page by Bill Pagel
Review by James Strohecker
Bob ist ein Berliner.
Well, heīs a lot of other things too, but tonight he
really showed his mettle on stage at the Arena in
Berlin much to the delight of the appreciative,
adoring, Berlin crowd. In doing so, Bob and the band
set a new standard for his play here -- even compared
to the hot 1996 show.
Bob was the one who was really on this evening. He
was practically doing the Fandango onstage ... OK,
maybe not, but he exhibited a set of maneuvers I
hadnīt seen before or for a while: He had the shaky
leg going practically every song, he dropped to his
knee once and was doing some major slide-stepping
around the stage later in the show -- as he tooled
around to the energy of the audience, the band and the
And, unbelievably, he actually smiled -- not once but
There was just damn good energy and a revved up crowd
in the warehouse-like structure they call The Arena.
Ok, picture this: a cross between an airplane hangar,
a brick walled wide open warehouse and your old
Erector Set bracing the ceiling just 20 feet from the
I first saw the venue yesterday and wandered in the
back door, and gasped aloud, "Youīve got to be kidding
me!" The steel braces and beams alone made it a sound
and lighting challenge. But of course, Bobīs crew met
the challenge, created their usual great sound and
jury-rigged the lights to fit the smaller stage.
The crowd arrived early and prepared for what was to
be a good show. The band slid onstage at about 8:05
and launched into a hot, I Am The Man, Thomas. And as
stated, Bob proved fast out of the chute and with good
backup vocals around the stage, that he was der Mann
for the evening.
What else, they followed immediately with The Times
They Are A-Changinī(no surprise) that was well-sung
and acoustically articulated. Bobīs extra-long harp
opening was saucy and wicked --and it caused more than
a few seasoned fans to take closer notice. But in
spite of Bobīs efforts and the richness of the song
tonight, Larry and Charlie looked bored to tears doing
No matter. The band moved into a well-picked,
well-done, It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), where
Larry showed off some good riffs as did Bob, and they
collectively led the rest of the band to a tight,
Next up, Dylan whipped out his harp and began blowing
some great opening harmonica licks -- and some people
didnīt know where he was taking the song. "North
Country?" the person next to me asked. "No," I said,
And with that, Bob took the group into Boots of
Spanish Leather. This is such a sweet song properly
played; it was well sung, with sultry words, great
picking. And Bob just seemed a tad more focused, more
intense with the singing and with a lot of single-note
theory, that gave Boots that extra pizazz. Excellent.
Next, the group launched into a tight, fast, Solid
Rock that had as much Pow to it as the other night.
Real strength in this song -- from Larryīs hot Strat
work,to Tony stepping up the front and getting into
his bass line. And Bob delighted the crowd by
striking his "Rocker" pose, which made them be all
that much more appreciative.
The band slowed it down a lot on the next song,
Moonlight, which was a tough, but accomplished,
transition. And Bob added a surprising twist to it
with both his high vocals and late harp. It led to
the bandīs R&B hottie, Lonesome Day Blues, which
featured Bob and Charlie going toe-to-toe and Larry
adding some strong pinky-slide work.
The group wrapped up the electric section with an
enviable, All Along The Watchtower that rocked the
house. Bob has noodled around with this song for a
while -- including a psychedelic intro (like Cold
Irons Bound) last summer in Calif. which was really
interesting. Tonight however, he just led the band
into a passionate, upbeat, tight version of Watchtower
that had the crowd boogying along.
They followed Watchtower with a solid, but not great
Visions of Johanna that had some complex, good parts
and soulful singing by Bob, followed by what seems
like hard drugs of acoustic guitar, Masters of War
that was powerful and dynamic. The tone of the
When you donīt think Bob can get any better on a song,
he does. As an example, Bob produced a great,
extended-harp intro to, Don't Think Twice, It's All
Right, with tantalizing gusto. It seemed he was
playing the audience like a ... well, a harp! It was
sung with care and focus -- and towards the end, Bob
just stepped back and he and the band just played
Heading to the (first!) encore, the band produced a
gifted version of Love Sick that featured solid guitar
work by Larry Campbell and followed that with an
incredible version of Summer Days that went on and on,
and wildly Rockabillyīd the Arena. Seriously, this
was the song of the night -- but you had to see Bob
smiling as he faced Georgio, and Charlie, Larry and
Tony laughing as they cranked and rocked it out.
