London, England
Wembley Arena
November 15, 2003

[Graham Cole], [Jim Scott], [Toby Richards-Carpenter], [Jim Bishop],
[Mick Bamford], [Kenneth Reid], [Martin Gayford], [Dave Wheeler], [John Pritchard], [Jimmy Row]

Review by Graham Cole

The start of Bob Dylan on the final legs of his 2003 European tour was an amazing 
concert in the desolate Wembley Arena, one of those huge empty sprawls where most 
people on the ground floor can barely see much.  Yet what a fantastic show from 
this great man, who although in his sixties, has shown us yet again what a 
wonderful, inventive and thoroughly original artist he is.

With no sign of the advertised support The Waifs, this time around Bob was 
introduced by quite a preamble before the now familiar "Ladies and Gentlemen, 
Columbia recording artist …" and there he was, with his great (partly) new band 
of Larry, Tony, Freddy and George.  With all but Freddy sporting wee moustaches 
and beards, throw a bit of dust over them and you have more characters to play 
alongside Alias in "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid".

But tonight was no fiction and the four players threw everything behind the rock 
icon as he himself showed his keyboard skills for the entire evening.  
Straightaway the band scorched into a sublime "Maggie's Farm" with an immediate 
indication that Dylan's voice is now way better than it has been for some years.  
It sounds younger and less raspy, although he can growl when he wants to and, 
more importantly, when he chooses to.  With "Maggie" his voice showed a softness, 
yes! And this was further refined by a most beautiful arrangement of "It's All 
Over Now Baby Blue".  Larry's pedal steel on this was a real instrumental 
highlight of the evening for me, with delightful country fills and beautiful 
solo, to be followed soon after by some simple, but effective harmonica from Bob.

From the soft despair of that song, the band launched into "Cry a While" with Bob 
spitting out the lyrics in a strong bluesy arrangement.  I guess the highlights 
of the evening tended to be the quieter, often acoustic songs, and of the three 
pieces that most moved me, the fourth tune, a truly magic version of what is one 
of Dylan's finest songs, "Desolation Row" was quite stunning.  Even if the song 
is nearly forty years old, the imagery in it is compelling, and when heard tonight, 
with rasping emphasis on words like "rain" and "Row", it still carries a fantastic 
strength.  Larry here complementing Dylan's wonderful voice with a lonely, 
searching guitar solo.  "It's Alright Ma" came next and really rocked, with some 
great playing around with his emphasis on lines like "I'm only …. sighing", and 
with Larry now on cittern.  "Boots of Spanish Leather" was done in such a way 
that it was a real hairs on the back of the neck version.  Bob's vocals were soft, 
delicate and beautiful, and he made the lines "carry across the ocean" sound just 
like the waves rippling …

"Tweedle Dee" for me came across as a straight rocky version of the song, never a 
favourite, but pleasant enough, whereas "Mr. Tambourine Man", a firm favourite 
came across again in a gently beautiful version.  My wife, Loraine, standing on a 
chair in spite of zealous stewards, clearly enjoyed this one, sung almost 
romantically.  How the man can change things around however, and so he did with 
his Oscar-winning tune, done, to my ears at least with a slightly different 
arrangement these days.

Although "Things Have Changed" rocked along well, it was from this point on that 
anything rocky, really did move and there was marked change in the audience around 
us, who really started dancing to "Highway 61", the rockiest tune so far, with 
some searing slide work from Freddy on what looked to me the ugliest guitar I've 
seen in a long time!  What was really great on this tune was to see how happy bob 
was to give the band full rein to play their hearts out, and they did, bigtime!
The remaining highlight for me was the tenderest version of "Every Grain of Sand" 
I can recall hearing, and all against a lovely backdrop of lilac and green, and 
some effective reverb on the guitars.  "Honest with Me" was done in a pretty 
straightforward way, rocking along, and then the tone changed completely for the 
strength that is "Hattie Carroll".  The lyrics on this came over so clearly, with 
Dylan sounding at times like his voice had gotten ten or twenty years younger, and 
with Tony looking great with his stand-up bass.  The main set closed with the best 
rocker of the night in "Summer Days".  With guitar licks being traded left, right 
and centre, this song was great - Bob had done well, and from the way he stood at 
the end, he knew it as the crowd roared their approval, before he disappeared into 
the darkness.  A full four minutes elapsed before they all returned and closed the 
evening with the trio of "Cats in the Well" segueing straight into the crowd-
pleasing "LARS".  Yes, it's a well-worn song, but the lyrics still work, and by 
this time, Bob seemed to take every opportunity to show what a great time he was 
having, moving about the stage nimbly, "almost dancing" as Loraine put it! and 
then came the band introductions, short and sweet, and with a bit of piano 
noodling as he did so.  And so to "Watchtower" with Freddy playing some fine 
guitar which reminded me of Neil Young at his "Down By the River" finest, and a 
bit of bluesy harp to close the proceedings.  And then lights down, the audience 
sensing it was all over, and a chance to meet a few acquaintances from previous 
tours as we all made our way out.

Another great gig then, in spite of the venue, and, for us, still Brum, Hammersmith 
and Brixton to come.  The man is clearly in form and sounding at least as good, if 
not better, as he has done in ages.  He looks in better shape, younger and 
generally well, so please Bob, it has been such a pleasure tonight, and "yes, there 
is something you can do for me …", keep it up.  Thank you so much.

in peace
Graham Cole


Review by Jim Scott

Allowing for the circumstance that individual songs can have a particular
resonance in some countries and that as so often life mirrors art giving
the title Maggie's Farm an especially hackneyed symbolic political
relevance in the UK, the fact that Dylan opened with a version which was
as fresh and entertaining as it was enjoyable is proof positive of just
how superb this concert was.

The band were splendid and Dylan was on top form. Being lucky enough to be
in the front row was a bonus under any circumstance but it was even more
crucial tonight given the positions on stage. Whilst the backing group
were arrayed as always, Dylan himself, playing piano on all songs, had
located his piano on the left of the stage but at right angles to the
front of the stage so that he was always in profile for the majority and
had his back to a significant proportion of the audience. As our seats
were just right of centre we were favoured with a splendid view of a
magisterial artistic tour de force making this one of the most memorable
of his concerts which I have seen in the last 37 years of attending
Dylan's concerts.

His singing was magnificent. Only on the early verses of Tambourine Man
did he seem briefly to be struggling to hold the tune. Hardly a major
criticism for a performer now in his early 60's. (Is it true that Caruso
too suffered from the problem at the same age?)

The lyrics were word perfect; though he did repeat a verse on Tambourine
Man but shrugged the error off with a smile of knowing complicity to the
band members when he realised his mistake. Perhaps because he was behind
the piano throughout the show (and is the need for direct visual contact
with the band the explanation for the positioning; certainly his rapport
with the players was obvious and paid handsome dividends in terms of the
quality of the backing throughout the night) he shambled nervously around
the stage at every opportunity manifesting all the nervous ticks which
have been his hallmark through the year.Yes,this evening again the neck of
his shirt needed adjustment, his pompadour hair required preening, his
cheek was itchy, he almost missed getting back to the microphone and the
piano for a significant proportion of the songs.

The highlights? Even a uniformly excellent show must have highlights so
here are my preferences both for songs and for adjectives:-

Baby Blue was wonderful. Rolling Stone was rejuvenated and spell-binding.
Summer days was delivered in a way that would make Jerry Lee Lewis take
note. Highway 61 was breathtaking. It was noticeable that until this song
(in 10th position?) he had not once looked at the audience and that here
he only allowed himself 2 surreptitious  fleeting glances at us as though
to assure himself of...I don't quite know what! Things Have Changed is
surely as good a song as any but a handful Dylan has written and this
version was stunningly well played, Grain of Sand was passionate and
compassionate. A majestic song performed with grace and sensitivity.
However until very near the end of the main set I was convinced that Boots
of Spanish Leather with its personally resonating line "either from the
mountains of Madrid, or from the coasts of Barcelona" would be the high
point of the evening and I had already formulated my peroration to match
the song by saying "Gracias por la música y por la inspiración...Déu vos
guard, Bob" but I cannot end without commenting on the emotional charge
which the retelling of the tragic tale of Hattie Carroll carried. Every
note, every syllable, every word oozed indignation and outrage at the
subversion of the rule of law on which the constitution of the USA is
founded. The price of the ticket  was worth it for this heart-rending
piece of musical artistry alone.

