Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg


November 16, 2013

[Michaël Moors], [Joachim Richter], [JL Becker], [Christopher Rollason], [Peter Schweers]

Review by Michaël Moors

Time to write a few words after having attended the concerts in Amsterdam 
and Brussels and last evening's concert. 

These fall 2013 shows simply are impressive by any standard. The whole tour 
so far turns out to be another great moment in the Never Ending Tour. By 
now a lot of fans already have experienced the magnificence of what is going 
on. But what is it exactly that makes these concerts so special, what makes 
them rise above most of the better concerts of the entire past decade?

First of all Dylan's voice definitely hasn't been this clear since around 2002. It's 
like the clock has been put back for ten years. This is a spectacular thing to 
witness. The past few years Bob's voice surely did have it's undamaged 
moments. But generally spoken it sounded damaged rather often, not to say 
most of the time, particularly from 2004 till 2009. Of course the clearness of 
his voice has nothing to do with the conviction and other qualities of his singing. 
These things are quite often confused when you read about a Dylan 
performance. Many times it has been said that 'Dylan can't sing anymore' 
because of the roughness of his voice. It would have been more accurate to 
say that 'Dylan still can sing but with a voice that often sounds damaged'. 
Singing is a lot more than exposing a clear voice and Bob is a great example of 
that. But back to the concerts. Bob's clear voice these days isn't restricted to 
a couple of moments or songs per show. It's brilliance shines again through 
entire sets - magical.

Then there are the songs. Most nights the setlist heavily focuses on post-2000 
material and usually no less than 6 songs from the latest album are performed. 
This gives the shows a freshness that one couldn't have fantasized of. More 
importantly the magnificent way these songs are performed makes you easily 
forget the incredible number of well known masterpieces Bob is carrying with 
him. You don't miss them for a second. This is what makes Dylan a 
contemporary performing artist of genius.

Another fact that adds to the overall superior quality of these concerts is that 
there are barely low points to be found in the performance of the songs. This 
time really it's only about one string of highlights with Forgetful Heart and Long 
And Wasted Years being the most glittering pearls.

All of this together (the overall clearness of the voice, the huge amount of 
recent songs played and the continuity in the quality of the performance) 
creates a sense of unity in the experience of the shows. This sense of unity I 
haven't known during the 37 concerts I have attended between 1995 and 

Bob's visual appearance on stage has always been important in the experience 
of the fans but his visual performance in recent years is nothing short of brilliant, 
especially when he's center stage without guitar. I think of Long And Wasted 
Years as a worthy successor of Ballad Of A Thin Man and as being it the visual 
highlight of the performance, night after night.

The band is phenomenal as ever (listen to Charlie's guitar in Soon After 
Midnight) and seeing these wonderful musicians play together is an enduring 
delight, no matter how many times you have seen them. 

Finally the illumination of the stage is a work of art by itself. I can not imagine it 
ever having been better on a Dylan show. The stage is sparely lit, but it is done 
with artistic care. This creates an intimacy and an atmosphere that suits the 
performance and the Tempest songs in particular. Though it has to be said that 
when you are watching the show from the back of a larger venue, the stage 
overall appears a little dark. 

To those of you lucky enough to live with the prospect of seeing Bob live 
these coming weeks I have just one thing to say: you will have a whoppin' 
good time!

Michaël Moors


Review by Joachim Richter

Luxembourg was my only Dylan concert this year, and I came there with the
highest expectations, after having read all the enthusiastic reviews on
this wonderful site...

First question: what about the setlist? Well, it remained unchanged, with
"Early Roman Kings" at #12, which was good. A real relief: no more "Summer
Days", no more "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum", no more "Highway 61
Revisited", no more infinite loops...

Second question: hat or no hat? Well, unfortunately... hat. Bob & band hit
the stage right on time, the band members in gray suits and black shirts,
Bob in a super strange old fashioned black frock coat and a white hat.
With the frock coat, he must have looked like the hanging judge in "Lily,
Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts". Wonder if it all he remembers this funny

Third and last question: what about the show? Well, in the end more good
than bad things, but after all the hype, my conclusion is ambivalent and
I'll try to explain.

Good things first: The opener "Things have changed" was super cool,
relaxed, technically brilliant. "Love sick" sounded great. More highlights
to come in the second part: "High water", again a cool opener. "Early
Roman Kings", very interesting as it was played and sung with great
discipline, a real surprise. "Forgetful heart", presented with intense,
clear and discreet vocals, and a beautiful violin playing by Donnie
Herron, was the highlight of the evening. The last five songs of the show,
very interesting, as the show was not closed with the usual popular hits
but with five calm songs with lots of melody, emotion, coolness... This
was not surprising with regard to the great songs from the Tempest album,
however, "All along the Watchtower" came in an acoustic version, and also 
"Blowing in the Wind" in another beautiful, surprising arrangement. And,
last but not least, the band was brilliant as usual, of course.

