April 21, 2011
Review by Tony Stock
Around the fortieth time I witnessed Bob in concert since the mid sixties.
The previous night was good, especially Forgetful Heart, Things have changed and
the closing numbers. This show was a couple of notches higher. I had a great
seat facing Bob as he played the organ , around 20/25 metres from centre stage.
Dylan's enthusiasm was obvious. The band were excellent with each player
excelling. Highlights included Senor, a brilliant Highwater, Levee's gonna break
and an absolutely stunning Not dark yet, which sent shivers down this old spine.
The voice is in better condition than last time out in 2006 and improved as the
night progressed with numbers like Thunder on the mountain sounding better than
the recorded version to my ears. The conclusion of Hard Rain was awesome. I
enjoyed a reflective Simple twist of fate followed by a great rendition of Thin
Man, with wonderful harp. The encores were fine including an atmospheric
Watchtower followed by Forever Young which featured the best conventional
singing of the night. At the conclusion the band stood centre stage, from my
seat I could see the whole crowd. Make no mistake the decision to close the tour
downunder with Forever Young is no accident. As the applause rolled in Dylan
bowed slightly and gestured with his hand, the place erupted. He turned to Tony
and he clearly had thoughts of playing another song.
He looked as if he wanted to say another goodbye to friends he might not see
again, in the end they left the stage. The crowd cried for more but he has
already given me more than enough over the years.
Review by DmcT (fitzroy)
Paid the big money months ago and the ticketmaster gods decreed a rubbish seat
for Bob's Wednesday night show. Fantastic band did their thing and the great man
showed he was still serious about putting on a show. The voice was sometimes a
bark, but the arrangement on Things Have Changed was worth the price of
admission alone. Still, I wandered into the rainy night feeling Bob had left
something on the table. He'd certainly left the stage quickly enough.
The next day, emboldened by the promise of 'Senor' from the Adelaide setlist I
punted on a $55 half-price ticket (figured someone other than competition
winners from classic rock FM stations needed to take the cheap seats) and
fortuitously saw a chink in securities army and ended up three rows back house
Fortuitous because it was a great seat, fortuitous because it was a better show,
fortuitous because I'd brought my binoculars along expecting to be a lot further
from the action. This enabled me to look over Bob's shoulder while playing organ
and see that (unlike that whippersnaper Bruce Springsteenhaving to be autocued
for Racing in the Street on his Hyde Park DVD) Bob pretty much has some notes on
musical notes and that's about it. The vantage also brought close up of Dylan's
playful interaction with the band when the house lights were down, his
toe-tapping size tens, the strange wispy bits of hair at the back his neck, the
green and red beads strung over his oscar (?) and, it has to be said, an
impeccable manicure. And was it just me or did that playful grin when he sang
''click your high heels'' during 'Ballad of a Thin Man' have the slightest hint
of 'Maureen Dowd WTF?'
No faulting the setlist either. 'Senor' duly played second up, but topped for
mine by the night's highlight 'Not Dark Yet' ... Hard not to ponder that 15
years down the track how fast the days go by from 55 to 70. Those that buttered
up for the second night also got 'I don't believe you (She acts like we never
have met)', 'The Levees gonna break', 'A hard rain's gonna fall' and 'All Along
Still croaky at times, but also moments of brilliance and even melody as
'Forever Young' again marked a somewhat ironic close. And the goodbyes could
not have been more different than Wednesday as Bob and the band soaked the
applause for a lingering farewell which was ultimately marked with a quirky
raised hand and quickstep bow. It's not dark yet, but it looked a lot like Bob
was really saying goodbye to Melbourne.
Review by Darren M.
A few notes on Show 4
Another solid show, not quite as good as last night but still way up there.
"Senor" was as superb as ever. Nice guitar playing on "I don't believe you" and
"Tweedle Dee". I know that "Tweedle" is not exactly a crowd pleaser but Bob is
really giving it everything. "Tangled", again, superb - pretty sure he said
"tractor drivers wives" which must be a world first. Again we had the extended
organ solo on "Levee" and HW61. Highlight of the night was "Not Dark Yet" -
fantastic harp playing. They finally got the end of "Simple Twist" right (I
guess he will probably drop it from the set list now!) - it really is a
beautiful version. During the song he kept playing this A chord up on the 5th
frett over and over and over again - very strange but it sounded great.
