Bob Dylan Live: Stirling Castle Part Two

This show is from July 2001 when I went on the road up to Scotland from London to attend a show by Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan given in the grounds of Stirling Castle and who by that point was over 12 years into his Never Ending Tour. This is the Part Two of the story.

By 7 or so the sound check was over, with Bob and the boys now probably back stage having a snack or maybe even a light meal before the show, fresh Scottish salmon possibly. Things were running late, it said on the tickets the gates to the castle would open at 6.30 but we were already way past that and they still remained firmly shut. No one seemed to mind however, the setting was great, the vibe nice and peaceful, so no one was getting unduly excited or agitated that still not much was happening. We began to move forwards at around 7.15 with people on high alert for any possible queue jumpers who might just try to barge in as we slowly made our way towards the castle gates. There was none of that thankfully, which meant that in a stop start kind of way we slowly got closer and closer to the inside of the castle, a slow but sure advance to get within those walls. Finally we got to the castle gates and it was with more than a degree of excitement that we handed over our tickets to let the stewards tear off the stubs. We were in, now it was simply a question of taking a brisk walk up the steep incline into the castle grounds before a mad dash in order to find the best place possible to see the show.

It was a bit of a shock to see that the stage was in actual fact at the end of the castle car park and therefore not properly within the castle grounds at all. Instead of standing on grass beneath the ramparts which was what I had imagined we would be doing, we were going to be standing on a wide expanse of concrete with parking space markings at our feet. The car park was on a slope which meant that at a push you might have described it as some kind of amphitheatre, though it would have had to have been a pretty big push for you come close to even halfway believing it. Marc said the promoters could be sued over the Trade Descriptions Act by stating the concert was in Stirling Castle and although I agreed with him, I realised there was no point in complaining. It was what it was, simple as that. So we pushed on forward and had soon taken up our positions amongst the couple of hundred people already crowded in front of the stage which was standing there at the end of the car park, as if somehow now under false pretences.

When we had settled ourselves in amongst the crowd we were momentarily taken aback by the fact we were there for the night with no chance of either going off to get some refreshments or going to take a piss in one of the bright blue Portaloos which stood in rows to the side in the distance. To make your way out and then back in again would have been totally impossible, but this was the kind of sacrifice we just had to be prepared to make and I for one was certain Bob would reward us for it with a fantastic show. After all, things weren’t so good unless you had at least a little bit of physical discomfort to contend with, nothing was worth anything without there being some kind of a struggle, that at least was how I reasoned it. There was also the reassuring weight of the hip flask of Bushmills in my jacket pocket to keep our boredom at bay as we stood there and waited for Bob and the boys to come on. As a matter of fact it wasn’t long before I pulled it out, offered a swig to Marc and then had a big one myself. There was no doubt that taking a good shot of pure Bushmills in the open Scottish air from a nice full hip flask was a sure fire way to put a smile on your face and for everything to suddenly appear more than a little rosy.

We had a good position for the show however, there was no doubt about that. The space behind us was rapidly filling up with people streaming in through the gates, but to the front our view was unhindered. Marc wasn’t complaining when it came to the sight line to the stage, although he was not as tall as me, reaching up to my shoulders and therefore with a bit more work to do to keep his head above water, so to speak. It was coming up to 7.30 and there was a high probability that we would now be waiting in more or less the same place for the best part of another hour before Bob appeared, as there were a lot more people in the queue behind us who still had to make their way inside. It was now a question of trying to remain as comfortable as possible when confronted with the physical restrictions imposed by having to stand in the middle of thousands of people who were tightly packed together. At the same time, it was important to avoid falling into the trap of wanting every minute, every second, to go faster as that would only bring unnecessary mental agitation. Just to relax and to be in the moment was the key, if you were able to find it.

Looking around the crowd I realised I had seriously underestimated the number of Scots who were there despite the fact the show was in Scotland, being a 7,000 capacity sell out and obviously something of a must for the locals. Somehow I had just assumed it would be a mass invasion of Bob Dylan fans coming up from England, but not a bit of it and I guess such thinking only showed how ignorant I was. After all we were in the land of tartan warriors, there was no doubt about that and now I saw the castle was full of them. Beats me as to why I should have thought it was ever going to be any different! The atmosphere was good, great even and the heat was now beginning to build along with the crowd noise and excitement as I stood there in the middle of it all, dividing my time between looking over peoples’ heads to check out the hills in the distant beyond where the mists were rolling down and staring straight ahead at the stage as the roadies made their final checks and preparations before the show.

As far as the activity on the stage was concerned it seemed to be pretty much the same crew as it had been for the previous year and those five shows I had been to in September 2000. The young Oriental guy was turning on the amplifiers and tuning all the guitars from the massed racks which stood to the side of the stage, going about his task with brisk efficiency. There was the huge guy with the beard and the pony tail who always stood behind the mixing desk to the side of the stage and who always introduced Bob just before he came on. He would also get to light a whole bunch of incense sticks with a blowtorch about 15 minutes or so before show time, sending clouds of scented smoke billowing out over the front rows of the waiting crowd. Then there was the Bob Dylan look-alike with a head full of curly black hair who had been with Bob pretty much ever since I had started seeing him back in the early 90s, who always hovered around the shadows right at the back of things, often causing undue mass excitement when those less seasoned made the obvious mistake of thinking that it was Bob himself they were looking at.

During the course of waiting we each had a couple of hits from the hipflask and for me the effect was blissful and immediate but tinged with a certain danger, as there was no doubt that unless my swigging was kept under control I would end up getting pretty smashed. The last thing I wanted was to be seriously the worse for wear before Bob and the boys had even appeared on stage. That would be a disaster, simply shouldn’t be on the radar on at all, I had to make sure of that, as I hadn’t driven all the way up to Scotland for such a thing to happen, so a little bit of self control was most definitely needed. In a strange way the effect of each swig of Bushmills was similar to the feeling of coming up drugs, when you get to the point of things just getting stronger and stronger before beginning to wonder whether it would ever stop. It would come on strong, really strong, but the solution was just to ride those waves of the spirit coursing through the blood from the rush of each swig, resist the temptation to prematurely take another little sip from the flask and then another. If I didn’t get that bit right there was the distinct possibility of ending up in trouble because there was no doubt it was tasty, refreshing and thoroughly delicious. A certain level of respect was required, or else the inevitable result would be serious intoxication and all the perils which inevitably went with it when in the middle of a crowd packed full of Scots.

As it came up to 8 in the evening I could feel the excitement rising, with many people beginning to think that Bob would be on stage within the next few minutes. Me and Marc knew that simply was not going to be the case however and there were bound to be a few more false starts before things got going, it was just the way it was, all of us playing the waiting game, it was the territory we were in and the only thing to do was see it through with forbearance. The rain had been holding off for quite a while, but it had begun to look more threatening as the minutes slowly ticked on by and it now started to fall quite heavily. Clouds which were distinctly dark had been circling above the crowd for a good 20 minutes or so and the early evening faint sun which had illuminated the low lands beyond the castle had long since disappeared. There was now the distinct possibility it would piss down for the whole damn show which might make things very hard work over the next few hours, because the physical discomfort would only intensify if we all got soaked whilst standing there like lemons shoulder to shoulder. It didn’t take long for loads of umbrellas to go up and the sight of them made people very nervous, myself included, as the open umbrellas obliterated all of those decent unhindered views of the stage we had been enjoying up until that point, especially the stage area right in the middle, which of course was where Bob would be standing.

Instead of staring at the stage with fire in my belly from the Bushmills, I was now tilting my head back and peering intently up into the sky, trying to ascertain whether the rain was there to stay or was just a temporary downpour. But I wasn’t a weather man, I didn’t know which way the wind was gonna blow, so I was unable to reach any definite conclusions. It looked like it might hang around for hours, or it might clear up, that was pretty much the best I could come up with. The uncertainty didn’t sit well with me. I began running through the various possible scenarios which might occur if the rain really did set in and the people in front of us didn’t put their umbrellas down, because there was no doubt a lot of the people in the crowd would begin to get extremely upset and agitated. There might even then be the possibility of various projectiles flying through the air in the direction of the culprits. Fortunately after around 20 minutes or so the rain began to ease off and all those uncomfortable images faded to the back of my mind, the energy which had so effortlessly generated them no doubt ready to re-ignite itself anytime in the future whenever it was required. The umbrellas came down one by one and as I looked around me over to the hills beyond, I thought we now had a good chance of a decent dry patch.

So 8 o’clock came and went and the crowd was beginning to get restless with many now shouting out for Bob as much in desperation as excitement. I heard a couple of women say to their boyfriends, who were standing there with expressionless faces, “Why doesn’t he just hurry up and come on?” as were now fast approaching 8.30 and had all been standing in the middle of the tightly packed crowd for over an hour. Finally it looked like things might be happening and as if to confirm this the huge guy with the beard and pony tail lit up with his blowtorch a whole stack of incense placed in buckets at the back of the stage. The distinctive smell of the Nagchampa was soon wafting over the heads of people closest to the front, making its way back to where we were standing and filling our nostrils with its sweet scent. The levels of excitement and anticipation of the crowd now rose markedly, as if we all could suddenly see what was coming and that what was coming was good, very very good, better than our wildest dreams even!

It was at this point, just when the incense smoke was swirling, Marc noticed that on one of the amplifiers stood the Oscar Bob had won earlier in the year for Things Have Changed  his song which had appeared on the soundtrack to a film called The Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas. I stared intently towards where Marc was pointing and there was no doubt in my mind that it was indeed Bob’s Oscar. It looked quite at home there and I guess the point Bob was making was that effectively the Oscar was at home, since the stage was one of the most dominant factors in his life and where he still spent a lot of time. He was still constantly touring after all and even when he wasn’t touring there was a good chance a lot of thought and planning would be going into when he would be out there on the road again continuing his Never Ending Tour.

Guess it was inevitable that as the crowd swelled and it got closer to showtime more and more attempts were made by people coming from the back trying to push their way to the front. In other words it was time for the selfish bastards to make their presence felt after the rest of us had been patiently queuing and waiting for hours. It was interesting to note the contrast between how the crowd reacted to such situations in England and Scotland, it being definitely the case that usually in England when these things happened the perpetrators  somehow managed to squeeze their way through. They just ignored those muttered curses of “Selfish fucking wanker!” said to them behind their backs, or the indignantly impotent cries of “Some people have been queuing here for hours you know!” and got to where they wanted to go. Within the walls of Stirling Castle things were different as the vast majority of attempts by any selfish twats to barge their way forwards were vigorously repulsed. The Scots simply refused to let them through at all and many of these unwelcome latecomers soon found they were in a no man’s land surrounded by hostile people. The most daunting person by far was a bald headed guy to the right of me who was leaning forward on a pair of walking sticks. He was very well built and anyone who got too close to him when they shouldn’t have, or even foolishly tried to pass him, were soon made to pay the price. They were told in no uncertain terms the direction in which they could point their miserable fucking faces, a direction which was backwards rather than forwards, end of.

At just gone 8.30 there was movement at the back of the stage, then a tremendous roar went up from the crowd as Bob and the boys made their way into the bright lights. It was nearly ten months since I had last seen him, back in Wembley Arena at the beginning of October 2000 and now it was the beginning of July in 2001. I was up in Scotland with my old Bob Dylan concert going companion Marc Murphy, where we had come to see him play a one -off open air show within the grounds of Stirling Castle. It was just great to look at Bob’s tussled hair, his wizened face and spindly legs as he bopped about the stage with those trademark odd, jerky movements, like a boxer in the ring, before he strapped on his acoustic guitar soon followed by his band – Tony Garnier the bass guitarist, drummer Dave Kemper and the two guitarists Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton. There were a couple of air blowers to the side of the stage which looked like yellow canons, making Bob and boys seem like they were standing on a windswept beach. I was unable to figure out what their purpose was as the temperatures were a long way from tropical and the cooling Scottish winds already coming in from off the hills were more than plentiful. It might have been July but it was July in Scotland don’t forget, where instead of getting a suntan you were more likely to just get wet. And then the usual announcement came over the PA courtesy of the huge guy with the beard and the pony tail : “Ladies and Gentlemen would you please welcome Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan!”

The crowd went wild, as without any further messing around Bob and the boys went straight into Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie, pretty much continuing on from last year, when the first song of the set was always a cover of a traditional. This was one which I hadn’t heard them play before, so I was concentrated from the very beginning. To Ramona followed, the classic from Another Side of Bob Dylan, and this was simply a fantastic version with Bob singing the words as clear as a bell, also getting his harmonica out half way through and giving us all a good blast on it, which of course got a hugely positive reception from the crowd. At some point during the song I gave Bob’s face closer scrutiny and realised from the distance we were at that he had grown a pencil thin moustache. It made him look kind of different, a bit like Vincent Price and it pushed him back in time to the 1940s which I guess in his mind was possibly where he wanted to be.

Third song was Mr Tambourine Man,it was very nice to hear it and although the version delivered didn’t quite hit those moments of shimmering transcendental luminosity for which Bob’s truly great takes of it are renowned, it was extremely good nevertheless. Inevitably the hipflask of Bushmills came out again, each of us taking another good shot. It was now getting quite difficult to screw the cap back on the flask if truth be told, my coordination was going a little bit haywire and I was getting nervous of dropping that cap. If that happened I knew without a shadow of a doubt it would be lost forever and that would mean end of hipflask once it had been emptied, simple as that. To try to bend down and find a cap in the current circumstances would have been madness, so I had to take things slowly, very slowly, feel my way and then gently screw it back on in the right direction.

Fourth song in was an electric Maggie’s Farm and the changes to the set structure from what it had been for the 2000 shows now began to reveal themselves. During the five Bob shows I had seen the previous year the format had always been the same; namely six acoustic songs, six electric, then an encore of seven mixed, making it 19 songs in total, always and without fail. Within that structure there would always be a cover version of a traditional song to open the set, there would always be an acoustic Tangled Up in Blue at song number five and there had always been another traditional song covered to close the acoustic part of the set. There had then always been a Country Pie to open the electric half of the main set along with more often than not a rousing hell for leather Cold Irons Bound  halfway through and there would always be both Things Have Changed and Like a Rolling Stone towards the end of it. As for the encores in 2000 they were pretty much set in stone by way of Forever Young, Highway 61 Revisited and Blowin’ in the Wind  for every show with only some very rare exceptions. That then, had been the Land of Always, as you can see.

That was how it had been back in September 2000 but now things were different. As early as the fourth song Bob was plugging in and getting his Fender out. It soon become apparent from the delivery of this particular Maggie’s Farm that Bob was well into playing electric guitar, even taking lead and it was noticeable that his guitar was turned up quite a bit louder than those of Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell. This particular Maggie’s Farm had good interplay between Bob and Dave Kemper on the drums whilst under-pining it was Tony Garnier’s rock solid bass. Tony was band leader, forever observant of Bob, steering the whole thing on the right course by interpreting the signs coming from the main man, whenever those signs were given and sometimes even when they weren’t. The more the song went on, the better it got, when they wound it up the crowd went crazy and by that point I think it would be fair to say that things at Stirling Castle were well and truly smokin’!

