page by Bill Pagel
Review by John Scannell
Sometimes I wonder if it is me getting older and more nostalgic, or is Bob
truly getting better? After a great show at Centennial Park in 2001, I was
wondering how this would fare in comparison? I was to be amazed once again
by Bob's energy and a singing voice that has improved over the last 10
years! Once a Dylan fanatic (Things Have Changed) now merely a slightly
over zealous devotee...I hadn't heard any recent bootlegs, so this was my
first taste of the Dylan electric piano spectacular. Must say that I
particularly enjoyed his reprise on the johanna...and he was able to play
some astounding one note solos! But that's the Bob we know and love...To
be fair though, I thought this show ranked up there with some of the best
I have seen him do! I really can't believe I am gushing about His Bobness
First 7-8 songs, up to Masters of War were absolutely superb! Won't be
doing an exact track for track here...so excuse me if I miss a track or
two...Tweedle Dee...great opener, sounded almost note perfect from Love
and Theft. Been looking forward to hearing the new tracks live...so it
didn't disappoint. Next up, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight...my oh my! That
must surely be some of the best harp playing I've heard Bob do in
aaaaages. Again, maybe enthusiasm is getting the better of my judgement,
but compare that to a version done around 1992, and the difference is
staggering. The whole time on the piano, Bob was jumping around and was
really energetic. I don't know about this energy level compared to the
rest of the Australian shows of this tour, but he was doing a lot of booty
shaking on those keys. I know because I was seated almost directly behind
him! So great to see him that animated...which continued for most of the
show. I was actually not looking forward to the 'Dylan greatest hits'
that I knew I would have to put up with at the Entertainment Centre...but
tracks like Highway 61 were delivered with such energy , enthusiasm and
fresh arrangements that it was still rocking for even the ho-hum Dylan
(Although Blowin and Watchtower as encore were a tad ho-hum for me...)
On the greatest hits bit - I can't forget Just Like a Woman. Just when I
thought I was about to hear it one too many times, Bob delivers a
brilliant version of a song that I am not particualrly partial to at the
best of times...Again the first 7-8 tracks up to and including Masters of
War (despite a high *ahem* poignancy factor) were faultless! In fact
hearing Masters of War just made you think how little things change in 40
years! What do you mean you can't repeat the past , of course you can!
Jumping around a bit here...apologies... all me an Infidel (no there is no
end to the puns!) but I thought Things Have Changed was a bit overrated on
its release...but the version he served up to the Sydney crowd changed my
perception of this little number completely! Don't Think Twice was played
with much spirit and a deft acoustic touch! The guitar interplay sounded
fantastic from where I was seated... Now things were, to my mind, at
levels of unprecedented greatness (for the Entertainment Centre, a place
that I really dislike, but even the acoustics sounded above average
tonight)...but for me things fell apart a bit, (a bit!) at One Too Many
Mornings. Say no more.There was nothing incredibly bad about it, just that
it was a bit ramshackle after the incredibly tight performances preceding
it. I don't know how others feel but I am not sure that I liked the pacing
of all the Love and Theft stuff so close together (nice to hear Make You
feel My Love in There, but a couple of more obscure things wouldn't have
gone a miss for me...)...as, in my opinion, stuff like Lonesome Day Blues
and Honest With Me are some of the lesser tracks of that record. I would
really have gone a bit mental over a Floater (Too Much to Ask) or Po
Boy...but it was major recompense to get such a STORMING version of Summer
Days! Oh yeah, Bye and Bye was great too.
Bob seemed to be doing a bit of a Brian Wilson with the piano
though...there were great periods in the second half of the show that he
didn't seem to be playing anything in particular on them...save the odd
one note solo etc. BUT, at the beginning of the show he was playing quite
a lot...and very well, I could hear him quite clearly!
Bob, Bob, Bob, just when I say to myself, surely this isn't gonna be
better than the last, you make me (happily) eat my words. Great show!
Again! Bob you made me feel your love! (ooh er)
Low point - those arseholes screaming out and abusing Ani DeFranco
during her poem! What was that all about?!
Comments by Peter Lalor
Marianne Faithfull showed up to the Sydney show and was backstage. A
rumoured appearance by the Stones never happened as the boys minus Mick
were jamming at a nearby club as a warm up for tonight's club gig. Ani
DiFranco was jeered and heckled for a boring 20 minute beat rant about
multinationals, war, abortion etc. Bob was in perversely good spirits and
while he destroyed "I'll be your baby tonight' _ there his melodies and
he'll murder them if he wants to _ and did some awful piano stuff, he
finally let the band take over and got it together. The version of All
Along the Watchtower was blistering. Masters of War was menacing and the
band attempted to help him out on vocals for Blowing in the Wind. The best
material seemed to come from the last two albums.
