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Bob Dylan 980616 in Essen, Germany

       Address: Norberstrasse 2 
       Capacity: 8,000 
       Showtime: 8 PM 
       General admission with some unreserved seats available 

Subject: June 16, 1998 - Essen, Germany - a review From: Carsten Wohlfeld ( Date: 17 Jun 1998 02:07:00 +0100 Bob Dylan Essen, Germany, June 16, 1998 Grugahalle A Review by Carsten Wohlfeld Well, as I mentioned in last night's review, I had high hopes for this show, most of all becuase it was only the second time Bob played my hometown. Essen is Germany's 6th biggest city, but hardly anybody knows it (Americans like to make fun of it cause Essen meaning eating... they think it's dead funny, but really it it's not) and most of the shows we get are like CCR, Deep Purple, the oldie circuit in other words. Bob's first appearance here, almost on this day seven years agon (June 18, 1991) was my first ever Dylan show and I wasn't prepared for what was to come AT ALL, so I left bitterly disappointed and couldn't even be bothered to see Bob for another three years. Looking back now, I have to admit that the 1991 setlist was quite excellent, so good even, that I wouldn't dare to think that he could top it tonight. Of course I was wrong. I arrived at the venue (which unfortunately had chairs on the floor as well - as requested by the artist, as the local paper put it - I guess they didn't sell enough tickets) I met up with Christoph and Uta, who really wanted to hear "Blind Willie McTell" more than anything. I pointed out that "Blind Willie" would be a very unlikely choice, since he only had played it in Copenhagen last week. Of course I was wrong again, more of which later. Dylan came out very late, at 8.40 looking very concentrated all evening, as did his band. As a consequence, Dylan hardly ever switched to goofy mode, he rarely smiled but delivered a killer show, that I personally rank among the best in Europe so far. He opened, as expected, with: > Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat Better version than both Bremen and Rotterdam, now with a new start that makes the song sound more powerful right from the beginning. All in all the arrangement doesn't differ all that much from the hardrocking Blues the old band played in 1996. > Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power) Wonderful choice, one of my alltime favourite Dylan songs of course. I would've loved it even more if I wouldn't have seen the cuesheet after the show, which called for - and I'm not kidding - "License To Kill"!!!!! Wow! Would somebody please tell Bob and Tony that I desperately want to hear this song in Brussels please :-) > Cold Irons Bound Wasn't the best version, but was still greeted with the biggest cheer of the night so far by the pretty lively audience. > Under The Red Sky Solid performance of this so-so song, that could've been replaced by Gordon Lightfoot's "I'm Not Supposed To Care" which was on the cuesheet. > Silvio Bob smiled for the first and pretty much only time halfway through this song. No idea what made him laugh though. Yet another solid performance that featured a finger-picking guitarsolo by Dylan (he had the guitar pick between his teeth while playing it, which looked hilarious). > To Ramona (acoustic) As I've mentioned in a previous review already this song doesn't do anything for me, so all I can say is that it was a solid performnace, better than Copenhagen, with a nice Bob/Bucky twin solo. > The Ballad Of Hollis Brown (acoustic) Wow! He always seems to bring out this song when I'm around. I don't think he's played it more than maybe 10 times over the last three years, and this was already the fourth time I got to hear it. Radically rearranged version though, that sounded alot like "John Brown". Bob started solo, singing the first verse with only minimal input from Larry. Tony, Bucky and David joined in very late... a pretty spooky version, that suited Dylan's voice perfectly (as I mentioned earlier, his singing was excellent all throughout the show). Damn cool ending as well. > The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll (acoustic) Yet another song from the "Times" album