page by Bill Pagel
Review by Matt Reading
Following the good, but not great gig in Liverpool, Stirling last night
showed a sparkling return to tip-top form for Dylan. Having seen 3 shows
this tour, and heard tapes from shows throughout the year, I had developed
the view that Dylan was not on song this year as much as the tail end of
last. Despite the more interesting setlists and change in structure, it
seemed to me that Dylan's voice had further deteriorated and, worse, that
the last couple of weeks he hasn't exactly been enjoying himself up there.
Stirling last night threw all that out the window, and the difference in
performance quality between Stirling and Liverpool was startling.
We set off on the drive from Liverpool to Stirling at about 10am, having
picked up our passenger for the day - Irishman Brendan who remarked as
soon as he laid eyes on Ed and I that we looked like students. Hmm.
Anyway, he had a fab CD collection, and over the superb soundtrack to 'Oh
Brother Where Art Thou', we discussed last night's show and all things
Dylan. The general feeling was that Liverpool had been pretty good, but
certainly not up to scratch when compared to last year's UK tour. We felt
that Bob's voice has steadily deteriorated, and that it wasn't helping
that he seemingly wasn't very happy. His attitude to Larry, in particular,
over the last few shows seemed to point to a band change on the horizon.
The 3 shows I had seen this tour (Gothenberg, Helsingborg and Liverpool)
had left me rather satiated in terms of setlists, having seen many of my
favourite songs live for the first time..I was looking forward to
Stirling, but at the same time was feeling a little apprehensive.
The drive up was lovely, certainly compared to the drive to Liverpool from
Cambridge the day before. The weather caused some concern, being more
suited to February than July. Brendan bought Ed and I a slap up lunch at a
service station, and we made it to Stirling by about 3pm. Having met my
girlfriend from the train station and had a pint to keep us going, we
headed on up to the castle, where a fairly large queue had developed
already. Clearly we weren't going to be right at the front, but we were
pretty happy anyway. I only mention all this queueing malarkey because,
maybe an hour before we went in, Ed noticed a commotion near the front of
the queue. Apparently, Bob had been out, signing autographs! He ducked
away before I could get there, but a little while later he popped out
again to cross the street and walk up the hill to the venue. He was
wearing his stage clothes and that stetson that he looks so cool in.
Perhaps this meant he was in a better mood than previously?
They let us in half an hour later than they said they would due to an
extra long soundcheck, and after a short sprint we got to our places,
about 7 people back from the front, with a great view. The gig, rather
than being in a castle, was in the castle's car park. Slightly less
romantic, but you could see the mountains, shrouded in mist and cloud to
the side of the stage. Surely he would play Highlands in this setting?
Before showtime we were treated to quite a downpour, but spirits in the
crowd were still high by the time Dylan came on stage.
Right, I'm sure you're wondering when I'm actually gonna get round to the
gig! Dylan came out looking pretty good, and the band launched into 'Oh
Babe It Ain't No Lie'. It wasn't anything too special, but it was well
played and sung. Bob really stopped me in my tracks with 'To Ramona'. It
had been good the previous night in Liverpool, but this was something
else. Bob's voice was clearly back to it's best, softly singing (REALLY
singing)this tender song. He was in a good mood, with the occaisional
smile or wink, and he really got inside this song. A glorious lilting harp
solo finished the song off wonderfully. The familiar chords to 'Mr
Tambourine Man' began. I was worrie he would 'sing' it like he has the
last few months, ie extracting the tune and massacreing this wonderful
melody. My fears were allayed when Bob began. This was beyond fantastic,
Dylan's voice lilting over those glorious acoustic guitars. It was amazing
to hear this, one of my favourite songs being - to me - reborn. There was
one (minor) lyric flub, but it couldn't detract from what was for me a
My main concern now was whether Bob would be able to keep this
phenomenally high standard up for much longer. The other gigs I'd been to
the last couple of weeks had had 2 or 3 really amazing highlights per gig
- Hollis Brown, Boots and I Want You in Gothenberg, Dignity and I Threw It
All Away in Helsingborg, for example - with the rest either good or
average. 'Maggie's Farm' opened the electric set with a great countryish
shuffle, Bob's voice that velvet sneer as he belted out the lyrics, the
band throwing licks all around his vocals. The harp solo he finished the
song off with was glorious, Bob blowing that poor harp as hard as he
could. The country mood deepened with 'Tell Me That It Isn't True', and
Bob's voice actually seemed to be getting better! He was clearly gaining
in confidence and his range was audibly improving, really letting go on
some of the lines, echoing the vulnerability in the lyrics, and Larry's
pedal steel providing the perfect backdrop. When I thought it couldn't get
any better, the intro to Just Like A Woman came floating over, and the
performance was maybe about 15 million times better than the previous
night's reading of this song. It was a tour de force as Dylan stayed true
to the original melody, but stretching the phrasing here and there,
getting right inside the song itself, rather than just playing about with
the melody as he had in Liverpool. Towards the end he got as excited as I
was...'you make love, yeah you make LOOOOOOOOVVVVVEEE just like a woman!'.
