October 20, 2022
Review by Harry Picken,
Bob Dylan - The Palladium 20th October 2022
We saw Bob Dylan on the 20th day of the most dangerous month of the year.
Unmatched. Alive. Rocking. Crooning. An artist with so much to say, the nearly
two-hour show wasn't enough to chisel the top layer of the rich sediment that
makes up his particular genius. It is important to remember how much thought
goes into this artist's performances. Everything is there for a reason. Every song,
new or old; carefully considered for the purposes of creating his art. The name
of the tour, however, gives us a clue as to what we should be expecting.
'Rough and Rowdy Ways'. The songs from his 2020 album were heavily featured.
In fact, every song was performed with the sole exception of 'Murder Most Foul',
which, at its run time of 17 minutes was perhaps slightly too strenuous for this
81-year-old. This might be unfair - Dylan has rarely played many of his longer
songs in concert, permitting the listener to enjoy them on their own terms on
repeat to uncover any nuggets of gold. Dylan only played his 1997 triumph,
'Highlands' (which also runs to 17 minutes) nine times in concert. And he has
never publicly performed what many consider to be his mid-60's symbolist
masterpiece, 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' which runs to just over
11 minutes. Interestingly, both titles which point towards Dylan's not so
secret love of Scotland.
Nevertheless, the point I want to make is that the songs from his latest album
are of course to be expected. This is his latest masterwork. It is a piece of art
rivalling anything he has ever done in his long career. And I urge anyone and
everyone to listen to it immediately and on repeat for as long as they can
bare. What is more interesting are the songs from his past that he chose to
perform. With a career that spans over 60 years, 600 songs, and 39 studio
albums, it is worth taking a closer look at a few songs that are more
ambiguous. Bob Dylan did not come out and play the crowd-pleasing hits;
there was no 'Like a rolling stone', no 'Highway 61' and no 'Blowin' in the
wind'. His critics will say of course Bob Dylan refuses to play the songs people
want to hear, he is far too pretentious to give people what they want. This
is a fair criticism; audiences are not paying an insignificant amount of money
to watch Dylan perform and it is understandable that some would leave feeling
cheated if they don't hear the songs that mean so much to them. This,
however, is to misunderstand the man and his art. As he sang that evening,
he has 'never pandered, never acted proud' and to expect him to start in his
ninth decade is foolish.
So, by now you might start asking what these older songs were that Dylan
decided to play. There are four songs that I think are worth considering in
further detail. These are Watching The River Flow, When I Paint My
Masterpiece, Gotta Serve Somebody and Every Grain of Sand.
Watching The River Flow
Bob Dylan wrote this song in the early 1970s when he was experiencing his
first and possibly most severe dose of writer's block. That 'restless, hungry
feeling' which he described as driving the prolific output of poetry and music
had seemingly turned into a satiated fullness. The concert opened with the
first lines which are embedded with a deep insecurity: 'what's the matter
with me? I don't have much to say." Considering what followed over the
next two hours, this was almost comical. Dylan did and still does have plenty
to say and shows no signs of stopping.
Today, the song sits within a different context with a new meaning, and
Dylan challenges us to discover it. Since 1997, Dylan's river of creativity has
not stopped flowing. From the outstanding Time out of Mind to the Grammy
winning albums Love and Theft (2001) and Modern Times (2006) to the
universally acclaimed Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020), the river has once again
started to flow as powerfully as it ever has. Whatever captured his creative
spirit in the 1960's through to the early 1980's has been rekindled. Today,
when he sings 'this old river keeps on rolling', he knows not to take it for
granted. The gift has been returned to him; we don't know how or why and
neither does Dylan. The audience and performer are in awe in equal measure.
At the start of the evening, as the gathered spectators settled into their
seats at London's Palladium, Dylan offers up a proposal to every person in the
room. He invites us to join him in watching the river flow once more. He
doesn't know how long it will stay with him this time and maybe it doesn't
matter but as he sang in that opening song, 'as long as it does, I'll just sit
here and … watch the river flow'. And who could say no to that? As he sang
those words, I did not get the sense that Dylan was offering up his greatness
to us to admire but in some strange way, he was also an audience member
simply watching the river flow. Dylan knows it is a passing thing, his gift, and
that ultimately, he is only its custodian. It can be taken away at any time and
while he is in possession of it, he is going to share it with us.
I know I said I would focus on the old tunes, but I cannot escape the fact
that one of the songs from his latest album which he performed later in the
evening is an important companion. In Mother of Muses, Dylan tells us that
he is falling in love with Calliope (Chief of all Muses). He knows that the
genius transmitted through his songs doesn't originate within him but is
bestowed by a force outside, this time characterised as the 'Mother of Muses'.
Dylan acknowledges this when he sings 'she's speaking to me', asking her to
'show me your wisdom'. He urges her to 'sing for me'. This is an artist with
the reverence to recognise that the ability to create is fragile. He has lost it
before and doesn't want to lose it again. Towards the end of the song. Dylan
asks Calliope to 'take me to the river, release your charms'. Is this the same
river Dylan is singing about in 'watching the river flow'? Almost certainly. What
these two songs are ultimately about is the nature of the creative spirit; Dylan
doesn't know why it was given to him or how long he will be able to keep
hold of it but as long its loaned out to him, I will be there, watching the river
When I Paint My Masterpiece
When I Paint My Masterpiece is perhaps the strangest choice of all the 'old'
songs which Dylan performed that night. This 1971 song which was first
released by The Band and then by Dylan on one of his greatest hits albums
is an obscure choice. Not only obscure due to it being relatively unknown
but also due to its content. At the age of 81, Dylan is arguably the most
influential, well-respected musician of his generation. A Nobel prize winner,
a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, Kennedy Centre Honours recipient,
several times Grammy winner. A voice of a generation. The greatest living
poet. All this is true. Bob Dylan has achieved more than any artist could ever
dream of and his greatness is unquestioned. So, why on earth is he now, at
81 years old singing that 'everything is gonna be different when I paint my
masterpiece'? Is Dylan really that unaware of his magnitude, does he not
know that he has written more masterpieces than anyone alive today? You
could argue that it is vanity or maybe ambition - he thinks that he has ever
greater songs to come. That his true masterpiece is still waiting, one elusive
song, one piece of art so exquisite, it makes the rest of his catalogue look
like child's play in comparison. This is a perfectly valid interpretation of why
Dylan would include this in his setlist at his age.
I think this would be a misreading of Dylan's intentions. The new meaning
of this song in the context that it was performed in on the 20th October
2022 has altered and no longer has the same meaning it might have done
when Dylan sang it as a young man. Now, Dylan is attempting to express,
through the same song, what Victor Frankl would call 'the meaning of the
whole'. Here, we need to momentarily depart from the concert and the
song. If we use a book as analogy, a particular novel may consist of
thousands or even hundreds of thousands of words with many chapters.
Each chapter may contain a narrative and carry a meaning in and of itself.
However, the deeper meaning of the book cannot be evaluated until it is
read in its entirety from cover to cover. Yet, at the same time, we cannot
understand the entire book without first understanding its component
parts, the words chapters and shorter narratives within. I propose that
Dylan sees his life in the same way. He knows that the final meaning and
beauty of his life will only be fully realised after the closing chapter and the
book set to rest. Like a book or film, attempting to analyse only part of it
will lead to incomplete conclusions about its ultimate meaning and value.
When Dylan sings 'someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
when I paint my masterpiece', he knows that he is always painting his
masterpiece, but it will only be ready to view when the curtain has fallen.
It may not be dark yet, but it's getting there. One important caveat
should be made here - this is not Dylan glorifying death by any means.
He is not trying to hasten his own demise but acknowledges the poetic
beauty of his final and greatest masterpiece must wait. And when it
does come, indeed everything will be different.
Gotta Serve Somebody
While 'When I Paint My Masterpiece' might have been the most obscure
song choice, 'Gotta Serve Somebody' certainly has the most alien message
to a 21st Century audience. In London in 2022, It is unlikely that there
were very many devout or even somewhat religious people in the crowd.
In our secular age, we very rarely hear any religious phraseology or imagery.
It is not part of the culture, and anyone seen to be religious is viewed as a
bit strange, on the fringe. The message has seemingly not got to Bob Dylan
or more likely, he simply doesn't care. The name of the song derives from
the Book of Joshua who asks us who we are going to serve. The stark
either or: The Devil or The Lord does not bode with our modern sensibilities
of moral greyness, that no one is truly evil or truly good. Everyone and
everything we do has its positives and its negatives. And who could disagree,
in every situation in life and in every action, any rational person could come
up with a list of pros and cons. While some might be worse than others, we
all fall somewhere on a long spectrum of morality. What is perhaps even more
foreign to our modern way of life is the idea of 'serving' anyone but ourselves.
Dylan knows the times in which he lives, the glorification of the individual and
of naked self-interest over any other motivating force are the defining
features of our times.
Does the fact that he is singing two openly Christian songs mean that he has
fully committed himself once again to his Christian faith? Possibly. Does that
mean we should disregard what he is saying as a result? Certainly not. At a
time when there is such a lack of morality in public life, Dylan urges us to
turn inwards and re-evaluate our most core beliefs. As we go through life,
Dylan reminds us that we always have a clear choice. To act with love, to
make the world a better place or to act in a way that serves to sow chaos
and pain. This is a more acceptable message to our ears as was related by
Tolkien when Gandalf tells Frodo that we have to decide 'what to do with
the time that is given to us". For Dylan, it doesn't matter who you are, the
Ambassador to England, a socialite, a construction worker, a banker, a city
councilman. What matters is how you choose to act in your specific
circumstances. With compassion, serving others, making the world a better
place and thus serving God or acting with greed, corruption, hate - serving
the Devil. For Dylan, the grey is a myth. Every day we are presented with a
stark choice, and it is one or the other. And we all have to decide. Dylan's
detractors say that he is proselyting too much and being 'holier than thou'
but I don't think those people have listened to the song. Dylan doesn't
even suggest which path we go down; he simply sets it out as he sees it:
the choice is black and white; it is up to us to decide - the devil or the lord.
Dylan recognises the deep societal pathogenic existential vacuum of our
time. Around the world, people are haunted by a fundamental loss of
meaning, manifesting itself through boredom apathy and the seeking out
of pleasure as an ultimate end. As Dylan proclaims in 'False Prophet', also
performed that evening, he is the 'enemy of the unlived meaningless life'.
Dylan perfomed Gotta Serve Somebody because he wants us to fight
against the dying of the light. For Dylan, we all have our part to play - life
demands something of each of us and we must choose when called upon
who and what end it is which we are serving - meaningless, apathy, pleasure
for pleasures sake or a higher good that is greater than us ourselves.
Whether the listener is religious or not, the effect is the same. We all have
one life and it up to us to decide what to do with it.
Every Grain of Sand
Every Grain of Sand is Dylan's greatest Christian song and probably the most
beautiful in his entire discography. It is more of a modern-day hymn than a
rock song, and perfectly brought the evening to a close. Why did Dylan
choose it for the concert and as the last song? If Gotta Serve Somebody was
used as a diktat on the void of meaning and morality in modern society, Every
Grain of Sand is the culmination of Dylan's most deep spiritual inquiring; it is
the epitome of what Dylan is; a searcher. As he proclaims in 'Mother of Muses',
he is 'travelin' light' and 'slow coming home' because for Dylan as with every
great artist, it is the journey that matters. Not the destination. Every Grain of
Sand illuminates Dylan's journey more than any other song he has written. I
do not intend to do a line-by-line analysis of the song. It's simply too great for
that but it is worth discussing some key themes that stand out.
As we listen, Dylan is at last transformed. The song encapsulates that broader
voyage on a micro scale. At the beginning, we hear how the narrator is toiling
in the 'morals of despair'. Life no longer has anything to offer him, he cannot
find a purpose. His soul is restless, and he is in a state of panic. Something has
gone awry in the life of the singer; excess, desolation, lack of will. But then
something changes; he starts to realise that everything has a purpose, a
meaning, a reason for being. As he sings, 'I can see the Master's hand in every
leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand'. Note the capitalisation of the word
Master's in the lyrics. We know what Dylan is referring to. He has found his
ultimate meaning through God. He no longer feels an emptiness in his soul but
has found what he has been searching for and is somewhat at peace for the
The narrator now bemoans his past self for his excess, his overindulgence that
led him astray. He speaks of his struggle to stave off temptation as he hears it
call his name but ultimately concludes that if 'every hair is numbered', these
years were a necessary part of his journey and learns to accept his past.
Towards the end of the song, we get two stanzas which are the most
significant and are worth quoting here in full:
I hear the ancient
footsteps like the
motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn,
there, other times it's
In part this takes us all the way back to Dylan's creative spirit with the song
acting in part as a buffer against the idea that it is some mythical muse which
inspires the singer. It is through the divine that he has been given the ability
to create his art. Here he admits the struggle, on some occasions the art
flows through him as he is taken over by a spirit not of his making while other
times, he is left on his own to conjure up what he can by himself.
It is interesting to consider why Dylan would compare the presence of
spirituality and God to the motion of the sea? As the tide comes in and goes
out, as does faith and participation in the spiritual life. We know this in our
own lives, there are times when we feel alone, isolated, and then there
come times when the transcendent aspect of our soul expands, we feel
closer to the divine. For Dylan, the searching he is doing is not from point
A to point B but rather a circular journey from questioning to faith in a
continuous search for truth. This is why it ends the show. Every night Dylan
goes on the same journey to and from faith and we are lucky enough to
accompany him on this adventure.
Review by Laurette Maillet,
London II. October 20th.
I get up around 9 am to take a shower. One shower room for a dorm of 14.
Then walk out for a breakfast at the nearby bakery.
I've been invited to pay a visit to the Troubadour cafe, where Bob Dylan performed
in ... 1962. There is a photo of him with Richard Farina and Dave Van Ronk???
There is a basement where other famous starts performed in early 60's. I recognize
Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Jerry Garcia, Sammy Davis Jr. And Jimi Hendrix....
Fine. A little bit of nostalgia:)
I then walk all the way to the Palladium.
London has got nice buildings all along the avenues.
I'm getting used to the traffic on the wrong side of the road :)
By 6 pm folks start to come by the Palladium.
Not as crowded as yesterday. Must not be sold out as they are selling tickets at the box office.
They sell tickets by two. A Lady comes to me and says she just bought an extra. She likes
my paintings so I exchange the ticket for 8 prints.
Previously I gave away two prints to two young girls from .... Bejing China. Fans of
Dylan and my paintings:):)
I chatted with Giovanni from Italy, another Fan of Dylan and of my writings on Bill Pagel website!
Well! Not too bad ??
By 7.30 pm we walk in. My Lady good Samaritan will get some drinks.
The seat is on the first circle. Really steep stairs. The seats are tight, hardly any room for the legs.
But the decorum is grandiose and the view on the stage is clear.
I remark that the piano has no black wrapping,(neither yesterday) so the wood is visible.
Also there is no platform to make the piano higher. The Bobby's guitar is laying in the back.
Just in case Bobby is in the mood ?? :)
On time they take the stage but even in the dark I see someone missing. Bob Britt is absent
and Doug Lancio takes the center stage.
A Fan posted that his wife mentioned he had another performance to attend to and he had
the permission of absence.
Good! He's Fine and he will be back on Sunday.
Of course the show will be different. Only for the ones who know the previous shows :)
Bob is more visible as he is half above the low piano. He will not sit so much. Presents himself
three times center stage. After "False prophet" "Black rider" and "Rubicon".
He's wearing his burgundy shirt.
I heard for the last shows an addition before "Beautiful" ( everything gonna be 'darn gone'
beautiful????) on "Masterpiece".
Just before " I'll be your baby tonight" there is a tentative of harp. But turns short.
After "I'll be your baby tonight" he will say "thank you, you Babies lovers!
I paid 1£ for binoculars in front of my seat.
There is no light on the piano. The two little lamps are tuned off. Absolutely no light on his face.
He mentions twice the tech to bring him a drink by the side of the piano.
What about the music?
Well! Without Bob Britt we don't have the duo on "That old black magic" "Serve somebody"
and "Jimmy Reed".
Not as Rock and Roll as the previous shows.
But since I'm stuck in my seat with no possibility of movement :( ...
This is truly a Mass. The drums (percussions) , bass and piano (loud) gives a dark atmosphere.
Donnie's violin is also low tones on "Masterpiece".
Doug will use the same guitar for the entire show trying his best to play Britt's riffs.
Not a bad show. My two neighbors are satisfied.
