Osaka Festival Hall
April 6, 2023
Review by Tom Dyk
Good evening, all! Like many of you, I've been reading setlists and
reviews here for decades. Long ago, it became a reflexive habit...like
chewing one's nails. If that was Laurette Maillet out there in front of
Osaka Festival Hall tonight, looking for a "ticket donation" -- I feel
happy to have seen you, but sad because I only had one ticket. I wish you
the best of luck during the remainder of your sojourn in Japan.
This is only my *fifteenth* show since 1994...and five of them happened in
that year alone. You were going to see "Jokerman" every night, and "All
Along The Watchtower" and "Tangled Up In Blue", etc. But you might also
have seen "Tears Of Rage," "I and I", "In the Garden." Things were fluid
in those days. That was part and parcel of the excitement. Maybe you never
had heard "Two Soldiers" before. But there it was, tucked into the encores
on October 9, 1994, at Boston's Orpheum. John Jackson, Winston Watson,
Bucky Baxter...those were my guys. If you put them up in mugshots, I
couldn't tell you the difference between Charlie Sexton and Larry
Campbell. I never saw Bob during the "Instrument of Torture" years of
2006-2010 or so.
That being said, I've been paying attention. Tonight's ticket cost 260,000
yen (over $200) -- which would have purchased tickets to eight shows back
in the old days -- but it was worth it, somehow, for a farewell (?) to a
The setlist was exactly the same as the one that closed last year's
European tour. And the first two songs were paint-by-numbers
versions...verses excised from the latter, "Shadow Kingdom" lyrical
additions to the former.
The last time I saw Bob was in Osaka seven years ago. The setlist
consisted of nearly 50% standards from the "Shadows in the Night" era. At
the time, I was really impressed by the Japanese audience. They clapped
the loudest for these tunes. They were hip to the fact that they were
going to hear them, and they were ready for them. Most probably, they
remembered those songs from their youth. And indeed, it was these that Bob
sang most beautifully...leaving the "croak" for stuff like "Pay in Blood."
"I Contain Multitudes" and "False Prophet" did not generate the same
affection or excitement. "When I Paint My Masterpiece" generated a ripple
of applause in recognition, but no riotous approval. To be fair, none of
these numbers merited a riot. They were played, they were sung, and --
depending on the English proficiency level of the spectator -- they were
"Black Rider." I read somewhere that A.J. Weberman thinks this was
directly addressed to *him. *The more you listen to the song, the more
sense that nonsense seems to make. And the lyrics were very clear tonight.
Tonight was a night for memories, real and imagined. Tonight, I listened
to "Black Rider," stared at Bob's blurry face, and imagined him beating up
A.J. Weberman somewhere in the village. Tonight was a night for memories.
You paid your 260,000 yen to recall that this was the same human being who
sang "Visions of Johanna" in 1966, or "Is Your Love in Vain?" in 1978. The
2023 version wasn't inept, but there was a kind of quiet over the crowd. A
kind of introspection, this time.
"My Own Version Of You". There was a crimson lighting around the stage,
but everyone was visible. It was here that Bob began to look like a
shaman. A real Dr. Frankenstein. The whole fantasia of the song seemed
real and disturbing. The show started to resonate, in earnest, for me at
this point. Did St. John the Apostle play piano? For real? Like Liberace?
That question seemed to matter while I was listening to this.
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" got a big response from the crowd. Come on,
though. This song is an afterthought. You could pick thirty or forty songs
from the Sixties that he wrote that would satisfy more than this one.
Lyrics via "Shadow Kingdom."
"Crossing the Rubicon" was a strong performance. What would Julius Caesar
do? Julius Caesar never made 82 years old, never had the opportunity to
sing from that perspective. The Rubicon seemed more meaningful in this
"To Be Alone With You" was prefaced with a very weird fiddle-and-piano
introduction. Maybe it's been there for awhile. Hard-core NET watchers
would know. Lyrics, again, via "Shadow Kingdom." Whatever the lyrics, this
is a piece of dross. Next.
"Key West" stumped me for the first minute. For that minute, I was in the
"What the hell is he singing now?" camp. It was exciting. There's
something about this version of "Key West" that really takes you there on
a summer's day. The album version describes a conceptual Key West, but the
version he plays now seems very real...the kind of place Harry Truman
would have have really enjoyed.
"Gotta Serve Somebody". A real boogie, by this band's standards. George
Recile savored every chance he had to perform the riff that he has created
for this one.
"I've Made Up My Mind..." Another ripple of applause at the introduction.
Japanese fans do their homework. It was not a particularly inspired
version, though. It worked, but he may have run out of steam on this one.
"That Old Black Magic". Rock and roll! (relatively speaking). Bob's
strongest singing of the night. This is a hard song to sing, but he sang
it well. Such is the state of the NET band that this song, first recorded
in the early Forties, is their biggest chance to stretch out and shine.
"Mother of Muses" made me wonder and hope that Bob will get a message from
the muses and write some more songs. One of the great things about the
last record is that there were so many unusual creations musically. There
have been very, very few Bob Dylan tunes dedicated to the nature of song
itself. "Eternal Circle" and this one, maybe?
"Goodbye, Jimmy Reed." Competent enough.
