Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio Arena

March 8, 2008

[Braulio Tavares], [Eduardo Bueno],

Review by Braulio Tavares

Dylan's show at Rio Arena ran smoothly from beginning to end, with great
music, a band tightly connected, and a repertoire of songs mostly drawn
from "Modern Times" (six) and the "golden age".  Rio Arena was only half
full, and it's worthy noting that the special chairs (the most expensive
ones) in front of the stage were nearly all occupied, while "arquibancada
3", for the cheaper tickets, was mostly empty.  Even these were quite
expensive by Brazilian standards (100 dollars more or less).  The show was
staged for the "followers", people who'll pay anything.  (Well, we expect
not having to pay anything)

I've seen all previous Dylan's shows in Rio (Praça da Apoteose in 1990,
Imperator in '91, Praça da Apoteose again in '98).  Tonight's show was
solid, crafty, but did not sweep up the public like the public itself
probably was expecting.  There were lots of ballads and slow songs between
electrifyng numbers like "Rainy Day Women", "Levee's Gonna Break", "Honest
with Me", "Highway 61", "Summer Days" and "Like a Rolling Stone".  One
could say that the whole show was a sequence of highs and lows: people
standing, yelling, waving arms, singing choruses - and in the next number
the same people sitting, in absolute silence, absorbing a slow number
carefully and beautifully performed.  

I think it'a a cliché, by now, to say that most Dylan's fans go to a show
with an expectation of hearing again and again their old favorites, which
are mostly from the Sixties - and sometimes they can't even recognize a
song while it's being performed.  Anyway, Dylan's vocal delivery is, and
has always been, unique and amazing.  Even when he just mumbles, even when
he hurries along a line making it sound as if were made only from
consonants and no vowels - there's an inner conviction in his singing that
makes any one of us feel like he's saying those things and looking
directly in our eyes.  

I understand that Dylan was a clownish figure in his youth, and we meet
that persona now and then in old movies and documentaries.  But now he's
the most Brechtian performer in the world of rock.  He's cool, closed,
enigmatic, distant - but his voice and delivery tell volumes.  He doesn't
seem to care a bit about pleasing an audience, and in the very end the
audience is pleased (well, most of the audience) because of the absolute
sincerity and conviction in his voice.  He doesn't need any pyrotechnics
on stage.  His shows are based on the Voice and the Verse, which is like
saying the Hammer and the Nail. 


Review by Eduardo Bueno

Hey,  hey, dear tape collectors, here´s a show that is worth to
have.... Bob Dylan came back to the so called (and "self"-called)
"Wonderfull  City" of Rio de Janeiro for the fourth time in his career and
kept this leg of the Never Ending Thing going right on the tracks, gaining
speed, volume, precision and breath -- leaving us, uh, breathless..

In the almost brand new Rio Olympic Arena, where the Pan American
Games were held, only few months ago - a place with a good acoustic,
almost with the same size and appearance of London´s Wembley Arena, half
full, with, say, 7,000 people -, Dylan and band came into stage 45 minutes
before 9 PM with a fair version of "Rainny Day Women", not bad at all, but
with a performance that failed completely to announce what was ahead,
further up on the road.

Anyhow, after throwing a decent and explicit business card like that 
into the audience's desk, kind as if he wants to make clear who had came
to play, Bob decide to make a second type  of warning - if not to the
crowd, at least to some critics and some fans that were interviewed after
São Paulo´s first night (march 5th) and said, in the pages of the most
important newspapers of the country.  that the person they saw that night
on the stage "was NOT the Bob Dylan that everybody  were expecting to see"
and that he "didn´t even cared to say goodnight to the audience."

Well, that´s surely aint him, baby, no, no, no, it ain´t  him, baby, 
it ain´t him YOU were looking for - so why don´t  you go to the Julio
Iglesias gig that was just the other nite?  "It Ain´t Me, Baby" was sing
with soul and sarcasm, with only one "no", instead of the traditional
"no´no´no" part that made it became a classic of the, uhn, let´s say,
Yeah-yeah-yeah music. It was good, really good.

Right after saying to some people that it isn´t him they were looking 
for, and locking far,  he murmured to some other kind of people that . he
would be their baby tonight. The country waltz sounded much faster and
deeper and flashing  - and bigger, too - than the São Paulo´s version of
two nights ago. Much, much better, and also one too many nights and a
thousand miles higher than "John Wesley Harding" `s. No Charlie Daniels
softness around this time, but the song is kind of becaming a genuine
sweet heart at rodeo favorite, at least in this Rio de Janeiro´s hot
tropical night version.

