Place des Arts-Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier
October 29, 2023
Review by Caitlin Hawke
This was my debut 2023 concert and the first thing that was different was the
lovely instrumental prelude that the band came out giving Bob the chance to
make a solo entrance onto the stage. The Montreal crowd was warm and welcomed
him with a giant ovation — roaring cheer and everyone on their feet.
As a New Yorker, I have two pre-concert observations: one is I love the Yonder
bags which let everyone be in the moment and the other is that civility is
alive and well and living in Montreal. Even in the hot, crowded press to get
through security people were chill and kind.
At 8pm on the button, the lights went out, a big swell of classical music
filled the room, \ the band started up with Bob arriving just a tad behind
them and we were off.
The set is start, almost industrial yet has this warm hearthy feel thanks to
3 ‘ghost’ lights type bulbs — two stage right bracketing Tony and and Doug who
played close together and the other behind Donnie, stage left. This ring of
warm light with the golden cymbals and deep brown wood of some of the
instruments created a glow and connected the guys in an intimate circle.
Behind them, upstage, it looks a bit like a factory with steel and all the
black gear boxes and some light scaffolding all dramatically lit with white
And everyone had a nicely glowing spotlight so faces could be discerned.
It was a change from past tours when the up-lighting was somewhat in the
audience’s eyes or not illuminating the band’s faces. And as others have
remarked, gone are the kitchen dinner-jacketed mannequins. And fake Oscar.
Bob’s voice took a time to warm up but he was all in tonight, swinging and
plinking on the keys. The audience appreciated the older songs, taking a
minute to recognize them. (Frankly, I had some trouble figuring out “Gotta
It was great to hear how the songs on this set list have evolved…I still
hear a lot of Shadow Kingdom inflected arrangements.
Of the older repertoire, highlights included I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight and
To Be Alone with You. Both started out quiet with mostly just Bob until the
band unleashed its full force.
I was betting on a little nod to Leonard Cohen given that he is still
omnipresent in Montreal and of course given their mutual respect. I loved
when Cohen said of the Nobel: that giving it to Bob was "like pinning a medal
on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain." And I was only aware of
Bob’s Hallelujah cover when Leonard passed but can't recall hearing Bob cover
But since Bob didn’t do anything specifically Canadian in Toronto, I figured
it might be a long shot. He’d appeared on stage with a hat in his hand that
looked more Cohen than Cowboy; and he popped it on his head when he launched
into “Black Rider”. That was a little spooky in more ways than one. He
actually looked like Cohen. Then they did this “echo” sound effect on “black
rider” in the refrain. I couldn’t tell if Dylan was controlling it or the
sound board. But it added a layer to the song that made it a bit ominous.
I forgot about the wild card slots in the set list because once Bob’s voice
warmed up, they were just grooving along. My “always” highlight is “Key West”
and tonight it retained the flavor it had in 2021 — so different from the
recorded version which is almost too beautiful, and yet so great in its own
I don’t know what he insists on Black Magic. Except that it’s nearly
Halloween. I was disappointed he trotted that out but that then left the one
slot open and at this point I knew Cohen was a shoo-in. And then the band hit
the intro to “Dance Me to the End of Time” and the crowd thrilled to hear
Cohen — they went cuckoo when it was done. What a lovely gift to Leonard’s
The homestretch state of grace — from Mother of Muses, to Jimmy Reed (with
Bob smiling), to Every Grain of Sand with HARP!! — was all gravy. It was
particularly fun to see Bob playing harp with one hand and plinking the high
keys with the other.
I love this band. Bob Britt and Bob played to each other all night long in
dialogue. And Jerry Pentecost hotdogged with his sticks on Most Likely and
from then on I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He is a great, subtle drummer
who has Bob’s back. I couldn’t tell if Tony and Doug leaned in to kick off Key
West to make it more intimate or because they weren’t sure it was up next and
were leaning in to check (though how could that be true). But just as Key West
was about to start, the band all tightened their circle, like trimming their
sails for the fine and fair island outing.
Bob does indeed appear to be having a good time out there. It’s a pleasure to
behold. He’s got a few days off til he’s back stateside. But from the “Palais
des Art,” his local fan base contains multitudes. I suspect Montreal would
have sold out a second night as well.
If only he’d subbed in “Suzanne” or “Hallelujah” for Black Magic…. But then
it's hard to improve on perfection.