To close the set, the band played a wicked Wicked
Messenger in place of Drifterīs Escape that was hard
rockinīand solid, and a tight, (I never thought Iīd
say this) good, fun version of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box
Hat that featured Bob showing off in Rocker and Bob
hamming-poses on stage. Funny and it made the song a
The group led off the second set with a new
arrangement of Not Fade Away, where Charlie and Larry
added back-up vocals and Bob added some final vocal
touches that made the song almost Grateful Dead-like,
much to the crowdīs appreciation.
They followed with a well-performed, Like A Rolling
Stone that did its usual magic on the crowd and
featured some strong, lead-in riffs and guitar work by
Charlie. Rolling Stone played by this group is like a
Swiss Watch -- close to perfection.
Surprisingly, the group followed Stone with a
Knockin' On Heaven's Door that had some great
late-evening vocal back-up by Larry and Charlie that
matched Bobīs inspired, Zen. Late in the song, Bob
dropped to one knee and with a smile, rocked the song
out. Most excellent -- this rated my number two song
of the evening pick.
Heading into the home stretch, Bob and the band
pounded out a solid, Honest With Me, and set the stage
for what normally would be their final song, Blowin'
In The Wind. Bob launched into an expansive, sexy
harp intro and the band followed with a strong finish
and solid exclamation point on the evening.
But the crowd wouldnīt let them go -- they cheered
louder and louder until the band sheepishly came back
on stage, and Larry saluted the crowd. Not to leave
with a pedantic cut, the group launched into a
penchant Highway 61 Revisited that saw Bob on the
harp, Charlie cranking some excellent reverse strums,
Larry laughing and gigging, and Tony up in the front
tow. They all cracked up when Bob went into his
slide-step around the stage and then launched into his
Desperado-style guitar playing.
Clearly a fun night for this excellent band -- like
fine wine,they just get better. And certainly, great
entertainment and a super evening for the audience.
RANDOM NOTES ... Near the Arena, thereīs a really
cool, huge sculpture in the river -- worth checking
out. Getting into the Arena was a free-for-all,
crammed up into the small gates. Getting out was even
more difficult. Best solution is to just wait it out
when leaving ... Larry has both his pedal steel and
slide steel guitars onstage -- gathering dust. He
used the slide steel the other night in Copenhagen but
hasnīt used the pedal steel (looks like a Dinette Set
with a woire [sic] coming out of it!) since Stockholm
Review by Reinald Purman
The Arena in Treptow - not far away from the place where in 1987 Dylan,
Petty & McGuinn gave their only concert in East-Berlin (hear the bootleg
!) - is a somewhat special venue: An old bus-depot, situated on the River
Spree, in the East-Harbour Region (wich looks like it sounds) direct to
the former "death-strip", well known from the black&white movies of the
fifties. - Today it is a very busy venue with the unique atmosphere of a
very big, empty "industrial"-hall, may be like an airplane hangar. One
front is the stage, the other is a long bar. Today the night-shift in this
gathered some 5 -6000 thousend of a mostly middle-aged crowd.
Expectations where high from the last concert in May 2000, wich was
outstanding, what everybody can check by the circulating boots. So at
20.00 the Common Fanfare and at 20.08 the Men appeared for "I am the Man".
All in dark suits, Dylan with black hat and a anthrazit suit with golden
buttons everywhere. "Times" followed with a long harp intro. "It s
allright Mama" in a very intense way and then "Spanish Boots" with some
harp. The electric part starts with Solid Rock, wich for the first time
gave the new drummer a chance for his excellence work. This was a first
highlight. "Moonlight" followed, with a long harp part too. "Lonesome Day
blues" was another highlight in this part of the show with the Mans
promise, that he want speak to the Krauts. It was better even than the CD
version. "Watchtower" was the best version I`ve ever heard and the
audience was cooking on this. Visions was nice too and it was followed by
"Masters of War". Dylans voice all the evening was perfect, you can
understand every word , with big emotional message, very concentrated the
whole time. In "Masters o.W." Mr. Racalli sometimes between the verses
did something like an army-signal, it fitts very well to the atmosphere of
this song. Don`t think Twice followed. Love Sick was the next reall
highlight. But a rocking" Summer Day" was the real highlight of the show
with big guitar-duelluing from Mr. Saxton an the Man. You can see the fun
of the men doing this song, wich is a very important part to the shows in
this time. A very good version of Wicked messenger with a lot harp-music
and than - don`t know how they were doing it- another fresh and very
emotional "Leopard Skin Pill-Box". The usual band-intro, a short formation
and a little break. The audience was a little exhausted and very happy.
