Review by Graham Cole
Those Visions Remain …
It's been a very foggy and slow drive back from London tonight, but serendipity being what it is,
I get in the car from Brixton and there's Bobby on Radio 2. And, no! I hadn't had enough of him
already, coming away from a really memorable show and one that has me thinking hard all the way
down to Southampton. Inevitably there is the temptation to compare it with the first night,
better or worse? In truth the real answer is that it was totally different, with plenty of clues
as to where Bob wanted to take us tonight.
It was rockier in places, harder even, though not without wonderful moments and one truly
sublime performance at twelfth spot in the setlist, and there was lots of light thrown onto both
stage and audience for many of the numbers. Some, though not all, of the soft, delicate lighting
was missing, and it seemed like Denny Freeman stuck with the same rockin' Fender all the
way through the show.
At least Bob's timing has been consistent. 7.30 and the Fanfare starts up, somewhat diffidently
knowing it cannot sustain a fifteen minute intro before the "voice", and then at 7.45 precisely, the
band, matching light browns with black shirts, no ties, plus the boss all in black with white shirt and
tonight a Stetson, growl into the delightful Rumble for about 30 seconds, before ripping straight
into Maggie's Farm. From the outset, the sound seems as clear as last night, in fact some of the
best I can remember from Bob shows of recent years. It may be that the volume is down a wee
bit, but it is clear that Bob wants us to hear those wonderful lyrics, as well as the thrash and filigree
from his cohorts. And if it were lyrics he wanted us to hear, Times was an example of how strongly
he is able to drive them out, gruffly at times, but always with the strength of meaning there.
Furthermore, his harp playing tonight was in a different, higher and more pertinent, league from
Sunday. This second song saw him centre stage and pushing out the tune for all his worth, knees
down with the effort, whilst the band offered an almost Byrdsian feel at times to the backing.
Tonight, as in any great show, there were special highlights and Million Dollar Bash was undoubtedly
one of them. Bob looked as if he really enjoyed giving us this rarity, with some pounding piano, and
drawing all he could from those mill-ee-on dollars and an oh-so-twee oooh-eee! I loved it, as did the
crowd, who applauded this one long and hard. It's Alright Ma was much deeper and harder in feel
than last night, and gave Denny the chance to use his violin to great effect, almost soaring off in the
way that David Laflamme used to with It's a Beautiful Day's White Bird, and of course the line about
the President of the USA brought out the inevitable ironic cheer. Tonight gave us the chance to
see how well the band can play about with the jazz of Moonlight, and later on the country lilt of
Waiting For You. Both worked effectively on the chosen songs although the unfamiliarity left many
on the floor a bit bemused. Not so the jaunty, nay fast, Down Along the Cove which I enjoyed as
another incursion into the JWH songbook, though not as much as the emotion brought out in the
tenderness that is Boots of Spanish Leather from an earlier time. I'm sure it isn't simply because this
is one of Bob's most beautiful songs with such delicacy of feeling, but yet again he produced a
performance of the highest order, aided by some lovely melodic guitar from Denny.
From there we went to what I felt was a solid, workaday performance of Cold Irons Bound, not
lacking in passion because of that however, and then into the crowd-pleasing Mr. Tambourine Man.
As several folk have observed, Bob seems to be eschewing the upsinging that has earned both praise
and criticism in the past, but he was careful to use it in limited measure as he sang the line "play a
song for me" and I'll swear blind the steel guitar solo borrowed from Blowin' in the Wind, or was I
dreaming? If I was, Tweedledee and Tweedledum brought me right back to earth, a tune I've never
had a lot of time for, and tonight was no different - fast and rocky.
But then! Ah yes, here it is, the bit I paid my ticket price for, to be repaid in a way that will stay with
me for a long time. Yes Johanna is already a great song, and yes, I've been lucky enough to hear
some fine versions in concert, and even if the original on BOB (and a colleague at work, Iain the Fish
told me today he was just revisiting those fabulous early albums so Iain I thought of you on this one!)
is probably unbeatable, tonight Visions of Johanna was truly wonderful, and, yes, sublime. Bob
positively purred as "Louise and her lover so entwined" against the starry sky backdrop, and as he
sang of the nightwatchman, and the ghost of electricity, one of my favourite painters, Edward Hopper,
came to mind. I think he could have painted that song ….
From there on it was further a case of ring them changes, and I'm sure the backdrop stars were
twinkling more tonight as he pulled his sleeves up for the honest workout that was, well, Honest
With Me, slowed it down for the country side of the outfit with Waiting for you, and then set about
cranking things right back up again on Highway 61 which had the crowd excited with what was a
sound blues drive.
