Bob Dylan – with Vance Joy – Bonython Park Saturday 11 August 2018.
Words Geoff Jenke
Bob Dylan started his Never-Ending Tour on June 7th 1988, just over 30 years ago. How many concerts he has performed in this time I am not sure of, but he played his 2,000th in October 2007. It’s been 11 more years and Bob averages over 80 concerts a year. That is a lot of concerts for the now 77-year-old singer songwriter.
I last saw Bob Dylan just before The Never-Ending tour started, in 1986 with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as supporting band to Dylan. It was a pretty amazing experience.
James Gabriel Keogh, better known as Vance Joy, opened the show with a solo set. Vance is a young singer-songwriter playing acoustic guitar, you couldn’t get a better choice for opening act. He opened with Mess is Mine and followed it up playing Take Your Time. Vance engaged with the audience between songs, who were obviously on his side from the start, telling us how the song came about and jokingly telling us he has 2 albums out, “It’s been a short career so far”. We were told Fire and Blood came about from a quote his mother told him. Riptide, Georgia, We’re Going Home and the beautiful Riptide all got an airing with Vance regularly swapping guitars between songs. Such is the popularity of this young man with his short career, he is playing two nights at Thebarton Theatre 17/18 September. Get your tickets quick, because these shows will sell out. The young girl in front of me told me how beautiful he was and how magnificent his songs were and how she loved his music. Not sure why then, she only turned up with only two songs left to play.
Bob Dylan has been on the road since 1960. He has released 36 studio albums and countless live, bootleg series and compilation sets. He is definitely not short of songs he could play. Dylan is his own man and he plays the songs he wants to and plays them the way he wants to play them. He would sell out arena’s if he just stuck to the hits of old but it is not Dylan’s way.
Bob came on stage a few minutes earlier than the advertised starting time of 8pm. A simple short guitar piece was followed by the shorter sound of a band warming up and then Dylan walking to the piano easing into Things Have Changed, from the soundtrack of the 2000 film Wonder Boys, before an almost unrecognisable It Ain’t Me Babe. As happened through out the night, it wasn’t till the chorus that the majority of the audience knew which song he was playing.
The band play with ease, so much so it feels at time like a jam or just a practice session. That is not taking anything away from their professionalism, in fact adds to it. Highway 61 and Simple Twist of Fate are played with passion and sound wonderful, albeit different to the originals. Dylan sits (and stands) behind the piano all night, no guitar for him, although he does break into a familiar harmonica solo occasionally, much to the audience delight. There is no doubting his piano playing ability as songs ranged from rock to blues.
When I Paint My Masterpiece was hauntingly beautiful and Tangled Up In Blue got a blues treatment. Don’t Think Twice, Its Alright had a major makeover with the song played very slow. In fact, most of the audience didn’t pick it up till the chorus, but hey it worked well. Gotta Serve Somebody, with its Peter Gun riff rocked the room (err tent) and was a suitable ending to the main part of the set.
Blowing in the Wind started the encore with a violin playing effectively all over the tune. Ballad of a Thin Man closed out the evening and was quite possibly the “closest to the original” song of the evening, which is for me great as it is one of my favourite Dylan tracks.
He played for nearly two hours, surprisingly playing nothing from his last three albums. Walking out of the show were two groups of people, those who were true fans and knew what to expect of Mr Dylan, loving the show, and those who looked slightly confused, wondering why he couldn’t just play the Hits as they had been recorded. Dylan never spoke during the whole show. No hullo, no thanks and no good bye. Just the songs.
The cynical people say Bob can’t sing or hold a note on his guitar. Some say other people do his songs better and then there are the ones when listening to a song say (with surprise) “Did he write THAT song”. Bob Dylan does what he wants and for that some us are grateful. At 77 years of age, we don’t know for how much longer he will be able to keep up the slog of touring. Let’s hope there is time for at least one more return trip to Adelaide.
A wonderful evening.
Photo credit – Ken Reegan