Dylan is one of my true all-time favourites, whom I had only seen live once before – at the same venue in May 2009. So, despite his erratic reputation in concert, there was no way I was going to miss out on what might be my last chance to see him in person, as he is now 75 and obviously can’t go on forever.
His position in my musical pantheon can be seen when I once worked out my top ten artists and albums of all time, back in February 2001. It must have been a slow week. I put his Bobness in at number six, with his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home placing at number three, which seems a little high now.
The evening began with a trip to Stamps Too with My Beloved Wife, while The Boy Wonder was at his weekly yoga class. After a couple of pints, I took the train into town.
The show was due to start at 7.30pm and I was there in time, which was good as it stuck close to the advertised time.
Dylan came out with his five-piece band, not saying a word (as he continued to do throughout the entire evening) before launching into the excellent Things Have Changed, a song I was only slightly familiar with as it’s not on any of his albums, being recorded for the Wonder Boys soundtrack in 2000.
The band are guitarists Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball, Tony Garnier on bass, multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, and George Receli on drums, most of whom have been playing with Dylan for years.
Two oldies followed, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right from 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and then the title track from 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited.
However, after those there were only four more songs from before 1997 as the set was dominated by his most recent self-written album (five numbers from 2012’s Tempest) and six from his recent series of albums covering songs from the great American songbook most associated with Frank Sinatra.
Sadly, for me the sound suffered greatly from an echo from the back of the venue meaning I had a slightly time-lapsed version of the sound in my left ear while having the full show coming into my right ear. So for much of the show I had a finger stuck in one ear!
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ from 2009’s Together Through Life was a real early highlight, and was followed by the simply gorgeous Why Try To Change Me Now, with Dylan getting up from his piano to croon from the centre of the stage.
Other peaks in the set were the (obviously radically re-tuned) Tangled Up In Blue from 1975’s Blood On The Tracks and the swinging Spirit On The Water, originally released on Modern Times in 2006.
Love Sick from Time Out Of Mind reminded me of what a great song it is, while Highway 61’s Desolation Row was rolling and highly effective.
It was notable that he played three tracks off Highway 61 Revisited, but none off the album either side of it, my two favourites in his canon (Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde).
After Long And Wasted Years from Tempest and the standard Autumn Leaves, Dylan and band left the stage, still not having uttered a word.
They came back on for a two-song encore, with the first number not ringing any bells at all with me. Shockingly, I discovered later that this was the immortal Blowin’ In The Wind off Freewheelin’.
However, I did recognise the closing number, another from Highway 61, the classic Ballad Of A Thin Man.
The night ended after a two-hour set at around 9.30pm, a remarkably early end to a gig, so I was home by about 10.15pm, which made a nice change!
Dylan was a great evening out, but I can understand why some people were apparently very disappointed, as he doesn’t put on the typical arena show – no crowd interaction, no real light show, no big screens, no fireworks – no fuss in fact.
Combine that with a set-list including very few of his ‘classics’, with those often adapted so much it’s hard to recognise them, then it’s no surprise that many of the more casual fans would be disappointed.
However, as I am far from casual when it comes to Dylan, I was far from underwhelmed. Great stuff from his Bobness.
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Here is some of the music from the night on Spotify: