20lbs of Headlines


Last month we concentrated on the UK press reaction to the 2002 European tour, this month it’s the turn of Germany and we’ll kick off with a couple of reviews of Hamburg. 

If Bild Hamburg merely noted in a brief review that Dylan played a routine concert, then Volker Albers in Hamburger Abendblatt certainly enjoyed watching Bob enjoying himself; “… it’s hard to believe, but Dylan, this dismissive looking cowboy, was dancing. As if to say; “Look, this is my life and I enjoy it to the full”.” 

Onto Hamburg, where Thuringer Allgemeine’s Michael Pilz reckoned that all songs were recognizable and them went on to praise Maggie’s Farm, which Dylan didn’t even play. A brief piece in Die Tageszeitung concentrated on a football fan in the audience who had been dragged along to the show by his girlfriend instead of the UEFA Cup match Milan v. Borussia Dortmund that he wanted to attend. Apparently , he “irritated” Dylan by continually shouting, “Ole, ole, o lay, lady, lay!” until he was escorted out by security. Phew, rock ‘n’ roll. 

Rudiger Schaper of Der Tagesspiegel noted that the Berlin concert was even better than the 2000 gig at the same venue and that this audience was younger and more female orientated. Sounds good to me. Berliner Morgenpost’s Uwe Sauerwein also reckoned that this show was better than the 2000 one  and also  praised the band and Bob, who “with his Neverending Tour, seems to have reached something like happiness.” Ralf Kuhling of BZ reckoned that Dylan has the best band in the world and that, at Berlin, “with the magic of his knotty singing, Dylan has reached a new peak in his career.” Another brief review in BZ also praised the show: “…Two years ago, the Arena was half-empty, this time it was sold out. Berlin wants real heroes again. Great!” 

Berliner Zeitung’s Frank Junghanel wrote his review along similar lines; “…Dylan plays Berlin regularly. Some time ago he was awful, lately he’s a sound piece of work. Two years ago it was good, this time sensational.” In a daft review in Junge Welt, Maik Holzel was most impressed that “obviously somebody has finally taught him how to play the harmonica without reminding the people in the audience on their next appointment with the dentist.” Quite. 

Onto Hamburg, where Die Welt’s Stefan Grund noted the younger audience comprised of so many “business people”. Dylan responded  with ”the best Hamburg concert for 20 years.” Ah, yes  - Hamburg 1982: that was a great gig. Subterranean Homesick Blues. The band looked as though they’d come “right from the wild west, with their instruments in one hand and the Bible and Shakespeare’s dramas in the other.” That’s right – there’s no point even thinking  about being an Old West gunslinger unless you can recite a few chapters of Hamlet during those tedious shootouts. 

Pinneberger Tageblatt’s Dorit Koch also enjoyed Hamburg, though he noticed that it took 30 minutes before Dylan and his audience finally clicked, whilst Mechthild Klein of Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung reckoned that the sight of Dylan finishing the show on his knees before his audience, “was a good omen from somebody who usually never shows such gestures.” Kieler Nachrichten’s Volker Behrens was just as enthusiastic, claiming that Dylan’s time isn’t over yet and that the Hamburg concert was more than a visit from a monument and  Tino Hanekamp of Hamburger Morgenpost was pleased that Hamburg got the “nice Bob” who played a “mellow, unflappable and rock solid” show. 

Ingolf Rosendahl of Leipziger Volkszeitung was worried that the Leipzig show might  not reach the heights of Hamburg or Berlin, but “it took only a few bars of opener Wait For The Light To Shine to clear up all doubts”. Even if Dylan didn’t smile until Maggie’s Farm (which was the final number of the gig) (just kidding). Matthias Zwarg of the Freie Presse reckoned that, at Leipzig, “Dylan was more on the ball than ever” and that, once again, the audience far outnumbered those at Dylan’ 

The Hannover show was received no less positively, with Ralf Neite of Hannoversche  Allgemeine concluding that “the new songs from Love And Theft sound fresher than the old classics” and Laurenz Lierenz of Neue Presse writes: “…In Make You Feel My Love he mumbles tenderly’ “I would never do you wrong”. We know that, Bob. And we’ll always come back again.” 