Jim Scott


Review by Toby Richards-Carpenter

"Cast your dancing spell…"

Just who does Bob Dylan think he is? I'm damned if I know, but as his piano 
revolution continues apace, the shows just seem to get better.

This was one of those shows where, from my perspective, the band just didn't 
get a look in: Dylan dominated proceedings with his rich singing and pervasive 
harmonica. The presence of Freddy Koella grows ever more ludicrous, but when 
Bob is in such control, even a ham-fisted lead guitarist becomes a trifling 

Proceedings began with another stonking 'Maggie's Farm', leading into an 
'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' which, for all its precision, felt like a 
throat-clearing for the main event - as it had done in Amsterdam. The main 
event, once more, was a sinewy 'Desolation Row' - perhaps even better than the 
Amsterdam version - with Bob's singing again extraordinary. God knows how he's 
found such a way to sing this song, but Bob's voice has never sounded more at 
home than when it swerved around the characters of 'Desolation Row' last night. 
He was singing in a full-sounding high register that seemed to shrug off the 
decades with the ease that Bob shrugs off an ill-fitting jacket. It was hugely 
exciting to hear this, especially with the two lengthy harp solos that 
clarified the vision.

We already knew the harmonica was in favour tonight, since Bob had grabbed it 
after the penultimate verse of 'Cry A While' and squealed a wild series of 
notes just for the joy of it. I'd never heard him play harp on this song 

Though 'Desolation Row' was tremendous, if I could pick a single 'Bob Moment' 
of brilliance from the show, it wouldn't come from that song. Nor would it 
come from the rejuvenated, fired-up 'Like A Rolling Stone' to which we were 
treated as an encore. My vote would go to the final passage of 'Mr. Tambourine 
Man', a goose-bump sequence that only Bob Dylan is capable of crafting. It was 
the old 'triumph in adversity' trick again. This was a version that, for two 
thirds of its duration, was far from magical - curtailed phrasing and 
'up-singing', allied to a flat-sounding band, killed the thrill felt from the 
opening chords. Into the final verse, however, Bob began to latch onto the 
words, until with the final refrain he found the answer:

"In the jingle-jangle morning I'll come following yooouuuuuu…….."

The last word was delivered straight down the middle of the high and low notes 
he'd veered between for the whole song - finally, he'd realised the purity and 
drama 'Mr. Tambourine Man' had lacked this evening. Then Bob grabbed a harmonica 
and cast his dancing spell - at this point, he could do no wrong.

One of the delights of the many recent rearrangements of Bob's '60s songs is 
that they place so much emphasis and importance on the words. With the songs he's 
been tackling lately, he's re-cast himself in the role of story-teller, and he 
had this Wembley audience in rapt attention for his apt renditions of 'Boots Of 
Spanish Leather' and 'The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll'. Dylan's voice took 
on a lovely timbre during 'Boots'; he was diving down for some low bass notes, 
exploring new vocal cavities that have only recently revealed themselves to him.

The audience seemed to appreciate the demands being made of them, and both of 
these fables were ecstatically received. It was a diverse audience, ages 
ranging from children to those of Bob's vintage, with an even spread of men and 
women. The atmosphere had an edge to it that only comes at an event where 
something real, relevant and memorable is happening. It was far livelier than at 
Docklands last year.

This first London concert of 2003 was very similar to the first Amsterdam 
concert of the previous Monday. Not only was the set-list very close, but the 
level of performance attained was equally elevated. I didn't think a repeat 
performance of the Amsterdam 'Desolation Row' would be possible, but Bob proved 
me wrong yet again. Bob was once again in fine humour at Wembley, gesturing and 
moving with a lightness and spring in his step, directing his band like a 
crazed dictator. He knows who he is, does Bob Dylan - and doesn't his audience 
know it.


