Bob Dylan Live: London Docklands Arena Reloaded

This show is from 2002 when I went down the road in my home town to see Bob Dylan play another show at the now long defunct London Docklands Arena on May 12th when he was touring the UK on another leg of his Never Ending Tour. It was around nine months after his Love & Theft album which was released on September 11th 2001, and the show features a number of songs from it which I was hearing him perform live for the very first time.

At a certain point in proceedings that familiar smell of Nagchampa incense began to fill our nostrils as it rolled over the front rows of the crowd, having now been lit in the buckets at the back of the stage by the huge guy with the beard and the pony tail. There was a palpable rising of the energy levels of the crowd as the majority of people began to sense the time was soon about to descend upon us again when show time began. I stood there staring straight ahead at the huge black curtain behind the stage with the Bob Dylan Eye of Integrity stamped into the middle of it. I hadn’t seen it properly the night before due to fact that our seats had been to the side. The Eye of Integrity was Bob’s unofficial logo, or at least had been for the last few years and there were various pieces of merchandise you could buy with it on such tempting items as t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps, key rings, coffee mugs and stuff like that.

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Bob Dylan Live: London Docklands Arena

This show is from 2002 when I went down the road in my home town to see Bob Dylan play a show at the now long defunct London Docklands Arena on May 11th when he was touring the UK on another leg of his Never Ending Tour. It was around nine months after his Love & Theft album which was released on September 11th 2001, and the show features a number of songs from it which I was hearing him perform live for the very first time.

It was now about 7.45, by my calculations show time would be 8pm without too much of a wait beyond that. The incense was already lit, Nagchampa incense I thought, if this was so it meant the incense came from India, the Sai Baba organisation no less, but it was at best an educated guess, probably a wrong one as Bob had never to my knowledge shown much of an interest in the whole Indian mystical guru scene. It was rolling over the first few rows of people on the floor in fragrant clouds with that oh so familiar sweet, heady smell. All part of the ritual for darshan, an audience with the master no less, all of which could apply as far as I was concerned when it came to me and Bob. This was always one of my favourite times. Waiting for the magic to begin, taking in through my nostrils that incense perfume, watching the rows of the arena fill up with people, looking down at the front where the diehard Dylan fans stood around in clusters excitedly talking with one another, heads held high in expectation, no doubt speculating on which selection of songs they were going to hear that night.

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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.

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Bob Dylan Live: Stirling Castle Part One

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 One of the story.

Really hadn’t thought I would want to write about Bob’s Stirling Castle show in July 2001. After writing up the five September 2000 shows I hadn’t done anything since then with regard to words on Bob for months and I didn’t think in the build up to Stirling the fires would be re-ignited. However after seeing the show I realised I was wrong, way wrong, that the energy was there to make me want to sit down and put down on paper my impressions of the whole damn trip.

The September 2000 shows had been special for me after all. Five Bob Dylan shows in five different cities over a period of about a week or 10 days and getting into more than one or two scrapes along the way. That brilliant feeling of arriving in a new city with the knowledge I was there to see Bob Dylan live that evening was simply unbeatable, unbelievable and unrepeatable!!! A privilege that can only have happen if you are lucky enough to have the liberty plus a little bit of cash. This time it was different. There was only one show I was going to for a start and it also happened to be a hell of a long way from London, up in the grounds of Stirling Castle and within spitting distance of the Highlands of Scotland.

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Bob Dylan Live: Wembley Arena

This show is from October 2000 when I went on the road in the UK to attend 5 shows by Colombia recording artist Bob Dylan who by that point was over 10 years into his Never Ending Tour.

Well I got see Bob at Wembley but it was a close run thing, oh man oh man with one thing and another it really was a close run thing. I was due to meet Madeleine and Ngawang, a Swedish-Tibetan couple with whom I was going to see Bob, outside Wembley Park tube station at 7pm, in order to give them their tickets for the show. But massive problems on the tube meant that I didn’t get to Wembley Park until 7.15 because everything was running late. There was no sign of Madeleine and Ngawang but I wasn’t too worried about that as it was pretty clear everyone going to the show by tube was in the same boat as far as being delayed was concerned and that it would only be a matter of time before they appeared.

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Bob Dylan Live: Portsmouth Guildhall

This show is from September 2000 when I went on the road in the UK to attend 5 shows by Colombia recording artist Bob Dylan who by that point was over 10 years into his Never Ending Tour.