It was perhaps the highlight of highlights. Even Dylan's guitar solo was,
well,bloody good. Indeed, Dylan's guitar playing was pretty good most of
the night apart from when he just seemed to get bored with the intrument.
Then we were surprised with a 4th electric song, 'Gotta Serve Somebody'.
I'm not too keen on this as a song, finding it hard to reconcile the
sentiments with my own beliefs, but it was impossible not to get caught up
as Dylan barked the lyrics, ad libbing some extras and the band generally
letting go. Great stuff, with Dylan's vocals really holding up on the
rockier songs, something that had been lacking at previous shows.
'I Shall Be Released' was something of a surprise next, but was certainly
well done. It made me think they might do something funny with the
encores.... Next came the second 'Visions Of Johanna' in 2 nights. Ed
thought that Liverpool was better, but I would disagree. In Stirling,
Dylan was a man on a mission, setting out to nail probably his greatest
song, and enunciating the lyrics so perfectly and with such precision you
were completely absorbed in the performance. Not for a moment did you
think 'oh, it's not as good as in 66'. Ed tends to applaud what he sees as
particularly well sung lines or pieces of phrasing, having read that Dylan
appreciates this. He did this last night although it was rather
superfluous - every single word was bang on (I think there was one minor
lyric mumble in Visions, but hey). Could this possibly continue? Bob and
band, having wound up 'Visions' with a gorgeous playout, relaxed into a
quiet, achingly regretful 'Don't Think Twice'. The way he sung one of my
absolute favourite lines - 'I gave her my heart, but she wanted my soul'
was masterful, and the extended harp solo at the end was absolutely bang
on, Bob skippig all over the stage and conducting the band with the neck
of his guitar, building the song to a crescendo.
'Stuck Inside Of Mobile' has been played a lot recently, and although this
was nothing special it was well played and gave us what would prove to be
a well-timed breather from the emotional intensity. I was slightly
deflated, as I thought that would be the last 'interesting' song choice,
and was all set for Drifters/Messenger etc. and then the encores. Bob had
no such ideas. After a little huddle around the drum riser, those
atmospheric opening bars of 'Not Dark Yet' came soaring over the crowd,
just as it was beginning to get dark. As usual, Bob nailed the vocal,
occasionally getting excited and pulling something extra special out of
the bag. A set with 'Visions Of Johanna' and 'Not Dark Yet', I think my
favourite two Dylan songs had to be amazing, and Bob made it so. All the
opportunities for the one song conspicuous by it's absence, Highlands,
seemed to have gone, but I shouted out the title anyway for the hell of
it, and again in the encores. It didn't happen, but never mind.
Next was a killer version of 'Drifter's Escape', much better than
Gothenberg with some fantastic playing from everyone in the band, along
with the usual harp solo from Bob. It may not have been much better than
normal, but it certainly seemed it after what had come before. Then the
main set finally (!!) ended after 14 songs with 'Rainy Day Women', which I
must say I prefer here than at the end where it's always a bit of an
anti-climax. It was a good-humoured version, with some funny ad-libs from
Bob and a spliff being thrown on stage.
