The times may be a-changing but one thing remains true; Bob Dylan is as relevant now as he was 60 years ago when he burst into the Dinkytown folk music circuit forging a name for himself as the musical genius and the voice of a generation.
The name Bob Dylan is cemented in musical history which is why his shows sell out in seconds; everyone knows him and can name at least one song. Which is why looking around the crowd at his Margaret Court Arena show, there is such a mix of people- the diehard fans, the baby boomers who never got a chance to see him at one of his other 11 tours to the country, the millennial fan base who either grew up with Bob Dylan in their home thanks to their parents well rounded music taste, those who have recently discovered his catalogue of work, and the bucket list fans who want to say they have seen a living legend.
I considered myself in the millennial category. My parents definitely had a lasting impact on my musical taste exposing me to all of the great growing up in a religiously Gold 104 soundtracked home. They teased out my curiosity to explore music and immerse myself in the world. So naturally I took my parents and my partner with me to the show. We all had entirely different experiences thanks in large to our set expectations going in. I had done my research, analysing past set lists, read reviews of shows in other cities and soundtracked my days to Bob Dylan classics. For me, I went in there knowing that the Bob Dylan I knew on record was not what I was about to hear, and for me that was exhilarating. The change in Bob Dylan sound from folk to a more rockabilly take appealed to my dad and his personal music taste. My mum wanted to hear the songs true to form. My partner who had also done his research knew what to expect from the set but at least wanted to recognise the songs.
Margaret Court filled, it approached 8pm with announcements informing the crowd that no photography would be permitted during the performance, a welcome change from iPhones obscuring the view. No support act would precede Bob Dylan- he doesn’t need it to get the crowd going. Instead as per the schedule the lights dimmed at 8pm on the dot and Bob Dylan’s band entered the stage kicking straight into the introduction to ‘Things Have Changed’. Moments later Bob Dylan appeared dressed in white and donning a signature white brim hat. He made his way over to the grand piano where he would remain for the rest of the night. They then kicked into ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’ followed by ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. It took me until the chorus to realise what the songs were but to me that’s part of the magic- seeing someone as talented as Bob Dylan being able to re-imagine, reinvent and reinterpret his own music. This did change the dynamic of the crowd however. With songs as wildly known as Dylan’s, change left discomfort and left the audience silent even during tunes that would generally excite crowd singalongs. How is one meant to sing along when we don’t know the melody? ‘Make You Feel My Love’, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, and ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ appeared later in the set amongst a mix of old and new songs and again fell flat on the audience. ‘Desolation Row’ was a clear highlight from the evening with 10 minutes of pure bliss as Dylan’s raspy chords evoked a truly endearing moment. Not once throughout the 2 hour set did Dylan greet the crowd or acknowledge our existence until he concluded the main set with ‘Gotta Serve Someone’ and offered a bow to the audience, very authentic to the introverts style and charm. Dylan and band re-emerged for the encore, closing the night with ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ which were both more true to the original and fantastic ends to the evening.
For me personally I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If I wanted to hear Bob Dylan’s song played like the original I would have stayed at home and dropped the needle on my ‘The Time’s They Are A-Changing’ 12” wax, or seen a cover band. Bob Dylan was, and remains, one of the most progressive artists of our lifetime. Seeing him reinvent himself and interpret songs he penned in his early 20’s to maintain their relevance and relate to him now is a gift. Besides after just shy of 60 years playing the same songs to crowds you would become tired of it. When artists re-imagine a fellow musicians’ work and does it justice it is praised. Bob Dylan is not the same artist he was when he started and if anyone is allowed to cover his songs, it is him.
Margaret Court Arena
Monday, 13 August 2018
Reviewed by Tammy Walters