Bournemouth International Centre

Bob Dylan

And so the Never Ending Tour trundled into Bournemouth on Thursday for the fifth time since 1997 and six years from the last visit in 2011. In the past, the gigs have been boisterous celebrations of the great man’s work, with a standing audience singing along and shouting out requests, always ignored, but last night it was a rather sedate, seated affair, which at times felt, dare I say it slightly subdued. The moody lighting and soberly dressed band of Charlie Sexton on lead guitar, Donnie Herron on pedal steel, mandolin and violin, Tony Garnier on bass, drummer George Recile and rhythm guitarist Stu Kimball oozed class, coming across, at times like a sophisticated lounge act. Fifty percent of tonight’s repertoire was drawn exclusively from his last offering of original material, “Tempest” and his journey into the American Songbook with the trio of albums “Fallen Angels”, “Shadows of the Night” and the latest triple offering, “Triplicate”.

Although still grizzled, Bob’s croaky vocals fitted the songs perfectly, the off-kilter phrasing and strange diction of the past has been replaced by a more measured approach, which to my ears is a huge improvement. Personally, I would prefer to hear a selection of solely Dylan compositions, let’s face it he did receive a Nobel Laurette for Literature award for his astonishing wordsmithery and has one of the most iconic back catalogues of any living, or for that matter dead, artist of the twentieth century, but there again he always has been an awkward bugger ploughing his own furrow, so what do I know.

Bob Dylan

The evening kicked off promisingly enough with the Oscar winning “Things Have Changed”, “To Ramona” from “Another Side of Bob Dylan”, a rollicking “Highway 61 Revisited” and the excellent “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” from “Together Through Life”. For these songs Bob stood rigidly behind his baby grand piano, but then he wandered centre stage, to croon Sinatra’s “Why Try to Change Me Now”, a slow sentimental ballad that he surprisingly nailed perfectly. Then there was a dip with “Pay in Blood” from “Tempest” and another Frank cover, “Melancholy Mood”, however the pace picked up with a great version of “Duquesne Whistle” only for it to be brought down again by a dreary “Stormy Weather”. “Tangled Up in Blue” is always a welcome addition to a Dylan show and so it proved tonight, the bluesy “Early Roman Kings”, breezy “Spirit in the Water” and brilliant “Love Sick” kept the quality high, before another Sinatra song, “All or Nothing at All”, dampened the mood.

In the past it has been a game of “name that tune in one” as you tried to decipher what the hell he was singing, but tonight I had no such problem, all his own songs were instantly recognisable, mainly due to his much improved vocal delivery, besides who could mistake the killer lines, “They’re selling postcards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown, the beauty parlour is filled with sailors, the circus is in town” as anything other than the opening gambit to “Desolation Row”. I would have liked him to follow up with a few more of his masterpieces, but instead we got an OK “Soon After Midnight” from “Tempest”, the standard “That Old Black Magic”, Wasted Years, one of the better tunes from “Tempest” and to close, a mercifully short “Autumn Leaves”. The lights went down and the bard of Hibbing was gone, with not a word of thanks, nor a mention of the band members, itís good to know some things never change.

Bob Dylan

The encore of “Blowin’ in the Wind” complete with violin from Donnie Heron and a faithful rendition of “Ballad of a Thin Man”, were fairly low-key, in keeping with what had gone before. All in all a mixed bag, there were some undoubted highlights, but also times when another classic wouldn’t have gone amiss. At seventy-five, Dylan has mellowed, the fire of “That’s Alright Ma, I’m only Bleeding” and “Masters of War” has been replaced by reworks of other people’s material. Also gone is the guitar, which I don’t particularly miss and the harmonica which I do, nobody can blow seven bells out of a mouth harp like Dylan, at times it can be unmusical and wayward, but itís part of his sound, maybe he hasn’t got the puff anymore, who knows, whatever, it’s just great that heís still out there doing what he does night after night.

Things Have Changed
To Ramona
Highway 61 Revisited
Beyond Here Lies Nothing
Why Try to Change Me Now
Pay In Blood
Melancholy Mood
Duquesne Whistle
Stormy Weather
Tangled Up In Blue
Early Roman Kings
Spirit on the Water
Love Sick
All or Nothing at All
Desolation Row
Soon After Midnight
That Old Black Magic
Long and Wasted Years
Autumn Leaves

Blowin’ in the Wind
Ballad of a Thin Man


Words by John Cherry.

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