Bob Dylan Live: Cardiff International Arena 18th June 2004

To mark the announcement that Bob Dylan will be resuming his Never Ending Tour, by way of playing shows across the world from 2021 to 2024 in support of his Rough And Rowdy Ways album released in 2020, I have pulled a few more Bob tales out the bag from way back when.

The doors to the CIA opened at 6.45 which was a little earlier than I had expected but nevertheless most welcome. Suddenly Welsh security people were scurrying around and making themselves look busy, talking into their mobile phones with a gravity which made you think there must be a killer on the loose or that they had suddenly been charged with looking after a nuclear bomb. Stern warnings were given to people in the queue that no photographs were to be taken in any shape or form whatsoever once inside the arena. If this rule was transgressed people ran the risk of having their equipment confiscated and never returned, all of which was at the express request of the artist. Needless to say they would also be pulled out of the crowd and kicked out of the arena as well. That was Bob for you, there was no getting away from the fact he could be most mightily touchy when it came to what he saw as invasion of his privacy, something which extended to whatever the stage he was performing on in whatever country throughout the world.

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Bob Dylan Live: Gettin’ My Tickets & Bein’ Burglarized

To mark the announcement that Bob Dylan will be resuming his Never Ending Tour, by way of playing shows across the world from 2021 to 2024 in support of his Rough And Rowdy Ways album released in 2020, I have pulled a few more Bob tales out the bag from way back when.

June 2004 and two Bob shows are coming up. It seemed like it was not so very long ago that I had finished writing up Three Bob Shows which covered the three bob shows that I had been to in 2003; Sheffield, Birmingham and London in that order. Great shows, naturally, although I have to admit that I did get into a couple of scrapes along the way, which led me to believe at times I was getting a bit of beating from the gods and that I’d better learn to stay on the right side of the road. Enough of that for now, suffice to say that I just about managed to come out of it with the sun still shining brightly over my shoulder as far as my love of Bob was concerned and at the end of the day that was all that mattered.

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Tiruvannamalai: Skanda Ashram & National Highway 45

The last of a short series of pieces on a trip I made a couple of years ago to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India, 2019. The write ups are in dairy form, sometimes with double entries for a single date due to notes taken at the time either in my Yuva notebook or on the memo pad of my Samsung phone.

22/2

Got up today at 6.18 and by 6.45 I was enjoying a large glass of chai at the Ramana Drinks Stall opposite to Ramanasramam on the Chengam Road. There were just a couple of other people there sitting on the plastic chairs by the side of the road, no doubt slowly getting themselves together for another day in India. For me there was no conversation as after I’d finished my chai I took a walk up the holy hill of Arunachala to Skandasramam where I arrived by 7.25 to find it pretty empty and that was probably because the gate was still closed. A lone attendant informed me that it would open at 8.15 which meant it was just a question of waiting if I wanted to go inside the cave. There were hazy views of the temple town below as I sat and enjoyed the feeling of being in a relaxed state of mind, glad to have made the effort to walk up there. Since there was just the two of us I had a conversation with the attendant about the Giri Pradakshina which he told me brings in 2 to 3 lakhs of people to Tiruvannamalai each month on full moon day, with a lakh being 100,000, meaning in other words that the town got pretty busy. The full moon in April this year would bring in even more people due to it being a bigger one than usual, bigger moon that is, which might mean up to a million pilgrims, quite a lot in anyone’s book. The most popular time for Giri Pradakshina is during Karthikai which falls in December when between 2-3 million people come to Tiruvannamalai for the 10 day festival. It culminates with a beacon being lit on top of Mount Arunachala where 3500 kilos of ghee gets burnt in a huge cauldron, taken up the holy hill by priests and volunteers from the Arunachaleshwar Temple at the bottom of it in the centre of town. The other big occasion in the religious calendar of Tiruvannamalai is at the beginning of March and it is called Sivaratri, a festival which is popular throughout the whole of South India, marking as it does, among other things, the start of the hot season.