But a bit weird :)
Bob presents his short Band rapidly and mentions Joe Strummer's wife in the public.
Few Fans spotted Jimmy Page.
Thank you the Lady good Samaritan from New Zealand for the Tix.
Thank you all good people.
My good friend Jack Fate and his wife Kim are coming for the last two shows in London.
Can't wait to have fun!
See you all on Sunday with....Bob Britt on guitars!
And Bob Dylan on....piano??????
Review by Graham Cole,
Bob Dylan The London Palladium October 20 2022 8.00 p.m.
Loraine and I had been looking forward to this show for a good few weeks, ever since we
had news from Derek and Tracy at Isis Magazine that we had been lucky enough to secure
Royal Circle tickets right in front of the huge speaker that channelled Bob's vocals so clearly.
And we were not disappointed in any way after a wonderful show from Bob and his band.
I think the last time I was in the Palladium, it was many years ago as a boy for a special
Christmas pantomime treat, but I vaguely recall seeing then maybe the same pic of Hengler's
Circus on the Safety Curtain that descended briefly tonight just a few minutes before Bob
and the band (well four fifths of it as Bob Britt was missing) emerged onstage, on time, in
the darkness. In those distant panto days, the orchestra tuned up in the pit ready for the
show, and it felt the same tonight as the noodlings began across the stage, morphing
gradually into the chords for Watching the River Flow, which was followed by the first
enthusiastic "Why thank you" from Bob at its conclusion.
It is clear that Bob has left behind the trappings of all previous shows. The very effective
underfloor lighting meant none of the huge back lamps of the 2013-15 tours, no "Eye"
logo, no Oscar, but above all a completely different stage set-up. Bob is just off-centre
stage with the (back of the) piano now facing out to the audience (so less easy to see
when Bob shuffles his lyric/music sheets?), with the ever-dependable Donnie, the only
player on a low riser stage left. What I found most interesting is how the really wonderful
Charley Drayton (what an outstanding contributor on the drums) and Tony are now firmly
stage right with our so loyal bassist more removed from Bob, perhaps making any verbal
interaction less easy. And lastly this evening Doug Lancio almost looking over Bob's
shoulder throughout the evening at the back of centre stage. For me, I have to say the
guitarist was a step down from Charlie Sexton or Larry C of old, but maybe he works
better in the band when Bob Britt is also present.
The sound seemed generally very good, though it varied to my ageing hearing (on
Tracy's advice, a tweak of my HAs improved things); that centre speaker aloft made
Black Rider my standout of the evening, though closely followed by Key West
(Philosopher Pirate), the lovely I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You, and of
the "oldies", a really gorgeous Every Grain of Sand, with harmonica to close the evening.
Bob stepped out centre looking a little wobbly on several occasions and spoke every
now and then with thanks and the band introductions.
It was good to chat pre- and post- the concert with fellow Isis people (in the "Fan Club"
row!), Iann and Ann from Hitchin, and others from Coventry, and elsewhere, as well as
the magazine's cherished editors, all of whom were seeing Bob more than once on this
tour. I even looked for Laurette M in the throng outside before the show, in vain, but
it was so good to meet up with Paul and Bokkie, Bob-friends since our first meeting at
the two fabulous Portsmouth 2000 concerts. As well as the wonderful music, the folks
you meet at Bob-shows make for a fabulous evening.
A word of thanks go to Derek and Tracy, and a mention for my late school friend Bob
Clary - you would have enjoyed this show immensely. For us, after such a great concert,
we now eagerly wait a fortnight until the last UK show of the tour in Bournemouth ...
Review by Fran Scott,
An impish Dylan gave a remarkable declamatory performance in London this
Part necromancer, part human chronicler, part channel to the eternal. A
show so improbably entrancing at times, it had to be heard to be believed.
New songs breathing new life into the old man.
Conviction, vitality, and thrilling passion almost from the word go. What
drama. What confidence. Busy being born. Alive at the Palladium.
The band on the balls of their feet, sympathetically leaning in to the
mischievous black-clad song and dance man turning pages, jabbing keys,
alchemically invigorating words into song behind his piano workbench.
What a voice, what lyrics, what EMPHASIS throughout. What wonderful
arrangements. What a pleasure to witness.
If the purpose of art is to stop time, thank you Bob for stopping by.
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