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Bob Dylan: return of the never-ending tour | reviews, news & interviews

Bob Dylan: return of the never-ending tour

Bob Dylan: return of the never-ending tour

Should Dylan retire to the mountains to write more volumes of 'Chronicles'?

What the hell is wrong with Bob Dylan? As the Sage of Minnesota rolls back into London with Mark Knopfler in tow, I took a detour round YouTube to see what they've been up to on their recent European dates.

Of course, we've all grown used to Dylan's habit of mashing his lyrics to a formless pulp and turning what used to be tunes into a sequence of hiccups and barking noises, but the time does seem to be approaching when medical professionals will have to be ordered in to escort him from the microphone. 

I was especially appalled by some clips somebody had taken of Mystery Bob at the Rokhal in Luxembourg, where he disembowelled "Like a Rolling Stone" with a tragicomic farrago of growling, croaking and horrific expectorant noises. It was like blues from an iron lung. Surreally, his rather fine band merely continued to play on as if this sort of thing goes on all the time... which, of course, it does.

Admittedly you can still come across reviewers who manage to find something praiseworthy in Bob's latter-day shows. The argument is usually along the lines of how artistically bold he is to reappraise his material so radically, as if all his classic records would have been even better if he'd played all the notes in the wrong order and got his pet sea lion to sing them.

However, Dylan and Knopfler were in Blighty only last month, and numerous concert-goers left less then laudatory messages on various websites. "One of the worst gigs I've had the misfortune of attending," said somebody calling themselves TheLastWaltz, having seen Bob'n'Mark in Manchester. "Mark Knopfler as usual was excellent: Dylan was appalling," added Anonymous. At the Nottingham show, mad6000 also enjoyed Knopfler, but then Dylan came on and "after an hour we couldn't bear it any longer and left. It was very sad".

After all this, I cheered myself up by listening to Bob's Live 1966 album (the one with The Hawks and the bloke shouting "Judas!" on it). Gratifyingly, it's still unimpeachably awesome after all these years. But back in the present, perhaps someone could encourage Bob to retire to a cabin in the mountains and write Chronicles volumes 2-10.

It's as if all his classic records would have been even better if he'd played all the notes in the wrong order and got his pet sea lion to sing them

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Frankly, "Like A Rolling Stone" has seldom worked that well for Bob in concert. Overall, his vocal styling is hit-and-miss now, but you are showing a miss. I saw Bob less than two years ago and most of the stuff, particularly "High Water" and the newer "Forgotten Heart" were staggering. Most important, the crowd LOVED it, Bob clearly had a good time, and everyone went home happy. Something is STILL happening here Mr. Jones...and you're still clueless why it matters.

Thank You. Probably the best Bob show I ever went to was two years ago. The theatricality was indeed staggering. Forgetful Heart left me speechless (and that is saying something as you can see given how much I wrote responding here alone) I go every chance I get these days- Usually only once a year but if I could afford it I would go to many more. The communality with the crowd is great- And the generosity of Dylan is amazing.

There are none so deaf as those who cannot hear.


I myself love Bob Dylans music and performances. I respect that some people don´t and I am sorry that some people were disappointed after the latest performances, though it´s nothing new. What I really don´t understand is why so many people have so strong need to write shit about Bob Dylan. I wonder if there is another singer who has been criticized so hard and in such vulgar ways. I really admire Bob Dylan that he can take it. He is just a human being too. I - as a fan - feel offended and sad. Do you feel better to get it confirmed?

I've seen Bob 5 times and walked out twice. As a general rule, if he's playing that poxy piano thing you're in for a lonnnnng night

boring. i am so over the clever critics bashing bob dylan. when he dies, you will fall over yourselves in his praise. no toher artist alive has given more of himself and continue to despite constant, ridiculously tiresome complaining. this writer would have been the one shouting 'judas,' but of course, wink wink, now he 'gets' it that dylan 'was' cool back then. such bullshit. unworthy of a great artist - but the truth is, he really doesn't care what you think and honestly, no one else does either.

The man lives to play and perform. If you don't like it don't go. I saw him in Switzerland last June and he was outstanding, voice intact. I agree he does sound a little hoarse, but he still puts on great shows and creative renditions of new and old music. There have and will always be Bob bashers. I remember throwing "Saved" out my dorm window only to listen to a new copy years later. He is who he is, apparently for himself. Why not, it's the only job he has ever had. We should all be so lucky to "die on the stage", doing what we do best, or at least enjoy.

Well said.

