London, England

London Palladium

April 28, 2017

[Mary Wellock], [Jim Burrows], [Nicholas Hatfull], [Andrew Myers], [Joe Neanor]

Review by Mary Wellock

This was my ninth Bob Dylan show since 2002, after a seven-year hiatus,
and it was magical. I should concede, I had seating in the third row
thanks to a present of a ridiculously expensive VIP ticket. But for me, it
was worth any cost. 

Bob was good. And I think he really knew it, despite the endearing
uncertainty of his centre-stage moves. Occasionally my mind wandered to
how a man so ferociously talented, intuitive and experienced can be so
obviously self-conscious and awkward whilst under the spotlight. I marked
it down as yet another wonderful quirk of his Bobness. Never change, Bob.
Never stop changing. 

The set list was a satisfying blend of older classics and his new love of
rhythmic swing, both of his own and the new raft of covers. My personal
favourites were Tangled Up In Blue, Don't Think Twice and Love Sick,
delivered, as ever, with a fresh slant and a rocking band. I was surprised
to find myself unexpectedly caught up with the newer music, probably due
to Bob's devotion to bringing the songs to us. In fifteen years of my
seeing him, his voice has never been better than some of the end notes he
held confidently and without accompaniment. His piano playing was enthused
and occasionally brilliant, and he looked strong and pleased with the
whole show. I was sad that he's stopped introducing the band, I missed the
sense of interaction. There was very little chance for any calls from the
audience (apart from a nicely timed and warmly delivered, "thanks for
coming, Bob" from the back early on, which hopefully reached the stage).

The band were excellent. Donnie looks more like Dougal from Father Ted
every time I see him, but brought his amazing versatility and
cheerfulness. It was a joy to see him on the violin.. fiddle? I've never
known the difference. George was solid and fascinating to watch, when I
could take my eyes away from Bob. Charlie, looking a little as if he could
be played by a twitchy rockstar Bill Nighy for the night, always brings an
edge of excitement and slightly showoffy talent. Stu (my favourite since I
struggled to the rail in Brixton 2005 and we received a thumbs up for our
efforts) opened the show with a gorgeously played instrumental, and was
serious but consistent all night. Smile, Stu! And Tony.. may Bob always
have Tony, as I'm starting to realise the dynamic between the two enables
Tony to lead the band with humour and grace. It was a lovely performance
because of this. The band were tight. Bob's voice was strong. And the
music was wonderful.


Review by Jim Burrows

Jim T said it was a good show, though he wasn't blown away by it.
I agree with that, having also seen the Antwerp gig last week with exactly
the same set.

We came down on an early train from Glasgow this morning, and visited the
Halcyon Gallery at Mayfair to see Mr Dylan's latest artistic output. It is
impressive. He is a prolific artist, and one wonders how he finds the time
to organise all of this, even if most of it's being done on his behalf.
Jim T and I are both big fans of his art. For me this is not just a
continuation of a liking for his music, Bob's art is something that I feel
I was drawn to quite independently, although I admit it is hard to
separate the two. Would I have been drawn to the art so much if I weren't
already turned on to his musical compositions? Hard to say! 
So we took our seats at the Palladium, my first time in this beautiful old
theatre. I thought of Sunday nights on TV from way back in the 60s. Jim T
said the Stones refused to go on the revolving rostrum at the end. I don't
remember that, but I do remember Bruce Forsyth and Norman Vaughan
compering the Sunday night show, and John Lennon's jewellery rattling
comment of course - I think that was at the Palladium? So some historic
and nostalgic memories to savour before Bob and the band took the stage.
Jim T says the show was over in a flash, which he says means it must have
been good. 

I'm now into my thirty-somethingth Bob Dylan gig, all since 2000, an
average of 2 p.a. though this is my first review for Boblinks. I've now
seen Bob live in 11 countries. As many readers will know, there is
something very special about going to a Bob Dylan gig that is hard to
describe. Maybe it's a combination of nostalgia, respect and thanks to an
individual who has had such a profound effect on our lives, and along with
The Beatles, specifically on my own life, albeit at different times, and
who is still doing this punishing series of gigs every year.

