tue 23/09/2014

Bob Dylan, Royal Albert Hall | New music reviews, news & interviews

Bob Dylan, Royal Albert Hall

A great tour draws to a triumphant close

Dylan has found a way to use his voice again

And so Dylan’s tour of European theatres, opera houses and concert halls ended on Thursday night at the Royal Albert Hall, his first dates here in 46 years. I’ve seen him plenty of times over the past 30 years. This was the best of them. Dylan’s found a way to use his voice again, and his group is so nuanced to its needs, it’s a pure pleasure to hear. Charlie Sexton plays a warm and refined lead, not rock'n'roll at all, and there’s a quiet glow between all the players; it’s as if they’re facing the same way, looking at the same colours.

Appropriately, "Things Have Changed" opens it up as the stage lights – relics from a film noir set – glimmer over the six dimly silhouetted figures. It’s theatrical, and the flow of the lyrics – through "She Belongs to Me", with Dylan keening the long vowels, "Beyond Here Lies Nothing" and "What Good Am I?" – bring you up close and personal to the drama of those songs.

It’s the night’s cathartic release, executed simply, cleanly, powerfully

"What Good Am I" has him lead on piano, and he’s expressive, in direct contact with the regret and cool inevitability in that song. "Duquesne Whistle" is cinematic, a cheery, jerky overture to the Iron Age, Steam Age and Golden Age songs from Tempest. There’s a powerful articulation of  "Pay in Blood", with an arrangement better than the record. "Tangled Up in Blue" is magnificent, with an interesting new verse, and the first set’s closer, "Love Sick", unwinds its maladies on one striking chord and some fine harmonica, Dylan playing it more expressively than he has in years.

After the interval there’s a compelling "High Water", the mandolin scurrying behind those lines of dread and survival. "Simple Twist of Fate" is gorgeous, Dylan hunched over the piano, the one low stage light at the front pointed to the band like a cannon. There’s a couple of new lines before the instrumental break I can’t quite catch.

"Early Roman Kings", a great Tempest song, as big as a tapestry, scrambles its inexorable mythology with street gang patois and Muddy Waters riffs. It sticks out like an Iron-Age crown between "Simple Twist of Fate" and a gorgeous "Forgetful Heart", one of his great late-night songs. “The door has closed for ever more, if indeed there ever was a door…”  You can’t knock lines like that with a stick, and that’s when pretty well everyone in the hall rises up because you really feel it, that Dylan feels it, too, as he’s doing it, rather than just passing it by, as he has done so often. There’s been a transmission.

"Scarlet Town", drawn from "Barbara Allen", a song you would have heard in the London of Pepys, plague and fire, is transfixing. "Soon After Midnight" is played out in almost complete darkness, against a blurred starry projection on the curtain below the Choir. "Long and Wasted Years" is a stand-out track on Tempest, and it’s the night’s cathartic release, executed simply, cleanly, powerfully, and raising the hall to its feet once again.

The encores are a quiet, contained "All Along the Watchtower", and "Blowin' in the Wind" opens with a peeling, curling harmonica, the rind of the tune shedding its skin. And then it’s over, the ovation a roar. Dylan strokes a few outstretched hands at the foot of the stage, bends his knee to his audience and steps back to the band, and they stand there like a gang, no smiles, no bow, no movement. Like stills. It would be great if they started laughing like gangs in spaghetti Westerns do; like a lot of things in life, that’s just not going to happen.

Comments

Couldn't catch the concerts.

Couldn't catch the concerts. Please somebody - confirm that this concert was recorded or filmed for a live release. !!!

The crowd roared, what a

The crowd roared, what a night (the last night especially). Hail him it was a Triumph ! So glad he's still with us! Great revue. Bliss.

Thank you, Tim. One of the

Thank you, Tim. One of the most astute reviews I have read of this superb tour. I was there last night, 30 feet from the stage in a nice little box, enveloped by that beautiful noise and all seemed right in the world. Stunned by the man at a time when I least expected it. This is perfectly pitched writing about a perfectly pitched show. Cheers.

Have never been at a concert

Have never been at a concert like it . Have also been to numerous Dylan concerts over the last 30 years . I don't know if it was the atmosphere created by an incredible venue and the amazing acoustics ....you could hear every note played by every instrument...and every word being sung ...and the music seemed to swirl around the whole auditorium bringing it alive. I don't know if it was the expectation on part of both the crowd and the artist ...that this was somewhere special in his career history which he hadn't visited for 47 years since the famous battles when he first went electric ...however the artist and the audience rose to the occasion Also his material and style have changed to reflect how he now sees the world ....it is not a 71 year old strutting about the stage pretending to be a teenager ...but someone looking through the prism of life. Some of the newer songs can in fact be seen as reflections on some of his original anthems . "Things have Changed " a subdued reflection on the hopeful optimism and idealism of "The Times they are a Changing" and the pain and anguish of "Long and Wasted Years" contrasting with the youthful anger of "Like a Rolling Stone"

"I’ve seen him plenty of

"I’ve seen him plenty of times over the past 30 years. This was the best of them." Wow, that's some claim - I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Great review too, and you've picked out the Forgetful Heart line that destroys me every single time. That was a highlight for me, along with the four-song run from Pay in Blood to High Water. I scribbled some stuff myself here: http://advicetothelovelorn.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/review-bob-dylan-at-ro...

So glad to read this review.

So glad to read this review. Went to see him in Padua on November 10th - similair but not identical playlist. Agree with the feeling between the musicians. Love their theatrical but not stagey presentation and their anti-bow that they all do at the end. So Fine. Glad the Hall was roaring.

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