Margaret Court Marriage Equality Arena
August 13th, 2018
“I ain’t dead yet”, Bob Dylan declared onstage tonight, pre-emptively silencing any critics who may dare to point the finger at the man who once infamously picked up an electric guitar and pointed back.
Bob Dylan is enigmatic. There’s a sense of excitement in the air as we await his arrival. You never quite know what kind of performance Dylan will give to his audience, but if past shows are anything to compare to, you’re unlikely to walk away without some sort of polarised opinion. Wearing a distinctive cream coloured blazer, Dylan arrives on stage right on 8pm, and as always, he’s enforcing his no photo/video policy. While the subject of phones at concerts is a debatable one, tonight it’s a real benefit for the audience, as we spend the next two hours transfixed by Dylan’s performance.
Setting the scene with ‘Times Have Changed’, Dylan is spritely tonight, crookedly smiling throughout his timeless set which encompasses a handful of tracks from 2012’s ‘Tempest’ and many of his enduring classics, some of which have been reimagined for these modern times. While Dylan has notoriously been criticised for rearranging his music to the point that it’s unrecognisable, it’s hard to not commend his bold approach of revisiting and expressing his music for audiences both old and new to experience. However, this doesn’t always bode well with his crowd. As with most Dylan concerts I’ve been to, there were the unfortunate walk outs; so-called “fans” who stood up and left halfway through the set and didn’t return. Maybe they weren’t happy that Dylan didn’t pull out his guitar (he retired from playing it on stage himself in 2013) or because his voice isn’t exactly freewheelin’ anymore, but it really is disrespectful to a man of 77 years of age who has been touring non-stop since 1988. Dylan’s sound has consistently changed over the years, so why shouldn’t his performance too? He was infamously labelled “Judas!” when he picked up an electric guitar, and look at how that turned out? He inspired a generation of artists, activists, lovers and free-thinkers once before, I have no doubt he can do it again.
Throughout the performance, we were treated to reworked classics such as ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, ‘Desolation Row’ and the relatively recent ‘Thunder on the Mountain’ which were highlights of the set, but it was Dylan’s piano ballad version of ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ which really hit home for me. I’ve experienced some difficult times over the past few months, and hearing my favourite song all time performed live again was an incredibly sombre and special moment which reminded me that everything will be “all right”. Farewelling us with a two-song encore of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, I couldn’t help but feel so incredibly in awe of Bob Dylan tonight. While he never spoke between songs, he acknowledged his audience with a wave and a smile, and in some ways, it said more from him than some parting words could have.
Gig Review and Photo by Luke Sutton.
Bob Dylan and His Band – Australia 2018
Saturday 18th August – ICC Sydney Theatre (All Ages)
Monday 20th August – WIN Entertainment Centre (All Ages)
Wednesday 22nd August – Entertainment Centre (All Ages)
Friday 24th August – Entertainment Centre (All Ages)