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20 Pounds Of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

DECEMBER 2002

Here we are in December and I’m finally listing some of the February 2002 concert reviews. Firstly though, there’s a handful of Love and Theft reviews to put to bed. Imagine – by the time you read this the album will be almost eighteen years old.

Firstly, Paul Williams turned his attention to it for the Spring 2002 issue of Crawdaddy! in a lengthy and nicely written essay; “…It’s such a listenable record. The sound, the melodies, the feel, the connectedness of it all….I like the way it all hangs together and becomes a single experience, single narrative in some mysterious and pleasing way that’s not easily pointed to or articulated.”

Grayson Currin, on Technician Online, gave a very personal view and review in the wake of September 11th. Not a unique concept – I’ve read dozens of ‘em – but this is a bit special; “…it is the most profound and arguably the best album of 2001. It is a reinvention of Bob Dylan, and it is an epic enter of optimism for a world beset by needless suffering. Love and Theft will forever remain an album that helped me cope with the ugly magnitude of a truly tragic day.”

Grant Moon of the UK’s Classic Rock magazine awarded it five stars; “As he remembers what got him into all this music lark in the first place, his sheer love of song has rarely been so infectious.”

Two Norwegian reviews also praised it to the skies and beyond. Dagbladet’s Řyvind Rřnning gave it six out of six and Aftenposten’s Knut Utler was impressed that it reminded him of Tom Waits and Leon Redbone.

Onto the February reviews now, beginning with the Orlando Sentinel’s Jim Abbott trekking along to a sparsely populated TD Waterhouse Centre gig. He enjoyed the Love and Theft material but felt that some of the older material “exposed his deteriorating vocal range”. Still, as the review concludes, “Dylan’s ability to evolve and his songwriting transcend such nitpicking. And when he closed with Blowin’ In The Wind, it’s questions seemed more relevant than ever.”

The Miami Herald’s Evelyn McDonnell was not so impressed with Dylan’s performance at Sunrise’s National Car Rental Center, calling the show “often lackluster”, Dylan’s voice as “hoarse, with limited range” and the half empty arena as proof that Dylan may be getting “exactly the disinterest he says he wants.” For all that, she did enjoy Searching For A Soldier’s Grave and John Brown, concluding that “the evening was not without it’s subtle commentary”. At the same venue, the Sun-Sentinel’s Jennifer Peltz enjoyed the “two-plus hours of some of the most electrifying music of his career” and reckoned that the show proved that Dylan “isn’t ready to be consigned to legend yet.”

Gina Vivinetto of the St. Petersburg Times similarly enjo yed the Ice Palace show, calling Dylan “a wonder” and exalting in the fact that “we were several thousand strong in that arena, but it felt like we were in his living room, even if he didn’t talk to us at all.” Which isn’t to say, of course, that Dylan would talk to you even if you were in his living room. Also at the show, again writing for the St. Petersburg Times, was Jan Glidewell who is, I would guess, about the same age as Bob. He did not enjoy himself at all, especially because he found it difficult to recognise any of the songs, but mostly, I suspect, because he is feeling his age and Dylan isn’t; “…What I saw and heard was a once-revered artist working hard at caricaturing himself but not, as most caricaturists do, enjoying the humour of the process …If you saw me at the concert and are about to run to email me that I was seen on my feet at the end applauding, you would be right. It was because I was hoping he would cut the crap and sing something the old way for an old man.”

Writing for Jacksonville.com, Nick Marino couldn’t have enjoyed the Coliseum show more; “…It’s hard to say when he peaked as a performer, but here’s a scary thought: maybe, with a world-class band and an ever-growing repertoire of sterling material, Bob Dylan’s live show is as good right now as it’s ever been.”

Back at the Ice Palace, the Tampa Tribune’s Curtiss Ross enjoyed the set list and the band – particularly Sexton and Campbell – and “at the center of it all was Dylan, dwarfed by his 10-gallon hat, stylish in his black tailored Western suit, working his right knee like vintage Elvis and confounding his audience with his spontaneous song choices and irreverent reworkings of older material.”

Prentiss Findlay turned in a positive review of the North Charleston Coliseum show for Charleston.net , finding it a far better performance than Dylan’s last visit in 1995; “at that show, he was stone -faced and never moved. This time, he glided about the stage and broke into a dance a time or two.”

The unfortunately surnamed Ed Bumga rdner also had a great time at the Joel Coliseum gig; “…There was much to appreciate for those who understand why Dylan is one of the great singers of the modern age. His ability to punctuate a syllable and bring new meaning to a phrase, his acute sense of rhythmic daring and nuance of phrase has never been more pronounced or more confident.”

Finally for this month, Sonia Murray of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution went along to the Philips Arena and enjoyed “an unforgettable evening of blues, rockabilly, country and folk that at times made the arena feel far more intimate than a 19,000-seater should.”

Briefly onto other press happenings during January. In the UK, The Times’, Barbara Ellen reviewed the new Tom Cruise movie Vanilla Sky (written by Cameron Crowe) and tried to spot some of the reputed 468 pop culture references hidden within. Of those she did find, a pastiche of the Freewheelin’ album cover was one of the easiest – and there’s even a photo from the scene in the movie to prove it. Meanwhile, Andrea Ashworth of The Longridge News was interviewing Northern folk/country duo Anne Topping and Dave Gardner. Gardner recalls the time he toured with Kris Kristofferson and met Dylan; “I said to him, after we had had a few beers, All Along The Watchtower – what’s that all about? He said; “I wrote that during a thunder and lightning storm at Woodstock during 1969 (sic) – but anyway, I think Jimi (Hendrix) did it better than I did”.”

The Toronto Star’s John Goddard reckoned that the first historic plaque in Toronto commemorating a rock ‘n’ roll moment will be installed in the former Friar’s Tavern on Yonge Street. The building is now a Hard Rock Cafe (isn’t everything?) and the plaque will mark the site where Dylan first rehearsed The Hawks on September 16th 1965, prior to taking the world by storm and taking no prisoners. An earlier plaque was actually installed during November 2001 but the text contained several errors, as pointed out by numerous customers, who obviously should have been consulted before they wrote the damn thing in the first place. This time they will hopefully realise that there are, in fact, two L’s in Bob Dillon.

Finally the March issue of the UK’s Uncut magazine reproduced a chunk of the 2001 Rome press conference. Rather naughtily, they credited it all to Dave Fanning and presented it as though it were an exclusive interview. Still, that’s showbiz, I guess.

THANKS TO: GRAHAM A, GRAHAM W, STUART T, KIM L, BRYAN G


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