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Bob Dylan 2001.07.12 in Liverpool

From: "Nick Jordan"
Subject: Liverpool Review
Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2001 13:49:03 +0100

The Circus Is In Town

The evening summer showers cleared on the drive over from
Manchester - heading for the Liverpool docks for a Dylan show
that would be my 5th time around - although my third show within
a year, after two nights in a row at Portsmouth last September.
Travelling with my partner and three friends - two of who had
not seen Dylan before. We played the Gaslight Tapes as a sort of
contextual primer for the show.

The venue loomed against the grey Mersey river: a cartoon
candy-coloured striped circus/bedouin tent. Showtime was 8pm, so
we filed into the venue with the mixed crowd of Bobcats. We had
good seats right down the front, but at the side of the stage,
on the first tiered bank - so we were looking directly across
the stage. Roadies tweaked the kit and the incense was lit and
the tent filled with the buzz of expectation. There was a
lengthy delay, allowing time to spot a few famous faces in the
crowd: writer Alan Bleasdale, local bad boy Derek Hatton, and
somewhere behind us, Elvis Costello, but I couldn't see him to
be sure. Then the classical music swelled, the lights dipped and
"Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan" ambled on stage through
the darkness, and we were strait up and running with:

Oh Babe, It Ain't No Lie

And a good version it was too. Loud and strong. Dylan, despite
looking a little frail and ragged as usual, struck an angled
pose and nailed the song. Crowd ecstatic. A few brief words with
the band. I was hoping for Song To Woody, as my friends are
Woody Guthrie fans. Larry switches to mandolin and we get:To

A good song for the number two slot. David Kemper played some
load drums which propelled the song along, and some nice
phrasing from Dylan suggested he was warming to the moment.
Reading the setlists of this tour I was hoping he would continue
to regularly break out the harp. However, I didn't expect it so
soon. Not least on To Ramona. So it was great to hear him blow a
hard 3 note repetitive riff towards the end of the song, which
he pushed and developed as only Bob can. Crowd go wild at this
and without much of a pause we're into:

Desolation Row

And this is where Dylan is finally, truly, In The Zone. The
singing was very very good. Perhaps not as great as the version
he did at Atlantic City last November (which I think is one of
Dylan's finest vocal performances of recent times), but
spectacular non-the-less. He really stretched out the phrasing
with his vocals and guitar, spinning the song into uncharted
grounds and mining the structure of the words for new meaning.
And that is what he does best - fragmenting and disentangling
the original context of these songs to build new ideas and
references. And, on a lighter note, it was apt to hear the lines
"the circus is in town" in this giant circus tent. Short break
to slip on the electric guitars and here's:

Maggie's Farm

Now I've heard a version from Ashville this year which has a
great winding guitar lick throughout from either Charlie or
Larry. Tonight though was most definitely Bob's night, and
neither Larry nor Charlie would get a look-in. This version was
yet another new arrangement for the song. It's a shuffling
country-boogie beat that has a new stop start feature, similar
to Wicked Messenger or Drifter's Escape, where all the band stop
playing except the drums. Dylan again cranks out the blues harp,
for an extensive solo with plenty of knee bends and pointing the
neck of his guitar at the crowd. Now it seems this is going to
be a special gig. Another quick consultation on stage. Larry
gets behind the steel guitar and I'm thinking "Where Teardrops
Fall" or "Shooting Star" please Bob, so I was a tiny bit
disappointed to hear the opening of:

Just Like A Woman

But it really developed into one of the best performances I've
heard. Dylan's guitar playing was really good throughout the
night, and he played some amazing sequences on this song. His
guitar was mixed with nice humming buzz to it, and he fired off
some blazing notes over the melody of the song. So I was really
glad he played it after all.

Song five this tour has been really unpredictable. No idea what
to expect. Blind Willie McTell perhaps? We get a good solid
version of:

This Wheel's On Fire

Good back-up vocals from Larry and Charlie. More buzzing,
shattering notes from Bob. Back onto acoustic for:

Visions Of Johanna

An equal performance to the one I saw in Portsmouth. More good
singing from Bob, alternating between his "rough" and "smooth"
vocals. I thought we might get harp again but he kept to an
exploration on his guitar which weaved in and out of the song.
Didn't think we'd get this with Desolation Row in the same set.
Then intoFourth Time Around

Great to hear this again. Sung not as tenderly as Portsmouth
last year, but expertly done - a nod to the Beatles perhaps,
being in Liverpool? As the song ended, Dylan slides over to
Larry, said a few words to him and played him the guitar melody
of the song really slow, as if he was teaching Larry how it
should go. Larry just shrugged and laughed. Next song:Boots Of
Spanish Leather

