Bergen, Norway

Bergen Calling
Bergenhus Fortress

June 29, 2011

[Espen Aas], [Steinar Daler], [Dag T. Osdal]

Review by Espen Aas

After I'd seen the setlists being rather interesting all of a sudden, 
I looked forward to see Dylan for the first time since the previous 
line-up (with Denny Freeman) played in Oslo in the spring of 2009. My 
hotel-room was a few hundred meters away from the stage, so when I 
returned back from dinner and walk in the pouring rain, I was treated 
to the last two songs of the soundcheck (which of course happened 
without Dylan). They did an instrumental "When The Deal Goes Down" 
and then after Al Santos has tested a few words in the microphone, 
they played an instrumental "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking". I was 
hoping for them to open with that later on, and it sounded great in 
the rehearsed version.

Anyway, after watching a live-report from the concert-area on the 
local news, we approached Bergehus Festning (or fortress), the 
wheel-chair entrance was next to the hotel, and they let us in, 
despite the lack of wheel-chairs. It was so nice with security who 
behaved like people, I wasn't exactly spoiled with that back home in 
Oslo. Suzanne Vega opened with a handful of songs, ending in "Luca" 
and "Tom's Diner" which both were welcomed by the audience.

Dylan was supposed to be on at 9.15 p.m., but they arrived already at 
9, launching not into "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking" but "Rainy 
Day Women". Although it was a lot of cheering from the crowd, it was 
quite an average performance, but warmed us up.

I was guessing that "Baby Blue" or "Don't Think Twice" was next, and 
I was right about the first one. I'm not too fond of this 
arrangement, and after enjoying Dylan spitting out words at center 
stage, I was fascinated about how passive Stu Kimball still is on 
stage. Standing in his corner, playing away on his acoustic guitar. 
Much more lively was of course Charlie Sexton, but he seemed 
dissatisfied with several guitars or possibly his monitor. Anyway, he 
and Dylan were the only ones who moved around and looked like they 
enjoyed themselves.

The newly arranged "Things Have Changed" was up next, sounding like 
it could've been arranged for Johnny Cash with its "boom-chicka-boom" 
rhythm. Not too bad though, and the great thing was how Dylan's harp 
melted in with the song, and of course also Donnie Herron's lap-steel.

Dylan stayed center stage for "Tangled Up In Blue" next. I'm sorry to 
admit I really have a hard time with the version they've been doing 
over the last years. It has the lovely acoustic rhythm guitar from 
the late 90s and up until 2002, but the way he sings it, going up at 
the end of each line... A low-point of the show.

I did get happier when Dylan strapped on his guitar for the first 
time that night and they launched into a messy "Beyond Here Lies 
Nothin'". Sad that they've skipped the trumpet for this. Perhaps it 
went in too many directions at times, but I just love how ragged it 
is and how it suits the Dylan "of our time"..

It all slowed down again with "Simple Twist Of Fate", another 
arrangement I'm not terribly fond of. It is one of the best songs 
from the whole 70s era in my book, but it doesn't really go anywhere 
and none of them really gave much into the song.

THEN the show woke up, and from here things got much better. Donnie 
Herron picked up the banjo and there was no doubt, we got "High 
Water". I read Keith Richards biography earlier this year, and 
remembered all the great things he wrote about George Receli, and 
listening to how he and Tony Garnier pumps through all this High 
Water everywhere is one helluva ride.. Dylan was a fantastic sight 
looking like a crow who was spitting out the words at time.

One of my three highlights of the evening came next, a stunning 
version of "Tryin' To Get To Heaven" which he sang so well. I even 
managed to forget about the organ, disappearing into those great 
lyrics. He didn't miss a line as far as I could hear. Hard to imagine 
that this great album came out more than 14 years ago...! Glad some 
of the songs have survived, especially this one.

Dylan again picked up the guitar and they played around with the 
silly "Tweedle Dee" which I've never liked much, I managed again to 
disappear into that massive drum-sound. People around where I was 
standing didn't seem to know what to think about it either. Easily 
forgotten about...

