Review by Neil Millar
Dylan’s current European tour has received some fairly unflattering
reviews in the press over the past few weeks. Judging by overheard
comments made by some of those leaving the recent shows, these are
views which appear to be shared by several of those in the audience. It
seems that many people have been rather disappointed and baffled by
Dylan’s recent concerts (but there’s nothing new in that!). In contrast,
most of the recent concert reviews which have been posted on the internet
by Dylan fans have been extremely enthusiastic. I doubt that many people
would argue that Dylan is currently at the very peak of his career as a
live performer but, having attended Dylan’s five London concerts at the
Brixton Academy over the past five nights, I’ve witnesses many wonderful
moments. To an extent, I imagine that these differences in peoples’
opinions of Dylan’s recent concerts are a consequence of differences in
their expectations. With the recent release of Martin Scorsese’s high
profile documentary of Dylan in the 60s, it’s possible that many might
have been hoping for some sort of recreation of those glory days but, as
was pointed out in a discussion on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week, Dylan is
a contemporary performer, not a nostalgia act. I greatly admire the fact
that Dylan doesn’t take the easy option of giving us a slick and
over-rehearsed “Greatest Hits” nostalgia show. There has been no sign of
Blowin’ In The Wind, for example, on this tour. Dylan has been performing
only 16 songs a night on average but, according to the statistics and the
set lists which are diligently posted on the internet each night, he has
played over 50 different songs during the five nights at Brixton and
around 90 different songs during the first 29 concerts of this European
tour. I can’t think of many other current performers who would attempt
such a feat. Several of these 90-odd songs have been played only once on
this tour and have, at times, have sounded a little under-rehearsed. A
typical Dylan performance can seem a little rough around the edges at
times, but this is one of the things I love about Dylan as a live
performer. With such a talented backing band, it wouldn’t be too difficult
for Dylan to perform his old songs in a style which faithfully recreates
his studio albums, but this is live music. Dylan has a huge catalogue of
material to draw from and it’s wonderful to hear these songs being
reinterpreted. For me, the highlights of these shows have been the
unexpected inclusion of songs which Dylan has rarely played live before.
Most notable was an under-rehearsed but exhilarating version of the
Clash’s London Calling (on the second night at Brixton, a song which I’m
sure he’s never performed live before). Despite the fact that he managed
only one verse of London Calling, this has to be one of my favourite Dylan
moments. Other unexpected highlights were Queen Jane Approximately and New
Morning (at the first Brixton show), Million Dollar Bash and Waiting For
You (on the second night), Mississippi (on the third) and the Fats Domino
song Blue Monday (on the fourth). Dylan often seems to save the best ‘till
last on his tours of the UK, so I had high expectations for the fifth and
final night at Brixton. As it turned out, the final night was really
enjoyable, with very strong performances from start to finish. Dylan and
the band were on good form and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I
particularly enjoyed Every Grain of Sand and Sugar Baby but, for me, the
icing on the cake was Bob’s second (and almost complete) attempt at London
Review by Joe Neanor
Bob Dylan is box office. Never seen so many ticket touts outside for one
of his shows.
This was good rather than a great show. Maybe I have been spoilt as it is
exactly two years since my last concert, the memorable Hammersmith Apollo
2003 show. Just checked the venue capacities. Brixton seems (and is)
cavernous compared to Hammersmith. Perhaps this explains why I could hear
the audience talking so much throughout the show. Dylan certainly gets on
with things, no sooner is one song finshed than he over to a sidetable,
complete with small reading lamp, fiddling with paperwork momumtarily then
back on the keyboard almost before the applause has died away for the
previous number. Lots of young, young people at the show. Lots of beer
going up and down the hall. The set list was OK. The performance by
Dylan and his band was committed. Dylan clearly enjoys delivering his own
lyrics. At times it was hard to catch the words at other times these were
clear. He twists and turns at his keyboard. At times it looked like was
trying to limbo dance under it. For me the show is best summed up by the
encore being the best part. That was fun. I got the impression that at
one point Dylan actually got himself in line with audience corus of Like a
Rolling Stone. He seemed to be giving them sly glances. And that Bob
Dylan, you could see, is still a bit of a trouble maker.