There isn't a whole lot to say about the encores, although that hardly
does them justice as all were suerbly played and sung, although Bob
couldn't quite scale the vocal heights of earlier in the show. Well, not
all teh time, anyway. 'Things Have Changed' had that perfect mix of
resignation and paranoia, 'Rolling Stone' was a great singalong and 'Girl
Of The North Country' was just gorgeous. The way Bob sang 'See for me if
her hair is hanging long' has to be heard to be believed. 'Watchtower'
rocked like a bastard - very cool, and 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' was
simply sublime, much better than Liverpool. The guys nailed the harmonies,
Bob nailed the vocal, Charlie nailed that fantastic guitar solo. 'Highway
61' was a lot of fun, as was 'Blowin' In The Wind', and 'Cat's In The
Well' finished it off in fantastic style, much much better than 'Rainy Day
So, after a mammoth 22 songs, we all filed out. It was an amazing gig -
certainly the best I've seen, beating the second Portsmouth shoe last
autumn and Gothenberg. It was just so consistent. One of the hallmarks of
Dylan 2001 style has been the inconsistency of the shows. One or two great
performances a show, then lots of good-to-middling stuff. This show was
different. He showcased his best songs in the best way possible - what
more could you ask for? Right after 'Blowin In The Wind', he gave the
crowd a thumbs-up, and that seemed to sum it up. Absolute killer versions
of Ramona, MrTMan, Just Like A Woman, Tell Me That It ISn't True, Visions,
Don't Think Twice, Not Dark Yet, Girl Of The North Country and Knockin',
along with the great high-energy rock-out songs made for a fantastic gig.
Well done Bob, now let's have that new album!
Review by Edward Nash
Does anyone else share my terrible habit - whenever a Bob show ends, I
immediately feel the need to start thinking about whether it was as good
as the other ones I've seen. I've still only seen 7, so I can remember
them all pretty well. I seem to have an uncontrollable urge to fit any
new experience into a ranking system with the others. I know I shouldn't
do it; it always makes me feel like I'm criticising more than I should be,
and it makes you lose any sense of perspective on the night. Well, I've
been thinking about Stirling for a day or so now, and it's all decided.
It goes into the official list at number 1, the best I've seen. Best
build up, best setlist, best performances, best guitar solo, best harp,
best post show drink and bag of chips...
Although recent tales, and first hand experience, of Bob's current gloomy
mood had worried me, I didn't quite share the apprehensiveness expressed
by many in the run-up to this show. No mishap tonight could really stop
me looking back on this early Bob-filled Summer with great contentment.
Furthermore, apprehensiveness tends to give way to some much more
enjoyable brand of agitated excitement as show time approaches. This was
triply so on Friday due to the soundcheck - Born In Time and Not Dark Yet
specifically - and the appearance of Bob outside the venue. I mean, you
go to the toilet, usually an unremarkable experience, without a second
thought, go for a stroll to see if you can find a burger and instead find
yourself standing just a single person (albeit a large one) away from Bob
Dylan. In a cowboy hat. If anything's going to get you excited as you
wait for show, that's it.
It was fairly obvious from the off that tonight Bob was in a better mood
than of late. He seemed to actively enjoy the opener, rather than just
using it as a vocal warm-up. It obviously had that effect as well,
however, because on To Ramona he pulled out a stunner. I've heard recent
versions of this criticised as "to sweet", in both vocal and music.
Neither was true tonight. Tenderness on the more romantic lines was mixed
with harshness in the song's more critical moments, as Bob really seemed
to explore what the song is supposed to say. Meanwhile, Larry's mandolin
was not so dominating (in fact, it wasn't even plugged in for the intro -
he had to go and find a lead himself), and it didn't feel so much as
though we ought all to be waltzing around in couples. The harp solo with
which the song closed was just beautiful. It's hard to know what else to
The identical opening numbers had immediately raised the question in my
mind of whether Visions would be appearing twice in succession, but I
didn't dwell on it for long. It's quite hard to keep these kind of
questions in your mind whilst in front of you Bob is singing Mr.
