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Bob Dylan 2002.04.09 in Hamburg

Dylan in Hamburg, April 9, 2002

A brilliant, astonishing gig. 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'
was a real sensation: Not only is it a rare item on a Dylan
set list (the Dylanologists in the audience shrieked with
exitement when they heard the first line and recognized the
song). The song gets a very different treatment now. The
rhythm is half-time mostly with the emphasis on the 2 and
the 4, if I remember it correctly (count slowly:
One-TWO-three-FOUR, like this: Johnny's is the basement,
mxing up the medicine, I'm on the pavement etc.). Very
powerful and dynamic, with brief switches to the more
conventional straight rhythm in every verse.

Dylan's voice was in good shape. He shifted from a harsh
growl to more relaxed modes and back. You don't expect
'pretty' singing from Dylan anyway, do you? A very focused
vocal performance, he seemed to care for every line. Nice
and warm harmonica playing, too, not the reckless howl Dylan
sometimes treats his audience to.

And, yes, plonk plonk: his soloing. Very restricted, more
musical and humane than - as he likes to call it -
'mathematical'. The interaction between the three guitar
players in the band - Dylan, Larry Campbell and Charlie
Sexton - was phenomenal. No mindless riffing or noodling
whatsoever. Their guitar playing spun a dextrous musical web
instead, if you know what I mean. So the lengthy jams we got
to hear every now and then were a real enjoyable affair.

The overall sound of the ensemble is very transparent, even
when they rock loud and hard. As tight a band as they are,
it seems that the new drummer, George Recile, still needs to
become more familiar with the subtleties of Dylan's live
performance. Apparently, it is not only the audience that
can never be really sure where a song is going to: as a song
evolves in real time, Dylan introduces twists and turns that
seem to be unexpected for the band members as well (hmm, all
except Tony Garnier maybe...). Recile sometimes gets lost on
these occasions and needs to establish close communication
with Tony Garnier to make sense of what is going on on stage
at that particular moment. At least, that's how it seems.
One thing can be said for him, though: he is just as good as
David Kemper in breathing life into the songs, and he pushes
them a little harder.

And, hey: Dylan smiled! That was nice to see, and it
reflected the sheer fun of the music. Although it has to be
said it was not the audience he smiled at, but the band. And
just like he did in Kopenhagen, he also knelt down after the
encore. Very briefly so - the somewhat lame audience didn't
deserve more, frankly.

This was the sixth Dylan concert I've been to (after
Nürnberg 1978, Munich 1987, 1991 and 1995, Hamburg
2000). Musically, it has been the best so far. Overall,
though, it comes in second best: Nürnberg was magic -
compared to these days, Dylan has somehow deconstructed his
myth and his charisma. He is more human now. A very pleasant
development, actually.