Review by Jeffrey Johnson
Brixton night five culminated the British-American royalty exchange
(with Britain prevailing enormously on the exchange). Abundant media
coverage disparaged the British Prince, Charles, and his matronly,
middle-aged divorcee wife, Camilla, during their recent whirlwind
American tour. Shamefully, some of it was cruel and juvenile as
Camilla’s sturdy frame and asymmetrical features received public
examination. Some in the media even compared Camilla to all manner of
barnyard animals, while Charles’ unwavering devotion to a woman who is
neither young nor beautiful has been savagely mocked.
Chas-like devotion (though sometimes wavering), sold out the Shed in
Birmingham and five nights in London as fans turned out in droves to
revel in His lack of glamour and flash. The Maestro has suffered a bit
of savage media mockery Himself. Today some fans berate His set lists
as “40 songs in a bag” and rail about His “unsinging,” which has
curiously disappeared. Lest we forget: in America, He’s Social
Security eligible next year, yet the best in the business.
Rather than the enormous excitement that everyone anticipated, H.R.M.
delivered a spirited performance of one of His myriad, exploitive
greatest hits packages with a few bonus tracks. London repeat
performances of It’s All Right Ma and Highwater exceeded prior efforts.
North Country was again mighty fine. Just Like A Woman induced the
audience to sing out of time, as everywhere else on earth. The
ever-poignant Every Grain of Sand featured soaring vocals.
Incidentally, unless you are Joan Baez, shouting “Bobby !!!” is foolish
self-denigration that detracts seriously from His show.
Jeffrey Johnson, American, Concluding a Five-Night Mission
Review by Mr. Jinx
'SOME OF THESE WOMEN …'
So, I'm just one off the rail. I'm blinking, pinching myself: trying to
get my head around being so close. Thanks to Bob's infamous
'First-one-now-shall-later-be-last' door policy I luck my way in front of
a batch of hardy souls who have been queuing since lunchtime. I try to
feel guilty about this but hey, I don't make the rules. I figure if Bob
wants to see some different faces on the rail and one of them happens to
be my chiselled ruggedly-handsome visage then so be it. I help old ladies
cross the road sometimes; I give money to Tsunami appeals. I reckon I can
handle a tiny bit of bad karma … I can't help it if I'm lucky!
So what does Bob offer us on this final night at Brixton? The answer is
a glimpse at the affairs of his heart. Gone are the universal concerns,
the finger pointing songs, the war ballads and tales of changing times.
Tonight is all about the personal. Appropriate then that I should be in
such close proximity to the man himself to hear these intimate tales.
'I'll Be Your Baby' and 'Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You' are both
carefully carried, the latter has some magical harp and sets the tone for
the evening very nicely. Bob has switched back to the black hat again
after last night's flirtation with white headgear and is giving it the
full Capone gunslinger stance behind his keyboard already. It feels great
to be here.
As the evening unfolds, though, the tales of love and its bitter cousin
heartbreak begin to pile up. Girl Of The North Country, Just Like A Woman
and Sugar Baby all tell of loves lost. 'There ain't no limit to the
amount of trouble that women bring' croons bob and at this distance I'm
not about to disagree with him. Anyway, he doesn't look like he's joking.
Even High Water with its 'Breaking up out there' refrain feels
personalised: more of a comment on the specifics of a relationship
breakdown than on some global catastrophe as it clearly was the previous
To get Positively 4th Street three nights in a row is disconcerting. I
find it hard to take this song at the best of times. I so very much want
not to be the target of its venom but when I'm standing next to so many
other fans it must be hard for Bob to recognise me for the pure untainted
soul I am. He must think I'm one of those dreadful filthy Beatniks who
booed him for failing to suck his glasses back in the '60s. I'm not like
that at all. I wash almost every day. I believe in free speech and light
bulbs for all.
Every Grain Of Sand is plain gorgeous tonight. Bob sings 'I'm hanging in
the balance of a perfect finished FINISHED plan'. By repeating 'finished'
he renders the first finished … UNfinished. Okay, it's only a detail
but it struck me as poignant on this final FINAL night at Brixton Academy.
