Review of Bob Dylan at the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, 17 August, 2007

 

I should write a proper review, but I haven’t got around to it. But we went to see Bob Dylan at the Rod Laver Arena a couple of weeks ago. I’d only seen him once before, in Dublin in 1984, when he was OK but a wee bit dull. (He was joined for the encore by Van Morrison and Bono, though, which I suppose was fairly memorable.)

Anyway, this time around, we had pretty good seats to one side of the stage. He played the guitar for the first three songs, beginning with Rainy Day Women. I wasn’t sure what number the women were, because Bob was in classic “growling each line indecipherably and at the last possible moment” mode. That was fun for one song but would have been irritating if he’d kept it up all night. However on the second song, It Ain’t Me Babe, he started to sing more “normally”. He switched to a dinky little keyboard (with a dinky little sound) at song four, Tangled Up In Blue, which was not so great, but in the next song, John Brown, the bass player switched to upright bass and the sound suddenly improved, and Bob started to sing like an angel.

He was absolutely magnificent, and stayed on this form for most of the rest of the show. Interestingly, the songs from his last few albums were the best, and they received a very warm welcome from the audience, which I’m sure pleased Bob. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Cutest thing of the night: when he sang “you think I’m over the hill, you think I’m past my prime” in Spirit On The Water, there was a huge roar of dissent after each line from the otherwise reverential audience!

Nettie Moore was another highlight, with his singing unimpeachable. He only spoke towards the end of the gig, to say “Thank you friends!” and introduce the band and tell us where each player was from.

His keyboard playing, despite the cheesy Casiotone sound, was really rather effective, and he really seemed to be directing the band with it, and setting the feel for each song. In many of the songs there was an odd but effective stacatto style of playing from the lead instrumentalists, similar to some of the songs on his last two albums. The multi-instrumentalist, Donny Herron, did a really good job, but I never heard a single note of the pedal steel he played in some songs. He might have forgotten to plug it in.

The lead guitarist (Stu Kimball) ranged from brilliant (especially in some of the western swing numbers and a few of the rockers) to very uninspired in a few of the songs.

Like at most concerts these days, the drums were way too loud and reducing the compression on them and taking them down about 9dB would have made everything a lot more pleasant to listen to, sez DC the grumpy old man. One of the few big concerts I have been at in recent years where everything was balanced well was Neil Young on his Greendale tour, and we know Neil loves volume, but he clearly also loves things to sound right and doesn’t just let the sound engineers do the “80% drums and bass, 20% everything else” thing. It’s not that I hate drums, but I also love guitars and and banjos and vocals and I want to hear them all without feeling like I’ve been kidnapped by a Pimp My Ride researcher.

This wasn’t going to be a review, haha! I got carried away. Well, after it I almost considered trying to get tickets for the second show, so, yeah, it was good!

Here’s the song list copied from some online review:

1. Rainy Day Women
2. It Ain’t Me, Babe
3. Watching The River Flow
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. John Brown
6. The Levee’s Gonna Break
7. When The Deal Goes Down
8. Things Have Changed
9. Desolation Row
10. Honest With Me
11. Spirit On The Water
12. Highway 61 Revisited
13. Nettie Moore
14. Summer Days
15. Ballad Of A Thin Man
(encore)
16. Thunder On The Mountain
17. Like A Rolling Stone

  • Bob Dylan – guitar, keyboard, harmonica
  • Donnie Herron – pedal steel, lap steel, violin, viola, mandolin, banjo
  • Denny Freeman – guitar
  • Stu Kimball – guitar
  • Tony Garnier – bass
  • George Recelli – drums

Review by DC Cardwell (www.dccardwell.com)

Bob Dylan at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, 17 Aug 2007 (photos DC Cardwell)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the kinds of photos my mobile phone took in 2007!

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Review of Crowded House live at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Australia, 9th July, 2007 (by DC Cardwell)

Here are a few impressions of the Crowded House gig at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne last night (9th July). This was two days after they topped the bill at the Sydney Live Earth show. It was a sort of homecoming for them, as they had been based in Melbourne for most of their career and wrote and recorded a lot of their best music here. Bassist Nick Seymour is from Melbourne, as was the late Paul Hester, their drummer, who has been replaced in the reformed band by American Matt Sherrod.