The encore proved to be a thriller too, as when they returned and started slamming out the familiar
chords of London's Calling, there was a tangible excitement in the hall, and this only peaked further
with what I felt was a wonderfully majestic LARS. And yes, we got the almost standard encores
tonight after the change of Sunday's show, but, of course, that doesn't mean a thing when we get
to Tuesday! As the exhaustion sets in, it's great to think we have still three nights of intrigue and
the unknown to come.
Tonight anyway, I thank you Bob. I'll go to sleep with those Visions of Johanna in my head.
Review by Mr. Jinx
'From Bash to Clash'
Tonight Bob Dylan laid to rest the Beatles and destroyed Punk Rock. But
more of that later…
First let's deal with the two big surprises of the night: Million Dollar
Bash (to my knowledge a word live debut) and Waitin' For You (definitely a
world live debut). Bash bounced beautifully. Bob could hardly keep the
grin off his face as he sang the 'Ooh-baby, Ooh-weee' refrain. Naturally
the hopped-up Brixton crowd went bananas.
Waiting For You was masterfully delivered in the last big slot of the
night, squeezed between a thundering Highway 61 (aren't they all these
days?) and a manic Honest With Me. Waiting was a brave choice. Bob must
have known it would be unfamiliar to most of this audience. It isn't now!
Boots Of Spanish Leather was simply gorgeous. Tambourine Man came up
fresh as only a non-drug song can with its jingle-jangle very much intact
and Visions Of Johanna - as at Birmingham - was absolutely nailed. Bob
carried the tune faithfully until the 'Inside the museums..' line when he
began to really ask questions of the narrative. From that point on it
moved inexorably into the realm of great art.
Destroyed Punk? Dylan? What do you mean, Mr Jinx? He can't have!
Oh yes he did.
But wait …
I tried not to see a theme in tonight's show, really I did. I'm well
aware that seeing too many connections between songs puts you in the final
stages of 'Bobaholism'. Many people deny such links exist at all and
suggest those of us who see them are fanciful. Well, I did try but the
old bugger kept showing me them and … well … whaddya gonna do?
Tonight's theme was watery farewells.
The lover in Boots Of Spanish Leather is sailing away across that
lonesome ocean. The protagonist of Down Along The Cove is watching the
Jackson River Queen with his suitcase in his hand, leaving the lover he
walked with 'hand in hand' behind. Tambourine Man is on the windy beach
silhouetted by the sea with one hand waving free (or waving goodbye?) The
'I'll take you across the river, dear, you've no need to linger here' line
from Moonlight speaks for itself. The line from Waitin' For You 'I lost
my gal at the boatman's ball' does too. And lastly - and this is the part
where I finally tell you how our Bob Dylan slew Punk Rock - it was evident
in the 'I live by the river' refrain from London Calling.
London Calling by the Clash???
Yes. You heard right. Dylan destroyed Punk and laid the Beatles to rest
by howling the Clash's London Calling before Like A Rolling Stone. He
spat out the line 'Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust' with the kind
of venom that even Joe Strummer might not have mustered were he still with
us. Dylan destroyed Punk by outliving it's leading band's figurehead,
usurping his anthem and serving it up as a mere entree to his own
magnificent banquet: the original and greatest Punk anthem of them all:
Like A Rolling Stone. You had to be there! You had to be there! YOU
SIMPLY HAD TO BE THERE!!
Bob Dylan: beyond the Beatles, beyond Punk … just plain BEYOND.
Review by Rebecca Harley
So, he’s no longer young, but he is also no longer emaciated, or doing the
bobbly walk, and his harp playing was considered, concise and clear. Not
al all a throw-away or switched-off gig, but deliberate, designed
primarily top rock hard, tantalise and surprise. “Times” was delivered
with commitment as social commentary and progressive statement. “Million
Dollar Bash” was greatly enjoyed by Dylan, Band and audience alike. The
jazzy version of “Moonlight” was clever and delighted my 15 year-old son.
“Tambourine Man” began ordinarily enough and suddenly metamorphosed into
an internal monologue. I looked at the person standing next to me and we
said, together, he’s telling us how he feels NOW. It was a privilege to
allowed that close. “Visions” was another revelation. He was inhabiting
the poetry and the visions and wanted us to be in there with him. It was
a visceral experience, extraordinarily moving – brought tears to my eyes.
“Highway” was given its head and galloped full tilt, liberated and
liberating. The first of the encore brought the familiar chords – I
thought “that sound like “London Calling” - ITS LONDON CALLING!
