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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 10:58 GMT 

Joined: Wed September 5th, 2012, 23:03 GMT
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27th of November 2013: Bob Dylan, Royal Albert Hall:
"The very last thing that I'd want to do /Is to say I've been hittin ' some hard travelin ' too"


Robert Allen Zimmermann is a human melting pot that fell in the kettle of blues when he was a little boy. He is described as a sponge and a thief , as a plagiarist and a charlatan , but he is first and foremost a melting pot of a blues man, and then in the broadest sense of the word. In age he passed most of his role models and great inspirations, be it a Woody Guthrie, who died fiftyfive years old, a Hank Williams, who died before he was thirty, an Elvis who was just forty-two, one Muddy Waters, who made it to seventy, or Blind Willie McTell who reached sixtione. In the flickering and imaginary cinematic backdrop we can see during a Dylan concert, they’re all passing by in black & white, while they’re nodding to Bob while passing, as he onstage, directly or indirectly , passionate embraces the tradition he so hungrily drank, like ice cold milk from large glasses , as he in his formative years, in his bedroom in Hibbing, were searching through the frequencies on his radio and in his soul, after who could solve his thirst. So great was the thirst and passion that he created his own persona, with a past as an orphan, a traveling and gypsylike wanderer, both musically and geographically, as he began the difficult task of conquering the part of the world he would like to conquer. He made Bob Dylan and realized his dreams, relentlessly , with the tradition that has settled layered in him, as the graining in an old oak tree he used to climb. "The three of life is growing , where the spirit never dies." In the liner notes to the beautiful " World Gone Wrong ", one of the albums in which he takes an open and purifying bath in the tradition, he develops a scathing critique of civilization par exellence, while he invites us into his own special concept of time : "Learning to go forward by turning back the clock , stopping the mind from thinking in hours , firing a few random shots at the face of time. " Now he does it every night on stage, and tonight he will do it again, at the Royal Albert Hall, a momentous symbol of time that has passed, and of his great success. He is still living the boyhood dream, every time he steps out of the darkness and into the spotlight. And an army of musical heroes and inspirations passes on the great canvas he buckles up - the spirit of Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Rodgers , of Charley Patton , Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly , Howling Wolf, Woody Guthrie, Elmore James , Skip James , Son House, John Jacob Niles, John Lee Hooker, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell and many more - a long slow train is coming around the bend, and Bob himself is the proud singing brakeman. He embodies the tradition, while he renews it and make it relevant to modern times, or as he puts it, for "the new dark ages ".

Dylan arrives on the stage in seemingly new clothes for the tour this evening - a long, black coat and a little sparkling light blue shirt, a scarf around the neck again, blue pants with embroidery. Tendon Boot is the old favourites, they must almost be moving if they remain in the closet alone, I would think. The audience at the Royal Albert Hall gives him the same warm reception as yesterday, and Dylan responds with another solid show. Nevertheless, the energy level is somewhat lower today. Yesterday it seemed like a redemptive reunion between the artist and the beautiful venue, much dammed voltage was creatively injected into an unforgettable concert, but tonight things is normalized somewhat, but both Bob and the band develops a great show towards the break, with "Love Sick " as the strong pinnacle that makes one wish that the break should not last too long.

I am located in one of the "boxes" or lodges in the evening, it's like a small room with seating for eight people, and this is the of those who are closest to the stage, almost perpendicular at the piano on the right. It offers breathtaking views of both Bob and band, and although he sometimes gets standing with his back to my side, it's fascinating to follow the highly dedicated and dancing pianist Bob from this vantage point. The problem is that the sound from where I sit has very little in common with the great sound from last night - now it is both echoing and rumbling, partly because of the location, probably in part also because of the "box" design. The big difference in sound performance makes it difficult to compare the concerts altogether.

The show follows the same narrative as yesterday, but today Dylan's voice need a few more songs to warm up. In the second set, however, everything fell into place, and from "Simple Twist of Fate" to the end, it’s still a brilliant concert, large parts of the audience becomes enthralled in the same places as yesterday, not least when he sings "Forgetful heart"and "Long And Wasted Years". The concert does not end with "Roll On , John" but with " Blowing In The Wind " today, starting with a long and winding intense harmonica solo, then he sings the three verses before he smoothly pirouettes and turns on his heel at the piano and hurries out to microphone to land the song and concert with a great closing harmonica solo. The audience responds with a standing ovation and bravos, but Dylan is soon gone like the dew by the sun. Enthusiastic fans from twenty to seventy stands by the tour bus , hoping to catch a glimpse of him, while I leave for the rock’n roll hotel, The Gore, nearby.

Then it’s just one more show before Christmas break. Theres’s a lot of discussing going on, whether this could be the last time we see him, if he will stop touring, and the arguments goes with strong conviction both ways. For yours truly, it seems unlikely that Dylan will stop before he knows he is physically unable, but when that is, it is impossible to know for others than himself. It still feels as if he is preparing for it to happen, including this tour, which undoubtedly would have been a worthy ending. Then I think it probably would be tempting for him to take this same concept to the States in springtime, and there we go again. Well, he who lives, will see.