Review by Jim Bishop

Tonight Bob Dylan, the ringmaster extraordinaire, came to London and
cracked his whip.  Dressed in a funereal black suit with white piping and
hunched stage left behind his current instrument of choice - the
'plinky-plonky machine' - he took control of his band and moved them like
counters on a board.  He moved us too.

Freddie Koella, whose comedy solos had me grinning and grimacing
throughout, was the 'clown prince' of the show.  He slithered centre stage
and back as if pulled by a set of invisible marionette strings.  Freddie
resembled nothing so much as an over-eager waiter, desperate to take
someone's order but hilariously ill-equipped to do so on arrival.

Garnier, Campbell and, on occasion, Bob too were sucked into the space at 
the centre of the stage, only to withdraw like animated chess pieces as
the music raged.  This theatrical element of the show is something new.

Maggie's Farm kicked things off in style: Bob leaning into the vocal and
elongating the refrain with glee.  'Nooooooooo Mooooorrrrrahhhhh'   He
then seemed to get a dose of 'harp fever' and proceeded to blow it
beautifully through Baby Blue and even Cry A While!

Desolation Row was a show highlight.  In its delightful piano arrangement, 
and with Bob ringing fresh meaning from every line, it held us spellbound.

It's Alright Ma had the crowd on its feet: the 'president naked' line
having extra resonance just prior to Bush's visit to London this week.  

Boots was a peach.  Bob's vocal came from the very top drawer.  The new 
spacey arrangement allowed his voice to seep into every crevice of the
song like fine brandy, caressing and possessing every word.  Several
people around me were visibly moved.

Tweedle Dee was light relief.  Then Tambourine Man searched in vain for a
way to sing itself before finally yielding to Bob's probing.  About half
way through it suddenly became the glorious plea it can be, rather than a
mere sing-song.

Both Things Have Changed and Highway 61 were rock solid before Every
Grain Of Sand took the mood (and lighting) down. It was both tender and
beautiful.  Bob almost whispered some of the lines and the crowd fell 
silent as we thought about the 'motion of the sea' and drank in the poetry 
of the lines.

Honest With Me belonged to unsung hero Larry Campbell.

Hattie Carroll was simply awesome.  Christopher Ricks seems to be sure
that there is no point in performing this song as the original recording
is unsurpassable.  Think again professor!

Summer Days was less satisfactory.  The sound mix may have been partly to 
blame for this leaving, as it did, George's excellent drumming a whisper
below the boom of Tony's bass.  Bob seemed to be enjoying himself, though.
He was flinging his arms around like a demon traffic cop: directing the

The encores flew by. Cat's In The Well was slinky.  Rolling Stone was
sung - really SUNG - with feeling, and Watchtower with its chilling atonal
harp and violent switches of dynamic left us gasping.

Just time for the ringmaster to strut across the stage like a conquering 
Napoleon (although not in rags) before pulling his 'head clown' Freddie
and the boys away into the gloom to prepare for the Emerald Isle with a
game of cards or an all-night jam perhaps?

When Bob performs like this you wonder why anyone else bothers.  Tonight 
the ringmaster cracked his whip and London roared.

By Jim Bishop


Review by Mick Bamford

Just back home from my week-end in London and can't pass this concert by
without adding my ten-pennorth, for what it's worth. Firstly this was the
best Wembley audience I've come across in all the times I've been to
Wembley and they really let Bob and the boys know how much they were
appreciated, Secondly, the 2 reviews already published are spot on, from
the first lines of Maggie's Farm you knew this was going to be a special
one. Bob looked so relaxed, enthusiastic and really into it right from the
beginning. Thirdly what can you say about this band....awesome!!! I was a
little worried about the reports of Freddie's peculiar guitar style but
these were totally unfounded; on the occasions when Bob let him off the
leash by which he had him tethered to his piano throughout the night,
Freddy ripped into his leads and really complemented Larry. Larry seems so
effortless which is in total contrast to all action Freddy. Nice to see
them both taking centre stage for their leads. This was a "double thumbs
up from Bob" performance, rest assured this is one hell of a band and on
tonight's showing still one hell of a band master, rock on Bob and roll on
Sheffield. ps Wonder who the lucky person was at the front who he threw
the harmonica to at the end?