Tambourine Man as though he's only just written it. This was an acoustic
set of the highest quality, and this level was maintained for the
following electric segment. Maggie's Farm, somewhat less of a noisy
thrash than the previous night, was doubly effective. With the decibels
slightly reduced, it was much easier to enjoy the new arrangement with
it's almost-solo drum section in each verse. However, tenderness seemed to
be the order of the day, so it was time to slow things down a bit. I
don't think I've heard a bad performance of Tell Me That It Isn't True.
It's always pretty faithful to the original and is well sung. But Bob's
vocals were something special in Stirling. It was a real thrill to hear
him hit some notes I really didn't think he could manage anymore,
especially on the last verse, in which each line rose to a top note which
sounded quite desperate - this guy definitely needed some reassurances,
and pretty fast, it seemed.
Do you know how sometimes on Just Like A Woman, the band plays great, Bob
plays some good licks between lines, but he just doesn't seem to find the
tune with his voice, he sort of ends up half speaking it? Not tonight.
This was very close to the original, and Bob was really singing. He also
played an excellent guitar solo. I wasn't looking when it started, and I
thought it must have been Charlie - honestly.
Gotta Serve Somebody is not one of my favourite songs, but it was great to
have a bit of non-60s stuff appearing, which always keeps the interest
level of a show up. I Shall Be Released was something of a surprise in
the main set, but I couldn't dwell on it for long. Up until the previous
night, I had hoped that every acoustic song in every Dylan show I'd seen
would turn out to be Visions of Johanna. When it finally came, in
Liverpool, I completely failed to recognise it. In Stirling I was totally
unprepared - twice in two nights? But that's what it was, and I'm not
complaining. That side of me that seems to want to rank everything tells
me that Liverpool was better, but the side of me that just likes hearing
good music says it doesn't matter; they were both wonderful, and I will
remember how I felt hearing this song live for a very long time.
Bob by now seemed well aware that his vocals sounded amazing, and he made
sure not to miss the opportunity of Don't Think Twice. This was no casual
throwaway performance, and by the time the final verse arrived, everyone
around me was going wild. The reception for the harp was, as ever,
ecstatic, but it was wholly merited here. Bob was in control of the
harmonica, the band and the crowd and the song concluded with a defiant,
almost jubilant, high-pitched blow on the harp. Absolutely stunning.
I wasn't overjoyed to hear Stuck Inside of Mobile. It seems something of
a fixture at the moment. But this was slightly quicker than it sometimes
is and Bob was in no mood for holding off. He really attacked the song
and it was impossible not to enjoy it. However, that was surely it for
interesting song selections. Just a case of whether we'd get something
else not from the 60s to add to the interest level. The first few chords
revealed that it wouldn't be Drifter's Escape or Wicked Messenger, and in
fact it appeared at first that it was definitely the only other option,
Cold Irons Bound. But after a few seconds it kind of morphed, and the big
crescendo of noise never came. Instead we got a longed for and quite
gorgeous Not Dark Yet. I wonder whether this might be something of a one
off - it was, after all, sung in an open air venue just as it was not
qutie dark yet, but definietly getting there. But then again, after
reminding himself how great this song always always sounds, maybe Bob will
want to retain it. I hope so, for the good of everyone who goes to any of
the remaining shows on this tour.
It was now time to simply smile and enjoy being at a Dylan gig. Rainy Day
Women was much more fun in a slightly different spot, and as the band
stood in formation at the end Bob's bow and thumbs up showed that he had
enjoyed the gig too, and knew it was a good one. Girl From The North
Country was a final highlight, with Bob now overplaying the rediscovered
softness in his voice to good comic, but also emotional, effect. Some of
the lines seemed to go on for twice their normal length - "see for me that
her hair hangs do-ow-ow-own". The new arrangement of Knockin' On Heaven's
Door suits Bob's current voice perfectly, and Cat's In The Well is a much
more effective closer than Rainy Day Women, being twice the pace and much
And so we filed back down into Stirling, filling the previously deserted
streets. It was great to see so many people and know that they were all
Dylan fans. And happy Dylan fans at that.
Review by Peter Rice
We last had Bob and the boys in Scotland less than a year ago. This was an
outdoor show for 7000 people in the Car Park of Stirling Castle. We've had
cold and rain for most of the last two weeks, so there were lots of Hard
Rain references in the build up (no he didn't play it) but it was dry for
the show and started bucketing down right at the end. How does he do it ?