Tell Me It Isn’t True played electric came next, a relatively obscure number from the Nashville Skyline country album of smooth confections Bob released at the end of the 60s after having recorded it in Tennessee. It was excellent and the guitar work was simply brilliant; loud and mean, hungry and willing to experiment in all the right places, as Bob and Charlie played Fenders whilst Larry sat to the side on pedal steel. Another different feature about the set up in Stirling was that Charlie and Larry had now changed sides on the stage. Throughout the September 2000 shows Larry had stood to the right of Bob whilst Charlie was over to the left, but now it was the other way round! I don’t know why they had done this but there was also the fact that Bob was physically a lot closer to Charlie. He would often look at him during the songs as if he was giving himdirections as to what to do next, like a master giving lessons to his pupil. Sometimes Bob appeared quite stern with him but on the other hand Charlie was to be envied for getting all Bob’s attention and in comparison poor old Larry over on the other side was left way out in the cold. Larry being ignored by Bob however was a recurring observation of people, I guess at the end of the day it was best not to read too much into it, Bob could hire and fire his band members in whatever way he pleased and quite often that was exactly what he did. Make no mistake, it was brutal at the top, Bob had been there for 40 years and had no intention of leaving any time soon by way of being Mr Nice Guy all of a sudden.

Bob remained plugged in for Just Like a Woman and by now it was clear that there was a level of consistency to the show which the 2000 concerts just hadn’t matched, it was either that or the fact the Bushmills from my hipflask was seriously kickin’ in. It was all extremely high quality Bob we were getting this time around, no question, in fact you would have to go a hell of a long way to find any stuff purer than what we were now listening to. Special indeed, a very special brew, especially sweet as we had actually come rather a long way to listen to it of course, having driven all that way up from London. Just when I was expecting a lull in proceedings Bob pulled a killer version of Gotta Serve Somebody from the evangelical Slow Train Coming out of the bag. It was a song in which he often fluffed his lines because maybe he didn’t believe with quite the same intensity anymore, but it didn’t matter a bit because the band were simply on fire, Bob most definitely included. Needless to say it was a treat to hear him play this seminal track from what was his first fully fledged Christian album released back at the end of the 70s. The guitar playing from the boys and Bob again just elevated the song to another level, reaching up to the realms of the gods and since they had now found that hallowed plateau they then proceeded to go straight into an acoustic I Shall Be Released which was nothing short of stunning. Bob and the boys were way up in the Highlands by this point, drinking deep the Aberdeen waters as they flowed within the light of the black swan, whilst all of us in the crowd were his very merry foot soldiers trooping along in whichever direction he cared to take us, admiring the scenery along the way, forever looking into the distance, willing to do whatever was asked.

Bob followed the beautiful I Shall Be Released with Visions of Johanna in which the acoustic guitars were woven as gentle waves gracefully lapping on the sea shore, whilst Bob stood out front and delivered the strange poetry lines of the song with the utmost commitment. It was a song to savour, coloured as it was in luminous twilight from right out of the heart of Blonde on Blonde, the last and greatest album in his mid 60s Golden Trilogy. I turned my head to look around the rolling hills behind us, to the side of the castle and town, trying my best to be fully aware of the fact that I was up in Scotland, watching Bob Dylan play a show in the misty light of a summer evening and not only that, playing the best I had ever heard him! All of it against the backdrop of the high and mighty Stirling Castle with a good few shots of the finest Bushmills from my trusty old hipflask swilling around inside me, all of which made things pretty, very pretty indeed. It was amazing how those thick clouds which had looked so threatening pretty much ever since Bob had walked on stage still hadn’t rained down on us. We were being delivered into grace, delivered by the local power gods who doubtless knew good music when they heard it and thus kept the elements at bay so that we could enjoy the performance being given to us by one of their favourite sons.

Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright came after Visions of Johanna and by now the quality of the main set was good to the point of being downright excellent as song upon song of the utmost brilliance was being laid down before us. Maybe the length of the trip, the relatively strange location, the fact that I was mad about Bob, were all colouring my sense of judgement, along with the Bushmills of course, oh yes, that sweet Irish spirit most definitely had to be factored into the equation as well, no doubt about that. Bob gave Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright plenty of harmonica and of course the immortal sign off “You just kind of wasted my precious time, but don’t think twice it’s alright!” had the cheers of the crowd ringing round the ramparts, or the castle car park to be more precise, the noise of which no doubt awakening some age old ghosts of the north lands with their tartan thistle dreams trailing along behind them.

