Review by Dr. Jan Pieter Verckens
8.37 pm, high mass starts in Vorst Nationaal, Brussel. After occasional encouragements
(whistling and hand clapping) of the parterre audience six men in black suits take their
places on the bare stage. The curtain in the back is red, there are red Christmas tree
lights glowing on the ground, incense fills the atmosphere with ritual odours.
The raw voice of the master belches the lyrics of well-known (Masters of War) and lesser
known (John Brown) songs. He is standing at his white keyboards, playing intensively,
during intermittent solo parts adding his age old harp to the electric keyboard, but
without giving any notice to the audience (he only addresses the audience to introduce
his band after the first encore and to finally thank the audience for listening and
clapping). The band keeps an uptight rhythm that strongly underlines the unrecognizable
Small changes on stage: the curtain becomes orange, it is opened like in a theatre,
there is a projection of stars on the back wall, during the encores the projection is
changed into the eye logo of the master, the lights change in intensity and source - all
to underscore the essence of the message being brought.
The master and his band - but as my wife's right hand neighbour asked in Franglais: who
the heck on stage ís Bob Dylan? - work through their fourteen beads. Leave the stage at
10.15 pm, and have the audience clap and whistle to get them back on. They do after 5
full minutes. Two encores (as everywhere during this tour so far): Like a Rolling Stone
and All along the watchtower. The 'original' music is never heard, but the lyrics are
still as strong as they where when composed in the sixties. The master has given a clear
sign to his audience: he can do whatever he likes with his creations. They still stand
erect as watchtowers in an ever more turbulent 21st century.
Review by Dick Blin
As a Duluthian, how can you not pass up the world's greatest songwriter
who also happens to be a native of Duluth when he performs in your adopted
city? You don't, but I almost did, when North African ticket hawkers
wanted far more than reasonable for the Foret Nationale show tonight in
the capital of greater Europe. But fortunately as I turned and aimed
homeward, calling myself lucky for having escaped a larger than expected
crowd, a taper twerp who I did a good turn for at a summer 04 show in the
south of France recognized me. Bingo ... a ticket appeared in my tight
little fist! Some 70 minutes later, after a lackluster middle set list
that neither inspired nor shook me a-dancin' on the concrete, out comes
Desolation Row, and I knew from opening note and opening line of 'they're
sellin postcards/hanging', that those were some mean and desolate souls
that did that lynching in Duluth. And then the show took off. Down Along
the Cove, Masters of War, and a rockin' Hwy 61, remin
ding all that Zorro does have a direction home ... and then relishing the
predictable, but exceptional 2-song encore. How appropriate here to pull
out Masters of War for only the 3rd time on this tour. It was in Belgium
a few years back where a crafty attorney used a new law to indict Bush in
absentia for war crimes. But heavy muscle from the State Dept. made
Belgian lawmakers amend the law under threat of pulling NATO from
Bruxelles. Yeah, thanks old wise one for pulling that out here, like you
did in 2002. To be sure, there were handsome pockets before Desolation
Row. Stuck Inside of Mobile/Memphis Blues Again found the band with a
loose groove, and Bobby picking up the harp early and often hit the mark
time and then some time again. After opening with an average To Be Alone,
the slow-tempo Times They're A-Changing was like nothing I've heard
before. The band's Nashville sound made it surreal and Zorro's
newly-initiated stutter-utterance on the titled lines with, I swear, a
mocked hiccup at one point, made it nearly worth the price the scalpers'
were looking for. Yes, the Bruxelles show hit the mark. The Thalys to
Paris Thursday, anyone?
Comments by Ben Schuurmans
You know I want your lovin', honey but you're so hard.. (to understand why
you don't get rid off that one guy)
Almost a plain full Forest National in Brussels.
But not an awful show , just an average passin' through.
Sure, it was a surprising playlist : 13 of the 16 songs played were
sixties stuff.. Heard some rumours 'bout Bob's voice the last couple of
days, but I must say Bob's throath was in great shape in Brussels. There
were magnificant versions of Desolation Row, Down alone the cove, Highway
61, Cold Irons Bound (wow!!), Masters of war, Stuck inside.., it's
allright ma etc... So, if you're askin', why just an average an not a
superb show? All because of Denny Freeman, cause he just don't fit!
Ben "New Fool" Schuurmans, Achel, Belgium.
Review by Martin Manuzi
I made my way to the Forest National in Brussels, infamous for its poor
acoustics, with plenty of doubts in mind. The Oberhausen show a few nights
earlier was the reason. I was telling myself that maybe it was time to
admit and accept that we are approaching the end of the line. Why look for
more - was it not best to acknowledge what we have already had and cherish
it? Oberhausen wasn't a disaster - there were some real highlights - High
Water for example - but it seemed bizarre in its lack of excitement. The
setlist - even though there was some big numbers in it - just didn't
thrill. Maybe everyone in the subdued crowd felt that they had heard it
all before. The band too had a distinct dull edge - in large part due to
the new lead-fingered guitarist. Was Dylan losing his judgement before his
On to the Brussels show. Quite simply, it was magnificent. Inventive,
energetic, spanning four decades of songwriting. The setlist speaks for
itself, but what cannot be seen from the song titles is the incredible
seamless-ness of it all. Ten or fifteen years ago, there was all often a
gear change - downwards, inevitably - as the newer material was aired
alongside the trusted classics. Not now. Its a case of equal treatment for
all the material - or possibly superior treatment for the new stuff: that
bit was probably already clear in Oberhausen, in truth with Highwaters.
