Bob Dylan, Hop Farm, Kent
Tuesday 06 July 2010
The Hop Farm Festival packed some musical punches, with a selection of Sixties and Seventies heavyweights attempting to recapture their glory days. From Van Morrison in the Friday headline slot to performances from Blondie, Peter Green and Ray Davies, there was a fair few elder musical statesmen propping up the line-up (and sometimes being propped up by their own backing bands). But the biggest draw was, of course, Bob Dylan.
It was his only festival slot of the summer, and the whole of Hop Farm Festival seemed to be in attendance. Having never seen Dylan before, I too eagerly awaited the Saturday set. He opened with a swathe of songs from Blonde on Blonde, although sometimes it was hard to tell just which well-loved track he was grunting. His lyrical intonation and rhythm is rather altered, meaning you can be halfway through familiar numbers like the opener "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" before recognising them. The voice was craggy and hardly tuneful; as he croaked "Oh, mama, can this really be the end?" during "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again", he sounded like he really might be about to croak.
Still, Dylan never exactly had the prettiest singing voice, and as the gig went on he did warm up. Stints on the Hammond organ and the harmonica were met with delight from the crowd, and throughout he was backed by a predictably tight band.
But there was sadly zero audience interaction, which, coupled with video screens that only showed a band mid-shot – no emotion-soaked close-ups allowed, it seemed – made it a little difficult to fully engage. It also seemed unfair on the legions of fans closer to Dylan's own age who obviously wouldn't be pushing to the front barrier for a glimpse.
Nonetheless, the chance to hear live renditions of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Forever Young" – the two soaring finishing tracks – certainly lifted the mood. As several thousand people rapturously sang "how does it feel?", you could be sure the answer was "pretty damn good".
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