"Every Grain Of Sand." The Japanese audience reserved their only standing
ovation of the night for this one. I think there was a kind of collective
feeling that these could be the last words we ever hear from Bob, in the
same room. When he picked up the harmonica, and played it well, there was
a real joy in that too. If a large part of the show consisted of
processing memories, this last song was something that we all wanted to
remember in the present.
There was no encore, of course. The crowd didn't warrant it, and the band
didn't deserve it. I didn't even notice that there was a new drummer --
his blinding white 3D glasses stood out...he looked like a kind of
latter-day Sylvester Stone... but still... The vast majority of tonight's
show consisted of conversations between Bob and Tony, with the others
trying to get an awkward word in. Bob has got to be paying a lot for these
guys. But all they did was tiptoe around minimalist arrangements. It is
known (or suspected) that Duke Robillard was fired for playing over-long
guitar solos. I can't recall even a single guitar solo tonight. The
arrangements were tentative in the extreme. Being the first show of 2023,
things are bound to improve.
On the plus side: Bob's singing was very clear, clearer than it was in
1994 even. There is a sense that he's got a story to tell, and he tells it
and sells it. This is *not* a kind of golden age of Bob Dylan's
Performance Art, as Paul Williams used to put it. A "golden age" makes
converts, rather than merely pleasing convinced and fanatical followers.
When I saw Bob and Patti Smith back in 1995, I had never heard any of her
songs before. I knew of her, but I had never heard her. She turned me into
a fan within five minutes. There is nothing in Bob's current stage show
that would make believers out of the teenage girls leaving Festival Hall
tonight recalling *their* favorites..."Mr. Tambourine Man", "that one
about Mississippi." I wouldn't invite any neophyte to a "Rough and Rowdy
Ways"-era Bob Dylan show. This is the kind of gig that gives the greatest
rewards to those who are most committed to start with. That's us, I guess.
Let's enjoy it while we've got it.
(Okay. That's it, I guess. I hope to see Bob again, but in the
meantime...thank you, Mr. Pagel, for being on top of things for so many
All the best,
Review by D. and Mademoiselle Lili
A superb opening night of a new tour.
Slight alteration to the stage layout - Bob more central. New drumer just
behind Bob, to his right. The band formed a tight circle around him and
watched his every move for the entire evening (Bob Dylan and the Hawks).
Bob has changed his piano (to a baby grand??) which means that you can now
see his legs - he stood for virtually the entire show and seemed happy and
energized. The sound was amazing. The guitars have been turned down so
that his voice was more forefront - and what a Voice we got tonight !
Strong vocals all night, every word audible, beautiful phrasing. Although
the set list hasn't changed, the feeling of the show has. We found it
lighter somehow Stunning new version of Multitudes and Black rider which
bring in more of the band. A beautiful Key West saw him move centre stage
for the first time. There was a very strange echo on some of the lines in
"Got my mind made up", we had heard this before a few times in Berlin and
Paris, not quite sure what they are trying to achieve but they are still
trying :) The show ended with a beautiful Every Grain of Sand which Bob
and Tony discussed before playing (maybe there is a different Encore
planned...) Thank you Bobby
Review by John (Dominic)
"Smooth Jazz" Bob was out tonight in Osaka, his voice in excellent shape.
The crowd clapped for almost 5 minutes before the band arrived on stage. I
was sitting just left of center 2/3rds of the way back. An aura of
restrained excitement and respect filled the air, with some of that
excitement overflowing and popping out at times, such as when a Japanese
women would uncontrollably start clapping in the middle of songs (eg. when
Bob said he'd be her baby tonight). The stage design was "minimalist zen":
no Beethoven busts or decorative accoutrements (besides glittery designs
on Dylan's black suit). There were only instruments and sound equipment,
with a velvet stage curtain filling the background. I hope there are some
reviews from Japanese posting here since this is my perspective as a
Westerner on holiday, and it was difficult for me to measure the crowd
when they were quiet (was it a religious-like awe, or burn out from a long
day?). I did, however, have the sense that many came straight from a busy
day of work, and wanted to chill and relax to some serious jazz, not to
"rock out" to unwind. Dylan's current song style fits that mold, and he
sang suavely to the Osaka crowd. There wasn't the Paris pandemic, pent-up
energy madness of French women swooning over him in the front row like
last year yelling: "Ce soir, Bob!". There was an energy in Osaka, but a
much more controlled energy.
At the end of the concert, Bob threw on his white cowboy hat, like a man
who had had his fill of drink at the local saloon, and he moseyed out the
doors in his black cowboy suit. The audience continued to clap but there
was a collective gasp of disappointment when they realized Dylan wasn't
coming back for an encore (in any case, not something he has been doing in
recent years at his concerts).
Review by Sonny Boy McFitzson
You Go Your Way:
"Sometimes it gets so hard to please" on both verses 1 and 2.
Well, it's his usual mistake.
The bridge of it doesn't go in rubato anymore.
Re-arranged, rather like the record version.
Pentecost on the drums.
This was the loudest among the 3 Multitudes in Osaka.
Verse 1 was in rubato.
The rest was played by the full band.
But it sounded softer than ever, like the one in Oslo 2022
Maybe because of Donnie's violin.
Once Lancio started the rockabilly lick on Baby Tonight
it was kept to the end.
Bob's mic was turned off when he started to blow harp
Then the loud harp sound suddenly filled the hall.
It was a P.A.'s mistake.
Bob said “Thank you” just one time between Every Grain & band intros.
Sonny Boy McFitzson
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