August 19, 2007
Comments by James De Siun
Why haven't any of the Melbourne people reviewed this show ? I've been
waiting for days for something to appear. Anyone who attended should
start writing now.
I didn't make it down to Melbourne for the show, so I really envy those
who heard Blind Willie McTell and I Believe In You. My buddies all made it
to the rail and were able to look into his eyes, which were as blue as
While the southerners behind all objected, someone heard the bearish
factotum of Dylan's tell Security "You just can't please all the people,
so let 'em stand". That's why there was a crowd standing at the front of
the awful Rod Laver Arena.
Lacking enough details for a review, I'll tell you a story that was in the
Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, August 18th. " At the Sir Stamford
Hotel in Double Bay on Tuesday night an informant spotted Bob Dylan
getting into a lift wearing a bizarre long, black wig and a cap pulled
down over his eyes. But his cover was blown when the lift failed to
budge. "Can you get this lift moving, man ?" he asked in his unmistakable
drawl. The emergency bell was rung and a receptionist opened the door
instructing Dylan to punch his room key into a slot to get the lift to
work. "Thanks, man," said Dylan.
It's a fine story, but I have my doubts about Bob Dylan calling an
elevator a "lift".
Say one more stupid thing to me before the final nail is driven in.
James De Siun
Review by Michael Holbery
The one thing that can be said for Rod Laver Arena as a concert venue is
that it is never as bad as one thinks it will be. The same could be said
for Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. Unlike one member of the crowd on the
“Fifth Time Around” (Hammersmith 1993) bootleg, I could never find Don't
Think Twice, It's All Right boring. It remains a personal favourite and
the country lilt provided a brief excursion from the swamp.
Watching The River Flow makes me think of Leon Russell. Is this a good
or bad thing? Just Like A Woman was superb. Dylan used his ability to
mismatch the vocal with the intended metre to perfection. Rollin' And
Tumblin' and When The Deal Goes Down echoed their album positions and
provided an ebullient introduction to the ‘new’ album.
Highway 61 Revisited was another vocal highlight. Blind Willie
McTell could never disappoint. This masterpiece most closely resembles
its studio version. Maybe even Dylan can’t bring himself to tamper with
this one, which was an undoubted highlight and welcome surprise. My
Back Pages has mercifully ceased to bear any resemblance to the all-star
version. This time it was slow and beautifully sung. I was impressed
that Dylan managed to transform the relatively recent Honest With Me, as
he does his older songs. A good, but not great, version. Spirit On
The Water. Thoroughly enjoyable. I could live without Stuck
Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again. Do we really need a third
track from Blonde on Blonde? Ain't Talkin'. Another solid Modern
Times track. Summer Days is another personal favourite. I was
anticipating this one and it did not let me down. The band was in full
“Three Little Bops” mode. As a firm atheist I believe the only good
thing to come out of religion is Slow Train Coming. I Believe In You was
another (mild) surprise, and a welcome one. The audience could just as
easily be directing this song at Dylan.
Thunder On The Mountain was probably the best of the Modern Times tracks
of those delivered tonight. The one thing I can say about All Along
The Watchtower is that it is not “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Still, it was an
okay version and it kept the bogans happy. I am from the ‘be happy with
what you get’ school with Dylan, and I was. But my one big complaint was
the drummer. Like cricket umpires, drummers are doing their job best when
they remain unnoticed. This makes George Recile the drumming equivalent of
Ian Howell. For those who this analogy (understandably) eludes, this is
not a good thing. I am looking forward to the 50th anniversary tour!?!
Review by Gordon Feeney
I was very pleasantly surprised by the performance, possibly as a
result of expectations deliberately kept low. I won't attempt a full
review but here are a couple of observations, for what they're worth.
Bob Dylan generally sang with great intensity I thought. Most of the
words were easily discernible even up the back at about a 45 degree angle
to stage right in what is a 15,000 seat tennis stadium that was about
two-thirds full on this second Melbourne concert, after sunny Sunday
(that was very cold by 7pm as a result of the clear skies). This
intensity was particularly so on songs such as My Back Pages where the
refrain suddenly came to life somehow, given his advancing years. I think
I've read this before, but it was pretty clear that BD is reading song
lyrics from sheets placed on the organ, hardly surprising for anyone with
such long songs, and such a large song-book.
At the musical intro to "I Believe in You" someone near us laughed
long and loud, presumably along the lines of "Oh, we're getting a song
from the Christian period, what are we to make of that?'' Or something.
But again I thought it was sung was moving intensity although of course
there was no attempt to get anywhere near the high notes. I suppose it's
been noted before that this is one of the least overtly Christian songs
off Slow Train.
A couple of of others: During Just Like a Woman, BD gave great
emphasis to the word "WAS'' in the line Please don't let on that you knew
me with I was hungry and it WAS your world.
My greatest disappointment was that at the start of Just Like a Woman
it sounded very much to both my and my brother that it was the musical
intro to Every Grain of Sand but that was changed fairly seamlessly over
to JLAW. I also got my hopes up at the harmonica opening to My Back Pages
that it was EGofS.
It was great to get both Ain't Talkin' and Blind Willie McTell.
Still, both lacked the atmospherics, and slower tempo, of the recorded
versions, I thought. A bit of trivia: to my ear, BD pronounced the word
'superfluous' with the emphasis on the second syllable unlike the studio
recording where there is emphasis on both the first and third syllables.
I throw that in in an attempt to qualify as a BD obsessive. Just kidding.
Overall, it was an extremely entertaining night. Even songs I don't
particularly like - Highway 61, Honest With Me, Rollin' and Tumblin' -
were played so well by the band that I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Don't Think Twice was a fun loose jazzy version. When The Deal Goes
Down was wonderful to hear and movingly performed. To me, it is easily
the most poignant of the latest crop of songs despite some slightly
clunky lyrics (sorry just an opinion).
There seemed to be a hint of a possible second encore. The lights
stayed down for some time and the crowd was even more fired up than for
the first encore. But then that would have created a precedent, I
suppose, that would be never-ending in its implications.
In Spirit on the Water, the crowd got very vocal at the lines about 'you
think I'm past my prime' - I couldn't quite make it out but it was along
the lines of "no you're not'' and then agreeing thoroughly with the 'we
can have a whoppin' good time' part.
Highlights were: Just Like a Woman, Don't Think Twice its Alright, My
Back Pages, Stuck inside of Mobile, I Believe in You, Highway 61
Only lowlight: Honest with Me, which I thought dragged a bit
Review by Jeff Hausler
The show was great. I've been to about 6 Dylan shows over the last 30 years
(1978 - Sydney Myer Music Bowl, 1998 - Mercury Lounge and RLA, 2003 -
Melbourne Blues Fest and 2007 August 17 & 19 at RLA ). This is easily the
second best ever (Mercury Lounge in 1998 was the greatest concert I've ever
been to, ask any of the 800 soles' luckly enough to be there). Last night
(and Friday night) Bob was great, he varied the set with fast and slow
numbers; blues, rock, swing, blue-grass etc numbers; new and old all supported
by a great band who were totally in tune with him and the audience. I won't
go through the set list in detail but just some of the highlights. Firstly
starting with Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat, I just love that song and a great
rocking start to the night; Just Like a Woman was beautifully done and
very moving; Highway 61 rocking like mad; Blind Willy and Spirt On the
Water both excellent; Ain't Talkin' "just walkin' Through the world
mysterious and vague" aren't we all?; Summer Days just kept building and
rocking (they needed to get rid of the seats so people could dance); I
Believe In You, beautiful. The encore Thunder On The Mountain and All
Along The Watchtower was just fantastic. Sorry I could not help myself
(talking about nearly every song) it was that good. Thanks Bob and come
Review by Natalie & Raghava
Have just read the reviews of last Friday's show, and saw the set list -
last night was my first Bob show ever, and I came away amazed despite
being more than forty rows back from the stage. The Frames did a sweet,
but far too short, job - being thanked by them for "turning up so early"
put it in perspective, and it felt like down to business afterwards with a
snappy stage change and the garbled but evocative PA intro to the "poet
There must be others lurking this great space sharing thoughts with old
regulars and other first timers. I was struck by the noise of the show -
even having left the hearing aids at home. Does Bob get miked and mixed
to sound so attacking all the time nowadays? Reminded me of Joe Strummer
in his old Clash days. He sounded great, the band was absolutely
sensational - and the way the lights went down after each song, and the
band doodled in the blackness and launched precisely into the next number
with the stage re-lit in an interestingly different way, while by then we
all recognised what song was about to be sung. It felt professional for
sure, but nothing more or less than we should expect from these guys on
the never ending tour (is it really more than 100 shows a year??).
