London, England
Hammersmith Apollo
November 24, 2003

[Graham Cole], [Stephen Haynes], [Steinar Daler], [Raf]

Review by Graham Cole

I could write the shortest review I have done this tour right now, and
just type in Romance in Durango.  Enough said!  You had to be there!  I
would run out of superlatives.

However, let me add a bit more.  After last night's amazing setlist and
the full experience at the Shepherds Bush Empire, I like many others, was
wondering what Bob would do next.  Would he revert to the Arena setlist or
delve further into his treasure trove of songs with another glittering
display of different songs for the crowd.  He must have been aware that
many in each night's audience have followed him around the country as best
they could and might welcome a further change of songs, and the evidence
of last night showed just how much they appreciated the astonishing range
of songs he produced at that wonderfully intimate venue.  In the event
tonight was a mix of the arena-familiar and the wonderful surprises.

Hammersmith held much promise - it has been a regular on Bob's circuit in
the UK in the past, and has seen a mixture of good shows and not-so-good. 
For me tonight was probably the best Dylan show I have ever seen, and that
one song in particular, Romance in Durango, was the finest thing of this
tour so far without any doubt.  Meeting up with yet more old friends, but
in particular Paul and Bokkie, was again a pleasure and part and parcel of
Bobshows.  I was just sad that Loraine could not be with me for this show
- I'm sure she would have enjoyed it as much as I did.  Into the theatre,
quite a way back in the queue, we found ourselves really well placed some
ten deep from the barrier and with excellent views, and after the usual
inaudible introduction, the wondering and discussions about possible
setlists were certainly further stimulated by the opening Drifter's
Escape.  Yet another new start in these past three shows, and a really
good arrangement of the song, but what a treat was to follow as Larry
moved, for the only time of the evening, to the pedal steel for a superb
performance of You Ain't Goin' Nowhere.  I've always loved this song, with
its crazy surreal lyrics, and Bob's singing tonight was mesmerisingly good
and the crowd loved it.  It was clear too that the sound tonight was
crystal sharp, a fact that continued to be evident in every number,
whether hard and rocky or soft and gentle.  Huge thanks are due to Pablo
on the back sound desk for this.

Cry A While followed, a song that has grown on me as each time I've heard
it, and tonight's version did it good justice.  The first treat for me of
the evening was to hear Girl of the North Country, my first time on this
tour, again a song that has long been a favourite, and I could see why
many have enjoyed this arrangement so much.  But if these first four
suggested good things, to follow everything we have witnessed at Wembley,
the NEC and Shepherds Bush, all that was as nothing to the sheer beauty of
Romance in Durango, which came up next.  With the sound so clear, Dylan's
vocals on this tune were quite magnificently evocative, and with a truly
sympathetic back-up from the band members, this song was worth not just
tonight's admission price, but that of all the other shows I've been to as
well.  If you get a chance to have this version on disc, please don't pass
it up.  This was for me, and it seems many others present to hear it, up
there with the classics.

Dear Landlord continued the show, and I could easily have felt let down
after the awesome high of Durango, but not a bit of it.  Dylan's
commitment remained steadfast, as he moved into Dear Landlord, reprising
it from the night before.  If anything this evening's version seemed an
improvement on last night, perhaps because of the clearer sound, and when
the next choice was High Water Everywhere (for Charlie Patton) I found it
hard to believe what I was hearing.  For me, this song, with its obvious
country blues references, takes me back to my first interest in such music
years ago, at the same time that I was also first listening to the new kid
on the CBS block who was making waves in the "folk music" world.  To hear
this recently recorded song tonight was therefore an added pleasure.

Tough Mama is not a favourite song, but yet again with sharp vocals, I
enjoyed it the more than usual tonight, and when Freddie Koella took up a
fiddle for the next song, which turned out to be Floater, the enjoyment
and pleasure just continued right along.  This extra instrumental
dimension was great to see, and the arrangement was a lovely, jazzy
diversion from everything else on the night.  Million Miles came next, and
again this is one that has grown.  By now, I was wondering just how good
this man can get vocally, and Jokerman, in a slightly different tone from
the Shepherds Bush version, maintained the fantastic levels.  The band
then moved easily into Honest With Me, which rocked effectively, before
everything, but everything, calmed and quietened down for the other true
highlight of the show and maybe of the UK leg of the tour.  The Lonesome
Death of Hattie Carroll was quite simply awesome.  It may well be that the
song is some forty years ago, that it treats of an incident from the 60s,
but Bob's singing of it tonight was in its way as perfect, yet different a
rendition as he made those many years ago, and it showed both what a
powerful lyric it has, and just how powerful a song it remains today.  Bob
quite clearly was putting so much into the delivery of the words, and the
soft playing from Larry, Tony and the others was the perfect backdrop to
this critical story.  And from the power yet softness of Hattie Carroll,
suddenly the pace changed for what was to my mind the best version of the
tour that I have heard of Summer Days.  Even Freddie, about whom I have my
doubts overall, was searingly good here, although I still preferred
Larry's solo in this tune.  And then there was more of the Bob, that
wonderful dance style that he has introduced to the world, and several
shimmies back and forth across the stage to show his gratitude to the
audience for their huge applause.  I felt the crowd was the most
responsive I've been in this time around, and throughout the show both Bob
and the band seemed totally relaxed and having a great deal of fun.