So... why did it not turn out to be a perfect evening? Well... "Spirit in
the water" was delivered uninspired and, indeed, the spirit has
disappeared... and, what's the  worst... the old upsinging is back...
UPSINGING: WHAT'S THAT SHIT? Some of the nicest songs on the setlist, 
"She belongs to me", "Tangled up in Blue" and "Simple twist of Fate", all of
them destroyed by Bob's temporary return to the bad habit of upsinging. If
he'd record an album this way, noone would buy it, and I'm sure he knows
it very well, that's why he doesn't do it. So, why does he torture his
live audience with such misbehavior? Well... doesn't matter, I know we'll
forget about it anyway, we'll just erase it from our memory, and all of us
will come back next  time...

Final question: Will Bob change the setlist on November 22 in Blackpool to
perform "He Was A Friend Of Mine"...?

Joachim Richter


Review by JL Becker

Hello Bob's friends,

A little more of two hours road to ESCH and the Rockhal by a cold and grey
evening. But it's for Bob, no ? A traditional date venue for him. And what
can I say in a few words ? It was a very good concert with Bob clear,
deep, loud words, yes he was in his music and in a very good form indeed !
The band with Charlie, Tony and the others ARE Bob's music, no
presentation necessery from the boss. My favorites songs : Things have
changed, She belongs to me, Love sick, Forgetful hearts, Love sick and of
course the encore All along the watchtower and Blowing in the wind. I must
say that i love Bob's harp too. Yes a lot of delight and emotion in the
same time! "Merci beaucoup" Mister Bob and see you later

JL Becker


Review by Christopher Rollason

WHAT GOOD AM I?’: BOB DYLAN LIVE, 16 November 2013, Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg)

Bob Dylan’s recent all-but-unchanging setlists, representing a new
practice on his current European tour and its North American predecessor
earlier this year, have raised a few eyebrows among his fan base. And so
it was that tonight’s concert at the Rockhal in Esch-sur-Alzette
(Luxembourg) offered a 19-song setlist 100% identical to the previous four
and, barring  minor sequencing variations, to a total of 14 out of 26 so
far from this tour (with nine dates to go, all in the UK).

This phenomenon of near-static setlists has its plus and minus points.
Dylan’s age is one likely factor (which may also account for the
intermission introduced on this tour), and if so we must take that into
consideration. It could nonetheless be argued that repeating exactly the
same songs (he could give or take a variant or two, surely?) at the same
venue in the same city, two or even three nights running, is not only
short-changing repeat attenders but also not the best of commercial
strategies. Here in Esch, at all events, there was only one show – Dylan’s
second at the Rockhal, following his debut gig shared with Mark Knopfler
just over two years ago - to be precise, on 21 October 2011.

One advantage, though, of a set-in-stone setlist is that it facilitates
the reviewer’s preparation! I guessed, correctly, that Dylan would eschew
the exeeptionalism of the two Rome dates (6 and 7 November), and would
stick with ‘Early Roman Kings’ and the rest (did he drop that song in Rome
precisely because it actually has nothing to do with the Eternal City, and
take his cue from there for those two all-but-transformed setlists?).  So
I was able to prepare for the night, printing out and re-reading the
lyrics of those ‘later’ songs from the list which - though of course I own
and play the relevant albums - I admit I do not know by heart as I do
‘Desolation Row’ or ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ (neither of which showed
up in Esch). Hence if nothing else, the shows’ new-found stasis did allow
me to get more deeply inside songs like ‘Scarlet Town’ or ‘Forgetful
Heart’, and that can only be a gain.

The doors opened at 7 p.m, in advance for 8.30. The queue outside was
enlivened by a –surprisingly good – Dylan-imitator busker who served up
very passable renditions of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice,
It’s Alright’ (did he know the maestro was *not* going to perform those
songs tonight, or indeed that he doesn’t do ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ at all
these days ?). Once inside, I acquired the programme, which proved to be
unexpectedly worth acquiring and already suggested this would be a quality
evening, consisting as it did mostly of the full texts of a collection of
reviews of Dylan’s later works – eulogies of ‘Time Out of Mind’, ‘Modern
Times’, ‘Tempest’ and, indeed, ‘Chronicles, Volume One’. Reading those 
texts could not have put me in a better frame of mind as I munched through
a couple of pizza slices and awaited the Minnesotan’s curtain-call.

