Bob Dylan was more entertaining last night than he was 30 years ago in Slane Castle, in better voice and mood than here in the Marquee four years ago.
Is that a surprise? Yes, to be honest. A bit akin to a pilgrim on a barefoot hike up Croagh Patrick, his fans rarely go to his concerts for the pure fun of it. But last night he really was fun, upbeat and rocking.
Usually, you don’t come to Dylan to be wowed by his beautiful voice, blown away by his charm offensive, or, let’s face it, to be even mildly entertained.
Last night was the best I’ve seen or heard him; arguably one of the best nights in the tent. Honestly!
While hat-wearing Dylan hovers laidback in the half-light, and rarely speaks directly to the audience, this low-level showmanship is offset by the inclusion of some old classics in the setlist — ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, the Oscar-winning ‘Things Have Changed’ and ‘All Along the Watchtower’ for an encore.
Of course, Dylan continues to write great songs, with gems like ‘Duquesne Whistle’, ‘I’m Sick Of Love’ and ‘What Good Am I?’ the highlights last night.
And of course, Dylan always has a fantastic band, notables last night were Charlie Sexton on lead guitar and Donnie Herron on pedal steel, lap steel and electric mandolin.
Dylan’s voice is very ragged at this stage. Personally, I’ve always liked his raspy sound, but there’s no denying that his vocal chords have aged a lot.
But this jaded glory still has huge charm, evidenced by a near capacity Marquee crowd.
Many of us hope the Dylan circus keeps honouring this deep southern tent with his presence. If he came next week, most everyone there last night would go again.
That said, there was no disagreeing with one observer (hopefully ironic, though you can never be sure), who said at the interval: “He’s good, but he’s no Cliff Richards, is he?” Thankfully, the comment was met with silence. Such a debate really had no good place that it could end up.
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