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20 Pounds Of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

JANUARY 2003

It’s January 2003 so let’s have a look at what was happening in the press during February and March 2002 (well, it makes sense to me). Firstly, we have some more reviews of Bob’s February tour of the Southern States, so let’s begin on the count of three. Ah-one, ah-two, ahthree.

Tonya Jameson joined the crowd at the Charlotte Cricket Arena and penned a lukewarm review for the Charlotte Observer. She felt that the first hour featured too much jamming (bugger me, she should have been there in 1992 and 93 when individual songs went on for days) and that “Dylan’s concert dwelled in monotony at times. The band grooved and everyone was animated…but it wasn’t enough to dispel the repetitiveness.” And, although it was Bob Dylan up there, “his band deserved all the attention.”

The Charleston Daily Mail’s Michael Lipton attended the Charleston Civic Center show and had a different point of view; “…Make no mistake, Dylan’s current tour is not about going through the motions. On the heels of one of his best releases in years, he is not only having fun vocally toying with his songs, he appears to be downright inspired…There was a rare spirit evident and Dylan still epitomizes the point at which simple, timeless rock & roll meets intelligence, wit and stark rea lity. Too bad if you missed it – this doesn’t happen very often.”

In a nice article for Technician Online, Grayson Currin went along to the shows in Winston-Salem and Charlotte and thoroughly enjoyed both, though Charlotte seems to have had the edge; “…This group of four musicians, joined by perhaps the greatest songwriter to ever grace a stage, is a complex and revealing fusion of Dylan’s folk, country and bluegrass roots that knows exactly how to bring it all together for a complete rock show…The force of his message has yet to diminish.”

Steven Uhles of the Augusta Chronicle similarly found inspiration at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center; “…Instead of providing a litany of campfire-ready songs from his collection of singles, a sort of Bob Dylan revue, Mr Dylan seemed intent on creating a living, breathing work of art…He remembers and appreciates his past without losing forward momentum.”

Mary Colurso knocked out a pretty brief review of Birmingham’s BJCC Arena gig for al.com (“Alabama’s home on the net”, y’all); “…the show twirled, soared, dipped and dragged, just like Dylan’s famous voice. It included a few sneaky- fine numbers from his latest album, Love And Theft, and a couple of song culled from it’s darkly beautiful predecessor Time Out Of Mind.”

The Tupelo Daily Journal’s M. Scott Morris enjoyed the BancopSouth Center show and simply concluded, “All in all, it was a mellow and satisfying night in Tupelo” and Michael D. Clark found Dylan and band reinvented as a Country & Western act at the Reliant Astrodome. His Houston Chronicle review concentrated on the yee-ha! aspects of the show, though he did admit that there were still moments of good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll; “…By the time an electric guitar screamed through All Along The Watchtower, the Dome had been transformed into the legendary “Royal Albert Hall” concert.”

The Dallas Observer’s Eric Waggoner turned in an entertaining overview of the current tour; “…For the first time in many years, Dylan’s live show turns out to be not only strong support for it’s source album, but a stunning piece of art all by itself. The brilliance – there is simply no other, more appropriate word – of Dylan’s Love and Theft touring show doesn’t answer any hoary questions concerning Good Bob vs. Bad Bob. It negates those questions, cancels them out to zero, burns them down and blows them away like the ashes of the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966.”

Keith Spera’s briefish review of the UNO Lakefront Arena show for The Times-Picayune still managed to be extremely positive; “…Dylan offered no hello, good-bye, thank you, God bless or drive home safe; other than singing and introducing the band, he was mute. But the finely wrought performance by this living legend and his stellar band spoke volumes.”

Another brief but positive review comes courtesy of The Shreveport Times’ Tim Greening, who again noted the country- influenced direction but who also appreciated a “stomping version” of All Along The Watchtower; “…That closed out an incredible show, which demonstrated that the legendary Dylan truly is rejuvenated and still knows how to entertain – and surprise – a crowd.”

