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LIVE: Bob Dylan, Perth 13 August 2014

| 14 August 2014 | Reply

LIVE: Bob Dylan, Perth 13 August 2014
Riverside Theatre, Perth, Western Australia
Wednesday 13 August 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Bob Dylan Australia 2014

Bob Dylan needs no introduction: his 50-year-strong catalogue is arguably the strongest cornerstone of modern music. His live shows over the years, however, have been patchy, and we saw a diabolically bad show a few years ago at the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival, where Dylan, looking bored and wailing atonally and unintelligibly, singularly failed to impress.

Thankfully, the first show of his 2014 Australian tour proved that that 2011 show was an aberration: from the moment he strode onstage in a smartly cut piped suit, flat topped-cowboy hat and cowboy boots, he was in glorious form.

Taking a bold stance behind a semi-circle of four old-style microphones (placed at the exact height to mostly obscure the grand master from view), he spent the night moving from centre stage to the piano, never engaging the crowd with banter (the only thing he says all night is “Well, thank you!” followed by a mumbled sentence at the end of the first half), but his singing voice, though croaky and ragged, is tuneful and emotive. There’s something about it that exudes a warmth, a passion, almost covered and hidden by five decades in the spotlight, but undeniably there.

The first near-hour of the show trawled seemingly at random through Dylan’s 36 albums and more – Things Have Changed from The Wonder Boys movie soundtrack opens the set, She Belongs To Me from 1965 follows, with a cheer greeting him blowing on a harp. A quartet from the past decade follow, before 1975’s wondrous classic Tangled Up In Blue gets a chorus of whoops and hollers (and a whole new verse), the set finishing with 1997’s Love Sick.

You may recognise some of the names, but Dylan is a restless musician and every song is rearranged, delivered in some cases unrecognisably apart from the lyrics (which have sometimes morphed as well.) When Dylan gets behind the piano, as on Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, things veer into a smoky jazz/blues direction, other times guitars are turned up and there’s a Tom Petty/Neil Young feel to the music.

The band – musical director and bassist Tony Garnier (with Dylan since 1989), lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, rhythm guitarist Stu Kimball, drummer George Recile, and jack-of-all-trades Donnie Herron (banjo, violin, mandolin, pedal steel, you name it) – are on fire, obviously well rehearsed but still sounding excited, vibrant and alive.

When standing at the mics in front of the austere set – plain black curtains, a few large movie-styled lights and those radio-era microphones – he repeatedly punctuates the air with some emotive hand gestures or adopts a pose, his left hand thrust triumphantly, assuredly on his hip, just out of his jacket pocket. It’s Napoleonic, and he’s right – the music is undeniably brilliant, even if it is that quirkily odd mixture of familiar songs delivered in new ways.

The crowd is half respectful, half bursting at the seams. (Yeah there’s some who don’t get it, who want the hits as per those 40 or 50 year old records, but we’ll ignore them – their disappointment is the price they pay for not researching the man’s live form for the past few decades. Bob Dylan doesn’t ‘jukebox’.) Some sneak photos (not even a single professional photographer is allowed into the show, hence we have no pictures to share with you) and get rapped over the knuckles by security.

The second half starts with 2001’s High Water (For Charley Patton), and another much-beloved classic in A Simple Twist Of Fate, from 1975’s Blood On The Tracks album. Again the songs are barely recognisable bar the lyrics, but reinvented and delivered masterfully. He’s saying he’s an artist, not a performing monkey.

The rest of the set leans heavily on 2012’s Tempest album, with only Forgetful Heart (with a bluesy Diddley beat) and Spirit On The Water from his 2009 and 2006 records, respectively. Forgetful Heart is especially moving, a hopeful violin melding with the singer’s harp and Garnier’s double bass, played with a bow, to tug on the heartstrings, while Spirit On The Water is playful and alluring, and Scarlet Town sees Dylan like a raw and ragged Leonard Cohen.

There’s a mesmerising quality to old Bob, a charisma and magnetism you just don’t find in most people, and it’s on show throughout the entire two hour show and the short encore that throws a bone to those wanting some ‘greatest hits’. All Along The Watchtower and Blowin’ In The Wind prove great crowd-pleasers, the latter especially almost unrecognisable again, presented as a jazzy piano-led blues. We’ll assume the set list is malleable – an acoustic and electric guitar next to Bob’s microphones remained untouched all night – but no-one clued up as to the ways of this most enduring and elusive artist could have gone away displeased.

As the band congregate centre stage – not for a bow, nor barely a wave – a standing ovation from the crowd seals the deal, the show is over, the tour is underway, and Bob Dylan is in rare form.

Set List:
Things Have Changed
She Belongs To me
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
Workingman’s Blues #2
Duquesne Whistle
Pay In Blood
Tangled Up In Blue
Love Sick


High Water (For Charley Patton)
Simple Twist Of Fate
Early Roman Kings
Forgetful Heart
Spirit On The Water
Scarlet Town
Soon After Midnight
Long And Wasted Years


All Along The Watchtower
Blowin’ In The Wind


Category: Live Reviews

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