It was nice to have heard all the Modern Times numbers that were played -
but it was the old songs that made it all worthwhile. Don't think Twice,
Just Like a Woman, My Back Pages, Blind Willie McTell - and Leopard Skin
Pillbox Hat. He sounded really good on the harmonica, and his singing was
All Along the Watchtower was a candy ending.
We walked out of Rod Laver Arena into the clear cool night and strolled
holding hands along the sparkling Yarra River feeling the creak in our
bones but warm.
Review by Ben Wornes
Going to the Sunday show was a spontaneous act, driven by the fact that
the Friday show had left me begging for more. The show was really great
but it really highlighted for me that the Friday show was really something
special, there was a real magic that night. Perhaps this is just my
personal experience, i’d be interested to know how others who saw both
shows felt about this. I’m not sure if it was where I was sitting but it
felt like there was more of a greatest hits kinda crowd happening I was
towards the back centre middle, and the people around seemed a little
bored and only really got into it when Bob played ‘Just like a Woman’ or
‘Watchtower’.Having said that, the crowd in the stalls seemed to be going
off in comparison, I kinda wished I was up there with the action.
Bob put on an eclectic mix which was included some welcome surprises and
for me these were the highlights. A beautiful rendition of Blind Willie
McTell probably the first time i’ve probably given myself the pleasure of
enjoying the Lyrics which Bob sang clearly and passionately. Also the
biggest surprise being ‘i believe in you.’ The much loved but misunderstood
jesus Bob returned to the stage, you could see his face, circa 1981.
My personal Modern Times favourites were nearly all there save
unfortunately for Workin man’s blues which Melbourne unfortunately missed
out on, but it was great to hear that muddy water’s riff live in Rollin n
Tumblin and one i’d been begging for, ‘Aint Talkin, great!
Finally for the encore and us people on the floor finally found our feet
(with the consent of security) and finally rocked out to thunder on the
mountain,(not quite as jammin as Friday). And the one we felt blessed for
missing out on on Friday, Watchtower I’m glad we got it, It finished us
off almost as well as Rolling Stone the other night. Thanks for a
memorable weekend Bob a real spiritual pilgrimage in your own town.
Review by Anthony Stock
After a stellar performance on Friday and a great show in Sydney the grand
finale in Melbourne was a good show but a little wierd. The audience was
slightly smaller and they appeared to be in a laid back Sunday mood. Dylan
raised the bar several notches on a couple of occasions but the audience
seemed to sit back and say 'what else have you got?'
Dylan did not help by fluffing his lines on or two occasions but a
brilliant Just like a Woman, a well delivered Blind Willie McTell, a
stunning Ain't Talkin and a blistering Watchtower deserved more response.
Dylan's song selection was adventurous, never more so than when he played
a fine version, in spite of a lyrical flub, of I Believe in You. But why
play it last as opposed to Rolling Stone, Thin Man or Blowin in the Wind?
The band were tight and Dylan obviously enjoyed playing Spirit on the
Water, and the crowds response. Last nights audience probably was a tough
one to satisfy, but Dylan tried. Perhaps too hard.
At the end Dylan waved heartily to the crowd and watching thru binoculars
from a great central position I had the impression that there was a real
hint of goodbye about his farewell.
Sitting back before the show for the 3rd time in less than a week I was
intrigued by the choreographed nature of Dylans show. Copelands 'fanfare
for the common man 'seems designed to play down the myth rather than build
upon the theatrics. The absence of chat and the darkness that envelops the
stage after each number seems designed to refocus the audiences attention
and give each song it's own dimension, like a new chapter in a book. The
line up and the slow exit in a line like troops marching off to do battle
elsewhere with hardly a look back, struck me as very deliberate.
