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LIVE: BOB DYLAN – Perth, 8 August, 2018

| 9 August 2018 | 2 Replies

LIVE: BOB DYLAN – Perth, 8 August, 2018
Perth Arena – Perth, Western Australia
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving Bob Dylan’s tour de force performance at Perth Arena tonight – but there were a few.

They’re the ones who perhaps came wanting to hear 50-plus year old songs just like on the record; or who maybe haven’t bought a new Dylan LP in thirty years and wonder why they were unfamiliar with so many of the songs; or – just like the infamous “Judas” heckler of 1966 – think Dylan should have stayed a folk singer singing protest songs.

But Dylan has never been a jukebox. Sure, a greatest hits tour played with as much passion, inventiveness and sheer livelyness as tonight’s show would be an unforgettable experience – but it’ll never happen. That’s just not what Bob does.

What he did instead was nothing short of vital: seemingly in his element sitting – or more often standing, a la The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis – at the piano in a semi-circle with his small, tight band of crack guns (rhythm guitarist Stu Kimball, lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, bass guitarist Tony Garnier, drummer George Receli and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron), he led them on a wonderful trip through his incomparable catalogue, often joining in with some accomplished harmonica solos.

Lit tastefully in soft honky tonk bar orange and beige tones, the band were kitted up in dark pants, dark shirt and cream or white jackets, their leader clad in a silver jacket but otherwise matched with his team. Rehearsed to turn on a pinhead, like all the greats, they made it seem effortless.

Starting with Kimball noodling around Waltzing Matilda while the rest of the guys, including Dylan, took their places, the show started with an informality that continued with good natured tuning up in between most songs but – important to note – didn’t extend to a single word spoken to the crowd by any of the band, least of all The Big D. Despite this, the notoriously taciturn Dylan appeared to be having a blast and his piano playing was vibrant and impassioned throughout. More importantly, in contrast to some gigs over the years his vocals were clear and distinctive, raspy but full of warmth and tuneful emotion.

Classics It Ain’t Me, Babe, Highway 61 Revisited and Simple Twist Of Fate were barely recognisable other than the lyrics: their melodies and music reimagined, retooled, revisited and rearranged through the looking glass of Nashville country and early rock n’ roll. Heron’s lap and pedal steel howled plaintively, calling like a coyote in the night through slower tracks, while mandolin, violin and banjo added to the brightness of others. Receli played his kit with brushes for the most part and Garnier swapped between an electric and upright bass, giving the music more retro authenticity.

Almost half the songs played were plucked from albums made in the last decade: the wonderful Duquesne Whistle, the excellent rough blues stomp of Early Roman Kings, Tryin’ To Get To Heaven featuring a charmingly ragged harmonica solo over its jaunty rhythm, a bouncy Thunder On The Mountain complete with surf drum outro, and more all impressed.

With hundreds of published songs to choose from and thousands of shows under his belt, assembling a set list which entertains Dylan and his audience has not always been successful for this most iconic of American artists. Where in the past he’s often been more indulgent – even more demanding of his audience – he struck a superb balance tonight and after-show chatter seemed overwhelmingly in the “best time I have ever seen him” vein.

Tangled Up In Blue had a ‘70s Noir feel complemented by the deliberately down-at-heel lighting, Desolation Row was a true standout, performed with subtlety and grace its Nashville rearrangement was a perfect fit, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright evoking mid-song hollers from the otherwise-subdued and politely applauding crowd, and Gotta Serve Somebody was simply magnificent, it’s Peter Gunn-style bass line pulsating through Dylan’s most popular gospel track.

Off they went and back they came without a word, ending the show with another wonderful reworking, this time of the pivotal Blowin’ In The Wind, and a lively take on his scathing 1965 favourite Ballad Of A Thin Man.

Tonight’s was a fantastic performance – certainly the most complete, satisfying Dylan show we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. With him and band on such fine form and so in tune with each other and with their set list, they would be foolish not to record this tour for a live album.

Things Have Changed
It Ain’t Me, Babe
Highway 61 Revisited
Simple Twist of Fate
Duquesne Whistle
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Honest With Me
Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
Make You Feel My Love
Pay in Blood
Tangled Up in Blue
Early Roman Kings
Desolation Row
Love Sick
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
Thunder on the Mountain
Soon After Midnight
Gotta Serve Somebody

Blowin’ in the Wind
Ballad of a Thin Man

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Category: Live Reviews

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Comments (2)

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  1. Ian Lovell says:

    Hi Shane
    Love your review and totally agree with your thoughts.. However it wasn’t Charlie who opened the show on guitar it was Stu Kimbal..
    a slight glitch in a fabulous piece..
    Whenever people complain that they can’t understand what Bob is singing usually they don’t know the recent songs.. I always ask why is it Bob’s fault you don’t know his material?
    there’s no excuse to not know what he’s going to’s all over the net and setlists..
    Looking forward to the rest of the tour

    Ian Lovell

  2. Shane says:

    Thanks for the pickup there Ian – I’ll correct that right now (our vantage point wasn’t great, but still no excuse!) I totally agree with you also – there’s no excuse to not Google and see what form touring acts are in before buying tickets. Knowledge is power and the internet has gotta be there for something other than cat memes and porn!!!!

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