A legend was here

Originally uploaded by margareich.
Yes, I promised to write a review of the Bob Dylan concert.

As it happens, there's no way I could write one, just a very personal account.

The reason: I had no idea it would be that impressive. I've listened to Dylan songs for all my life and lately even more, especially to his latest album "Modern Times", almost daily, on my way to work.

But it's another thing to experience the art of a living legend face-to-face.

From the moment he set foot on stage there was an air of unexcited restlessness around him. Totally focused. No attempt of conversation. One song after the other, extremely short pauses. Dense concentration, sometimes the flicker of a smile. I had heard most of the songs before, but each well-known song appeared to be a completely new one, so much ad-hoc-interpretation, so many variations. But this loving approach towards his own work made each song even more substantial. Interesting also, how a rather raucous voice can come over in such a mellifluous manner.

Excellent band, obviously well chosen, good mixture between great individual performance and stepping back behind the master.

Highlights of the evening were "Spirit on the Water", "Nettie More" and, unbelievably beautiful and touching "Like a Rolling Stone".

We sure had a whopping good time.
Thanks, Bob Dylan.

And here's the setlist I failed to concentrate on during the show ...


Rob Spence said...

I first saw Bob in the late 70s, and last about 10 years ago, when he was awful. Looks like he's back to form. Today's Guardian gives him a five star review - and that is very rare. I'd link to it, but it's not on the website.

francessa said...

He's back to form all right. I've also heard several accounts of his performances when there would be guesses whether he would be able to finish the show or not. Maybe I can find the Guardian article somewhere. Thanks!

Rob Spence said...

I have managed to extract the review from a database - here it is:
Minutes before Bob Dylan hits the stage, the excitement proves too much for one woman. "Where's first aid?" she asks. "I need some woman's stuff. My insides just exploded." Moments later, she returns to her seat to the sound of Dylan singing It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). At times like this, you believe that Dylan really does have peculiar cognitive powers.

After spending the 80s and some of the 90s sounding like a man who used to be Bob Dylan, Robert Zimmerman again feels like the Dylan of his legend. New album Modern Times has received rapturous reviews and notched up his first US No 1 since 1976. Even Bryan Ferry is charting with Dylan songs. Dylan may mock this renewed interest in Cat's In The Well with lines like, "Now his hair's falling out/ All he's gotta do is keep a tune", though he is soon confessing, "I paid my time/ Now I'm as good as new." (The Levee's Gonna Break)
Stick-thin again, wearing a white hat that shadows his face and pointy boots, from row J he certainly looks uncannily like the musical gunslinger of the 1960s. The voice David Bowie once described as "sand and glue" is now Macy Gray meets Donald Duck, but his curious rasp sounds more powerful than it has for years. The biggest surprise is how fired-up he seems by his own music. We're even treated to the unlikely spectacle of Bob Dylan dancing.

His new songs prompt as much fervour as the old ones. The nightly changing setlist shows particular attention to detail. An unlikely House of the Rising Sun may honour Newcastle's the Animals; the Ministry of Defence/Iran hostages fiasco surely prompted a spine-tingling Masters of War. The way Dylan often wreaks havoc with his old classics prompts much debate, but arrangements are surely altered to keep himself interested and suit his changing voice. In fact, as his vocals rise in volume, Highway 61 Revisited and Desolation Row sound, thrillingly, like the 2007 Dylan dueting with his 60s self. The sense of a vintage performance grows during Spirit on the Water's wry challenge of "You think I'm past my prime/ Show me what you got." As he tears into All Along the Watchtower, a fan rushes the stage. It's a dangerous instant with fleeting echoes of the famous 1966 "Judas!" incident at the Albert Hall, but somehow it's unsurprising when the young man simply kneels at Dylan's feet.

francessa said...

Thank you very much, Rob! Saw your comment only today. He seems to have managed to develop himself and his songs as well. Unlike some of the old rockers ..

Rob Spence said...

You're welcome - just saw that they got the Judas reference wrong: it was in Manchester of course.
Yes, some old rockers - The Stones, for instance - should really have stopped a long time ago...

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