Hamburg, Germany

Stadtpark Freilichtbühne

June 26, 2011

[Bert van der Aar], [Brian Steedman], [Burak Tekin]

Review by Bert van der Aar

With my friend Walter I started for a six hour drive to Hamburg, going up
for my twentyfifth's Dylan show. And a great show it was. Bob was playing
with great inspiration and fun. Tony(thank you for still going on) George
Stu Charlie and Donnie were playing a brilliant set. For me some
highlights were: Don't think twice, Things have changed, Cold Irons bound,
Tangled up, Highway 61 and of course a beautiful encore with Forever
young. Bob I hope you will stay forever young so that we can enjoy  your
great shows for many more years. 

Bert van der Aar


Review by Brian Steedman

Jenny and I try, since our retirements, to take in a minimum of one foreign trip 
to see Bob each year. We have several times made two shows, in the same or 
close venues, but the idea is to see somewhere new each year (like Bob) rather 
than rushing from concert to concert. We want, therefore, interesting places, 
with some history, a bit out of the tourist mainstream, and small, standing venues. 
We have tried, till now, to get up front, and to make the rail. This is in order to 
see close-up Bob/Band interaction, and to catch the nuances of song delivery. 
This means getting to the venue early and queuing, sometimes in heat (or rain) 
on aging legs, and lowering our refuelling standards. It can become something of 
an ordeal, but generally is enlivened by a bit of interesting conversation with fans 
rom everywhere. Bob people are generally very nice people, like the Leeds father 
and three sons we met in Leipzig and shared a lot of beers with, and have kept 
in contact with ever since. We get messages from the front line out of the blue, 
and this adds to the richness of our life. We have listened to hours of Bobsongs 
played on battered equipment as we queue, and been amongst brothers and 
sisters of all races and ages. We got back to London last night and, after some 
solid Zs, here are my thoughts.

There are downsides too ……. At Leipzig a while back, we were treated to the 
very self-centred antics of a small and determined international brigade who seem 
to send one of their number in at a very early moment in the day, secure the 
front of the queue and take it in turns to hold it. Theirs is a military kind of 
precision and, as the hour of engagement approaches they gather in number, 
as though ready to make the final assault. They are single-minded, self-obsessed, 
humourless and uncommunicatively rude. In some places, there are several 
queuing points, and we able to avoid these people. At Hamburg, as the gates 
opened, they pushed others aside quite brutally and dangerously in order to 
create the diversion necessary to take possession of the rail. We arrived in their 
train, a little bruised and shaken, and decided not to even try for the front. In 
any case, they were already there, with their 'beach towels' spread out to take 
full possession. We moved back and eventually found a good location, close to 
beer and with a good view. I remember reading somewhere that Bob never 
sings to the front few rows - they are always there and are not the people Bob 
is interested in; at the time I found this difficult to understand. Now I see his 
reasoning clearly, and we have decided never to try for the rail again, but take 
a position further back, arrive a bit later, and relax whilst enjoying the ambience; 
the self-centred have won, they think, their battle, but we have regained our 
sanity. Perhaps others who tend to go infrequently are unaware that it is the
same people who do this, fanatically, concert after concert.

But enough of the negatives! This was one of the most delightful of events and 
locations. The theatre is a natural bowl, rising back from the stage, and a mixture 
of earth and grass. The outer limits of the stadium are hedges of about three 
metres in height, with toilets conveniently outside, and beer tents place all 
around and inside. Bob was about ten minutes late in beginning, and there was, 
surprisingly  some slow handclapping for the most consistently prompt of 
performers. Despite that, I want to make my claim for this as a standout show.

The first number is intended to get things rolling and to allow for sound 
adjustments. As such, Leopardskin Pill Box Hat is above average and it was 
interestingly slow and rolling, with good voice and some great deep notes and 
control over the rasping tendency. Don't Think Twice It's All Right was more up 
tempo and engaged, and built in intensity, drawing a few whoops. The organ 
was higher in the mix than last year, I think. Things Have Changed was 
magnificent - wonderful vamping voice and great expression and phrasing; the 
harmonica interludes were very atmospherically deep and 'Yiddish-sounding'. 
I Don't Believe You was a similar, superb treatment - great tender phrasing 
against a simple strummed backing with long line-ending notes. Beyond Here 
Lies Nothing drove along with gusto and by now we were hearing the crowd 
repeatedly add little whoops of appreciation at the subtleties of the interplay 
between band and voice. Bob's guitar up in the mix, Charlie was playing solid 
clever fills against lovely rhythm from Stu and back-bony bass from Tony. 
To Ramona was a crooners dream in waltz-time, with Bob daring his voice to let 
him down …… it almost didn't!! Then, Cold Iron's Bound: the third centre-stage 
song, and a rocking stop-starting one, with leaping, echoing voice and lovely 
drumming from George.