No support act, good clear sound. Different stage set up from last year.
Charlie Sexton on Bob's right, Larry Campbell on the left, David Kemper
set up close to Charlie, Tony Garnier lurking behind Bob.
Start up with Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie. Followed by To Ramona and Tambourine
Man. Kind of a slow start. On Ramona, Dylan's vocal just didn't make it.
I've been listening to this song a lot recently, mostly the great 1965
Hollywood Bowl version, but tonight, he just didn't sound engaged in the
song, until he played a lovely harmonica at the end. Tambourine Man also
sounded like a bit of a throwaway with some fumbled lyrics. I think we got
three "windy beaches" in the Smoke Rings verse.
It was all feeling a bit flat, but took off into the first electric set.
You might think you've heard Maggie's Farm enough, but this was a fine
version, much of which was down to how well this band plays blues. Dylan
started to get his phrasing back. Then a real treat, Tell Me That It
Isn't True. The way Bob sang "All of these awful things that I have heard,
I don't want to believe them, All I want is your word." was just great.
I'd always though this was such a funny old-timey phrase. Then Just Like
A Woman, sung beautifully, as it was in Glasgow a few months before. Dylan
played lead guitar lines right through the verses along with his vocal.
Fine stuff. Gotta Serve Somebody next, again the band hit a good groove
and Bob improvised lyrics. Usual themes of betrayal and infidelity, rhymed
"king sized bed" with "You may look like the living dead."
Back to the acoustics next. I Shall be Released. Larry and Charlie sang
fine harmonies on this. Bob sang "they tell me" rather than "they say" I
think. Seemed to change the sense of the song a bit, made the singer sound
a bit more sceptical. Lovely version. Then a very fine Visions Of Johanna.
Sometimes he does a version of a familiar song that makes you think about
it from scratch and this was one of those. Seemed to be played a bit faster
than recently. Then Don't Think Twice, which people seemed very pleased to
hear, relishing the put downs. Why are people so mean? Just the way it is
I suppose. Played a really triumphant harmonica solo at the end. His playing
was great again on Stuck Inside Of Mobile as was the band. Again a groove
based version, some times I find this song a bit stop-start, but this
version just flowed.
Beautiful Not Dark Yet, which I hear he's not been playing so much lately.
Charlie Sexton played superbly throughout this. Then into a ripping
Drifter's Escape, similar to last year's arrangement and finish off with
Rainy Day Women, Larry playing the horn parts on pedal steel. Everyone
singing along, Bob's phrasing throwing them off, does he do it on purpose?
Probably, that's why we love him.
Into the encores, Things Have Changed with Bob playing a funny guitar figure
which didn't quite fit. Like A Rolling Stone as per usual, then a highlight,
a version of Girl Of The North Country, with Dylan sounding absolutely inside
the song. All Along The Watchtower with Larry on pedal steel and a repeat of
verse one at the end.
The Harmonies were great again on Knockin' On Heaven's Door. The recorded
version of this is so perfect, it's one of the few songs that I think has
rarely sounded better live, but this was very good indeed, true to the
sentiment of the song, I think. The was some local significance to this.
Some local musicians had put out a charity version of this, with altered
words permitted by Bob after a school massacre in Dunblane, 5 miles up the
road from Stirling, a few years back. Usual good cause, terrible record
dilemma. In a previous tour (1995, I think) there had been a press campaign
to get Bob to do Heaven's Door with the locals joining him on stage. Never
likely to happen, and of course it didn't. Anyway, I'm sure he is unaware of
this, and was just singing a great song as best he can on the night, which
is what we need him to do.
Storming Highway 61 and anthemic Blowing In the Wind, again, lovely
harmonies from Charlie and Larry. Last song has a funky rockabilly intro,
and it's cats In The Well, which he played in Aberdeen in September. Great
groove again, suits Charlie's playing really well, a little bow, and we're
home happy and Bob's off to Kilkenny.
Overall, I think Bob's in consistently good form over the past 4-5 years.
