Cardiff, Wales

Motorpoint Arena

October 13, 2011

[Colin Popplewell], [Roger Collings], [Roger Millen], [Cook & Sew],
[Andrew Edgington], [Dave Treen], [John Sykes], [Pete Wall]

Review by Colin Popplewell

Took the local train for the short journey from Lydney acress
the Welsh border down to Cardiff and me and Mrs P arrived in
plenty of time for the 6:30pm doors openings to see “Chief Dylan” (see
below explanation).  Already there were orderly queues either side of the
main entrance of the International Arena – oddly enough, the venue had
no external billboards/hoardings promoting the Bob show – although Jason
Munford (?) and Katherine Jenkins and many others were heavily

Anyway, going to the right hand queue we fell in
line behind skanky family that ensured we stayed a good few feet behind
them at all times and very soon the queue started moving and the air
became breathable again.  The CIA still amazes me that its entry process
is akin to that of an airport – males to the left, females to the right,
“confiscated equipment” lockers by the doors – although the
door-staff are reasonable enough.  I’m sure the next visit will have
full-body x-ray machines installed but hey ho.  One more thing about the
arena before I talk about the show was the unfathomable logic of removing
water bottle lids on “Health & Safety” grounds – absolutely beyond
me but it meant my wife spent the entire evening with a finger in the open
bottle so that the bottle didn’t spill anything.

Mark Knopfler and band promptly opened at 7:30 and
played goodtime, vaguely familiar, Celtic music for 50 minutes with an
exceptionally good band although it would have been better suited playing
in O’Malleys bar and various heckles from the crowd seemed to bear me
out on this – but they played well and he even thanked Bob for asking
him to tour with him.  It was only during his final 2 songs –
“Brothers In Arms” and “So Far Away” did the crowd really come
alive.  Notwithstanding all this, Knopfler was warmly and politely
received and he now knows that if he wants to cash in on his back
catalogue that there is an audience that is very willing to listen. 
Maybe Bob’s management had said for him not to steal the show?   

Anyway, quick set change under the charge of Bob’s long-standing
pony-tailed, grey bearded roadie (how long has he been with Dylan, what is
his name?), lights dim, “Ladies and Gentlemen ...who spent the 70’s
and 80’s written off by chemical abuse... etc etc Bob Dylan – Columbia
recording artist build-up now dropped” and on comes Bob and band and,
surprise, surprise it’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” with Bob’s
voice very strong and up front in the mix although there were a few
mumbles and recycled verses.  The thing that took my eye was that Bob was
now sporting three buttons at the bottom of his jacket sleeves just as a
Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer would have on his uniform – maybe we
would be treated to “When The Ship Comes In” tonight?   

Next up was “Shooting Star” that had me grinning
widely throughout – one because it’s rarely played but also the strong
voice and phrasing along with his centre-stage gesturing.  I saw Dylan a
number of years ago in Brighton and he opened that show (to everyone’s
surprise) centre stage with no instrument at all and with very animated
Elvis movements – next song saw the guitar re-instated but you could
tell he certainly enjoyed it.  Indeed, the Rolling Thunder Revue
regularly saw Bob centre stage with no instrument – Isis was a song that
comes to mind and a reinvented version of this would certainly be a good
addition to the current set list – how about it Bob?  

I won’t go through the entire set list but
highlights were certainly “Hard Rain”, that hinted at a crowd sing
along that didn’t materialise, and “Ballad Of A Thin Man” that was
complete with echo that appeared to catch Bob off-guard once or twice. 
The remainder of the set was, in summary, fine with strong vocals and
music interplay between the band members although Charlie was regularly
looking across at Bob for a prompt as to where next to go and not getting
it; George on the other hand, was having a hoot throughout the evening on
the drums and appeared to be having an ongoing joke with Bob throughout. 
I think Bob was smiling a lot but his facial expressions were difficult to
make out due to the wide hat brim blocking out the lighting.  Anyway, no
formal encore (did Mark Knopfler overrun?) but it was the statutory 14
only songs and Bob’s band introduction was strong on phrasing the guitar
as “gee-tar”.