Review by Mark Ray
Two good omens before Dylan’s Sydney concert. On the way in, steady rain
was falling on parched Sydney. My wife notes ‘the good rain’ and Lucy, one
of our 11-year-old twins, says: ‘Mum, shouldn’t that be hard rain?’ It’s
hers and Hannah’s first big concert, important for girls who already love
the stage and who in the past year have come to enjoy Dylan’s music, as
much through The White Stripes and their excellent Dylan covers as their
old man’s and big brother’s insistence on playing Dylan at home more often
than anything else. Once inside the venue, we see that our row also has
another set of identical sisters, these aged about 20. The first song?
‘Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee’.
The sound is better than the previous two gigs at this venue a few years
ago. As expected, by us if not everyone there, Dylan is to the left on
electric piano. Bad luck if you’re on the far left of this large venue.
I’m no musician so I’m not going to go through each song. Half the set was
from the last two albums. ‘Highway 61’ was an early highlight, cheeky and
rocking. ‘Things Have Changed’ seemed to suffer from a lack of crowd
response, not enough people being familiar with this latest winner. ‘Cold
Irons Bound’ was tighter and more forceful than the last time. It was
followed by ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, at which one of a group of
middle-aged women behind us said she’d already got her money’s worth. The
day before, 300,000 people attended a peace march in the city. ‘Masters of
War’ said it for all of us, and Dylan let the song do the talking. Then
‘Lonesome Day Blues’, complete with those lines: ‘Well, my pa he died and
left me, my brother got killed in the war Well, my pa he died and left me,
my brother got killed in the war My sister, she ran off and got married
Never was heard of any more’ which are almost a direct quote from one of
Huck Finn’s more fanciful autobiographical inventions. Then came ‘Make You
Feel My Love’ and three from ‘Love and Theft’, including a light and
lovely ‘Bye and Bye’.. Same encore as at most concerts on this tour. ‘All
Along The Watchtower’ was as powerful as expected. Superb finish.
Throughout most of the night Dylan swung his knees at the keyboard like
Elvis, in one song sharply turning his head and shoulders on a beat to the
people down the front right below him, presumably those fans who’ve been
at most gigs this tour. His voice might have wavered on the higher notes
but the current gravelly growl works brilliantly on the new songs. After
all, he is a 61-year-old singing about being 61. And more power to him for
After that awesome ‘Watchtower’, as he and the band stood there taking in
the applause, Dylan eventually gave a double thumbs-up, but even that was
low-key, his hands close in front of his body and probably not obvious to
people towards the back. I think he said ‘thank you’ softly and casually
into the mike towards the end of the show but that was it - no chat, just
great songs. Thankfully this was in sharp contrast to Ani DeFranco who
suffered an embarrassing case of verbal diarroeha. Talk about stating the
obvious. She gushingly congratulated Sydney for its peace march then
proceeded to tell us why we marched. Her finale, one of her poems
‘inspired’ by 9/11, was terrible and prompted a burst of heckling. She
would be wise to study how Dylan tells a story to tell a story or builds
up images to convey a feel or an atmosphere, instead of preaching at us.
Dylan respects his audience and gives them credit for some brains.
DeFranco does not. That’s the difference between art and … well, whatever
it was she was doing.
Review by Peter O'Donnell
A little bit of afternoon rain in Sydney today as I looked out my motel window
at 5.30pm. The view is the roof of the Sydney Entertainment Centre. I am
staying across the road from the complex where in a few hours Bob and the band
will play, what most fans who have been to more than one show, the best
performance of the 2003 Australian tour.
At about 6.00pm I go down and see the tiny figure of the Italian girl who has
been at all the shows with her sign, pleading for a free ticket. 30 minutes
later I ask her did she get a ticket and the reply was "Yes, I was very lucky
tonight". Isn't she always.
I hear lots of Dylan stories before the show from Dylan fans about Bob signing
autographs at Sydney airport after flying in from Perth Monday night on the
late Qantas flight. The Aussies guys who got the band members autographs prior
I go into the show about 8.30pm missing the Waifs but catching the end of Ani
Difranco's set, which ends about 8.50pm so I thought. Ani tells us she'd like
to recite a poem, "hope this is short" I say to myself. She launches into a
piece called "Self Evident" which goes on and on and on. Some people in the
crowd take exception to the content of the show yelling out "bullshit", "get
off", "Where's Bob" etc.
