What follows below is a review of the Dylan Concert at Athletic Park (open air) in Wellington New Zealand 05 February, 1986. I sent it through to Bill Parr, and he agreed that it would be a good idea to post it for the benefit of those interested.
The review is pretty scathing. I was there at the concert, and it actually isn't far wrong. The concert was pretty poor. However, Cohen, a NZ rock journalist, seems to be one of those who quickly became disillusioned with Bob, and I think he has written him off. One of the fickle ones, I guess, though I remember going through quite a negative period after this concert also. The April 92 Auckland concert certainly renewed my enthusiasm.
American pop star and erstwhile evangelical Bob Dylan manifested himself in the flesh last night for a poorly attended Athletic Park concert. Accompanying him were compatriots Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The 15,000 strong crowd not only testified to an abysmally promoted event; evidenced also was the breadth of Dylan's fan appeal. Teeny-boppers and breakdancers shuffled uneasily alongside public servants and church youth groups.
But that was nothing compared to the sheer incompatibility of Dylan and his backing band. The Heartbreakers were obviously out of sorts with Dylan's material and for the most part they floundered around like a B-grade pub group. During In the Garden, they played the entire song in a different key from Dylan's nasal whine.
When he could be understood - the man at the helm seemed to be trotting out Bob Dylan's 33 Solid Gold Hits.
Kicking off with a tedious version of Like a Rolling Stone, he quickly settled in to a tepid patter of songs from the Empire Burlesque album. Then cam Blowing in the Wind, Ballad of a Thin Man, and the inevitable Masters of War. Most of these selections sounded hollow. Dylan and the band completely bypassed material from such beloved albums as Blood on the Tracks and John Wesley Harding.
Surprises of the evening were an unusual amount of gospel material and a delightful new song, Across the Borderline.
Dylan looked somewhat out of kilter. He didn't even bother with his celebrated harp-solos, and looked grimmer as the evening wore on and off. Perhaps he was embarrassed about what he was doing to the fans. Perhaps he was cursing the sound guy for not allowing his four funky female backups to be heard above the din.
During Masters of War he sang: "Let Me ask you one question, Is your money that good? Will it buy you forgiveness, Do you hope that it could?"
The attendees at Athletic Park could easily have turned the question round on the living legend. But last night's concert had already proved an answer: Dylan has become too much of nothing.