Absolutely agree. Too bad what this guy wants is just to leech. Not only off Bob, but, evidently, off the rest of us.

wonderfully expressed. Thanks.

It's a mystery to me why the diehards can't admit what is staring them in the face: Dylan's voice is completely and utterly shot. Fine if you want to hear someone growl and groan their way through a classic back catalogue, but it's painful and excruciating to most of us. And before you kick off, I absolutely love most of his recorded work. Chronicles was a superb book - I don't get why Bob doesn't just pack in the touring and get writing, putting his fabulous literary talents to good use, instead of slugging around enormodomes with a soulless parody of his former self. Why does he bother? Please don't tell me this is 'radical' reversioning, it is perverse and sad, and he doesn't need to do it.

no one denies his voice is shot silly boy...(or girl) But that doesn't take away from the vitality of his performing and the joy of the experience- in fact I would say it rather enhances it in some odd way. Bob isn't just some entertainer the way say Paul McCartney is- yes, he is an icon- (and he still has a voice) but he doesn't have the same cultural importance or gravitas if I may be so bold as Bob does. We have respect for what he HAS contributed- but also respect for what he continues to contribute. He is still vital and relevant. If all we wanted was entertainment we could go to a movie or a local club- or see McCartney I guess. Dylan is like an old friend in a sense- we take him as he is, enjoy him as he is, share the experience with him... There is a deep affection for him. This doesn't mean there is no awareness of what you might call his failures... But what kind of person drops an old friend who isn't the same person he was 30 years ago? I guess the same kind that divorces his wife when she ages. So shallow. Though something is lost with age- much more is gained. I for one don't want to miss out on the enrichment that comes with the aging of my friends. And I don't want to miss out on the joy of "visiting" with Bob and seeing what he is up to in this phase of his life just because his voice has been so overworked through his generosity. You people seem to think that those of us who enjoy Dylan as is are deluded or followers of a cult figure while extending your disdain of Mr. Bob to us. But you see these are your projections and your criticisms say far more about you, the workings of your inner self than it does about Bob Dylan (or us.) Really I guess I should say "I" instead of "we" because just like you are projecting your own sad soulless parody negative mind set I am projecting my own inner reality. When I see Bob it is always joyous. I can't wait till the next time my old friend comes to town.

Yeah, you don't "get" it, alright...

The irony of course - an irony the writer has not seen- is that people at the 1966 concerts complained constantly and many walked out. Dylan like Picasso in his 90s is still relevant. He is not sad at all. Even if he happened to be a has-deetiubeen (which he is not); that is still better than being a "never was". 2 of his more recent albums went to number one in many countries. And psedomymous, I know you are not hostile to Bob, but don't you realise people have always whined about his vocals- FROM DAY ONE. Isn't a blues singer supposed to sound rough and world-weary? If you want Mario Lanza then buy a Mario Lanza record.

Curious reaction to your criticisms here, but not nearly as curious as the reaction of the crowd at Hammersmith last night. Let's skip Knopfler for now except to say that he was the only thing that made the start of Bob's set bearable. The latter proceeded to drive a tank through a collection of nice but overlong and unexceptional backing tracks to his own songs, played by a band that looked really quite unengaged. And little wonder. What was the point in it all? I took my two teenage sons at considerable cost to see two legends. On the evidence of last night, both will listen to Knopfler's sublime guitar playing for many years to come. Neither will give Dylan a second chance; not a good outcome at all. But neither did he deserve another hearing. Back to the crowd though. When I left, early, frustrated and iriritated at such a waste of half the ticket price, the crowd were giving it some - but in all the wrong places! It was like a revivalist meeting where the congregation shout 'Halleluja' on cue. Except last night it was not at the end of the songs (the messy segues between numbers did not help) but when St Bob picked up his blues harp to administer the coup de grace to his badly maimed material. So little entertainment was there to be had in the singing that some pretty awful harmonica playing had to save the night. Oh, and Bob's guitar was horribly out of tune early on (his roadie's fault but shouldn't Bob just have stopped playing it?). Some people in this forum suggest we should stop knocking Bob because he's a nice bloke and a legend. Both are undoubtedly true. I'm knocking him because his contribution last night was costly rubbish.

You are right about the singing along part. What is the point in trying to second guess when he's going to sing the next word when there deliberately isn't any consistency. The problem is that you've missed the whole point about what he does and what he has done for the last 40 odd years. He has a band, they have a particular sound, he reinterprets old material (specifically the rhythm of the lyrics) as he goes along and they try to keep up. That is what he does! It was never going to be a greatest hits record. Good for you to try to introduce youngsters to bob's work but it was sadly doomed to failure from the off. Have a good listen to his back catalogue, including live works like hard rain and real live and Dylan and the dead, then see him again. It might click and you'll have a most wonderful and fulfilling epiphany.