Despite the rare large consensus among critics that this tour keeps very high quality, like in today's issue of The Independent that calls it a "Stunning return to form", I listen to people, leaving the hall, discussing whether Dylan can sing or not, whether it was possible to understand the words or know what song it was. The way it has been since the early days in Greenwich Village. Something never change. He is not for everyone, and he never was. That was not the purpose .

Johnny Borgan


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 11:00 GMT 
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Some thoughts on last night's show.

Firstly, I was so high up in the circle I was practically on the roof so the dimmed lighting throughout the show meant I could only guess Dylan and the band were down there somewhere. I'm sure Dylan has his reasons for creating a sodium-lit dead-of-night ambience for the show but I think the theatrical effect is somewhat defeated if some members of the audience can't actually see him.
Thankfully, my fears that the sound would be poor were allayed, so I could at least hear the show. And it is a terrific show. No song overstays its welcome, and each song creates its own unique atmosphere while also contributing to a larger sense of thematic unity. Through the murky light, I had the feeling of some of the songs being a musical and visual tableau: the repeated music figure during Long and Wasted Years emphasised this sense of motionlessness.

This is a well-rehearsed, theatrical show and the discipline of performing it night after night has done wonders in terms of consistency of quality. If anything, I thought the show is now a tiny bit too slick at times, but that nit-picking is probably caused by my having heard the show several times already via the bootlegs. (I never thought I'd be complaining that a Dylan show is too slick!)
As I said, the show is more of a theatrical experience than a rock concert and this means that some of Dylan's weaknesses are now transformed into strengths. His voice is now employed in a similar manner to Lee Marvin's in Paint Your Wagon: far too masculine, world-weary, lived-in, knowing and whisky-soaked to be bothered with such niceties as tunes or the like. The sparse arrangements mean that Dylan can turn the loss of his voice into an advantage, and such is the success of this that it’s hard to imagine these songs ‘sung’ in any other way. Obviously, ditching huge amounts of his back catalogue assists here in that there are no other incarnations of many of these songs to compare the current versions to.

Another thing to note about this show was the extraordinary contribution Dylan’s harmonica makes. It is as piercingly high in the mix as on the John Wesley Harding album and its coruscating precision seemed to pierce through the twilight gloom of the stage and fill every corner of the Albert Hall. His harp playing at this show brought to mind the acoustic set in ’66, and compares favourably to it. With his cracked-actor vocals and minimalist piano playing, I think it is with his harmonica that Dylan finds his fullest musical expression. While his voice can no longer manage it, his harp truly sings and the only way I can describe it is to say it is astonishingly beautiful.

I don't think there is weak spot in this show (except perhaps Blowin' In The Wind, which seems tacked on to the show and is the only arrangement where Dylan tries to hit notes that are beyond him and the result is something of a throaty squeak), and I can't remember saying that about a Dylan show for many, many years. This is a show that can be listened to in full, as opposed to the usual cherry picking of highlights, and the sequencing of the songs strikes me as being one of the triumphs here. The rhythmic ebb and flow is perfectly judged, and even the string of low tempo material at the end of the second set now strikes me as an audacious piece of theatricality. Scarlet Town and Soon After Midnight in particular cast a spell, the effect being that I was transported into an otherworldly dream sequence (Series of Dreams?), which makes me think that augmenting that sense of an imaginary world may be the purpose of the dim lighting.

It may appear to be a strange contradiction, but now he has lost his voice, - which was, lest we forget, one of the supreme voices of the last fifty years - Dylan has now emerged as an 'artist' as discernably as he has ever been throughout his career. He's made a few comebacks, but this is the biggest and best of them all.

Can Bob Dylan still sing? No. Is this the best Bob Dylan show I have ever seen? Yes. Go figure.


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 12:19 GMT 

Joined: Fri July 18th, 2008, 16:22 GMT
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I was t there on Tuesday so can't compare but from a vantage point in the Arena, row 9, last night's sound was exquisite. Excellent gig all round I felt. Roll on this evening...


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 13:00 GMT 
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LukeTheDrifter wrote:
I listen to people, leaving the hall, discussing whether Dylan can sing or not, whether it was possible to understand the words or know what song it was. The way it has been since the early days in Greenwich Village. Something never change.

Classic.


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 13:35 GMT 
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Bravo!!


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 14:21 GMT 
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Really great review!
I agree that it doesn't feel like an ending but a new beginning (again) for this great artist.


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 17:38 GMT 
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I enjoyed reading the review, but I think he can still sing. Obviously it isn't like it used to be, but some recent recordings show that if he sticks to his softer voice, he can still sing.


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PostPosted: Thu November 28th, 2013, 18:56 GMT 
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Uplifting. Thank you!


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