The second highlight of the evening came up with "Desolation Row", I 
started out being VERY sceptic as this have been butchered and 
drowned(!) into organ and that old sing-song voice way too many 
times, but it didn't last long until it was clear that he was really 
giving us a treat tonight. At this point his voice was well warmed-up 
and the world of Cinderella, Casanova, Cain, Abel and all the others 
slowly grew into my mind. He even managed to deliver that last verse 
more or less perfect (that has always been the sing-song-voice verse 
for the last ten years or so, but tonight...!)

No prices for guessing that "Highway 61" was up next, more or less in 
its traditional format, I was hoping for the new arrangement they 
started out with in Cork, but they obviously enjoyed the old 
rock'n'roll version more. I guess this is the version that fits the 
regular crowd best as well..

And then, ladies and gentlemen, came the ultimate high-point of the 
show, a fantastic "Forgetful Heart", with Herron playing viola, Tony 
using the bow, and George playing the congas - not to mention how 
bloody perfect Dylan's vocal was. Goose-bumps and chills all 
over..and once more Dylan blended in his harp with the rest of the 
music perfectly. That was a new thing to me, how he has transformed 
all those old harp-solos into an extra layer of music in so many of the songs.

Like everyone else who follows Dylan's setlist, I knew we were into 
the predictable part of the show, but even if Thunder On The 
Mountain, Ballad of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along 
The Watchtower have been played to pieces over the last years, they 
work, and gives everyone a great feeling for their way home. "Thin 
Man" was no doubt the best of them, just watching him sneak and crow 
around the center stage was worth the whole ticket...

I was curious to see if he would do "Forever Young" as the closer, 
but it was Blowin' In the Wind. Bergen was soaked after days of rain, 
but when "Blowin' In The Wind" came on, the sun came out and what 
more could you ask for, eh?

The buses started up before the song was over, and they all rushed 
quickly away, heading for Oslo now... I enjoyed the show, great to 
finally see Sexton back (despite all his difficulties with guitar and 
amps), I am still not that impressed by Kimball and wouldn't it be 
great if Sexton got the change to back Dylan up vocally again too....?


Review by Steinar Daler

I saw Dylan at the Feis festival in London and was very happy about that 
concert, and happy that I stayed there two days to see Van Morrison the 
second day. The last half of his concert was something special too. My 
expectations before my tour with a lot of other Norwegian and Swedish 
fans plus freinds and followers from Germany and the British isles as 
well, for Odense, Bergen and my hometown Oslo were high. I leave it to 
others to tell more about the Odense concert, but a very nice venue, 
perfect weather, and rows of highlights during the concert. (I have to 
mention Hollis Brown, Boots of Spanish Leather and Every Grain of Sand, 
in a row - we were stunned). Two days after, including a long nice boat 
trip from Denmark to Bergen, we were ready for another great concert. 
Not a particular nice venue, and the weather was the normal  for Bergen; 
rain, rain, rain. Last time Dylan played Bergen, almost exactly 10 years 
ago, the weather was super and Dylan too. I heard two of my favourite 
Dylan songs live for the first time back then; Dignity and You Ain't 
Going Nowhere, and still remember that concert as among my top ten in 
close to 150 concerts I have seen since 1978, so to be honest I was a 
bit afraid that this night would not be the same level, and I also could 
not believe that Bob could hold up the fantastic standard of the concert 
in Odense. But even if it rained most of the concert, even if the venue 
was'nt good, Bob even managed to make the night maybe even slightly 
better than in Odense. The setlist do not differ very much from concert 
to concert on this tour and I will not review every song but just give 
10 reasons for this concert being another Bergen concert on my top ten 
concerts list.