that hit me completely unexpected. Yet another of my alltime favourite Dylan songs too, I'm always close to tears when I hear it. Almost perfect version too, better than the one I've heard in New York City in January. Sung very gently, very concentrated and Bob only started soling after he'd finished all the lyrics. Grrrreat! > Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic) Well, it's still a huge crowdpleaser, solid rendition yet again without the line " be employed" but somethig new that was impossible to understand. > Can't Wait Slower than usual, you also could say Bob sounded tired, but you just can't do any wrong with a great song like this. Even though I thought "this version is pretty flat" at the beginning, Bob found some interested phrasings here and there, thus saving the song. After the song he said something along the lines of: "This was song from my new album, now here's one from a while ago". Make that 33 years, Bob! > She Belongs To Me Josh's alltime favourite Dylan song - NOT! Done the usual way, the more casual fans liked it, the hardcore fanbase was bored to death. The song was given a fair treatment, that's all I can say about it. After it was finished Larry went for his other electric guitar, the one he only plays on "Feel My Love", which would've been the song everybody was expecting. After a short discussion between Tony and Bob, though, he grabbed his Bouzouki. I turned to Uta and Christoph, saying: "I guess you'll be very happy soon"... I don't think they knew what I meant until Bob sang the first line, but it was quite a sight to see the two of them go "YESSSSS" :-) It was of course... > Blind Willie Mc Tell This time without the technical difficulties they had in Copenhagen. He was supposed to play "Feel My Love", quite possibly his worst song ever and skipped it for arguably his best song ever. What more can you say? > 'Til I Fell In Love With You Followed the band introduction and rocked a usual. Listening to the recorded version, you'd never think that it makes for a good "Highway 61" substitute, but in the hard-rocking live version, it actually does. > > (encores) > It Ain't Me Babe (acoustic) (with harp) Well, my least favourite choice for the acoustic encore, but oh well, it was nicely done and Bob played a rather long harp solo that got better and better closer to the end. > Love Sick Was among the highlights of the show (the others being "Hollis Brown" and "Hattie"), because Bob and the band rarely play it so carefully and with so much emotions. It usually is the glad-we-gonna-be-outt-here-soon second to last song, this time it was much more than that. > Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 35 Short discussion between Bob, Tony and David before the song. Dunno what they were talking about, maybe David wanted to do "Alabama Getaway", your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it was "Let's make this sound even more horrid than usual". If it was really that, they succeeded. > Blowin' In The Wind (acoustic) Bob looked very fragile and tired when he came back for this one, as a conseuqnce he kept the soloing to a minimum, giving us the three verses and an extra chorus and then he was gone. All in all a very, very strong show again, after Bob decided not to give us 100% in Rotterdam the night before (maybe due to Van). If Brussels tomorrow is only half as good - and will feature "License To Kill", I'll be very happy. See you in Belgium! Thanks for reading and good night! carsten wohlfeld -- "you better stop and smell the roses now, they might end up on you" (hsker d)
Subject: Re: June 16, 1998 - Essen, Germany - a review From: Barb Ettinger ( Date: 16 Jun 1998 22:02:00 -0700 ... Thanks for all the great detailed reviews. Since you are apparently going to see more shows, would you mention who plays which instruments during the 'acoustic' songs. I'm getting confused and would like to see if there's any continuity for this category. Is Tony playing stand-up bass? Is Larry playing acoustic guitar? Also, some description of the physical surroundings and people's attitudes, demeanor, and dress would give good local color for those watching in our minds. Keep up the good work.
Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 23:27:34 -0700 To: Subject: Concert in Essen (16th of June 1998) From: (daniel laqua) ... BOB DYLAN IN ESSEN, GRUGAHALLE (June 16th, 1998) Here's a review from a young Dylan fan - I hope you can forgive me all mistakes that I might make in my little essay. As I have not been to a Dylan concert since summer 1996, there might be some parts of this that might seem boring to regular Bobcats, but I hope that you can get an impression of what it was like for me. I went to the concert with a friend of mine, Hannes, who is a great Dylan fan as well. After a nice three-hour car ride, we arrived in Essen and found the Grugahalle easily. We were quite surprised when we entered the concert hall: It was quite big, but it was a seats-only venue. However, the local promoter did not seem to have a strict policy concerning that: Many people gathered around the stage, even before the concert had started - and they weren't told to go back to their seats. Dylan and the band arrived at 20.40 and by that time everyone in the middle of the hall was standing on their chairs - not because of sheer emotion, but because the people who stood in front of the stage forced them to do so. Dylan wore a black suit and something which resembled a tie. His clothes looked very much like the ones he wore when he was playing for the Pope in Bologna, so we wondered whether we would hear Knockin' On Heaven's Door...The band looked cool as ever, with Bucky Baxter wearing the most adventurous clothes. Baxter, Kemper and Garnier wore hats which reminded me that there was a time when Dylan liked to wear strange hats. Dylan was greeted enthusiastically, but he did not look like he was in a good mood; the band and him started to play initially it was > Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat This song worked very well as an opener. It sounded joyful as ever and, yes, it was 'rolling, Bob'. The band sounded restrained, there were no long solos. I appreciated this very much - the last Dylan concerts I've seen took place in 1996 when the crowd was treated to extended jamming which I often found uninspired and messy (I still remember the horrors of Seeing The Real You At Last...). > Senor My friend Hannes went mad when he heard the first chords of this song because he loves it so much - of course it was a wonderful choice. It seemed to me that he played it rather fast, nearly like a 'New Country' mid-tempo song and not as balladesque as in the past. As far as I remember there was only one short guitar solo from Dylan, and - given that this song is among the strongest that he can play live - the whole performance was rather unremarkable: He may have had problems with his voice tonight - an impression that lasted the entire concert through: He did not manage to sing in a voice as soft and tender as it would suit slower songs like Senor; in comparison to the 1995 performances of that song his voice sounded quite rough. Dylan can sing in a wonderful way - but most of the evening, he didn't. Even his phrasing during Senor wasn't particularly exciting, apart from some nice lines: Let's over-TURN these tables... That said, it was still nice to hear Senor, and it actually sounded quite beautiful. I think that I was just a bit disappointed because he did not realise the song's full potential. > Cold Irons Bound Great start! A wall of noise, and then - suddenly - Tony Garnier's bass line emerging from the chaos, before Kemper started to play the song's rattling voodoo rhythm. The mix was not good on that song and Dylan did not sing it as perfect as on TOOM. I have mixed feelings about this performance - at one point it even made me long for 'All Along The Watchtower'! But then again the ending was perfect, the whole band (including Dylan) playing very well together. > Under The Red Sky Ok, some people think that this song is plain silly. But in Essen it sounded great. In my opinion, it was one of Dylan's best vocal performances on that evening; the end of most lines received the full Dylan treatment: There was a little booooo-y / and there was a little girrrrrr-l The song seemed a bit faster than in the 1996 concerts and on album, but it still was very, very lovely. > Silvio I don't have to say much about that...a solid rocker, but I would have welcomed another song on the No. 5 spot. > To Ramona @ I honestly don't like this song that much, but this version was really nice - Dylan sang it with a lot of care and I rate this as the best version that I heard of 'Ramona' so far. I think Kemper's drumming gave a lot to that song; he played it as some kind of country waltz. What surprised us the most were Dylan's guitar licks on his acoustic guitar: worlds apart from the dilettantism that we have sometimes experienced. And then there was of course his solo which gained a lot of applause from the audience: Playing two notes at the same time, it sounded like some 'fake-Spanish-guitar'. I was surprised that this song can sound fine! > Ballad Of Hollis Brown @ Great! It is always nice to hear this song, and Dylan played some excellent guitar, mainly in the short pauses between the different verses. It was fascinating to see how they were slowly building up to that sing with Tony Garnier starting to play acoustic bass after one or two verses and then finally the drums coming in while Dylan is singing 'It's pounding on your brain'. It did not sound as threatening as the version he used to play in 1996, this time he rather sang it as an 'objective narrator'. But this added even more to the song and his story of despair. > Lonesome Death Of Hattie Caroll @ Of course this was very welcome and it started very well. The crowd cheered