It reminded me of the 'In the final end he won the war' line from Idiot
Wind. The idea that there might be an end that proves not to be final (or
an end beyond the end) seems a typically Bob-like idea to me. So
'finished finished' suits me just fine and seems totally consistent with
Dylan's frame of reference and logic.
Sugar Baby coincides with some heavy-handed work by Security as they
bludgeon a guy next to me to death for using a mobile phone or some other
such heinous crime against humanity. I manage to ignore the bloodshed
(adding another couple of points to my bad karma score in the process).
As a reward I get to hear and watch Sugar Baby's delicate drama unfold
before me. Bob rasps 'Look up, look up, seek your maker' right at me. It
scares the hell out of me but in a good way!
Just worth mentioning that I've never been so close to Dylan at a show
before. To see his vast array of faces and expressions, his
shoulder-dips, hip-swivels and Mussolini-like struts at such close
quarters is an absolute privilege. The trouble is he's already looking
for the Exit. 'There must be some way out of here' he says twice in
Watchtower. He clearly means to leave.
I watch him stand for the applause a few feet in front of me and try to
feel vacant and numb rather than overwhelmingly sad as I see him shuffle
away into the shadows. Numb loses and sad wins, I'm afraid.
This has been a wonderful residency. In truth it peaked on the
penultimate night but my close encounter with Dylan on this final night is
something I shall take to the grave (final end?) Watch out Ireland, here
he comes! As for me, I guess it must be back to 'reality' again. My
karma is in shreds but I have memories to treasure forever.
Some of these memories you can learn to live with, apparently. We shall
see. We shall see.
Review by Graham Cole
I Have Seen the Master's Hand
It's Friday evening and I'm not sure what to do. For the past five days, I've left
school as quickly as possible at the end of the working day and headed off to
London, where I've joined the queue to see Bob throughout his five-night
residency at the Brixton Acadamy. I suppose I've been going from one place of
learning to another, but with an altogether different aim as the evening has
arrived. Now tonight, there is no queue, all those great people who have been
together for these five shows are doing their Friday night things, and Bob, well
he's somewhere not so far away, also having a night off and on his way to the
So how do I see the last night of the run twenty-four hours on? Having written
my earlier reviews as soon as got back to Southampton (around midnight - why
didn't I do the sensible thing and go to bed?? I guess that's what following Bob
Dylan can do to you) these past four nights, I decided to give myself a late night
off last night and delay writing these words by a day. So here goes with some
belated musings on night five.
I had very high hopes for an extra special night. I don't know, last night of the
five, the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that Bob has a special thing about London,
the great venue and the terrific sound of the first four nights, and, of course,
the music from those nights, which whilst including some lower points, had
included some truly wonderful, sublime moments. What might we get from
Bob and the Boys in the Band?
In truth, I left Brixton somewhat disappointed at the end of what had been a
solid, but really quite unenterprising, show, and certainly one lacking in any great
surprises. I know I shouldn't be so churlish. Bob has given us so many songs
these past few nights, and even those that were repeated often emerged in
different forms each evening. But, well, I guess it's just an emotion thing, and
that's how I am. Maybe others too …?
His start timing was as on previous nights, and the band were back in black, to
match the all black of Bob, although he had the addition of some adornments to
the front of his suit jacket, and was wearing a flat black Stetson (the cream one
from Wednesday was my favourite!). Strangely we had no Rumble to set the
tone, but rather Maggie yet again entered the story at the first opportunity.
There was nothing new for me in this performance, and already some of us had
been hoping on Wednesday for a different opener, but it was not to be.
Nevertheless, hopes were raised when we were then treated to a lovely warm
version of Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You, and the sentiment of the title
was exactly what we wanted to hear. As other reviewers have noted, perhaps
some of the warmth of the sound was a result of using good old valve amps, and
in addition Bob's vocals were so carefully delivered, at times almost singing lines
syllable by syllable to emphasise his assurances to us. Donnie Herron used the
pedal steel to good effect, particularly on "that whistle blow" where it soared
nicely, and Bob brought out his harmonica to add to the closing of this song.