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Tiruvannamalai: Disintegration & The Excellent Cafe

This is the third of a short series of pieces on a trip I made a couple of years ago to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India, 2019. The write ups are in dairy form, sometimes with double entries for a single date due to notes taken at the time either in my Yuva notebook or on the memo pad of my Samsung phone.

Breakfast this morning 21/2 was a coffee from the drinks stand opposite Ramanasramam plus a banana I had bought the day before and which I ate standing by the roadside with a glass of hot sweet coffee in my hand watching life go by on the Chengam Road. When I’d finished I took a walk across the road to the ashram where after a little while I ended up in the Ashram Book Depot and bought a few books. It was as if I suddenly realised it was going to be my only chance to buy some quality Ramana Maharshi reading material on this trip and it was important for me to chose some from the selection on offer in the Depot because in the wider world quality Ramana Maharshi books could be pretty hard to find. These are the ones I came away with –

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Tiruvannamalai: Giri Pradikshina Around Mount Arunachala

This is the second of a short series of pieces on a trip I made a couple of years ago to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India, 2019. The write ups are in dairy form, sometimes with double entries for a single date due to notes taken at the time either in my Yuva notebook or on the memo pad of my Samsung phone.

On that first evening of my stay at the Arunachala Ramana Home I walked out mid evening and did the Girivalapathai or Giri Pradikshina, the circumambulation of Arunachala, because it just so happened to be the night of a full moon. The Girivalapathai around the holy hill, Mount Arunachala, was 14 km in length, taking 3 hours and clocking up a pretty impressive 21,000 steps on my mobile phone step counter, setting off from the Arunachala Ramana Home at 8pm and getting back by 11 pm. It was simply something which I had to do. In my projected plans for the trip to Tiruvannamalai it had always been in the back of my mind to do it this year and I guess it was one of the reasons why I’d arrived in Tiruvannamalai a few days before my booking at Ramanasramam begun. Just needed a kick to get me out the door so to speak, because after the rigours of the day with all my shifting from place to place and what not, I was beginning to feel a bit lazy, but when that kick happened it meant I was soon up and running. Well, not exactly running but at least walking very fast. Now it has to be said the vast majority of pilgrims on the circuit were walkin’ barefoot around the holy hill and if I had realised before beginning that was the way it was done I might well have joined them and not worn my pair of New Balance shoes. Instead of having to watch my step, it felt like I was walking on air, so soft so comfortable so springy they were, those shoes, with it probably taking me a good hour to realise what was going on and that I was odd man out. By then it was too late for me to turn round and go back to start again, and I also didn’t have a bag with me, but that was OK, as after all wasn’t I odd man out anyway, considering the fact nearly everyone else doing the holy circuit were Indians and Tamils at that? Well yeah, on one level maybe I was, but on another, not really.

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Tiruvannamalai: Outside the Ashram

This is the first of a short series of pieces on a trip I made a couple of years ago to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India, 2019. The write ups are in dairy form, sometimes with double entries for a single date due to notes taken at the time either in my Yuva notebook or on the memo pad of my Samsung phone.

A week or so before I left for Tiruvannamalai I had a long conversation with my old friend Anita who just returned from there after staying for a couple of months. We had both made a trip to Tiruvannamalai together in 2017 when we had stayed for a few days in Ramanasramam before heading down further south to the ancient temple city of Madurai located in the heart of Tamil Nadu. This was in order to visit the birth place of Ramana Maharshi in 1879 in the village of Tiruchuzhi and the place of his self-realisation in 1896 which was in the city of Madurai itself. During the course of our talk she wrote down the following on a piece of paper and handed it to me – 

Swami Hamsananda
Athithi Ashram
11 G/1 Manakula Vinayagar Street
Sri Ramanasramam PO
Tiruvannamalai 606 603

17/2

Writing these words in Chennai. First did this trip 8 years ago, no sorry, 7, as the first one was back in 2012 and now we are in 2019. The trip takes me across South India west to east, from the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe to Mysore, then Mysore to Chennai with a late evening arrival at Chennai Central on the Shatabdi Express, before a late night taxi ride from the railway station to my hotel. For the last 3 trips including this one, I have stayed in the New Woodlands Hotel in Mylapore which has rooms at various levels of quality. My reason for staying in Woodlands is that the hotel has a pretty good travel desk from which I can painlessly book a car to take me down to Tiruvannamalai. This time around I have booked one for 10 O’ Clock the next morning with the hope of getting to Tiruvannamalai by early afternoon or mid afternoon at the latest. It is all pretty familiar to me by now, I mean I have followed this same pattern for my last three trips – 2016, 2017 and now this one in 2019 – and it has always worked out well enough for me. The first trip I made to Tiruvannamalai back in 2012 was slightly different in that I stayed the night in Chennai at a place called the Himalaya in Triplicane, the Muslim quarter of town and not too far from Chennai Central Railway station, as on that occasion Woodlands had been fully booked.

So this is my life, this is what I do, I mean not all the time of course, but at least part of it, pretty much each time I come out to India, or certainly it has been like this for the last few years. I am making the trip to Tiruvannamalai primarily in the hope of doing some quality meditation and finding inspiration in my spiritual practice by way of being in the place of the guru Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. From Friday 22nd I will be staying at Ramanasramam for 6 days and nights until Thursday 28th when I return to Chennai so as to get the Shatabdi Express the following morning to take me back to Mysore on March 1st. Before those 6 days in the ashram I have 5 days at the Athena Hotel, a mid to upper-range place in Tiruvannamalai booked mainly because it was one of the last few which still had rooms available. The reason for all the hotels in Tiruvannamalai being busy, and all the ashrams too, is because it is a full moon on the 18th of the month when the town will get a lot of visitors, people in the form of pilgrims and devotees of Lord Siva who will do the moonlit walk around the holy hill Mount Arunachala. So we shall see how the Athena Hotel stacks up, see how convenient or not its location turns out to be in regard to Ramanasramam. Hope it is not too far, hope that the 1 km distance from town as per the description given on Booking.com is correct and that the reality is not that they have pulled a fast one and that it is stuck out in the middle of nowhere. In other words I hope I will be able to walk Ramanasramam without too much in the way of hassle because if it is hassle that could be a bit of a drag. I shall just have to wait on that, see what the situation is when I get there. Hopes and fears! Trips are so often predicated on these two things which can be more than a little bit tiresome; tuning into one’s inner voice, discovering you are still wanting the best for yourself, wanting only the good and to push away the bad. Dualistic dialogue of the unenlightened is what I guess you might call it, rather than the simple acceptance of whatever it is you are given by invisible forces we never catch sight of.

I’m travelling solo, on my own, just myself, and if I so wish I can keep all contact down to a bare minimum, need hardly have to raise myself above or beyond the basics of interaction in order to get things done, don’t have to do any more than that. Solitary bird flyin’ high in the sky! If that is what transpires then we shall see what I have to say about it, but sailor boy lost might also kick in, find me getting into conversations with others merely for the company. Hope not, it would be nice to go beyond that, inhabit the realm of the confident alone and be happy there, to rest easy.

Decent enough night’s sleep considering the standard of room I’d booked, which was a cheap one, for my one night at Woodlands. I had to keep the blades of the ceiling fan spinning at a pretty fast clip so as to stop the mosquitoes from landing on me and taking a bite, but apart from that there were no complaints, not that that is a complaint, more an observation. Still, it is time to face the fact I might not be the person I crack myself up to be, at least not in the sense of how I would like others to see me. Guess reality comes crashing in from time to time, dumps me back at square one as a consequence, like I am starting all over again, seemingly never ridding myself of this pollution. Heat confusion talkin’ here, or maybe something deeper whilst above my head that ceiling fan still keeps spinnin’…

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Bob Dylan Live: London Hammersmith Apollo

Second of two posts today, 24th May 2021, to mark – on my blog – the 80th birthday of the incomparable recording and performing artist – Bob Dylan.

Happy Birthday Bob!!!

This one is a write up of the third of three shows I saw Bob play back in 2003. Whilst the first two were run of the mill arena shows, one in Birmingham and one in Sheffield, this one was always going to be special – a return to the legendary Hammersmith Apollo in West London. Sure enough, Bob didn’t disappoint, pulling some stone cold nuggets from out the bag, including a song which he hadn’t played in 26 years. Nice one!

So now it was a case of two down one to go as far as my Three Bob Shows for 2003 were concerned. There was a whole two days in between the Birmingham NEC show which I had been to on the Friday and the Hammersmith Apollo show on the Monday. That was a long weekend to get through in other words, a very long weekend indeed when I knew that Bob was in town, playing places like the Shepherds Bush Empire which would no doubt be packed to the rafters and full of adoring fans. This time I was going to see Bob with Duncan “Dunc” Hutson one of my partners in crime at Wise Words, the small distribution company specialising in books on Buddhism, which I helped run as well as being co-director of. Dunc had come to see Bob with me once before, the first of the two London Docklands Arena shows in May 2002 and at the time he had been suitably impressed with what he had witnessed. When I told him a couple of months ago that Bob would be back in London in November he jumped at the chance to come along with me to see him again. Therefore on the Monday I finished early at Wise and arranged to meet Dunc round my place in the late afternoon for him to park his car before we took the tube down to Hammersmith from Woodford.

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Bob Dylan Live: Five Never Ending Tour Shows 2013 – 2019

First of two posts today, 24th May 2021, to mark – on my blog – the 80th birthday of the incomparable recording and performing artist – Bob Dylan.

Happy Birthday Bob!!!

Following on from my overview of Bob shows from the 1990s and also shows in the period 2005 – 2009, this post covers me seeing Bob Dylan live at the Tempodrom, Berlin on two dates in 2013, the Royal Albert Hall in London 2015, the Cardiff Interantional Arena 2017 and finally Hyde Park, London 2019.

It was to be just over two years later at the end of October 2013 when I next saw Bob by way of going to two shows in Germany on October 24th & October 26th at the Tempodrom in Berlin. Just so happened that I was over there paying a visit to my old friend Thomas Deilecke, otherwise known as Toby Ruft and who takes a leading role in some of my Indian writings which appear on my website Traceless Path, specifically in a novel on there by the name of Tiger Trails, but also in a number of shorter pieces found in a section called Om Reflections. But I guess this is something which I might have mentioned before! The tickets for the shows had been bought well in advance of my visit and I guess they were the main reason why was I was making the trip over, not solely of course, because it was great meeting up once again with Thomas but Bob was most definitely in my sights, no doubt about that. He was actually playing an unbroken three night stint at the Tempodrom, a concert hall in the middle of town built in the fashion and shape of a circus tent and we had tickets for the first night and for the third. Now it has to be said that the night of my first Tempodrom show was also my first day in town, having landed at Berlin Tegel in the early afternoon and gone straight with Thomas to his flat in South Berlin in order to dump my stuff and have a late afternoon meal with him and his wife Beate who would also be coming to see Bob with us. There was no question that I was very excited over the prospect of seeing Bob not once but twice in Berlin, which meant we all arrived at the venue pretty early as we had standing tickets and I wanted to make sure we had a good position down on the floor.

