Bob Dylan, O2 Arena, London

4.00

Dylan's times ain't a-changin'

With most big arena and stadium acts, it's abundantly evident from the off where your ticket money's gone: the likes of U2, Elton and the Stones flaunt their egos through giant stage sets replete with cantilevered walkways, cherry-picker cranes, mobile sub-stages, thunderous pyrotechnics and huge screens showing expensive home movies in between the magnified excerpts of what's actually happening on the stage. But not Bob Dylan. There are no fireworks, no choreographed stage manoeuvres, and no big screens at the O2 tonight; if you're a punter at the other end of the arena, all you can see is a small group of chaps wearing hats several hundred metres away.

To make matters worse, the chaps are clustered in a tight knot, seeking some degree of onstage intimacy in the vastness of the Dome. For a while, you might struggle to discern which of them is Bob Dylan himself, before realising he's the one on the far right behind the tiny electric organ, nattily attired in white jacket, dark trousers with the white stripe down the side, and what appears to be a white boater, as if ready for Henley, but on closer examination turns out to be a snazzy white Hickock hat. You can tell he's Bob because the rest of his band – the two guitarists, bassist, drummer, and the pedal steel guitarist just behind him – are all facing him, like spokes on an elliptical wheel.

The lack of showiness is Dylan's way of signalling that he knows what's important about himself, and what we're here to hear: it's not to be awed by stunts; it's to commune once again with that legacy which illuminates our times so well. And which we're immersed in, right from the start, courtesy of a swinging, bluesy take on "Maggie's Farm", and a heavily-accented waltz-time treatment of "The Times they are a-Changin'", on which Bob's hoarse, raw-throated vocal adds extra bite to the song's injunctions to not criticise what you can't understand, and get out of the new road if you can't lend your hand. It's followed, in typically wry manner, by its sly, polar opposite, "Things Have Changed", Dylan's offhand, disinterested delivery casually throwing away the kinds of lines lesser talents would kill for. As throughout the set, there's a smart clip to the beat, while the fiddle's descending melody emphasises the song's fatalistic tone. Something similar happens with "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", another waltz-time transposition with a fatalistic tone – though Dylan's characteristic throwaway delivery rather underplays the pay-off line about the killer's paltry six-month sentence.

There's nothing from the new album – Dylan still resolutely refusing to give bootleggers a head start on his new material, even though it's out on Monday – but plenty from the splendid Modern Times, including taut, whip-smart versions of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and "The Levee's Gonna Break", an intimate, conversational "Workingman's Blues #2", and suitably relaxed cruises through "Thunder on the Mountain", "When the Deal Goes Down" and the balmy "Spirit on the Water". Of the other relatively recent songs, the most striking is a version of "'Til I Fell in Love with You" for which Bob comes out from behind the organ to throw a few languid shapes while essaying blues harmonica licks, like a supper-club cabaret singer.

The more recent material is interspersed with the usual sprinkling of old classics. The organ adds a dark undertow to a tragic "Ballad of Hollis Brown" nudged along by a persistent rhythm guitar motif, and the entire stage end of the arena is spattered with smudges of light to represent the "Chimes of Freedom" flashing. I'm not sure about Bob's organ break in "Highway 61 Revisited" – basically, he follows his patented lead guitar style, locating a counterpoint phrase and repeating it until it becomes almost the dominant melodic motif – but the standard set-closer/encore combination of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower" works its usual magic, before the show closes with yet another re-casting of "Blowin' in the Wind", this time as a sort of slouchy soul-blues, reminiscent of "Backfield In Motion", which works rather better on stage than it sounds on paper.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific