Bob Dylan and the Real Thing

I thought it would be like the last time, about one year ago.

Yes, I have seen him twice! The concert was in Vienna’s Stadthalle (one of about 70 concerts between February and September). The location was not a good choice – huge hall (up to 16.000 persons), acoustics in need of improvement, not even a large-format screen for those at the cheaper seats – and above all, chairs!

Who needs chairs when watching a rock legend??? Lots of young and enthusiastically applauding young people around, by the way.

So, during the first half everybody was sitting and listening in a very civilized way, but somewhere around Highway 61 you could observe a constant flow of people towards the stage, approaching the heart and centre of the evening, dancing, rocking, moving and finally almost storming the area around the stage.

That’s when the evening started to change from a first-rate rock-evening to a vibrating event, to the real thing!

Remarkable in the first half "Cat’s In The Well", the starter, "The Levee’s Gonna Break", "Workingman’s Blues" – but the absolute top was Masters of War! It’s just not possible to produce a more aggressive, desperate, powerful version than this one! Never was there a better match between music and lyrics!

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.

the complete text

In the beginning I thought Dylan’s voice was more raspy than ever, but as the evening progressed it became softer and smoother, like warming up.

The band (Tony Garnier, George Recile, Stu Kimball, Denny Freeman, Donnie Herron) is superb. I like these elements of violin, banjo, mandolin usually contributed by Donny Herron. It’s incredible how and how easily the band can deal with those constantly changing adaptations and arrangements BD seems to want from them. Everything's so youthful, dynamic, very much at the pulse of time. And each evening is different, as the various setlists show (there are even setlist-analyses!) and every song is unique.

"Modern Times”, his wonderful album, though absolutely excellent, comes over sterile once you’ve heard the real thing.

My personal faves: Beyond the Horizon, Nettie Moore, Ain’t Talkin’.

In the end, everybody thought, the encore would never come. More than five minutes of whistling, stomping, clapping – and then: Thunder On The Mountain. Just one. Just this one.

And the big man himself? Relaxed, almost cheerful. At the end he said (so I’ve heard, couldn’t hear it myself so far away from the stage): “Thank you friends” which, compared to other concerts, sounds like a very long speech.

Here’s a recent interview: “Bob Dylan says Barack Obama is 'changin' America” from 5 June,2008.


Lydia said...

Francessa! for a "non-native speaker of English" you write the quintessential concert reviews (2007 review also), worthy of publication in The Rolling Stone mag. Absolutely top-notch description of it all that helped me experience the evening. Now I know I must see him in concert if/when he's back in my area - and I need to get the new DVD.
I enjoyed all the links. I went "awww" at the setlist for the Vienna concert, as he did "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" - one of my faves of his.

I enjoyed the video clip of his paintings and the guide's analyses (the setlinks analyses link was great too). I wasn't aware of BD's art, shame on me. The guide said that this is the reason he shows his art and tours all the time, he wants his work out there, he wants to share with new audiences. What a guy. And to think that he spent boyhood days in Cloquet, Minnesota, just a few miles from my brother's home in Duluth. You cannot imagine the god-status he has in those parts around Lake Superior!

francessa said...

Ah, Lydia, you're so flattering which is very nice ;-)! And your brother's from Duluth! Sure he knows someone who knows someone who knows someone ..

The "Drawn Blank Series" which is now in London, in the Halcyon Art Gallery, was in Germany, but it was a little off my usual travel route.

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