Review by Christof Graf
Bob Dylan pays tribute to Leonard Cohen in Montreal – "Dance Me To The End
Bob Dylan's profound homage to Leonard Cohen's hometown of Montreal. This or
something similar could be the headline of a concert review of yesterday's
concert at the sold-out Place des Arts-Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal.
And yes, the concert was one of the more profound, deepgoing and indeed a
little different. The European performances on the "Rough And Rowdy Ways"
tour that I experienced in Europe were a bit different from yesterday's
Montreal concert. What has remained the same is the absolute ban on mobile
devices and the strict admission controls.
Punctually at 8:00 p.m. local time, the classic intro sounds and the hall
lights go out. Dylan's band enters the stage. She plays the first notes of
the opener "Watching The River Flow". Perhaps it is due to the fact that it
is my first Montreal concert by Bob Dylan that I am sensitized to new
details in Dylan's current concert format. Dylan enters the stage a moment
later than the band. He sits down at the "Baby Grand Piano" as usual, puts
his white "Dandy Stetson" hat on it and begins with the well-known lines
"What's the matter with me/ I don't have much to say". The Montreal audience,
which is easy to inspire from the very first moment of the concert, rises
for the first standing ovation of the evening. Dylan seems to acknowledge it
benevolently with an immediate joy of playing. The first verses sound a bit
untidy, but Bob and the band quickly find each other.
After "Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine)", "I Contain Multitudes"
and "False Prophet", the protagonists quickly turned the first third of the
concert evening into a melodious melange of reminiscences of Dylan's musical
past with many "Shadow Kingdom arrangements" at the latest with "When I Paint
The stage design was positively surprising. In the summer, the stage in
Europe was still bathed in a lot of dark blue, dark red and dark green light.
In Montreal it was different. Dylan and the musicians stood on a brightly lit
stage. For regular Dylan concertgoers, it was a welcome change to be able to
recognize the faces of the performers. For those who sat in the front rows -
I sat in the middle of the 14th row - it was almost a feast to be able to
watch Dylan's facial expressions. The stage itself also looked different
compared to the European version in the summer. There was no longer a curtain
in the background and no more large Hollywood movie spotlights that the
musicians projected onto the stage in "shadows". The "Oscar fake statue" was
also missing. For this purpose, there were four small light sources that
looked like construction site lamps. They were ideally suited to give each
musician so much light and space that their faces and the way they
communicated with each other were recognizable even in the back rows.
The stage setup almost seemed like an untidy backyard, where six musician
friends meet to jam and to grow a session from song to song into a concert
to which they invited the neighborhood. The neighborhood that evening
consisted of the 3000 Montrealers who were able to attend this concert, which
began as a "session" and became a sold-out concert. In the end, everyone
experienced a small historical moment of glory on the "Rough And Rowdy Ways"
The band with Tony Garnier (electric and standup bass), Jerry Pentecost on
drums, Bob Britt (acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Doug Lancio (acoustic
guitar, electric guitar) and Donnie Herron (violin, electric mandolin, pedal
steel, lap steel) was all dressed in black suits with black shirts, just
like "His Bobness".
On the sixth song "Black Rider", the "master" "broke through" the black by
putting on the white "Stetson" and further developing the concert format
with "My Own Version of You", "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and "Crossing The
Rubicon". It was often the case that the songs started quietly and slowly
and the band played their way into the songs until they developed a loud
but never intrusive dynamic.
After "To Be Alone With You" I listened to my favorites "Black Rider" and
"Crossing the Rubicon", my next two favorites: "Key West" and "Gotta Serve
Somebody". By then, Dylan had long since sung his way in and accentuated
almost every line intelligibly. The audience consisted of three generations.
It reacted again and again with small standing ovations, but quickly sat down
again so as not to disturb the concert enjoyment of those sitting behind it.
In addition, from song to song, it was an experience how Tony and Doug
interacted with each other, how Bob communicated with Bob Britt with glances,
and how Jerry and Donnie atmospherically condensed the band around the "Baby
Every now and then, Dylan would get up from the piano in the middle of the
song, but quickly sit back down. He did not leave his position at the
instrument during the entire concert. Gone are the days when he stepped to
the edge of the stage for some songs, sang free-standing at the microphone
stand or played the harmonica. Sitting is due to his age, but Bob Dylan still
seems very vital in Montreal.
