and strong. What is
really notable on this tour is his singing: Gone is the mumbling, he pays
attention to every single word, working them over until he releases them.
His vocals are the strongest they  have been in years.

From the we got a nicely flowing Baby Blue, with a brilliant Larry on
pedakl steel. Then the usual Cry Awhlie before we were treate with an
excellent Desolation Row, starting out quietly before growing into a full,
strong flow carrying the audience away with it. As on Baby Blue, nice harp
play, which sounded less bored than in Hamburg. Alright, Ma was a good as
ever and then it was  guitar time for Bob. First off, Don't Think Twice,
much stronger than in Hamburg. Part of the reason was that Bob had
switched to guitar this time, playing some really good solos and thus
allowing Koella very little room for his strange acoustic play.

Anywy, Freddie: He was much better than in Hamburg, for a couple of
reasons. First, he stuck to rhythm guitar most of the night and when he
soloed it was on electric and rather strong. He's good at those rhythmnic
driving rocking solos. Second reason: Larry has grown into a leding role
in this band, playing a lot more solos than he use to and thus taking a
lot off Freddie's shouldern who was seen much less center stage in Berlin.
Playing this way, this band can work.

Bck to the show: Things Have Changed was strong again while Most Likely
was a bit sisappointing. It started out nice and rocking (Larry playing
the famous intro) but the band and especially Bob seemed to be struggling
with rhythm and structure especially during the choruses, giving the song
a rather fragmentary feel. On to another surprise: a solid Cant Wait,
which saw Bob back at the piano. As in Hamburg his piano play ws strong
and driving.

Then another roof-raiser: a madly rocking Highway 61 with some amazing
solo work from Larry. The somewhat quieter crowd (by Berlin standards)
really began to warm up now. Then a great countryesque Love Minus Zero,
with Larry on pedal steel again. Anyway, the slower songs and ballads:
Gone are the bare, tender, quiet, acoustic versions. Bob seems to be
aiming at a fuller, conutry-like sound now. So far, this sounds really
good. Next up was Honest with Me, which proved that this song still had
life in it. Much more powerful than in Hamburg, Larry shone with a great
solo again, and Receli - who had a quieter, more routine evening than in
Hamburg, got some work spicing up the song.

Then Every Grain, wonderfully sung, featuring Bob's best harp play of the
night and a beautiful solo by Larry again. The song certainly does not
suffer from Larry's switch from pedal steel to electric guitar since last
year. The great finish was - as usul - Summer Days - as unbelievable and
enthusiastic as ever, with the whole band playing at their very best and
Bob showing a broad smile at the end.

All in all this was a very strong show, much tighter musically than
Hamburg, owing mainly to Larry's redefined role in this band, thus
allowing Koella to stick with what he does best - rhythmic guitar play -
and leaving the virtuoso stuff to Larry. There was less rhythmic variation
than in Hamburg and thus leass work for George. About Tony nothing needs
to be said anymore.

Bob himself was in great shape, his vocals strong and sharp, his piano and
guitar play pointed, his harp play less lazy and his whole body language
signalling a man totally into his music - a spirit that eventully managed
to wke up the audience, making this a very memorable evening indeed.



Review by Reinald Purman

25 Years & some month before Mr. Dylan visited Berlin for the first time.
He filled the gigantic "Deutschlandhalle"  with appr. 20.000 people in 
1978. A concert wich was in hindsight most remarkable and part of a very
underestimated tour by the Budokan point of view only.. Tonight in this
old bus-depot on the river spree (described in the earlier reviews of
concerts 2000, 2002) with that rotten industry-charme gathered 6000 not
too old people. There were ascendant seats in the back and left side, to
improve sight or ticketgross or both. Big crowd before the big stage.  Mr
Dylan & his men appeared at 8.10 after the usual copeland-music and that
"Call in the Ring"-anouncement. He appeared in an black suit with white
collar, black shirt. Mr. Koella and Mr. Garnier wear hats, Receli with his
usual cap. All in dark suits only Larry presented his own style.
Okay, Hamburg # 1 was unsurpassable. But that  night in Berlin was really 
great stuff too. - They started a rocking "To be alone with You". A first
highlight was "Baby Blue", with really good singing (!), beautifull harp,
very good band. The full potential of the performance tonight get in sight
yet.  - Little later we heard some lonely piano tune, the band was
waiting, only that piano playing around, some melody  arose and then:
"They are selling postcards of the hanging..." After the first verse the
band starts in, it was really great. The piano was at any time drowned in
the rocknrolling guitar tonight. I could hear it most of the time. The
sound was very good too.  After a very rocking "It's allright" Bob went to
center stage, strapped his guitare and did 3 songs in a row. That gave
place to some "dancing" from our man and to tremendenous
guitar-thunder-storm from the band. "Highway 61" was the next big
highlight, with wonderfull harp. The same harp and a perfect Larry Cambell
for "Love - 0". Larry sits like a statue, doing this sound. "Every Grain
of sand" was beautifull, perfect singing. What a song to all that
rotten-music - industry. ("Why is Dylan not talking in concert. Why isn't
he explaining the song with a speach"  a.s.o., phoney by golly...).  -
"Summer days" was great, but it was great by expectation. It was the same
as in Hamburg.  After the first half of this song, there is no exit out of
this groove...The encore was the standard, no #18 song for us tonight.
Freddie K. gets special good response at a short band intro (in the early
80#s he need appr. 10 minutes for that), than LARS and a real tremendenous
"Watchtower".  Big  crowd response. Dylan standing stage center, the right
hand on his back, no smile, no thumbs, he had said "Thank youu" little
earlier. So I had the privilege of  24 songs in 2 nights , what means a
40% change per show. What means that none is a number, when that changes
mean pearls like "Des.Row.", "Man in Long Black Coat", "Senor", "Grain of
Sand" a.s.o. In my eyes someone, presumable  Mr. Dylan had made some
decisions: Go back to your own song-catalogue, no covers, no times no
blowing wind. Go back to singing, no refrain-sing-along. Go back to a
perfect professional band, doing wonderfull things. And to gop to the
classic band-leader position, piano. And do harp. Having time to
concentrate on thew words and his voice, that big magic. Every new
band-mebner will be disputed for a while. But it will stop soon. Wish luck
to all of you out  there, especialy to the lucky one to see the Man and
his band. And to B. Pagel for bringing it all back...R.Purmann


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