The country style maintained with a jaunty version of I'll Be Your Baby Tonight,
and on this number Bob's harp, delivered centre stage, seemed much more in
touch with the song. Tonight was, if nothing else, the one night when he really
worked/played with the lines and phrasing on several songs, often working to
Donnie then brought out his fiddle on It's Alright Ma, but there seemed little else
to distinguish this version from those of earlier shows. There was further breaking
up of lines on Positively 4th Street, and this was the tune on which I thought this
technique worked best as he eked out of every line all the feeling he wanted of
the lyrics. Down Along The Cove came next, but there was nothing special to
the performance, so I was happier to hear the interesting, almost spooky
arrangement of Girl from the North Country that followed. After Wednesday
evening's show, I commented on the glorious use of banjo on High Water (For
Charley Patton), and tonight it was even more to the fore within the song. Bob
really pounded his keyboards at times on this tune, again underpinned by a singularly
poignant banjo solo, and as the song crescendoed like the rising waters of George's
New Orleans, the backdrop curtain turned a muddy brown broken only by the
ghostly silhouettes of the players on stage.
The most-of-the-crowd-pleaser Just Like a Woman appeared next, in country style;
I think many present were pleased to hear this fine song, but maybe for lots of
different reasons. It seemed clear from his delivery that Bob saw himself there to
sing and play his music to and for us - he completely ignored the out-of-sync crowd
singalong as he played to us the listeners. Highway 61 Revisited appeared yet again,
a loose bluesy track, at the end of which Bob looked around at his colleagues and
appeared very pleased indeed, a broad grin on his face. The performance did
nothing for me however - I felt this song has been done much better in the past,
but I did get into the delight of Every Grain of Sand next up in the setlist. Bob's
vocals were again to the fore, clear and deliberate, and it was almost as if during
the evening he had remembered that he could play with the phrasing of his lyrics.
It was then a disappointment for me when a more pedestrian Honest With Me
broke the charm of the new arrival of the night. At least that was followed by my
favourite of the show, a slinky Sugar Baby looping along beneath the stardrop sky
hanging behind the six musicians.
And on to a quicker Summer Days, fitting into the time allowed, before the
three-part encores. For me, it was scarcely necessary to play London Calling again,
though for those who missed it on Monday, I guess it was a nice moment, but
along with an entirely acceptable LARS and AATW, that was it for the night, and
it was time to go home. Lots of goodbyes until the next time, when, for sure,
Bob willing, we'll all do it all over again, next year, or the year after that or
whenever Bob next decides to return to these shores. It's been a fabulous
adventure inside some wonderful music, and every evening has given us pearls
big and small to keep in our hearts and minds for the future. It has been great
seeing folks again, and there will be friendships to renew at one of those future
And now he's gone it just remains to say a very warm Thank you Bob! It's been
a real privilege yet again to be with you and to hear you in such fine fettle. Now
I believe it's time for us to quit ….
Review by Ian S. Blagbrough
The uninspiring set list (spot on as reported by Bill Pagel) that we got followed
the current 14+2 story for this closing UK gig, apologies if I came with too high
expectations, but November 2003 is not so long ago, and even performances
earlier this week had led me to believe and expect/hope for New Morning if not
Romance in Durango or Yea! Heavy and A Bottle of Bread. I am afraid a
resounding Clash one-verse cover (which had some in the audience doubled up
with laughter) does not make up the difference. The set as performed overall
certainly did appear to satisfy the majority, but I thought it was work-a-day,
with few if any real highlights, and not one of those "worth the ticket price
alone" moments. The audience response was often muted, and many on the
floor and on stage looked tired after 5 consecutive nights. It was professional
of course, "the voice" is in fine form after 6-weeks touring, we were not snarled
at (often), but many who have reported here (and in the Dylan Pool and on
Expecting Rain) about the excellence of Sunday-Monday this week, will not have
found Thursday such a rave. On to the point.
