Much can be said about the concerts that Bob Dylan (81) gave in the Netherlands over the last thirty years, but they were never boring. He sang unintelligibly, often seemed to be playing a different song than his band, and took a run with the tempo and melody of the songs that had made him arguably the greatest songwriter of his generation. WHO Like a pebble, Blowing in the wind or Tangled in blue wanted to hear, since Dylan himself had once turned them into pop classics, better stay home.
Those songs are not on the program that he brings to Amsterdam these days. The focus has been since he started it almost a year ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on his last album, Rough and rowdy ways; the tour is named after it. Nine out of ten songs from the album, generally considered one of his betters, are on the set list, which remains unchanged even now that the tour is in Europe. Only the almost 17 minutes long Murder Most Foul remains unplayed.
Dylan apparently loves this album as much as its critics, and it’s a joy in advance that Dylan is focusing on a new album during his performances for the first time in about forty years. That it’s all a bit disappointing has to do with two flaws. First of all the songs with which the new work is interrupted. That Dylan chooses to mainly use songs from the years 1969 – 1971 is part of his always enigmatic repertoire selection. But a rather modest one To be alone with you as a connection between the two perhaps most beautiful songs of Rough and rowdy ways (Crossing the Rubicon and Key West (Philosopher Pirate) ) is a sin, just as they hit something I wanna be your baby tonight that precedes these three songs.
Which brings us to the biggest flaw: Dylan’s piano playing. He hasn’t played guitar in years. But the way he keeps hammering the same chords on his piano in every song is equally fine, but it comes at the expense of the subtlety that characterizes his new work.
And in all songs, it is Dylan the pianist who is the musical center. Then you can bring such a great five-piece band and let the brilliant Donnie Herron play violin and pedal steel guitar, the sound of the hall, which is not very hard tuned (which is a shame), is mainly dominated all evening by chunky blues -rhythms. And yes, it makes it a bit boring, especially the second half of the concert. It even becomes a bit of an anticlimax with the two slightly smaller new songs (Mother of Muses and Goodbye Jimmy Reed) as a prelude to Every grain of sand, which lacks the deep gospel feeling of the original from 1981 – but does get a nice vocal slant from Dylan.
To be ‘graaaaaaaaain’ has a Liam Gallagher sneer as there are several of those moments where you can especially enjoy Dylan as a singer. Because he sings more intelligibly than ever, especially in his new work. I contains Quantities is an early highlight with bowed double bass. It’s also witty how he uses the word lung normally I’ve been at work too long from black rider almost sarcastically long.
There are various moments of happiness during the concert, which, despite the high expectations, are ultimately a bit boring.
Source of inspiration Leon Russell
There is nothing more fun than looking for an explanation and exegesis after seeing Bob Dylan. Twice Bob Dylan came out from behind his piano to be applauded. And we listened to him When I paint my masterpiece not say ‘thank you, art lovers’? When I paint my masterpiece from 1971 has played a prominent role at Dylan concerts for several years now. He composed it at the piano in the same session as Watching the river flow with which he now opens his concerts. Why the sudden love for these songs he wrote when he just couldn’t remember? ‘What’s the matter with me, I don’t have much to say’ were the first words (unfortunately sung unintelligibly) in Afa’s Live. Fifty years later, he Rough and rowdy ways much to say, about himself and about his inspirations. Among the names of beat poets and ‘bad boys’, The Rolling Stones also include pianist Leon Russell (1942-2016). Is it a coincidence that it’s Russell Watching the river flow produced? Did the latest album and tour concept begin with Dylan’s memory of Leon Russell?
★★★ is reproduced
16/10 Afas Live, Amsterdam. (On 17/10 also to be seen there.)