Couldn’t believe it. Looked round at my son. He was ecstatic. LARS and
“Watchtower” different again. Wonderful. Tony Garnier had a big grin on
his face for most of the gig. George Recile put his arm around Bob’s
shoulders as they left the stage.
Review by Mick Bamford
Just back from London and can't really believe what I've been reading on
the reviews. These 2 shows were 2 of the best I've been to in the past 5
or 6 years. The set list, as was expected, brought out some crackers and
the audience responded in a way that must have pleased Bob, he looked
happy enough. Highlights on Sunday were Senor and beautiful Ramona, an
excellent Queen Jane and one of the best versions of Desolation Row I've
heard live. My daughter loved the set list which was chalk and cheese
compared to Nottingham on the opening night. As for Monday, when my wife
came down to join me, well Hoo-ee .......Million Bash done as a calypso
was amazing we were in the middle of a contingent from Sweden who went
into raptures over this one. Down along the cove rocked along with Bob
apparently making verses up as he went along, Boots has always been one of
my favourite and tonights version didn't let me down. The one I didn't
recognise was a country waltz, which you have listed as Waiting For You,
which slowed things down ready for a ripping Highway 61, my wife was
particularly happy with this as it meant no Summer Days. What a shock when
the boys came out and went into Londons calling perhaps this might have Mr
Reciles idea as he and Bob shared a good laugh as they went off after
Watchtower. I also thought Rolling Stone had more effort in it tonight,
the crowd around me at this point were in raptures and really rocking
along. All in all an expensive but very satisfying long weekend in the
capital. Hope the shows over the next few nights go as well as these did
pity I won't be there !
Review by John Dunne
Some random thoughts:
1. In all the shows I've attended or heard over the last four or five
years, Dylan's voice has seldom sounded so clear, so committed and so
strong. 2. When I think of his singing on Visions of Johanna I still feel
a shiver up the spine. 3. While the band was excellent on the heavier
songs (Honest With Me, Highway 61), the guitarists lacked any light and
shade on the more sensitive material. In fact I would go so far as to say
that both of them are very limited musicians who, I'd imagine, thank God
each morning for being allowed to stand on the same stage as Bob Dylan. It
was mostly Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan alone (with a little help from the
crowd) who made this such a triumphant night. His singing on The Times
They Are A-Changin', for instance, soared above the dull accompaniment and
turned it into something relevant and extremely moving. 4. I don't
understand how the performance of Visions can be described as acoustic;
Kimball did play an acoustic guitar but everything else was electric,
including , unfortunately, the first few bar of Freeman's solo which
threatened to destroy the magic Dylan had created. Talk about
unsympathetic playing! 5. For me, the highlights were (i)Visions of
Johanna, (ii) Mr Tambourine Man which, despite Dylan succumbing to the
much reviled upsinging at the end of lines, developed into a statement
with a logic all its own (iii) The sheer unadulterated joy of Million
Dollar Bash, (iv) The bolt from the blue of Waiting For You. Here, Dylan
turned what seems like a banal lyric and common or garden old-time waltz
into a profound metaphor for human endurance. This was worth the price of
admission (not to mention cost of flights, trains etc) on its own. (v) The
interaction between audience and Dylan's voice. (vi) Bob Dylan's
generosity. As he did with the late Warren Zevon, he paid the best
possible tributes to Link Wray and Joe Strummer. (vii) The humility of Bob
Dylan. When he and the band line up at the end of the show and just stand
there looking into the audience I always feel that what they're saying is
'This is us, a group of musicians. We've done our best to connect with
you. We're happy you like it. Thanks very much'. No display of rock star
insincerity, no fulsome expressions of gratitude, no flamboyant punching
the air 6. Low points? (i) A pedestrian Down Along the Cove (ii) Moonlight
where, for once, the guitarists' banal fingers succeeded in dragging Dylan
down with them. (ii) All Along the Watchtower. Inevitably, in terms of
volume and rolling thunder, this raised the roof, but, after a magisterial
Like A Rolling Stone (one of the best I've ever heard) it still sounded
devoid of emotion.
Comments by Jeffrey Johnson
Tonight's show was absolutely over-the-top incredible. It seemed like
the London finale, a show making real life exceed our dreams. Once
again, He proved that He can be exceeded only by Himself.
A stunning Visions would have been enough. Yet multiple live debuts
supplemented that masterpiece.
Larry was right long ago: He's too good for us. Still we hope that He
exceeds Himself again and again and again . . .
Jeffrey Johnson ~ 3500 miles from home
| Click Here
to return to the
page by Bill Pagel
| Bob Links
| Set Lists
| Set Lists