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20lbs of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

More Summer 2002 European tour reviews to get through this month, beginning with one from Strasbourg where someone with the initials J.I. told the readers of the Dernieres Nouvelles D’Alsace that the show had an “excellent sound” and was “very good”. Phew, it’s getting exciting already, isn’t it? Yves Bigot reviewed the same show for France’s Liberation as a preview of the two Paris shows and presumably enjoyed it since he witnessed “Dylan vomiting fire when he plays the incandescent blues from his latest album”. That’s good, then. 

Onto Germany, where a briefish review in Bild praised the Frankfurt show, though pointed out that Dylan’s voice was “hoarse and croaking” during the first four songs. Unlike the UK shows, of course, where it was hoarse and croaking for the first 20. Friedrich Roeingh of the Wiesbadener Kurier also enjoyed the show, despite Bob’s “ridiculous cowboy suite” and Giessener  Anzeiger’s Ingo Berghofer  reckoned that not one single second of the show was boring and that Dylan’s band have to know every song from every Dylan album because they never know what he’s going to play next. Oh, I think they do nowadays, Ingo. 

In a lukewarm Stuttgart review for Cannstatter Zeitung, Michael Kallinger stuck his neck out and dared to suggest that Dylan can’t sing properly whilst Mannheimer Morgen’s Henning Dedekind was disappointed that he couldn’t recognise many of the songs. Udo Eberl, reviewing for the Sudwest Presse, enjoyed the show and claimed that “Bob Dylan is still the boss onstage” and Stuttgarter Zeitung’s Michael Werner was released from his rubber room long enough to declare that, if anything, Dylan’s  voice has improved. 

Roland Spiegel of Abendzeitung thoroughly enjoyed  the Munich show, calling it “2 ½  hours of immortality”, though Munchner Merkur’s Judith Fink, despite enjoying the show, called Dylan an “oaf, who didn’t make any conversation with the audience”. Reviewing the same show for Suddeutsche Zeitung, Markus Mayer discovered the “Shakespeare of rock” to be in a good mood, as did Bernhard Flieher of Austria’s Salzburger Nachrichten, who was pleased to see Dylan destroying any expectations the audience might still have of him. 

The Swiss were pretty pleased with the Zurich show. Blick’s H. Elias Frohlich reckoned it was “pure magic…a marvellous night” and Aargauer Zeitung’s Marcel Nusskern insisted that Dylan’s audience seems to be getting younger every time,  just like Dylan himself. (just how far back was your seat, Mr. Nusskern?) Basler Zeitung’s Martin Schafer praised the song selection, though admitted that the show suffered from “a certain solid uniformity” and Philipp Dubach of Der Bund, whilst singling out High Water as the highlight, concluded that “the compilation of songs is adventurous and the interpretations are gripping”.  Manfred Papst of the Neue Zurcher Zeitung didn’t enjoy the acoustic sections, calling Forever Young “especially dreadful” but Rolf Wyss of Der Landbote did, singling out only Blowin’ In The Wind and Tangled Up In Blue as songs Dylan would have been better off not playing. Benedetto Vigne of the Tages Anzeiger praised the band as being the main reason the concert was so great and Vincenzo Capodici, writing for the Zurichsee Zeitung, found parts of the show reminding him of the Grateful Dead (please, I just ate) and Dylan to be “mumbling, croaking and singing through his nose” (all at once?!! The man really is a genius!). 

A brief review of the Innsbruck show had Austria’s Neues Volksblatt reckoning that Dylan is to rock what Einstein was to physics whilst Kronenzeitung’s Claudia Thurner revealed that some of the songs couldn’t be recognised immediately (or at all probably) and that some sections of the audience started booing. Kurier’s CH. Tschenett praised the band as “sensationally good” and Peter Plaikner, reviewing for Tiroler Tageszeitung, praised Mr. Tambourine Man for “lacking in any Byrds-sweetness”. 

Back to Germany for the Nurnberg show, which Nordbayerische Zeitungn’s Thomas Heinold enjoyed, not least because the lighting effects could have come from a David Lynch movie. At the same show, Abendzeitung’s Andreas Radlmaier called it “a great moment”, something you might not assume from the review’s headline, which translates as “The prophet with the whinging tongue”.  Also at Nurnberg, Steffan  Radlmaier, for a newspaper whose title I have lost, called it “wonderful” and considered it compensation for the disaster at the same venue in 1987. Here’s a question for you, readers. Given the choice, would you rather listen to a 1987 show or a 2002 one? Answers on a postcard….. 

