(this was sent to me as a comment…)
August 12th, 2007 at 3:45 pm e
The Auckland show was fantastic. Pity the Herald review was lukewarm. And the less said about stuff.co.nz (and its somewhat odd attack on anyone over the age of forty), the better. Anyway, heres a review I hastily put together of the concert last night. Which was bloody brilliant. The guys in his sixties. What do these people expect?!
â€œI felt as though I were on a first date. My hands were clammy and my mouth was dry. I felt myself tremble a little as afternoon rolled over into evening. My expectations fluctuated wildly with each passing minute. Would I come away bitter and dissapointed? Or would I find myself experiencing some kind of epiphanous, life changing occasion?
Ultimately, it didnt matter. As soon as he walked onstage I knew everything would be okay. I could sit and watch Dylan recite the phone book and come away a happy man. Iâ€™m not too proud to admit the degree of my adulation strays every so slightly into creepy teritory. We all gotta have our heroes and heroines. Sometimes someoneâ€™s gotta show you the way.
At precisely eight twenty pm the lights dim and the sounds of rural American composer Douglas Coupland play over the soundsystem. Itâ€™s very heroic, very epic. And perfectly sets up his arrival.
Which is greeted with a polite cheer.
Jesus, New Zealand crowds can be timid and reserved. I actually feel a little embarressed. Afterall, itâ€™s Bob Dylan for christs sake.
( As an aside, answer me this; why is it always those in the costliest seats who seem to be the most ambivilant about the actual music? Packs of well dressed men and women constantly filtering down the aisle and blocking my view almost led me to commit murder on a mass scale)
Frst song is Rainy Day Woman and yâ€™know, itâ€™s awful. Itâ€™s a tuneless sludge and Dylans croak is almost unlistenable. Iâ€™m in a slight state of shock.
Cue song two, Dont Think Twice. Itâ€™s a little better. Still swampy, still struggling for a tune. But itâ€™s a classic. And I hang on every word.
Then something wonderful happens. Third song in and Dylan plays the opening to Just Like A Woman. But, and heres the kick, itâ€™s undergone a wonderous transformation.
Whereas the original was a scornful putdown from a man embittered by a woman who goneâ€™ done him wrong, this version is a beautiful, sad lament.
Try this; imagine the stanza below sung with a vicious, sarcastic snarl. Then, reimagine it sung with a melencholic resignation.
â€œBut lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girlâ€
It becomes a wholely different beast. And it was terrific.
Things start to look up. He plays two songs from new album, Modern Times, and theyâ€™re both great.
Then Tangled Up In Blue begins with Dylan playing (or wheezing!) into the harmonica. Itâ€™s not too far removed from its studio incarnation, just a few lyrics changed here and there (although why he feels the need to substitute â€˜topless barâ€™ to â€˜tropicanaâ€™ is a mystery to me).
I spy a few wry smiles from Bob. He looks pretty haggard. His outfit resembles Johnny Cash. Goth cowboy. It suits him. But God Damn, I dont think Iâ€™ve ever looked upon someone who seems as uncomfortable in their own skin as Dylan. I guess if your an introvert, your an introvert and forty years of stadium shows isnt going to change that.
He moves onto the keyboard and the band kick into Desolation Row which has more muscle than its album counterpart. The band are a bunch of session musicians. Theyre sturdy. Nothing wrong with sturdy. No one cares much about them anyway.
Cue next evening highlight, Nettie Moore. Itâ€™s a good song. But tonight, itâ€™s sublime. The contrast between Dylans â€˜pack a dayâ€™ voice and the violin is tremendous. Itâ€™s a love song. An existential love song. In other words – life is hard, life is bleak. But when your there, everything seems just a little brighter – or something to that effect.
Then we get Masters Of War, the first sign of Troubadour Bob. The one those damn hippies tried to steal. Its dark and ominous and rumbles along with a real intensity. Dylan doesnt say a word, he doesnt need to. The point of its inclusion is obvious.
Things Have Changed rolls on with its grumbling, aged weariness intact and When The Deal Goes Down remains a lovely lil tune that belies its dark, lyrical bent.
Then, after ninety minutes, the band leave the stage. Without a word. How very Dylanesque. But theyâ€™re soon back for the encore and launch into All Along The Watchtower. Itâ€™s brilliant. It also seems loud and visceral. Perhaps they turned up the mix. Shades of Manchester, 1966? Maybe. At a stretch.
People are cheering. Suits and Sycophants, Kids and Grandkids, Hippies and Hipsters, Bankers and Bohemians, Hobos ( I kid you not! ) and Hucksters.
Bobs arms sure reach far and wide.
I see something in the distance. I look closer and see itâ€™s an Oscar statuette?! No way Dylan would have indulged such showmanship back in the day but heâ€™s pushing sixty five and heâ€™s too old to give a shit. Somehow, its appropriate.
Show ends. Lights come on. The concrete bomb shelter that is Vector Arena looks ugly without people filling out the seats. Crowd spew into the night. I overhear a middle aged couple complaining about Bobs lack of communication with the audience. I smile to myself. Seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.â€
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