Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bob Dylan, Bayonne 20th July 2012

Libby and I live just outside of Bordeaux so Bayonne was a perfect venue for us. We also adore both the French and Spanish side of the Pays Basque. We arrived in good time at the beautiful town of Bayonne; the sun was shining with a good temperature and a gentle breeze off the River Nive was sure to be perfect for Bob’s concert.

The concert was being held at the Arènes de Bayonne, a classic bull ring, but more importantly a French stronghold for bull fighting. The hotel was central so we had time to wander into town for something to eat before the 21:30 Show Time. I had heard of a great little restaurant called the Bar du Marche serving traditional Basque dishes. It had a great bustling ambience, complete with organised chaos and the typically local dishes such as ‘chipirones marines au piment d’Espelette a la plancha’ and ‘cochon au lait’ were delicious … as was a Basque red wine from the region of Irouleguy. 

This set us in fine mood for a Bob concert and we headed on foot to the Arènes de Bayonne. It was a beautiful walk, passing through the old town with its half timbers and shutters throwing out the national Basque colours of red and green from a white wall background. 

We passed the Gothic Cathédrale of Sainte-Marie whose magnificent cloisters watch down on you from high above the narrow streets. And as we rounded the massive citadel and up towards the Arènes, we caught a glimpse of Bob’s black tour bus!  
(Photo 2&3 of town and cathedral)

The Arènes was bathed in warm sunshine even now at 9pm and the circular shape adorned with bullfighters, the mustard yellow trims and dark red shutters made a dream setting!  

We quickly got inside without fuss and a there was a definite air of excitement. We had a cold beer then made our way inside to the open-air arena. The inside was stunning and before I noticed the amazing white stone seating, I spotted what I had been hearing about this year: Bob’s big black grand piano on the right of the set! 

I had selected the seats at a perfect height above the number one staircase so nobody would be in front of us. There was good legroom from the aisle and we were just off-centre as I knew Bob would be facing us from his left of the stage.  

The atmosphere was buzzing; the standing area below us was steadily filling up and the cries from the red and white dressed nut sellers hopping up, down and between the spectators made good comedy. The crowd were aware it was now 9:30pm and after a bit of encouraging cheering, the band entered with Bob coming out last, dressed immaculately in white trousers and shoes, black jacket, bootlace tie and a white, wide-brimmed hat. With no introductions the band blasted into a racy version of ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’, Bob at the keyboard. Without a second’s pause Bob slid effortlessly over to the grand piano and gave a brilliantly clean voiced ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’. You could really hear the keys and just how good Bob is on the piano.  

Again, no pause and Bob was up to centre stage with the harmonica for ‘Things Have Changed’, the clear lyrics telling exactly the way it is now! Bob stayed centre stage for the start of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ – Stu backing excellently on acoustic guitar – before moving back to the grand piano and playing some really excellent melodies in synch with Charlie’s lead guitar. Now Bob’s legs were moving under the piano and he took on a half-sit-down, half-stand-up pose with some right handed piano playing and left hand harmonica: brilliant.

The crowd were going now and he speeded up the tempo staying at the piano with a raspy loud ‘Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’. Donnie pulled out his electric mandolin, Tony swapped onto the stand-up bass and George excelled on the drums for a controlled and perfect ‘Desolation Row’

Bob was obviously enjoying the new piano sound and stayed half-seated to the piano for a bouncy ‘The Levee’s Gonna Break’. Then a real treat, as if to say “hey people this is my song by the way and this is how it’s done”: a really fantastic ‘Make You Feel My Love’. ‘Honest With Me’ came next with lovely harmonica, then a spot-on version of Spirit On The Water’.

With Bob still at the grand piano, the band belted out ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, before Bob came to the front of the stage to surprise us all with the best-ever version of ‘Forgetful Heart’. He dominated the stage and led the band in style, arms out wide. And he sang beautifully; this is the Dylan of today, the next invention, just brilliant!

A blistering ‘Thunder On The Mountain’ lifted the tempo once more, with Bob really in the groove now. And then, what I was waiting for, ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ and Bob on the piano. The vocals were superb, with an eerie echo after each line really creating the mood of the song.  Then he introduced the band and slipped with ease into a classic and solid ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.

I have heard ‘All Along the Watchtower’ live many times, but tonight’s version was just so special. Bob’s grand piano changed the song, making it so much more personal. The band came to the stage front to loud applause and Bob stood for a good while, pointing with two hands and open armed to the crowd and then back to him. He skipped off and the lights went down. 

I wasn’t sure if he would come back out after such a great last song and he let the crowd wait a good few minutes before the encore of Blowin’ In The Wind’. As was the theme of the evening Bob was back behind the grand piano.  A last goodbye from Bob and the band and he was gone. Wow! What a performance from the band and I just love this grand piano sound!

Set List Bayonne 20th July:
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
Love Minus Zero/No Limit
Things Have Changed  
Tangled Up In Blue
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
Desolation Row
The Levee's Gonna Break
Make You Feel My Love
Honest With Me  
Spirit On The Water
Highway 61 Revisited
Forgetful Heart
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower

Blowin' In The Wind 

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