They started the encores with a really rockin&rolling "Don`t fade away".
LARS was one highlight of the encores. At the refrains the lights went on
to the audience and you can see the people dancing, waving, clapping,
singing and - kissing. "Knocking..." was avery emotional sung and Dylan
was dressed appropriate like he wants to meet Mr. Pat Garret tonight.
"Honest with me" was very rocking, the new drummer added some rock-element
to all the show. A somewhat triumphant "Blowing..." with Bob on the harp
and when the Men leaved the stage, I did not beleave that they will return
- but they did - for an incredible "Highway 61! The audience was melting
now, but Mr. Dylan and his band where very cool. He take off his hat for a
moment and oh, jes, the man with the moustache did'nt find his knees
tonight ... Than they were gone and all people happy. It was even better
than the last time in Berlin ! 15 Minutes after show the trucks of the
rock-convoy came into the venue and picked up the equipment. They were
faster on there way to Leipzig than we were going home. Great Evening in
Berlin !... till we meet again, R.Purman
Review by Karol Marcinow
It was my first Bob Dylan's Concert, I have been. I came to Berlin from
Wroclaw - it is city in Poland, 300 km to Berlin, and I don't regret it.
The concert was excellent, Bob and his band served big chunk of good and
professional music, full of power and energy.
I got to Arena 5 minutes before beginning (big traffic jam), so the hall
was already full. The audience were very diversity, but there was one
thing, which united all people there - love to Dylan. Bob and his Band
start five or ten minutes after 20.00, first was 'I'm the Man , Thomas'
was played quite good but without revelation, the next was 'The Times They
Are A-Changing' with a long, beautiful harp introduction. After this was
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) and very climatic and perfect song
Boots Of Spanish Leather. Next Solid Rock - it was great, rock
performance, it saund like real punk. Moonlight and Lonesome Day blues
were the next and after these Bob sang one of one his biggest hit All
Along The Watchtower - of course in rock version, although his voice was
vague it was one of the strongest point of this evening show. After
Watchtower audience heard Vision Of Johanna and next Master Of War. Bob
started singing this song only with guitar, it was created austere and
serious atmosphere. After first stanza drum and bas guitar joined and the
song got a power and dynamic. It was revelation. Don't It Twice It's
Alright was played very slow, but nice. And the next Love Sick, blue
light, which was directed on the curtain behind the stage and hypnoses
guitar got audience in trans. Then Bob and his Band played Summer Days,
The Wicked Messenger and on the end first part of concert Leopard-Skin
For one minute Dylan and Band appeared again and stared encore with Not
Fade Away. The next song was Like a Rolling Stone. I think it was the best
performance this evening. When Bob sang a refrein the white lights shone
on the audience, who started clapping hand. It was very positive moment.
The song lasted almost ten minutes. Knocking On Heavens Door was the next,
with some back-up vocal by guitarists, very, very interesting and then
Honest With Me - extra, and Blowing In The Wind - slow version, but this
song every time sound great. After this Bob and his Band got off from
stage, but it wasn't the final song. They came back and played Highway 61
Conclusion the concert was great. Bob looked brisk and relaxed. He smiled
a lot of time . His voice was strong and very clear and music was very
dynamic and full of energy. I was really pleased with I have been there. I
hope I will see Bob once again.
Review by Sascha Krieger
What was this concert like? Well, what is a Bob Dylan concert these days? A
rock 'n roll show, plain and simple and the best there is, too! OK, it is not
that simple, but tht is exactly the spirit that pervades Dylan's performances
these days and Berlin was as good as it gets!
So, here we were again, at the Arena, a former bus depot in the south-east of
Berlin, where two years ago, Bob performed a very much celebrated show.
Expectations were high when the doors opened less than one and a half hours
before the show was to begin. The first concerts of this European tour had
solicited enthusiastic reviews, especially among Dylan fans - a species that
is seldom criticised as being uncritical.
Then, five past eight the lights went down and the boys came on stage - all in
dark suits (Bob's had silver stripes at its sides), Bob wearing a tie and
sporting one of his familiar dark cowboy hats.
The first song was, as always, a cover: I Am the Man, Thomas - a European
premiere, beautifully performed with wonderful vocal harmonies from Larry
(Campbell) and Charlie (Sexton). The, the regular second number, The Times They
Are A-Changin' - introduced with a lovely harp solo and performed in a routine
yet never boring and very relaxed way.
