After “Things Have Changed”, things changed – Bob Dylan started waltzing with a beautiful “To Ramona”, including his all-time credo: “Everything passes, everything changes, just do what you think you should do.” The story of his life.
The show was as great as the one from Saturday, no doubt about it. So was the sound. Bob had moved the baby grand piano a little further back on the stage, and turned it a little more towards the audience, a commanding take-no-prisoners position with his army of musicians behind him. He know yesterday´s show was top notch, and he wants this to be even better.
We got another change of songs this evening, one from the new album, “Triplicate”, the very beautiful “I Could Have Told You”, and there is seventyfive buckets of tears in the way he intonates the words “And SOOOOON it’s over and done with”, like it was his own life he was singing about. He told us in the recent Bill Flanagan-interview that this is some of the most heartbreaking songs ever written, and this is proof.
“Pay In Blood” really rocks tonight, it´s the best Rolling Stones-song that Rolling Stones didn´t write. It would fit them like a glove.
“Early Roman Kings” – a highlight again, and we got an even greater version of “Desolation Row” tonight, the “super human crew”-verse are beautiful beyond words, and the piano is just great all through the song.
“Love Sick”, “This Old Black Magic”, “Long And Wasted Years”, “Autumn Leaves” – all in stunningly great versions. “Long And Wasted Years”, a song from “Tempest” (2012) has been written and rewritten several times – there is a list of over twenty variations in the lyrics, among them the seemingly heartfelt “Maybe today, if not today, maybe tomorrow/Maybe there’ll be a limit to all of my sorrow.” Let´s hope so, Bob.
“Ballad Of A Thin Man” reminds us once again that Bob Dylan still rocks, and as I said yesterday, there is something going on in this live set, it´s so powerful and intense. Something is happening, and Bob Dylan leaves London screaming for more. In a couple of weeks he´ll be back at Wembley Arena.
P.S.: This year it´s more than 55 years since Bob Dylan left USA for the first time and visited London, visiting folk clubs and participating in the musical “Madhouse on Castle Street”. The year was 1962, and the young folksinger provided among other songs, “Ballad of the Gliding Swan”. The next time he came to Britain he was the original folk hipster, already reaching for a new kind of poetry – the year was 1965, well documented in “Don´t Look Back”.
He didn´t look back, but still was back, dressed in black, in London in 1966, shocking the folk purists with his surrealistic poetry and hard rocking sound. The reception was of a kind that made him state that he wouldn´t come back. And he didn´t – not before 1969 and the Isle of Wight festival. Dressed in white and with beard this time, singing both folk, rock and country songs to a loving but confused audience. It would be nine years till he came back the next time, in 1978 he gave many shows in England, among others the famous concert at Blackbushe. Once more the critics was confused – a big band and back-up singers, and, worst of all, totally rearranged versions of the old songs. For others it was the fuel for renewed focus on Dylan – it was a great year for new exploration of his skills as a singer and performing artist – “Blowing in the wind” and “I want you” were never better, in my humble opinion. It was never about “Vegas”. Next time, in 1981, the show was infused with gospelsongs, even if he also played a rocking version of “Maggie´s Farm” to satisfied youngsters. In 1984 he came back featuring among others the british musicians Mick Taylor and Ian McLagan, rocking at Wembley. The next time was the Temples In Flames Tour 1987, backed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. In many ways the exact opposite of this years tour – in 1987 you never knew what would happen – not even Tom Petty knew that. An underrated tour because of its roughness, but it really was a very unique phase of Dylans touring. This was the last year before the so-called “Never Ending Tour” started in US, and it didn´t arrive in Britain before 1989. A small and stripped-down band, Dylan started from scratch, developing a new way of living and touring. In 1990 he was back, rocking the Hammersmith for several days, with G E Smith as his frontman and guitarist. The same happened with rough and unpolished shows in 1991 and 1993, now with J J Jackson. In 1995 he was back with a more focused show than previous years, even though Dylan himself played longer and longer guitar solos. In 1996 he was back and played in Hyde Park with Ron Wood. After getting sick and cancelling the summer tour in 1997, he returned in fall, just after His Holiness met the Pope in Bologna. In 1998 he returned with a string of beautiful shows in Britain. Even more so in 2000, among them the two fantastic shows in Portsmouth, here represented with the beautiful Visions of Johanna. In 2002 he came back mixing rock and bluegrass with Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton. In 2003 he growled through Jokerman at Shepherd´s Bush, and in 2004 he returned with keyboards as his main instrument, the same in 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 2010 he played the Hop Farm, and in 2011 he toured with Mark Knopfler, even duetting with him on Forever Young. In 2012 he stopped quickly for the Paddock Wood-festival, and then, in 2013, the “new” time began, with a more low-key set, Bob´s vocal more in front, and his beautiful return to Royal Albert Hall happened. In 2014 he was just stopping in Ireland with two great shows, but in 2015 he was back again in London and Royal Albert Hall with five fabulous shows in a row, this time introducing the songs from the Great American Songbook for the first time. In 2016 he didn´t tour Europe, but this year his back, and with his first time in London Palladium with three great shows. This makes a list of 29 years visiting Britain, 28 years with concerts in different styles and outfits, always trying to stay out of the joint. D.S.