Which is one of my favourites and one I wanted to hear. And a
long extended version too, with stretched out improvisation.
Thought the harmonica would be appropriate on this too but it
wasn't to be. Back onto the electrics for:

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

Very loudly played with lots of energy. More fired-up solos from
Dylan, who by now was clearly having a ball, and there was no
way Charlie or Larry would steal his thunder. First time I've
heard harmonica on this too, and it hammered home on the song.
Big huddle on stage again and then Tony and David kick off:

Positively 4th Street

Opening with that great descending bass line. More excellent
phrasing from Dylan: "Why dooooon't you just come out once and
screeeEEEEEEeam it." Next I thought we'd get the final song of
the main set, so when the rumble of the next song started I was

Cold Irons Bound

Really wanted to this new arrangement live. I think it's one of
the best things this band has cooked up. Sounds like Tom Waits
meets the Grateful Dead down a darkened windblown Chicago alley.
Crowd go mad again, security men grab cameras, shots of "Go on
Bobby!" and we're into

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat

Which was a blast. At one point Dylan struck upon this three or
four note riff which transformed the song into something else
entirely - Tony was cracking up as Larry stepped up right behind
Dylan and started copying the same riff. Cheeky, perhaps. No
band intros. The band do not do a formation at the front of the
stage anymore - just stand for a few moments at their spots.
Show over. First encore:

Things Have Changed

Hard version. Vocals a little bit like the Oscar performance (oh
dear), except that Dylan was adding a loud "Yeeeaaaahh" before
he says "Things have changed", which rescued it. At the end he
went to the back of the stage and came back out with the little
Oscar and comically held it up to the crowd for a few seconds.
Very funny Bob moment. And then all hell broke loose, because
it's time for:

Like A Rolling Stone

And the crowd are now all standing and going ape shit. How does
it feel indeed. And Dylan satisfied the crowd's desire for a
familiar soundtrack to their past, while at the same time
performing something new and vital. >From our position we could
see clearly the dynamics between the band. Dylan these days
communicates everything through Charlie, who is now literally
his right hand man. Bob gives the nod and Charlie, who watches
Dylan's face constantly, looks and gestures to the rest of the
band. One nod to Charlie and Charlie nods to David, who breaks
down the song to allow Dylan the opening for another wild fuzzy
solo. And so it goes on.

The encores are now a roll call of Big Songs That Made Him
Famous, so next we get

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

And it's sung with feeling - "wipe these tears from eyes" - like
he really means it. And it's on this song that Charlie is
finally allowed a few runs up his fretboard. Then Larry switches
back to steel guitar for:

All Along The Watchtower

Thunderous version, with the deliberately hesitant start. More
nods from Bob to Charlie and more solos from the main man. Larry
is virtually ignored by Dylan. Back to acoustics:

I Shall Be Released

Good vocals all round, and nice to have two Basement Tape songs
in the set. Back on the axe for:

Highway 61 Revisited

I thought either Larry or Charlie would step out into the
spotlight for this, as on all the previous versions I've heard.
But tonight was most definitely Bob's night, and so he even
soloed here too. This is rock n roll and this is what it sounds
like from the man who drew the map. Then it's:

Blowin' In The Wind

A rather sentimental way to send us home methinks. Wish he would
drop it, despite a good performance. But then I think we can all
drop the hope that he'll finish off with a solo rendition of Up
To Me or something. But wait, they're back:

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

And yes, he played some mean blues harp on this like his life
depended on it. A great silly song to round things up. Good fun.
Still no band intros. In fact, not a word to the crowd all
night. But he twitched and waved and stood swaying like the
Chaplinesque puppet that he is. And then they were gone. Onto
the next show, the next circus for this spellbinding troupe of
wandering beat minstrels.