Most of the audience were not yet born at the time when Bob Dylan released
his debut album 61 years ago. They weren't even born when Bob Dylan played
his first concert in Montreal on June 28, 1962 in front of just 15 people at
what was then the PotPourri Club. Since then, he has traveled to the Canadian
metropolis twenty times. Before his first concert after the pandemic
yesterday, October 29, 2023, he performed at the Bell Centre on
June 30, 2017.
His two appearances in 1975 and 1988 are legendary. Both refer to Montreal
rock poet Leonard Cohen. Dylanians and Dylanologists, Cohen maniacs and Cohen
lovers know about the anecdotes that outing Dylan and Cohen as "Brothers in
Soul". An earlier point of contact between Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen dates
back to 1975 and a meeting with Bob Dylan there. Bob Dylan played at
Montreal's Forum de Montréal on December 4 as part of his "Rolling Thunder
Revue" tour. There, Dylan made fun of Leonard Cohen's immersion on the Greek
island of Hydra. He dedicated the song "Isis" to Cohen with the words: "This
is for Leonhard, if he's still here." In fact, Cohen was not on Hydra at the
time, but, as Dylan knew, was in Montreal and even briefly backstage at
Dylan's invitation. Cohen met him and attended the concert, but not until
the end. The statement "This Is For Leonard" can be heard on the box set
"The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings".
Dylan paid Cohen the greatest tribute when he sang Leonard Cohen's
"Hallelujah" in two different concerts at the beginning of his "Never Ending
Tour" in 1988. Between "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues" and
"Ballad Of A Thin Man", Dylan performed a Leonard Cohen song live in concert
for the first time in his career on July 8, 1988 at the Forum de Montréal. An
excerpt of a bootleg recording of it can be heard in the film "Hallelujah – A
Song, A Journey". Cohen himself has never interpreted a Bob Dylan song "Live
As a self-confessed Leonard Cohen fan, I was particularly excited about the
Montreal concert in 2023. And of course I was aware that you should never
have an expectation with Dylan, which is usually neither positively nor
negatively fulfilled anyway. And why should they? However, the setlists of
the "Rough And Rowdy Ways" tour so far gave hope. Whereupon? On the fact that
Bob Dylan may pay a musical homage to Leonard Cohen in Montreal. When Dylan
goes on his concert tours to cities or areas where those close artists come
from, he surprises them with cover songs. This was the case, for example, on
October 16, 2023 in Indianapolis when Dylan interpreted John Mellencamp's
And yes, something like that happened in Montreal yesterday again. After
"That Old Black Magic", Dylan stands up at the piano, looks at the audience
with a smile on his lips and sings the first lines of Cohen's song "Dance Me
To The End Of Love":
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
The Montreal audience immediately recognizes the song and dares to let the
next spontaneous standing ovation last a little longer. The song stands for
the fact that everything will come to an end. Bob performs the waltz-like
song in a very dylanesque way, without straying too far from the original.
The audience is thrilled and downright grateful that Dylan pays this loving
homage to his late former musical companion in his hometown. The song gives
this 21st Montreal concert of Dylan a special touch, which once again
reinforces the atmospheric density of the almost two-hour concert.
After "Mother of Muses", Dylan introduces his backing musicians by name, then
intones a loud and fast "Goodbye Jimmy Reed" and a quiet "Every Grain of Sand".
Bob Dylan gets up from the piano, briefly enters the edge of the stage, looks
into enthusiastic faces and leaves the stage. "Thanks For The Dance, Bob" and
for the fact that the fact that everything will come to an end one way or
another can sound so wonderful. (translated with a lil help of GOOGLE; more
about the Montreal concert on my blog: http://blog.leonardcohen.de/?p=28682 )
Review by Kyle Valanne
My wife and I travelled nine hours from New Brunswick to see the show. First
time being at Place des Arts; the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is a great venue.
With a flourish of instrumental music, the show started right on time. The
band played for several minutes before Bob came on stage. An enthusiastic
round of applause and cheers greeted him as he took his place at the piano.
I have seen Bob six times prior (the last time in 2016 with Mavis Staples
opening for him) and this without a doubt was the best vocal performance I
have personally experienced. You could tell he was into it, and his voice
was strong throughout. After each song, I remember thinking, “Wow, if the
concert were to end now, that one song was worth the price of admission”,
but as soon as he finished the next number, I would think the same thing.
It is always interesting to hear Bob exploring and changing his own songs
and the songs from Rough and Rowdy Ways are getting the creative treatment.