Extraordinary youtube clip - he sings like Animal from the Muppets.

Do you really think so? ...... maybe an old and decrepit Animal who's lost his voice..... ;) PS I see Bob's been recruited to promote the all seeing eye of Horus thing, like so many music acts these days.

If you don't think of it as buying a ticket to see Bob Dylan and think instead that you are paying to hear Yoda sing Dylan songs then I think you will be able to reconcile the cost of the ticket with the quality of the performance. Dylan is a legend but his voice is completely shot so to see him now is like paying respects to a corpse. You go to see him to acknowledge and revel in his life, while accepting his sad demise.

Unfortunately, this really is 'singing in the club style' a la Vic Reeves. I wonder if there is anyone in the Dylan stable who would dare to plead with him to stop...

I remember once seeing Dylan at Hammersmith, and noticing the guy in front of me looking confused. About half an hour in, he leant over as if he'd had an epiphany and said to his friend "I know what he's done, he's taken all the notes out". That was back in 1992.

Bob was in fine form on Saturday night. I can certainly understand why people don't "get it" and genuinely don't enjoy what he does but it seems like a sad ego trip to try to ridicule him in the way that so many people do. His voice is pretty much shot but the rhythm of his lyrical delivery is one of the things which makes his performances so interesting and fun. Even he doesn’t know when he will be uttering the next syllable until it is happening and the variations are tremendously exciting. If you aren't familiar with his catalogue I would probably agree that it is pretty much pointless to go and see him, but for those of us who are, the experience can be, and usually is, an absolute joy. I had a great time on Saturday night and will be seeing him again whenever I get the chance. It wouldn't be Dylan if he wasn't polarising opinions. I'm sure he'd allow himself a rasping gravely little laugh if he could be bothered to read the criticism.

I count myself as a die-hard dylan and have seen him many times over the last 30 years (first time: Earls Court 1981). I saw him in Finsbury Park in the summer and thought he was pretty good - there were some real high points. However, I don't think its blasphemous to say that his singing on Saturday night was awful. He usually takes a few songs to get his voice warmed up but it just didn't happen on Saturday. The barked style kind of worked on 'ballad of a thin man' but elsewhere it was a bit of a mess. My wife - who is not a die-hard fan - went on Saturday and was shocked by the how poor Bob's singing has become. Having said all that, it was still great to see him!

And you gotta love "It Must Be Santa", the greatest new Christmas song in ages, even if most Dylan fans hated it....

I LOVE that song. Just got the CD. The video is brilliant. I watch it whenever I need a pick me up- never fails to make me laugh.

I suspect that you are not all that interested in rural pre-war blues, and that you don't spend a lot of time on Charley Patton's recordings. But I think you clearly fail to understand Bob's antecedants, and are probably some late-come 'Rock' enthusiast. We saw Bob live twice in small venues this year and I have followed concerts via downloads. He may have nothing to say to you, but that is YOUR narrow opinion. People all over the world, in times of economic crisis do not shell out serious money to listen to rubbish as you claim; they do so because what they experience has meaning and excites them.

i'm used to it now. first saw Bob in 75 (second best show ever!), then in '78 (third best show ever!), then on April 17 & 20,1980(tied for best show ever!) it's been all downhill from there, so i limited myself to another 140 shows.


GREAT article. It is alway very inspiring for me to listen to the views of the ones that JUST DON"T GET IT! Keep up the good work.

LOL! Fantastic. I have to say I agree with you. I kind of enjoy these articles in some perverse way.

So, some people to do not "get" Bob. That is nothing new and has been the case since the early 60's. He has never been melodic, except for when he really wants to be. Even now when his voice is shot, he has the ability to totally move an audience, as with "Forgotten Heart" in Hammersmith last night and "To Make You Feel My Love" in Bournemouth last month. He is one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters of our time, always was, always will be. Clearly he still has the ability to excite and engage his audience. This he did superbly on Monday night in Hammersmith. I believe that it was a stroke of genius to tour with Mark Knopfler and his excellent band. The final song of this tour with both Bob and Mark was heart warming and beautiful in the extreme. Why criticise and judge in such a harsh way, such a brilliant writer and musician, who has endured in the hearts and music collections of billions for so many years? Just because his voice is damaged does not lessen the value and sheer genius of his music. Thank you Bob and may you continue to delight your audiences and do what you enjoy, for many years to come.

xoxoxoxo Saw him in the states this august and forgetful heart was brilliant.