From the minute Dylan and band launched into ‘Things Have Changed’, I
deduced – correctly – that things had *not* changed and we would be
treated to the tour’s default repertoire. That being the case, how would
the audience react? This setlist includes only three songs from the 60s,
two of them as encores, plus another two from the 70s; of the remaining 14
songs, none is older than 1989 and six are from the recent Tempest. Would
many of the audience be familiar with Dylan’s later work, and how many
were there expecting to hear ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, ‘Just Like a
Woman’ and the rest? In the event, Dylan made no fresh concessions to the
earlier work which had nonetheless been crucial in his being made a
Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris just three days before, with the
no doubt unwanted accolade of being an influence on France’s student
revolt of May 1968. As for the audience, the crowd did show a tendency to
thin out and not everyone returned after the intermission, but those who
did stay – by far the majority – were attentive and appreciative, some
couples danced to both upbeat and slower numbers, and those who made the
effort surely did – to quote from one of tonight’s numbers - ‘have a
whopping good time’.

The fact was that the concert proved to be excellent – not diamond perfect
(is Dylan ever?) – but certainly more than a few notches higher up on the
quality scale than Bob’s previous (and perfectly acceptable) offering to
the citizens of Esch. Dylan sang with more strength and conviction, and
more audibly; the song selection was more challenging, and Dylan and band
rose to the challenge; and what really made the day (or the night) were
the arrangements, which displayed an imaginativeness, a denseness, a
variety and, above all, a sense of *drama*, such as I have, frankly,
rarely encountered in Bob Dylan’s work whether live or in the studio. Yes,
tonight … something is happening here!

‘Things Have Changed’ proves a strong opener. Dylan, coming on centre
stage, seems a shade hesitant at the beginning, but by the second verse is
well in command, and the arrangement, more complex than on the original
and varying in tempo, does the song proud. The frenetic rhythms of the
opener then give way to the slow, stately unfurling of a fine ‘She Belongs
To Me’ – has he put this song from 1965 in second slot to stop the 60s
devotees walking out early? – with Dylan relishing the half-century-old
lyrics and bringing out both the song’s dignity and its humour.  Next,
‘Beyond Here Lies Nothin’’ also gets the benefit of a fuller and denser
arrangement than the original, with a wonderfully archaic old-time
ballroom feel. Beyond here lies … a lot more than nothing, that’s for sure!-
and the atmosphere intensifies with a magnificent ‘What Good Am I?',
with Dylan pounding out the notes on the grand piano and singing his
heart out (and audibly and comprehensibly – by now it’s clear that his
voice has taken a real turn for the better). The arrangement of the 1989
song is powerful and dramatic, not without a nod to Tom Jones’
impressively doom-laden version from 2010.

And now, the first song up from Tempest, and also the one that is that
album’s opening track, ‘Duquesne Whistle’. On this jaunty and defiant
number – which as I read it is a deceptively light-hearted reflection on
preparing for death – we now see Dylan getting right inside his new
material, interpreting the song in a way that is immediately recognisable
from the album but also adds further layers of sound and feeling. The
country blues of ‘Duquesne’ then gives way to a country waltz, in the form
of ‘Waiting For You’, this tour’s obscurity. Only available on a
little-known soundtrack album, never anthologised and performed only twice
before the present tour, ‘Waiting For You’ has suddenly morphed into a
staple, receiving its 22nd tour outing tonight. It remains a minor song,
but in tonight’s rendition pleasantly listenable and extending the
evening’s musical range. And now, back to Tempest, and we’re on to the
blues-rock of ‘Pay In Blood’. This song, which can be read as a dramatic
monologue, an enraged diatribe against whites by a former slave, comes
across in all its hard-hitting fierceness, with Dylan snarling the anger
out. It sounds every bit as forceful as ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie
Carroll’, and may be a welcome setlist successor to that classic.

Next, and something of an anticlimax, comes one of the night’s less
successful renditions. ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is hailed by the audience, no
doubt because people recognise it, but, as two years ago in the Rockhal
when I last heard it, the Blood on the Tracks classic is severely
truncated, the original seven stanzas pared down to only four (original
stanzas 1, 2, 5 and 7). This time round, there are substantial lyric
changes – which I cannot comment on as the words went by too fast – in
(original) stanzas 5 and 7. One could argue that these changes make it a
different song and therefore complaints about the hatchet job become
redundant, but I would still rather he didn’t slash this particular song
when there are other, inferior long songs in the Dylan canon which might
actually benefit from a spot of pruning. The arrangement, too, is a shade
pedestrian. Things hot up, however, with a strong, musically and vocally
growling ‘Love Sick’, a version close to the original but with a more
insistent ground-riff. Here as in most of the night’s slower numbers,
Dylan is highly audible and very much in control. And on that note, he
leaves us for a brief intermission.

