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Last Night in Dublin (by Matthew, Brian, & Joe)
2022-11-07, 3Arena, Dublin, Ireland
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Last night in Dublin, Bob Dylan played the final show of his first Rough and Rowdy Ways European tour. Unless something surprising happens (there is still a big open window at the Beacon at the end of the month…), it’ll be the last show of 2022 as well.
So, to help ease my FOMO for not being able to attend this historic show myself, I’ve lined up an all-star trio of morning-after reporters. We even have a recording too! Let’s go.
“I've never heard a cheer as loud or as sustained” — Matthew Ingate
Matthew is the author of Together Through Life: My Never Ending Tour With Bob Dylan, which came out earlier this year and is a great Bobbook-cum-travelogue tracking Matthew’s journeys following the 2010s-era Never Ending Tour. You can find him on Twitter.
Even upon landing at Dublin airport on the afternoon of Bob Dylan's final scheduled concert for the year, there is a buzz in the air for the show. Waiting for the shuttle bus, his name is being spoken by fellow passengers, and a couple are adorned with Rolling Thunder-style flowered hats.
The energy keeps up once inside the 3Arena, even if everyone has been battered by a hard rain as they queued to get in. As soon as Dylan hits the stage at 8pm sharp, the audience shows their love for him and never let up.
Dylan himself is in fine form and my seat allows me to see behind the piano to watch his full frame as he taps his right boot in time with the music, points to whichever band member he wants to solo (and waves his hand at any he wants to cut it out), bobs his head, and thunders away at the piano.
This is a show where he is particularly dextrous on the keys, and often gets into extended jams with the band, pointing to Doug Lancio, Donnie Herron or Bob Britt before playing a run on the piano for them to copy or compliment. To me, seeing this interplay throughout the night, watching him construct the sound and the musicians immediately following his lead, is a constant highlight. Another delight is the way he toys with his phrasing, drawing certain words out or filling up a whole bar with a rapid fire riff before teasing the next line out.
Individual highlights, in terms of whole songs, include a fiery “False Prophet” where the band is really let loose, “I'll Be Your Baby Tonight” where Bob had the crowd cheering for most every line, “My Own Version of You” and “Crossing the Rubicon,” as well as both “Mother of Muses” and “Every Grain of Sand,” which are highlights night after night.
Only a couple of times things threatened to fall a little flat. “To Be Alone With You” felt relatively pedestrian until Dylan and Herron locked into a gorgeous violin and piano tradeoff in the instrumental section. During “That Old Black Magic” (incidentally, the only song surviving from his last performance in this venue five years ago), Bob mangled one of his lines so badly that he cut it short and waited for the next bar to come around before beginning from the top of the verse. When he started singing again, he complimented his vocals with a crazy set of jazzy chords and inflections right at the highest end of the piano — a style I've never heard him play before.
All night the crowd were showing their love for Dylan, cheering constantly, clapping along with songs, holding lighters up and calling out his name. After the band introductions (extremely to the point with no jokes tonight: "Charley Drayton is playing the drums, Doug Lancio is playing guitar, Bob Britt is playing the other one. Donnie Herron is on steel guitar, violin, mandolin and Tony Garnier is on the bass guitar"), he turned his appreciation out to one particular member of the audience.
“I want to say hello to Shane MacGowan out there. He's one of our favourite artists and we hope he makes another record soon. Fairytale of New York means a lot to us. We play it every Christmas.”
There was time for just one more song, the tender and incredible “Every Grain of Sand,” complete with a final harmonica flourish before the band line up. It was time for the crowd to show their love for him once more and in over thirty times seeing Dylan live, I've never heard a cheer as loud or as sustained at the end of a show as at this one. He appeared once more for a final bow, put his hands together in thanks and then opened his arms and hands wide before leaving the stage for the final time on this European tour.
“You can feel the sound through your feet” — Brian Walsh
102 dates in the last year, a new book, a bootleg with four hours of material including his own remix on the way…have Dylan fans ever been as stretched to keep up?
It’s the last gig of the European tour and there’s no dates announced for the 2023 leg of this epic tour yet. That extra bow at the final night in the Palladium in London feels a little telling, and there is the prospect that this could be the final show here.
It can be hard not to keep the mind from racing. Yesterday was Joni Mitchell’s birthday, and the thirty-year anniversary of Clancy Brother Tom Clancy’s passing. Could the last night of the European tour be the one where he drops in a few covers?
