ROCK / In the depths: Bob Dylan
Tuesday 09 February 1993
In the stalls, it was wall-to-wall Dylanologists, block-booked into the best seats. Often depicted as humourlessly in thrall to a set notion of Dylan's greatness, the Bob-spotters are in fact more fun than that; Dylan's moments of 24 carat direness are to be collected and discussed as avidly as those rare nights when he really sparks off. With that in mind, everyone was on their feet when the lights went down and a voice asked us to welcome 'Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan'.
The first thing that happened was almost too collectible to be true. For some reason Dylan's microphone stand had only been partially erected and was at waist- height. As the band tumbled into the opening bars of 'Maggie's Farm', Dylan sauntered forward and wrestled the stand to a viable singing position. But before he could get a word out, the stand plummeted again, sending an almighty clunk through the PA. Dylan retreated, glowering, while a roadie scampered on and fixed the mess. The familiar Dylan comedy of despair and disdain was already under way, and he hadn't even started singing yet.
When he did, his voice was a bleary honk. He strained his way through 'Don't Think Twice, It's All Right', 'Tangled Up in Blue', and most of the time, he sounded like someone fooling around in the bath. At the end, you were clapping your memory of the original, or clapping Dylan for writing it - clapping anything, frankly, other than the truly horrible rendition which had just gone by.
In the audience, there was some tutting about Dylan's choice of band members. Two of them were wearing cowboy hats (Tony Garnier on bass and Williams Baxter on slide guitar) while the guitarist Johnny Jackson was apeing Eric Clapton in an expensive, flowing suit. It was the lot of Ian Wallace to drum along with Dylan's unpredictable changes of pace and volume.
Dylan himself played an acoustic until near the concert's end. He seemed to be using a thumb- pick early on (hard to know why; he doesn't usually), and later he abandoned it in favour of his own thumb. Solos were frequent and lengthy, some sweetly tuneful, but most a mess of thumping, plinking and buzzing, often in the wrong keys. Each number dragged on for ages. On at least two occasions, the applause at the end of a song died down and you realised that the number was, in fact, still going on. Dylan did thaw a little, managing a bow before he lurched off behind the amplifiers, hitching up his trousers.
Behind him lay some of songwriting's finest moments, deftly trashed; 'The Times They Are A-Changin' ' in which the punch line had been sung an octave lower than the rest of the song; 'Tambourine Man', wherein the chorus melody went up, instead of down. The audience left bright-eyed and animated. It had been a night to remember.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
EastEnders may bring transgender character to Albert Square to challenge 'traditional' viewers
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded