October 23, 2015
Review by Peter Higginson
By Peter Higginson.
In Kensington Gardens, London, which faces the Royal Albert Hall, stands a
sixty foot plinth containing an illuminated golden statue of Queen Victoria's
consort Prince Albert. When viewed in the twilight of the cityscape, it is a
piece of creepy Gothic furniture which stresses the monumental hubris of
Victorian Imperialism, matched only by the huge Mothership of the RHA itself
which looks like a UFO from a planet made entirely of red bricks.
The interior of the RHA achieves a macabre quality of scarlet curtains and
stonemasonry, and it was into this deathly scene that the Albertine German
troubadour Robert Zimmerman (aged 74) stepped forth in shadow to croak
to us of Autumn Leaves, stuffed graveyards and Shadows in the Night.
Before the show, a gaggle of us peered longingly at the 'Night-Line' coaches
that housed the legend, desperate for a glimpse of our mummified hero as he
crept into the crypt to commence his performance, but it was to no avail.
We were moved on by black-suited security guards into the
Crematorium- sorry- Auditorium- to witness he crepuscular show.
To say that the performance was both lifeless and meaningless would be kind.
'Tangled Up in Blue' had lost all of its verve and context; 'Pay in Blood' was
disingenuous- Bob is amazingly comfortable and well-served by his staff,
limousines and jets; and 'What'll I Do' was just plain sad. In what the 'Daily
Telegraph' reviewer described brilliantly as 'a nicotine-light', Bob rasped out
several more of his own songs and a few by significant others, then did his
little puppet-like Danse Macabre into the shadows where a pay-cheque of
about $300,000 awaited.
But whilst Bob can be seen as the Victorian landlord of the piece, raking in a
fortune in rent from the audience, the rest of us are the labourers- laying out
about £450 on hotels, tickets, trains, programmes, Spitfire ale, burgers and
t-shirts, pounding the streets for hours to get to the venue (past Imperial
College and the V and A Museums), crammed like sardines on the Underground
and suffering the two-hour performance as a labour of love.
You will probably understand that I was not impressed by the mortifying
nature of the experience. This graveyard aesthetic has re-written the whole
body of Dylan's work as a series of burnt-out monuments. The great journey
that kicked off in 1962 has ended in ruins. The sight of Bob sucking up to the
equally mortifying and illiterate 'IBM-Watson' super- calculator for yet another
$3 million has finally sealed his fate as a protagonist from one of his own songs.
I think we can view the whole career now as a single genre: The Tombstone Blues.
Review by Trevor Townson
Jenny; What; It's me; I know, who else calls at 3 in the morning; I've
been up his Royal Albert again; What was it like; Deja Vu of course; I
think it is really funny Bob getting one over on you lot who are taking in
multiple shows; You think everything is funny; No just things where you
are involved, especially when it is costing you money; Well somebody has
to pay for Bob's paint pots and welding rods, wouldn't want him to be
getting bored between tours would we; Bob does not seem to be the type to
get bored, unlike you; Look, I only said London is boring because if like
me you are not into shopping and tourism there is not much else going for
it; I would have loved to have been in Oxford Street shopping with you
today; Not if you had wandered into Selfridges like I did; Why what
happened; I went in and I went in deep, must be more acres of shop floor
than Yorkshire has beautiful green meadows; What are you saying; I only
got lost and couldn't find my way out, I was in there for ages, I thought
at one point about pressing the fire alarm in the hope that someone would
evacuate me from the premises; What about the show: Best seat tonight,
second row; How lucky; Luck doesn't come into it, John Baldwin did not get
me a fan club ticket for tonight so I opted for one of those Hot Seat
packages, Hot Price more like it; What price to be up close to Bob like
that; Well it used to be possible to stand in the rain for ten hours and
do it for about thirty five quid; Yes, then came the Industrial
Revolution, anyway this time you would be dry and seated; Would expect to
be for best part of two hundred quid, should have a Geisha Girl thrown in
as well to mop my brow throughout at that price; You got a unique Bob
Dylan merchandise item as well; What, a small key ring, I don't think I
will get my two hundred quid back advertising that on Ebay, might be
possible to limit the damage though if John Baldwin would pay me twenty
quid for it for failing to get me a fan ticket; Sounds to me like John
does so much good work, you should appreciate what he has done for you and
be grateful that you can afford a Hot Seat package to fill in the gap;
Think I am going to write to Bob and ask that he put some better offers on
in future for fans; What do you mean; Well, if Bob is going to give us the
same set night on night, the Supermarket Tour, he should do like they do
and give us a buy four get one free offer; Trust you to be wanting
something for free, anyway what about the show; Yet again a truly polished
first class performance, really spooky though; Why; Well last time I sat
through the same performance, at least that time each night did somehow
feel different, now they really do seem exactly the same, I do believe
even his little shuffles between songs follow the same perfect pattern; He
really is a wonderful man; Got OCD worse than I have if you ask me, how
can anyone do that, it's not natural; Well you manage to be a creature of
habit, you even fold your plastic carrier bags exactly the same way which
is rather strange; Tangled again stole the show for me, there are songs
and there are songs, Brilliant!
Review by Jim Scott
Charles Rennie Mackintosh used the slogan “There is hope in honest error,
none in the icy perfections of a mere stylist” to sell his architectural
It is disconcerting to see that Bob seems, after decades in or near pole
position in the first role, to have vaulted into settling for the second as
we follow him, in the closing scenes of the shared 7 stages of man.
I have no objections to Bob adopting the Great American Songbook, nor to
his giving it pride of place in his performance tonight. But that is not
the song selection we got. The vast majority of the “Sinatra covers”
heard tonight suffer from being weak musically, or vapid lyrically;
No Lorenz Hart, no Richard Rodgers tonight, no George Gershwin, no
Ira Gershwin, no Oscar Hammerstein tonight, no Cole Porter, no Felice and
Boudleaux Bryant, no John D Loudermilk, no Stephen Foster.
No “Sonny Boy”, no “Swanee”, no “Rock a bye your baby to a Dixie
melody.” Not even the faintest hint of “Toot-toot Tootsie goodbye.
One earlier poster here, from many shows ago, in Scandinavia I think,
suggested that we must learn to evaluate the songs “as a package” if we
aspire to get the message and, echoing the same theme, the vast majority of
posters to date seem to have warmed to his inclusion of “Don’t try to
change me” as indicative of Bob’s thinking. But surely someone told us
long, long ago that “messages are for the GPO”?
If “the function of art” remains “to inspire,” this can only be rated an
artless performance, overall, despite a few inspiring touches of his own.
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