Sapporo, Japan

Zepp Sapporo

April 13, 2014

[Alexander Leik]

Review by Alexander Leik

What a whirlwind. 12 days in Shanghai on business allowed me to treat 
myself for my big 4-0…a Dylan show half a world away. Until this, the 
furthest I had traveled was across the USA to Hollywood, hobnobbing in the
front row with the Hollywood a-listers. But now, on the other side of the 
globe, I find myself on the south side of Japan’s 4th largest city, with no
familiar faces, in weather that is far from the warm spring awaiting me
back in Washington, D.C., making my way to the Zepp venue for a 5PM show.
Yes, Bobby is getting older, but it seems the 5PM show is customary for
Sundays, as the Monday show is slated for 7pm. The Zepp venues are a chain
of venues/clubs throughout Japan, and having opened the tour with 8 nights
at Zepp Diver City in Tokyo, I would guess there must be some link with
the promoter. Zepp Sapporo is pretty intimate, 200 seats (most GA on the
ground floor, with a small balcony for those who prefer to sit). There is
something to be said for the ‘cattle-hearding’ approach that was taken
to getting fans into the GA section. The GA tickets have a section &
number printed on them, and you queue based on the section & number you
have. So, there is no point in lining up hours before show time. In fact,
you can’t. The venue would not permit it until 330PM (doors opened at
4). It was small enough that I do not suspect there was a bad spot, but I
was fortunate as I was in section B-2, so I was just behind the first
section of “cattle” directly in front of the piano. Punctuality is one
of our hero’s virtues, and Stu strolled on stage exactly at 5PM,
strumming the acoustic as per usual. The band followed, then Bobby dressed
in the all white we have seen in the photos from thie Japanese tour. And
the crowed went crazy, very happy to see him back in Sapporo after some
time, not as lucky as we are in the west. ‘Things Have Changed’ opened
the show, no surprises here. There was some upsinging, but I rather liked
it here, and I found myself enjoying this song for the first time since
the “original” version was a set-list regular. I won’t go
song-by-song, but would rather comment on what stood out this evening in
Sapporo. Bob is clearly focused on his voice, as it has become his
instrument of choice these past few years. There were some simply stunning
moments where his singing captured the crowd and you could hear a pin
drop…’What Good Am I?’, ‘Simple Twist of Fate, and “Forgetful
Heart” being the main examples. I never viewed the last of those as a
strong cut until tonight, it really blew me away with the effort he put
forth. It might have been the best song of the night if not for the
rocking ‘Love Sick’ that ended the first set. This one is just nailed
every time, and tonight was no exception. The crowd really responded to
this one, and Bob rewarded them with a smiling “Arigatoooo!!!” before
the intermission. Charlie was another highlight for me tonight, no shock
there. But I noticed much more leads this time than I have seen in recent
years. ‘Love Sick’ & ‘Scarlet Town’ received excellent lead solos,
and everyone seemed to get in on the fun for ‘Highwater’, with Stu
kicking of the 2nd set opener with an electric bluesy riff as they came
out, and Donnie getting a very nice banjo solo. The Japanese audience was
one of the best I ever experienced…extremely respectful and gracious. I
don’t think anyone walked out, which is a common occurrence in the USA
(not just for Bob either). I did not hear or see anyone talking during the
show. They really seemed to recognize the cuts from the later albums,
especially Tempest. Those songs were very well received. ‘Long and
Wasted Years’ received and immediate roar from the crowd, and man was it
good! I was looking forward to that one for some time. And of course the
encores received raucous applause and I thought I saw Bob look at Stu and
nod hold up 1 finger as if to suggest “1 more song?” as they lined up
after ‘Blowin in the Wind’. But it was not to be. Our hero understands
the business better than anyone perhaps, and rule # 1 is “keep them
wanting more’” It is hard to separate the concert from the experience
of my first visit to Japan. The cultural experience definitely impacts the
show. This show was definitely better than what I saw on Americanarama
this summer, and perhaps better than Richmond almost 1 year ago exactly.
So, was it worth it? All that travel and expense? Is it ever not?
Arigatoooo indeed, Bob!


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