Neil Finn’s son Liam was the support act, ably assisted by E-J (Jimmy Barne’s’ daughter) on vocals. Liam was really rather brilliant and E-J did a very impressive and unflappable job of keeping up with his racket with her singing. Liam played electric guitar (an SG) and in all the songs he did that thing where you set up a loop and then play another loop over the top of it, and so on. But, the thing is, he did it all in an incredibly ingenious and seamless manner. He must have nimble feet. For those who haven’t heard him, he’s really quite a dangerous competitor to his father in both his songwriting and singing. And he was rather charming too. And, oh yes, once in a while he’s set up a heavy set of guitar loops and then sit down at a handy drumkit and skillfully beat the living daylights out of it. He said that once he’s done that all his nerves are gone and he can relax. He did a lot of widdly heavy metal guitar and said that as his dad was making him play acoustic guitar for two hours later he was going to take the chance to play some solos in his own set.

There was a very loud grand finale with him on drums, masses of guitar loops and E-J wigging out on a rather ingenious musical instrument. It’s like a theremin, but here’s the ingenious part – you actually *touch* it to play it!

Then we had a long Crowded House set, a little bit rambling in the middle where they did a few of the songs off the new album that sound like, well, rambling Neil Finn solo songs, but that was OK. I’m not the kind of person who writes down or remembers entire set lists, so I won’t do a play-by-play. There was perhaps a slight surfeit of older and newer songs, with not so many from Woodface & Together Alone.

They started out with, “Recurring Dream”, which used to be a rare B-side until it showed up on their posthumous Afterglow album. I guess the title is appropriate, but it sounded fantastic as an opener. Next up was “Mean To Me”, perhaps a more traditional opener for them.

Sounding good, although the drums were way too loud in the mix and the bass was too quiet throughout the show. (We were about 7 rows back which was about a third the way between the stage and the bar.) The poor mix gave it a rather too heavy sound in the quieter songs where the drums were really quite annoying at times. Even when Matt was playing brushes the kick drum was overshadowing the whole mix. In the loud songs the balance was more appropriate.

“Sister Madly” was, well, you missed Paul doing his out front crazy antics as he used to in this song, but it was swinging and Nick was playing well. We could actually hear him in that one because there was a segment where Neil stopped playing his guitar and it got particularly jazzy. Mark Hart‘s piano solo was stunningly authentic be-bop with a lot of altered chords on the left hand. He’s a clever chap, you know! I’ve always enjoyed Mark’s playing on keyboards AND guitars immensely and he didn’t disappoint me last night.

Liam was playing acoustic guitar and additional keyboards for most of the set, leaving Neil free to play electric. He’s filling that role until he goes off later in the year to promote his own album. I just want to say that I want his job when he vacates the position!

Introducing “Pineapple Head”, Neil mentioned that there was still a bit of an unresolved issue between Liam and him, as Liam had written half the words, but he was in a state of delirium at the time. This famously happened when Liam was a young boy and had a fever.

Neil managed to somehow stuff up the intro to “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (only their most famous song!) and then said, “let’s try it a different way, let’s see we can murder the song!” The first verse was in a kind of a 16th-note feel but actually wasn’t that much different from the original, although Neil seemed chuffed with it. Then for the second verse they went into a reggae version. Matt and Nick made for a remarkably authentic rhythm section and Mark’s Jackie Mittoo impressions on his keyboard were spot-on.

“Nails In My Feet” was good, if marred by the too-loud drums. There’s a bit of stripping down happening in a lot of the songs, perhaps a slight further modernising of the sound, which takes them further in the direction begun around the time Eddie Rayner was replaced in their live shows and the sound became less baroque and more rock. I thought that was evident in the nice tight little Beatlesque Rock-Band Live Earth set. Overall there was a lot more messing around in the set last night, but still you could tell that some songs were a little more heads-down-no-nonsense-rock-n-roll.

“Locked Out” was fab. The TA version, much as I love it, always sounded a little untogether, as if they weren’t quite, well, I was going to say locked-in, and the pun was unintended!

Neil played a LOT of keyboards. “Walking On The Spot” was a highlight for me – no mess, no fuss.

I was surprised by the huge audience reaction to the new single, “Don’t Stop Now”. I mean, I *love* it and even though it’s maybe not quite a classic song, it has all the elements that to me make a great Crowded House sound. But the mainly diehard fan audience greeted it like the old classic that they’d all been waiting to hear, which I’m sure was very encouraging for the band!

“She Called Up” was another major moment. So hugely soulful. I love the studio version, but live, with Neil sitting behind a Fender Rhodes and singing more soulfully than I’ve ever heard him, I couldn’t help thinking of Ray Charles. And the lalala bit was spine-tingling.

Of course we couldn’t help thinking of Paul, who commited suicide in Melbourne a couple of years ago. Apart from his wonderful, inventive and slightly swinging drumming style, he brought a lot to the band with his totally uninhibited sense of humour and unpredictability. Anyone who has seen him would agree that *that* part of him was unique and irreplaceable. Neil dedicated his classic “Melbourne song”, as he called it, “Four Seasons In One Day” to Paul.

Well, you know, it was always going to be a huge thrill seeing them back together again, and even more so because of the intimate setting, and they didn’t disappoint!

Here are some of the songs I remember them doing, not in order:

  • Recurring Dream
  • Mean To Me
  • World Where You Live
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra (played with only one chord, or less)
  • Pineapple Head
  • Something So Strong
  • Love You ‘Til The Day I Die
  • Don’t Dream It’s Over
  • When You Come
  • Sister Madly
  • Fall At Your Feet
  • Red Sails in The Sunset (remarkably, played with only two chords)
  • Four Seasons In One Day
  • Locked Out
  • Nails In My Feet
  • Walking On The Spot
  • Nobody Wants To
  • Don’t Stop Now
  • She Called Up
  • Some other ones from the new album (I know, I know, it’s pathetic that I can’t remember – I was up very late last night!)

Review by DC Cardwell

 

Review of Split Enz at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, 5 June 2006 (by DC Cardwell)

We went to see Split Enz in Melbourne last night at the Rod Laver Arena (home of the Australian Tennis Open), and we were lucky to be in the 6th row on the ground. The sound was perfect. The band came on in a big bag (looked like The Blob) and when they popped out they were wearing something Noel had made out of old curtains (so nothing new there), each member a different flavour of Olde English Spangle.

A long set with two sets of encores, and beautifully paced. Tim Finn was in magnificent voice. Sometimes he’s a bit shaky and you think, “why did he write the songs in those high keys?” but last night he hit every note and his voice was strong and true. He was the most active and energetic member and did a lot of running around. Neil Finn seemed slightly in his shadow, but I’ve often noticed that Neil takes a bit of a back seat when Tim’s on stage – he also smiles more when Tim’s there and seems to always just be admiring him.

I Hope I Never was particularly sublime, and Six Months In A Leaky Boat was probably my highlight of a night in which you realised what an incredible catalogue of memorable tunes they have to choose from.

I See Red was tremendously exciting as usual. One Step Ahead, I Got you, History Never Repeats, Matinee Idyll… I’m afraid I’m not the kind to make careful note of the entire set.

Eddie Rayner was in good form – I often found him a bit over-baroque whan he played with Crowded House (Mark Hart was more appropriate for them) but he was an absolute rock last night and played with style and swing on the electronic keyboard and occasionally on the acoustic piano, which was attacked at various times by him, Tim and Neil.

Noel Crombie and Malcolm Green shared drum duties, playing together in a few songs, and each playing percussion when the other was at the kit. Noel took his traditional spoon solo to great applause, and some of the audience played along on spoons which were handed out by the faithful Frenz Of The Enz leader, Peter Green.

Noel also did the whole Hendrix thing with an electric guitar at one point, banging it off the floor a bit but sadly stopping short of smashing it or setting it on fire. I expect he’ll destroy it on the last night.

A few people dressed up for the occasion, and there was one interesting woman who looked like a particularly colourful bag lady with a red fisherman’s hat. She was in about row 3 in front of us and when a towel appeared on stage and the banter turned to the famous Enz towel-flicking days, they asked for a volunteer to “proffer” their rear-end. The psychedelic tramp made herself obvious and was duly invited onstage, and graciously adopted the appropriate position for Eddie to flick skillfully in her direction. Tim then asked us all to forget this moment had ever happened.

Nigel Griggs seemed to be enjoying himself immensely on bass, too and I don’t think he realised Tim was hiding behind him at one point – every way he turned as he danced, Tim kept right behind him.

So it was a classic warm night of Finn-related music. Tim name-checked Phil Judd, and I hope he was in the audience. Without him the Enz would never have been what they are. Mike Chunn was there – Tim asked him a question at one point and he piped up loudly. There was enough banter and joking around to keep us happy and good nature was very much in evidence.

The support band, Evermore were charming and sounded great although the songs started to seem pretty lightweight after a while – simple chords with predictable anthemic melodies like so many other bands nowadays. This feeling was only enhanced when the Enz played song after song without an uninteresting moment from beginning to end.

So – a great night. I never saw the Enz when they existed, so it was quite an event for me, and if all was right in the world they would be touring the globe and the whole world would be having good nights out and singing along with their unhinged masterpieces.

Review by DC Cardwell