Sapporo, Japan

Zepp Sapporo

April 14, 2014

[Peter Gray]

Review by Peter Gray

I saw Bob and his band four years ago at Zepp Osaka (capacity 1,800) and
loved it. I saw him last year in Toronto at the Molson Canadian
Amphitheatre and wanted my money back. I saw him two days ago at Zepp
Sapporo (capacity 2,000) and loved it. Moral of the story: Large outdoor
amphitheaters are great for sunshine, beer, and people watching, but they
are not good places to hear Bob sing. See him in a small concert hall that
has good acoustics and you will understand why he is still the best, 50
years and running

Japanese style, the concert began exactly on time (7:00 PM). Zepp Sapporo
was packed, all standing on the first floor and a few hundred seats in the
balcony. Nice roar from the crowd when Bob took his position at center
stage, such a thrill to see him in person, and off we went. The first few
songs set the tone for this concert. Bob sang clearly and carefully,
showing great respect for the songs and for the audience he was singing
them too. Once in a while his voice dissolved into a garbled growl as he
reached for a lower note, but that happened less as the concert
progressed. The band kept it simple. They were there to back up Dylan’s

The first highlight of the concert for me was “Duquesne Whistle.” The
crowd recognized the song right away and gave an extra loud cheer as Bob
sang the first few lines. The crowd got louder halfway through when Bob on
piano and Charlie on guitar started jamming back and forth. Bob seemed to
sense the excitement of the crowd, and in the last two verses his voice
grew stronger and younger, every word ringing clear.

Bob reworked the lyrics of “Tangled up in Blue,” and it was fun to
hear the new lines, though I must admit that I like the version on “Real
Live” best.

The first half of the concert ended strongly with “Love Sick.” This
was another song that the crowd obviously knew well, and when Bob,
standing on center stage, looking us all in the eye, and sounding like he
was proposing, sang, “Just don’t know what to do / I’d give anything
to be with you,” our hearts melted.

After a twenty-minute intermission, the second set began with “High
Water.” Wonderful interplay between Charlie on guitar and Donnie on
banjo. That made me wish that Bob didn’t keep his band on such a short
leash. Here is my advice to Bob: Give the guys in your band the nod to cut
loose on more of your songs. Let them show the audience what really
talented musicians can do with really great music. Sing your heart out,
and let your band play their hearts out too. (I don’t expect Bob to
listen, but I’m happy saying my piece.)

Halfway through the second set, Bob took off his white hat. Somehow that
made him seem friendlier.

“Simple Twist of Fate” had some nice new lines. “Forgetful Heart”
was like a prayer, Bob singing gently to Donnie’s soulful (soul-filled)
violin. “Spirit on the Water” danced. And the second set ended
strongly with “Long and Wasted Years,” another song that the crowded
obviously knew and was looking forward to hearing.

For the encore, “Watchtower” included a nice piano solo by Bob. How
many versions of this song exist? How many GOOD versions of this song
exist? As Bob sang the first few lines of “Blowin’ in the Wind” I
found myself unexpectedly moved by this simple song that I have heard so
many times. Bob certainly has changed since he first wrote that song. We
all have changed. Things have changed. The times they are a-changin’.
New times need new songs, and I’m looking forward to whatever Bob sings

Peter Gray


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