Tangled Up In Blue was the second standout, but there had been no 
weaknesses so far. That beautiful intro was so in keeping with the nostalgia 
theme, and the harmonica built on haunting slow delivery, and lovely ensemble 
playing from the three guitarists. The great moments were the voice on
iLOOOOOshuuun and in the last, staccato verse. I will let someone else commend 
Summer Days because to me it's filler, however it's done, and Bob knows that in 
the way he sings it. It fills a gap to enable us to regain composure before 
highpoint four: Trying To Get To Heaven with a beautiful intro, a haunting 
yearning voice, and a lovely, developing, repetitive theme. After THAT you 
needed to up the tempo, and Highway 61 Revisited  did that for sure, building 
repeatedly to a series of clamorous and jazzy/bluesy crescendos.

I go from place to place dreaming unsuccessfully of a performance of Visions of 
Johanna and, when it finally came this time I had been so swept along by H61 
that I didn't see it coming in its uncharacteristic arrangement. I am, of course, 
so grateful to hear it any way, but I felt that it was a work in progress that will 
have to improve to beat 91s versions. It doesn't have the space to expand into 
like earlier readings - but still is THE masterwork for me. Thunder On The 
Mountain is filler two for me; and someone else can speak on it's behalf - Bob 
even mumbled through the first lines in pretend-speak! What can be said for it 
is that it continues the jazz/blues interplay, and is a crowd pleaser. This brings 
me to Ballad of A Thin Man, which was a standout last year and is, if anything, 
even better now. Bob has got the gestures off well and the nuances he has 
developed in his singing and harp-playing are quite amazing; the crowd was, in 
fact amazed!! LARS  was the anthem singalong we all craved after that, and Bob 
wittily played 'I bet you can't keep in time with me', and we couldn't. I was a 
better version than last year also; I gloried in the feelings, waving my arms about, 
if anything, even more than usual. Similarly, All Along The Watchtower, retired a 
few years back exhausted and weary, is back, alive again and grown  into a living 
breathing thing. And then, Forever Young was like a wonderful, prancing-pony 
parting gift - and a thank you to us for being so appreciative (who says he's 
unresponsive). I'll take my Bob the way he is, with all that wonderful loving 
harmonica, rather than as a charmer.

Long review/quick summary: a GREAT concert with no weaknesses other than 
in my preferences; even the songs I don't like much were performed well. The 
band has grown, with Stu at last seeming to me to earn his fee and register 
involvement, Donnie and Charlie playing skilled, subtle, unflashy stuff, George was 
resonant and Bob drove the tempo with those weird organ licks. I do feel 
concerned at the extent to which Tony has seemed to retreat, because he is 
my favourite band member; if it is as some say his back, I wish him better, old 
road friend. He winked at us once in Vigo, and we KNOW it was us; we want 
him and George back laughing at one another. The audience was the last band 
member and rose to the occasion. Small and perfectly formed (apart from those 
who know who they are in the front row) it was generous and involved on a 
warm midsummer evening; Bob saw this, said it was good, and gave generously.


Review by Burak Tekin

This was the second time I saw Bob Dylan live in Hamburg. I went to Hamburg
alone this time because none of my friends are fans his music; I was also one of
the youngest people there, like always (I am 19 years old and the ones who were
younger were being dragged to the concert by their parents..). Anyway, what has
changed since the last time I saw him back 2007 when I was 15 years old? Well,
much has changed: Back then I only had eight albums so I pretty much didn't know
half of the songs he sang. And when you don't know the song he sings, you
probably will not enjoy the song- at least this is how I feel. At least now I
almost own every album so I was very well prepared. I must say his voice changed
a little bit since 2007, it has become rustier and he really has difficulties to
hold a note...I also still don't like the fact that he still rearranges his
songs. I mean, sometimes it can be really cool when you hear a new version of a
song but most of the time it's just disappointing.  