Then, a somber, darker, imposing and inquisition´s like version of
"Masters of War", the first truly great moment of the night, with Dylan
going to the keyboards, and still seeing thru masks, and following caskets
in the pale afternoon and standing up in graves till we were sure that
some type of hypocrisy is buried down deeper. He didn´t sound at all like
the "naive" and dreamy boy that strolled down the snowed streets of
Village, arm in arm with  Suze, but, instead, showed up with his own mask
on, and sang thru it, as if he was that deformed Vanilla Sky character
who, 45 years later, still faces the ones who played with this world as
their little toy. Epic version, epic!

The Leeve´s gonna break" followed, speedier and "hillbillier" than
in the original version, and, yes, that people were still on the road,
down in the flood,  carrying everything they own, nowhere to go.  There´s
plenty of floods in Brazilian slums too. You don´t have to go to New
Orleans to see it. So Dylan might as well could be singing about them too.
Maybe he was. Then, the evolving "Spirit in the water" showed us the
crooner side of this thin moustached, black hat-ted Bob, as the lights got
dimmer and he soft blew his harp. This song cleary marks the end of the
first part of the show. But It was just beggiging.

"Things Have Changed" made clear what that bald golden statue of a
guy who looks just like someone´s uncle Oscar is doing up there by the
P.As. The song received an ironical, sharp, well balanced version - almost
as if it was sung by the same weirdo hobo we saw singing it, and spitting
the words as if they were  tobacco chewed, in the You Tube video. Whoever
the guy in the gray suit was, man, the way he sang "Working Man´s Blues
was touchable enough to make a stone cry. It was magnificent, every word
rang true as if it was written in his soul, like burning coal.

What to say of the version of "My Back Pages" that burst on scene
right away after some people who never worked a day of their lifes left
the room? I´m speechless. But I swear the man in the long gray coat sounds
younger than that now - brighter than that now! I hope some audience tapes
begun to circulate. It was a masterly version of this looking back in
anger classic, I´m sure, with great harp playing too, folks. It used to be
folk and goes like that, but now it goes like this.

"Honest with me" had the arduous task of follow that stream of
consciousness and electrical waterfall of sound, but accomplished it.
"When the deals go down" sounded even better than in the record and even
better than in São Paulo, two nights ago. Hey, man, how far is that going?
It seems it´s going all the way, until the wheels fall out and burn.
Specially because the wheels that rolled down "Highway 61" were not tires,
but steal ones - cause that venerable 65 classic sounded like a locomotive
that seems ready and able to design its own way thru the swamps and
meadows , without loosing the track. As good as in São Paulo´s first nite
and much better than in the second.

I don´t know Abe - neither of them - so I can´t really tell if this guy
is the only son of a insane man, but I can assure he plays in a cowboy
band and he misses Nettie Moore. A touching, torching, touchy version of
this Modern Times gem came next.really great, with Bob destilating and
sweating every word, again but not half as brilliant and incandescent as
the "Summerdays" country sounds that turned Rio Arenas in a hillbillies
barn and FINALLY took people out of their chairs, and a revolution took
place, when youngsters ignored the security guards and went to the front
row and everybody started to dance. When people were still enjoying 
A LOT their best moment of the nite, the band burst on "Like a Rolling 
Stone" and it was a collective catharsis.

They went out of five minutes or so, and came back with a thundering 
version of "Thunder on the mountain", just about  one million times better
than in São Paulo two nights ago (and that one was good enough.). Then
"Blowin in the Wind" as to prove that the show is not a carnival and a
caravan of improvisation anymore. It has a predictable set list. But you
know why? Cause it´s working real fine, real live, or so I believe. Dylan
seems to be in a great mood, happy and relaxed, with himself and his
hootchie cochie men band, all dressed in black, and he smiled a lot,
specially during `Highway 61", made nods to the boys in the band of the
hand, and it looks like he is enjoying a lot being .whoever he is, whoever
Bob Dylan is, He was there, although some people keep on saying he´s not

If YOU were not there, why don't you try Santiago (Chile) Buenos
Aires, Rosario, Cordoba (Argentina) or Punta Del Este (Uruguay), where
he's going to play a casino, as if he is the piano player of the old
burning saloon, the roof falling down into ashes, while the show lead by
him still goes on. cause, you know, life's a carnival, is on the Book.
Just take another look..

Eduardo Bueno


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