To say that the encores were the standard Cats in the Well, LARS and All
Along the Watchtower is no criticism.  Clearly Bob finds it hard to cast
off this trio in his changing of all other areas of the setlist, but the
whole show certainly engendered the loudest and longest applause, a sure
sign that this was one concert that had been enjoyed by so many.  We still
have one more gig to go tomorrow before Thanksgiving beckons the Man home.
 Whatever they decide to play for us, it will be intriguing for sure, and
hopefully wonderful, but as always with Bob Dylan, nothing is certain. 
Well, other than the fantastic Romance in Durango.  Like I say, you had to
be there tonight.


Review by Stephen Haynes

A tale of two cities.  Birmingham  - I do agree with the disappointing
reviews of the NEC - almost everything went against it.  Horrendous
traffic getting there, terrible acoustics in a soulless barn and charmless
"security" staff, queues to get out of the car park at the end and Bob
seemed to me to be struggling with the after effects of laryngitis to
croak his way through most of the set.

I mention the NEC to show I've still retained some critical faculties.
London 3 days later and 100 miles south  -  it could have been the
proverbial million miles.  What a fantastic venue, good sight lines, 
great sound and generally a good feeling.  Won't go through the set,
others will do that much better than me - just a few impressions.  Romance
in Durango was an undoubted highlight partly because of the surprise, but
in its own right really was great.  Girl from the North Country and Hattie
Carroll both touching and personally I loved Floater.  I think the
strongest sensation was the ability of Bob and the band to change the
whole mood and feel of the evening through choice of songs, style, tempo
and lighting. But this was no roller-coaster - we were taken to real
musical heights and kept there through to the last notes of AATW. Even
after all these years LARS was delivered with punch and great vocals as
was the whole evening. George Recile truly was the "best drummer on stage"
and Bobs "dance" truly hilarious As the guy behind me remarked "that's
showing Mick Jagger how a 60 year old should dance".

I struggled to get a second ticket to this show so I'd just like to thank
Gregg, Fran and John for their help / suggestions, Jason for coming up
with the ticket and Mark for coming with me share the experience - his
first Dylan gig.

Was it the best I've seen ? - I'm not sure that anything will top Cardiff
2000 for me, and as with all love affairs the first time is special so
Hollywood in 1978 stays with me, but amongst the various other times and
places over the past 25 years, I can't remember another gig which was just
so much fun.  Final thanks has to go to Bill for a great web-site.  I'm
sure Brixton will be great for those who get there - I'm just happy to
have been there last night.


Review by Steinar Daler

I`m have just read the setlist from the last European show at Brixton
London. I`m allmost glad to see that he did`nt play too many real
surprises - except for Yeah Heavy. I would of course have wanted to be
there and it`s a great setlist, but as I said, luckily for me not too many
surprises. I`m saying this because I attended the concerts the two
previous nights and had to go home to work today. And the two previous
nights were really something special. There have been so many reviews from
Sheperds Bush so I will only add some comments on the Hammersmith show. It
was my 75th Dylan show - a small jubilee, and it was a fantastic show.
Even better than the great Shepherds Bush show. At second spot he played
You ain`t going nowhere, in many ways my favourite Dylan song and I knew
it would be a night to remember. It was my first "new version" Girl from
the north country and though I`m a bit uncertian about the arrangement,
his singing was real great - and then maybe the best live Dylansong I have
heard since 1981 "Romance in Durango". Just perfect. I could not hold back
my tears. Worth the whole London tour and much more. Can`t wait for a CDR.
Dear Landlord have never been my favourite Dylansong, but once again a
great version og good singing and then a brilliant High water. I don`t
think he`ll ever do it better - but who knows? Though mama was good too
and defenitely much better than the night before when I was afraid that he
had lost his voice once more. A tender Floater with Freddie on violin was
next up and then as the night before strong versions of Million miles and
Jokerman. And Hattie Carroll; - well I have heard a lot of great versions
of this song, but tonight it was the highlight for me next to Durango. I`m
afraid I will not hear Dylan singing in such a good voice ever more - but
at least, yesterday he was just fantastic. Well, you all know what the
rest of the concert was like. At last thanks to my travelling mates for
all the 9 concerts I have seen on this tour, John and Knut Arne. Greetings
to all the others I travelled with and met along the way as well. And
thanks to my wife Tone for joyning me on this London-trip. She even liked
the Shepards Bush show better than me. It`s great to be a Dylan-fan. 
"Romance in Durango"  Yeahhhhhhhhhhh!

Steinar Daler (sunset)


Review by Raf

Last night at the Apollo was fantastic - once again I have to say
The Bob Dylan Band is the best by a very long way.

From the opening incredible version of Drifter's Escape, to the poignancy
of Girl of the North Country, the exuberance of Jokerman and the sheer
RocknRoll of Cat's in the Well, the whole evening was sensational.

There were very very few of those throwaway vocals which tended to happen
on some of the old songs at Brighton Centre (Tambourine Man and so on
which although great must be terribly hard to inject passion into once
you've sung it a thousand times and you're over 60 to boot!).  That's not
to say it can't happen someway some other time of course.

As with Le Zenith in 2000, I'm wondering how it could possibly get any guess is that it doesn't get any better but if you're lucky
it can or might be be just as good somehow .  Does that sound about right?

Cheers now,

in Beckenham, just outside London.


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