Re: Show a pic of yourself
Date: June 26, 2007 01:37
> Ah, please share a few thoughts on the show show,
More than happy to oblige, Erik!
As unbelievable as it may sound today, the announcement of Bob Dylan’s six-night stint at London’s Earls Court Arena in June 1978, was heralded with a level of interest beyond that even, of the hysteria generated by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones for their respective 1975 and 1976 week-long jaunts at the same venue.
There were several reasons for this sudden surge of Dylan mania in the UK; not least of all, the public’s newly acquired perception of Dylan as a resurgent artiste at the very peak of his creative powers, who, having already put out two classic albums in recent years, was about to come up with yet another, in Street Legal.
The decision to distribute all of the tickets by personal application at selected box offices around the UK was an attempt by the promoters at avoiding any repeat of the heated and sustained backlash that a disgruntled public had unleashed upon them following their introduction of a postal ballot for the Rolling Stones’ 1976 shows. Somewhat naively, I would also like to think that it was a means of rewarding genuine fans with a ticket, as well as ensuring for a much greater atmosphere at the venue itself. My own personal reward for standing in line for two days outside a Liverpool printing company, was a set of tickets, halfway back on the floor, for each of the 2nd and 6th shows, which were to be held on the 16th and 20th of June respectively.
My older brother, who had seen Dylan at the Liverpool Odeon back in 1966, came along to the first of these two shows, and had often reminded me of that night back in May 1966, when, before the crowd were admitted into the venue (a city centre cinema), the audience for the afternoon matinee of Sound of Music had to be ushered out first!
The three-hour train journey from Liverpool to London enabled me to catch up on a series of adorning first night reviews, which included a full-page report by Ray Connolly, a respected rock critic, which carried the headline, “Last Night Was the Greatest Concert I Have Ever Seen”; all of which added to the uncertainty, excitement and anticipation of what was to lie ahead..
Indeed, with the audiences not really knowing what to expect in terms of arrangements, there was an incredibly charged atmosphere within the venue for both nights, and if you get the chance to listen to the bootleg from the June 20th show (of which I have only a small section on MD), you will hear it loud and clear. As each song unfolds, there is applause at the first recognition of a familiar line, leading to a full-on rapturous ovation as it draws to a close. To this day, I find it somewhat difficult to objectively single out highlights from two such wonderful gigs, but the two new songs, ‘Senor’ and ‘Baby Stop Crying’ were absolutely brilliant, as were ‘Don’t think Twice’, ‘Just Like A Woman’ (with an amazing sax solo) and a soaring ‘Masters of War’. The poignant arrangements for ‘I Want You’ and ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ were also quite stunning, as well as being profoundly moving. Plenty of lighter and candle waving during ‘Forever Young’ moved the show towards a rousing finale, which involved the entire crowd joined together as one for a rapturous “Times They Are a Changing’ encore.
From a purely personal point of view, I found the arrangements of both ‘One More Cup of Coffee’ and ‘It’s Alright Ma’, to be somewhat overblown, and it’s fair to suggest that an acoustic number (or two) might have added more balance to the set as a whole. However, these are minor criticisms of what were more or less flawless performances.
Somewhat bizarrely, Dylan hinted towards the end of the set on the last night, that he would be seeing us all again in the near future, and followed this by saying that he was “thinking of moving up to Liverpool”. Precisely what he meant by this, I will never know, but it certainly fuelled the pages of the Liverpool Echo with all sorts of stories about him buying property, making an album, and performing at the local Empire Theatre! As things transpired, he came back to Blackbushe Aerodrome in Surrey, on July 15th, to play most of the Street Legal album (brilliantly, I might add) before what is still the largest crowd ever assembled in the UK (approx 250,000). On the inside of the Gatefold sleeve of Eric Clapton’s Backless album, there is a very good shot of the crowd taken from the back of the stage.
Unlike the music press in America, which had gotten the knives out for both Dylan and the Stones that year, their British counterparts (NME, Melody Maker and Sounds) went completely over the top, with page after page of detailed song-by-song analysis. The man could do no wrong.
It took just three short years for the tide to start turning against him.