This ignites Ani's fans who start yelling back at the hecklers, and Ani is up
there giving the poem her best shot, she never missed a beat, and done a great
job. Then leaves the audience in a very tense atmosphere.
I check the attendance about 70% capacity I'd say, giving us an audience of
At 9.20pm the lights go out. The Intro music plays and the "Long Intro" begins
("disappeared into a haze of substance abuse etc") On come Bob and the band and
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum begins with Bob on piano. He's wearing a white or
light coloured sequined suit. Many of the crowd are allowed to stand from the
first song tonight.
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight follows with Larry on steel and Bob playing some. This
is sounding good.
Highway 61 Revisited in the now usual 3 slot, this is played great, with Billy
playing some nice lead.
Just Like A Woman was one of the true delights of the night. Bob on harp for the
intro with Larry back on steel. The phrasing is magnificent and I think "Bobs
vocals are excellent tonight".
Things Have Changed rolls along nicely
Cold Irons Bound sees Bob go to the electric guitar. I really like this
arrangement, the same as played during the second half of 2002.
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright has all acoustic guitars with Tony on upright
bass. I love this song and man he nails it tonight I thought.
Masters Of War is powerful yet again, it sure is topical with the world as it is
at the moment. During a instrument piece Bob gets his right leg up on the drum
riser, this looks odd and uncomfortable to me.
One Too Many Mornings is also nailed, Bob is in full swing now, stares, glares
Lonesome Day Blues is all electric with Bob back at the keyboards. This is my
debut of this song and I like it. Smiles from the band, Bob too is enjoying this
Make You Feel My Love is a small surprise here. Not most people favourite Dylan
song, but Bob enjoyed this one too. Signing this nicely from behind the
Honest With Me cooks along and Bob still at the piano.
Bye and Bye sees Tony on upright bass again, Billy on acoustic guitar and Larry
on semi-acoustic Gretch. This song was played nicely and the band enjoyed this
one too. I notice the Italian girl about 6 rows from the front and just right
of centre standing up dancing.
Summer Days is sharp and is played for longer than it was in Canberra. I knew we
were near the end at this point but this was so good it didn't matter.
The band assembles at centre stage and then leave. Applause followed by
chanting sees Bob and his band return for
Blowin' In The Wind played all acoustically, Tony was on acoustic bass. Larry
and Billy doing backing vocals which somehow don't sound as good as they did
when Charlie Sexton was around.
All Along The Watchtower roared after Bob introduced the band. I have seen AC/DC
at this venue a few times and they would have been proud to generate this much
energy, man this was a great version.
The band again assembled and it was all over at 11.10pm
I scurry down to catch up with other Bob fans to see if it was just me, or was
this a great show we'd just witnessed. It was unanimous we saw something special
tonight. Bob in great form and Billy Burnette looking as though he was now part
of the band, he rarely takes his eyes off Bob. Man, George thumps them drums.
Larry and Tony are stars too, but that goes without saying.
Newcastle next stop.
Review by Paul Byrne
As I write this review, Dylan is on his way to New Zealand having
completed the 7 Aussie gigs. Newcastle was the night following this
penultimate gig. The crowd's attention had been caught and held by the
powerful and passionate vocals and acoustic plucking and strumming of Ani
DiFranco, one of Dylan's support acts on the Down Under tour of 2003. I
couldn't help thinking that despite many people believing that the man is
not political anymore, surely to have someone supporting him as outspoken
as DiFranco is not an argument in favour of this view. She was, again,
fantastic, in my opinion. There were periods during the quieter sections
of her set-list that you could literally hear a pin drop among the 6-7,000
strong audience, such was her captivation and raw honesty. She started to
lose people though with her 9/11 poem, the hecklers unfortunately becoming
Dylan and the band were introduced at 9.20PM. Up with the lights, and on
with the music, Tweedle Dum as an expected opener, with Bob hovering on
the piano. He was dressed in a white suit with slightly sparkling
material that caught the bright stage lights when he moved. I was sitting
well back, raised from the floor level, but bang in the middle, and boy,
the sound was fantastic from where I was. This was the first Dylan
concert that I had been to sitting so far back; you could not make out any
facial expressions from this distance, just the general nods and stuff.