Having seen Dylan dozens of times over the
years (how many, I haven’t got a clue and hats off to those that can say
“this is my 22nd, 43rd 119th etc” – mine is certainly more than 30
and for the record, Portsmouth 2000 (both shows, second one being the
better) and Wembley Stadium 1984 have the best memories for me), there was
a time when I approached forthcoming shows with some trepidation and the
memory of the Rolling Stone journalist who wrote that the “best he could
say about the show was that his wife had said that Bob wore incredible
shoes” would worry me but on the evidence of last night I will certainly
be seeing the great man when he tours these shores again by which time he
may even have been promoted to higher ranks than his current Chief status.
Most importantly, Bob appears in good form and at 70, is still enjoying
it.  We are too. 

Colin Popplewell
Lydney, England  


Review by Roger Collings

More anticipation again. 
My first opportunity since Birmingham 2009, how I envy you guys who can go
to multiple concerts.Cardiff is the city where some of us geriatrics first
saw an electric guitar in hand (1966). I hope that means he has fond
memories of the place. A well known phrase used on that tour-Play effing
loud- to Robbie and co. still applies it seems. Arrived in Cardiff at
17-30 and had just one beer, a good friend of mine has a motto -When you
pass 60 never pass a toilet-. Into the nearly full arena at 19-00.I
thought Mark and his current band played really well even though I suppose
most people would be unfamiliar with the songs. To my untrained eye he
always seems to make guitar playing look so effortless.He received an
excellent reception, with an encore, especially as his drummer is a local
guy. Now we have the usual bunfight where the roadies have to swop all the
kit over, probably some 15mins. This definitely kills off the atmosphere
and I guess accounts for why the playlist  is continuous.Why cannot they
have a video of him for interest and atmosphere. No, I suppose that would
mean another £20. For me another interesting playlist and I like 'Pillbox
Hat' always have.My only disappointment is, having followed the USA recent
tour, where is Mississippi? back in the box. Its for others to give a
technical appraisal song by song, I had a great night.Will I again? Thank
you to all involved in a Dylan evening, we know its a lifestyle, not just
a live concert.

Roger Collings


Review by Roger Millen


This wasn't so much a concert as it was a physical assault. I left the
concert feeling as if I had been through some sort of North American
Indian rite of passage, suffering multiple cuts from the razor sharp edge
of Bob Dylan s voice. Song after song was delivered with the
same aggressive chanting style. I felt myself fighting an
inward battle to clothe these battered remnants of genius with some
memory of their original sublime nature. I did have some success with
this and felt, by the end, I had passed this particular challenge. Next
time round maybe Bob will just swap his guitar for a flamethrower and see
if his audience can still pick out Leopard skin Pillbox Hat. 

Roger Millen


Review by Cook & Sew

"In The Valley Below"

Bob came to theValleys last night; a much younger looking and refreshed
Bob from the last time he played the Motorpoint Arena (formerly the CIA).

Many of the songs were delivered from centre stage, just a microphone in
one hand and the other waving free; conducting the band behind him,
pointing to the crowd in front, and drawing extra nuance from every word.
He didn't only sing these songs, he sold them!  A three song cycle at the
start of the show (moving from Shooting Star to Things Have Changed to an
absolutely majestic Man In The Long Black Coat) was the highlight of the
night, matched only by a mischevious rendition of Tryin' To Get To Heaven
where Dylan smiled every time he lamented the doors might close before he
got there!

This was the most animated Dylan I have ever seen. A Dylan more at ease
with himself and his audience than at any other time in the last 10 years
or so. As he faced the audience and sang High Water - his face illuminated
and so expressive under his wide brimmed, bright white hat, I saw (just
for a second) the Dylan of the 1975 Rolling Thunder Tour. I  know that he
was so much older then, but he seemed younger than that last night. 


Review by Andrew Edgington

Review by Andrew Edgington

Interesting and different performance from Bob and the boys last night. 

The set list included some of my favourite songs - Summer Days; Hard Rain;
Trying to get to Heaven (the third treatment I've heard. why not stick to
the album version which was marvellous?); Shooting Star; Man in a Long
Black Coat; Watching the River Flow; High Water etc. Of course this is
always a bit double edged when he proceeds to dismantle; murder and then
re-assemble one of your favourites!