Our final review this month is of the final date of the tour and it’s another good ‘un. Michael Corcoran of the Austin American-Statesman certainly enjoyed the “near perfect” Erwin Center gig (even going so far as to call the absence of an opening act “another perfect touch” which, considering it could have been Phil Lesh or Van Morrison, it probably was); “…Sunday’s show was the final stop on a North American tour, and the band scorched with the instinctive intensity that comes only from doing the same thing night after night after night.”

What else? Well, there was a tribute to George Harrison in January’s Goldmine which included a backstage photo at a Dave Edmund’s gig in Hollywood during February 1987. I’ve seen the pic before – featuring, amongst others, Dylan, Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Duane Eddy – but it’s interesting to read that it was at this moment that Harrison told journalist Robert Matheu (who was covering the concert for Creem magazine); “Don’t you think this would make a great band with all these guitar players? This would make a lovely band, with all these guys.” Matheu seems pretty convinced that this is where the seed that grew into the Traveling Wilburys fifteen months later was first sown. And perhaps it was.

Andy Gill selected his ten favourite Dylan bootlegs for the Winter edition of Mojo Collections and included two wallet-knackering epics, namely the 26-CD set Jewels And Binoculars and the 14-CD box 1965 Revisited. Then there’s the small matter of the Mail On Sunday previewing a t.v. show called Another Audience with Ken Dodd. Confused? Well, did you ever think you’d read of Ken Dodd being called “the Bob Dylan of comedy”? (they share the same hairdo and an appetite for neverending tours, apparently. This may be true, but Bob has got better teeth. And he’s funnier). Note to overseas readers; Ken Dodd is a British institution. So is fox hunting.

The February edition of Q awarded the vinyl version of Love and Theft one of the 2002 “Useless Packaging Awards”, insisting that it could have fitted onto one disc and that there’s nothing satisfying about having to get up and turn the record over. A few pages further on they were inviting art critic Matthew Collings to cast his critical eye over some rock star’s paintings. Whilst Jerry Garcia, David Bowie and Ron Wood came in for something of a mauling, Bob’s two efforts are actually well received. Of Self Portrait, Collings decides; “…he could certainly leave music, become an artist and be really good because he’s capable of having some depth to himself as a person” and of the lesser known Lo and Behold, he concludes; “…I’d be surprised if a rocker did this because art gets good when you do it every day and keep your hand in.” Even further on, Toby Manning awards the reissued Time Out Of Mind four stars; “…his voice here was better than in years, spitting out sparks into the compressed, bone-dry air of the production. Just as restless lyrically as musically, this finds Dylan in love again and hating it.”

In the wake of the 2002 Grammies, the New York Times’ Robert Hilburn reckoned that it was time to find a new voting system, since he obviously thinks Love and Theft should have won the Album Of The Year category, yet the vote was split between Dylan and U2, allowing the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack to sneak in and win. David Leibowitz of The Arizona Republic watched Bob perform Cry A While and ha d no idea of what he was singing, what it meant or why he did it. Then again, he’s hardly a fan; “…The grammies will keep coming, as will the sold-Out performances at Sun City’s Sundome, as will the “sassy leg thrusts”. Dylan will mumble and America will fall to it’s knees. And in the desert, one lonely newspaper columnist will struggle to decipher why.” There’s one bugger who didn’t buy Love and Theft, then.

Finally, Josh Grossberg of E! Online News was warning all cinema lovers that Bob is considering his first trip back to the silver screen since Hearts of shite. He will play Jack Fate in Masked and Anonymous. Fate is “an itinerant bluesman who’s sprung from prison by his former manager so he can perform one last show”. Producer Nigel Sinclair insists that “the character of Jack Fate is not unlike Bob Dylan’s persona, so he is a natural for this role.” Déjà vu, anyone? 1986? Richard Marquand? Similar comments? Mind you, I guess Bob will only make it if it’s in black and white, guest starring George Clooney and doesn’t mention the Mafia. Actually, if it happens, by the time you read this, it will probably have been made, panned and released straight to video.

THANKS THIS MONTH TO GRAHAM ASHTON AND BRYAN GRAY


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