The second half kicks off triumphantly with one of the night’s finest
moments, ‘High Water (For Charley Patton)’. On this worthy successor to
‘Highway 61 Revisited’ or ‘Tombstone Blues’, a centre-stage Dylan
enunciates the darkly ironic lyrics with relish, with the droning banjo
keeping up the obsessive atmosphere. The delivery is slow and sinister,
the atmosphere potent with menace: when the song ends, the audience
respond with the show’s keenest accolade yet. It is followed by another
strong performance, a wistful, mournful ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, with Bob
eloquent on both piano and vocals. This particular warhorse is, unlike its
Blood on the Tracks stablemate ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, allowed to stay
entire (Dylan sings all six stanzas), with the lyric a compromise between
the original and Live at Budokan versions and nothing sounding like an
actual innovation. Next, back to Tempest with what may be the darkest of
that album’s dark songs, Early Roman Kings – an exploration of evil in
which the protagonist seems himself to be more and more taken over by that
evil as the song progresses. Dylan’ vocals sink deep into the vampiric
atmosphere, and the arrangement is as heavily-charged a Chicago blues as
on the album, though sounding somewhat less like Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish
Boy’ than does the original. As it ends, someone in the audience calls
out: ‘Like A Rolling Stone!’

Dylan ignores that lone request, and launches into ‘Forgetful Heart’ –
another highlight of the night, slow, yearning, beautifully audible, with
country-tinged, quavering violin. And now ... the musical register changes
altogether as Dylan offers a surprising rearrangement of ‘Spirit on the
Water’. I find this Modern Times number unstructured, over-long and, on
the record, difficult to concentrate on, but tonight any vacuity in the
lyrics is compensated by an audacious, multi-tempo jazz arrangement, with
vocals and music competing for supremacy. After that, it’s back to
Tempest, with the dark, foreboding ‘Scarlet Town’. For this one, Dylan
drops the violin from the album version, but the guitar and banjo
arrangement respects the song’s dense complexity and the lyrics emerge
charged with emotion – Dylan’s vocal is specially moving in the ‘Sweet
William’ stanza, with its ballad reminiscences of ‘Barbara Allen’. We stay
with Tempest for ‘Soon After Midnight’, performed with brio much as on the
album, and then for what proves the evening’s final triumph - the song
debuted by Dylan on this tour, ‘Long and Wasted Years’. This composition
has an intricate narrative line that makes it seem like a short story in
song, and, here as on the album, Dylan delivers the abrasive lyrics in all
but talking-blues fashion over a repetitive riff. The song is a challenge
to both himself and the audience – and he pulls it off beautifully,
crowning the concert proper with a virtuoso performance.

In a sense, ‘Long and Wasted Years’ is the concert’s true and climactic
end. The two encores are Dylan's obligatory concession to the weight of
the past, but neither ‘All Along the Watchtower’ nor ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’
convinces. The arrangements are pleasant, but seem slight compared to what
went before. Unless it’s me mishearing, Dylan stumbles over the words at
least once in both - bizarre considering he cannot possibly not know these
two, of all his songs, by heart: but maybe familiarity breeds inattention.
Nonetheless, all in all this has been a remarkable concert with a
plurality of high points. The best performances, and they were many, have
throbbed with a constant sense of energy and drama.  On a night like this,
with Bob Dylan in such unexpectedly fine fettle, ‘What Good Am I?’
certainly feels like a rhetorical question! After this memorable evening,
let us hope a clear-sighted Bob Dylan is seeing himself as clear as his
admirers who have had him on their mind!

Christopher Rollason, Ph.D


Review by Peter Schweers

Having missed Bob in Düsseldorf and hearing all the good news about the
tour, I decided to drive to Esch from Cologne, and I`m glad I did so.
Compared to Hamburg 2011 and Limerick 2010, good shows as they were, this
was by far the best for me in recent years. ...On the train platform, I
asked a group of about 25-year-olds for directions, turns out they were
going to the show. When I enquired why they were going being so young,
they said "Why not?" Ok, fine. It was a healthy mix of generations at  the
hall. Show was phantastic, sound was excellent, the band is getting better
every year, and Bob has regained a lot of his vocal powers. The music  was
so good that even the frequent up-singing somehow made sense, it gave sort
of a hillbilly touch to the proceedings. Duquesne whistle was swinging so
hard, it was almost keeling over. Turns into a classic. Pay in blood was
as dark and evil as it should be, but the highlight of the first half to
me was Love Sick, a most magnificient reading. Then Bob got extremely
talkative before the break and said "Merci beaucoup". It sounded friendly,
he seemed to be in good spirits. Of the second part, Simple Twist of Fate
gave me goosebumps, Forgetful Heart was real intense, etc. I`t`s all good.
Long and wasted years for me was not an immediate favourite on the album,
but live it is great. Hundreds were running towards the stage during the
song. Me too, I had problems the whole show  to remain sitting on my
chair. This is music to dance to, amongst many other things. Bob looked
great, was well dressed and acted good - legs apart and hand on hip at the
front of the stage. Seems to be at the height of his powers right now. So
people in the UK, go and check him out. It might not go on forever, though
I wish it would.


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