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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Thursday, July 14, 2011


While Dylan's North American tour dates continue through July and into August (with Leon Russell as support act), a list of thirty European tour dates in big arenas has now been added. The following have gone up on, stretching through October and November:

6 Dublin, Ireland: O2 Arena
8 Glasgow, Scotland: Braehead Arena
9 Glasgow, Scotland: Braehead Arena
10 Manchester, England: M.E.N. Arena
11 Nottingham, England: Capital FM Arena
13 Cardiff, Wales: Motorpoint Arena
14 Bournemouth, England: Bournemouth International Centre
16 Lille, France: Zenith Arena
17 Paris, France: Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
19 Antwerp, Belgium: Sportpaleis
20 Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sportpaleis Ahoy
21 Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg: Rockhal
23 Oberhausen, Germany: Arena
25 Mannheim, Germany: SAP Arena
26 Munich, Germany: Olympiahalle
27 Leipzig, Germany: Leipzig Arena
29 Berlin, Germany: O2 World
31 Hamburg, Germany: O2 World

2 Herning, Denmark, Boxen Arena
3 Malmö, Sweden: Malmö Arena
4 Stockholm, Sweden: Globe Arena
6 Hanover, Germany: TUI Arena
7 Nuremberg, Germany: Nuremberg Arena
8 Innsbruck, Austria: Olympiahalle
9 Padova, Italy: Palasport
11 Florence, Italy: Nelson Mandela Forum
12 Rome, Italy: PalaLottomatica
14 Milan, Italy: Mediolanum Forum
15 Geneva, Switzerland: Geneva Arena
16 Zurich, Switzerland: Hallenstadion

PS. I'm told that these dates will include Mark Knopfler as support.


Anonymous Kieran said...

So will Knopfler be on stage with Bob, seems to be the question. It will help me decide whether or not to go. I'm not buying another ticket based on the rationale that Bob's getting old and it's the last chance to see him.

I've stood before him too often to be impressed by just "seeing" him. I like to hear him, too. Last time was good, time before, not so.

Yesterday driving along they played Sultan's of Swing and I was glad there were no speed cameras about. For all his faux-Dylan voice and sub-Bruce wrist-bands, Knopfler's a great, clear guitarist. Something pure in the way he plays, unlike that phoney old goat, Eric Clapton, who's guitar play I couldn't distinguish from what Americans like to call a fender bender...

3:15 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Ah, but it comes to something when the incentive for going to a Dylan concert is Mark Knopfler rather than Bob Dylan...

8:35 pm  
Anonymous Dave said...

personally I strongly object to having to pay more to see a shorter set from Bob for the privilege of having to endure a snoozefest from Knopfler

11:18 pm  
Anonymous Rambling Gambling Gordon said...

Yes, a lot of us are now being forced to weigh up the pros and cons of going to see Dylan. I’ve sympathy with the first comment above, about having been to too many concerts to be satisfied any longer by simply seeing him (although at the same time who doesn’t get that old unique rush of excitement when he first stumbles on to the stage?). If only he’d pull something utterly unexpected out the bag. Who knows, maybe Knopfler will be the catalyst for something different this time. I doubt it, but - yes – I’m going to go.

1:42 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

"Ah, but it comes to something when the incentive for going to a Dylan concert is Mark Knopfler rather than Bob Dylan..."

Well, this is it, you know? I'm tired of the gentrified country rock thing. It seems so easy. I know Knopfler's a little toothless and countrified too, but maybe his presence might change the shape of the music.

I've listened to Bob for 30 years, but it's not progressing any more. I listen to other stuff. Has he got greatness still within him? I believe he does, but he either isn't too pushed, or he'll dole it out piecemeal. Spontaneity is even forced with him nowadays. He's had the same encore for about 500 years now.

He needs to take a break from touring and get writing, or else jazz it up a little and try something new. In my humble opinion, of course. But I base the decision to go or not to go on my opinion too...

9:17 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Well said, Kieran. I completely agree (except for the jazzing it up, obviously; that would be horrendous). I wish he'd stop touring, and do some living, observing and writing instead. It's a tired circus-act at the moment. As you say, "In my humble opinion, of course. But I base the decision to go or not to go on my opinion too..." Indeed.

12:19 am  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

I, too, wish he’d try something new, especially if he intends to continue with his touring. Given his limited vocal range, I wonder why he doesn’t try (re-try) having backing singers (not necessarily in the Queens of Rhythm style) to share some of the burdens of the vocals. And that leads me to wonder whether he might not experiment with his writing, too. Talking blues and rap-style lyrics (à la Subterranean Homesick Blues) would be well suited to what his voice is capable of these days and would, I think, work so long as he had a new and interesting band behind him. Well, it’s a thought…

11:10 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

And looking at the setlists for the last two US concerts, it isn't just that the encore stays the same. There's a run of four songs early on in the set (nos. 3-6) that is the same each night, and then the last four songs immediately before the encore are the same each night here too, so that he uses the same seven songs, in the same order, as almost the whole second half of each set:

July 15, 2011 OC Fair, Orange County, CA
1. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
3. Things Have Changed
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
6. Sugar Baby
7. High Water (For Charley Patton)
8. Tryin' To Get To Heaven
9. Summer Days
10. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Forgetful Heart
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower
17. Blowin' In The Wind

July 16, Las Vegas
1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. It Ain't Me, Babe
3. Things Have Changed
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
6. Sugar Baby
7. Summer Days
8. Simple Twist Of Fate
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10 Forgetful Heart
11. Thunder On The Mountain
12. Ballad Of A Thin Man
13. Like A Rolling Stone
14. All Along The Watchtower
15. Blowin' In The Wind.

11:51 am  
Anonymous Rainer said...

Ah, come on, neither the '66 setlists nor the ones from 75 or 79 ;-) or 81 did change much, that's really no argument against a Dylan (or anyone's) concert or says anything about the quality. The two shows I've seen this year in Milano and Sursee were very delightful and worth every cent paid and every kilometer traveled. Still, I have to confesss having to suffer through Knopfler's set and to pay for high-priced seats in horrible arenas makes me think more than twice about attending any fall shows.

1:06 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Yes, I had the unchanging sets of earlier eras in mind even as I was writing earlier today. But there's just no comparison, is there?

1:25 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

And actually, though you say that noting the set repetition is "really no argument against a Dylan (or anyone's) concert or says anything about the quality", it certainly can be an argument against wanting to attend. I saw Leonard Cohen in concert in Toulouse a couple of years ago - and he was extremely good... but I wouldn't want to go to see him again precisely because I know he'd be exactly the same.

And as for current Bob - rather than the Bob of '66 or the '75 or '81 - can you really argue that he still varies his performances of Rainy Day Women, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Don't Think Twice or Like A Rolling Stone? Or that his band is the slightest bit innovative or edgy?

1:44 pm  
Anonymous carl Finlay said...

Michael, what do you think of this performance of Cant Wait from Milan this year?

it gets better as the song goes on, its one of the better performances of recent years, in my opinion :)

4:18 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Ah yeah, I don't literally mean "jazz", or to popify his work: just a little ragged something that adds an edge and makes it sound fresh again. Creativity! Not just the recreation of something that he thinks works for him.

It's pointless (for me) going to dozens of shows across the decade that all have the same MO.

Whatever he thinks he should do, he should do. But my feeling is that he's been too safe and precious with his legacy these past few years, when in fact he should look at guys in other art-forms who developed even into their 70's and 80's...

5:45 pm  
Anonymous Rambling Gambling Gordon said...

Well, ‘innovative and edgy’ musicians around him would certainly be a start. (Where are the new Plugz when you need them?)

When he sang ‘Maggie’s Farm’ at the recent Grammys the musicians behind him were hardly cutting edge, but the very fact that it was a different – and, indeed, slightly bizarre – set-up seemed to make him more animated than normal. Hardly a great performance, I know, but it’s a measure of how unadventurous he is live these days that something like that was immediately fresher and more interesting.

7:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respect Michael & Kieran's thoughts re touring/writing. However,I have just listened to recent performances, including 'Forgetful Heart' in Milan: he seems much more present & engaged with his songs, (than last time i saw him, in Sheffield a couple of years ago).I was moved.

7:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite all the cheeky things Michael has said about Dylan's current voice, his positive review of the Christmas album (which I liked even better this past year) indicated that it's less the tonal quality of the voice which Michael finds wanting (and I think everyone hears the same damaged voice), and more that Michael finds Dylan is often going through the motions.
There are two factors I see as undeniable.
The man is 70. and he simply doesn't have the energy of youth.
His voice is a shadow of it's former self in the areas of tonality it can explore without crashing into a wall.
Dylan could be confined now to a narrow area of expression, the kind of comfort zone most singers stay in. He doesn't do this though, he continues to rush headlong into dangerous areas, and the current results can be seen in various ways. I like what he's doing when he's interested and feeling well, but I fully hear and understand the reason why many people find the voice hard to take.
It seems to me that it's clear if Dylan were a typical singer he could operate in a typical fashion with his voice as it is. When he stays inside certain "safe zones" (mostly quite) his voice is still under control. Yet to me, the best moments on that Christmas album were the ones where he was unafraid.
Hark the Herald.
Patrick Ford

6:57 am  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Hark the Herald, indeed, Pat!

For me, I don't mind the voice so much. Okay, it's exceedingly raspy and he strains to get much a range beyond croak or moan, but that's fine. That's his voice. He used strain for notes on Empire Burlesque, too.

I remember seeing him in Slane and he was hilarious, his neck strained as he sang Simple Twist of Fate, mooing like a farmyard animal. Usually, his voice is a thing of beauty, but sometimes he just doesn't take care of where he's going with it.

On the album version of Forgetful Heart, for instance, his voice is delicious. He still has more in that voice than most people, when he takes care of it. In the studio, particularly, I think it can be most effective.

My main problem with the live show - and I understand people have had this complaint before and been wrong, no problem - is with the content of the music. No longer improvised, and yet not tight enough. It's ragged without being beautiful, and it's tight without any inspiration behind the arrangements of songs.

He's still fighting that ol' Civil War, I suppose. He's got great physical energy for a guy his age, and I can't fault his commitment to getting out there, but someone above suggested bringing the girls back to enlarge the sound in some way, add some textures and contrast to the vocals.

We see this works effectively on his Christmas album. But also, like Michael, I'd like to see him focus more on writing. It's kinda been half-hearted for a while...

11:12 am  
Anonymous likeatrain said...

I remember reading (I think) Clinton Heylin quoted as saying 'the way forward is to mute the band,' or words to that effect - in 1993. And a lot of excellent electric-band music came out of Bob shows for the next 10 years. But that was before Bob's voice collapsed. Now, I think quietening things down a bit would be the best way to bring out what nuance Bob is still capable of vocally - and perhaps encourage a little more experimentation.

Recile is a stranger to subtlety, and it doesn't do Bob any favours that he has to shout over the drummer's heavy-handed playing.I'm not saying Bob should do away with drums, but why not have a drummer play more with brushes, or a drummer less needlessly 'busy' than Recile.

Of course, it could be that Bob knows full well how fragile his voice is and therefore prefers to 'hide' it in louder, more layered instrumentation. Perhaps he would simply feel too exposed in an acoustic band format.

And the autumn tour:

Bob's none-too convincing show + Knopfler + masssive arenas + very expensive tickets.

Not a winning formula ('In my humble opinion, of course. But I base the decision to go or not to go on my opinion too...')

2:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dylan isn't trying to hide his voice though. Many people wish that he would. To reiterate my previous comment, I'm glad he doesn't stay in his safe place. One thing which has always been a major appeal of Dylan's singing is his amazingly wide variety of tonality.
My feeling is that most singers find a comfort zone they stay inside.
It isn't notes on a scale, it's a tonal range encompassing different ways of delivering notes. Things like "whisppery," "choked," and "roar" come to mind.
It's tempting to think Dylan can't sing loud anymore, because when shifts tone from soft to loud it's when his voice rasps, but there are times when he reaches for loud sustained notes (any number of times on the Christmas record), and nails them effectively. It may be that his voice is stiff, and doesn't have the flexibility to slide between tonal inflections easily.
I'd be disappointed if he began tip-toeing through songs like a man crossing a mine field.

Another thing to consider is that when Dylan was in full voice it was much easier for him to "fake it" on those songs, nights, or weeks, when he wasn't into it. As an example the Before the Flood album features all sorts of vocal gymnastics, but sounds kind of detached to me.
Patrick Ford

7:07 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Carl: to answer your question. I think that's how it is when things disintegrate...

12:09 am  

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