The venue of the (Carling) Brixton Academy, London is excellent for a live concert,
in part due to general admission of only 3,000 and about 1,000s seated upstairs.
There is a pleasant rake through three rows of rails upon which the elderly can
lean. It has the atmosphere of being in a courtyard, between the East and West
wings of your palatial Italian mansion, with some vines or trees appearing high up
above the whitewashed buildings. Whilst I have not visited all London venues, this
is certainly a must-see place for future Dylan gigs. (First time I have seen a "no
crowd-surfing" road sign). The band are set together at the back of the stage,
and often it is a conductor and a jazz quintet set-up. After the queue moved
forward for thorough security checks as 6.00 pm spot-on, a side-door was opened
for 40 people to ensure a different set of faces along the rail. We were in by
6.05 no problems (small bottles of waters were confiscated, "house rules", you
could then buy the same product back once inside for £1.95, you cannot invent
this stuff!). Did Miss "Please, I need a free-ticket" get in?. Apparently using the
same sign the week-before in Glasgow, and at the NEC. We met some really nice
folk in the 5.30 queue from Carlisle, lots of chat. Clearly Bob has had many of the
same faces immediately in front of him for four nights running, not a criticism, just
an observation. High percentage of Scandinavians in the front of the crowd.
Cameras were removed. A guitar on which he will not play a note is by the
amplifier/cabinet with the Oscar. Will he actually speak? (no).
7.28 Nag Champa odour, earlier than usual!
7.30 Aaron Copland, snatches of Fanfare for the Common Man, but only 4 lines,
they cannot sustain it for 15 mins, but just to get us excited, we oblige.
7.37 More snatches of Aaron (2nd movement).
7.43 More Aaron Copland, more Nag Champa, hanging now in a dense cloud over
the drum riser. It's for real. The voice over introduction, the pause, … Ladies and
Gentlemen CRA … Bob Dylan. The band, George in the trade-mark beret, looked
to me as though he threw a cigarette away just before mounting his platform,
others are in all black suits and shirts, elderly guitarists have these buttoned high up
in the neck, 3 are in pork-pie hats. Bob is in a black suit, a grey shirt with sparkling
collar (not just studs) and golden studs on trousers and jacket. The jazz formation
with two distant wingers of the NEC Birmingham has given way to a more genuine
sextet formation, and indeed they are going to play as a quintet often, with no
meaningful piano work at all, and Donnie Herron's steels much less prominent in the
mix, to me. Guitarists often trading licks, occasionally working in a three with steels
(or banjo/violin), never a bass or drum solo, or a piano solo! The piano has more to
do with leaning forwards (a least the microphone is not at a dangerously low
back-breaking level this year) and keeping the beat, than as a lead instrument. The
(well travelled?) red velvet school curtains of the backdrop are all painted in red light.
Eight white spots beam down.
1. Maggie's Farm (no Rumble), not a sound check this, the vocals are prominent in
the mix, you can actually hear and understand, we are off and running. It is OK.
2. Tonight I'll be staying here with you - electric country from NS. Solos are moved
around., tiny blow of the harp to end, unremarkable (but it got its cheer!).
3. I'll be your baby tonight, as a swing band (they are talented), harp out front and
centre for a little dance. We are all excited, but it was a swing number.
4. It's alright Ma, with violin and double bass (sad rather than ironic cheer for a naked
President). This was well worked, professional, but did not ever take off.
5. Positively 4th St, the red lighting moves smoothly to magenta, but no take off!
It is more electric country (folksy), it is certainly not Larry Campbell and the young
Austin gunslinger of three years ago (I already forgot the Freddy who? interlude).
6. Down along the cove, now we need to concentrate, as this is a hard-rock version,
and JWH it is not. It is out in the rasping or bullet style, good take, totally different.
7. Girl of the North Country is certainly acoustic, and certainly not anything to do with
Freewheelin. It would never have been popular in this (experimental) version. Whilst
not a highlight it was a Dylan moment, one of those "spot this if you can" with a total
mood reversal after the distortion (gain/crunch) of Down along the Cove (you cannot
believe JWH as hard-rock I know), but now no-one (no Cats) can have ever recognised
the traditional English country ballad, drums with brushes over a bowed bass, and Stu
plucking an acoustic, for a North Country Girl. Enough difference with or without the
new tune and up-singing, but it was worked over.
