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Bob Dylan 2001.07.01 in Helsingborg

Subject: Helsinborg review
From: Edward Nash 
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2001 01:05:03 -0700

What a totally bloody weird night.  Having seen Bob in good
spirits on four out of four occasions, it seemed to me that that
mythical beast, the law of averages, would surely dictate that 
I was due something different.  Well, I definitely got that.

It was pretty obvious from the off that Bob was not in the same
fine spirits with which we had been blessed in Gothenburg.  This
suggested that tonight would be one of few if any surprises as
Dylan and the band went into autopilot mode, an idea which
seemed confirmed by the first three songs. Moreover, some real
problems with the sound were evident.  Bob's vocals were almost
inaudible at first.  This effected the audience, who reacted
very little to the opening lines of Tambourine Man or Tangled Up
In Blue, and this in turn made Bob seem even more as though he'd
rather have been somehwere else.

So, three songs, a querter of the main set, and it was not
looking promising. Then everthing went crazy.  Maggie's Farm
featured a very neat bit of rearrangement involving prominent
drums, which Tony and Charlie especially seemed to find
succesful, judging by their enthusiastic grinning and nodding at
Bob.  The vocals were a little higher by now, but still hard to
hear, but it didn't matter as the noise of the guitars grew and
grew.  We all know the words to this song.  They weren't
improtant this time round.

Now, Maggie's Farm isn't one of my favourites, and if the show
had at this point returned to the autopilot thing, I would have
been disappointed with it.  But it didn't, not at all.  I think
it was here that things took an extra twist when Larry refused
the acoustic guitar offered to him for Memphis Blues Again - a
quick shake of the head and he was at the pedal steel.  What
could they be plotting, I wondered?  Well, how about an awesome
rendition of I Threw It All Away, the vocals coming through
quite clear enough for it to be obvious that Bob was taking what
had appeared to be sheer boredom and making it into all kinds of
other emotions, much more interesting ones.  There was pain
here, there was anger, regret, lonliness. These are all in the
lyrics, but a good vocal performance and sympathetic backing is
needed to bring it out.  Here we got that.  As Matt pointed out
afterwards, it was all getting a bit Hard Rain-ish.

Larry stayed at the pedal steel for Sweet Marie, which was in
all honesty let down by the sound problems, which seemed once
again to have worsened.  I shall be interested to hear the views
of others further back in the audience - I wonder if it was
worse right up front, where we were. Hopefully on the tapes it
won't be too bad, but there was a definite problem.  I think it
was after this, during the changeover to acoustic instruments,
that murmurs about the problem started to be heared all around
in the crowd.  And then, as if by magic, the problem was solved
and we could enjoy the show, which continued to throw up a
certain amound of bizarreness and oddity.

My Back Pages was fine, if not wonderful.  The harp solo, on the
other hand, was truly gripping.  Then, following an average It's
Alright Ma, the opening lines of Don't Think Twice were somwhat
fluffed.  The first chorus ended "Don't think twice, it'll be
alright".  Not that noteworthy, perhaps, but comic nonetheless. 
But suddenly, more magic.  For the second half of this song, Bob
sang with great emotion, finding the lovely melody where he had
previously seemed unable to.  Finally, the harp was out again
for another perfect ending (including some interesting rhythmic
play between David Kemper and Bob, who at one point stamped out
a short rhythm on the floor which David and Bob's harp

Bob finally seemed to be with us, and with three songs left in
the main set it seemed like anything could happen.  I told Matt,
as they were changing back to electric instruments, that the
next song would be Dignity.  It was the one song that, at that
time and on that day I most wanted to hear.  Then they played
it.  But to my ears, this didn't sound like the paired-down,
reigned-in version of 2000, or indeed any version I'd heard. 
Bob's emotional roller-coaster of a night appeared to have got
round to the shouty, angry, generally-very-upset-with-the-world
frame of mind he has in the past displayed on songs like Idiot
Wind (the album versiong or one from '92).  There's a really
nice tune to the vocals in Dignity normally, but in Helsingborg
the other night it seemed to be all about guitars and anger.  It
was brilliant and powerful, and weird too.  And maybe I'm
overstating the difference to normal versions, but it sure
sounded different to me.