Perhaps there's not the thrill of it all going horribly wrong anymore, but
we shouldn't take that, or him, for granted. I hope he has made the new
album with his touring band. It seems like they can play anything and keep
it rootsy, which is when I think Bob is at his best, sticking close to Blues
and Country. Aren't we lucky he's still doing it like he does?
Comments by Robert Muir
Was going to write a review for this gig. But I am still struck dumb by
the fact that I met Bob AND shook his hand. Thanked him for his music.
Acted like a ten year old kid instead of a forty something man. I was
making my way to join the q to get in when HE appeared from a security
exit complete with cowboy hat, leather trousers and some heavyweight "
friends ". Going to complete a final sound check. No camera. Oh S**t.
Never mind. He smiled, said thanks. Thirty five years on and Dylan
actually spoke to me. Bob excelled himself during the concert. Every
number performed had life and vigour. Bob was obviously enjoying himself.
The set just got better and better as the night went on. His harp playing
was the best I had heard in years. Not Dark Yet and To Ramona were
especially outstanding. If you read this Bob, come back soon. Next time I
will have my camera.
Comments by Stephen Lawrie
My personal highlight of this show came during 'Just Like A Woman'. I was
near the front and the crowd around me were enjoying the show, cheering
the best lines during the songs. After Bob sung "I just don't fit" the
crowd let out an almighty roar, Bob looked up from his guitar and drew us
a bitter scowl. Fantastic. Apart from doing his little Chaplinesque jig
(top quality entertainment), he seemed to play loads of lead guitar during
the show. His performance was commanding. The focus was all on him -
singing, hammering out licks on the guitar and blowing the harp. For much
of Highway 61 he just repeatedly battered out the same note which was
just as entertaining. Bob being Bob. 22 songs in a little over 2 hours. A
great show from a great showman.
Review by Stefan Czemerys
Having travelled the short journey from Dunfermline to Stirling I wondered
as I waited in the line-up before they opened the venue if Bob's music
would still be around 350 years later as the date on the wall surrounding
the castle had been. Managed to catch a glimpse of Bob as he arrived two
hours before showtime. Having just got inside the venue some ten yards
from the stage the heavens opened and we were all drenched by the Scotish
It did relent before the band appeared at 8.15 pm however. I'd seen Bob
twice before in the last 5 years. Both occasions in Glasgow were
memorable and I'd wondered if the effect would be as striking as the
previous concerts had been. There was definately more emphasis on his
harp playing and there was a more laid back folksy/bluesy feel to the
concert. I thought as he ambled on stage 'is this really the same guy I
heard on vinyl singing 'Talkin New York' as an 11 year old in 1963?
Without going into detail for every song he played I thought To Ramona,
Just Like a Woman and Visions of Johanna were the highlights. He seemed
like a puppet up there on the stage and I wondered if anyone really knows
or understands who Bob is. As usual, the Scottish press have been quick
to denigrate the experience, as 'experience' it surely is at a Dylan
concert, saying he didn't 'communicate' with his audience. But surely he
cummunicates through his songs? Stirling Castle has been the site of many
invasions in the past. This was one invasion that was a wonderful
experience. The audience loved it. I think Bob did too. That's maybe
why he keeps touring!
Comments by Brian Reid
Bob at Stirling seemed totally at ease. Without focussing on a blow by
blow account, the general feel was a lo-fi country jam with splendid vocal
performances on Not Dark Yet, Girl From The North Country and Tell Me
That It Isn't True. When the band kicked up a gear, Drifter's Escape and
You Gotta Serve Somebody were given careful consideration to impressive
Some reviews on the site are so particular the people writing them must
truly lose sight of the reason for attending such a precious event. If you
watched Olivier on the stage would you sit and write out scene for scene
his vocal performance and delivery or would you wait till the end of the
play and experience how it felt to travel to the place his performance
took you. Dylan can be pure shit. Rambling, incoherent and sloppy. So
what. I don't do my best work every day.
In Stirling we had a band that hung around like a gang of old friends and
shared an informal, well performed, focussed visceral piece of art. If a
new alt country band play with such verve and dexterity and showed as much
disregard for the usual trappings of live performance they would be the
coolest gig in town.