It sounds beautiful. Truly great and modern stuff. Impressed.

No point in trying to convince people, who don't like a certain flavour, that it tastes great or conversely trying to convince those who like something that it's shite. Don't like or get Dylan? Stay home. Don't like that others like Dylan? STFU.

YAY YOU! ;-) Why do these people persist in going. Stay Home and leave the seat for someone who does enjoy him. Of course- I really do doubt most of these oh so clever critics actually go to his concerts... they just like to use him for the opportunity to pretend to be clever and creative. I think it makes them feel better about their own lack of confidence in themselves to diss someone who actually hass made a huge contribution to our culture. poor things

still this conversation? please stop the noise. personal wish number 1: bob dylan will do whatever it is that pleases bob dylan. personal wish number 2: bob dylan will never stop giving his fans the opportunity to be entertained by him as long as he enjoys it. personal wish number 3: the author any other authors who find themselves drifting into thoughts of writing about bob dylan and his concerts, touring schedule, etc. etc. at least make an effort to write more creatively...or just don't...please. "sometimes one has to keep banging their head against the wall again and again and again and again and again and again until one day it finally hurts." keep on keeping on bob some of us rather enjoy your concerts! ;-) Mmm..mmm good bob dylan in concert!

Yes, Yes and Yes... I have begun to seriously doubt that most of these people who write such vituperative (and lacking in creativity) opinions (masking as reviews) never actually went to the shows. They just rehash what they read from others who are doing the same. There doesn't seem to be a lick of creativity in any of them. They seem to think that by attempting clever put downs they are making some contribution... but to what? to the general noise? I'll take Mr. Bob's rasping voice over pretty much anyone else. Anytime.

I can't wait for your article on Tom Waits' new release! Oh the anticipation, oh the anticipation...waiting for noise.

MAY ADAM SWEETING'S BRAIN REST IN PEACE. so sad I bet he'll miss it just like we do.

ha ha ha. very good.

If you don't like Dylan then don't go to the concert cos you know it's gonna be no good . The last time I went was 2005 in Manchester and i'm not goin again.As for the guy who listened to Live 1966.Well you should have been there because I was and you could not here the electric stuff clearly It was just a mush of sound and you had to really strain to even make out the songs but it all seems so much better looking back from the next century.If you don't like Dylan then go and see some of the up and coming new folk acts cos they are a lot cheaper and I am sure you will find them very refreshing

Funny how defensive and aggressive the Bob true believers are. Reminds me of cult followers, so upset they get when someone is not on message. Sure, live and let live, but pretending he is the same misunderstood genius as he was in the 60's is desperate. The man is rock establishment to the core, like Mick and Paul and all the rest, and none of them have done anything but retread former glories with varying degrees of mildly interesting success. Doesn't stop the audiences going, though.

like Mick and Paul? Retread? Obviously someone who hasn't been paying attention to Dylan's output over the last 20 or 30 years... never a retread... and that is what is so brilliant about Bob. Pay attention. Listen to the last I don't know- 1/2 dozen albums- before embarrassing yourself by spouting conspicuously uninformed opinions. defensive? perhaps... but really, more like just annoyed with judgmental drivel.

One of the greatest artists the world has ever known should retire? We are lucky he wants to tour, put out albums, paint, dj, etc.

The commentary by the writer of this page is quite clever. I think I like "blues from an iron lung." Not sure many people under 50 will even know what an iron lung is, but it's a snappy line nonetheless. I've been going to Dylan concerts for 50 years. Am I tired yet of his endless rearrangements? Uh, no I'm not. If you want to hear a note-for-note performance, go see Jackson Browne or Don Henley. If you want genius. Check out the Bobster. He can play as long as he wants. I DO want Vol. 2 of Chronicles because I've finished Keef's book and I crave some more literary effort from Bob. I saw Bob about 5 years ago with Merle Haggard. Holy shit! I will be ever grateful to Bob for dragging Hag out on the road with him. That's just a little bit of the public service Bob performs when he, uh, performs. Play all night, play a little longer...

I went to the Sunday gig with my nieces (aged 13 and 18). I first saw Dylan on stage in 1965/66; they had never seen him but have heard and liked a couple of his albums. We all thought it was brilliant. Bob's semi-ruined voice rasping out his mesmerising lyrics , the unpredictable arrangements, the whole bit. The girls are now commited Dylanites .

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