after the first few choruses. In the end it became a bit unconcentrated, and the last verse was sung without much emotion. Maybe Dylan was to busy remembering all the words or hitting the right notes; the last verse and some other parts were sung as if he was in some kind of hurry. Apart from that, it would have sounded greater if his voice would have been in a better condition as it would have made this song much more moving. > Tangled Up In Blue @ This was not a good version - and I am a bit tired of this song anyway. The band played it nicely; as far as I remember Campell played mandolin. It could have been OK, if only Dylan had sung it in a better way, but in Essen he did not seem to carry for the song's words. It may have something to do with the songs tempo - I remember some electric (and fast) versions of 'Tangled' from 1994 and 1995 and his singing was really awful on them. Then in summer 1995 he started introducing a slow acoustic version which he sang in a very fine way. Now he plays the song faster (and with drums again), and the magic is suddenly gone... > Can't Wait Hey! This was a cool, groovin' version of one of my favourite songs from TOOM. Not much soling, but a decent vocal performance. And the backing was cool, especially Bucky Baxter with his steel guitar and Kemper's funky drumming. I really liked this version and it will be very welcome at future concerts. > She Belongs To Me Dylan talked! He said something like "That was a new song. Here is one from a long while ago." Anyway, it was 'She Belongs To Me' afterwards which is always a bit boring. One has to state that it was well sung and that the whole band played it with much respect and care. The best thing about the song, though, was that this version was quite a short one, so we couldn't fall asleep! I think that is the good thing about the way Dylan and the band play nowadays - there is room enough for jamming and improvising, but they avoid playing TOO long. So if there is a dull choice, at least it is over soon afterwards. > Blind Willie McTell Finally I have come to hear the live version of this song! The fans in the front rows cheered loudly as the first lines were sung. Dylan altered the lyrics singing 'from New Orleans to New Jerusalem' and (but I suppose he has done that since he introduced 'Blind Willie' live) "I know one thing / no-one can sing / The blues like Blind Willie McTell" instead of "I know that know that no-one / can sing the blues / like Blind Willie McTell". Great instrumentation - I always thought that it is to hard to come close to the studio version, but it was fascinating to see how they transformed the song's piano/acoustic guitar backing into a great electric version. The band played very well together, with Campbell being responsible for some intense breaks at the start of each verse. > 'Til I Fell In Love With You An 'OK' version of one of TOOM's lesser songs. Kemper had an important part in this live performance as 'Love With You' mainly lived from its boggie/blues rhythm with its stop-and-go beats. Solid, but not earthshaking - but still better than just another 'Highway 61'. ---------------------------------------------------- > It Ain't Me, Babe @ Hannes and I both like the song and Dylan always manages to touch me when I hear versions of it. This version was bittersweet, with a lively chorus that received lots of cheers from the audience. He played harp on that song, but it was a bit of a disappointment. I think during Dylan's harp solo, Baxter and Campbell got lost and no-one knew what to play, and it only got better when they reached the instrumental version of the chorus. When they slowed the song down in the end, Dylan's harp playing to becoming at least 'interesting', but before this really was the case, the song was already over. > Love Sick Perfect! Not as rockin' as the version he played at the Grammy Awards Show, but still very very good - and maybe his best vocal performance of the evening. > Rainy Day Women This made everyone feel happy, and the lights in the hall went on, so some people may have thought that this was the and, but then Dylan and the band came back to play ---------------------------------------------------- > Blowin' In The Wind @ Of course this has been played at all German shows in 1998, but for me it was the first time to see Dylan sing this in concert (and not on concert). Although we were highly critical of him playing it, I have to admit that I liked the way they played it: Campbell joined Dylan in the chorus, and the whole song was bathed in a cloud of regret and melancholia. Some general thoughts on the concert: Dylan seemed very much in control of everything that was going on: It was clear that he was the band leader, and he guided the band through the songs in a very concentrated way. At no point did he look helpless. I remember concerts in 1996 when - having played his guitar solo - he never arrived at the microphone at the right time so that had to add one more verse of soloing. There was not that particularly much wandering around on stage in Essen, but he seemed to have fun doing things like the DYLAN DUCK WALK, especially on songs like Cold Irons Bound and 'Til I Fell In Love With You. His guitar playing was really fine, if his voice had been in a better condition this would have been clearly the best Dylan concert I have been to so far. But then again his singing wasn't all that bad - its just that it could have been better. Altogether a solid show with some fine performances and a good selection of songs (even though there were no real surprises after the setlists of the last European shows). Now I am looking forward to the concerts in Italy...

June 1998 Setlists Tour