sat 13/07/2024

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

Bob Dylan, Royal Albert Hall

Bob Dylan, Royal Albert Hall

Delivering a perfect 'Tangled up in Blue', Dylan is in as fine a voice as ever

Dylan and his band: shadow masters of night musicRoyal Albert Hall

Two years ago, Dylan played his best concert in years here at the Royal Albert Hall, the dim stage circled by vintage movie studio lights, and circling Dylan a band seasoned enough to bottle its own oil, delivering a new kind of quiet, late-night music. The broad unpredictability may have had gone, but so had those too-common troughs in quality and penchant for urban barns in Wembley. Could this new quality – forget the width – be sustained?

After the release this year of Shadows in the Night, recorded at the same Capitol studio Sinatra used, with the same band that joins him tonight, a couple of those songs made their way into set lists for a largely open-air 2015 Summer European tour of piazzas and festivals. Dylan must like European venues, because he’s back for the autumn, and evenings beset with songs from Shadows in the Night – a shifting hand of seven from a regular 20-song set; there's also five songs from his powerful 2012 album, Tempest. That there are just two songs from the Sixties – “She Belongs to Me” and “Blowin in the Wind” – shows you the distance present-day Dylan is from the decolletage of the Sixties legend (about to be celebrated in a concertina of CDs for the new Bootleg Series 12, The Cutting Edge).

You notice the odd way he walks, as if solid ground was something he was unused to

This opening night, the first of five at the Royal Albert Hall, has a different kind of edge, but it cuts deep. In many ways, his show is not geared towards the first-timer, though it accommodates them, by the renewed sense of order rather than breakdown in Dylan’s voice, and the seasoned assurance of his band, pretty well all of whom have served life terms (bassist Tony Garnier since the late Eighties), dressed like convicts, huddled like a gang and playing tight as two coats of paint on one piece of soundboard.

As for Dylan, it looks like he's wearing those pimpish brogues he sported on Love and Theft. Maybe they have powers, because he paces, struts, almost dances, looking focused and animated under that wide-brimmed hat, revelling in his own renewed powers of intonation, that subtle phrasing with ragged sides. You notice the odd way he walks, as if solid ground was something he was unused to.

From the great Nineties opener, “Things Have Changed”, through to the closing “Autumn Leaves”, the evening feels like a single cohesive body of work that won’t keep still or be tied down. The scattering of Sinatra-era torch songs and laments, undressed to their folk-blues core, are in a totally different spectrum to Dylan’s – even deliberately antique late-period pieces like “Spirit on the Water” – and they act like punctuating bands of colour and contrast, of hope and regret, scattered through Dylan's own songbook driven more by destiny and fate than sentiment.

Moments that stand out? A perfect “Tangled Up in Blue”, adhering to the familiar album version and with just one or two of those ongoing verse changes Dylan has made over the decades – I think the song’s palette is always wet paint for Dylan to play with. He brings a powerful new sense of light and shade to Tempest songs like "Pay In Blood", "Early Roman Kings" and "Scarlet Town".

Dylan himself performs superbly – compact and intense, no pretence, no drifting, no errata. You feel this is it, we have found the point where the tight connection between audience and artist finds its balance. As each of the Sinatra-era songs began, there was a blush of applause across the Hall, a kind of audience-artist recognition. His own songs entered the room silently, and exited like old champions; two songs from the end, “Long and Wasted Years” (with some new lines) got a standing ovation. What was good in 2013 seems to have just got better. He’s in his better voice than ever, the band is unsurpassed, and I love how those big Film Noir movie-set lights circling the musicians dim to near-darkness between songs.

Someday (maybe not tomorrow, but soon...) people are going to talk about these shows the way they talk about 1966, or Rolling Thunder. It’s like watching Picasso paint in Clouzot's film from the Sixties, under hot lights, on glass plates. Through the songs, many different figures and landscapes appear, and disappear. This is great work and it's more than worth your time to be its witness. Still rolling, Bob.

The evening feels like a single cohesive body of work that won’t keep still or be tied down


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Really Looking forward to seeing Bob next week at Manchester's Apollo theater , Always expect the unexpected in concert when it comes to Mr.Dylan and interpretations of his music and other peoples .He has always covered great material from early folk songs through to Kris Kristofferson and now Sinatra standards. Americas Greatest Poet and trouper.

The best Dylan show I have ever seen. Part Chaplin, part Waits, part Laurence Olivier's Archie Rice in John Osborne's The Entertainer, Bob has slipped free of the burdens of being generational talisman and seer to find within himself a character true to his ageing self and so renewed his art as a song and dance man uniting Tin Pan Alley with backwoods America, communicating the droll, stoic yet romantic wisdom of the American songwriting tradition with a glee and flair absent from those decades of grudgingly giving us the reassuring hits he thought we needed to hear if we were to continue to queue at the box office when he rolled round. Those truculent shows were no fun for anyone, and he's finally figured out that buggering up Just Like A Woman every night was no way to spend an evening or honour his own craft. Last night was pure pleasure, but with bite and tang. Kill for a ticket.

Could say it better myself, Mat. Esp Waits and the Entertainer tropes - he shows you have to be a great working and creative artist in your 70s.In these shows he's the mandrake root shuffling under Tom Waits' boxcar verandah....

Mat, I meant to say I couldN'T say it better!