60 and still the best white blues country folk singer on the planet.
Comments by James Strohecker
I don't worry or get uptight anymore, or at least on this tour segment,
2001, about Bob's songlists or sets. Every night, he has been, frankly,
damn good. He plays the songs differently every time. And because Larry
hasn't been stepping up (or Bob has discouraged it . . . ),
Bob has tutored Charlie more and has driven the lead himself. Sure, it
means that there are more than a few single-note Bob solos -- sometimes
excellent, sometimes a cop-out -- but it just doesn't matter. The band is
playing great and Bob is being the showman, the harpsman and the poet
again. Across the board. And Bob has played like I haven't seen him
before; in Germany, at Schwabisch Gmund, he put on a guitar-picking show
that you wouldn't believe. And last night in Edinburgh, he brought it
again on Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Girl from the North Country and
Visions of Johanna. And his vocals on It's Not Dark Yet were exceptional.
Review by Peter Thwaites
You couldn't wish for a better setting for a Dylan gig. Mist rolling over
the top of the surrounding hills, the winding river, cobbled streets, the
steep incline to the Castle overlooking the town. The concert is being
held on the esplanade at the front of the Castle, providing a gentle
downwards slope, and potentially better sight lines, to the front of the
stage. But in the meantime there appears to be a single queue for the
8,000 strong audience and the dark clouds rolling over are about to drench
the usual crowd of fifty-somethings who are snaked around the side of the
Fortunately the weather's cleared by the time the show kicks off, about
20 minutes late, and its clear from the outset that both Bob and the band
are in sharp form, Bob in particular hitting the ground running with some
sharp laconic delivery.."the life I lead is mighty high!" What appears to
be the Oscar (or was it the Grammy?) stands perched on one of the speakers.
The turn around between songs is sharp throughout, like a formula one pit
crew, each new number quickly launched with the minimum of delay and, as
per usual, no dialogue whatsoever with the audience. Even the band
introductions are subsequently undertaken mid-song.
The song selection itself contains no surprises, almost exclusively
"greatest hits" material but the delivery is pretty much spot on. On one
occasion during "Johanna" the sound of the bass strings on Bob' s guitar
sounds slightly skewed and he exchanges an apologetic grimace with Charlie
when his solo goes awry (no honestly) but otherwise it's tight and crisp
throughout. Bob's vocals and phrasing are spot on and the harp makes
regular appearances. In fact with a 22-song set it's clear that there are
no restraining health factors holding our man back.
Special mention is also due for Charlie who seems to have Bob's endorsement
to push his guitar sound and, noticeably, seems to provide the cream of the
lead parts. On "Rolling Stone" Bob consciously steps back to let Charlie
take his solo, refraining temporarily from his own unique ker-plunking.
Whether this signifies a parting of the ways for Larry I couldn't say but
Charlie seems to want it more, he's continued to enhance the band and Bob
seems happy to give him his head.
No "Highlands" (there are hills but technically we are not in the Scottish
Highlands) but instead a poignant "Knocking on Heaven's Door". Whether Bob
realises it we are only about 5 miles away from Dunblane. You may recall
that the only occasion that Bob has ever authorised an extension to his
work was for an additional verse to KOHD, proceeds from which went to the
families of the victims of the infamous shooting.
So what could detract from seeing an artist and band on top of their game
in such a perfect setting? Well how about the audience or at least some of
them. First of all we were subject to not one but two groups of latecomers
who decided to spend that extra hour in the pub and had designs of pushing
their way through as far to the front of the middle as possible. This in
turn created a deal of resentment from the majority who had spent that hour
in the rain and fraying tempers and some push and shove ensued. Unfortunately
when these individuals had inserted themselves as far as they were going to
get they then laboured under the impression that every song was an
opportunity for some "Hey Jude" type gesticulations. Worse still was the
karaoke clown who appeared to want to match Bob line for line.
I suppose there's something about being at a party with other people who
are more drunk/ stoned than you are but then looking at the rest of the
audience I think that a majority could have done with some loosening up.