Portsmouth Guildhall really was quite a lot different from the other places I had so far seen Bob on my little tour, far from being an arena that was for sure! It was a pretty old looking building and of course the vital factor for the Bob fans who made the trip was that it was small, a great place in other words to get close to greatness. I walked through the foyer in no time at all, the merchandise stand which at the other venues had been huge and sprawling now looked no bigger than a local market stall, with all the t-shirts and other stuff set out for sale on what were little more than a couple of wooden tables. The hall inside was tiny compared to the other places I had seen Bob that week, holding just over 2000 people, barely a quarter of the size of the Sheffield Arena for example, which could hold around 12,000. At the back of the floor standing area in the stalls were a couple of rows of seats on slightly raised platforms, above the stalls was an all seated balcony which looked like being the best place to see the show, especially if you were in the front as you would be looking right down at Bob on the stage. The ceiling was very high and ornately decorated, but it had obviously not been possible to have Bob’s speaker stacks suspended from it, so they sat instead like two black mountains at either end of the stage ready to pump out the noise which was going to made by Bob and the boys.

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Bob Dylan Live: Cardiff International Arena

This show is from September 2000 when I went on the road in the UK to attend 5 shows by Colombia recording artist Bob Dylan who by that point was over 10 years into his Never Ending Tour.

It was 6.30 when the doors to the CIA were finally opened and after a brief delay due to some security mix up, which involved a lot of bulky Welsh bouncers shouting into their mobile phones, we were allowed inside. Just like at the NEC it was a case of trying to maintain a sense of dignity whilst half walking and half running across the wide open floor space in order to join the small crowd of people already congregated at the front of the stage. Of course the bouncers rudely shouted at everyone not to run and of course it was a massive temptation to just completely ignore the shitheads and break out into a full on sprint. All the same me and Huw covered the ground in not too much time at all and we soon proudly claimed prime standing positions right in the centre of the floor, not too close to the front so that we would lose the power of the sound from the PA stacks suspended from the ceiling above our heads, but not too far away either. All we had to do now was stand there and wait for show time!

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Bob Dylan Live: Sheffield Arena

This show is from September 2000 when I went on the road in the UK to attend 5 shows by Colombia recording artist Bob Dylan who by that point was over 10 years into his Never Ending Tour.

The second in my series of five Bob concerts for the year 2000 was the Sheffield Arena. The Birmingham NEC had been on the Wednesday and Sheffield was now on the Friday. There was a day of work in between at Wisdom Books, the small book distribution company I helped run and was now a co-director of, not that such a thing added up to that much, as the number of people employed at Wisdom was precisely six. I took the whole of the Friday off as I intended to drive to up Sheffield to see the show and then head back to London the same night. This time I would not be going solo as I was due to make the trip with Marc Murphy my old friend and colleague who had once also worked at Wisdom back in the early 90s but had to be let go due there not being enough business at the time for us to afford to keep him on. Marc was now working in a different kind of world as for a number of years he had been the right hand of a man called Klaus, a Danish entrepreneur down in Surrey who specialised in the buying of chemicals from countries like China and India and then selling them on to drug companies in the United States for a nice healthy profit.

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Bob Dylan Live: Birmingham NEC

This show is from September 2000 when I went on the road in the UK to attend 5 shows by Colombia recording artist Bob Dylan who by that point was over 10 years into his Never Ending Tour.

The doors to NEC finally opened at 6 pm, but all they led to was a carpeted area inside the arena with another set of doors at the end of it which were also still firmly closed. We all rushed to the marked off area where we once again had to queue and since it was a question of speed I was able to overtake quite a few people who up until a few seconds ago had been further up the original queue than me! It brought an idiotic smile to my face and made me think that Bob would probably have had a good laugh about it as well if he could have seen us scrambling around trying to manoeuvre ourselves into position just so we could get as close as possible to him. Everyone now faced a further 20 minute wait until the second set of doors were finally opened and people were allowed to stream through and into the main concert hall of the NEC. We handed in our tickets which we were told would be returned to us when the show was over if we wanted them as souvenirs and considering the kind of Dylan fan I was currently with there were a few panic stricken requests for confirmation from the security people that this would indeed be the case. After that was sorted it was now a simple sprint to the front of the arena to get the best spot possible standing position in front of the stage. Security people kept shouting at us all not to run which meant it was a kind of stop start fast jog which we all had to make under their watchful eyes. It was difficult not to smile, not to feel exceedingly stupid at being told off in such an abrupt manner by a bunch of mean looking shaven headed guys in yellow high visibility jackets talking into their phones and throwing their weight around. All the same, everyone was now in final sight of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and no one was going to stop us from reaching it, that coveted place at the front of the crowd with a direct line of sight to Bob Dylan when he came on stage.

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