page by Bill Pagel
Review by Maris Sayner
Well, it was my fourth time around in Adelaide last night, and what a privilege
it was to be in the audience to enjoy Bob Dylan and his wonderful band.
It had been a warm day in Adelaide and the crowd seemed to arrive in leisurely
fashion to see two fantastic support acts. The Waifs - a five piece outfit from
Western Australia were a pleasant surprise. Two strong female singers, one of
them an incredible harp player - a great lead acoustic guitarist. Some wonderful
songs, too - 'bout being 'still in London' and missing home, crazy trains going
down crazy tracks, & their own roots as an up and coming Australian band. It all
began to border on hard edged rockabilly for me, and set the audience up for a
Ani DiFranco - well this girl is something. A slight figure in her size, she
almost seemed dwarfed by many of the selection of guitars that she played for
her 7-8 song set. What a wonderful voice - funky, whispering, a little bit salsa
in some parts. Started off one of her songs magnificently with a sequence of
rolling prose, before launching into some of the most precise yet spontaneous
acoustic playing that I had heard in years. The crowd were very warm in their
reception, with DiFranco prefacing one of her songs by saying that she often
became "apologetic when singing this song - it's long - I know you're here so
see Bob". No apology was required. Tales and reflections of "multinationals
monopolising the oxygen" and "strip poker games at the arctic circle" flowed in
ironic and beautiful fashion. I was very grateful for her performance, and her
humility in thanking the crowd for "listening to me".
Dylan arrived on stage to wild fanfare at just after 9.15pm local time. The
cascading opening theme was there in all its splendor. The extended introduction
was widely applauded in my section of the crowd - particularly the point of Dylan
"disappearing into a haze of substance abuse". The band seemed to me to have a
striking visual presence on stage. Dylan in black with red strips. Garnier,
Campbell and Burnette dressed to the cup in fine suits. The beginning of "Tweedle
Dee & Tweedle Dum" was unmistakable & had the crowd energised right from the
beginning. Dylan on piano, stretching out the ending words of each verse. It
seemed that security were quite happy with a reasonable throng of people at the
rail right from the word go, and I think Dylan responded to this.
"Ill Be Your Baby Tonight" was perhaps in the three best performed songs of the
evening. Dylan nailed the vocal of the entire song, and played an incredible harp
solo over some fine guitar work. It was great to see Dylan pick up the harp so
early in the set (quietly sliding away from behind his piano, he crept behind a
speaker before returning with slow poise - no rush, total premeditation about
where he was going to begin. I sit here this morning writing this with a renewed
love of this song.
"Highway 61 Revisited" kicked off as it had done on previous tours, and showed the
incredible workman-ship of this band. Burnette played some incredible riffs
throughout this song, and really gave it a texture of "edge" that was almost a
throwback to raw fifties rock. Burnette himself is an interesting looking
character. A bit of a modern day "Big Bopper" - red telecaster, low positioning
(right along side Larry Campbell at one stage which was great to see - a few smiles).
I found myself fixated on him for the entirety of this one. He looked very proud to
be where he was standing.
"I'll Remember You" has come to mean a lot to me as a song in the last year or so
(for more than a number of reasons) and was delivered with wonderful touch. The song
seems to epitomise Dylan's capacity to use simple language, but be so utterly
compelling at the same time. The keyboard playing was slow & quietly meditative, the
band accompaniment sonically restrained in a deliberate sense. Campbell "ached"
along with Dylan on this song with slide guitar playing that left me with my head in
"Things Have Changed" seemed a bit of an 'unknown' song to a few people around me.
Folk began turning to their closest proximate, with the "this is new" look. It was
an interesting version. Dylan sang one of the verses in a high, almost monotone
pitch, while he worked away on the keys. It was probably the first song of the
night where I really took notice of Dylan on the piano. It was a mix of bolt
upright, sudden hunching, swaying back, and even at one point, leaning right over
the instrument to a point where he must have been looking at the stage floor right
underneath him. A solid performance. For me, the beginning of "Cold Irons Bound"
was as unmistakable as the beginning of the concert opener. A swirling convolution
of guitar sound (including Dylan himself) wildly building to a crescendo, before it
cleared like the morning fog with the wonderful clatter of Recelli on drums. The
song had a devastating effect with it's sheer volume. The guitar work between verses
seemed almost cataclysmic - nasty!! As the song wrapped up Dylan moved from his
position on the stage, right along side Burnette, nodding in a way that seemed
appreciative. Dylan seemed to be almost "coaching" Burnette on how the song was
going to be wrapped up, and gave him further affirmation when it came to an
explosive conclusion. Utter rock. 7.5 on the Richter scale.
The beginning acoustic number was a great surprise. "Girl Of The North Country" is
surely a favourite of most, and was delivered with great tenderness. Dylan has a
wonderful way of enunciating the word 'long'which seems apparent on a lot of
versions of this song - hollow in a good way, yet echoey. It was a wonderful
journey with a gorgeous "wooden" sounding solo by Larry Campbell on acoustic guitar.
"Masters Of War" began with Burnette towling his face down & having a drink, while
Campbell and Dylan moved off on acoustic guitars. The performance was solid and
gritty. "Mama, You Been On My Mind" was another surprise of the night. Though it's
been played numerous times in the last few years, it seemed to have a wonderfully
refreshing sense to it, and in the vein of "I Remember You" & "Girl Of The North
Country" showed Dylan as compelling in the art of nostalgia and open hearted
"It's Alright, Ma" was without a doubt, one of the highlights of the show. The slow
progression of the music, and Dylan's precise treatment of the vocals made this
song a pivotal point of the set. Dylan himself jumped in early on one of the verses
toward the end of the song (when the band was still working through chord
progressions) but quickly withdrew and let the slow waltz continue. An acoustic
"Lay, Lady, Lay" was most note worthy for the delicate slide of Campbell.
The three following Love & Theft songs ("Honest With Me, Bye And Bye, and Summer
Days") were a nice progression. The powerful energy of "Honest With Me" giving way
to the pleasant hum of "Bye & Bye" was a great contrast. Burnette played some great
guitar on "Honest With Me" and followed this up with classic playing on "Summer
Days". Dylan himself began the song on piano before moving to guitar. He began
soloing on guitar with his back to the audience, in close proximity to Burnette,
but then stopped abruptly in mid stream, quickly flashing his body around in the
direction of Recelli on drums. Recelli had the good sense to keep his head down at
this point. I might be mistaken, but I think it was during the long soloing on
"Summer Days" that a rather brave person, right on the railing, took a camera shot
of Dylan. The person could have only been 3-4 metres away as Dylan was suddenly
illuminated by the flash. I was a little too far away to be able to interpret "the
look" exactly, but rest assured, there was a look. The encores proceeded after a
break of 3 to four minutes with Burnette and Campbell backing Dylan on "Forever
Young" - a nice version, warmly received by the crowd. "All Along The Watchtower"
rounded out the set and didn't disappoint.
All in all, a fantastic night of entertainment in front of an audience of about
3000, give or take. Dylan was an inspiration for me last night, and had no
difficulty demonstrating to the appreciative audience why he is so universally
regarded, admired and loved for his artistic achievements, and his charismatic
nature. It was a pleasure to see him the fourth time around. Also a pleasure to
hear the sounds of George Harrison singing "Pisces Fish" (from his latest album,
Brainwashed) as leaving music.
page by Bill Pagel
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