April 20, 2011
Review by Anthony Bowd
Hard rain (literally) greeted those arriving for the first of Dylan's 2
Melbourne shows. Hardly a dry foot in the house as Paul Kelly (playing at home
in the dark shorts and socks) took to the stage sounding great solo acoustic.
He knows how to play the support act to aplomb and was joined by nephew Dan who
filled out the sound with ukulele and atmospheric guitar. Highlight for me was
Dumb Things and How to Make Gravy however some of the songs less familiar demand
further attention. Finished A capella to a gospel (?) tune which was stylish.
Could have listened to the Kelly's all night. What chance Bob might invite him
up onstage for a guest spot? In the end, none.
His Bobness and henchmen wandered onto stage sans mobster grey suits and opened
up with 'Gonna Change My Way'. Sound was big and Bob's voice was strong albeit
that the words and vowels weren't as well rounded as they have been in the
past. With the vocals up front in the mix it was a little unnerving having the
focus taken away from the band. George Recile on drums was all touch and groove.
Highly impressive. With Tony on bass the rhythm was spot-on and Charlie's licks
on lead were as good as 2004(?) when the dream team of he and Larry Campbell
made and stole the show.
'Don't Think Twice" second up was a real treat and Bob played some excellent
lead on guitar. The vocal arrangements through this and the next 3-4 songs were
very similar, he'd inaudibly race through each line then accentuate the final
word in a higher pitch. Sitting behind the audio console I was keeping an eye on
the EQ which consistently pushed into the RED on the vocal accents and the
effect to the ear was noticeable. I know the vocal styling is very Bob-like
however after a while he sounded like a parody of himself- if that's possible.
Unfortunately Tangled Up in Blue got caught up in the vocal mire and was a
shadow of its former self. Rollin and Tumblin, Desolation Row and Highway 61
gave the band a chance to stretch their legs. Charlie Sexton providing the
highlights. Ballad of a Thin Man, the final song of the set was delivered with a
sting and venom that made it for me the pick of the night.
Like a Rolling Stone first of the encore was ok and finished off well with
Forever Young (cross from the wish list). The crowd sensing that with the
opportunities to view Bobfeast becoming increasingly less, an extended standing
ovation might cajole Don Boblione and his gangsters back on stage for a further
set. It didn't.
Review by George Massouris
'When you're lost in the rain in Melbourne And it's Easter time too'
remarked my buddy as we headed into Rod Laver Arena for another glimpse of
our our favourite Columbia recording artist..BOB DYLAN.
Bob was in a playful mood tonight. This is a band that gets pushed ,
pulled and stretched in every direction by Bob who just likes to jam a
little. The key instrument is the harmonica and i think tonight he played
that better than any show I have seen in 20 years. Change My Way of
Thinking was a raucous beginning and then we were treated to an energetic Tom
Thumbs Blues. The highlight was a fantastic rendition of Forgetful Heart
which eclipsed the recorded version and a sped up Thunder on the Mountain
that really demonstrated this bands ability to rock out. Someone ought to make
a shrine of Tony Garnier somewhere. That guy is a rock and he keeps
this tight crew grounded. The rendition of Forever Young at the end was a
great way to wrap another magical night on the tour that never ends. I
have been reading with amusement all these journalists who place
expectations on the set list and just think they should not go if they
think they can pin this guy down. None of us know for sure what we are
going to get at these shows and that is the beauty of going year after
year. Enjoy it while you can...i know we did.
Review by Jonathan Feldman
Paul Kelly is such an Australian icon and a unique talent that I suspect I
could literally listen to him play live all day. Well, I could listen to him all
day except for the day when he is supporting Bob Dylan - in that case , to be
honest, I'm happy for him to play a few songs and then make way for the man I
refer to only as Bob (in my mind reducing someone's name down to just one word
is a mark of respect - like Elvis, Bono or Humphrey.)