For me, “Crossing the Rubicon”, “I Contain Multitudes” (the vocal clarity of
lines like ‘I'm just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones/And them British
bad boys, The Rolling Stones’ and ‘I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods/I
contain multitudes’ indicated that Bob wanted us to hear his words clearly),
and “I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You” were highlights of the
newer songs and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “Every Grain of Sand”
(his harp playing was celebrated loudly) were my two favourites from his
older catalog. But, like I mentioned, each song sounded great – strong
vocals and interesting arrangements.
The Leonard Cohen cover was very well received by the Montreal crowd and
although I was not familiar with the song, it was another solid performance.
The only song that really didn’t work for me was “Most Likely You Go Your Way
(and I'll Go Mine)”; it was like the band couldn’t find the same groove, but
they were spot on for the rest of the show.
It was nice to see the crowd give Tony Garnier a little extra recognition
when Bob introduced the band; the longtime bassist and the rest of the band
Bob Dylan is 82 years old. He played for the better part of two straight
hours. His voice was strong throughout. His piano playing was dynamic, and
he sounded like he was having fun. After decades of performing, his genius
is still apparent. Thank you once again, Mr. Dylan!
Review by Sergi Fabregat
I'm writing this from Barcelona while eating a sesame bagel from
Montréal's St. Viateur, recommended by a very nice bobcat from Toronto
I met after the second Massey Hall show. The bagel's dough is
undoubtedly much better than mine, as I'm patching my bones feeling
utterly tired and sleepy and the bagel is holding quite fantastically
despite being more than 48h old. Though I'd prefer it a little
sweeter, I have to say it's really delicious! Leonard Cohen used to
buy bagels from that store too, that should be some six degree rule
After buying the bagels 48 hours ago (it feels kinda crazy to think
that all this was at the other side of the Atlantic just a couple of
days ago), we were heading to the hotel for some rest before the show
and also looking from some shelter from the cold when we passed by
the concert's venue. It was around 4pm, but no buses were parked
there yet, despite I guessed it was the aprox. timeframe for them
arriving. We continued walking and, by the corner, we saw a couple of
undoubtedly Bob's buses heading for the Place des Arts. We turned
back just to have a look at the situation. Some security guy gave us
a hard look and I told him that "we're not going to take pictures or
videos of anyone", to which he replied "you won't see anything". He
was clearly unhappy. One of the buses started doing bizarre maneuvers
to park as closest as possible to the wall, while the other one
parked a bit further.
Tony Garnier came down first, and I approached him to say "Tony, I'm
sorry to bother you, just want to thank you for all your work", and
he nodded and smiled in what to me seemed a really friendly way. The
security guy stood in between and then Jerry Pentecost and Bob Britt
passed by too (Bob had to avoid a bit his boss' bus in reverse), and
I guessed it was more sensible to stop saying anything. Some other
fans approached with LPs and markers, one of them with a BIG camera
(funnily, we saw them over 5 hours ago hanging out there so they were
committed), and a funnily dressed woman approached the bus and
throwed kisses to it.
Of course Bob Dylan was on that bus, and I just wanted to have a peek
of him dressed as a civilian, but it was not meant to be. Another guy
set up a big cardboard with paint stains (it kind of resembled a Miró
painting) between the bus and the wall, so no one could see Bob when
stepping out. We even joked about looking down the bus, but no harm
was meant and we headed again to the hotel after being caught up in
the silly fan behavior thing. I was happy to realize that everything
was a bit stupid and pointless, yet there I was, hoping to see two
feet walking a couple of meters.
I arrived again at the venue half an hour before showtime to make
sure I was in at 8pm, and I barely made it. As percy78 says, getting
in was crazily difficult for an 3000ish seats theater. Fortunately,
in my area everyone was seated and I didn't get disturbed not one
time, which played a lot into how I experienced the show and its
many unfolding layers.
I was seated in row 5, dead center, and in straight line with Bob's
line of sight. When he was looking directly forward, he was looking
directly at me, and given that in that straight line I was the first
one fist-pumping and being a bit noticeable gesture-wise, I'm pretty
sure he saw me some times during the show. Now it comes the
half-plausible, more-than-half wishful thinking, as I felt as if some
over expressive inflections and phrasings that Bob did during the
Montréal show were somehow propelled by the image of this guy in
front of him visibly reacting or anticipating to his singing and
playing. In any case, what I want to highlight is how connected I
felt to most of the songs in Montréal, how the visual and physical
presence of Bob while playing the songs is as important as the
audible part, and how great it feels to be, at least for one show,
so close to the man that it's like you both are on the same page.