The decision to name each band member and his home in the states, appeared
to reference the music and perhaps it's origins.
Forty two years on from my first conference I'm hoping it won't be the
last, but like Dylan said in the 60 minutes interview, he takes nothing
Review by Paul Grieves
Concert kicked off right on 8.30 pm. You know the set list. For me..i was
pleased to get I believe in You..Blind Willie McTell...and Aint Talkin.
All the other songs were good too. I always love Don't Think Twice...and
he played that too. It`s a well rehearsed set up and it`s not like
anything's gonna seem like a tossed salad. I think i saw some papers on
the keyboard the other night. Could be notes or prompt sheets for a song
or something. The Oscars up there on an amplifier..it`s the only thing
looking at the crowd! Bobs into his band...the audience is that thing
that's "out there". Bobs more inclined to look right and check out Donnie
and what he's doin. Just like 2 nights ago...the band are well back off
front of stage.
There's no room to connect unless your willing to just listen and look at
bob and feel the privilege. Security people said "first row tickets can
stand at front stage..the rest...sit down!" Confusion for those who
couldn't see in 2nd and third row..over the tall people standing and bob
so far back? A guy to the far right of stage...looked really pissed off.
He was up in the stand trying to get security to let him down to the floor
to see better and see something. I guess he was saying something like " I
didn't pay $165 to see bobs back coat tails and I either want see
something better or someone better get me a refund"... Security said "sit
Gotta agreed with him..that position is like hearing a disc and looking at
a clothes rack and hat. The poor stage structure has been mentioned many
times with this tour and reviews...so If your going to see Bob...and your
on the far right facing the stage...sell your ticket and pay double for a
ticket on the far left...you'll see Bob as if your centre stage.
Well...that's it for the Melbourne concerts. They were good and the
whether here was mild and sunny all weekend so I'm guessing Bob went for
walk somewhere..i know he did in Sydney...cause he got stuck in a lift.
Can`t resist telling you..this is the story..
At the Sir Stamford Hotel in Double Bay on Tuesday night a PS mole spotted
Bob Dylan getting into a lift wearing a bizarre long, black wig and a cap
pulled down over his eyes. But his cover was blown when the lift failed to
budge. "Can you get this lift moving, man?" he asked in his unmistakable
drawl. The emergency bell was rung and a receptionist opened the door
instructing Dylan to punch his room key into a slot to get the lift to
work. "Thanks, man," said Dylan.
Cheers to you ..Bob...love ya mate!
Review by Paul Templeton
Just back from my 6th concert. All the songs were good. Great version of
When The Deal Goes Down then the band really kicked into gear for Highway
61. Fantastic versions of Blind Willie McTell and Ain't Talkin'.
Then an incredible I Believe In You, one of my 50 favourite Dylan songs.
Dylan moved a little bit on a couple of the songs, otherwise it was a
drummer and five guys standing in the same spot playing. No mindless
repartee, no costume changes, no lighting effects, just the brilliant
playing we have come to expect.
One gripe that I have is that so many people say that they went to a Dylan
concert and couldn't understand the words due to his mumbling. Some of the
press here in Australia has been along the lines of 'a Dylan concert can
be awesome or awful, you don't know what to expect, he mumbles half the
words and half the people walk out because it is so terrible'. This is
largely based on the '92 tour which supposedly was terrible. My memory of
it is that it was a totally amazing concert, indeed the best one that I
have been to.
Anyway if you couldn't understand the words in this concert then you must
be close to deaf I reckon, it was crystal clear.
What more can I say??? Yet another spectacular performance. He's still out
on the road, headed for another joint. Why is it that Auckland gets
another couple of shows???????
Review by Glen O'Brien
I enjoyed my seventh Dylan concert on Sunday night. Tragic, I know. Dylan is
known to play the occasional bad show but I can honestly say I've never been
disappointed and Sunday was no exception. The Frames were a good support act,
and obviously chuffed to be invited to tour with his Bobness. I can only describe
them as a kind of Irish Wilco (who by the way I saw with the Boy Wonder at the
Palais earlier this year but never got around to reviewing. Suffice to say it was a
brilliant show). I thought it was very cool they way the Frames wove a Van
Morrison lyric into one of their original songs. They played only four or five songs.
