Auckland, New Zealand

Spark Arena

August 26, 2018

[Raj Maharjan], [Nik Dirga], [Derek Jacombs], [Ezra], [Laurette Maillet]

Review by Raj Maharjan

I don't know what to make out of what I saw, heard to be precise, couple
of hours ago at Bob Dylan concert at Spark Arena.

Just music. There was nothing to see but only the music to listen.

Not an element of extravaganza of a show. The stage was bare minimum.
Basic instruments and gadgets, a few bulbs for lighting and curtain at the
backdrop. That's it. Never ever seen a stage so simple in any of the
international acts I've attended so far.

Without a word of hello to the audience, he went straight on to Things
Have Changed. Bob mostly sat at the piano. He played a set list more or
less unchanged from the recent European and Australian tour. Never said a
word or waved at the audience throughout the entire concert. When he was
done with the final piece, Ballad of Thin Man, gathered his band,
awkwardly bowed and left the stage. And it was over.

This was my first and most probably the last Dylan concert. All 20 numbers
he played sounded more or less similar. Typical Dylan melody and notes but
only minimal range. None of the songs resembled any way closer to the
recorded version. I wasn't expecting the 1966 Dylan and I had been
following reviews of the recent concerts. I guess nothing could have
prepared me for it. What I heard today was a shock. Total shock. One
without the dichotomy of good or bad. Or for that matter anything in

All there was for the two hours was music. Nothing else. And only Dylan
can deliver that at the age of 77. -----


Review by Nik Dirga

This was my fourth time seeing Dylan since 1990 and easily the best. Maybe
it was the great seats in the 10th row or the fact a big diverse crowd of
all ages turned out to nearly fill the stadium, but it felt more vital and
dynamic than the other shows I’ve seen. Dylan switching from guitar to
piano turns out to be a great boost for his songs - he seemed to be having
a blast on the keys and even smiled several times. I felt he was
definitely “trying” harder to enunciate and sell the lyrics a bit more
rather than zipping through. Highlights for me included a dazzling
“Desolation Row,” gorgeous slowed down “Don’t Think Twice” and a
stomping “Early Roman Kings.” I’m sure there were some naysayers
like always but the buzz and comments from others were by far the most
positive of any Dylan show I’ve seen. Maybe everyone appreciated him
more knowing this might just be his last trip to New Zealand!

Nik Dirga


Review by Derek Jacombs

OK. Some thoughts. For context, I am 57 and have seen Bob around 20 
times, from 1978 onwards.

Firstly, Spark Arena is still a crappy venue with lousy sound. It hasn't
improved since last time.

Dylan hit the stage exactly on time (8pm) after Stu played his acoustic
instrumental (It's "Nellie Was a Lady" from Steven Foster isn't it?).

"Things have Changed" was knackered by the sound quality (you could 
really only hear the piano and voice) but they sorted a lot of it before a
very good "It Ain't Me Babe", mid-tempo with a lot of minor chords,
nothing weird and well-controlled.

It became obvious immediately though that a really close seat might have
been a disadvantage (I was in row 11 - further than it sounds - on the
left). But when Bob's sitting at the piano, as he did for all the slower
or mid-tempo songs, we could only see his hat. Any closer and he would
have been completely invisible behind the piano. (BTW, band in red and
grey, Bob with a natty white jacket.)

"Highway 61" was fine but seemed a bit of a shadow of previous jam-outs.
It established a pattern for the night which was not-much-messing-around.
One brief solo and wrap it up pretty much straight after the last verse.

"Simple Twist of Fate" was lovely with at least two very mellow harp
breaks. I've lost track of the lyrics of this one. There may have been new
ones or perhaps just variations I haven't heard before.

I'd been wanting "Duquene Whistle" but we got "Summer Days", described as
"honky tonk" but I thought it was almost closer to a sort of cajun rave-up
with a solid sawing fiddle throughout and George giving it a bit of swing
against the straight-ahead rhythm. A song I had no desire to hear but the
band were stunning and made it. Good sing too from Bob.

Just generally, from then on, I kept noticing how impressive George is -
he seems to have plenty of freedom to play with the rhythms and made a lot
of things really exciting with little fills and surprising rolls.

"When I Paint My Masterpiece" was fantastic. Really slow, more fine 
harp, great singing, a pile of new lyrics. (Or just ones I don't know?
There was a line instead of the Coca-Cola one, something like "I feel like
my cup is running over". And the plane ride made him "ill" which he rhymed
with "hill"...)

"Honest with Me" was sharp and I like the current arrangement. Same as
last tour I believe as is "Tryin' To Get To Heaven" which, while fun to
hear in a different arrangement, I do believe Bob is buggering up totally.
He's changed my favourite chord, is going way too fast... I reckon it's a
bit awful...

Anyway, skipping ahead. Everything was well performed, good interaction in
the band, everyone glued on Bob. "Tangled" was the weird new version and
damn is it weird. The only part of the song unchanged chordally is the
first two lines which are now played as a sort of marching boogie. The
chorus resolve is to a minor chord on "Blue". It's very strange.

"Lovesick" was subtly different rhythmically and had a few new lines - it
was terrific! As was a slow "Don't Think Twice" with Tony bowing, taken
a-tempo until the instrumental after the third verse then finally picking
up a slow country rhythm for the last verse. Very different from the
European tour.

Encores were standard but "Serve Somebody" was presented as a rollicking
boogie, fast and swinging and with almost every lyric after the first
verse I could hear new. It was odd and unserious and didn't sound even
vaguely religious despite the title line. I enjoyed it immensely.

As I did the whole show though I could help but wonder at the amount of
pretty straight ahead blues 'n' boogie tunes. It seems a lot when you get:

Highway 61
Summer Days
Honest With Me
Early Roman Kings
Thunder on The Mountain
and now
Gotta Serve Somebody

But a minor quibble. Anyway, a great night that finished at exactly 
10pm, 120 minutes. Wish I was going to Christchurch.


Review by Ezra

Anticipation to see Bob tonight had begun at 5.30am when I got up. All day
I was thinking "will it be like last time? Will he sound good? Will he
play the songs well?"

As soon as he bounced on stage and started playing, all worries disappear
and my questions answered. I've seen Bob a number of times since 2003.
This, by far, was the best I've ever seen of him. His vocals so clear, his
piano playing so skilful. Standard set list for the current tour- except
playing an amazing version of Summer Days instead of Duquense Whistle.
Highlights though- Summer Days was incredible. The entire band were moving
along and Bob was smashing behind the keys. It was the most fun I've seen
them have as an entire band. Love sick- Bob centre stage and throwing his
mic stand around like a rag doll. He owned his stage tonight. Thunder on
the mountain- again, a very fun song. Band and Bob all smiling at each
other. Gotta Serve Somebody- this was a completely changed version even
from shows recent as 4 days ago. He has completely Changed the arrangement
again. When it started, I actually thought it was a different song. Blind
Willie McTell maybe. Then he started singing. Seriously incredible.

All said and done, I go outside at my hotel with my uncle, I have a
cigarette and spend the next 5 minutes talking to Charlie Sexton. Who was
amazing and open about working with Bob.

If you are considering seeing Bob, or if he's coming to a town near. I
urge you, get a ticket. You won't regret it. Even if you have less fond
memories of the last tours, this is a completely re worked show. This is
the show you want to see. This is Bob Dylan.

Don't you dare miss it!!



Review by Laurette Maillet

From Brisbane to Auckland.