Jens Frederiksen of Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz was disappointed that, at the Frankfurt concert, Dylan rearranged too many of his old songs: “…Dylan plays an impressive concert, even if the list of sins is long once  again… The Wicked Messenger from the quiet John Wesley Harding album is buried – like everything  else in the second half of the concert – under a deafening rock arrangement. Only the Love And Theft songs are performed  more  or less the same way they’re recorded in the studio.” Albert Schmaltz of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung found the Bob Dylan on the Frankfurt stage to be in “top form” and he especially enjoyed a version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door now rearranged as “a Motown-Country version”. Frankfurter Neue Presse’s Hadayatullah Hubsch went somewhat over the top with his Frankfurt review, calling the Love And Theft songs “precious objects” and concluding; “…Sometimes Bob Dylan was like a child allowed to have a good romp, and sometimes full of dignity and wisdom. Silly show behaviour is completely alien to him. He’s at the zenith of his work.” The Offenbach-Post’s Thomas Kirstein was more level-headed, simply proclaiming Frankfurt as “a great concert” whilst Die Rheinpfalz’s Dietrich Wappler summed up; “…At the end he accepts the ovations of the audience with overwhelmed astonishment, takes a deep bow, perhaps surprised by so much warmth in a cold world.” 

Frankfurter Rundscau dispatched six critics to review Frankfurt, all of varying ages and interest in Dylan. The results, with a couple of exceptions, are largely so-so, my favourite being; “…Some day he’ll probably be called the most influential poet of the 20th Century. Today he still acts as a musician…He also has this throat disease that some people call a voice.” 

Next up, a couple of belated UK reviews. Paul Keith of the Brighton Argus enjoyed Brighton, especially the Love And Theft material; “…Although, at heart, these were arranged as rootsy  country rockers, the style of songs encompasses a range of genres including blues, folk and even swing – Dylan goes eclectic if you will.”  The Observer’s Sean O’Hagan was less impressed with the second London show, feeling that Dylan was not at his best; “Can it be that he is bored by touring but spooked even more by the thought of retiring and being at home with himself?” In contrast to the Dublin show of 2000, “tonight, to quote the great man himself, nothing was delivered. Maybe he should give himself a break. After all, his ever hopeful audiences have been giving him one for years.” At the same show, and in total contrast, Uncut’s Allan Jones is, by the time Dylan concludes Honest With Me, “in stunned and delirious rapture”. This is, remember, the only reviewer who found anything remotely positive to say about the 1991 shows, so you’re not likely to get a ritual slagging-off here. Even so, with Wicked Messenger, Sugar baby, a “regal” Like A Rolling Stone and the aforementioned Honest With Me all singled out as highlights, this is more the stuff of fanzine than rock mag; “…At the end, the cheers of thousands rolling over him, Bob drops to one knee, stands, smiles, blows the crowd a kiss and does his little knock-kneed walk into the wings, into legend and beyond. Unbelieveable.” Excellent colour Brighton pic also included. 

Meanwhile, the revamped Last Waltz was still pulling in decent reviews, with Bay’s John Orr praising Dylan’s “brilliant” set, especially the restored and “delightful” Hazel and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Masley proclaiming that “Dylan’s songs alone would go a long way toward explaining what the fuss is all about” and that Baby Let Me Follow You Down is “by far the most intense performance of the whole event”. 

Kelly Grinsteinner of the Hibbing Daily Tribune reported on a  week long celebration in Bob’s home  town to celebrate his birthday. It started out as an evening’s celebration at Zimmy’s and has grown to include a showing of Dylan’s biography, a mystery bus tour, trivia contests, glass blowing demonstrations (that’s not what Blowin’ In The Wind was about was it?) and a musician’s talent contest. The week of May 19th-25th has been declared Bob Dylan week by proclamation of Mayor Pru Lolich who claims; “This is something that’s long overdue”. Co-proprietor of Zimmy’s, Linda Stroback-Hocking elaborates; “Dylan has notoriety far and wide. It has just taken Hibbing a little while to realize it. And like Dylan’s Mom said; “It’s about time someone did something nice for him”.” 

Uncut’s Nigel  Williamson awards the Grateful Dead’s  Postcards Of The Hanging CD three stars and, whilst realising that their 1987 collaboration did no one any favours (not least the audiences), insists that this release proves that “without Bob’s haphazard sense of timing throwing the off their stride, Garcia and co prove they were actually excellent interpreters of the world’s most dazzling songbook.” 

Finally, I could wax lyrical for several pages about the June edition of Uncut, but I doubt very much that anyone reading this wouldn’t have bought it at the time. Or should I say “bought them”, since  you need both covers and both free CDs, especially as, The Special’s massacre of Maggie’s Farm not withstanding, there’s hardly a duff track on them. Basically, the bulk of the mag comprises the Top 40 Dylan songs, as voted for by writers, critics, and fellow musicians. No prizes awarded whatsoever for guessing Number One (clue: it isn’t Are You Ready?)  and it is typically weighted towards his 1960’s work but this was a worthy tribute to the man in the month of his UK Tour and included several other smaller Dylan-related articles as well as a nice selection of career-spanning photos, including a lovely full-page photo of a 2001 Bob sitting in a barn or a hayloft (or it could be the inside of Bob’s house for all I know. Maybe he prefers sitting on straw rather than the more conventional chairs and sofas). Not so much a recommended magazine as an essential one.