Bob Dylan – Wembley Arena Second 2007 (Crystal Cat CC 824-825)

Wembley Arena Second 2007 (Crystal Cat CC 824-825)

Wembley Arena, London, England – April 16th, 2007
Disc 1: Introduction, Cat’s In The Well, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Watching The River Flow, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), The Levee’s Gonna Break, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Spirit On The Water, Highway 61 Revisited

Disc 2: John Brown, When The Deal Goes Down, Most Likely You Go Your Own Way (And I’ll Go Mine), Ain’t Talkin’, Summer Days, Like A Rolling Stone, Thunder On The Mountain, All Along The Watchtower, Queen Jane Approximately (Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield, CA – April 5th, 2006), Shelter From The Storm (Cooper Stadium, Columbus, OH – August 13th, 2006), Not Dark Yet (Duchess Stadium, Wappingers Falls, NY – September 1st, 2006)

Bob Dylan played the second of two nights in the cavernous Wembley Arena in London on April 16th. The tape Crystal Cat use for Wembley Arena Second 2007 is very good to excellent, but not as good as the first evening’s tape. The taper was a bit further away from the stage and there is more echo. The sound also tends to waver at times, most noticeably during “Watching The River Flow.” The concert itself is likewise a step down after the emotional high of the previous concert. The show is plagued with inconsistent performances and the band never seems to achieve any kind of momentum until they come to the latter part of the show, but on the whole this is a difficult show to listen to. At least one review points out that perhaps the days tragedy at Virginia Tech, which just recently happened, might have affected both the singer’s mood and song selection.

“Cat’s In The Well” sounds good, but “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” gives one the impression the band are not into the song. “Watching The River Flow,” another song that wasn’t played in the first show, is an improvement and the chugging blues rhythm fits excellently into the early part of the show, but “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” limps across the stage. When Dylan switches to keyboard for “The Levee’s Gonna Break” things tend to improve somewhat. Like the previous evening’s show this is the first Modern Times track played in the show and is a more spirited performance. A review by Simon Thomas after the event claims, “Eighteen months ago, Bob Dylan played the Brixton Academy and we did not see the legend at his best. He snarled his way through a bunch of familiar oldies (they sounded rather unfamiliar in most cases) and treated the audience like something smelly on his shoe.

“Nothing new in that but it felt like an all-time low. After the release last autumn of his best new album in years, he’s back on tour and back on form. His second date at Wembley Arena saw the great man standing out front facing the audience, guitar in hand (for a while anyway) and croaking maybe but without the ugly growl and with a set of new songs to delight the faithful. Things really warmed up with ‘The Levee’s Gonna Break.’ The band dropped the volume, you could hear the tune and, heck, you could even understand the words. The songs from the new album were not as subtle as in the studio versions but great anyway – ‘Ain’t Talkin” a real treat – and the flat feeling that accompanied the exit from Brixton was replaced by a sense of resurrection and joy.

We were assured that greatness lives on.” Another review written by Paul Gill appears on the liner notes. Some of his impressions include, “”He really was in good voice tonight. …. Bob then put down the guitar and from then on played organ. This made me think of a parallel event in 1966 when for the second half of gigs he put down the acoustic guitar and picked up an electric one. He’s moving into a new era. Modern Times in fact. The next song was bound to be from this album. ‘The Levee’s Gonna Break’ it was. Excellent it was too. Apart from, that is, an awful guitar solo from Donnie. Made them sound like a raw young band. I wonder if that’s deliberate? Next came a complete surprise. ‘The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll.’ I wasn’t sure what it was until the words ‘you who philosophize…’ It was also worth the ticket price on its own. His voice was magnificent, and there was also a great harp solo. ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin'” was next. This rocked to high heaven. Another terrible guitar solo from Donny though.

“‘Spirit On The Water’ to begin with seemed very weak. A nice tune but a bit out of sync with the rest of the show. There was a great pedal steel solo in the middle though. Then Bob sang ‘you think I’m over the hill?’ with so much feeling we all got the message – he ain’t! A sublime harp solo to end turned it into a highlight. ‘Highway 61’ also rocked. By this time I was really wondering why everyone wasn’t up on their feet. Donny’s guitar solo was not too bad this time. Next came the absolute highlight of the whole evening. ‘John Brown’. Incredible. Even better than the ‘Unplugged’ version. ‘When the deal goes down’ had another great pedal steel solo in it. I think Bob was talking to all of us when he sang ‘an’ I’ll be with you ’till the deal goes down’. Maybe it was my imagination. An atmospheric rendition of ‘Ain’t Talkin” with a great violin sound and yet another reasonable guitar solo. “Summer days” finally got some people behind me up dancing. ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ just gets better and better. 1st encore number was ‘Thunder On The Mountain’.

Another one that ROCKED. We then had the band intros in a very pleasant and understandable way. First time I’ve ever been able to understand what he’s said at this point. To finish we had the expected “All along the watchtower”, but I hadn’t heard this version, and I thought it was fabulous. We then got a very long wave and bow from the whole band. The way Bob did this made me think he’s not going to return to this venue. Maybe I’m wrong. All-in-all this was the best gig I’ve ever been to.” The bonus tracks all come from very good to excellent sounding tapes and it’s a great touch including “Not Dark Yet,” a song that would have worked in the Wembley set. Wembley Arena Second 2007 is another excellent Crystal Cat title worth having. (GS)

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