Tossing a Baseball Bat in the Air

‘Tossing a Baseball Bat in the Air’: Bob Dylan at the MEN Arena, Manchester, 2011

Bob Dylan, supported by Mark Knopfler, MEN Arena, Manchester, October 10th 2011. The Never-ending Tour continues…

by John Carvill


Most reviews of last night’s Manchester show will inevitably make reference to the ‘hard rain’ that’s been falling on the city for days now. I’d spent years repeatedly assuring my brother (and anyone else willing to listen) that Manchester’s reputation for rain was undeserved and really just a wildly over-exaggerated stereotype, so imagine my embarrassment when we found ourselves soaked to the skin within minutes of leaving the shelter of the Lass O’ Gowrie pub, having made the brisk walk to what remains of the Free Trade Hall – setting for the infamous ‘Judas’ heckling concert in 1966 – now the Radisson ‘Edwardian’ hotel, where the barman offered a sombre, head-shaking apology for the inclement weather. A couple more pit stops in pubs of variable historic interest were made to keep out of the deceptively heavy drizzle, but we still arrived at the MEN arena with clothes several shades darker than they’d been when we set out.

We caught the very end of Mark Knopfler’s noodlings. Who knows the mysterious ways in which Bob works? If he wants Knopfler supporting him, so be it. There were of course semi-rumours, or maybe just wishful thinking, that the pair might take to the stage together and do something more interesting than the standard ‘support then headliner’ format; a quick run through ‘Infidels’, say, from ‘Jokerman’ to ‘Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight’, would have delighted the faithful (so long as they omitted ‘Neighbourhood Bully’ and tacked on ‘Blind Willie McTell’). Now, given that we all thought of that, there’s no doubt they must have done too; for whatever reason, though, nothing of the kind was attempted: Knopfler played, then stopped, then Bob played. Good night.

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