Concert Review: Bob Dylan at Cardiff, 10/29/15

It’s weird that being such a fan of Bob Dylan, I’d never seen him live before. Having grown up in New York City, I was never able to get tickets to his concerts in the mid-1970s. Later, when he was in his born-again phase, I really didn’t want to see him live. I left New York in 1984 for France, and was never anywhere I could see him all those years. Finally, now that I’m in the UK, I had an opportunity to see him in Cardiff, Wales, about a two-hour drive from where I live. To celebrate the occasion, I splurged and bought front-row VIP tickets.

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(Not my photo; I don’t know who to credit this to, it was included in a distribution of a bootleg from 10/25/15 at Royal Albert Hall, London. The ushers were very strict about preventing people taking photos, so I didn’t take any chances.)

Bob’s show in Cardiff was not very different from the rest of the concerts on this leg of his tour. The setlist was the same as in most of the concerts in the past few months:

Set 1:

  • Things Have Changed
  • She Belongs to Me
  • Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
  • What’ll I Do (Irving Berlin cover)
  • Duquesne Whistle
  • Melancholy Mood (Frank Sinatra cover)
  • Pay in Blood
  • I’m a Fool to Want You (Frank Sinatra cover)
  • Tangled Up in Blue

Set 2:

  • High Water (For Charley Patton)
  • Why Try to Change Me Now (Cy Coleman cover)
  • Early Roman Kings
  • The Night We Called It a Day (Frank Sinatra cover)
  • Spirit on the Water
  • Scarlet Town
  • All or Nothing at All (Frank Sinatra cover)
  • Long and Wasted Years
  • Autumn Leaves (Yves Montand cover)

Encore:

  • Blowin’ in the Wind
  • Love Sick

The band was all dressed in scarlet suits, making a vivid contrast against the dark stage. Dylan didn’t play guitar at all, and played piano on around a half dozen songs. To the right of the piano (from the audience’s point of view), there were two small statues on a box, lit so they were clearly visible. One was a bust of Pallas Athena, similar to the one used on the cover of his album Tempest, and the other was either the original or a replica of the oscar he won for his song Things Have Changed, which was featured in the movie Wonder Boys. Behind the piano was a bust of Beethoven.

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(Photo by Lee Ridge taken at the end of the concert.)

The lighting was subtle, featuring old-style movie spotlights behind the band that pointed forward, and some subtle lights at the front of the stage. There were no flashing, colored lights, just a nice atmosphere.

Dylan2

(This photo is from a YouTube video of another performance this year.)

As you can see from the setlist, Dylan performed a combination of his own songs and covers of songs such as those on the 2014 Shadows in the Night. He sang two songs that have not yet been released: Melancholy Mood and All or Nothing at All; I would think there will be a follow-up to Shadows in the Night, containing these and other songs he recorded in the same sessions. He also sang three “classics,” She Belongs to Me, Tangled Up in Blue, and Blowin’ in the Wind. The rest of the concert featured more recent songs, from albums released in the past twenty years.

The whole concert had a decidedly old-timey feel. Not only because of the Sinatra-esque songs and the subtle lighting, but also because of songs like Beyond Here Lies Nothing, Duquesne Whistle, and Spirit on the Water, which all have an old-fashioned sound. Dylan crooned, sang, and he even smiled a few times, and did a couple of shuffle steps on stage. He seemed to be really enjoying himself.

Of course, Bob Dylan, at 74, does not have the voice he used to, and it’s likely that a lot of the songs he chooses to sing these days are those that fit his voice now. The only song that really didn’t sound good, as far as his voice was concerned, was Pay in Blood, which I also think doesn’t sound very good in the studio version on Tempest. But all the other songs, whether the rockers such as Things Have Changed and Love Sick, or the Sinatra songs, sounded excellent. I think the best performances of the night were Tangled Up in Blue and Blowin’ in the Wind, but that’s probably my bias toward the older songs. All of the covers were performed very well, and I would pay to hear Dylan do an entire concert of just those songs, perhaps in a smaller, more intimate venue.

As for the venue, Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena is a 5,000-seat box. The sound wasn’t great; the vocals and the piano weren’t ideal. But this may in part be because I was in the front row. The drums were very strong from that location, and the guitars as well, since I could hear the onstage amps. The vocals were coming from a speaker array above the stage at the center, and the poor sound may have simply been its location compared to where I was sitting.

All in all, it was a great concert. It’s not cheap to get front-row seats, but for my first – and, perhaps, only – Dylan concert, I’m glad I spent the money.