A man and his son are sitting in front of us in silence. He is flicking through a copy of The Philosophy of Modern Song. After a few minutes the son asks, “How long will this be on for?”
I did not hear about this in the other gigs, but there was a small area where people could open the pouches to use their phones inside the venue. Yondr stands your orphans with their phones.
The woman sitting beside my wife starts to chat and says in passing that it looks like there is a small bar on stage. That small bar (the piano) is something a little contentious through the tour. It leads the band with a plinking and plonking that is ever so slightly out of key. Or pitch. It is hard to nail down. The notes do not necessarily sound wrong, but they most definitely stick out. It can be jarring. It was a little softer sounding tonight than in the Palladium.
The 3Arena is exactly that, an arena, and very different from some of the theatres on the tour such Oxford or London. There is something about that many people being in the same place, at the same time, going through the same experience though. It is much louder than the Palladium and you can feel the sound through your feet in “False Prophet.” The larger venue has depth of sound that really has an impact on “My Own Version of You” too.
My idea of terror is when you are playing guitar in Dylan’s band and he begins to digress and jam. You look to Tony Garnier for direction and realise he does not know where this is going either. This happens during “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” Great to watch.
During “I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,” two lighters go up about 20 rows back from the stage. In the absence of phones it is really striking. A poignant moment. A security guard goes over and asks them to put the lighters down. Things aren’t what they were. Dylan holds the long notes before the refrain, not as long as in the early shows, but with just a touch of that glorious bending note. He definitely has more gas in the tank than in London two weeks ago. Again, on “That Old Black Magic” he is totally on top of the song and gets a little carried away bashing out some notes on the bar (piano).
“Key West” is a different song. To me, it does not have the dreamy feel of the album version. This is a sort of a Dylan anomaly. Usually the live versions become more interesting and explore other aspects of the song; this has become plain compared even to the early live excursions. I know a lot of people don't feel that way though.
I have a much better view of Charley Drayton this time round. With his perfect posture and build, you just want to throw him two heavy sticks and let him loose on the kit for a few minutes.
There was a huge standing ovation as the band finished up. We thought briefly there was an encore coming but it was a second visit to the stage with the thank you stance. Thank you Bob.
“The entirety of humanity condensed to a two hour show” — Joe Carey
Twitter users might know Joe Carey best by his clever moniker Desolation Joe (hmm, should I change mine to Buckets of Ray?). He regularly posts wonderful clips of himself covering Dylan tunes; here’s him tackling Infidels outtake “Too Late” shortly after it was unearthed last year.
We were fifth row in the raised seats, centre left. I never dreamed I would be so close to see his eyebrows raise and contort in the same manner of his phrasing
The silhouette of Bob’s hair against a backdrop of dim light just felt so special as he crouched behind his piano waiting for the tumultuous crowd to settle
There were times I felt I was listening and watching 1960s Bob and times I was acutely aware of his age and mortality.
Heaven and hell and the entirety of humanity condensed to a two hour show — I can’t expand on this but it’s how I felt
Strong voice, stretching, contorting, shouting and blending
The band were fixated on Bob and moving like clockwork
How someone can do this for so long and still be so original. He’s not a tribute unto himself, he is the spirit of creation
Obvious highs reported from previous sets of the tour, but even with the greatest tapers out there, there just isn’t a substitute to being there and feeling that music flow through you
I mouthed every word as Bob sang. That just felt incredible and, for a moment, like I was the only person in that auditorium
Only one noticeable flub in coming in early with the chorus of “Old Black Magic.” The band played on and Bob brushed it off by ending the line in tune to the verse before singing the same line again without so much as a breath of pause
Tears at the harmonica solo in “Every Grain of Sand,” and I wasn’t alone. Mesmerised by the jarring movement of a very elderly man a row in front who seemed to know every word and played them out with his hands
My wife (huge fan) and I hugged, grooved, kissed and just knew we were living a special moment we will share for as long as we draw breath.
Big thanks to Matthew, Brian, and Joe for the writeups! But no thanks to them for making me even more jealous I missed out on what sounds like a very special show. At least the rest of us can live vicariously through the recording that already surfaced.
Read our full coverage of the Rough & Rowdy Ways tour here (scroll down to 2021/2022). More concert recaps by Tim Heidecker, Jon Wurster, and more!
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