Review by Kenneth Reid

Well he played piano all night which was positioned stage left.
(the bands right)

It was all raw frantic stuff, the new guitaist adding extra dimension the
fact that bob did not play the guitar allowed the two guitarists to play

The whole show had a "play it fn' loud" feel special with bob 
stranding up at the piano and croching to sing in to his mike.

You may say all this frantic action was to focus
you on the words to Hattie Carroll.

Bob was conducting the band (unless his sleeve were too short)
pointing play louder play higher u play now
taking walks around the stage getting back just in time.

Throwing things in to the crowd at the end
playing harmonica and piano at the same time

All in good raw hardcore bob
he just about won the fight against wembley arena.
but no senor



Review by Martin Gayford

The concert was worth going to for Hattie Carroll.  The new melody
combined with Bob's singing was heart wrenching.  Bob's singing was (on
the whole) better than it has been for years and he seemed full of energy.
 I wasn't sure about Freddy though - I actually mostly liked his playing,
but maybe because it reminded me of mine, and I'm no Larry Campbell.  I
didn't really care for the way he hogs the spotlight during his solos,
especially when everyone up the side on the left could only see the back
of Bob's head. Anyway, nothing really detracted from Bob's wonderful
singing, and harmonica (that he threw into the first few rows at the end).
 I just wish he would end a show with 2 or 3 solo acoustic performances,
come on Bob - how about Gates of eden, One too many mornings and Blowing
in the wind on your own? Please?


Review by Dave Wheeler

Anyone looking at this setlist might think it was a rather boring and   
predictable show.                                     

As always, however, the detail is in the performance, which was mainly  
top notch from Bob. It was my first sightings of both George and
Freddy, and I approached both with an open mind. From listening to
several shows where Freddy has been in the band, I thought that he had
gradually grown into the role. Unfortunately on closer visual
inspection, the Frenchman proved to be a little irritating. Mostly, he
hid behind Bob from my view, emerging from the shadows to deliver his
solo, then scurried backwards to his hidey hole. He can undoubtedly
play, but somehow his contributions often seemed disconnected from
the overall sound of the band, as if the rest of the players had cut a
track as a band, and Freddy's part had been grafted on later.           

George, on the other hand I thought was excellent, clearly an integral  
part of the band, and enjoyed himself hugely.                          

Larry was underused, but his contributions were always good. He's to the
band what Richard Hill is to the England Rugby team (sorry to our
French  readers here). Without him they don't tick, but with him, well! 
Bob walked around the stage a couple of times in the middle of songs,   
nodding to the band and patting one or two on the back, much as a good 
rugby captain might do to get a greater effort out of them. Quite
amusing to watch.                                     

As to the songs, Bob kicked off with a perfectly acceptable opener in   
Maggie's Farm, followed by the plaintive pedal steel that announced
It's  All Over Now, Baby Blue in its familiar arrangement. This was
followed by Cry A While. Watching George laying down the complicated
rhythm was a good indication of the man's powers. Desolation Row
provided the first real highlight of the evening. It's Alright, Ma
brought the obligatory cheer on the line about the naked President.
Nice cittern from Larry on this one. Boots Of Spanish Leather was
another highlight. With Bob not playing guitar, it seems to allow him
to concentrate on the singing, and on this, his singing was good. It's
just a shame about the piano playing really!                           

Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum is a so-so song that works really well in     
concert, the 2 guitarists gelled well together on this one. The current
arrangement of Mr. Tambourine Man does little for me. The weak point
of the night. Things Have Changed was fine. Highway 61 Revisited was
an excuse for Freddy to dust off a curious guitar and scuttle
around the stage for a bit, fairly raucous really. Every Grain Of
Sand was good, but not quite so effective as some recent performances.
Larry's Duane Eddy guitar licks worked well.. Honest With Me was the
usual rave up Larry providing good slide guitar. The Lonesome Death
Of Hattie Carroll was worth the price of admission alone. This is
the one to play to your friends who inform you that Bob can't
sing. The way he delivered the line "That sailed through the air and
came down through the room" you could see the trajectory of the
offending cane. Sublime.                        

A bit downhill after that masterful performance. Summer Days reminded me
how good Charlie was, then into encore time with Cat's In The Well and 
straight into Like A Rolling Stone. Is it my imagination, or have they
used the lighting device in LARS where the spotlights come slowly
down across the audience art every Bob show I've been to since
1978???  All Along The Watchtower with Exodus intro finished of a
very good evening. George put his jacket back on so we knew that was
it. Bob tossed his harp into the crowd at the end. Lots of
McCartney-style thumbs aloft, and they were away.                       


Review by John Pritchard

Being a keen reader of these pages, particularly in the run up to my
attending one of the shows such as I did on Saturday night at Wembley, I
had been tracking the set lists and reviews with interest. I was surprised
to note that Bob seemed to be playing piano throughout and heartened at
the fact that Visions of Johanna had reappeared in the set over the last
week. The reviews seemed on the whole to be ecstatic if remarkably
uncritical. Do Bob fans lose all objectivity once inside the auditorium,
readying themselves to cheer the first harmonica solo or the "even the
President etc" and "everybody must get stoned" lines as if on cue,because
you just have too.I don't believe blind adoration of the artist in any
field serves a purpose.

I've been attending Dylan shows since Earls Court in 1976. There have been
some great performances - this one wasn't among them.

Firstly, the song choice was OK, even allowing for the drivel that is Cry
a While which plodded on tediously and the sub-standard Tweedle Dee and
Cat's in the Well. But no Johanna. Much has been said about a return to
some kind of form for Bob's voice - yes,it certainly sounds stronger but
please Bob, why render the greatest lyrics ever written in this genre
almost indecipherable on so many occasions? Why do that silly bit where
your voice rises at the end of the line like affected teenagers do, that
makes every statement sound like a question? Why destroy the inherent
beauty of a classic like Every Grain of Sand with such heavy handedness?
Please can we have a few songs of just you, with an accoustic. 

Secondly, the band - Garnier and Campbell wonderful as ever. Bring back GE

Thirdly, high points - Baby Blue and Summer Days.Things have Changed.

Fourth, great songs ruined section - Desolation Row - intentionally
indistinct vocals, plodding backing - one of the great pieces of 20th
Century art reduced to pub rock. Tambourine Man - I love this song - it
doesn't work with an electric piano being thumped.

Fifth, great rock - Highway. OK but could do better - LARS, Watchtower and
Maggies Farm.

Sixth, great to hear but again how much better they could have been -
Hattie Carroll and Boots, It's Alright Ma - all would have been much
better without that piano and on a solo guitar. What is it about Dylan -
are we all too scared to be dubbed the new "ones who got it wrong" like
those who booed at Newport or shouted Judas. Back then the man was moving
forward so fast that the audience struggled to keep up. Nowadays I am
sorry but you are selling the audience and yourself short. I want to be
able to hear the words even though I know them off by heart, I don't want
to hear a second rate guitar solo in the middle of a much loved song. 

At several times during this show I was bored - but then annoyed too. And
that is almost a first. We all have songs we just don't take too, time to
go the toilet - particularly during the "gospel" shows many years back.
But too much of this was mediocre and that is something I never thought
the man could be.


Review by Jimmy Row

What a concert! How is it? It seems each time you listen to Bob he gets
better and better. Bob’s singing, attention to words and expression was
terrific. Bob has sometimes seemed inscrutable on stage but not tonight as
he cracked a huge smile and cracked those wonderfully dis-chord-ant chords
in a smoking overdrive version of Watchtower. This was the finale to a
miraculous night in which this incarnation of Bob Dylan and His Band
showed they can take it all the way up and down the scale. Piano playing
loud and clear – in fact I thought as we burst into another new-formed
rousing Maggie ’s Farm how good the sound was, each instrument and vocal
clear in the mix. Call me old fogey but I have always thought these
concerts (and Bob’s about the only one I go to) unnecessarily loud; (don’t
get me wrong I love to feel the sound but enough is enough); I thought the
mix got dangerously loud tonight at times especially on the later louder
rockier songs – especially Cat’s – when unforgivably the vocal and the
guitars were getting distorted and even the vocal occasionally briefly
drowned out. I hope this gets sorted by the time we get to Sheffield and
NEC, please. Perhaps this was a function of being near the front, the
sound must have been superb at the back of the hall? But being third row
at Larry’s feet (literally and metaphorically) it was a privilege to see
the smiles and gestures and playing of Bob and the band as they
inter-reacted. On the opposite side from Bob I was lucky to have a clear
direct view and with the help of binoculars my old eyes were able to
examine – almost like a specimen in a microscope, forgive me – Bob’s face
in action. As usual Bob’s face was an absolute picture but it was also
good to see the whole band as a unit. Bob’s facial expression was a moving
picture that spoke volumes augmenting the voice as – for just one example
- he sung about the judge in the beautiful version of Hattie Carroll.
Bob’s vocals were spot on and a lot of effort went into the unique Dylanic
delivery – masterful versions of Desolation Row and It’s Alright Ma, I’m
Only Bleedin. As intimated in the reviews of this tour
so far (which it has been great fun to follow as the tour wends its way
round Europe) this band is terrific – but the guy who suggested – far from
the truth tonight – Larry Campbell was on the way out must be in a
different dimension. Freddy Koella and Larry Campbell complemented each
other, taking turns to solo on a variety of different instruments – Freddy
electric only, Larry also on acoustic and cittern (great to see electric
and acoustic in combination again – how about some fiddle up north?). No
guitar from Bob but plenty of extensive and exciting harp and super piano
playing and “power chord” pounding – magic tinkling of the ivories while
waiting for the band to get ready for Hattie Carroll. The thought struck
me that Bob seemed proud of this band and the music as if he was joyously
orchestrating them and proud of what they were doing with these, the songs
with which Bob has blessed us. It would be invidious not to mention the
solid and dependable, exciting and dynamic bedrock provided by Tony and
George. However it is definitely Bob’s songs that Bob and the band allow
to speak for themselves. Exquisite Every Grain of Sand with Larry’s twangy
guitar evoking Duane Eddy and Glen Campbell’s Galveston but building to
perfection in a far far better song; but Freddy too interposed his
personal take of a solo momentarily taking over proceedings to Bob’s
evident satisfaction – I think it was during this song but not for the
only time. Indeed Bob seemed to give the band a particularly warm intro –
starting with Larry if that means anything – and deservedly so, the band
having contributed magnificently to a tour de force like a rolling
orchestra hanging in the balance of a perfect finished symphony.
Marvellous to hear this arrangement of Boots with Larry giving the song
appropriately enough a sort of nautical flavour, again to Bob’s apparent
satisfaction and again with a virtuoso performance from the whole band. As
an aficionado I have always thought of Bob as a blues singer par
excellence (and Paul Oliver’s Story of the Blues agrees, having added Cry
Awhile to bring the story up to date). One of the most prescient
precursors of Dylan’s electric sound and a great performance which blows
me away each time I listen – to think it was recorded the year I was born
1952! – is Howlin Wolf’s How Many More Years – so redolent of Bob’s
swagger and compassion (“I’d feel much better if you’d only understand”);
Willie Johnson ’s stringent electric guitar is one of the striking
elements of this song on top of Ike Turner’s (?!?) piano. This was just
the sound which – along with so much more – came across to me as I
listened to Summer Days (a song I had previously thought of more as
rockabilly swing than blues swagger). “Thank you friends” said Bob. No –
thank you Bob we say quite inadequately, please come again if you feel
like it.

Jimmy Row


page by Bill Pagel

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