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat: THANK GOD he did not start with 'Gonna Change My Way
Of Thinking' like he used to in the month of June, it's really not one of my
favorites. So this was pleasant surprise although the song isn' that great all
in all, not even in the original version but at least I heard a classic Bob
Dylan-song, right?   Don't Think Twice, It's All Right: Oh my God, from that
moment on I knew this concert was going to be epic. This song is one of my
favorite songs from Bobby D and he just nailed it! I couldn't believe he
actually sang it! :)   Things Have Changed: I must admit, I did not listen to
this song a lot. I didn't even know he won an Academy Award for it. Somewhat
really embarassing. It was a splendid performance, not only because his voice
fitted but also he was on center stage, only with his harp thus he addressed the
audience directly.   He should stop playing the keyboard and only perform
center stage with his harp!  

I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)- One classic after
another, totally amazing! I love the lyrics and he performed it really well.  
Also, what I loved during he show, he was grooving the whole time, dancing a
little bit, articulating with his hands, smiling (I have never seen him SMILE)
and being in the moment! He did not ignore us at all!  

Beyond Here Lies Nothin'- Oh man, this song is pure sex. This song is so erotic
and only his Bobness himself can sing it that splendidly. I wished he would
perform more songs from 'Together Through Life', they just fit better to his
voice. I saw videos of him performing 'Forgetful Heart, just outstanding!
'Beyond Here Lies Nothin' was definitively the best song performed. It was worth
all the money that spent for this concert!   To Ramona- After five great songs
the first disappointment. Actually, it was pretty cool that he played yet
another classic BUT I couldn't recognize this song! It was not well performaned
and just a total mess....*shudders*   Cold Irons Bounds- A pretty decent song,
a pretty decent performance!   Tangled Up In Blue- Bob Dylan spoiled us! And
how! I had tears in my eyes and had my mouth wide open and couldn't shut it, I
was that touched! One of the highlights of the concerts!   Summer Days- Heard
it back in 2007, didn't like it that much and this time neither. For me it's
still a filler...   Tryin' To Get To Heaven- Good, very good indeed!   Highway
61 Revisited- I like the song, I liked the performance. Especially the last
minute when he and his band grooved with a total surprising instrumental! Wow,
we were all just so fascinated! Damn!   Visions Of Johanna- The same problem
like 'To Ramona'. It wasn't well performaned, I couldn't recognize it and I also
don't like the original very much. He should have sung 'Desolation Row' instead
like he did most of the nights before & after. But I am still thankful to have
listened to yet another sixties classic!   Thunder On The Mountain- Some people
may say this is a filler but I say this was a killer! I like the song and they
smashed. Him singing about Alicia Keys just makes me giggle.   Ballad Of A Thin
Man- Yet another of my favorites and definitively one of the hightlights of the
concert. Just him standing center stage with his harp, not having been
rearranging his song, just wonderful, he sang it just like the original!   Like
A Rolling Stone- It was not surpise that he sang this song, I loved it!   All
Along The Watchtower- For me it's not 'Encore'-worthy, I know it's a classic but
I don#t think it is as strong as people think it is. But nice to hear it again.
Forever Young- This surprised me! I expected 'Blowin' In The Wind' like he
performed it most of the time before & after but I was even happier when he
played 'Forever Young'. I had yet again tears in my eyes, him standing center
stage, the fresh air, the sun going down slowly, the chilly breeze and the
insects making noises. Just wonderful and a perfect ending! What can be
critized? Like I said, he should have put more effort in singing like he did on
several songs like 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin' or 'Forever Young'. Sometimes he
just sang for a second, stopped, sang another second, stopped and so on. Also,
the show could (could!) have been a little more rock n' roll in my opinion (and
don't tell me he can't!).   I heard some people say that he has gotten too old
and that it wasn't worth the money. Well, I somewhat I understand their opinion
since I can't say that I was overly impressed BUT it's Bob Dylan, in the end, he
is is just cool as he is, no matter how old he is!   I wouldn't attend another
concert for a while but once a year would be sufficent. Thank you Mr. Dylan for
this awesome setlist!


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