Uncut Editor's Diary

Bob Dylan at Wembley Arena

Allan Jones

It’s Sunday, and I’m at Wembley Arena to see Bob Dylan. Outside, the sun’s just starting to set on what without exaggeration you could call a glorious day. Inside, a packed an excited Arena, meanwhile, in stark and tumultuous contrast to the evening’s warm decline, storm clouds are gathering as Bob Dylan and his band roar towards the climax of tonight’s opening number, “Cat’s In The Well”, a turbulent gem from the much-derided Under The Red Sky.

It’s a cantina romp on the album, turned here into something brooding, fraught and ominous, music for a world pinned to a wheel of pain, everything you can see and more about to go up in flames.

“Cat’s in the well and grief is showing its face,” Dylan rasps. “The world’s been slaughtered and it’s such a bloody disgrace. . .Cat’s in the well and the leaves are starting to fall. . .goodnight, my love, may the Lord have mercy on us all.”

It’s a stunning start to a sensational show that wholly lives up to the superlatives this most recent leg of the Never Ending Tour has already accumulated, the sense of foreboding evident here influencing everything that follows – from the jolting new arrangement of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, through sulphuric versions of “When the Levee Breaks” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” to the sweet eternal poignancy of “When The Deal Goes Down”, the stark magnificence of “Blind Willie McTell” – which I’d never heard him play before - and the dream-like suspension of “Nettie Moore”.

The prevailing mood of dark anticipation carries through into Monday’s show, Dylan’s sense of a world gone wrong rarely so keenly felt. It’s there in every beat of every song he sings, especially tonight in the hymns to life, love and liberty that make up what he plays from Modern Times – notably, an eerie, stalking “Ain’t Talking”, which is like watching the twilight at the world’s end through the withering trees in a graveyard where people you know are buried, and another smouldering run at “When The Levee Breaks”.

Two much older songs about injustice and war tonight provide complementary highlights – a sublimely moving “Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” and the anti-war lament, “John Brown”, whose sombre sentiments remain chillingly apt over 40 years after it was written.

For the four first numbers at both Wembley shows, it’s great to see Dylan fronting his amazing band on electric guitar. He cuts a truly fantastic dash up there, pulling his knock-kneed shapes, resplendent in black suit, wide-brimmed white hat with a matching Stratocaster. More then ever, he looks like God’s last gunslinger, going down outnumbered with both guns drawn.

Breathtaking.

London Wembley Arena
Sunday, April 15 2007

1 Cat’s In The Well
2 It Ain’t Me Babe
3 Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
4 It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
5 When The Levee Breaks
6 Spirit On The Water
7 Highway 61 Revisited
8 When The Deal Goes Down
9 Rollin’ And Tumblin’
10 Chimes Of Freedom
11 Blind Willie McTell
12 Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
13 Nettie Moore
14 Summer Days
15 Like A Rolling Stone
16 Thunder On The Mountain
17 All Along The Watchtower

London Wembley Arena
Monday, April 16 2007

1 Cat’s In The Well
2 Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
3 Watching The River Flow
4 It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
5 When The Levee Breaks
6 The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
7 Rollin’ And Tumblin’
8 Spirit On The Water
9 Highway 61 Revisited
10 John Brown
11 When The Deal Goes Down
12 Most Likley You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
13 Ain’t Talkin’
14 Summer Days
15 Like A Rolling Stone
16 Thunder On The Mountain
17 All Along The Watchtower


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