My love of Bob Dylan knows no bounds, I'm a fan, but not fanatical. I don't know everything about him, but I know what I like. I wrote about that and how I first 'discovered' Bob here previously called, Don't Think Twice It's All right.
A few weeks ago I wrote a small piece for ABC Open's 500 Words topic of Right Here, Right Now, called Don't Think Twice, It'll Be Alright? (I see a theme occurring here) on the anticipation of finally seeing Dylan live.
And now I have and I am pleased to say it was a great experience. I have had so many opportunities over the years to see Dylan play live but always turned them down or ignored the fact he was in the country. I guess when you love something so much you don't want that love to be diminished in any way. And we all know how cantankerous and changeable Dylan can be, mostly this is why we like him. He does it on his own terms. But that doesn't exactly equate with shelling out big bucks to hear him grumble and mumble on stage live.
And so when tickets went on sale for Sydney Opera House - my favourite concert hall, and one Dylan has never played - it seemed the universe was beckoning me.
I spent the weekend in Sydney, indulging myself in some of my favourite things, getting lost with no real plans in a big city, staying in hotels, eating out, people watching, and music.
And on that Sunday night I wandered out towards Sydney Opera House, the sky shimmering with drizzle and lights from the harbour. I ate a wonderful meal at Circular Quay, watching people make their way towards the Opera House, most of them I suspect off to see Dylan. I could overhear snippets of conversations from my vantage spot, and most indeed were. It was a wonderful thing to behold.
Appetite satisfied, I joined the crowds and made my way to that magnificent pearlised beauty on the harbour. No matter how many times I walk those stairs I never fail to feel impressed, excited, and blessed to be able to do so.
I like to arrive early to concerts if I can, take my seat and watch the audience fill up. The sense of anticipation is always palpable, the energy growing stronger as time moves towards that magical commencement. The audience themselves always fascinates, their appearance, dress, age, conversation, excitement. I love seeing it all.
And then the lights dim, the audience gasp, the band appear on stage to applause, and the sails almost lift and float onto the harbour as Bob saunters out.
He almost smiles I think, I have good seats, about 22 rows back, but not close enough to confirm that. And the set begins with Things Have Changed (from Wonder Boys soundtrack), a favourite of mine and quite possibly the entire audience from it's reaction. He is wearing a long black jacket piped in white with matching black pants, a hat, and white cowboy boots that don't reveal themselves until he sits at the piano.
His second track takes him to 1965 with She Belongs To Me from Bringing It All Back Home. The crowd go wild, but this will be only one of three songs from the 60s. Later in the set we are treated to a rushed, mumbly version of Tangled Up In Blue, a great track, from an album I love, but it was probably the weakest track of the night. That's not dissing it, it was just that he was in finer form elsewhere. In the second set, he absolutely kills Simple Twist Of Fate from the same album, Blood on the Tracks. A definite highlight.
Mostly the songs were from his last five albums, 6 of them from his latest, Tempest. And mostly the jazzy/bluesy songs from them. I love all of these albums, but especially Modern Times, so was thrilled. I never expected a lot of classics, infact if Tangled up in Blue was a benchmark, I think hearing those favourites not treated so well would have been disappointing. He moved between standing and singing with some harmonica action to playing the piano. He seemed more comfortable behind the piano, and what a superb player he is, something you forget. When he just sang, he also danced which amused the audience immensely. When I say dance, I mean a sort of odd shuffle, but the thing about this was, you could tell he was actually enjoying himself.
But it is his voice that makes him distinctive, the gravely mumble, the oddly nuanced phrasing, the words and turn of phrase. He is the leader of many generations now, as witnessed by the varying audience.
The encore was a raging version of All Along the Watchtower and had us all enthralled, then he ended with a bluesy almost rocky version of Blowin' in the Wind. And after a rousing standing ovation (there were many throughout the evening too) the band joined hands and bowed, and made their way off stage. The audience wanted more, but I knew that was it. We had been lucky, our hero had been in fine form, we were delivered a treat from his later day songlist. Not many musicans in their 70s can pull off such a feat.