After this followed the first example of musical intensity, a driving and tense
It's Alright, Ma. In this as in all songs, a peculiarity of the night could be
observed: those guys enjoyed playing, the jamming passages certainly being among
the musical highlights of the night!
After that, the only real surprise, a very tender Boots. I have heard better-sung
versions of this song, but the harp intro was brilliant and the instrumental
passages were just floating on as the ocean the song mentions. The focus,
especially in the two acoustic sets, was more on the playing than the singing.
Now, as far as Bob was concerned, the show started. On came the Stratocasters
and off they went with a driving Solid Rock which has not lost any of its energy
in 21 years of not being performed live! After this, two songs from the current
album: first, the swinging and relaxed Moonlight (with a nice harp solo) which
saw probably Bob's best, and incredibly tender, singing of the night. After that,
a fast blues piece, Lonesome Day Blues, which they obviously enjoyed, and then
what was for me the night's highlight: a blasting, almost apocalyptic Watchtower,
so full of energy and the force of three guitars that I was fearing for the
After this, we all needed some quiet and got it with the second acoustic set,
beginnung with a minor surprise, Visions of Johanna - well performed, the
singing being a bit too sloppy and monotonous for my taste. But it was good
to hear this one anyway. This was followed by the night's second great
highlight, Masters of War, performed in such a dry, bluesy, rough and almost
menacing way you could feel all its anger of old. George Receli, the brilliant
new drummer, added a few military march like elements which fitted the song
Then came a decent Don't Think Twice in that very subtle and almost fragile
version they do these days and ending on some fine instrumental work. Then
back came the Stratocasters and we heard Love Sick, which can only be
described as absolutely cool - dry and simple. After this, Summer Days, and
boy, did these guys enjoy it! A lot of smiling and laughing on stage, from
everyone, including Bob! A hard, drving truly rockabilly performance which
proved definitively how good Receli is!
Then they replaced the usual Drifter's Escape with a nice and steaming
Wicked Messenger that saw another good harp solo - a very good choice! The
set closed not on Rainy Day Women but on a fast and joyful Leopard-Skin
After the break the guys came on with another minor surprise, a precise
and sharp-edged Not Fade Away which fetured greate backing vocals from Larry
and Charlie. Next up was the usual crowd pleaser, Like a Rolling Stone,
driving and surprisingly fresh. After this I hoped for I Shall Be Released
or at least Forever Young, so, when Larry and Charlie started singing
uhuuuuh..., I was disappointed, but for no reason: This was a version of
Knockin' never heard before, with great singing from Bob as well as the two
guitarists and some great musical variations in the chorus which made the
song new and exciting - a wise man's statement!
Honest with Me was the usual rocker which saw the band at their best and
Bob going on his knees to play a solo! Just amazing! After this came the
usual closer, Blowin' which never sounds boring these days, with creful
singing by Bob and nice choruse with the backing of Larry and Charlie. Bob's
not afraid to sound "big" anymore and that is good, I think. Loads of
applause, Bob flirting with a girl in the audience (!) and they wer gone,
for good, we thought.
Well, here we come to the biggest surprise of the night: They came back!
Apparently enjoying the show so much, they returned for another one: a
driving, powerful, energetic Highway 61 that saw Bob dancing and sliding
around on stage. A perfect ending of a perfect show!
Well, what is there left to say? This was a memorable concert that saw
brilliant playing from everybody: Charlie's solos, Larie's picking, Tony'
unobtrusive bass playing and George's energetic drumming. Bob himself was
playing at his very best, both in respect to his harp blowing and to his
The singing was good, a bit sloppy at times during the acoustic sets, but
at other times very sharp and precise, giving the songs the spin he wanted
to give them - without any kitsch or false sentiments, but heartfelt and
What stays in mind, is the atmosphere - among the crowd as well as on stage!
Bob was laughing more then one, swinging his left leg at almost every song,
jamming with the band, dancing around and finally going down on his knees!
The longer the concert lasted the more the band seemed to enjoy it especially
Larry and George who not only brings great drumming to the band but also a
lot of energy and a joy of playing - a great gain for the
So , this is what it was like, an old man with all his experience and wisdom,
playing his old songs from today's perspective while having retained a youthful
joy of playing music. A memorable, brilliant live show by the greatest
performer, singer and songwriter popular music has seen!
See you in Stuttgart!
page by Bill Pagel
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