12 thoughts on “Concert Review: Bob Dylan at Cardiff, 10/29/15

  1. “What’ll I Do” is in fact already released by Dylan, on the recent Shadows in the Night; the superb album that you reference. I suspect you meant to note that “Melancholy Mood” has not been officially issued. Either way, a superb concert by a significant artist whose aesthetic powers remain undimmed

  2. “What’ll I Do” is in fact already released by Dylan, on the recent Shadows in the Night; the superb album that you reference. I suspect you meant to note that “Melancholy Mood” has not been officially issued. Either way, a superb concert by a significant artist whose aesthetic powers remain undimmed

  3. “Aesthetic powers remain undimmed?” ‘Shadows In The Night’ superb? Did he write ‘Jokerman’ about you?.I really do think that a lot of Dylan fanatics want to re-visit ‘Highway 61’ as soon possible. They would be reminded why he IS Bob Dylan. Not because of ‘Shadows In The Night’ or ‘Self Portrait,’ ‘Saved’ ‘Knocked Out Loaded’, ‘Under The Red Sky’ ‘Together Through Life’ etc.etc.etc. And that’s the sad thing for me. The breathtaking brilliance of his 60s work is being lost and buried under an ever-increasing catalogue of mediocre and downright bad albums. As for his live performances, at least the recent shows have not been an utter shambles. However, he still shows contempt for his fans by refusing to play the songs that defined his legend.

  4. “Aesthetic powers remain undimmed?” ‘Shadows In The Night’ superb? Did he write ‘Jokerman’ about you?.I really do think that a lot of Dylan fanatics want to re-visit ‘Highway 61’ as soon possible. They would be reminded why he IS Bob Dylan. Not because of ‘Shadows In The Night’ or ‘Self Portrait,’ ‘Saved’ ‘Knocked Out Loaded’, ‘Under The Red Sky’ ‘Together Through Life’ etc.etc.etc. And that’s the sad thing for me. The breathtaking brilliance of his 60s work is being lost and buried under an ever-increasing catalogue of mediocre and downright bad albums. As for his live performances, at least the recent shows have not been an utter shambles. However, he still shows contempt for his fans by refusing to play the songs that defined his legend.

  5. I saw the gig last night. Still reeling. I’ve been a fan for most of my life, against the advice of my peers.
    I had no idea about the most recent style of his “work” I was given ‘Shadows in the night’ by my Brother a year ago and I thought ‘He’ must be taking the piss, surely He’s seeing how far He can push the Audience? I thought.
    After seeing the gig last night, it’s clear He’s serious about this recent style. Artistically I respect this direction. However as a fan of quality music I’m ***** destroyed. I ***** hate Sinatra, and all that ***** cheesey genre. To see a musical Hero of mine doing that style of ***** schmooze really hurt!
    Where’s the Rock? Where’s the edge?
    I think it’s contempt or senility, or maybe both. Either way, that was a ***** experience. Anyone know if i can get a refund?

    Edited by the moderator to remove profanity.

    • I have just experience exactly the same!! here in Cardiff 2017. Same line up no old songs but all blue type stuff. He did not speak one word to crowd. I also would love to get money back!
      Disgusting waste of time

      • It was about one third “old” songs – i.e., from his early albums, one-third more recent songs, and one-third was the stuff from the last three great American songbook albums.

  6. I saw the gig last night. Still reeling. I’ve been a fan for most of my life, against the advice of my peers.
    I had no idea about the most recent style of his “work” I was given ‘Shadows in the night’ by my Brother a year ago and I thought ‘He’ must be taking the piss, surely He’s seeing how far He can push the Audience? I thought.
    After seeing the gig last night, it’s clear He’s serious about this recent style. Artistically I respect this direction. However as a fan of quality music I’m ***** destroyed. I ***** hate Sinatra, and all that ***** cheesey genre. To see a musical Hero of mine doing that style of ***** schmooze really hurt!
    Where’s the Rock? Where’s the edge?
    I think it’s contempt or senility, or maybe both. Either way, that was a ***** experience. Anyone know if i can get a refund?

    Edited by the moderator to remove profanity.

    • I have just experience exactly the same!! here in Cardiff 2017. Same line up no old songs but all blue type stuff. He did not speak one word to crowd. I also would love to get money back!
      Disgusting waste of time

      • It was about one third “old” songs – i.e., from his early albums, one-third more recent songs, and one-third was the stuff from the last three great American songbook albums.

  7. I saw him for the first time about five years ago. All his old folk hits had been electrified, and he played keyboards of 3/4 of the show. I still enjoyed it.

  8. I saw him for the first time about five years ago. All his old folk hits had been electrified, and he played keyboards of 3/4 of the show. I still enjoyed it.

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