Friday 18 October 2019

Bob Dylan in Dublin: 'His Bobness is on fire at an incredibly special evening'

Gig review: Bob Dylan at the 3Arena

Bob Dylan. Pic: Getty
Bob Dylan. Pic: Getty
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Bob Dylan has played in Ireland numerous times in the first seventeen years of the 21st century, including major open air shows in Kilkenny and Galway. However, this relatively intimate Dublin date comes smack bang in the middle of the year Dylan was unexpectedly awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Now, the original folk singer is following in the unlikely footsteps of William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Seamus Heaney and Samuel Beckett. Yet Dylan is the first ever rock musician to have received this illustrious honour.

Many hailed this news by chorusing their approval, although not everyone happily drank the Kool-Aid. Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh controversially tweeted, "I'm a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies."

Whether Dylan deserves the honour or not is really a debate for another day. On this evidence, he’s in the best live form than he’s been in years.

Opening with a triple whammy of ‘Things Have Changed’, ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ and ‘Highway 61 Revisted’, his Bobness is on fire.

Dylan has a cracking backing band to boot and has assembled a stunning squad featuring long-term stalwart Tony Garnier on bass and double bass, Donnie Herron on pedal steel, banjo and mandolin, Stu Kimball and Charlie Sexton on guitars and George Recelli on drums.

Together, they conjure some divine arrangements. ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ is a jaw-dropping highlight. While Dylan plays some of the hits, he unpredictably delves into his back catalogue’s hidden and overlooked corners. ‘Lovesick’ from Time Out of Mind is a true blue underrated classic, which memorably sound tracked a Victoria’s Secrets lingerie ad, much to the chagrin of his hardcore fan base.

But Bob never, ever pandered to the masses, and he never will. He doesn’t acknowledge the crowd with any “Hello Dublin!” shout outs or platitudes, but this makes him more endearing and enigmatic rather than aloof. If that’s what you’re looking for, buy a ticket for One Direction or Take That.

Dylan sings beautifully. For the most part, he stays rooted to his piano, but for a divine rendition of ‘Melancholy Mood’, he grabs a microphone and nearly goes the full on Elvis.

It’s a set for the hardcore rather than the casual fans, who are conspicuously absent, as this is a standalone, one-off show, in stark contrast to the multiple night stands he's done in this same venue in the past.

The standard of musicianship, coupled with Dylan's esoteric but exclusive set list selections, make for a incredibly special evening.

Hopefully, Dylan’s so-called ‘Never Ending Tour’ will swing by our way again. We’re very, very lucky to have had this pleasure in his Nobel laureate year.

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