This weekend I had the honour of seeing The Greatest Songwriter of All Time perform in an intimate, 3000-seat concert venue in Blackpool, UK. Bob gave an incredible performance. Bob looked healthy and was in great shape.
Bob spent half the time singing into the mike in the middle of the stage and half the time playing the piano.
Bob wore a black suit with tight pants with white embroidery on the side of his jacket and the side of his trousers. He had on his signature grey hat (similar to the one he wears on ‘Desire’). Bob’s look was folk troubador meets 1950s rockabilly meets 19th cowboy. He wore his signature cowboy boots- a similar style to which he has worn since the 60s.
Bob kicked off the show with an amazing performance of ‘Things Have Changed’ which he sang in the middle of the stage. Bob did a real showman type of performance, with a sexy 1950s Rock ‘n Roll star vibe. Bob looked incredibly sexy. Bob played the piano with energy creating electricity. Bob’s voice sounded whiskey-soaked and rich, and was the best it has sounded in years. This is perhaps because the band were not playing too loudly over his voice and the venue was more intimate than his usual concert arenas. Bob also took a sip of water after each song.
Dylan sang a few of his classics including, ‘She Belongs To Me’, ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. As is his custom he performed his classic songs in a different way to on the record; in a different musical style and with slightly different lyrics. Bob should be commended for this considering most stars perform their songs in the same style and with the same lyrics thousands of times over many years. In this respect Bob is taking a note from the Jazz tradition of improvisation and it certainly helps to keep the music fresh- more for Bob (it could become tedious to perform the same song the same way over the years) than for his audience.
However Bob sang his new songs from his ‘Tempest’ album pretty much in the exact same way as they are on the record. Bob took particular relish in singing the songs on his new album and I got the impression the songs were created for him to perform as they enable him to take on a persona, lend themselves well to being performed with his band and suit his whiskey-soaked voice. He seemed to have fun performing them. The ‘Tempest’ album songs hark back to an 19th century Wild West world; they conjure up an apocalyptic ‘World Gone Wrong’ where there’s a clear line between good and evil and the stakes are high, ‘Gonna put you on trial, In a Sicilian court’, with stock characters from the Folk and Blues traditions i.e., ‘Charlotte the Harlot, Dresses in scarlet’. These songs enabled Dylan to put on a tough, badass, defiant rebel persona. These songs are very much in the traditional Folk/traditional Blues trajectory.
The concert also reiterated to me one of the many things I love about Bob; that he is very moral but in a very cool way, he is all about to your own self be true and doing your own thing- please can either like it or lump it, as Bob said ‘The only person you have to think about lying twice to is either yourself or to God’.
It was a true privilege to see Dylan give such an amazing performance in such an intimate venue. Bob closed with ‘Blowin In The Wind’. From Bob’s incredible, energetic, sexy performance it’s clear he’s not dead yet and his bell still rings.
Here’s a full set list: