Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio Arena

March 15, 2008

[Eduardo Bueno],

Review by Eduardo Bueno

Everybody in the whole wide world (www…) calls it "football" - only americans 
call it "soccer"; which probably means that Bob Dylan calls it "soccer" too… But 
who really cares? The fact is that last saturday night, in Buenos Aires, 
Argentina, Dylan not just played in a football stadium, but kept alive one of 
the golden unwritten rules of the game: you don´t make changes in your 
team if it´s winning…

Well, I guess the quote is valid for any other sport -- like, say, baseball --, but 
the point here is that the expression seems to fit like a glove to define this leg 
of the Ever Going Tour… And  that´s probably why the set lists of this current 
tour are becoming so predictable - even in it´s changes. But if the songs 
remains (mostly) the same, and are even sung in the same order, the way 
they came alive are still… unique. Thus, the experience of seeing and listen to 
these songs of experience in different nights, and in different settings, are still 
valid and… unique by itself. So, are you experienced?

Under a silver beautiful moon, shinning in a southern starry sky, in a perfect late 
summer night, with the wind softly blowing, Bob Dylan and his band went to 
stage five minutes after 9;30 PM, in the Velez Sarsfield stadium, in the outskirts 
of huge, flat city of Buenos Aires. Even with the place being half empty, it was, 
by far, the biggest venue to receive this South American leg of Dylan´s tour. 
The newspapers of Buenos Aires said there were 23,000 people there - but I 
guess they were not much more than 16,000. Anyhow, they were all in their 
feet, clapping their hands, when the first notes - and the first stones - were 
"Rainny Day Women" was, again, the opening song of the night. But, somehow, 
it didn´t sound the way it should. The song received a good version in São 
Paulo´s second night (March, 6th), a fair version in Rio´s (March, 8th), and… 
this kind of sloppy version here in Buenos Aires… It was as if it suddenly sounds 
a little too childish and foolish to Bob to sing and say, out loud, in the dawn of 
this new millennium, that "everybody must get stoned". Does he really believes 
that "everybody must get stoned"? Well, nobody would mind, care, or dare, to 
ask such a silly question if the song sounded the way it should. So, if you caught 
yourself wondering it, it was just because it didn´t stoned you… I mean, it 
didn´t rocked you, isn´t it?

And the sweet lady that came up to your room shortly after that… well, she 
didn´t come, neither... "Lay Lady Lay", that sounded magistral in São Paulo, 
sounded… reticent and undecided in Buenos Aires. Well, not the lady herself: 
the GUY who was inviting her to stay while the night still ahead, he seems (or, 
at least, sounded) undecided. The line "Stay, lady, stay", carefully pronounced, 
almost letter by letter, a week ago, in São Paulo, in Buenos Aires became like a 
single unpronounceable word, with almost no vowels: "s´tladstay"…

I have these friends from Brazil, who traveled to Argentina just to see the show 
(more than one thousand miles, boys: two days in a naughty, coughing bus), 
bought the cheaptest tickets, in the farthest corner of the decaying, 
piss-smelling stadium, with the warm night wind sometimes blowin´ Bob´s 
voice away and, by the middle of that second song, the young beautiful couple 
look each other with dismal faces and both though: "Oh, God, it´s gonna be 
like one of those, uhn, say, late 80´s shows… All the money spent, all the 
hours without pissing in the bus… And now this?"

I was in the front row, so I didn´t feel the same kind of despair. I didn´t feel 
ANY kind of despair at all, actually, but just keep on wondering that´s a pitty 
Bob Dylan still calls "football" "soccer", cause, you know, there is this typical 
football thing is his presentations: one can never say when a great player will 
really play in a football game. Sometimes, the game starts and, oh God, you 
realize that your favorite player is just… not playing well. Then, all of a sudden, 
he takes the ball and, against all odds, after dribbling most of the adversaries …. 
scores: Goal!

It was just what happened next, when, as if Bob kept on wonder what´s the 
matter with him, why he seemed to don´t have much to say, and kept walking 
to and fro beneath the moon, he suddenly sits down on this bank of sand, by 
the side of the mythical, mysterious, wide River Plate… and just watch the river 

You know, the song was written when the times seemed not to be a-changing, 
when time passed slowly up there in the mountains, and was as if the wheel 
were not spinning anymore to tell who that it´s namin´, so BD sets down, and 
sats down to watch truck wheels go round and round… and he just loved to 
watch them roll, and felt so contentedly…. A merry go-round in a country fair, 
underneath this sky of blue …  Well, we too could breath in relief, so contentedly 
now, cause "Watching the River Flow" sounded as if the show had finally started, 
after two false starts… The song rolls and flows good and easy, and goes with 
the flow. Good version, with Bob finding his voice and the band realizing that was 
about time to start to earn their money honestly, once again, like they have 
been doing for months, for years in some cases…

Then came "Masters of War" and, just like in Rio de Janeiro, it was … well, 
masterly sung, full of drama and dramatization, truly theatrical, with Bob leaving 
clear to everyone - even to the ones in the farthest seats, as my couple of 
friends over there - that he still believes in every single word of it, maybe 
because, you know, HE was born and has always LIVED in the very country 
that build (almost) all the guns, build all the death planes and all the big bombs, 
and also where a boy named Dylan used to bowling in Columbine, just another 
pawn in their game…

Anyway, the singer is not faking, nor proselytizing, nor preaching: he´s just… 
singing, cause this is not a speech, nor a pronunciation, it´s just a song - 
although it rings so truthful that, all of a sudden, it is as if all the hippie and 
now "passé" peaceful "ideals" of the Sixties were still up to date, still factual 
(and not faction), cause, you know, sometimes, to define good and bad 
quite clear, no doubt, somehow, can become an easy task; sometimes it's 
NOT a lie to say that  life IS black or white, just cause, in some matters, 
there´s NO neutral ground, is there? Anyway, we still hope that this people 
really die, and their death come soon - and  maybe they will, next November… 
At least, that´s my hope, if unfortunately not my vote…

"Masters" seems to made clear that there was a crash on the level, mama, 
and water would overflow, and we all would bust our feet and rock this joint 
and it was going to be the meanest flood that anybody´s seen! "The levee´s 
gonna brake" was an explosion of sound and joy that liberate all the power 
rockabilly can have. It´s way far better than the recorded version: speedier, 
louder, funnier. This lovely girl next to me said that, to her, it was the best 
song of the last three shows, so far. But even with it´s merry sounds, the 
song reminds me of Katrina blowing lovely New Orleans away. I guess the 
song was a premonitory vision of the levee number 3 being overflow, and
this people on the road, carryin´ everything they own, with barely enough 
skin to cover their bones, well, they still don´t have nowhere to go…

Images of New Orleans flooded my mind as I remember the descriptions of 
the city made by Dylan in one of the best parts of his "Chronicles"; so I kept 
an eye in Tony Garnier´s bright face, and he was rolling his eyes while playing 
that extraordinary version of this particular song. Was he thinking about his 

Then, after the waters flowed in the mythological river (Plate) nearby and 
flooded the levee, something seemed to be missed in their spirit... The sweet, 
tender, melodic, romantic "Spirit on the water" came next, but, somehow, it 
sounded incomplete, unprovided; not "wet", nor slippery, enough, if you know 
what I mean… It just didn't ring the bell. It´s such a sweet song, it sounded 
so wonderfully both in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. This time, thou, it was as 
if the singer step on the feet of the lady he just had invite to waltz with him. 
Well, It but didn´t hurt that much, in the end…
Specially cause things changed again very fast, and, this time, for good. And 
again, just like in "Masters of war" -- but for all different reasons --, you just 
can´t fail to believe that the singer means what he´s telling you: yes, people 
are crazy, and times are strange, and he used to care…but, you know, things 
have changed. Anyhow, who would ever guess that things would change so 
much that Dylan would care about an Oscar so much, to the point of inviting 
that bald mute golden shinning guy for being a special guest on the stage 
every night of this current tour? But even with the eyeless statue facing us 
from over there, the song kind of proves that BD still is the old lonesome 
hobo, without family or friends; the man in constant sorrow, seeing troubles 
everywhere. But don´t worry, pal: he seems to enjoy that position… 
Otherwise, how could he would be able to sing it like THAT?

Well, I just don´t know what to say about "Working Men´s Blues", the song 
that came next. Oh, man: Amen! It´s already a classic, isn´t it? It's a gem,
it´s a pearl, it´s a blessing to have something like this coming out the same
source, after all these years, after all these songs… And it received a magistral 
performance again, just like in SP and Rio. The craftsmanship, the "carpentry"
of the voice, turned the song into a kind of Woodstock handmade wooden 
house, built without a single nail: everyone of them logs just fitted and onto 
the right place. "Inspire people: what more can you do for them?" said Bob 
once. God, this melody, these lines, they keep me wondering: to which part 
of your mind you gotta go in order to find a golden stream of images and 
sounds like that? The song is, definitely, one of the high points of this whole 
tour. I have said!

Then, "Just like a woman" came in and manages to advance even further in 
this uncharted territory of the creative mind. If the performance of "Working 
Men´s Bules" was like finding golden stream in California in 1849; the way Dylan 
delivered "Just like woman" was like find a golden mine in Klondike! And to hear 
this particular song in such a misogyny country, in the macho latin land of 
Argentina, oh, man, made it sounds even more sarcastic and meanest, and 
lowest… and, so, it reveals more cleary this pain in here... I´d never guess a 
corkscrew in the heart could make me feel so good.