Look I know none of us are kids but this is the greatest artist of the last
century, playing 2 solid hours flat out on great form - for what?? Whether
the outdoor setting meant that some of the applause quickly faded in the
wind I don't know but the "ovation" calls for the first encore were frankly
embarrassing. The guys must have been enjoying playing for its own sake,
otherwise they would have been justified in saying "screw you, lets have an
early night.." Whatever happened to the famous Scottish passion?
Musically, this band are at their peak and, whilst not exactly cracking a
smile, Bob appears to be still relishing the job. They could easily knock
out this kind of set for the next 5 years with one hand tied behind their
backs. Somehow I don't think so. I think there are still some surprises to
come but, in the meantime, this was a pleasure Bob. Sorry this audience
didn't have the energy and enthusiasm you guys still seem to have though.
Review by Stephen Boag
This was only my second experience of Dylan live, the last being his
Glasgow concert last September. On arrival I quickly realised that I was
not, unlike last year, going to be in a position close enough to see the
whites of Bob's eyes and make out his expressions, which can have such an
important contribution to the whole Dylan experience. This realisation
came when I was greeted with probably the longest queue I have seen in my
entire life outside the castle. Never-the-less there was a great air of
anticipation despite the increasingly mixed reviews the recent concerts
Once inside the grounds there was a fairly long, tension building wait
while Dylan either waited until everything was ready, toyed with the crowd
or simply couldn't be bothered starting. During this time I began to fear
for the lives of the people near the front with enormous brollies blocking
the view of, and considerably irritating, everyone further back.
Eventually the brollies came down and shortly afterwards the band took to
Things started well with 'Oh babe, It Ain't No Lie' followed by a really
beutiful version of 'To Ramona', one of my favourite early Dylan songs.
'Mr Tambourine Man' was also very nicely performed and I felt that the
opening acoustic set had been a considerable success. With the switch to
electrics came an impressive rendition of 'Maggie's Farm', never one of my
favourites but on this occasion I was rather impressed.
I felt things then went slightly downhill, as the next few songs were
rather a disappointment, including what I felt was a rather tired sounding
version of 'Just Like a Woman', definately inferior to that of a year ago
in Glasgow. The evening then, however, picked up again and, for me, was
really set alight by a beautiful perfomance of my favourite song of all
time 'Visions of Johanna'. I have recently read the the current Poet
Laureate, Andrew Motient, is of the opinion that this song has the best
lyrics ever written, a belief that I share. This was followed by 'Don't
Think Twice', another song that I had been hoping for and I was far
disappointed with the performance given.
The standard was then maintained through the rest of the opening set, with
the exception of what I felt was a rather poor version of 'Drifter's
Escape'. There was, however, a lovely performance of 'Not Dark Yet',
appropriate at that time as darkness did begin to fall. 'Rainy Day Woman'
was very enjoyable although not quite as impressive as in Glasgow last
The encores included the usual mix of classic songs that while well
performed, have become rather repetative, as well the excellent 'Things
Have Changed', a song far from out of place amoungst the older
masterpieces. This suited me fine as I was with a friend who was not
really a Dylan fan and I wanted him to be familiar with a fair proportion
of the songs. 'Blowing In The Wind' in particular, gave the entire crowd a
chance to sing along and get involved in the occasion, something which I
would have liked to have seen more of.
I initially felt that 'Cat's In The Well' was a curious song to finish
with, but the performance given showed it to be an excellent selection and
it, as with most of the concert, was well appreciated by the crowd.
Overall, I felt that this concert was on the good side of patchy. In
comparison to Glasgow a year ago, the highs were higher but the lows were
lower. Bob also didn't seem to be enjoying himself as much as last year
and rarely acknowledged the crowd. I was pleased that we were treated to
no less than 5 harp solos, some of which were wonderful. On the other hand
Bob seemed to have Charlie and Larry (looking uncannily similar to Jesus
Christ) on a very tight leash. We were unable to see how good these guys
really are and instead had to endure an awful lot of Bob's solos, rarely
more than three notes repeated several times.
Perhaps a bit of a break from touring, allowing the writing and recording
of some new songs would be a good idea in the not too distant future. It
has been four years now since 'Time Out Of Mind' and 'Things Have Changed'
showed that he certainly can still write terrific songs.
page by Bill Pagel
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