I took in tonight's gig with my usual combination of wonder, elation and a
touch of sadness. Wonder at the profundity of the lyrics to BITW and
several others which I know well; elation at the privilege of hearing such
good live versions of numbers which he performs so well - for me these are
all are his own compositions, mostly but not exclusively from the 60s and
70s - and I am conscious that the time left to hear these from the horse's
mouth so to speak must now be limited. TUIB, Highway 61 and Don't Think
Twice are in this category. And sadness that he doesn't include more of
these kind of numbers in tonight's set list. Bob sings the Sinatra numbers
reasonably well, but for me they will always be an aberration. With a back
catalogue to die for, and a voice that he has developed to suit his own
compositions rather than covers, it beats me why he wants to sing - in an
attempt at a  different voice - so many old American songbook standards.
The band is tight and competent, albeit ultimately uninspired and
uninspiring. Who can blame them?! To be playing the same set night after
night would defeat most musicians' ability to be inspired! It's not so
long ago that I saw this same band play 2 successive nights in Dublin with
only 2 numbers the same, which was truly amazing and something I waxed
lyrical to non-disciples about for years. We're a far cry from that now!
How long can I continue to make the annual pilgrimage to see the Old Poet
at least once a year? I'm not sure! But being realistic, probably till he
pops his clogs. Last year was the first since I became a disciple that he
didn't tour Europe, so we had to make the pilgrimage to the States to see

Was it worth it, to the wastes of the Oklahoma desert? You bet it was! But
I still hanker after the days when his gigs were so unpredictable that
virtually any set list might unfold. He did include just one rare number
on the 1st night of this year's European tour so I'll remain hopeful!
Much as I am a fan of many of the American songbook standards, and I tend
to relate to the writers - van Heusen, Kahn, Donaldson, Berlin, Kern -
rather than who's singing them, I really do hope that the American
songbook phase is one that Bob will get over and pass through - before he
passes through himself. Don't get up gentlemen!

We find ourselves singing Ballad of a Thin Man - quietly to ourselves - as
we walk back up Great Portland St to catch the train home. Truly,
something is happening here but we don't know what it is.

Jim Borrows.


Review by Nicholas Hatfull

There can’t be many better venues for Bob in 2017 than the Palladium,
with its velvety intimacy and I, Claudius set-dressing. Our neighbour for
the night, a very amiable guy in white plimsoles, tells us of shows that
really weren’t very good, Wembley in 80 or 81 he thinks. I kind of wish
I had been there. A couple of weeks ago, my anticipation was tempered when
a friend memorably compared Bob’s plasticising of his lyrics to Vic
Reeves doing  Grand Old Duke of York ‘in the Club Style’ on Shooting
Stars. It stings because there’s some truth in it, and I wonder -
perhaps I delude myself, imagining finer grains where others hear the root
canal patient, Cookie Monster, Donald Duck et al. Mmm, Shooting Star, a
compact gem from 1989, would lend itself to the current sound...but
there's little point coming to see Bob with a wish list, better to cherish
the stronger flavours from a fractious mezze. 

Alice has bumped into Bill Nighy. I miss the gee-ing up of Copeland’s
Hoe-down heralding the show’s imminence, but Stu Kimball’s acoustic
strumming, hinting perhaps at North Country Blues, is a nicely sparse
set-up. A cream coloured hat, a marionette’s gait, there he is, in black
and gold. And we’re off, in the spooky frontiers of Things Have Changed 
- ‘if the bible is right, the world will explode’. Gulp, North Korea.
Bob is up for it, doing his thing. Which is inimitable, kooky and
Chrissy Hynde whoops approval of Bob’s honky-tonk stabbing in “Don’t
think twice”, and his ivory-tinkling is assertively vibrant tonight,
particularly as a resonant backdrop to him negotiating a distant cousin of
Desolation Row’s melody (by which I mean singing). Was that nimble
pizzicato banjo from Donnie Herron in DR’s first verses? Like much of
the show, it was cute, equal measures bright and wry. What else - a more
or less full-beam Tangled, in its truncated form. Standing somewhere
between three quarters and profile, he swings the mike stand around,
enjoying the prop, and leans into ‘everyone of them words rang true and
glowed like burning coal’, and as if he’s just had his spinach,
suddenly turbocharged.
As per, some of the most persuasive moments are not those you would
request. Early Roman Kings is commanding, bilious. Last time round at the
Albert Hall, I felt Pay In Blood and Long and Wasted Years had lost some
of their definition and sat oddly alongside the invested performances from
the American Songbook albums. Not tonight - they shimmer. Charlie Sexton
serves a lilting, syrupy tune where Bob skirts round one on Soon After
Midnight, and it’s lovely. Who would have thought That Old Black Magic,
soporific on record, would turn out ratta-tat-tat smart, and funny, in
performance. Ballad of a Thin Man, after the wistful, fiddle-garnished
Blowin’ in the Wind, is a swaggering, enigmatic closer. Mr Jones, with
his pencil, like a camel, watching the geek. Attitude to spare, may be the
purest Bob of the night.
Outside, flanking the standard opportunist tee-hawkers, an enterprising
soul has printed up some matte inkjet common portraits of Bob with the the
freshly minted tag “Nobel Laureate”. Lame, I think, too perfunctory
for anyone to buy. Then I see someone making off with several variants. A
portly English don goes through the rigmarole of weighing up whether to
buy a bootleg from a young Dutch man. An eight disc set with a
‘beautiful booklet”, housed in a two inch thick jewel case, probably
the Crystal Cat imprint, “Melancholy Mood at the Albert Hall”; must be
a survey of the residency eighteen months ago. He scoffs at himself for
deliberating, and duly hands over twenty pounds. But no crisply produced
recording would capture all the fleeting particulars of the odd, stately,
intermittently glorious performance we’ve just witnessed.


Review by Andrew Myers

Wow, did he come up with the goods ! A beautiful theatrical environment,
tickets to die for (incidentally, Bill Nighy a few rows in front of us [
Steve Lockwood and I]  Chrissie Hynde and Tom Stoppard also present,
apparently), Bob Dylan on song, in the moment, giving it energy and
attitude, crystal sound conveying his every word and idiosyncratic
phonemic undulation, "and his band" having greater licence, apparently, to
cut loose and womph out the fierce pulse of some numbers, as well to
summon, with others, tears of poignant joy.

It is moving to be "Together Through Life," but particularity to share
such a rich moment of his trajectory (and our own) with Bob, as he sings
our human frailty, aspiration, endeavour, woundedness, tenacity, and
existential loneliness right back at us in all it's terrible beauty.

Earlier, we made the Halcyon Gallery, where some of Bob's welding, as well
as his " Beaten Path" silkscreens, languish, and we also heard John
O'Connell and his lovely band, at The Phoenix, usher us in to the mood. I
loved his humour; "You are going to see Dylan, after, aren't you ? Oh
good. I thought we'd stumbled into a Leonard Cohen appreciation night for
a minute, there !"

In the early afternoon, I took the opportunity to collect a print I'd
ordered beforehand from the Getty Photo Gallery of a picture of Bob (by
Harry Scott. In 2002) in what used to be called his "late flowering
prime". That phrase needs adjusting again, now.

On the morning after the gig, another artistic connection; at The Royal
Academy, for an exhibition of post-Depression, post-Dustbowl, American
painting. This was Woody Guthrie and therefore Dylan, territory, too;
"American Art After the Fall." Some of the ghosts in Dylan's work blowing
dustily in the wind here ("You ever seen a ghost ? No, but ..."), and of
haunting relevance to today.

What an incredible couple of days ! My answer to, "How was your Dylan trip
to London ?" Is now ; "STANDARD FIREWORKS PLUS SIX !" It'll soon become
common parlance !

Andrew Myers


Review by Joe Neanor

A stand out performance by Bob on his first night at the London Palladium,
an old-school theatre style venue with good acoustics where I sat in the
upper circle.  The last time Bob performed this close to central London
was when he was grudgingly allowed to play a few songs at the Singers Club
Christmas party, in a room above a pub in Gray's Inn Road, back in
December 1962.  Look out for Brian Shuel's iconic photographs capturing
Bob bringing the house down that night in front of an enthusiastic folk
club audience.  

Coming on stage tonight Bob picked up and donned a white hat, the
finishing touch to his stage regalia which included a polka dot scarf. 
Most of the show Bob was at the piano, sitting and standing, really
playing and bashing chords out. Tonight his playing was significantly
contributing to the overall sound mix. On top of the black grand piano was
the set list and a folder of lyric sheets, which went untouched until
swept away by a roady at the end of the show.  

Energetic when performing, Bob moved slowly around the stage when the
house lights were down between numbers, perhaps to be of a calm
disposition for his centre stage American classic song crooning. 
Strolling from his piano, past his musicians, to centre stage, he looked
like a bloke about to order a drink.  So fittingly, when not using it to
sing, Bob hung onto the microphone stand with his right hand, like a
chaplinesque drunk holding onto a lamp post.

Strong vocals and fine singing from Bob throughout the show.  Hitting the
notes on "Why Try And Change Me Now" and those other classics, but with
lots of rasping on "Pay In Blood". What a contrast in song delivery
styles. The band as always played well, the drummer getting lots of
opportunities to use the brushes rather than the sticks. So many excellent
deliveries of songs tonight. Really enjoyed the poignant Long And Wasted
Years and Soon After Midnight.  

No harmonica, no interval and no band introductions.

Joe Neanor


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