The rapport between artist and audience, even more in a live
performance, is paramount to any concert, but while most artists
enhance that with direct calls to the spectators, Bob does it as an
inherent part of the song's performance. The many ways in which the
word "me" was sang in Montréal speaks of this multitudes that all of
us contain (a theme also touched in 'Crossing the Rubicon', again an
spectacular rendition of the liminal song), this many faces and many
moods that Bob convokes night after night to shine on him and to whom
he gives back his own versions of himselves, his mind made up to give
himself to you, or to me. It's very difficult to describe the feeling
that to me lies at the core of this current concerts, but I'd depict
an image it caught my attention during the Montréal show to try it:
during some moments, specially when Bob was looking forward, a light
shone on the microphone, thus seeming that Bob had a star on his
mouth, ready to be shot, ready to be lost among the sad guitars and
the jumpy piano. That point of light was like the birth of the
universe over and over, all the years combined into that point, ready
to go anywhere and, lives and lives later, ready for to fade. A crown
jewel, the secret fire of Vesta, which couldn't be lost but at the
same time bound to extinguish itself.
High pressure in so many moments and a speed of (e)motion that Bob
kept alive by fastly transitioning between songs, but also being
playful, carefree and patient while performing them, as if time was
not a fixed thing but just the frame in which to paint the words, and
that could have lead us maybe to a version of 'When I Paint My
Masterpiece' that defied every sense, a truly uncontainable torrent
of songs that kept overlapping until an ending in which the
start-stop, syncopated phrasing brought back again the tension of the
clock ticking, of the fragility of the live performance. In that
regard, 'My Own Version of You' had also a really liquid essence,
mutable and changeable to the point it seemed a bit patched and
shambolic but also very coherent to a song made of patches, of ups
and downs, of the impossibly goyesque images of Freud and Marx
tortured forever in hell.
'To Be Alone With You' embodied the kind of emotion that could make
Orpheus cry when seeing again with wife in the underworld (in fact,
how Bob sang "I won't sleep awake 'till I'm alone with you" was
absolutely moving) after such a journey, and the esoteric imagery of
the song morphed by the power of that instrumental part in the middle
in a quest for love and redemption, and it was again beautiful how
Bob sang "my eyes are still blue". Eurydice, baby, my eyes are still
If up to now I've been spitting some nonsense, I'd like to focus on
how 'Key West' enclosed the essence of the Montréal show for me. I
won't repeat myself but I'd suggest, if interested, to read my
impressions of the song in Toronto, as the ones in Montréal derive
from those. Bob was looking straight to where I was when he sang the
first verses, and his face and eyes looking at me were enough to get
me hooked from the beginning. I've always thought of 'Key West' as
either this real place you can go to in the hour of your deepest
need or this kind of allegory of inner peace even if your mind is at
war. But in Montréal, when Bob sang "it's hot down here, and you
can't be overdressed", I saw it crystal clear. "It's hot down here"
is literally down here from the singer's perspective, so he is
talking about his inner self (his soul if you prefer), where winter
is an unknown thing, where it's always warm, where it's fine and fair
and, most importantly, where you can't be overdressed, where you
can't hide from yourself or fake who you are, where not even Bob
Dylan can help you, no matter if he’d like to, he’s looking at you in
the eye and telling that it’s up to you. Never occurred to me before:
Key West is me, this mystery that vertebrates all of Dylan's work
from the beginning, incarnated and became a place with a name, this
shelter from the storm also pursued for so many years. It's a
very strange mixture between metaphor and an extreme depiction of the
physical manifestations of the self's inner depths, giving even
addresses and indications to pick up the pirate radio signal in the
middle road between body and soul. A state of plenitude, a state of
longing, a paradox impossible to look away from as much as impossible
‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ kept progressing in this latest incarnation in
which Bob pauses some of the natural speed of the song to allow the
balance of good and evil to manifest and I remember him clearly
stressing out the fact that we all indeed have to serve somebody,
that a choice must be done, that no matter who we are or how much do
we avoid the question but in the end you gotta serve somebody, and in
Montréal too the song kept diverging from the escapist getaway and
dealing with the double laned, one direction highway it talks about.