Christian Matschke


Bob Dylan Hamburg, Alsterdorfer Sporthalle April 9, 2002 A review by Carsten Wohlfeld In the end, Bob Dylan was stronger - Last year I had intended to see five shows on Bob's European tour in the summer, but I decided to give the last two a miss. Simply because I figured that actually travelling with one of my favourite artists (that would be Ken Stringfellow, whose recent album "Touched" you should by immediately!), having the chance to hang out at the soundcheck, request songs etc. was more fun than just seeing Bob for the umpteenth time, never being able to actually meet him, never having the chance to even think about requesting songs etc. So when the 2002 Euro dates were announced, I thought it would be more than easy for me to stay away from the Bob shows, even though I had been to most of his German shows since 1996. Not least since Ken Stringfellow had played some quite staggering shows in Europe just last week. So I had only plans to attend four Bob shows,starting in Frankfurt next week, but when I saw the Scandinavian setlists with stuff like "Solid Rock" and "Constant Sorrow", I just couldn't resist! So I made the four hour train journey to Hamburg, only arriving half an hour before the show, leaving five minutes after the last chord. In an ideal world, Bob would've played three songs "for me": The aforementioned two plus my alltime favourite "All Along The Watchtower". He didn't do any of them, yet I have to say that this show was probably the overall most enjoyable Bob gig I've seen in five years (and as some of you know, I've been to quite a few). Why? Well, mostly because there where so many new and exciting things. Being busy with my graduation, I hadn't been able to follow the review and bootleg scene as usual, so I was pretty surprised to see so many changes even in the set-up. First of all, there were cardboard posters for the show on sale at the merch table, a first in Europe. There was also a huge backdrop behind the instruments (the "eye" logo) that was new to me as well. I hadn't seen the by now entirely computerized light show either (it was fab!) and the way they set up the amps on stage now comes closer to having a preplanned "stage deco" than it did for at least 15 years. There was also no incense (at least as far as I could see / smell), so that was unusual too for me anyway. The Oscar trophy was still sitting on Bob's amp, good to see not everything changed, then! The five of them took to the stage at 8.20pm and there was yet another surprise, as they all wore matching purple suits. And they were custom made too, so each band member still sticks to his individual clothing style. Pretty funky indeed. Tony, Larry and newbie George (who looks very much like Tony's twin even without the suit) also had matching outlaw mustaches, how cool is that? They started with the song I had hoped would be the opener, a first for me: Hummingbird (acoustic) Actually Larry was playing an electric Fender, giving it a very Johnny Cash/countryish feel with some stunning finger ficking. I loved the way Charlie and Larry sang almost the entire song with Bob. Bob himself was in surprisingly good form (for a first song anyway), he seemed to be very alert and pretty much into it from the start. Great stuff! The Times They Are A-Changin' (acoustic) Surprisgly good as well. As far as I recall Bob didn't stumble over any lines this time, unlike last year, and he closed the song with a long harp solo as well. He actually picked up the wrong harp first, so there was a big gap between hislastline and the start of the harmonica solo. You could tell that he wanted to try something different with the solo, and it was pretty good, nowhere near as tuneful as his mid-90s stuff, buta lot better than his alibi soloing from a couple of years ago. Desolation Row (acoustic) Wow! The best version I've ever heard! Geoge played bongos during the intro (his drumming skills were used to great effect on this number!) and when the song took off, it was just magic. I think Bob sang a few not-so-common verses as well and he really put a lot into the phrasing which matched quite perfectly with the reworked arrangement. Girl Of The North Country (acoustic) Started with Bob's harp solo and there was a strange pattern about the opening solos. Bob would pick up a harp, do the solo, then try to put it into his (too tight) pants, thus missing his guitar intro, then looking confused, thus missing the first line of the song. He would also try to stuff the harp deeper into his pocket after the first verse (this happened during all three harp solos that started off the songs in Hamburg - very weird and something that potentially ruins the song more later). Even though he did miss the first line of the song, it was a sweet and tender rendition, a perfect close to a very, very good first acoustic set. Haven't seen Bob so concentrated in a while and the band did a great job as well. Lonesome Day Blues It was on this rocking blues, that I finally noticed what was different: It's the dynamics within the band. I don't know if this is due to George (who seemed to have fun thought the show, pulling faces and doing funny stuff throughout the night), but I don't recall a show where Bob was so totally in charge, yet the band had a great time too. Usually when Bob's really in charge, there's kind of a tense atmosphere on stage, but tonight it was very loose, all four musicians were smiling a lot and Charlie even found the time to hit George's cymbals with his hands inbetwen lines on this song! Floater I really missed the fiddle on this one. The song had the same loung feel to it that we first heard on a Bob stage when he introduced "If Dogs Run Free" to the set in late 2000, but some element was missing and it most definitely was the fiddle. What followed was both a treat and a shock. The band started