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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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Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Mick Gold has sent me (and others, it must be said) his review of / thoughts on Bob at Hammersmith last night. And I'm pleased to say that Paolo Brillo has sent me more of his truly exceptional photos from the same venue. Here they are:

Bob-cats pushed relentlessly forward against the bar at the front of the former Hammersmith Odeon, hats on their heads. Mark Knopfler was caressing liquid guitar solos from his Stratocaster. On Brothers In Arms, the notes flowed down his fretboard like drops of sonic quicksilver.

A random cross-section of the audience (i.e. two men standing next to me) told me their main motive for coming to see Bob was “He may not be back again”. One of them said, “Once we came to listen to him. Now we come to be in his presence.” There was plenty of presence tonight.

Bob and the band kicked of with Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, with Mark Knopfler and Charlie crouching and strutting in gun-slinger guitar poses. It’s All Over Now Baby Blue had a staccato vocal rhythm, with fluid guitar breaks from Knopfler holding things together. On Things Have Changed, Bob delivered high, keening harp solos, his notes cutting across Knopfler’s guitar. George Recile played a racket at the end, banging the sides of the drums, churning up the rhythm.

Forgetful Heart was one of the highlights of the evening, a lovely, simple tune bouncing off Donnie’s fiddle. Those haunting last words, “The door has closed forever more, If indeed there ever was a door” were delivered with a dying fall. One of my favourites, Man In The Long Black Coat, was enlivened by a slick, faster rhythm which suited the song. As Bob sang, “When she stopped him to ask if he wanted to dance, He had a face like a mask”, a self-deprecating grin flitted across his face. All evening there were a series of grins and frowns and little laughs, like micro-emotions scurrying over that face.

Another highlight was Desolation Row, delivered in waltz time, with practically every verse present and correct. Ballad of a Thin Man was done with great panache, electronic echoes giving extra bite to words like “lepers and crooks”, Bob’s voice positively caressing the lines “you’re very well read, it’s well known”. There were only a few songs when his voice sounded like a hoarse bark; Honest With Me was one, and Thunder On The Mountain was another. All Along The Watchtower managed to sound both staccato and lyrical. Like A Rolling Stone was slow, stately and sorrowful, with no hint of derision in the vocal delivery.

Then there was a flurry on the stage and suddenly Mark Knopfler was back in the spotlight centre stage, beaming and waving to the audience, as they launched into Forever Young. Knopfler took over the vocal on the second verse, “May you grow up to be righteous…” with Knopfler and Charlie both injecting elegant guitar lines between the words, conjuring up memories of Robbie Robertson at The Last Waltz. On the third verse, Bob began singing "May your hands always be busy..." and then Knopfler’s voice rose up to take over the lead, and as he sang, “May your heart always be joyful, May your song always be sung”, he lifted his arm and gestured towards Bob, and the audience roared with approval and devotion. It was a memorable ending.

main text © Mick Gold, all photos © Paolo Brillo


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fine review except there wasn't confusion over the last verse of Forever Young. After each taking a verse, Bob did the first two lines and Mark did the last two.

4:58 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Mick Gold sent me a correction on this more or less the minute I'd published it. He has amended his final paragraph accordingly - but thanks for your input.

6:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who is Mick Gold?

1:27 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Mick is all this
and more.

10:07 am  

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