Critics obsessed with a linear, chronological approach are going to have a
tough time. Sometimes, I think how great it would be to have a tour of
post 1980 material, of all the unplayed stuff.
I cannot do a song by song review. But just to capture the essence, it is
probably sufficient to refer to the re-writing of the lyric in the middle
of Lonesome Day Blues - which was delivered with a thunderous voice. Where
the album has Bob 'wishing my mother was still alive', in Brussels we
heard 'I am telling myself I am still alive.' I guess that it summed it
all up: energy, creativity, and great vocal manipulation which
characterised the whole show.
The show also had a strong anti-war theme to it - probably beginning with
the war references in Lonesome Day Blues. John Brown was magnificent:
delivered in a touching and yet haunting way. It reminded me of one my
favourite old bootlegs of Rotterdam 1987 when Dylan was obviously restless
and bored with the Heartbreakers' predictability and started to take the
shows in a new direction. He is still doing it.
Back to Brussels. Who would have thought that we also get Masters of War?
What was particularly striking was his evident determination that we
should hear every word. The same was true of Desolation Row: it was simply
awesome. It was difficult to reason during the song: I kept thinking of
the number of times we see so-called legendary bands and performers
re-group for the cameras, and the cash, and give a phoney rendition of a
'classic' in a safe, packaged way. No, this was very different indeed.
What it achieved, for me anyway, was to dispel the notion of a legend.
There aren't legends, just the odd human being with exceptional talent and
Other highlights: Down Along the Cove which quite simply motored with a
furious roar. The ending of All Along the Watchtower which had Bob in
stitches pointing at his drummer and sharing a joke which seemed to
continue all the while that the group gathered at the front to enjoy the
acclaim of the very appreciative audience.
Leaving the arena, the atmosphere was great with a palpable air of
contentment all around. I ran into a couple of English guys: we exchanged
a few words, swapping our amazement at the brilliance of it all. Yes, the
sheer brilliance of it.
Review by Mikael Peterson
I left Rome, and I landed in Brussels, on a plane ride so bumpy that I
Nah, just kiddin´, we ( my girlfriend and I ) left Sweden October 31, and
landed in Charleroi, some 50 kilometres from Brussels, the ride was very
Having left a chilly and somewhat wet Sweden, the first thing that struck
us was the fantastic summer weather, no wind and 18 degrees
Celsius…WOW!!!! I already felt the BUZZ…having seen Bob in Gothenburg
October 21 (see review) I had a renewed enthusiasm for this whole universe
of attending Bob gigs, looking forward to my twenty-first show…
A fifty minutes bus ride took us to Brussels mid station, some confusion
before we got on the right train that took us to central station, and from
there it was easy to find our hotel…
Am I boring you? Well, it wasn´t boring to me, I assure you!!!…and after
showers and change of clothes we set out…
How can I describe it? 11 pm and the scenery was breathtaking…all these
beautiful little streets and narrow lanes with the cosy little
restaurants, the great “Grand Place” with fantastic, illuminated
architecture of gothic, baroque and empire…I was already in heaven, and
tomorrow was Dylan night…there´s nothing that compares to the set of
emotions that build up in you, when you´re up to something like that, is
there??? It´s LOVE, in it´s purest form, isn´t it???
During Tuesday we did a lot of walking, and I was totally blown away by
the greatness of Brussels, its architecture, its 400 kinds of beers
(although I didn´t try them all, I sure did my best), its variety of
people, ethnically speaking…kindness and joy all around…
When it was time to take a cab from the hotel to the venue, we were lucky
enough to find that some guy was already consulting the receptionist about
the route, so naturally we invited him to share our taxi…Erwin (sorry if I
misspelled your name) from Cork in Ireland it was, and he was looking
forward to his second show, having seen Bob a couple of years back in the
States…whiskey shots in the cab, anticipation and lots of Bob talk, of
We got there, the venue was nothing out of the ordinary, just a big
concert arena, but since it was general admission, we´d arrived in good
time for the gates to open…
When they did we were well positioned, I`d say about three or four rows
from stage…I talked a lot to a guy named Mark, a Belgian who was
attending his 67th gig, and later heading for England and Dublin for four
more shows (lucky sod!!)…He asked what I wanted for starter, and I told
him “To Be Alone With You”...”Oh, you´ll never get it”, he said….but I
There´s been enough song by song reviews, I suppose, so I´ll just tell you
that the show was solid, Bob was very focused, beautifully dressed in
black, with that Zorro- hat, and a scarlet scarf with white polka
dots…however it did not compare to the show in Gothenburg, eleven days
earlier, and I could´nt have asked for that either, cause that was one
magic night…I´d sure like a field recording of that one…
No center stage appearances, four harp solos, Donnie on both violin,
banjo, electric violin and steel guitar, we got “John Brown” as well as
“Masters of War”, a perfect rendition of “Under the Red Sky” (my first),
and I´m amazed to discover that only four songs were repeated from the
Yesterday I listened to one of my many field recordings from previous
tours, Spectrum Oslo, might´ve been -95, a concert I attended, and once
more, Bob simply blew me away…you remember them, I´m sure; John Jackson,
Ian Wallace, Bucky Baxter and of course Tony…I can´t help but thinking
that these shows outrank the ones of today, by far…Still; it´s always
better to be in the same room as the greatest artist of all times, than
not to be there!!!