Bob, as usually, made a modest entry to the arena and immediately took up
his position behind the keyboard - an act which seemed to stun those around me
who clearly had seen Bob play for some time. Bob opened the show with Gonna
Change My Way of Thinking - the version was nice enough understanding that it
takes a few songs for his voice to 'kick into gear.'
In my opinion, the second song of the night seems to set the mood for the
whole concert and I let out a resounding WOOT when Bob begun playing the
unmistakable riff of Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - which got the crowd
to its feet and one boot clad, almost seventy year of foot tapping
underneath the keyboard.
The reminder of the set was a mix of some classics and a lot of Bob's more
recent work. The clear standout point of the night was Bob's amazing work on the
harmonica. Bob first busted out the Hohner in Tangled up in blue and was
obviously happy with his efforts (and rightfully so) he managed to sneak it into
to a majority of sings for the rest of the night.
Notable inclusion for the rest of the set were Desolation Row, Highway 61
and I sombre and tight rendition of a newer track, Forgetful Heart - which
also featured some masterful work on the harp.
Bob rounded out the nigh with, what was could only be described as an
ordinary and slightly muddled rendition of Forever Young, which was
forgivable - how many seventy year olds do you know who get up on stage in
front of thousands week in week out.
This was my fourth time seeing Bob and by far the most enjoyable. You see,
the key to enjoying a Bob Dylan is knowing his songs, especially the newer
ones - if you expect a hippie protest singer to pull out The Times the Are A
Changing and Hurricane who will most likely be disappointed.
Speaking of his newer songs - in his 2008 recording Spirit One The Water,
Bob asks "You think I'm over the hill, think I'm past my prime?" - no way
Bob- it no dark yet and to be honest its not even getting there!
Review by Gabriel Snyder
Another Bob Dylan concert at the Rod Laver arena. Excellent opening act from
Paul Kelly, who I think has opened for Bob Dylan before. All Australians will
know him, but overseas readers should check him out!
The best thing about seeing Dylan over and over again is that the same songs
have new meaning as time goes by. Back in 1998 at Rod Laver Bob looked like a
very cynical man. Now he is clearly enjoying his performaces. The opener,
Change my way of living, was a clear case in point. A good Easter Jesus song,
but in tonight's interpretation Jesus wasn't really that important. Things have
Changed, and the highlight for me - Forever Young - have also evolved in meaning
each time I have heard him sing them over the last 15 years or so. I'm sure Bob
has affection for all his songs, but he put so much more effort in to his voice
for Forever Young that it made me think that this is a particularly important
song for him. Not sure if he is singing about his son, or himself, but it was
moving all the same. And the Easter theme continued when bob ? intentionally
forgot mention that was Easter time in Juarez? The other change since I saw him
last year in San Francisco is the sound of his keyboard - it sounds much more
organ-like now, less like a little piano. And he is still loving standing at
the front of the stage playing his blues harp. Short, sharp solos. And as
usual the rest of the band were hot. More action from Donny than I'm used to,
and some great drumming! Shame I can't go again on Thursday, but Elvis Costello
is also in town and I'm off to that. A great night all in all.
Review by Tony Wells
Back in 2007 I wrote a review for this site when Bob Dylan last visited Melbourne
and played Rod Laver Arena. I had thought then that might be his last visit to
Melbourne as performer. Not so, and the march of time has done nothing to
diminish the exhilaration of a Dylan concert. What a night on April 20!
A Dylan concert is really about the experience of his music and his writing and the
significance of what he contributes through the body of his work, which is variously
stimulating, mysterious, challenging and enjoyable.
Those who know the repertoire are rewarded at a Dylan concert and this was how
it was on Wednesday night. Bob was on song. And so was His Band with their usual
quality of performance. (Charlie Sexton was hat off and jacketless by the end of the
set - one measure of the energy of the concert.)
The sixteen set list covered the spectrum, bookended by I'm Gonna Change My Way
of Thinking and Forever Young. There's a message there.