the next song and for a second it sounded as if they were gonna do "Solid Rock" VERY badly. "Oh no", Iwas thinking to myself, "after such a great start they are gonna ruin it now", but then Bob stepped up to the micophone and the first words out of his mouth where "Johnny's in the basement, mixing up the medicine!" Blimey, it's Subterrean Homesick Blues For the first time in eleven years! Themother of all list songs! So how was it I hear you ask? Well, it was stunning to see Bob sing/rap thelyrics, but the band didn't seem to know what the hell they were doing. The arrangement pretty much sucked and I would think they either gonna work on it some more or drop the song again. Bob looked as if he couldn't believe that he was doing the song either and he actually tried to step away from the mic after what would've been a "regular" line, before noticing that he song actually went on without a pause! Standing In The Doorway Was quite stunning. Long intro, very thoughfully reworked arrangement, great sining from Bob. It featured the line "swallowing my pain" is that a new addition? Gotta check back with the recordings, I guess. I don't think it was a great choice for the crowd (who didn't seem to know the song), but I thought it was one of the best songs of the night, very subtle, very beautiful. Back to the acoustics with Mama You Been On My Mind (acoustic) Larry started the song with the familiar riff while Bob was still trying to figure out which harp to use for the opening solo. As Bob was nowhere near the mic when he was supposed to start playing, Larry improvised a bit and played something that sounded very much unlike "Mama", but pretty cool nevertheless. So Bob finally played the harp solo, did his "and now I'm trying to put away the harp" ritual, failed miserably and actually started the song with what sounded remarkable like "this is a godawful song". Maybe he said (directed at Larry) "Why don't you just play the godawful song") maybe I completely misheard it, but something was different. Turnned out to be the low point of the night, George's drumming was very substandard too and it wasn't very surprising that it ended rather quickly without much soloing. It's A Hard Rain A-Gonna Fall (acoustic) Standardversion, Bob was playing around with the phrasing quiet a bit, without actually finding a way of doing the chorus that satisfied him 100%. I've certainly heard versions a lot worse, but this didn't do much for me either. There was a nice crescendo at the end, but nothing that I would lose my sleep over. Don't Think Twice (acoustic) Nice, without being special. Same as it ever was basically, with some fine fingerpicking by Larry. Lovesick Was an interesting choice, George's drumpart is considerably different to David's and that gave the song a different feel. After having heard the amazing White Stripes cover this tune last year, I kinda missed their aggression in Bob's version, but it's still a highlight every time he plays it. Nice light show (the band as giant shadows) as well. Summer Days One of the high points of the night. Charlie completely switched to Rockabilly mode and if I wouldn't know better I would've thought the guy plays lead in a rockabilly outfit since the 50s. He's absolute incredible!!! There was a lot of jamming at the end, triple guitar solos and all! I don't dig rockabilly, but this was G.R.E.A.T.! Drifter's Escape Extended version of the regular thundering arrangement. Before the standard closing harp solo, there was an extra guitar break and a lot of soloing from Charlie (and Bob). George liked to play this song a lot! Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat Even with the new drummer it sounds the same. So the highlight for me was that a very cute american girl walking past me (her boyfriend in tow) the very second Bob reached the "new boyfriend/never seen him before" part. He introcuded the band at the end of the song, saying "On steel guitar- Larry Campbell", shortly afterwards he noticed that Larry hadn't actually been even close to playing the (pedal) steel, so Bob turned to Larry (off mic), said something and they both laughed. After the song there was the formation and after about 100 minutes the main set was over. (encore) Country Pie Started off with a lengthy harp solo, which obviously was fun (change is always good), but you couldn't help thinking that it was kinda out of place. The puzzled looks on Charlie's and Larry's faces seem to suggest that they though the same. Like A Rolling Stone Standard, still connecting to the crowd like no other song. If Dogs Run Free (acoustic) Bob went back to George said something and than bursted out laughing halfway during the song. Apart from that you couldn't help thinking that we don't need to hear the song in a set that included the similar "Floater" already. Honest With Me Most rocking song of the night, with some great slide guitar courtesy of Larry. Even though he's clearly not lead guitarist anymore, it was good to see how he's always keeping eye contact with Charlie, really trying to fill out and complementing his "rival's" great soloing. Bob was way into it as well and this song certainly deserves its place as the last electric number in the set. Blowin' In the Wind (acoustic) Again starting off with a hamonica solo, ending with a new harmony at the end apart from that just as you would expect it! Since there was such a loose atmosphere on stage, I had hoped they would return for "Watchtower", but they didn't. After all, they had delivered a great solid 2:15 hour show already! If the rest of the shows are as good as this one, make sure you don't miss this tour! Oh btw, if there's anybody out there, who can give me a lift back from hannover to the Ruhrgebiet area on Saturday, please get in touch (mail@carstenwohlfeld.de). See ya next time! Carsten Wohlfeld
2002: Jan - Feb -

Tour