I've seen Bob about a dozen times in the last 15 years and last night's
show was very different in two main ways :- Bob's voice and his general
movement and demeanour on-stage.  

His voice was much more powerful than I can recall. Gone were the squeaks
and dry rasps of old. Gone were the last vestiges of any attempt to hit
higher notes.   I can't say they were replaced by sweet melodious sounds,
however. Bob shouted, barked and growled away all evening, only
occasionally appearing to round off the odd bit of phrasing with a firm
attempt to hit a note spot on.   He chose on several songs to adopt that
staccato style, beating out each word in rhythm (especially on Hard Rain
which I guess most fans will have heard before).  I find this OK on some
of his mid-tempo songs but a little disappointing on some of the slower
numbers like Shooting Star and Man in a Long Black Coat. It may be me but
these are more reflective songs that don't want to be shouted out. 
Overall though, I found it an improvement on squeaky husky Bob.

Bob was behind the key board several times - often doing what one of your
reviewers called 'dropping the cutlery tray' - but came out centre stage
for most songs.  His movement are unique, almost indescribable really. He
sort of prances and poses as if his head, legs and body have minds of
their own. Strange little jerks and limb bends; odd gestures and
posturing. Very odd indeed! My wife suggested he might have been
constipated (!) but she was only there to see Mark Knopfler who was
clearly the supporting act ('I'd like to say thanks to Bob for inviting us
along').    He blasted away on his harp on numerous songs - further
confirmation of the power of his 70 year old lungs. Shuffling and
shambling back and forth and from side to side. Visually, it made for a
much more entertaining show, especially with Charlie moving around in his
spot on Bob's right.

The band was great, as usual.  Tony and George held it all together.
Lovely banjo from Donnie on High Water.  Maybe it was my old ears but the
band's sounds all seemed a bit too mushy and undifferentiated for me.  By
the time they got to the last two numbers, however, I could clearly pick
out Stu taking the lead on Watchtower and Charlie gave an absolutely
blazing performance on LARS.

All in all a very entertaining - and different - evening.


Comments by Dave Treen

“Don’t need to bother about the journey to Cardiff or any of that.
Don’t need to even mention Knopfler, where I was standing or anything.
Bob was there, up for it, flying. more animated than I have seen him for
ages.  The band were storming, the set was great. It was kick ass and
take no prisoners. If Bob is on a roll like this, beg, borrow or even pay
the touts for a ticket to Bournemouth. I now have to regrade my opinions
of other shows I have seen or maybe just create a new category for this
one. “

Dave Treen 


Comments by John Sykes

Oh dear, what a waste of such talent! Arenas can be bad acoustically, but
Knopfler's set was soon clear and crisp after the first one or two items,
so there's no excuse for the wall of noise that characterised Dylan's set.
The band were clearly talented, but too loud, too harsh, badly balanced,
and Dylan's lyrics seemed to be shouted rather than sung with the
consequence that very few of his fantastic lyrics could be heard, even
when you knew them by heart. The whole set was pretty much of a likeness
and it was difficult at times to tell which song was actually being

I was clearly not alone - I did stick it out to the end, but people left
in droves throughout the set, many disappointed, some dismayed, and others
very angry. A very poor quality concert, bordering on the scandalous, and
denying the audience of access to one of the undoubtedly great musical
talents of the age.  

John Sykes


Review by Pete Wall

Great to see Bob in Wales again and in such animated form. He really looked as
if he was enjoying himself. What a shame about the sound. The Cardiff arena is
not the easiest of venues to engineer and balance correctly, but Mark Knopfler's
sound guy was on his game and nailed it, but  Bob's sound man, what was he doing
????....he might as well have been on the moon and it's not the first time he's
messed it up. I used to be a sound engineer and there's no excuse for the mush
that we were presented with. I was sitting behind the desk area and what I heard
was a wall of unbalanced noise where it was impossible to hear the vocals and
the individual instruments for most of the set. Sadly a lot of folks voted with
their feet.   For me the sound man spoiled what would otherwise have been a
stellar show.   

Pete W


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