25 September: Oslo. First Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour show in Europe

By mr tambourine

September 25, 2022, Oslo, Norway, first Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour show in Europe and outside of the US.

Having followed all the setlists and information since the Milwaukee 2021 show, and having listened to most of the recordings that surfaced, the tour has been a joy for me so far and a privilege to follow.

I have listened to Oslo once prior to this review and it was briefly after the show ended, since the recording surfaced pretty quickly. Having listened to it just before writing this review, it was somehow worse than I remembered it to be.

Then I noticed that I haven’t listened to the Oslo recording after hearing it the first time in a month! I thought on first listen that it was a fabulous show, although to be fair, I wasn’t listening to the show as a whole, but I was listening to the fragments of the show and the individual performances of songs, which I felt were very strong.

And also, there was that feeling of appreciation for the recordings arriving so quickly and anytime you have any new Dylan to listen to – you’re more than happy to do so and grateful to be in such a position.

Then I started to wonder – if the Oslo show was so great, why didn’t I revisit it even once for a month now!?

I’ve been listening to fragments of individual performance that were surfacing from each show so far, reading the reviews, following the impressions of attendees etc – and along the way I completely forgot that there was an Oslo concert at all.

I was supposed to do a collaboration compilation with one of the admired Dylan fans in the forum universe, regarding the fall tour and its best or most unique performances, but we decided to give it up, in a mutual agreement. Despite giving up on the compilation, I still wanted to stick to my own promise to check out every show in full and see what’s going on deeper in the core of it all.

I decided to write a review and leave it to the public to see it. I let myself be completely open about what I feel, with no holding back.

The show began with pretty much a “business as usual” type of deal – Bob on guitar then on piano for Watching the River Flow. The guitar parts were just a rehearsal and nothing more. Same as in the summer in the US. I started to wonder why Bob would rehearse his guitar when he’s not gonna play it anyway for the rest of the show. The performance of River Flow was strong though, much stronger than most performances I’ve heard of it. Especially compared to most of the 2021 performances with the mic problems.

The show seriously picks up with the second song though, a song that’s never been really consistent on the tour so far for my taste, but here it’s phenomenal for some reason, and it’s of course Most Likely You Go Your Way. Far from one of my favorite songs in Dylan’s repertoire, but when it works, it can be a very powerful and relatable song in many ways.  I was in awe of Dylan and his performance and the show has just started. The rhythm of it was just so soothing for me and it made me even think that this song hasn’t aged a bit, even though it’s from 1966, and from an album like Blonde On Blonde.

Once we get to I Contain Multitudes, a song I love, the passion I felt in Most Likely You Go Your Way disappears as quickly as it arrives. The previous time I listened to Multitudes from Oslo, I felt it was a strong performance. Now, I was bored out of my mind. I don’t know what was bothering me, but I assume it was someone’s delivery – either Bob’s or the band’s – I’m not sure. But it almost got me to sleep, and the show just started.

False Prophet as the 4th song of the evening has a mighty task to already bail out a show from dreaminess – and it doesn’t quite get there but it was very close. Another arrangement change, which has become a regular type of thing ever since the summer US shows. This time, False Prophet sounds a lot more like False Prophet compared to the Crossing The Rubicon arrangement which it sounded like throughout most of the summer with nuances added as the tour progressed. It doesn’t sound like the typical False Prophet – it’s a little less aggressive than on the album. But the main problem is Bob’s lyrical fluffs, and there’s quite a few in this performance. If those were delivered the right way, Bob would’ve brought the house down with this one. Unfortunately, he fell short just a little bit, but the show definitely picked up a little after that.

When I Paint My Masterpiece is next, and compared to the previous time I heard it and heard about it when I saw some promise in it, this arrangement here, which is still a unique one for the entire year, is a mess. Coming after two songs that failed to live up to the bar set by Most Likely You Go Your Way, it gets the show going in the wrong direction where I felt it never quite recovered from. After this, even a few great performances couldn’t help drag it out of the gutter that it suddenly found itself in. Masterpiece has been a mess for a better part of the year, but it hits a new low here.

Black Rider, despite the strong performance, one of the better ones of the year and of the song in general so far when performed live, it can’t wash off the mess made by Masterpiece. Even Bob getting center stage for the first time doesn’t help. It feels so useless, which is a major shame.

My Own Version of You is next and it’s for the most part too mellow. The saving grace of the performance is the delivery of Bob and band of the final verse which is the best moment since Most Likely You Go Your Way and certain parts of False Prophet. The show has been lacking a little firepower like that the last few songs. This verse gives hope back to the show.