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Bob Dylan Live: Seven Never Ending Tour Shows 2005 – 2011

Thought it would be nice to mark the beginning of May, the month of Bob Dylan’s 80th Birthday, with another in my series of accounts of going to see Bob in concert, something I have been lucky enough to do on 37 separate occasions. Needless to say this figure pales in comparison to many, many other Bob fans out there, but all the same it is the number I have so far been allotted and believe me, I have no complaints. After this I’ve got a similar piece on NET shows 2013 – 2019 but I think I’ll save that one for the big day itself – 24th May 2021. Following on from my brief overview of Bob shows which I went to in the 1990s, this post covers me going to see Bob Dylan play live at on three occasions at the Brixton Academy in 2005, once at Wenbley Arena in 2007, once at the London Roundhouse in 2009 and finally a brace of shows at the Cardiff International Arena in 2009 and 2011.

In writing about these 2005 – 2009 Bob Dylan shows mention first has to be made of the three Brixton Academy shows which I saw Bob play in November 2005. For some reason I did not write these up at the time and so they didn’t make it into my 2000 – 2006 period of live show full write ups, although of course they should have. A number of these full write ups I have already posted onto this blog over the last couple of years. My lack of notes for the Brixton Academy shows is an anomaly which now, fifteen years later, I can’t really explain, other than to say it was probably the case that work at Wise Words, the small book distribution company which I managed, must have been pretty stressful at the time. That would no doubt have made the prospect of writing up reports on those three shows beyond my capabilities, which is strange because I know that I really enjoyed them. Needless to say it is way too far down the line for me to remember them in any great detail, beyond what I will write here and even what I write here involves a little bit of cheating in that I have had to go online to check what the set lists were, as even these were not listed down by me at the time.

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Athithi Ashram: Later Days

Final part of a short series of pieces on a trip I made to the holy South Indian pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu where I stayed at the Athithi Ashram which is run by devotees of the great twentieth century spiritual master Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. The resident teacher of Athithi Ashram is Swami Hamsananda, with whom it is possible to sit and meditate each morning as well as engage in conversation about the life of Bhagavan, meditation, and the spiritual paths of bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (self-enquiry) in the form of asking the question – Who Am I?

Gates to Virupaksha Cave

So yesterday 18/2 finally saw me make the climb up the hill to Virupaksha Cave. Been to Skandasramam a couple of times before – more than a couple in fact – but so far never made it to Virupaksha. This was a trip I had been planning to do but I had been too locked into my daily morning routine at Athithi Ashram to so far make it happen. Yesterday was different however in that there was no 6.30 cup of sweet coffee in the ashram and no climb up the stairs to the meditation hall to join Swami Hamsananda for morning prayers. Instead I left the ashram at around 6.30 and headed for the Ramana Coffee & Juice Stand on the main road outside Ramanasramam where I had a glass of coffee for 40 rupees which was a little on the sweet side as they really ladled in the sugar, but then I guess I was a bit slow off the mark in tellin’ them when to stop.

After I’d drunk my glass of coffee I was ready for the walk up Arunachala which meant first crossing the main road and walking through the grounds of Ramanasramam so as to go through the gate at the back and take the path to Skandasramam and Virupaksha Cave which lay beyond. I put my New Balance trainers on after I’d got to the other side of the ashram and immediately saw a couple with a child, Russians by the sound of them, who were walking barefoot and then seriously wondered if I shouldn’t also be doing the same. Something made me keep my shoes on – laziness, reluctance, ignorance – but as I passed them and began the initial steep ascent it bugged me that I wasn’t doing the walk quite right, as Arunachala to the faithful is a temple in itself and in a temple you always walk barefoot.

So yes there I was, feeling bad for not goin’ barefoot like a pilgrim would, but I guess my pair of New Balance trainers felt so damn comfy and gave me so much spring that I couldn’t take them off. Funny thing is they were the same pair of New Balances I had used last year when I did the Giri Pradikshina – the walk around the holy hill – where again the vast majority of people doing the circuit with me on that night of the full moon, were walkin’ barefoot. Just like last year there was no intention on my part to cause offence, I’d just assumed it was done in shoes, simple ignorance more like, something which if truth be told I have in abundance. Well anyway, soon I was poundin’ up the path with my New Balances on and leaving those barefoot possible Russians with their little kid standin’ in the dust trails behind me.

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