April 22, 2014
Review by Alex O' Connor
Bob Dylan at Zepp Osaka 22 April 2014
Bob was cooking on gas here tonight. Right from the first song, Things
Have Changed, he was rocking it. The closing line of every verse "Things
have changed" was greeted by a cheer from the front of the crowd and
Bob was clearly enjoying the feedback.
She Belongs to Me is one of my favourite Dylan songs of that era, so I
loved to hear the lines sung so long after they were written, but the
99% Japanese crowd didn't seem to get into that one so much.
Beyond Here Lies Nothing was the first with Bob on the piano which was
a full size grand. The piano seemed a little poorly mic'ed to me - and a
little over obvious in the mix - but I could be wrong. Bob was singing as
close as you're gonna get to him singing the album tune here - none of
the infamous "upsinging" - or at least too little of it to be negative about
What Good Am I was the first of the quieter songs and you have to say
that the arrangements that the band have put together on the quieter
numbers are really sweet. Bob was like a preacher here, asking his
congregation the question, "What Good Am I?"
Duquesne Whistle was upbeat and well received by the crowd. Waiting
For You is not so well known, but Bob seemed to enjoy it.
Pay In Blood was Bob the Sheriff or Bob the prosecution attorney. I don't
know who he's accusing but I know that I wouldn't want to be the
defense attorney on the other side of the courtroom with Bob this on fire.
At the end of the song he stood back from the mic with his arms by his
side like a gunslinger as if to say, "come on, I'm right here, you make the
first move," - it was hilarious.
Tangled Up In Blue was treated really softly, this again was a really great
arrangement, and Bob has changed so many of the lyrics, it was
interesting to hear all the changes.
Love Sick was also really well received by the crowd.
After the intermission High Water was nice and bluesy, and then Simple
wist of Fate had me in tears again. It's one of my favourite songs and'
again the arrangement was so good and Bob sang it so faithfully - truly
Early Roman Kings was rocking, and Forgetful Heart was another beautiful
arrangement - with Bob's mournful voice - spellbinding.
Scarlet Town was funny as right from the start the front of the crowd
made this "woo" chant after each line throughout the whole song. The
band seemed quite amused and bemused at the same time.
In the encore, All Along the Watchtower had Bob enjoying himself on the
piano. He'd found a riff and he was using it. This was fun too, they wound
the song way down to almost silence and then kicked it in again.
Blowing In the Wind got the first big reaction of the night from Bob's
fellow pensioners in the seats on the second floor. It was pretty faithful
All in all, it was a fantastic performance. One more night in Osaka, and then
Bob's off to Maui and Honolulu - hope he enjoys the warm breeze.
Thanks Bob. Cheers.
Alex O' Connor
Review by Paul Sommer
Dylan's shows are a lot about context and this present context is about as
interesting as it gets. While it is important to ponder over the set list
and performance, it is also important to remember that, in the live shows,
the songs have a setting.
The context, this time, is not the rock band out on a gig, or the
spectacle of a Rolling Thunder, or the heroic troubadour. It is the club
lounge of "jaded" professional musicians. Not that the music is jaded,
certainly not! But the attitude: seen it all, done it all, another gig,
'we'll do what we do and tomorrow do it all again'. (More so because
Osaka was the end of a hefty 17 shows over the three weeks of the Japan
tour). This mood seeps into everything, from the dim stage lighting to the
curtain call with nary a smile. It is picked up by the set: the drapes,
the massive movie-set lights dangling in formation, grand piano and center
mike. The audience, rather than standing up in this intimate venue of
2500, would have been more in sync sitting at tables in a smoky den of an
auditorium with waitresses serving drinks. These are the aesthetics of
another era. But when? This is not hip retro and it is not ironic Las
Vegas. It's undeniably now, but the traces are of different times and past
All this would be window dressing if it did not somehow shape the
experience of the music. It does. The set list makes sense: Things Have
Changed, Duquesne Whistle, Love Sick (especially); Long and Wasted Years,
And the 'jaded pros' that make up the band were so tight. Often I would
hear the start of a guitar break and look to Charlie only to find it was
Donnie on steel, or maybe not, maybe they were sharing. And Charlie both
matching Bob's piano and filigreeing: lovely understated phrases darting
in and around Bob's piano with its blues runs, vamping, improvising. These
were musicians with nothing to prove who knew their parts and intimately
understood everyone else on stage. They were not bouncing off each other;
they were thinking the same thoughts musically. Or they were thinking
Bob's thoughts musically. If these were the jaded pros, Bob was the
impresario as much as the soloist. Moving from piano to center stage and
back. In command. He is incidentally doing wonderful things with his
voice: the power of Love Sick and the reaching for and playing around with
ambitious notes. The nasal growl still there, thankfully, but as part of
the palette not the default.
Nowhere was the context/mood of jaded experience more evident than in the
old songs especially All Along the Watchtower. If ever there is an
opportunity to break ranks and soar musically (violin, guitar) it is this
song, but the impression, this time, was of loose improvisation, even
falling apart and re grouping, rather than a show of virtuosity. Or
rather, the virtuosity was in what we saw, not to be judged by what we
might have expected.
Another reviewer said that it would be easy for Bob to whip the crowd into
a frenzy with a night of the old songs. He went the other way: this is
where I am, this is how I am feeling, this is what I am thinking (when was
it ever different?).
Today, the morning after, it is the mood of sweet loss, of weathered
tragedy; of a history sweeping like incense into a time more adept at
forgetting history. There is comfort and acceptance and recognition. It's
in the songs, of course, but this night felt like theatre rather than
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