There was real nostalgia around the earlier stuff including Just Like Tom Thumb's
Blues, Highway 61 Revisted, Ballad of a Thin Man and Like A Rollin' Stone and a
highlight was a really solid Don't Think Twice with a slower and emphatic conclusion.
The enduring nature of Dylan's work was reflected in Things Are Gonna Change and
Thunder on The Mountain.
As a total package - a great experience made more enjoyable by the man in the row
in front who lent me his binoculars for a close-up view and the 24 year old teacher
beside me excited to be at a Dylan concert for the first time. I guess you wouldn't
expect less at a Dylan concert.
Review by Rob Bourke-Finn
Looked forward with great anticipation to this concert. Been a fan for years but
circumstances have prevailed and sighting of Bobby Z have been limited to a wet
night at the Sydney Myer Music bowl in 1978 when he dressed in white and started
with tambourine and ended with a cup of coffee.
Anyway my walk to the Rod Laver Arena was another downpour for me, this time
huddled under an umbrella with the delightful Alessandra who was also at the
1978, but not with me, unfortunately.
Paul Kelly and Dan played some good intro music but the crowd were eager for
Bob takes no prisoners, he does not comply with the demands of his audience, I
doubt he even knows we are there, (hello Melbourne.. remember me. not bloody
Two twenty-something males in suits in front of me with 4 beers each and
probably a belly full of love pills hugged each other, danced and blew
imaginary harmonicas throughout the gig, the sixty something nearby cracked a
shitty and got up and left around 'things have changed',,, yes they have
Anyway what did I think? I loved it, it is great to hear someone who moves
with the times, things certainly have changed, the band rattled the
be-jeezus out of those old tunes and strangulated the new. Charlie Sexton
rightly gets to stand front and centre and Recile and Gamier rumbled and
popped away beautifully.
He played four of my favourites, Tangled up in Blue, Simple Twist of Fate,
Ballad of a Thin Man and Desolation Row. The first three versions I will
accept and live with, even thought the originals are etched into my brain in a
very different style. I will never forgive turning Desolation Row into a circus
theme. Ompa ompa loompa. please Bob, never sing it again unless you pick up an
acoustic guitar and send the band for a beer.
Bob's voice sounds like every cigarette he ever sucked, he has refused to
take harmonica lessons for all these years and he moves with the athleticism of
a geriatric. Will I go again, you bet.
Review by Nick Miller
Just great to have Dylan back in Australia. Ever since 1966 the frequency
of tours down under has increased - and the enthusiastic crowds keep coming.
Rod Laver Arena is large indoor barn - clearly the sort of venue along with
festivals Bob favours.
To get there I have a mad rush from Sydney to make the concert - delayed
flights and hard rain in Melbourne but I meet up with my Canberra friend
Russell who I've seen many a Dylan concert with since 1978.
No huge surprises with the set list - we pick the songs with no issues as
in some recent tours. So what is noticeable? Bob is having a great time,
Charlie as ever is on fire and Bob's voice is sounding great. Plus he plays more
guitar than recent tours plus lots of excellent harp.
Highlights? Plenty - both Blood on the Tracks songs ("Simple twist of fate" and
"Tangled up in blue") are superb. Lots from Bringing it all back home &
"Forgetful heart" and "High Water" are memorable - as are the swings in style
from the band from rock to blues to bluegrass to country. I still enjoy the
revamped "Desolation Row" and "Thunder on the Mountain" really rocks. Despite my
fears his voice on "Forever young" was great.
A standing ovation says it all - for me and Russell it's is now onto Byron Bay
and Sydney - can't wait!
Review by James Mackie
It has been 2 years since I last caught up with Bob (many more since I wrote a
Bob Links review). I made the effort to get to Melbourne to enable me to get to
2 shows on this tour. Bob's voice is rougher it took 4-5 songs to get the
vocal cords moving. The arrangements are good and very different to my last
show. He is playing a lot more harp and more guitar again. Guitar playing is
strong at times. Standing centre stage holding just the harp is new to me I
can't recall seeing this over the years. The keyboard skills appear to have
developed and/or the keyboard is louder in the mix. Could it be he feels the
keyboards have come on so let's get the axe out a bit more and try this just the
harp approach. The crowd really seem to enjoy the harp solos. This is Bob at his
best making old songs new again, dynamic and interesting. Who else can do this
as well? This is why so many people all over the world go to so many Bob shows.