"Thunder" is still played at super fast pace. "Thin Man" rocked again - nice
ending where he would say a line, play harp, say another, play harp etc etc -
very cool indeed. Crowd pleasing encores - excellent phrasing on "Watchtower". A
very nice extended bowing at the end of the show - he stepped forward a couple
of times as if he was going to say something - alas no. Again, the only thing we
got was "thank you friends" before the band introductions (after "Watchtower")
The general concensus so far on the best shows is
2. Melbourne 1st night
3. Melbourne 2nd night
Review by Paul Grieves
I was second row - centre stage both Melbourne concerts. We had 2 pairs
of really powerful binoculars - there is nothing so detailed and
intimate up close. It is true what Bob said some years ago that
"every-time I go on stage I leave a pool of sweat behind". We could see
the beads rolling down his song lined face and sometimes he had
droplets sitting on the end of his nose as if shaking a cold. He tends
to flick or wipe them of his side locks and that shoulder shuffling he
does back and forth at keyboard is not all dance - it helps the shirt
take up back sweat. The set list is carefully design for working hard
and also ensures conserving energy and rest - very clever.
The seating design was right to the front of stage barrier - no room to
dance. The result being - front row people have to stand up cause they
can't really see anything except the musicians heads and then the
domino effect kicks in - so the second and third must do the same - so
they stand up. What happens next - the 4th and 5th row are not prepared
to stand up and become very angry and annoyed - can't see. Lots of "sit
down you "F - ing C's". Tension is high - will someone hit someone
else? Bob is oblivious to this - you could call an ambulance & part the
crowd - perform CPR - he would never know? But this is Rock and Blues
night and not an Andrew Lloyd Webber production - yet everyone wants
something for there $175 and not just sound without sight.
Were we the only ones who noticed the beautiful gem/earth stone
bracelet on his left wrist while he played his fender strat? Maybe? That
strat bob is strumming has a beautifully carved eagles head on the top
of the body. I'm sure I saw turquoise on his wrist? It looked hand
crafted - something special...a gift? Partly hdden under the shirt
sleeve. The songs are great - you know that. He is comfortable on stage,
endearing, somewhat happy and yet a little fatigued. Why would he look
fatigued? He looks really healthy and has a great facial skin colouring
- is it more more than just age?
What came to mind most notably to this avid fan - when looking into his
face so clearly with really powerful glasses - closer than any close up
footage i have ever seen. The world has changed - everyone has a mobile
phone, everyone takes photos, everyone videos, everyone has a capacity
to write what they think on a webpage or site as a fan or as a critic.
How does he remain be both vulnerable and impenetrable - hold the
tension for 90 minutes. Hold the tension of 50 years on stage. Maybe
just sing and play "that's what I do and what i have always done". The
no video camera signs are gone. Everyone has access to his public image
- is that tiring?
Well I believe It would be normal for him to hold back from a crowd -
a sea of friends and foe - every face a PC and keyboard in waiting to
document their opinion - a summary of that certain transference as i am
engaged in right now. So " lets just call them friends" that's friendly
enough and not at all hostile.
Does he reflect - it's nothing akin to or like when he saw Buddy
Holly and the Crickets in the 50's and savored the moment for 55
years until that TOOM speech award.
Everything has changed - the world is one big machine.
Go get oiled, try to look and stay slick and hope this resilient
spirit continues to hold up.
Review by Mark Cowan-Aston
Went to see Bob last night. "Yes", I hear you all say, hear goes Mark
about Bob again". Well, you're right. What an amazing night. Anyone who
knows Bob knows that to see him live can be a roll of the dice. Over the
years I've been lucky; pretty much thrown double six each time. After a
great Paul Kelly set, I went and fed myself and grabbed two glasses of
wine, one for me and one for Ralph, we threw them down and regained our
seats as His Bobness launched into his set. (Brilliant seats, I should
add, courtesy of an early family birthday present arranged by my gorgeous
Lucy.) This is not a review; suffice to say a superb concert. His voice
was strong (yes at times sounding like a caged cat spitting defiance
through the bars), but despite the gloomsayers every song was
recognisable, musical and pretty much without exception, terrific. The
man played great keyboards, took his turn on guitar, and often took centre
stage with harmonica as he sang songs that have been listened to for half
a century. He rocked! If we were having fun, Bob was having a whale of a
time!! With his pencil moustache and dressed in his dapper three quarter
length coat, black pants with thick red pinstripe and natty white fedora
hat, he looked like a refugee from Gettysburg as he rocked Melbourne Park
for nearly two hours. His band, as always, was in great form. There were a
couple of moments when I sensed Ralph next to me, (he who introduced me to
Bob in 1971), and I was watching through misty eyes as my cheeks dampened.