I arrive in late morning at the airport in Brisbane on the 25 th of
August. At the checkin counter I am embarrassed not to be able to produce
the prove of my return ticket to Australia. The nice guy wants to make
sure I will not be staying forever in NZ (or in jail!). I finaly find my
confirmation  email among a bunch of others confirmations for my trip.
When I sigh a relief I spot on my left....Bobby's security guard. I turn
around and see the entire Band queuing to check in. I move to Tony and
Stu, just to thank them for the good performance of the last show. But
they look at me cooly, as if I'm out time and place! Of stage they might
be ordinary people. Or I don’t have the right look?? For I spot another
Fan in big conversation with Donnie! Oh well! I'm just a Bob Dylan Fan. A
freak! I will fly with the Band, plus the road manager and security guy.
Of course, they are business class. And no, Bob is not in that plane. He's
flying his private jet. Possibly with his assistant and body guard. I
reach my Couchsurfing host home to figure out he is turning a nice house
into a private youth hostel. He offers me dinner, wine. We all watch a
rugby match before going to bed.

25th of August.
I take a train to the harbor in early afternoon.  Also the area of the
venue: the Spark Arena. It's an agreeable quarter but nothing spectacular.
I prefer the Fisherman Wharf in Frisco, my favourite ever.

By 5pm I check around the venue. Of course no "beat the street" buses. As
they are all flying from city to city, they use vans to get to the show.

At 6.30pm they open the doors of the Arena.
I am now suspicious of security people so I stay away from the entrance
and find a spot on the street where folks are passing in mass. A nice man
asks what I'm looking for. "A ticket for the Bob Dylan show?" Then he
disappeared. Another man gives me a 5$ bill. And I think that could be
useful. Another man says "yes, I have an extra ticket. How much do you
want to pay?". I put out my 5$. He laughs and walks away. Buy now I am
used to that attitude. I block my hurt. 25 minutes later , the first nice
man runs to me and hands me a ticket and disappears again. Thanks Good
Samaritan. I am now in and decide to take my seat. I want no trouble with
security. I am all the way up, up facing Bob on the piano. 20 minutes
layer the nasty guy who didn't want my 5 bucks is taking his seat on my
left. Oh woah! So finaly I got his extra ticket and

8.	04 pm at my cell phone clock.
Stu takes his position.
Bob is in white.
By some trick of the stage disposition, the spot light behind Bob is
reflecting on the piano, reflecting in my eyes. I don’t see Bobby's face
at all. But I hear him clear and loud. The first few songs are alright.
After "simple twist of fate" Donnie seats at the steal guitar. It should
be "Duquesne whistle " but he suddenly he picks up his violin and that
will be "Summer days". Not as spectacular as in Brisbane. But nice for me.
No reaction from the crowd, even the first rows on the floor. Song after
song Bob is professional but he's lacking the electricity and the energy
from Brisbane. "Love sick" will be center stage to the immense plaeasure
of the audience. They finaly react, maybe not to the song but to the fact
that we finaly see Bob in full. "Desolation row" has a nice touch. And
"Don't think twice" is better posed, no voice effect. Just plainly
phrased. The hilights are ERK, LS. I start liking TUIB. Don't mind MYFML.
"Put your hand in my hand Don't have any fear I'll make you sure you won't
get wet" Or was that in TUIB??

The final bow is not synchronised,  Charlie is the rebel! 
That was a nice show. Professionnely done.
Lacking of power and with Bob sounding a bit tired.
The public as cold as possible.

I walk to the train station to realize I had just missed the last train to
Sunnyval, 40 minutes away by train so some 2 hours and a half walk! I
start panicking as my cell phone in NZ is not functioning. A Lady at the
train station directs me to a bus stop I have difficulty to find. The nice
Lady driver has no idea how I could reach Sunnyval. Another driver picks
up in the conversation. "Yes, I know where it is but my bus is not going
all the way there." Oh well! As close as possible then I'll walk?! That
wonderful man says he will take me all the way to my place. And he did. He
gave me a ride on the bus.

Thank you Good Samaritan.
Many thanks and blessings to the Auckland Metro bus drivers, particularly
Joe. Thank you Bobby to be with us and do the best you can possibly do. If
only fans could remember that Bob Dylan is an Artist, not just a Rock
star. Thanks the Band to be supportive. Good night Bobby. See you for the
final in Christchurch.


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