He was the political commentator of a generation, a figure head of social unrest that makes our modern-day artists look trivial and irrelevant.
I grew up listening to Dylan because my parents were big fans and the lyrics filtered through organically. My preconceived idea of Dylan was a gorgeous young idealist who provided a voice for his generation. So I viewed tonight’s concert with a mixture of anticipation and curiosity.
Mark Knopfler, former lead of Dire Straits, did the first set and played brilliantly. His electric guitar sent vibrations around the Apollo. He was the perfect accompaniment as at times he sounded eerily like a much earlier Dylan. Knopfler played some well-known songs including the beautiful ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ and finished his set with a version of ‘Brothers in Arms.’ He also played some new material which veered between Jazz and Folk like the folky ballad ‘Privateering.’
The crowd was mixed but with a lot of old timers present with a scattering of curious younger people, like myself who had grown up hearing his offerings from the many different phases of his career. You could tell, at times, the hip swinging was as much to keep the circulation going as it was to move in time with the music. Shoes were removed, brows were mopped but they were still dancing by the end.
There was then a quick change around after Knopfler’s set, during which the eager crowd edged nearer the front in anticipation of seeing the great man himself.
To a rapturous applause Dylan appeared as a diminutive figure in a snappy, dark suit. He then puts on his stage persona in the form of a large, white hat. The show was opened with ‘Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat.’ The band was brilliant, aided for the first couple of numbers by Knopfler, producing a wonderful lead guitar. Dylan’s voice was gravelly but still had the energy and the intonations that are unmistakably him.
He sang many of his old familiar songs, the ones that I knew, such as ‘Tangled up in Blue’, ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ and ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, although the tunes weren’t always instantly recognisable.
Fans definitely weren’t disappointed, although some of the younger curious ‘fans’ left before the end. Dylan is definitely still a show-man and provided thrilling entertainment throughout. High points were the sinister ‘Mr Jones’ complete with echo and ‘All Along the Watch Tower’ where his drawl ended as a wailing guitar mimicked the howling wind. He finished with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and the crowd joined in. There was no encore but then at the age of nearly seventy, three consecutive nights of nearly a two hour set, who could blame him?
Although the voice has changed over the years he can still put on a damn good show and above all, his prophetic words have shaped a generation and still have relevance today. I am aware that I have been in presence of a legend; I saw Bob Dylan live at The Hammersmith Apollo.