Tasso Diedrich, writing for Bonner Rundschau, gave the Oberhausen concert a so-so review, reckoning that it was typical of Dylan’s current gigs; no “breathtaking highlights but long, quiet and unexciting entertainment”. In contrast, Aachener Nachrichten’s Norbert F Schuldei called it a brilliant performance, with every song sounding as though it had just been written and Martin Oehlen of the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger found it to be “an entertaining, but not outstanding night”. Westdeutsche  Allgemeine’s Wolfgang Platzeck complained that Dylan didn’t sing many well-known songs, Westfalenpost’s Harald Ries says that there were  many well-known songs amongst the newer material because Dylan wants to please his audience. Which proves, I guess, that you buys yer newspaper and you takes yer choice. 

Meanwhile back in the UK, Adrian Deevoy previewed the British shows with an entertaining article in GO which concentrates on Dylan’s critical rebirth since 1997 and his interview with the man for Q (when it used to be worth  reading) in 1989. The hilarious and quite surreal trials and tribulations that Deevoy went through to secure the interview, not to mention the even more hilarious and surreal fax that the Q Office received from Dylan himself ten days after the magazine was published in which he more or less rewrote the entire article from the standpoint of whatever planet he was stationed on at the time, is well worth reading. I  believe there was article by Deevoy in an issue of The Telegraph back in the misty mists of time that covered this whole incident quite thoroughly, but it’s certainly worth a second look here in the more cold and clinical 21st century. 

June’s Mojo found Patrick Humphries looking back at the release of the oft-overlooked Empire Burlesque with a new (to me) 1985 pic of Dylan wearing a hideous 1985 shirt and July’s Folk Roots featured a review of the Last Waltz 4-CD set by Ian Kearey, calling Dylan “ragged but right” and correctly concluding ; “…it’s good to hear the old, old songs again, and marvel at how much has changed in a quarter of a century“. July’s Mojo featured a nice review of the first London Arena show by Sylvie Simmons, featuring a lovely full-page colour photo of Bob on stage, if not at London, then somewhere during the UK trek. As with many of the European reviews, she pays particular attention to whatever it is that Dylan is doing to whatever is left of his voice nowadays; “…Maybe it’s his take on the high, lonesome sound. More likely it’s as if the words – their familiarity and import to so many, many people – are an obstacle he has to surmount to reach his goal. Which tonight – as for some time now – appears to be playing as part of a band.” 

In May Ronan McGreevy interviewed Liam Clancy for The Irish Post and, as to be expected, Dylan features fairly highly. He was there when Dylan took off at the Newport Folk festival (I assume he was talking about 1965 but, given that he was helping to film a documentary of the event, it could be just as easily be 1964 or 65) ; “…I knew that he had something very unique about him, but I had no idea he would take off like he did. I was filming him onstage that night when he captured the public’s imagination at the Newport Festival.  I was helping to make a documentary. I was at the end of the camera and the tears were streaming down my cheeks because I was witnessing a star being born and he was my friend. “ From there we jump to 1992; “… After the Madison Square Gardens Concert in 1994 (sic) we spent the whole night getting drunk. He seemed to want desperately to get back to simpler times and not to be looked on as an icon. He was one of the few people in the entertainment business who sent messages of condolence when Tom and Paddy died.” 

An interview with Al Kooper by Harvey Kubernik in the 14/6/02 issue of Goldmine tells us little that we didn’t already know about the Highway 61, Blonde On Blonde and New Morning  sessions. An article in the 24/6/02  issue of The Daily Telegraph  tells us lots that we didn’t know about the history and filming of the Masked and Anonymous project then but know now. And, as you probably won’t be reading this until some time in 2003, by which time the movie may well be on general release (or not, as the case may be), there seems very little  point in repeating it all here when I could be doing something else like watching paint dry or Renaldo And Clara. 

Finally, an article in Spain’s El Heraldo de Aragon during June by Mattias Uribe covers both the recently published Spanish translation of the Sounes biography and the upcoming new album by Springsteen. Uribe tries to link the two subjects together by claiming that, while Dylan and Stringbean may be good friends, musically they are worlds apart, with Bruce limping in at best, in second place. While Springsteen has often imitated Dylan, Uribe insists, it has never happened the other way around. Which is almost certainly almost true, because didn’t Bob and Petty have him in mind when they were writing Tweeter And The Monkey Man for the first Wilburies album? 

I’ll leave you to ponder that great mystery of life and sign off until next month when I shall return to the typewriter (yes; I still use a typewriter !) and do it all again. 

Take it easy, but take it.

THANKS TO:  JENS W, GRAHAM A.

 
 
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