The combo ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You’ - ‘Old Black
Magic’ repeats again this dynamic of two perspectives that meet
somewhere, merge somewhere, in the impossible equality of them both.
‘Made Up My Mind’ sang in Montréal with an enormous degree of freedom,
a joyful and hopeful resolution of a true love that “will lay down
beside you when everyone’s gone” (what a damn line, who writes things
like these nowadays?), that traverses all terrains and all galaxies
to end up undying in a double, almost prophetic affirmation of both
parts, yet again one can only speak for thyself. The range of voices
that were thrown during this one was truly moving, and the answer to
that was an equally exciting ‘That Old Black Magic’, a classical song
that nonetheless also encloses its great enigmas and prophecies
(“you’re the mate that fate have me created for”), as if all its
danceability was just the other part saying, too, that yes, I’ve made
up my mind to be myself to you. The way in which Bob has evolved to
this degree of commenting on his songs with other songs, creating
dialogues between them as if they were two people talking, is
mesmerizing to me, a really unparalleled effort to trace tight
connections between ways of wording, performing and loving that end
up dissipating all the dust and create this images of the essential
not by the way of simplifying reality but, on the contrary, showing
its beautiful complexity.
As if finding the tight rope from which to cross from one song to the
next one, ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ was as if the balance between
the two previous tracks was to be evaluated from within. I always
deeply regret not having seen Leonard Cohen in concert, and now I can
say that I have, sort of. The recording of the cover clearly
disproves me, but from my seat I felt like in Bob’s voice there was
some part of Leonard’s when singing the song, as if in my head I was
seeing Bob Dylan but hearing Leonard Cohen, and it felt such an
amazing and pirate moment, suspended in time, impenetrable to
recordings as the energy in the room was feeding of and feeding the
performance back. During the last instrumental part before the last
verse he sang, Bob embarked in a piano solo that, visually, made him
look different, clearly separated from how he performed all the other
songs, like taller, lighter, and the last verse was sung in such a
strong yet tender way… As if it was a glove devoid of hand.
That odd-looking Bob Dylan kept playing the last three songs, again
something in his presence seemed different to me, again singing
‘Mother of Muses’ in a somehow more paused, solid, ‘cohenesque’ way,
but that was also carried into ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’, with Bob again
looking taller to me, firmer in his feet, 20 years younger, maybe
more serious, renewedly focused, invigorated with an energy that
kept growing through the song and feeling as if the show could have
gone on much, much longer. The last verse, about callin’ from down in
Virginia, was unreally sang, in a really loud and crispy clear style,
now diverging from Cohen and morphing into and old rock ‘n’ roller
that was mirroring himself into the lost man he was singing about.
I tried to concentrate on ‘Every Grain of Sand’ as much as the song
and a concert of the caliber and nuances of Montréal’s deserved, but
I was already feeling sad it was ending and next day I was going home,
yet I remember this opened vocals, half-controlled and half-loose,
always balancing between prayer and cry, but what I’ll never forget
was how Bob ended the show. He grabbed the harp and started playing
it, but instead of what he does usually when he plays a bit the piano
at the same time, he stopped for a tiny moment, looked down at the
keys, and just then seemed to decide that while playing the harp with
everything he had he also would do a full piano solo, combining both
instruments in a beautiful, not looking back style that left me
speechless, and humbled, at what this guy is still capable of. For me
the whole world was in that brief moment in which he looked down and
decided he would have it all, and he gave all himself to us, trick
Review by Danny
Well here we are near the end of 2023, it has been the longest time in
between my, last Bob Dylan show since the summer of 2017, when Bob
performed at the Bell Center.
My first show was way back, in 1997, when he played the Tennis stadium at
Jarry Park in Montreal, where the Montreal Expos were born.
Since then it has been quite the experience, with many changes in the band
except for Tony Garnier. When the pandemic broke out I thought I would not
see Mr. Dylan again.
I saw an interview with Tony Garnier during the lockdown where he said
2019 were some of the best shows he was ever a part of and he seemed ready
to go back on the road to continue where they left off.
Bob's show was back on the road in fall of 2021 and I knew I would see
That day came this past Sunday when the Rough and Rowdy ways tour stopped
Gone are the days of the ever changing set lists but something happened in
Japan earlier this year where Bob did some Buddy Holly, Grateful Dead, and
this song I never heard of, "Only a River".