1. Bob was smiling and for sure enjoying himself all through the 
concert. Bob is defenitely in good shape and will for sure keep on 
keepin' on for a long time still to come.
2. Bob is now defenitely the king of the stage (I almost forgot to look 
at Charlie or Tony - recent tours band leaders.)
3. Bob's voice was the best I have heard in years. If you know how to 
download the concerts, listen close, and you will understand what I mean.
4. Bob can still be a very good guitarist. Listen to Simple Twist of 
Fate and you will understand. The sound in his guitar is sharp and warm 
at the same time, and shines in a perfect mix.
5. Bob let Stu Kimball shine as well, at least in a couple of songs - 
Highway 61 and Watchtower among them.
6. Donnie is more up in the mix, and you can hear his different 
instruments much better than before.
7. Bob as a crooner, as in Ballad of a thin man and in Forget heart, is 
wonderful - both his vocals (phrasing) and his way of mowing.
8. Forgetful heart is just BEAUTYFUL. A fulfilled performance. To me 
Forgetful heart has been the very highlight of all the concerts I have 
seen on this tour.
9. We all (at least his followers -  as me) know that Bob can be both 
brilliant and hillarious live in concert. And sometimes both at the same 
concert and in the same song. Desolation Row in Bergen was such a moment 
that I will never forget. It's hard to describe what I mean, if I can't 
show you a video, but its a mix of good and extremely well phrased 
singing, lot's of funny movements, his mostly destroying, but sometimes, 
as on this occasion, very pointed stacato singing (not to much not to 
less). I know a lot of you out there normally hate his stacato singing 
as much as me, but sometime he makes it work, and on Desolation Row in 
Bergen maybe he finally found what his been searching for the last 
couple of years. Brilliant and hillarious at the same time.
10. Before the anchors, the rain had stopped and during watchtower a 
late evening sun came shining through the clouds right in Dylans face. 
It made the atmosphere in the audience during Blowing in the wind as 
good as it gets. A shining Dylan wih the sun in his eyes.

On to my hometown Oslo.

Steinar Daler


Review by Dag T. Osdal

Any Dylan show, even the not so good ones, has its moments of magic. I
guess that’s why some of us keep attending his concerts whenever we have a
reasonable - or sometimes unreasonable - chance. I went to the concert,
attended by my two grown up children, with high hopes, cautiously
expecting rain and at least a moment or two of Bob magic. And this show
had so many of them.  It had been raining cats and dogs in Bergen lately
and it seemed the damp climate served his masters voice well. His rough
and still mercurial voice was rich and nuanced and his phrasing more
varied than I can remember (fresh experience though it may be) from live
shows in recent years. The starter Rainy Day Woman was solid, but it’s
probably not the song from which to predict how the rest of the concert
will turn out. But already the second one, It’s all over now, Baby Blue,
was more than solid and convinced me that this would turn out to be a
great evening. Highlights? (As far as less than brilliant songs or
versions are concerned, they seem to be there only to enhance the
highlights which were many this night.) A more than good, I’d say an
inspired, version of the masterpiece Desolation Row is always a thrill. 
And we got it! I also enjoyed Tryin’ to get to Heaven very much. If I have
to choose one though, it must be Forgetful Heart: A touching performance
of this dark psalm that really gave me (us) the shivers and made time stop
for a while. Truely great! And there was Ballad of a Thin Man, a
convincing and, in the Dylanesque way, theatrical  rendering that made us
long for more - the usual encore. The atmosphere was great and full of
expectations. Digression: A polite friend went to the bar to get some beer
and got stuck at the back of the crowd among some chattering relatives of
Mr. Jones. They were probably there to see «the spokesman of our
generation», «the living legend», to listen to the soundtrack of some
distant youthful party, vainly hoping for some recognizable reproduction
of some hit from the sixties or seventies or whatever. And there they are,
not really present, smalltalking away. Maybe they are newspaper reviewers?
Or businessmen who drink our wine ignorant  of what it is worth? Curiously
they seem to be perfectly at ease with their ignorance. Mr. Jones did at
least, confused as he was, ask some questions. Well, bless them too on a
night like this. (I’m perfectly aware that we’re all related to Mr. Jones,
somehow). Like a Rolling Stone opened the encore, still convincing after
all these years. An almost lighthearted, funnily phrased All along the
Watchtower followed. There are many here among us who feel that life is
but a joke, but sometimes it’s a good one. Great art has the power to
transfigure, in a fleeting moment, the suffering of our lives. Bob Dylan
at his best has this power. Blowin’ in the Wind ended a memorable show and
we can certainly call him a man. It seemed only dleightfully natural that
rays of the setting sun broke through the clouds and was reflected from
the stage at this point. Did I mention that the cowboy band was great and
his harp playing bluesy and groovy?

Dag T. Osdal


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