8. High Water rising with the red curtains away over a violet arch, we got a rocking
version with lead banjo (no error - lead banjo, just how talented is Donnie Herron?).
9. For me and other old softies the full verse and chorus intro to JLaW, Stu has learnt
the authentic BonB riffs, was a highlight. Though too soppy for some reviewers (too
sweetened?) and certainly taping cats turned around to stare in annoyance as the
sing-along got in to full swing, which was even aided with house lights on us for the
final chorus, and with a nod from Bob to bring us in, the same nod used to indicate a
guitarist's turn to solo, it was special, but then it was also close to authentic.
10. H61R did not take off, and I felt it was less than at the NEC last week, we did not
raise our game to the finger clicking accompaniment, and it fell a little flat.
11. Every Grain of Sand from 1981 Shot of Love, another highlight. Great lyrics, but
then it ended with mindless harp, a sort of in/out version of those 3-note wonders we
used to get as guitar solos. It spoilt the ending (for me) and it all seemed leaning to
work-a-day session stuff; they all looked tired by this point (but subjective of course).
12. Here comes Honest with Me - enough of the electric country folksy, they are here
to prove they are honest rockers trading licks. This they do-ish.
13. Finds a clever, beautiful acoustic Sugar Baby. [During this, several of us signal for
Security, who vault into the crowd, and helpfully rescue a mature man who has
collapsed in the heat and stifling atmosphere. This was smoothly done, and thanks for
their assistance to this member of the public in difficulties.] Sugar Baby had touches,
with the full acoustic, brushes, and double-bass, but the riffs were ordinary.
14. At 9.12 pm (it's another early night for all us ageing rockers) it is the jam session
that is Summer Days. The stand-up double-bass does not get spun around at all, how
sad, but Tony gives it a thorough thumping work-out right in front of George whilst
they stare at each other and count really hard. More jazz quintet stuff, is formulaic
too strong? Five times (for riffs) in as many nights will surely test them all.
We get the Stare from the Formation (cameras are held aloft and confiscated), loud
applause. The band go off for a good long while, we shout Bobby! It is true that we
got away without T Dee T Dum, but though some highlights, no real surprises.
15. Back now for a verse of The Clash and London Calling.
16. One single bash and we have the sing-along of LARS. We are away by 9.30 to the
10.15 train from Paddington (running late) before AATW. Police warnings of "increased
street crime in this area" greet us more than the "genuine" T-shirt sellers. It remains
another step on the NET, but not RTR, up-close from row 8 centre it is different from a
massive venue at the back. It's a good, tight band. Denny Freeman was OK on his
white Fender all night, but without Larry Campbell the soloing was not inspired. Taking
your turn to cover a few bars of electric jazz or country is not Bucky Baxter or G E Smith.
Thanks for reading this far, the bottom line: expectations for a final UK night were
unmet. And so, as earlier, on to The Point.
Ian S. Blagbrough
Comments by Andrew Taylor
(see "13." in preceding review)
The "mature man who has collapsed" was me - hey I'm only 42! I had been
suffering severe food poisoning all week and started getting stomach
cramps during the show around 8:30pm.
It all got too much about 9:10 and I passed out mid song.
Many thanks to any and all who helped me to the recovery room. I sat for
5 mins and rejoined the show to see the end of Summer Days and the
Review by Martin Gayford
Just wanted to share some thoughts on the Brixton shows.
I have to admit that, overall I was disappointed. This is because the
last 3 shows I saw were the London 03 shows. I've decided Hammersmith 03
is the best show I've seen since Hammersmith 1990. So in comparison,
these concerts weren't as good. What they did have was lots of highlights
- Rumble, It's alright ma, New morning, Million dollar bash, Visions of
johanna, Positively 4th street, John brown, Mississippi, Shelter from the
storm, Highwater, Hard rain, Hattie carroll, Every grain of sand, Sugar
baby and of course, London calling (which was amazing to see). A single
concert made up of these performances would possibly be the best ever, but
I felt that too many songs each night were just not great perfomances.
