- 24 Nov 17
It’s difficult to judge a concert by someone like Dylan on its own merits. History hangs too heavy. Veterans swop stories of previous disappointments, some of which took place in this very building, in the bar beforehand, but are hopeful.
On a stage lit like a border town bar that you’ve wandered into by mistake, Dylan is outfitted like an old Mexican gangster, with his lieutenant Charlie Sexton close by – the kind of loyal muscle who wouldn’t tell the cops a damn thing. Sexton’s guitar playing is thrilling throughout, as are the rest of the band, who provide a cushion against some of the sharper angles in their boss’ voice. Dylan splits his time between the piano, which he still charmingly plays like a toddler with a mallet, and a central microphone stand, which he drags around like a reluctant dance partner.
The opening selections are spirited, ‘Things Have Changed’ and a raucous ‘Highway 61’ amongst them. I remain immune to his standards essaying, but they certainly sound sweeter tonight than they do on record, except that is for ‘Stormy Weather’, which gets ruthlessly massacred. The strongest songs are late Dylan – ‘Pay In Blood’, ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothing’, ‘Duquesne Whistle’ and a stark, hard ‘Love Sick’. But does anyone buy a Dylan ticket to hear the recent songs? Immortal classics like ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Desolation Row’ accordingly get the loudest cheers but, as usual, it takes a while to recognise them. Yes, his singing is better than the last few visits, but only in the way that a three-legged dog is better than a one-legged dog - you’ll get your stick back, but you’ll be waiting a while.