If anything things then got better with a stunning Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again in full electric format, all apart from Larry who stayed over to his side of the stage on his own, strumming on an acoustic guitar. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again is one of my favourite songs from Blonde on Blonde, there being something most satisfyingly eternal about the way Bob gets to the end of each verse then launches straight into another one, then another and another for a good nine or ten minutes. This performance of Mobile was right up there with the best of them, better than the Mobiles Bob was pulling out of the bag back in ’93, ’94, which I guess was really saying something as more than a couple of those were really quite epic. It was good enough for me to get the hipflask out again and take another good pull on it before handing it to Marc Murphy who did exactly the same thing even though his eyes were now becoming more than a little red which I guess must have meant that mine were as well.

Yes, it had to be said the electric guitars Bob and the boys were playing sounded most extremely good indeed after another hit of Bushmills. The only thing I really wanted was for the volume to go up and up, higher and higher, so that I could continue to wash out my ears in the sound, feeling as it did like I was standing there with a head full of nectar. Bob and the boys could keep on mixing it as high, dry and dirty as they liked, because I was with them all the way, up in the misty swamps now, ecstasy closing in all around me. I just kept looking up at the speaker stacks suspended above either side of the stage, closing my eyes and letting the electric noise wash over me, wash over me with its sun driven cleansing sound. The stacks were the two towers; steady, black and as awesome as those fast moving mystical mists wrapped in Celtic whistling which were creeping in behind them. I was close to swaying at this point, swaying right into Marc and I realised with a jolt that a little more caution was needed if I was to fully enjoy the rest of the show and not go spinning out of control.

An electrified Not Dark Yet  was probably the weakest of the bunch when it came to analysing the songs of the main set in the cold light of day, something of a surprise really, but there you go. The Stirling Castle version just did not compare favourably with the slower more acoustic take Marc and I had seen Bob perform in the Sheffield Arena in September 2000. That one had simply been the best number of the whole damn show in the Steel City, when the distinct shades of a glorious Indian summer had been in the air. This time around by way of contrast, it seemed to lose some of its power by being played out in the open, although it was hard to put my finger on exactly what it was, maybe its sunset despair suffered some diffusion by way of that cool Scottish mist slowly creepin’ up on us, I’m just not sure, but whatever it was the shadow doom of this Dark wasn’t quite there.

A mean and spiky Drifter’s Escape, which initially sounded so hard it was difficult to recognise it for what it was, when what it was turned out to be tough, uncompromising and absolutely brilliant, paved the way for the final song of the main set, a classic Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35. It was by far and away the best version of this Blonde on Blonde opener which I had ever heard Bob play, especially once he lined up with the boys in a Fender guitar battalion at the front of the stage to drench everyone in its stony rain. It was another example of how Bob is a true master of re-interpretation, how the original song is just a template that can be tinkered with and re-calibrated just about as many times as he chooses. Nothing was sacred for Bob in that regard, he never let such precious thoughts about keeping things set in stone worry him in the slightest, instead he rolled away those stones to reveal more treasures hidden beneath them.

After Rainy Day Women Bob and the boys lined up in The Formation, all of them in a row at the front of the stage, each expressionless and staring into the distance, taking in the wild applause and screams of the crowd. So that was the main set over, comprising 14 songs of unsurpassed brilliance, hitting a level of consistency I had never seen Bob and the boys match before, which without any shadow of a doubt no other performer on the planet would have ever come close to. Not by a long, long way! I left the waving of the arms in the air and the screaming for more to others, as I had done enough of it already. I was more than happy to stand there, a face in the crowd, staring up at those huge magnificent rolling clouds which were now getting difficult to see in the fast fading light of a broodingly magnificent Scottish summer evening. Happy to stand there and wait patiently for Bob and the boys to return. A heady mix of Bob and the Bushmills was coursing through my veins and I could have remained in that pre-encore world of mass exultation for a long, long time. The only thing I was able to do was be there in the midst of it all with a big smile on my face, whilst mouthing a few words to Marc which I could not even properly hear myself making.