But we shrugged these off with a laugh and let the magic flow over us. An
incandescent "Like a Rolling Stone" was followed by an incendiary
"Watchtower. “Forever Young” was a fitting conclusion for a (nearly) 70
year old, and he was gone. The lights came up. We sat as the cavern
emptied, not wanting to let the moment pass. Double six, again.
Review by Warren Breninger
My brother-in-law Doug, had once again miraculously secured us front row
tickets. That afternoon I had purchased my youngest daughter, a vintage pink
dress for the night that suited her perfectly. Martha overcame her nerves,
helped partly by her new dress, and within no time was having a great time
dancing and singing at the barrier. This was a little disconcerting for Doug who
had not paid all this money to hear any of my daughters sing along with Bob. The
effect though on her was tangible, and her good spirits lasted for days after.
There were many diverse memories of past concerts stretching back to
Festival Hall, Melbourne, in 1966, where my wife and I first saw Dylan live as
school students. On this occasion (21/4/11) Paul Kelly was the guest artist. His
performance was refreshing and genuine, finishing with a bare unaccompanied
version of a psalm. I cannot gauge his intention, but it stood for everything I
find transformative, not merely because of its biblical expression, but also
significantly in its almost shocking nakedness, divested of all commercial and
Pop conventions. This was something I could enter wholly into, especially in
such a public context where myself and everyone present appeared to be afloat on
a night sea of mass idolatry. His brave and unexpected presentation undercut the
very expectations of a rollicking good time that concerts are required to
deliver. This particular quality, tasted briefly at this point in the evening,
would entirely vanish from the rest of the night.
When Bob and his band came on stage undercover of darkness, I found myself
uncomfortably privileged and conspicuous at the barrier, as a wholly
reluctant, but longstanding devotee. Disconsolate and obstinate, the desire to
be absent, not have myself lost or mistaken, as well as my distaste for the
alteration songs undergo to become acceptable in a concert experience, left me
unable to fully enjoy the experience. For here even the intimate and
confessional were being turned into dance numbers, anthems, battle hymns, as if
the thousands present were getting geared up for going to war: against whom and
for what reason, nobody knew.
Over the whole night there were only a few renditions that I responded to,
and was reminded to enjoy - "Senor', 'Ballad of a Thin Man' and 'It's Not
Dark Yet'. Most of the others were either almost unrecognisable,
unnecessarily rushed, too up-tempo, drowned in ugly arrangements and denuded of
all connection to the subtleties and mysteries that have claimed my always
attention in the original songs. Films too often make stories into visual
spectacles, concerts tend to turn songs into sound spectacles.
Dylan's voice seemed damaged, rasping, throatier and harsher. However, I
didn't necessarily find these qualities unpleasant, but rather began to feel
that with restricted accompaniment; especially the entire dropping of the drums,
that a more striking and personal effect would result, where his more recent
voice would become the central instrument, making a potentially moving and
challenging experience. But as it was, the lead guitar and especially drums
drowned out what you came to hear spoken and sung live, in real time and place.
The result was a hiding or disguising of his voice, that judged it as
deterioration only, instead of developing its new possibilities in rawer and
simpler packaging. This though may run the creative risk of putting more people
off than it would attract.
The performance's most constant delivery was in a staccato form, where words
were punched out just like the drum beat, and few notes were held for any
duration, giving a talking, mechanical and haste driven quality that suggested
the "never-ending tour' had over time put the performer on auto-pilot, where the
overly familiar was being churned out in some robotic way.
There were no women present on stage in this concert, not even as back-up
singers that were so needed to contribute what was missing in refinement and
grace. All these elements were conspicuous in their absence, and what too often
was unrelentingly present was compressed into an all male mix of sound, and the
denial of that sound, rendering it both unpleasant and unidentifiable, as if
these things were meant to be signs of continuing musical re-invention, rather
than a simple failure of audience consideration.
On top of all this, my two meagre attempts to use an SLR camera were
threatened with confiscation, whilst all around, assumed amateurs with
equally powerful mega-pixel and zoom compact cameras with video capacity
went on merrily without the slightest objection being made. This compounded my
sense of isolation and disaffection, almost as if my disappointment had been
targeted in the midst of the throng by some sophisticated detection system of
audience non-response or disengagement, that in the midst of the thousands in
the dark, was seen to visibly glow only in me.
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