Sunday, November 01, 2015

Touched by the hand of God: Bob Dylan at The Royal Albert Hall Thursday 22nd October 2015...

It’s been just over a week since Bonanza & Son had the great pleasure of seeing Bob Dylan & His Band at The Royal Albert Hall and I have to say I’m still reeling from the experience… I don’t quite feel like the same man who walked into that hallowed hall such was the experience and such is this bizarre, beautiful feeling that has continued to ‘accompany’ me since and for some ten days now!

The only way I can describe how I feel is that I’ve been 'touched by the hand of God' and to be able to see the gig with my Son, well, a man can't really ask for more than that and it just enhancing the overall experience.

Dylan played hardly any of his so-called classics and I really respect him for that. A true artist who continues to do it ‘his way’… I find it bizarre that people complain about a trailblazer not doing what they want to hear!.. 'If he’d spent his career doing just what his audience wanted or expected you wouldn’t have liked him in the first place ya dig?'

Instead the set comprised 20 songs over 90 minutes made up of tracks predominantly from his last two albums, 2012's Tempest and this year's 'Shadows In The Night’, an album of classic ’show tunes’ more famously known for being performed by Frank Sinatra which came out at the beginning of this year. There were a couple of Sinatra covers not from 'Shadows...' perhaps suggesting his next LP may be of a similar nature. The rest of the set was a fine smattering of songs from 1997's 'Time Out Of Mind', 2001's 'Love & Theft', 'Modern Times' from 2006 and 2009's 'Together Through Life' with only three other songs not from this century...

In fact the only real ‘old favourites’ from The Dylan Songbook, as it were,
were 'Blowing In The Wind' and 'Tangled Up In Blue' but they were the most exquisite, weird-ass versions you’re never likely to have heard, still oily-wet from the masters palette and brushes!

The whole show had an incredible vibe and sound almost impossible to describe in that it is an essence rather than something tangible or easily expressed verbally…

Just try to imagine that feeling when you begin to fall asleep, half-awake half dream state but suddenly being confronted with the best Country band you've NEVER heard, with a line-up comprising all the greats of the past each stepping up in turn to play like twisted angels resplendent in full Western-Swing garb…

It’s a little like a scene from a David Lynch movie; euphoric, orgasmic jouissance but with an ever so slightly, sinister darkness. All sounding like it’s being beamed out from the furthest reaches of the cosmos as you float weightless, listening in on the intergalactic radio of Stanley Kubrick’s spinning, space station...

At this point I turned to my son and said ‘If there is a band playing in heaven then this is it’… But there was also a little bit of hell too!..

It was so dark and menacing in places, sounding almost like Nick Cave and The Birthday Party but with far better musicians…

Charlie Sexton played lead guitar like a man who has sold his soul at the crossroads and Bob looked just like a little demon hopping from one foot to the other, blowing on his evil harmonica whilst hell burns, fiddlers fiddle, banjos bang eerily and pedal steel fills the Albert Hall with the most beautifully delicate of feathers falling from angels wings!

And then suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps heaven ‘is’ hell and ‘Hell is a place’, this place… and we all can make of it what we will?!

The highlight of the set for me was ‘Lovesick’, originally appearing on Dylan’s 1997 ’Time Out Of Mind’ LP but here now transformed into a far darker, sinister and rocking beast sounding more like a Trench Town, heavy dub Reggae, call-to-arms than its previous incarnation… This version could easily have been Nick Cave’s ‘grinder men’ performing all three of Dylan’s religious trilogy albums in their entirety, with all the breaks, just as Satan intended…

It was in this form and in this setting that the song made more sense to me than it EVER has …

'I'm walkin' through streets that are dead… walkin' with you in my head… the clouds are weepin’…
You destroyed me with a smile… I'm sick of love… This kind of love, I'm so sick of it….
Sometimes the silence can be like thunder-Sometimes I wanna take to the road and plunder…
Could you ever be true… I wish I'd never met you…I'm sick of love, I'm tryin' to forget you.'

As Charlie Sexton viciously scraped Lovesick’s final chord from his guitar I jumped to my feet ecstatically not realising this was the last song and the whole Albert Hall was doing precisely the same thing for a much deserved standing ovation.

Seriously, I am NOT the same man who walked into that hallowed hall Thursday before last and there is no doubt in my mind I have been truly touched by the hand of God… In fact I doubt I’ll EVER be quite the same again!..

Here’s the full setlist and an audio recording of the gig:

1)Things Have Changed
2)She Belongs to Me
3)Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
4)What'll I Do (Irving Berlin cover)
5)Duquesne Whistle
6)Melancholy Mood (Frank Sinatra cover)
7)Pay in Blood
8)I’m a Fool to Want You(Frank Sinatra cover)
9)Tangled Up in Blue

Set 2:
10)High Water (For Charley Patton)
11)Why Try to Change Me Now(Cy Coleman cover)
12)Early Roman Kings
13)The Night We Called It a Day(Frank Sinatra cover)
14)Spirit on the Water
15)Scarlet Town
16)All or Nothing at All(Frank Sinatra cover)
17)Long and Wasted Years
18)Autumn Leaves(Yves Montand cover)

19)Blowin' in the Wind
20)Love Sick


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