Sure enough Bob and the boys soon reappeared and kicked straight into Things Have Changed which seemed to be popular with some of the younger members of the audience and perhaps reflected where the new generation was at when it came to listening to Bob. Basically they were right up there in the present as Things Have Changed was the most recently recorded song which Bob currently plays live and which on this occasion was really rather good, the best I have yet heard him do. As usual Like a Rolling Stone saw the lights turned onto the audience in order for Bob and the boys to get a good view of the sea of thousands who were in front of the castle and who had come to pay homage by way of their mass adulation which was now reaching fever point. A beautiful Girl from the North Country followed, a nice surprise too, fulfilling the promise of the sound check when Bob had been gently playing the intro to the song for a good five or ten minutes whilst alternating it with Boots of Spanish Leather before moving on. This was when we had been waiting outside the gates in the late afternoon and now here it was, being played in all its glory and it sounded utterly fantastic, harking back as it did to its early 60s picture theme of young lovers out in the wilds of North Minnesota.

All Along the Watchtower  was cut short somewhat after Bob began pulling a face of disapproval at Charlie’s guitar playing which meant that after only a couple of minutes that was pretty much it. This was a pity as a high quality extended workout for a doom laden Watchtower  would have been something to truly savour, but on this occasion it was not to be. No doubt Bob would have given an explanation if pushed on the matter, but there was probably no one in a million miles who would ever have had the guts to ask him why he pulled the plug on it. He was his own man, in fact he was King of the Castle and it was for no one but no one to question the decisions he made in such circumstances. A nice and slow Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door came along next which was wonderful and then we had a solid and ultra dependable Highway 61 Revisited  laid down right in front of us before Blowin’ in the Wind closed proceedings, meaning that was it as far as the encore was concerned.

Just before Blowin’ in the Wind  I treated Marc and myself to another good shot of Bushmills from the hipflask, which resulted in us singing along to Blowin’ at the tops of our voices with the rest of the very merry crowd. Sometimes you see, it just has to be done, especially since that trusty old container which I had carried along for us was by now pretty much empty, dun an’ dusted, in the can. It had more than done its job too, no doubt about that and I had no complaints at all, quite the opposite in fact. Usually that would have been it after Blowin’ in the Wind as far as the show was concerned, but there was then that rare thing, a second Bob encore! On this occasion it was Cat’s in the Well from Bob’s poorly received by quietly impressive Under the Red Sky  album from the early 90s and a song which he used to perform on a regular basis during those times when I first got into the habit of going to see him play live. And then that was that. We were done, show time was over!

To sum it all up, what we got was an impeccable main set, by far and away the best I have seen Bob and the boys play, 14 absolute killer numbers, an encore which would have benefited from slightly better versions of Like a Rolling Stone and Highway 61 Revisited not to mention an extended and properly prophetic All Along the Watchtower, but really these were minor quibbles in relation to the overall experience, especially when an unexpected but most welcome Cat’s in the Well was thrown in right at the very end. What we’d got for our money was a cool 2 hours and 20 minutes of Bob, 22 songs as opposed to the 19 he’d played throughout the September 2000 shows and all for £32! The road crew were soon on the stage starting to take care of things, switching off all the amplifiers, taking away the numerous guitars and packing stuff up. Everyone began to make their way out of the grounds of Stirling Castle, slowly shuffling along through the thin Scottish rain which, believe it or not, had just begun to fall again, but at least it wasn’t a hard rain!

Setlist Stirling Castle 13th July 2001 –

Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie
To Ramona
Mr Tambourine Man
Maggie’s Farm
Tell Me It Isn’t True
Just Like a Woman
Gotta Serve Somebody
I Shall be Released
Visions of Johanna
Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
Not Dark Yet
Drifter’s Escape
Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
Things Have Changed
Like a Rolling Stone
Girl from the North Country
All Along the Watchtower
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Highway 61 Revisited
Blowin’ in the Wind
Cat’s in the Well

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