So, at the last minute, Bob really did seem to have shaken of
his boredom. But if he had, it didn't last long.  At the start
of Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat, he seemed reluctant to approach the
microphone (maybe because of the earlier sound problems) and the
band were forced to play a long introduction before he finally
stepped forward.  On Like A Rolling Stone, he took a wander to
the back of the stage (prompting chearing for a moment when we
thought maybe some harmonica was coming, daft as that sounds). 
But he just chattet with a roady while the band played on. 
Throughout the encores, Bob seemed like he couldn't wait to be
gone.  I thought he was about to yawn at one point.  His soloing
was uninterested and unconcerned, and he gave up on a lot of
efforts halfway through  a phrase.  There were, however, bonuses
to this, since Larry and Charlie were forced to take over. 
Larry played some fantastic steel on Watchtower and Charlie took
several solos.  You have to say, he's a bit more dynamic than
Bob when it comes to soloing.

All in all, though, this was a very hard show to fathom.  Quite
how Bob managed to lift himself out of his seemingly bored and
tired state (this was the 4th show in 4 nights in 3 countries,
after all) to some amazing emotional peaks and then sink back
down to total apathy I don't know.  But I am very glad that he
was giving the night's proceedings his full undevided attention
for that middle section, since it produced some spectacular
music. Moreover, I am very glad that even a pissed off Dylan
these days completes a full length, entertaining show.  It
doesn't seem like he would have made it through in '91.  I don't
know how the tapes of this show will sound, or how much of the
weirdness of the night they will capture, but I can't wait to
hear the show again.  There was some amazing stuff going on for
a while there.


Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2001 16:19:37 -0700 From: Tobias Levander To: Subject: [Fwd: Bob Dylan in Sweden 2001 (part two)] -------- Original Message -------- Subject: Bob Dylan in Sweden 2001 (part two) Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2001 01:37:51 -0700 From: Tobias Levander Newsgroups: This is my review of the Helsingborg concert. My Gothenburg review was posted earlier, and my Borgholm review should follow soon. Helsingborg July 1 Early in the afternoon of July, I arrived to Helsingborg with my friends Peter and Fredrik, who had attended the Gothenburg concert with me. We had spent the previous day relaxing in a small cabin outside Gothenburg, waiting for Sunday and the next Dylan concert on Swedish soil. Because of our limited funds, we could not attend the Roskilde concert. Our limited funds also forced us to try to find some place to set up a tent in Helsingborg. It turned out to be an easier task than we had imagined, as we were allowed to set up our tent on a meadow near the castle. Helsingborg is a small town in the south of Sweden, beautifully located by the sea. The venue was once again special, Sofiero castle garden just a mile or two outside central Helsingborg. The stage was placed right in front of the castle. We decided to spend the last hours before the concert on a lawn just outside the entrance, drinking a few beers while listening to the soundcheck. We watched some dark ominous clouds in the sky, hoping for the best. The soundcheck started with an instrumental version of Dignity, followed by Country Pie, Thin Man (twice), This Wheel's On Fire (with Larry and Charlie singing the choruses) and a version of Somebody Touched Me with Larry on lead vocals. Then a downpour started. We had to relocate to the car, and missed much of the rest of the (very lengthy) soundcheck. The downpour ended as abruptly as it started, and we could go back to the entrance, listening to the band playing an unidentified bluegrass song, with someone who sounded like Bob on lead vocals. It was probably Larry doing a Bob Dylan impersonation. The volume was now much lower than it had been during the first part of the soundcheck. Then, we heard something that sounded like an electric version of Hollis Brown. The soundcheck ended, and they started to let people in to the castle garden. Bob Dylan's concert in Helsingborg was his fourth concert in four days. Considering the fact that his concerts are often more than two hours long, that's a pretty grueling schedule for a man who just turned 60. We would soon find if this in any way would affect the quality of the performance. It was obvious from the start that this was a far more drunk and loud crowd than in Gothenburg. A few minutes after 8 o'clock, Bob and his band came onstage. Bob immediately adjusted the microphone so that he would have to bend down to sing into it. I was hoping for Somebody Touched Me as the opener. It was, after all, a Sunday and the band had been playing the song during the soundcheck. It was not to be. Instead, we got another Duncan & Brady. Unfortunately, Bob's vocals were very low in the mix on the first two songs, which, considering the extensive soundchecks, was quite surprising. After Duncan it was time for a version of Mr Tambourine Man, with some weird phrasing. Tangled Up In Blue was absent in Gothenburg, but here we got in #3 slot, and it was a nice high-energy version. It seems to have regained some power. A highlight, and that's a word I rarely use when talking about live performances of this song. It was obvious that Bob was a little tired, but he managed to bring at least some life into Maggie's Farm, a song that I often find dull. The new arrangement is superior to many of the previous NET incarnations of this song, but it's still not very good. Actually, I don't know if he's played a great version of this song live since the Rolling Thunder days. The unpolished version of I Threw It All Away that followed took most of us by surprise. This was, if I'm correctly informed, only the third performance of this song on the Never-Ending Tour. I had heard the band soundcheck it in Gothenburg, but I was still surprised. It was a nice, maybe slightly ragged, performance of one of my favorite Nashville Skyline tracks, with Larry on the pedal steel. Larry remained at the pedal steel for a fine Absolutely Sweet Marie with a strong country flavor. The second acoustic set started with Larry playing the familiar My Back Pages intro on his fiddle. Unfortunately, it was not a great version. Bob messed up the lyrics, singing the "romantic facts of musketeers" verse twice, but he played a really fine harp solo at the end. It's Alright Ma was not as good as in Gothenburg, and then we got a solid version of Don't Think Twice, where Bob experimented with his phrasing and once again he picked up the harp at the end. As Bob, Larry, Charlie and Tony were handed electric guitars by the ever-present and always hard-working "guitar man" I could hear the first bars of Dignity running through my head. I was quite surprised to hear the same bars from the speakers a few seconds later. It was a brutal version. Bob sang as if his life depended on it, mixing up the lyrics with great panache and throwing in new lyrics such as "so much in love, I'm at the edge of the lake". It was not perfect, but it was the highlight of the concert for me. The new arrangement of Cold Irons Bound (introduced about a year ago) is pretty startling if you haven't heard it before, but it's not a highlight if you have heard it several times already. Anyway, it was the first performance of a TOOM song in three concerts, and it was pretty good. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat wasn't exactly a surpring inclusion, and it sounded as it always does, but without the impromptu shouts we had heard in Gothenburg. The band introductions came near the end of the song, and it was once again the first words we heard Dylan say during the entire concert. The once so frequent "thanks e'rybody!" between songs are gone. Not that I mind.. Bob and his band made the formation, and then briefly disappeared from the stage. After a short while they returned, and they played a fairly solid Things Have Changed, as usual followed by a dull version of Like A Rolling Stone. Something interesting happened during that performance. Before the last verse, Bob seemed to walk towards the exit. He stopped, and just stood by the amplifiers for a while. The "guitar man" (does anyone know the name of that guy?) approached Bob to find out if something was wrong, but everything seemed to be OK. Bob then returned to the microphone and sang the last verse and finished the song. Two days later, in Borgholm, we would find out what Bob probably had been thinking about. If Dogs Run Free was If Dogs Run Free. A pleasant oddity. No more, no less. All Along The Watchtower was great. The same odd arrangement as in Gothenburg, with one major difference. Bob sang the first verse twice, finishing the song by stretching out the last words of the first verse for as long as he could. I love the new arrangement of I Shall Be Released, with the strong backing vocals. I first heard it in London last October, and as long as Bob isn't trying to sing the chorus in some peculiar timing, and thereby making it impossible for Larry and Charlie to follow him, it works just fine. A highlight. Highway 61 was Highway 61, no better or worse than other recent versions. Blowin' In The Wind was once again convincing. I wrote something about Charlie's guitar in my notes, but I can't interpret my hand writing, and I can't remember what I noticed about it. Then, after a brief formation, they left the stage. They all returned for another perfunctory Rainy Day Women. The concert was over. It was good, but something of a disappointment after the Gothenburg concert, despite the nice setlist. Bob often seemed to be very tired, but that also meant that he had to focus more on his vocals than on his guitar playing, which, at this point in time, is a good thing. Some particularly loud members of the audience made it hard for me to focus on the music. I can only hope that the tapers had better spots. Anyway, we went to a pub in central Helsingborg and met some very nice British fans, before walking back towards the castle to locate our tent. After a few hours sleep, it was time to once again hit the road. Next stop: Borgholm. To be continued..
2001: February - March - April - May - June - July -