Strasbourg, France
Hall Rhenus
April 25, 2002

[Paul Denham]

Review by Paul Denham

Bob  took  the  stage  only  a  few  minutes  late  at  8.30  and  the 
band  ploughed  into  the  jangly  cacophony  that  is  their  warm-up 
number.   Dylan  was  wearing  a  black  suit  with  a  minimum  of 
piping  on  the  jacket,  a  necktie  and  black stetson.  He  looked 
frail,  nearer  70  than  60,  like  somebody's  grandpa  which  I 
suppose  he  is  and  reminded  me  of  a  supporting  actor  in  an  old 
Hollywood  western.  His  face  is  thin  and  his  mouth  seems  to  have
collapsed,  but  the  eyes  still  sparkled  under  severely-arched 
brows.  I  anticipated  Times They  Are A-changing  and  prepared  for 
the  worst.

But  he  kicked  into  Girl  Of  The  North  Country,  which  isn't  one 
of  my  favorites,  and  hey!  this  was  as  good  as  I've  ever  heard 
it.  The  hope  that  this  could  be  a  very  good  night  was 
reinforced  by  It's  Alright,  Ma--  sharp,  intense,  with  strong 
guitar  playing.  A  peep  on  the  harmonica  and  he  was  into  I  Want
You,  fresh  and  scathing  as when  it  was  bland  new.  

It  was  to  be  mainly  an  uptempo,  unplugged  night  but  Dylan 
pulled  on  his  electric  guitar  for  Tweedle Dee  &  Tweedle  Dum  (a 
bit  of  nonsense  that  makes  The  Ballad  of  Frankie Lee  and  Judus 
Priest  sound  like  a  classic  of  zen  wisdom).  Then  another  brief 
blow  on  the  harp  and  those  were  the  chords  of, yes,  I  Don't 
Believe  You,  delivered  with  some  of  the  old  passion  of  '66  and 
extended  guitar  work  at  the  end.  

Two  numbers  from  Love  &  Theft,  competently  done.  Then  a 
beautiful  version  of  Don't Think  Twice,  pleasingly  drawn  out. 
Nothing  spectacular  but  as  good  as  you're  likely  to  hear  it 
again.    Bob  seemed  to  be  enjoying  himself,  in  strong  if 
occasionally  whiney  voice  and  exchanging  nods  and  smiles  with
Charlie  and  Tony.  Hard  Rain  was  somewhat  dull  in  comparison, 
though  Larry  played  the  cittern  (a  kind  of  mandolin ?)  nicely. 
There  were  one  or  two  mistimed  lines  and  a  critically  quizzical 
look  towards  those  on  his  left.  Then,  when  I'd  abandoned  hope 
of  it,  Tangled  Up  In  Blue.  Dylan  seems  to  have  given  up 
playing  solo,  and  this  was  not  the  hard  guitar-driven  version 
either,  but  kind  of  short  and  jangly.  

During  Summer  Days,  all  1950s  rock  and  roll,  with  Charlie 
working  a  big  red  guitar  and  Jim  Keltner  in  the  middle  of  a 
drum  solo,  there  appeared  to  be  a  power  cut  on  stage.  It  would
have  been  best  to  leave  it  there,  but  after  some  fumbling  in 
the  dark,  the  band  resumed  the  number  though  Charlie  had  lit  a 
cigarette  and  had  to  look  very  closely  to  see  what  key  Dylan 
was  playing.  Dylan's  body  is  rather  rigid  above  the  waist,  but 
he  does  this  funny  little  gig  with  his  legs.  Somehow  it  made 
me  feel  that  I know  what  Adolf  Hitler  would  have  looked  like 

Shooting  Star  was surprisingly  poignant.  "The  last  time  you  might 
hear  the  sermon  on  the  mount..  the  last  radio  is  playing,"  he 
sang  which  made  me  think  that  one  day  this  great  institution 
like  the  Berlin  Wall  or  the  French  franc  might  just  be  a 

Somehow  they  didn't  find  the  groove  for  Cold  Irons  Bound.  There 
was  no  swirling  mist  round  a  desperate  soul  sinking  waist-deep 
in  the  mud.  Time  to  study  the  surroundings.  Hall  Rhenus  is  a 
barn-like  place  but  the stewarding  was  remarkably  light  and 
everyone  friendly  and  polite.  The  sea  of  people  standing  before 
the  stage was  appreciative  and  warm.  The  lighting  was  strong 
enough  to  see  clearly  and  subtle  enough  to  stay  interesting. 
Before  huge  drapes  were  piles  of  boxes  and  amps,  like  they'd 
been  dumped  rather  than  set  up,  with  Dylan's  Oscar  on  display. 
I  went  out  to  get  a  beer  and  have  a  pee  to  the  opening 
chords  of  Rainy  Day  Women,  which  seemed  to  turn  into  a  12  bar 
blues  jam  session  and  perhaps  Leopard  Skin  Pill-Box  Hat  as  Dylan
was  introducing the  band  when  I  returned.   

With  hardly  a  break  they  were  back  for  an  encore.  Man  of 
Constant  Sorrow  sounded  straight  from  Harry  Smith's  Anthology  of 
American  Folk Music.   Like  a  Rolling  Stone  and  Forever  Young  were
notice  that  things  were  winding-up.  Honest  With  Me  was  lively 
and  the  band  was  really  humming,  with  Larry  at  last  given 
something  to  do  that  stopped  him  looking  bored.  The  Blowin'  In 
The  Wind  and  goodnight..  but  no,  they  were back  with  the  driving
intro  to  All  Along  The  Watchtower.  "None  of  them  along  the 
line  know  what  any  of  it  is  worth"  were  his  final  words,  then
a   bow  to  the  audience  and  he  was  gone.  Nearly  two-and-a-half 
hours,  thank  you  Bob.

And thank you Bill for the Dylan pages.

Paul Denham


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