We were here, after all, to hear Bob and no support act is ever asked to give an
Bob took the stage in his usual black with a broad brimmed cowboy hat which he
never took off looking for all the world like a gunfighter from a B grade western
totin' a guitar instead of a gun. The band kicked into a ragged version of "Leopard
Skin Pillbox Hat," a little out of tune and pretty loosey goosey. They seemed to
take a few numbers to really tighten up, and were at their best on the new songs
from Modern Times. When they were good they were very, very good, with
moments of real rock 'n roll brilliance. Dylan played three numbers on guitar and
then stood at the keyboard / Hammond organ thingy for "Just Like A Woman" and
stayed there for the duration. This annoyed me at the Melbourne International
Music Festival a few years back but this time it seemed right. After all, Bob started
on piano in his high school band playing Bobby Vee and Buddy Holly covers, and
plays piano on piano based songs sprinkled here and there over the whole body of
his work. Anyway, even behind the keyboard he still has the rock 'n roll gunslinger
I can undertand why some people, just don't "get" Dylan and leave one of his
concerts scratching their heads or even feeling ripped off. If they don't know his
body of work well, they are certainly not going to understand the words he growls,
spits out, grunts, and distorts with his strange vocal gymnastics, even when his
voice is WAY up at the top of the sound mix as it was last night. And then he has
that strange way of leaving it to the very last part of the measure before throwing
in all the lyrics all at once without a moment to spare. A teenager behind me during
the demand for an encore called, out "Play a Bob Dylan song!" Apparently he hadn't
recognised any of the songs in the set, even though it contained such Dylan
standards as "Just Like a Woman," "Don't Think Twice It's Alright," and "Highway 61
Revisited." (For those who want the complete set list click here.) In a way this is a
real tragedy because it means that people miss out on moments of genuine lyrical
brilliance. In "Spirit on the Water," the frailty and elusiveness of love is expressed so
well in the lines, "I'm pale as a ghost holding a blossom on a stem. You ever seen a
ghost? No. But you have heard of them." Whether he's frowning on those who are
"sucking the blood out of the genius of generosity" or bragging about himself having
"sucked the milk out of a thousand cows," this is poetry not be missed.
I guess it is this familiarity with Dylan's work that gives fans at his concerts (no doubt
the vast majority in attendance alongside of those in the minority who may simply be
there to "check out the legend") a certain satisfaction in their esoteric knowledge. In
"Spirit on the Water" when Bob sang, "Ya think I'm over the hill," the crowd yelled
back, "Nooooo!". Then, "think I'm past my prime," and again, "Nooooo!" Finally, "Let
me see what you got / we can have a whoppin' good time." Crowd: "Yeeaaahhh!!"
Priceless. They knew those words were coming and they were ready for them.
The highlight for me was "I Believe in You" from his Gospel album Slow Train Coming,
the last song at the end of the set before the encore, and sung with so much passion.
It's the song of a loner who stands apart, or is ejected, from the crowd because of
his personal faith in Jesus. He ended the song in an interesting way, repeating the
opening lines of the verse, "they ask me how I feel and if my love is real"...and then
it just ended abruptly, the final word being spat out with what sounded like venom
and disgust. "How dare they ask if my love for God is 'real'!" I'm probably reading too
much into it but I couldn't help but think of the Christians who need Dylan's faith to
fit into a conventional mould they can approve.
Then there was a long, long wait before the two-song encore. At the end, a touching
moment when the lights came back up and the band were all huddled in the centre
free of their instruments, Bob at the front, as they received a standing ovation from
the capacity crowd. Bob reciprocated with a single hand uprised in salute, then both
arms upraised as he basked in the glow of adoration for a second or two then they
turned and walked off, Bob 66 yrs. old, frail, skinny, and somehow vulnerable but a
giant and a legend still.
Dylan fashion watch:
Bob wore this hat at the Melbourne concert but with a black coat.
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