I'm sure I may have tour fatigue, and if I'd only seen Monday night I
would have only had to endure Honest with me once. But I have such high
expectations of Bob that I can't help wishing he'd pull out Romance in
durango, Black diamond bay, Jokerman, Dear landlord, Outlaw blues, Went to
see the gypsy, Black crow blues etc etc, all of which could be amazing. I
know he's still got it, because what I considered to be the highlights
were fantastic, really powerful singing and lovely arrangements, but he
was struggling at other times to find a voice to fit the song he was
singing, something that didn't really happen at all at Hammersmith 03.
The band are fine - could be better, could be a lot worse. I don't think
George is the most subtle drummer Bob's played with, and I kind of miss
Larry Campbell. But on the songs that really hit home I thought they
worked well backing up Bob, whose vocal was nice and upfront.
So although I had a great time, met some nice people (and a few pretty
unpleasant ones who seem to think they're names are inscribed on the bar
facing Bob's mike, even though Bob is apparently sick of the sight of
them), and saw some truly great performances, I'm hoping that Bob might
have a rest now, get stuck in to some writing and recording, and maybe
make the next tour really special (oh, and consider signing my book next
time, too - joke). Thanks Bob.
Review by Robert Wilkinson
STARRY-EYED AND LAUGHING
Let's just ignore the bantering inaccurate garbage about the current Dylan
spoken by Andy Kershaw and Mark Ellen on R4's Today Programme this week.
The Brixton residency has been an absolute triumph - and tonight's concert
a raging climax. Every member of the audience that I could see left with a
dazed smile on their face. Tickets very scarce among the touts - they were
buying not selling - but we were lucky enough to get the price down to
just double face value at 7.20 pm (I know... should have bought them
months ago!) But in the end this was a bargain for what was a sensational
The new line-up is scorching. The young Donnie Herron on pedal steel and
banjo and God-knows-what-else quite remarkable. Recile on drums so much
better than at Shepherd's Bush two years ago - he and Garnier the
rock-solid backbone of the band. And Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman -
improving and learning every gig. I have no doubt this could end up being
one of the most impressive bands Bob's ever toured.
After Chronicles and No Direction Home Bob's obviously put in a big effort
to fulfil the high expectations aroused - and to secure his place in
history by going out with a bang not a whimper - not a "worn out star"
like Sinatra and countless others past their sell-by date. And to my mind
he's succeeded beyond all our hopes and wildest dreams. Kershaw and Ellen
talk about his voice being "shot" - well, in that case, it's always been
so. Bob's always been a "voice", not a conventional "singer". And that
"voice" is just different now, not better or worse - you can't judge it by
the traditional standards. Bobcats will know what I mean... He moves
mercurially sideways, not up or down. Yes, I know there have been many
many live performances over the past decades when he's been indifferent,
strung-out and hung-up. But this week he's shown how sharply he's been
focused, how conscious he's been to enunciate those unparalleled, still
Stood this time towards the back, near the mixing desk - the sound much
better there than at the front - though I was annoyed by people constantly
elbowing by and the constant excited chatter. Never mind - even the
expected linchpin songs like Summer Days, LARS and Watchtower had an
urgency of interpretation as the Brixton sound system was that good. So
many peak moments - Sugar Baby was a revelation, and JLAW an emotional
singalong - who would have thought it? Keep on rockin', Bob. Don't think
Masters of War and John Brown are Bush's favourite bedtime listening
Review by Catherine De Smet
Four times seeing Bob from the balcony in Brixton Academy was ok. After
standing for years in Bobshows, time has come I need a seat which is
definitely a different experience and not the kind I like most of course.
But in this charming venue the balcony seems closer to the stage as ever.
Bob gave the songs in a magical, strong performance and the band played
alltime into Bob and supported his voice harmonious. His voice again, gave
me a thrill. Yes, still recovering from Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and
Brixton 2003 but going to Bob I take the advice of an old Bobcat, just
forget and open your heart and just listen to the man. He has something to
to tell you...that can support you a lifetime long. As I do not count the
songs or analyse them, this confuses me, I can only say what I felt is a
big thankful to Bob. He got warm response from the grateful audience, saw
faces glowing, filled with the energy Bob gaves them tonight. The fifth
night I wanted to be closer and succeeded to be in front of the very left
side of stage. I heard stories about doors opened to let Bob see other
faces in front of stage ? So, felt quite comfortable with my place cause
wouldn't have seen mine before Ha ! ha ! This last show was powerful and
more Bobs personal songs. Every Grain Of Sand turned on a light inside and
Sugar Baby got me almost into tears, such a long time ago I saw him
perform this one, and before we got again a touching pure Just Like A
Woman and one of my favorites Positively 4th Street ! The night was so
wonderful and as my friends we got home proud to have been there, again
sharing most beautiful memories for ever.Thanks Bob ! Thanks also to Mr
Jinx for his review that enjoyed most of all.
Catherine De Smet
Review by James Scott
Each new Dylan concert has its own enchantment.To see Dylan on Thursday
and to think back to the terrible destruction he had wraught on his
oice in London one February at the time of the First (sic!) Gulf War
was to realise that hope only springs eternal because sometimes it is
brought to fruition, as “today” in the strength of his voice. It was
quite inconceivable all those years ago that he would be able to
perform in public still less perform so well on the stage in late 2005
as he did “tonight”.
As well as a slightly less rigid seperation of Dylan from the band,
compared to his last visit, one other major innovation was that somebody
had thought to plug in the electric keyboard that Dylan was perched in
front of. So the ghost electricity did have a significant effect on the
performance; and a wonderful performance it was.
The Scorcese film made me see “Maggie’s Farm in a new light and both the
performance of the band and Dylan’s singing were spot on as a splendid
start. Perhaps the next 2 songs, Tonight I’ll be staying here with you
and I’ll be your baby tonight were the early highlights of a wonderful
show. All of Dylan’s complex toying with his audience was on display in
trumps in these 2 songs and the fact that they are not generally seen as
serious or significant pieces in themselves only serves to highlight, to
me at least, his artistry and his capacity to convey his message with
grace, with passion and with sublety.
As I am writing this review a few days later, I have already forgotten
whether it was on the 2nd or the 3rd song that he took centre stage all
too briefly to play harmonica; an acknowledgement of his audience and of
his own role in performing to us which augured well for the rest of the
show.(Although this lapse in detail must mean I would not be fit to
write a review for the published press many of the inaccurate reviews of
Dylan shows I have read over the years do obviously call into question
the role of these press writers. I still bridle at the review in the
London Sunday Observer of his concert in Bournemouth on Thursday October
1st 1997 when the writer couldn’t even get the weather outside the
concert hall right. Shades of Bobby Kennedy’s funeral report in the same
The other outstanding performances for me were Positively 4th street,
Just like a woman, H61, Summer days, LARS and All along the watchtower.
Perhaps the 2 weakest performances were High water and Sugar baby. I
don’t know if there is any significance in the fact these both come from
the latest album,.. though surely it can’t be long now before the next
When I reviewed his final(?) concert in Shepherds Bush(?),on this
web-site, for his last visit to London I went against the trend and
failed to agree that his performance was as good as many others who had
written in earlier than me had claimed. I also didn’t think much of the
venue then. Now I feel vindicated in my judgement, for I feel that this
performance was in fact up to the standard which was claimed for that
previous one and although I haven’t yet read other reviews here of this
Thursday's concert, I can't imagine anything but estatic ones.
Comments by Gerry Mooney
I was still recovering from last nights show when I got to
Brixton for the final London show. The set-list tonight was
quite different and it didnt work so well for me. My brother,
however, thought the band were tighter tonight so it must be
in the ear of the beholder. Its Alright Ma, Down along the Cove and
another super High Water were the big ones for me tonight. It was a tight
show but I think I was spoiled by last nights performance. Two left in
Dublin I'll report back on those on Monday
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