Newsgroups: Subject: Liverpool review From: Matt Reading Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 18:38:36 +0100 The gig in Liverpool on Thursday was my 7th Dylan concert, and my 3rd this year - following Gothenberg and Helsingborg the other week. Going into the gig I was feeling slightly apprehensive. Gothenberg had been a fantastic night, with Dylan in great spirits, but Helsingborg had been weird. A couple of fantatsically angry performanced lifted that one, but Dylan clearly didn't want to be there. I'd heard similar stories of Bob being in a nasty mood in recent days, so it wasn't looking too good. Anyway, this was my first all-seater concert, and it was nice to have a couple of pints in the pub before the gig, with lots of Dylan t-shirts milling round. The side effect of this was that, once seated, I began to need the loo. They didn't let us in until half past eight, so I though I'd be able to hold on 'till Dylan came on. I managed to hold out up to 8:20, when I succumbed, and the resulting dash saw me back in my seat a good 10mins before Bob finally came on stage at about 8:45. The first song, 'Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie', is one of my favourite openers - and was pretty well done. The sound was very good and a lot louder than usual. The crowd here was MUCH louder and more enthusiastic than the ones in Sweden, giving Dylan a monumental reception. Bob didn't seem in that good a mood, but he never does to begin with. The next song, 'To Ramona', is not one I'm usually that fond of at the minute, and at Wembley last year I was distictly underwhelmed by it, but Dylan sang it very well tonight. The appearance of the harp at the end was very welcome, if the solo itself was nothing special. Dylan seemed rather bored and annoyed with his guitar the whole night, and his guitar playing on the whole was pretty bad, I thought, especially when it came to the electric songs. A lively and very well done 'Desolation Row' followed - rather better than the one I saw in Gothenberg. Dylan's voice tonight was rather hoarse...definitely not up to the phenomenal standards of last year's UK tour, but he sang this song with the passion it deserves. Maggie's Farm, next, worked fantastically as the electric opener...I love the new arrangement of this song, pleying around with the rythmn, and the band thowing out some fantastic blues licks. Dylan sang it pretty well, and closed it off with a kick-ass screeching harp solo that really added a lot to it, Dylan lurching all over the stage with his 'dancing', for want of a better word for it. He seems in an okay mood. I'm just slightly too far back to be able to see his facial expressions, but he wasn't nearly as bad as Helsingborg. The intro to 'Just Like A Woman' was very welcome, and although Dylan sang it enthusiastically, he didn't stay too true to the gorgeous original melody, and his voice seemed like it sometimes wasn't up to the tasks he was setting it. Following this was one of the highlights of the night for me, a great reading of 'This Wheel's On Fire', with those lovely harmony vocals ringing true. It lent a nice feel to the show, after the last three mid-60s songs. One of my criticisms of this gig would be that there were too many 65-66 songs. Not that they aren't great (his best, really) but they have a definite feel to them which led to a one-dimensional showcase of Dylans myriad songwriting talents. This Basement Tapes song was great though. Next up was my first hearing of The Big V - 'Visions Of Johanna'. There was a very short intro during which I said to my neighbouring friend Ed 'You know what this is...!'...he didn't seem click 'till the first line, when a huge roar from my left signalled that the penny had dropped. It was a very good performane - not as good as some recent one's I've heard, but not half bad, and hey I was just pleased to be seeing it. One moment took the shine off when Larry got a good telling-off from Bob for some reason, making Dylan lose his concentation and mumble a line or two. '4th Time Around' was great..a song that Dylan has made fit his voice well, but it paled rather in comparison to the following 'Boots Of Spanish Leather'. This was a song that I saw him do to great effect in Gothenberg, bu he certainly surpassed it here, creating exactly the right mix of regret and anger for this song. Definitely the highlight of the night for me. 'Stuck Inside Of Mobile' made it a very 'Blonde On Blonde'-y night, and this seemed slightly half-arsed to me. Again the harp came out which was welcome. It was alright, but certainly nothing special. 'Positively 4th Street' was one I really wanted to hear. It was louder and less laid-back than normal. Like in a lot of songs, Dylan's vocal intentions and his phrasing were very good and interesting, but his voice didn't seem able to stretch very far, or at least to where he was trying to make it go. 'Cold Irons Bound' was very LOUD, as were all the electric rockers tonight. Most of all, it was nice to hear something written post-1967, to be honest. I do wish Dylan wouldn't ignore the vast majority of his post-60s catalogue so much, but hey. Dylan didn't appear in the best of moods during 'Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat', there being long gaps between verses while he wandered around looking annoyed at his inability to play a decent guitar solo. Whether it was this annoyance or he simply forgot about it, he didn't introduce the band at all, or indeed say anything to the crowd the whole night. The encores on the whole were unmemorable, if good, versions of familiar songs. 'Things Have Changed' particularly engaged Dylan, and the hoarse vocals weren't such a barrier on this narrow-range song. As a nice touch at the end, he showed off his Oscar to the crowd, holding it aloft and generally looking pleased. His mood was truly very up-and-down tonight. The other standout of the encores was 'Knockin' On Heavens Door' first performance of this song. The new arrangement worked beautifully, and Bob sang it very well. This was one of the highlights of the night for me...a great performance of a classic song. So, for me a very good gig, not scaling the heights of Gothenberg and rather sixties-heavy. Having said that, I wouldn't have swapped 'Visions' or 'Boots' or 'Knockin' for anything, and there were a few other very good performances. I was relieved that Dylan was not in a strop tonight, but his voice in general (apart from the few songs I've mentioned) wasn't very impressive, however enthusiastic he was. Anyway, then it was on to Stirling the next day for my last gig of the tour
2001: February - March - April - May - June - July -