I paint landscapes, and I paint nudes, I contain multitudes…

Bob Dylan, Glasgow Armadillo, 31st October 2002

As he puts the harmonica to his lips for the first and only time, towards the end of a wonderful and show closing, rendition of Every Grain of Sand, the 3,000 strong crowd let out a cheer so loud that it would be more appropriate in one of Glasgow’s football stadiums and I realise then that I have sizeable lump in my throat and am slightly moist of eye. At his age and seeing how small and frail he is, like like some octogenerian light flyweight, this is surely the last time Bob and I will be in the same room? I’m not a really serious ‘Bobcat’ ,like others who follow him around the country or globe, having only clocked up fourteen sightings, over the piece, since first seeing him at Earl’s Court in 1978 (a wallet pounding £6.50 a ticket), an occasion where we had to stop on the motorway hard shoulder and pee into the hired car’s burst radiator to allow us to make the final few miles to the show…however that’s another story for another day! But I’m a Dylan fan, to be sure!

Tonight is Gig #99 of the Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour (Leg Four, for the pedants) and, as such, the setlist has remained pretty much the same every night, since Day One (see below). To be honest, I preferred the mild anarchy of the N.E.T. where Bob could, and would, keep the band(s) on their toes by deciding the setlist on the night or, in some cases, as the gig itself progressed. The upside of having the same tunes every evening is that you aren’t throwing the sound man a curved ball at a moment’s notice. The sound tonight was absolutely superb, picking up every syllable, cymbal brush and plectrum stroke. The tom toms were subtly stereo panned to the left but throughout the night I noticed a slight, and curious, 1-2 second delay on the vocals, very briefly, on two or three songs (can’t recall which). Speaking of vocals, there was a solitary mike stand, centre stage, that remained untroubled throughout the show. There were also two small microphones at the very front of the stage, persumably to record audience ambience and applause, I understand all his shows are recorded straight onto Pro-Tools – indeed we sat immediately behind the recordist in the balcony at this particular venue on the previous tour
The band throughout were magnificent although it was difficult to see Doug Lancio a lot of the time as he chose to stand immediately behind Bob . Donnie Herron meanwhile is positioned to the right raised on a very small plynth, so small one wonders why they actually bothered?
Bob has stationed himself, tonight, behind his upright, and uplit, piano for the entire show. He was invisible at the start of the show opener, Watching the River Flow, so much so that my daughter thought the band were vamping and waiting for him to make his stage entrance!
When he was sitting down at the piano, you could see the very top of his head, when he stood and played, which he did for most of the show, you could see him from chest upwards.
His singing throughout was superb. It’s no coincidence that both his voice and phrasing has changed significantly for the better since recording those Sinatra covers albums (In a fairly similar fashion, I suppose, to, thirty years ago when his songwriting was ‘reborn and revamped’ upon the release of Time Out Of Mind following that double furlough of both Good As I Been to You & World Gone Wrong)
The piano, tonight, was ‘tuned’ very high. A lovely brittle barrelhouse tack piano sound that complemented the majority of these RARW songs. At times it was quite difficult to differentiate the piano from the guitars, I felt, more than once, the sound of Konono No1 spring to mind as Bob hammered repeatedly on a few select ivories.
All of this happening on a minimally lit stage with floor to ceiling drapes that wouldn’t look amiss in David Lynch’s The Black Lodge.
The songs, as ever, have mutated as the tour progresses. I was particularly surprised that two of the album’s key pieces, for me anyway, False Prophet and Key West (Philosopher Pirate) have been rearranged quite dramatically from how they appear on RARW. But then I remember that this ‘new’ album was actually recorded in January and February 2020. Almost three years ago, that’s a LONG time on Planet Bob. I’ll Be You’re Baby, Tonight appears to be three different songs this evening. His phrasing on I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You is such that some of the ‘You’s at the end of the their lines probably deserve their own postcode. Elsewhere a rollicking Goodbye Jimmy Reed was sublime. Surely that line “I can tell they’re Proddie from a mile away” is more relevant in this particular city than any other on the tour?
And finally, to tumultous applause he appears from behind the ol’ joanna and we see how small, and frail, he is. He pulls that hands on hips pose that we’ve seen so often. But at the same time, to me, it looks as if a good fart could be the end of him!
As ever there are people on the way out of the venue muttering about a lack of ‘hits’ on the playlist. You have to ask yourself, this late in Dylan’s amazingly lengthy career, exactly what (Rolling) stone they’ve been living under for the last two decades. So if, like them, we’re fantasizing about ‘improving’ this show, Indulge me!
I would have had the band play, not a hit, the lesser known ‘Long And Wasted Years‘ because I think this configuration of musicians would be perfect for that particular song from Tempest and, while we’re at it, to acknowledge Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva‘s presidential victory, at the weekend, Bob drops the superb ‘That Ol Black Magic‘ for one night and instead treats us Red Clydesiders to Ary Barroso’s 1939 song ‘Aquarela Do Brasil’
Finally a wee word about that ‘no phone’ policy and it’s implementation. I thought it was great, no visual distractions. You drop your phone into a bag that’s then magnetically sealed and you carry it with you until leaving the venue when it’s opened and released.
Seamless and painless. I’d like to see it widespread!
Wonderful night.

Setlist (courtesy of Expecting Rain)

1.Watching The River Flow (Bob on piano)
2.Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine)
(Bob on piano)
3.I Contain Multitudes (Bob on piano)
4.False Prophet (Bob on piano)
5.When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob on piano)
6.Black Rider (Bob on piano)
7.My Own Version of You (Bob on piano)
8.I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (Bob on piano)
9.Crossing The Rubicon (Bob on piano)
10.To Be Alone With You (Bob on piano)
11.Key West (Philosopher Pirate) (Bob on piano)
12.Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob on piano)
13.I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (Bob on piano)
14.That Old Black Magic (Bob on piano)
15.Mother of Muses (Bob on piano)
16.Goodbye Jimmy Reed (Bob on piano)
Band introductions (Bob on piano)
17.Every Grain of Sand (Bob on piano with harp)

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