At this stage Tweedle Dum has lost all of its appeal to me, even though it
is a solid song, it just isn't a great opener in my opinion. I'll be your
baby - a nice sweet version of this, I was starting to think, however, of
an uncanny resemblance to the Canberra set list at this early stage. On
to HW61, I know that this a greatest hit but it certainly still rocks the
way Dylan and the Boys perform it. Instead of drawing out the
'wannnnnnnne' he draws out the 'highwayyyyyyyyy' bit of the chorus, and
chops the 'sixty one' to a mere syllable. Bob is on form tonight I can
see, I think even at this early stage, he was moving his head around in
that pointed, jaggy, cat-like way. The piano sounded very clear tonight,
there was one song during which he actually stood with his left hand
resting on it, and his right hand tinkling a few notes, but he was looking
around in a nonchalant manner in that "detached" way that he does. Just
Like a Woman was beautiful, I thought that his singing was very sweet on
this. He has changed around the start to actually sound like the closing
piece of the song, you actually think that the song is about to finish
before it has started! Things have changed - a good, solid song, clear
guitar playing from Larry and Billy. Cold Irons Bound - I was pleased to
hear this, as it was a favourite of mine in the 2000 UK tour. His legs
are moving, doing the 'splits' at this stage of the concert, just standing
there with the guitar and plucking away. The mean face, the moving head.
He seemed to have bundles of energy tonight! Don't think twice - always a
personal favourite of mine the way he performs it live, tonight did not
disappoint! His voice sounded so clear and good during this one. And
then to Masters of War, and a beautiful version we got tonight. I think
that it is amazing to think of the era when this song was written and what
was going on all around, and here we were some 40 years on, probably
feeling and thinking something similar to our forefathers before us, the
music is so timeless, you can almost picture this song being sung and
covered for generations to come.
One too Many Mornings - again I was touched by the voice Dylan adopted for
this piece. It sounded better than the Canberra version. Lonesome Day
Blues - this is a mean, dirty, gritty song on the album, and it was no
different tonight. It was amazing the way Bob changed from the sweetness
of the song before to this growling menace of a song. His gravelly voice
sounds wonderful on this, fitting the lyrics well. Make you feel my love
was the only new song performed to date for the Australia tour, and I
actually thought that he was breaking into Simple Twist of Fate for about
30 or 40 seconds! The lighting had fallen to a beautiful violet backdrop
with strong, golden light from above in the foreground on the band. To
jump back from the snarl of LDB to this gentle and sweet song was amazing,
and I thought that the lighting caught this atmosphere very well. Again,
I cannot speak highly enough of his voice and its quality.
Next was Honest with Me, not a favourite of mine from the studio version,
but a lively and well constructed version tonight for us. We certainly
have been getting plenty of the new material on this tour, albeit the same
new songs more or less each night! On to Bye and Bye, jaunty and airy, a
nice breather. And then I started to think... the next song will be the
last before the encore... it's got to be, as with most of the time during
this slot on the tour, SUMMER DAYS! Yes, it was. I cannot describe the
riff/jam that the band goes into for this song in the middle. Just get
the bootleg, that's all I will say! The recorded song is good, but there
is nothing like tonight's rendition on the album. Dylan was out there
jamming, with Larry and Billy on fire, fingers burning classic rock riffs
out through the powerful amps, each taking turns to do a lead, Recelli on
drums almost lifting himself off the ground with his savage drum beating,
everyone so into it that they are probably not even aware that they in
front of a live audience, just serious guitar playing going on for a good
10 minutes I would say! Rousing stuff, it got a great reception. That
was the highlight of the night for me.
Back for the encore after a seemingly endless 4 or 5 minute wait, clapping
and cheering. 2 expected numbers, Blowin' and Watchtower. Watchtower was
a rousing version tonight, full of energy as you would expect. Bob did
that "thumbs up, but only half way" thing at the very end, sort of
wandered around the stage a little, and then they all stood to attention
in the customary way, all 4 of the other band member identically clad in
wine-coloured suits with black shirts. And then, blink, they were gone.
There were no real bad songs or lows tonight I thought. The Newcastle gig
the following night would turn out to not quite reach the same highs in my
opinion, with the exception of Spanish Boots, which I have never heard
live and thought was a dream.
Bob seems to be really enjoying himself at the moment. Billy is fitting
into the band more, time will tell if he is as good as Charlie, but I
believe that Bob is a lot more comfortable now with him there than he was
with Charlie, he's not the same threat to him! Recelli brings a great
energy and sheer noise to the arrangement. And Tony and Larry are as
solid as ever. Come back again to us Bob, you rock!
page by Bill Pagel
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