Bob Dylan has ditched the custom-made white fedora sported across his past several tours and re-introduced the world to his mop of doggedly tangled curls.
A similar shagginess characterised his first Irish concert in three years as the 76-year-old shuffled between folk anthems such as ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and an unlikely suite of pre-rock’n’roll standards reconditioned for his iconic rasp. It was a quintessentially idiosyncratic turn from an icon who has always displayed a disarming indifference towards his legacy.
Dylan is touring Triplicate, a three-disc collection of crooner classics from the 1950s and early ’60s which recast the protest singer as a devotee of Frank Sinatra style raffish melancholy. On stage, he threw himself into the part of careworn emoter with uncommon gusto. A tilt a Cy Coleman’s ‘Why Try To Change Me Now?’ featured Dylan clutching the mic stand and swaying melodramatically; his take on Sinatra’s ‘Melancholy Mood’ conjured some of the original’s glib self-absorption.
There were plenty of crowd pleasers too, given a sparkly overhaul by a slick five-piece band. Dylan wended his way with care through ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’, a crepuscular cut from his 1963 debut album, and perched at a piano, came alarmingly close to breaking into a grin during ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. The jukebox mood continued through to the encore, for which he dusted down ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and 1965’s ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’.
“You think I’m over the hill… you think I’m past my prime,” he sang on ‘Spirit on the Water’, the fervour with which he delivered the line suggesting that he is far from ready to take a back seat. Here and elsewhere, Dylan’s curmudgeonly charisma twinkled fiercely.
This was a performance that occasionally begged the audience’s indulgence — but which rewarded those prepared to surrender to the great man’s whims.
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