The highlights we for me were Tangled, Desolation Row & Ballad of a Thin
Man wonderful (new to me) makeovers of obvious classics. The pinnacle of
the night was Forgetful Heart a real surprise! A song I have paid little
attention to in the past, the master has done it to me again - showing the
brilliance of something that was just another Bob tune. A really classy
vocalist with the right arrangement could make this a worldwide favourite - Bob
has laid down the challenge with this performance.
I will look forward to a Sydney show next week. Maybe Bob will take a leaf from
the Leonard Cohen play book and find his own Webb sisters equivalent to smooth
Review by Raghava
After the mixed reviews from Perth, wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, but
was expecting an attacking version of Gonna Change.. given that it has opened
all shows from China on – but it sounded muddled, and maybe it was Bob and
band warming up for the night. So I didn’t even wonder what he was going to
do with the Jesus line and it passed by. But after that it felt focused and the
song order surprised and made sense. Friends with us felt that he and the band
sounded very musical and even jazzy! Nice to see him up front and center as
often as he was. And loud and clear on keys and harp – though he seemed to
doodle a bit too log sometimes on keys. The new arrangement of Tangled was
lovely, but the setup including lighting for Forgetful Heart was beautiful. He
sounded great and the fiddle introduction and the saloon lamp like lighting all
added to Bob’s very controlled singing of this song. It came after Rollin’, which
along with Thunder he performed here last time – and when they were fresher.
But it was the older songs that he looks to have rediscovered, and they all felt
awash in a warmth of understanding that “yes I know these songs matter to
you, and this is also what I feel about them now”. He was energetic and
goofy at times, but gave it all in his great phrasing. There must be a lot of folk
who come along to his concerts and barely comprehend the words. The first
chorus of Desolation was barely audible! But there were a lot of moments of
clarity tonight in the singing and playing that made this concert great.
Review by Paul Evans
I hope that when Jeff Rosen compiles tracks for the inevitable Never Ending Tour
volume of the Bootleg Series, he chooses tonight's rendition of "Forgetful
Heart". Underscored by Donnie Heron's viola, this restrained, gentle rendition
was a beautiful contrast to the more emphatic "Together Through Life" album
version and a genuine highlight in this mesmerising concert.
For a wet Melbourne night in the week before Easter, the lyrics of "Tom Thumb's
Blues" (if you substitute "Melbourne" for "Juarez") became an apt commentary on
our walk to Rod Laver Arena though the downpour. (We certainly hadn't been
Paul Kelly provided perfect support in a set that was every bit as captivating
as the master's, accompanied only by Dan Kelly on a variety of guitar stylings
every bit as virtuosic as Charlie Sexton's.
Kelly's set ended with a courageous a cappella "Meet Me in the Middle of the
Air", Dan Kelly banished backstage, guitars unstrapped, and Kelly singing alone
in front of an audience waiting to see Bob, (who, you'd imagine, might have been
standing somewhere off-stage viewing the performance... let's hope some Kelly
songs feature on future Theme Time Radio Hours).
Dylan's set was as sharp as any I've seen, beginning with a blistering version
of a song that has become this tour's staple opening number ("Gonna Change My
Way of Thinking"), his harp soulful throughout the night, and his voice,
although raspy on "Don't Think Twice", becoming fluid and soaring by the time it
reached "Forever Young".
As well as the aforementioned "Forgetful Heart", other highlights included a
relentless "Desolation Row" and a wistful "Simple Twist of Fate".
And "Ballad of a Thin Man" was delivered with such venom that you were kind of
half expecting to hear him sing the line to "something's happening here, but you
don't know what it is... do you, Maureen Dowd!"
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