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight is next and this is one of those songs that has shown a lot of progress in the summer. It continues here with a pretty strong performance, with a few flubs here and there that weren’t too much of a setback like the flubs in False Prophet.  It probably helps that Bob was joking before the performance, asking if he said ‘’thank you’’ right in Norwegian, which made me smile.

Crossing The Rubicon starts out with a more aggressive delivery than what I’ve been used to for most of the year. It keeps my attention for a while, and Bob’s vocal delivery is some of the best of the show so far, but the ongoing melody with no major changes and the lyrical delivery which just kinda gets lazier and lazier as the song progresses, makes me lose attention in the second part of the song for the most part. Some of the lyrics that are not on the record especially caught my attention, especially the delivery of the line ‘’and the night was comin’ on’’. That line and its delivery especially stuck with me.

After an unlikely (for me) Rubicon slugfest that almost put me to sleep like Multitudes did way back, it’s hard to recover from that so quickly. Even the beautiful performance of To Be Alone With You doesn’t help much. Another song that seriously developed in the summer, it continues to be a treat for the most part, although, some of the delivery of the new lyrics of the song are just too lazy for my taste. Some of those new lyrics are so good, but I think they need to be delivered more eloquently to get across.

Speaking of delivery, Key West, a personal favorite of mine probably in this set of songs, lacks that big time. The song with the most arrangement changes on this Rough and Rowdy Ways journey, that had another great arrangement addition in the summer, is feeling too dreamy at this point and lacks a better delivery. And it has come to my attention at this point how miserable the RARW songs were on this show so far. Something that I never thought would say. Songs that I have praised more than the so called non-RARW songs in the set.  This time, the non-RARW ones are blowing them right out of the gate.

Hearing Gotta Serve Somebody next doesn’t do anything for me, really. Kinda getting tired of this song after hearing it on every concert since 2018. It’s too much. The new arrangement in the summer was a fun thing, but it’s already old by now, for me anyway.

I’ve Made Up My Mind was the best performed song from the new album, but it still couldn’t wash off  the messy stuff that started creeping in my mind more and more. The show has gotten into a flow that I don’t personally enjoy much.

That Old Black Magic was played  again, previously played on the last night of the summer tour, which was the second night in Denver. One of the better performances of the entire show. Nice melody, nice singing from Bob. It’s a very refreshing sound and it makes me long for more songs in that sound in the set.

Mother of Muses feels emotionless completely and lifeless.

Goodbye Jimmy Reed has some nice moments but it’s not a song to close out the main set with. That would’ve been better suited for That Old Black Magic.

And then, you get the band introduction, some fun moments there, but nothing really to wash off some of the messy parts of the show.

Every Grain of Sand gets played, again emotionless, where Bob added a harp at the final instrumental solo, but it was not any good harp playing at all, Bob struggled to get in tune and gave  it up. What a sad ending to a show.

I can’t say that the music was bad throughout the show, these are obviously all pretty much great songs, it’s just that their delivery tonight was lacklustre. My critique would be: why would you have a few days of rehearsals before the show and then perform the exact same set of songs, with nothing really new, with lacklustre arrangements; uninspired compared to most of the summer shows. This seems now like an act that’s too forced in my opinion. Can you sometimes at least try to adapt to the circumstances?

That Old Black Magic would’ve been a better way to end the main set and then go to band intros or encore or whatever.

If this is Bob’s last concert in Oslo ever, it’s so underwhelming that I can’t even explain it. I hope it’s not, because  this one has no sense of finality to it, no sense of celebratory, triumphant feel to it. Which maybe is on purpose and maybe is a good sign? I don’t know. But it’s just a month past and this show has made me question my whole love for this tour so far.

I  have been on record defending this tour more than anybody probably, and praising it a lot. But now I’m beginning to question whether I was foolish to do so. This show is making me worry big time now and makes me hesitant if I should start reviewing the other shows at all.

Sometimes it’s just not your night. I felt this was a good time to maybe try out a song that Bob hasn’t tried out on the tour. It doesn’t need to be Blowin’ in the Wind or Rainy Day Women – in fact on the contrary. The lesser the better. And it doesn’t have anything to do with ‘’wanting a setlist change’’. It’s about the performance of songs.

And Bob knew this. He knew it wasn’t going his way. He tried mixing it up on Masterpiece, where he sent half of his band behind the curtain so he can try something else. And he failed. But he tried and I admire that. I wish he tried more throughout the show, because it was necessary.

The fact that Bob couldn’t adapt something else into the show, just to make it work as a whole, is very disappointing. Bob came very unprepared for this one.  Maybe he is old, but you would expect him to act more experienced in  a situation like this. But he doesn’t…

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