So, the rumors keep on whispering on our ears that Dylan has passed most of 
his South Americans days and nights locked in his hotel room? Ok, maybe he´s 
just playing solitaire... Or maybe he´s there writing one more of this kind of 
song, instead going to a party… 

Dylan´s honest with himself, and he surely is honest with us -- so, come on, 
let's be honest with him, right? The pity was that "Honest with me" wasn´t 
honest with it´s previous grandeur, reveled in former nights and so Buenos 
Aires lost the opportunity to hear the band´s jamming, like they use to do in 
this song. But, as in a kind of compensation, the version of "When the deal 
goes down" that followed, was a superb one. Have you ever heard dance 
music? Well, this is "old saloon´s dance music"…

In this great, wonderful city that gave Tango to the world,  the thin 
moustached Bob Dylan sounds as broken hearted, as passionate, as old 
fashioned as a tango singer in the mystical El Caminito joint, in the Buenos 
Aires waterfront, where the sailors all come in and the neon burned bright,
reflecting in the dark river waters, like pieces of a broken mirror. "When the 
deal goes down" came live way ahead of the recorded version and seems to 
prove, once more, that Dylan is a kind of prestidigitador, a magician, an 
illusionist - only that, instead of rabbits from the hat, he takes (sometimes 
hides) words from the throat... How can someone sing like that? He´s a 
cubist Sinatra, disconstructing the phonetic and reinventing the syntax, 
right in front of your very eyes, man.

I swear haven´t smoke a thing, but I could not help but thinking that, if he 
was gambler in a saloon, playing poker with you, he might as well be bluffing 
all the time, but you would never notice it, till your last coin was gone. He´s 
a coin man, a con man, a confident men! So, if the wheels go round and 
round, and the river flows and the levee´s gonna brake, maybe it´s all 
because this is not River Plate running in the back of the stage, in the back 
of the band: instead, it´s one lost Mississippi of the mind slowly flowing, and 
we are about to leave old New Orleans,  boarding one of those old 
wheel-boats, and Mark Twain is already there, seated in one corner, a brandy
in his hand, a handy dandy, and Herman Melville, smelling whale oil, leans on 
the balcony - and they are both watching this 67 years old Huck Finn in his 
black cowboy hat  not just playing the cards, also playing with words, and 
playing with our world like it´s his little toy...

Some songs can bleed, some songs can sweat - everybody knows it. 
"Highway 61", well, this song just sparks. But somehow it didn't quite rolled 
right in Buenos Aires. People just love it, anyway, because, you know, it´s a 
piece really full of energy. But there´s no away you can compare all the 
scenes it showed in São Paulo and Rio to this affair. But, then, there comes 
"Nettie Moore". For me, it was one of the best performances of this whole 
tour - maybe the best.  Specially cause it makes clear why Bob is still on the 
road: the song, that, I believe, sounds real good to everyone who likes 
Modern Times, is just about three hundred million times better alive. The 
way Dylan sang it, the way he played his keyboard, the way he tastes every 
word before share them with the audience, oh, man, how can it be truth? 
I´m NOT exaggerating, I swear! It was like the Piped Piper of Hamelin 
blowing his flute. Ok, you can call me a rat if you feel like, but I cleary 
understand why this guy is… a performing artist. This song will never sound 
like it again, and I guess that´s why he´s gonna travel the world, that´s 
what he´s gonna do, and show it, again and again. Equal, but not the same. 
You just can´t get much more than that from an artist, man.

Well, I had enough. So, (finally) in few words: "Summerdays" again put
people out of their seats, like as if it sounds the battle charges. It was the 
same in São Paulo, in Rio and now in Buenos Aires. It couldnt´be just a
coincidence…"Like a rolling stone" was sloppy too, can you believe? Bob didn't 
seem to relate to the song - neither words nor music - in this particular night.
It was kind of bureaucratic, too much paperwork... Maybe it was because he 
was still under Nettie Moore´s spell. Or maybe I was… 

Then, they left, and they came back with a nice, funny version of "Memphis 
blues again". I just love it, and I felt like Johnny Depp playing the part of 
Hunter Thompson in Terry Gillian`s "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". And it's 
not in every night of your life you can get a feeling like that. Then this kind of 
schizophrenic version of "All along the watchtower", a paranoid song. 
Schizophrenic cause the music sounded like an avalanche, but the singing 
sounded like a murmur… So, you know, it was as if a cat in the distance did 
growl, and the wind began to howl…

It was great, but as Dylan and the band stood still, like outlaws waiting for the 
that gunpowder flash that burst to illuminate the photographies of the old 
West. Bob turned to Tony and said something in his ear. He nodded, and they 
decidec, only for the second time in this tour, to play the eighteenth song. 
And it was "Blowin in the wind", as good as the nights before, still fresh after 
all these years…

And then after accomplishing The Prestige, the great illusionist just nodded to 
the screaming audience and disappeared behind black curtains. In few days 
from now, he would play a casino. I´ll be there, but I´ll leave all my coins 
home - except the one I´m saving to throw to this minstrel boy, to let it 
down easy to save MY soul….  


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