That continued over the summer in Europe, however the Fall 2023 tour has
been extra special for Mr. Dylan has been treating audiences with some
surprises with either songs that mentioned the city they are in that
night, or a song from the artist the is born in that City or State. So as the
tour rolled into Canada in Toronto it had some expecting Gordon Lightfoot
or The Band since Gordon Lightfoot and Robbie Robertson passed earlier
this year. Bob stuck to the Dead covers in Toronto after taking a look at the
set lists there. I joked maybe Bob would do Celine Dion in Montreal. I was
secretly hoping he would pull out, "Only a river" again, or some Dwight
Yoakam, or one of my favorite Mellencamp Songs, "Longest Days". But of
course in Montreal there is only one other Singer Songwriter that can say
giving Bob Dylan the Noble Prize for Literature is "like pinning a
medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain.”
That is Leonard Cohen and Bob treated Montreal to the great, Leonard Cohen
with, "Dance me to the end of love" as everyone now knows.
Now, for me that was not the highlight, don't get me wrong, it was a treat
to hear Bob do that but the highlight for me was, Yondr.
Why was Yondr the highlight for me? Well I don't know because at the same
time it felt odd, odd to see people without gadgets after all these years.
Why does that feel odd? I don't know? All I know, is that, it was a great
idea to see a show in 2023 without those devices.
Besides Cohen songs and Yondr, what a stage, what a band, and what a baby
grand Piano, and a new piano man is born.
Rough and Rowdy ways songs were of course half the show.
What made this show special was that, no matter where you are in life,
give the best version of yourself.
Bob had given the best version of himself that night and may he continue
to do that for as long as he wants.
It is very strange when you think about it, to have fans that follow you
around and want to see or talk to you, I don't know exactly how it feels
but if I had to guess it must be more negative than positive.
I believe the song he wrote to be a tribute to his fans is, "I've made up
my mind to give myself to you".
What a treat it is, to see this type of art, this type of show, in 2023.
Review by Marsh
It is hard not to see this tour as the closing of a circle. The Last Go
'Round' tour, the Piano Leg. Bob in his Elston Gunn mask. The piano
dominates the evening's repertoire as his playing ranges in style from the
aforementioned earliest of Bob's avatars as a rockabilly wannabe, latter
day friend to Little Richard, to the smooth stylings of Mose Allison,
while nodding to Nina Simone on the way to the discordances of a bop Bob
channelling Monk. This show is a catalogue of tributes and nods to the
"unbroken circle." A cascade of reference in so many forms: the explicit
"Like Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac …."; the stylistic, the homage to Van
Morrison I detect in Key West; the historic references "you may be hiding
in the bushes / with the smoking gun" in Serve Somebody; and the site
specific covers such as last night's heartbreaking Cohen, Dance Me to the
End of Love. So many nods, you might be mistaken for thinking he is simply
bopping along to the music. We nod along with him as we follow the
shadows that flit, hover, disappear night to night, one performance never
the same as the next. Fifty years of free association for me, again
invoking the circle image, Montreal was the first show I saw in January
By way of illustration. Mother of Muses always struck me (minority
opinion, I know) as an uninspired tune and a pro forma thank you to the
Nobel Committee. Mnemosyne is the figure on the medal. Composer of
occasional verse is not Dylan's forté, cf. Day of the Locusts. When he
sings "… Zhukov and Patton and all the battles they fought who cleared
the path for Presley to sing who carved out the path for Martin Luther
King" I previously found it rote. Earlier this week I heard it as tone
deaf. In Montreal it emerged from the shadows. There's an essay to be
written about his struggle for inspiration, as he has sung elsewhere "if
there's an original thought out there, I could use it right now". The
opening stanzas might clang, but, strikingly, with the invoking of the
muse, "I'm falling in love with Calliope" it overcomes to find its wings
and soar. Didactic Dylan metamorphoses into the song and dance man. The
power of poetry performed. He barely registers in the larger cultural
moment, but to the undistracted, the majesty is without parallel and it
has been one of my life's enduring pleasures to attend these shows.
In memoriam brother Jamie Gripton who so delighted in these rough and
Review by Bill White
I’ll usually catch Dylan once during a tour. Did two shows in row once
but this year was special: only three shows in Canada (so far) and too
close together, geographically, to miss. How I missed his 2017 swing
through these parts is anyone’s guess.