So, I guess I´m looking forward in anticipation for his next time around
in Europe, I know I won´t be able to see him anymore this time.
Thanks Mark and Brian for the feedback of my last review, and if you got
any for this one, it´s always a pleasure, and my E-mail address is:
Review by Theresa Mc Mullin
I have seen Bob Dylan perform live 6 times since 1978, and I have
never really known what to expect, perhaps that's why I keep going to see
What I didn't expect, and what I saw in Brussels on 1st November 2005, was
a carefully considered, elegiac performance, imbued with a strong sense of
history (personal and global) and place.
The mood of the show was sombre from the start and throughout it drew on
Dylan's entire repertoire from his very earliest work to the present.
I used to think The Times They Are A-Changin' was getting a bit dated, but
it didn't sound dated last Tuesday.
Hearing Dylan sing Girl Of The North Country always makes me think of the
late Johnny Cash.
The biggest surprise of the evening was John Brown, drawn from the
period of Dylan's first album, entirely in keeping with the mood of
the presentation, so it was no big surprise when he did Masters Of War
later on, shortly after Desolation Row. I think he repeated the lyrics a
bit here in case any of us had missed the point. ("A world war can be won,
you want me to believe". Yes indeed)
Highway 61 Revisited rocked.
For Like A Rolling Stone I miss the Hammond organ, but there you go.
The Forest National venue wasn't as bad as I had been led to believe, I
got a seat with a reasonable view of the stage.
I think that to see Bob Dylan perform live these days is a privilege, and
I cannot understand why some people would attend and then talk loudly
throughout the show. Do they do this at the theatre?
However none of this could spoil my pleasure in seeing Dylan make his work
Theresa Mc Mullin
Comments by Frederik Verhoeven
I'm sorry, but I can't agree with reviews that appeared earlier on your site. I think the
concert in Brussels was'n t any good at all, Bob (my log lived hero) didn't seem to be
interested at all. He seemed totally uninspired to me in his singing and harpplaying.
Just performing routine. The audience applauded and seemed ethousiastic, I wasn't and I
haven't met anyone until now who really was. I think that next time I will not be present.
(sorry for my ridiculous english).
Review by Jeroen Bol
This was my third concert this tour. First I want to thank my great friend
who does not want to be named in public. He gave me three tickets for free
for the Rotterdam, Oberhausen and Brussels concerts. The only thing he
asked me in return was: ' Baby , can you drive my car' ? He's got no
drivers license so I provided for the car and was at the wheel. I'm very
gratefull having been able to attend three concerts in a row due to my
friend's wonderfull kindness. The first concert was in Rotterdam last
friday and after that one I was convinced the next two could by no means
be better. But being a Dylan fan means being prepared for surprises, I
should have known. The Oberhausen seemed to declare me right. But
Brussels shattered it all. This concert was even better than the one in
Rotterdam. The pubic was already wild before the show started which
produced an electric atmosphere bursting of expectation. This must have
had a positive impact on the band right from the beginnening. And it did.
We were treated on John Brown with a magnificent banjo solo by Donnie
Herron. Next to that treat there was a fantastic Cold Irons Bound, a
blood-curdling Masters of War, a tough as ever Lonesome Day Blues and my
alltime favourites Down along the Cove and It's allrigt Ma. These last two
songs both being played in new tough rock versions which only Dylan can
create. Everything was so powerfull. His masters voice clear and strong
this night, just like in Rotterdam. Concentrated, with clear diction and a
lot of feeling. An important part of the magic of mister Dylan is the
timing and the feeling in his way of singing. In this respect he 's got no
equal in this world and time. I want to finish with one last remark. What
a sheer nonsense is this repeated complaining about Dylan not talking to
or communicating with his public. COME ON ! How can one listen to these
great songs full of meaning and poetry for two hours at length and then
complain that mister Dylan did not speak to us? As a matter of fact he's
speaking and communicating all night through these great songs bursting
of meaning. And I thank him for that and for all that he and his great
music means for us. And of course also big compliments for the great band
members. Honesty obliges us to say that Dylan could not do without them in
this phase of his astounding career.
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