The first thing that hit us for the two shows in Toronto was this bit
about Yondr bags for cellphones. Like any new wrinkle, the process, such
as it was, created some confusion. There were agents running about outside
Massey Hall with pads of “tickets” which meant scanning your actual
concert ticket (on your cell) and scratching the relevant details on a
square sheet of paper. That became your de facto ticket at the door, where
you put your phone in a Yondr bag. The agent there locked the bag and gave
it back to you. The little square sheet of paper served as a reminder of
where your seat was.
Fine, although there is something to be said about the usefulness of
bootlegs to all those who couldn’t go and as a record – of sorts –
for the odd surprises. More on that aspect in a bit.
At Place des Arts, hundreds (including me, Marsh and Paul) missed the
beginning of the show. The bottleneck at the entrance wasn’t solely due
to the Yondr process. Security was also scanning people for metal objects.
That didn’t happen at Massey Hall. Turns out that the night before some
idiots got into a movie theatre in Gatineau (where I live) with guns.
It’s possible that the additional layer of security in Montréal was
inspired by this news.
Once past that bottleneck, we ran into another one: we had to hang out in
the hall next to the entrance of the seating area because the usher said
we had to wait until the end of the first song. Well, okay. We’re
Canadians. We’ll go along with whatever. So, no “Watching The River
Flow” for us that night.
Once inside, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier looks cavernous compared to Massey
Hall but in fact, it only holds 200 more seats. Like Massey Hall, the
sound in the room has always been exceptional: I’d seen The Strawbs
there in the mid-70s and more recently, my wife Anne and I saw Eddie
Vedder and Mark Knopfler on separate occasions. Sound was always good.
Despite the fact that it’s basically the same setlist every night,
Dylan’s arrangements give way to a certain amount of improvisation.
Certainly, Bob takes the lead, which provides him with the flexibility to
tinker. Quite honestly, in Toronto, I heard tinkling that was out of key
(to my ears) and out of sync. I wonder what Diana Krall thought! In the
next instant, he’s standing in a Jerry Lee Lewis pose and then sitting
to whip some R&B or even Gershwin phrasing.
I coined the phrase “Cubist pianist” to describe his style and none of
my friends have yet to complain. Perhaps the bouts of discordant
experimentation can be traced back to Ornette Coleman or something along
those lines but with the band chugging along competently in the
background, it was hard to ignore.
Generally though, Dylan’s playing a kind of country-blues-swing and it
is awesome to hear. The new version of Crossing The Rubicon is probably
the best example. A couple of songs allow him a complete spotlight because
he will start a song virtually solo, which allows the audience a chance to
focus on the man, his voice and his instrument. And for the first time in
my memory, Bob has a binder on the baby grand and the pages presumably
contain the lyrics for each song. At one point in Toronto – during the
second show – a stage assistant came out between songs and placed two or
three sheets of paper beside the binder. I was hoping it was words to a
Lightfoot number, but Dylan ignored those new pages for the rest of the
Seeing three shows in a row allowed me the chance to really soak in the
arrangements. Often now, I find myself listening to some of my favourites
in my head. Hell, even “That Old Black Magic” crept in there just this
Naturally, prior to the Toronto shows, we talked about which Gordon
Lightfoot song might be covered. Alas, we were Dead wrong, although for
the life of me, I cannot figure out any connection between Toronto and the
Grateful Dead. Sure, the Dead played there a few times, but really?
Seriously? Grateful Dead covers in Toronto? C’mon!!!
Instead, we had the supreme surprise at Place des Arts. It only took a few
bars to recognize Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love” and
you could feel the whole place hold its collective breath. The crowd was
absolutely Silent until the song ended, unleashing perhaps the biggest
ovation of the evening. I heard somewhere that even Tony Garnier applauded
from behind his double bass, but I missed that… I was too busy on my
feet hollering through my mask.
Finally, a word about the backing musicians. They were all brilliant.
Totally composed and in the groove. The new drummer, Jerry Pentecost, is a
star and I love the fact that the guitarists have a bare minimum number of
weapons onstage. Doug Lancio has two but he plays acoustic 90 percent of
the time and Bob Britt has three, including an acoustic that I think he
picked up two or three times. Donnie Herron really sets the overall mood
with something of a drone on pedal steel or fiddle and Tony Garnier…
well, Tony’s been rock solid in Bob’s band for 30+ years. There’s a
reason for that…!
Great shows, Bob!
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