We thought, as did the occupants of our shared box, that this was an appalling concert. Wish I'd known it was going to be a specialist event (which would have been served better in a smaller venue) and I wouldn't have wasted my time. The ticket was a birthday gift to my husband, a Dylan fan, and we agreed it was the worst £200 ever spent. The audience were crying out for some old favourites, which Dylan's elderly voice obviously couldn't stretch to, and thank goodness for the Band which carried him through. Appreciate he's getting on so why, if he can't do the job, is he allowing people to spend their hard earned money on a live event. Above all, the man couldn't even lower himself to welcome his payIng audience. Legend or just arrogant?

I couldn't agree more. The sound was appalling, loud and distorted and the lyrics unintelligible, surely the most important part of a Dylan song. Perhaps surtitles should be used as in opera! Despite the standing ovation I didn't see any smiling faces or hear any enthusing as we left. A complete waste of time and money.

I was to the left of the stage in the stalls, three rows from the exit doors, and from there the sound was fantastic, the lyrics more intelligible then I have ever heard them from Dylan. Interesting that such vehemently opposing experiences, or views of an experience, are accommodated in the same (large) room.

What an idiot! If you want to hear his back catalogue you should have gone and seen him live in the 60's/70's/80's/90's ... whatever! Like any artist he's promoting his latest album ... get real! if you trully were his fan you should have realised by now that he never communicates with his audience ... he's there to perform not to talk to you. Next time you should take your husband to see Lady Gaga. Dylan was was brilliant and back to his best!

“Specialist event”? Sorry, but you clearly don’t have a clue when it comes to Dylan and I imagine you think the fact that your husband owns a scattering of his albums from the 1960’s qualifies him as some kind of massive fan. I went this evening and the audience were in raptures throughout and gave a standing ovation at the end. The sixth time I’ve seen him since the late 1980s’s and quite possibly the best yet. Please do stay away in future from further “specialist events’ and let genuine fans get their hands on the tickets.

Sorry you feel this way, but if you expected a show of 'greatest hits' from the 60s and 70s, you obviously haven't been paying much attention to the way Dylan operates. It is precisely because he doesn't do this, slavishly repeating his old back catalogue, that I, for one, am still interested in him. Also, surely you weren't expecting him to talk to the audience? It sounds to me as if you are a good example of all those fans, down the years, who have protested because Dylan was busy being who he is, exploring new ideas, rather than who they want him to be.

i was .... well when he first came on stage i had tears in my eyes ... overwelmed ... all the albums from the sixties and seventies .. the songs i had learned and loved and lived all filling me up .. but ... it was bad his voice like Tom Waits but with none of Toms melody and so wrong no familiar tunes two tiny bits of harmonica and some dreadful songs well to me they were rubbish i was embarrased , i had my Grandson name Dylan with me......i really wanted to leave but the tickets were exspensive and i thought i was going to miss somthing ... so we stayed to the Bitter end .....

So Dylan didn't say "Glad to be in blah blah blah town" and you were extremely disappointed. Hilarious! So much for wanting to hear the music. Instead you seem to need assurance that Dylan knows you are here and appreciates you. No one told you to go and spend your money. You sound like you wanted the Dylan exactly like you hear on your albums, CD's, etc. Boring for Dylan and boring for his band to play the same songs the exact same way night after night for thousands of concerts. Better that the band, and Dylan, challenge themselves and make the songs interesting and fresh.

He's an artist and well known for not giving the audience what it wants, or speaking to the audience. In fact, he did speak - he said 'thank you'. He performed songs from each of his albums of the last 18 years, plus a couple of 'classics'. I imagine his response to complaints of this sort might be 'you're living in the past, man!'.

I love Bob being called "a specialist event"! What the hell were you expecting? Even the simplest online research would have led you as you what to expect. If I was going to see ANY performer in would do either a) homework as above, asking people who have seen said artist, or b) go with a completely open mind and watch & enjoy. Either way I would not be bitterly upset. You really have a ridiculously closed mind I am afraid so likely to get this feeling over and over again. I couldn't go and see any artist, now fifty years older, and expect him to be the same. He would have had a very sad life of he was ( see under Cliff Richard). Save your money, go on a cruise and ignore real talent that has, and still is, moving on.

you obviously fail to appreciate what it is you're seeing and hearing when you see Dylan in his latter years

Dylan being Dylan. Singing the songs he wanted to sing. Beautiful. And no one yelling liar, your a liar from the audience.

'Someday (maybe not tomorrow, but soon...) people are going to talk about these shows the way they talk about 1966'. No they won't, not soon, not ever - they'll be forgotten footnotes at best.

Says a footnote. Wonderful

Who are these people expecting well known songs, a voice of a 20 year old and chats to the audience?? This is Bob Dylan for goodness sake - he plays the songs he wants to play in his own way on that particular day.....and this is what his true fans are more than happy to pay for. He was, as always, incredible.

Bob Dylan is not just an artist to me. He is part of my life and part of who I am and it was a joy and pleasure to be able to watch him on stage last week (I attended the Friday show). Okay, he didn't chat to the audience or tell us how glad he was to be there or lecture us in Bono style but the mutual respect between audience and artist was visceral and real. I could not believe how quickly the 2 hours and 22 songs went by. Everyone I chatted to loved the concert; we were in the company of greatness and sweetness combined and I cherished every second.

Having attended three nights of this sublime show, one from the stalls just to the right of the stage, one from the front row and one from a weird 5th seat in the back of one of the 2nd tier boxes I could have some sympathy for those who witnessed the show from the rear of the hall and who have commented here, those who were not familiar with the songs or lyrics, as it felt different from up there. I say I could but I don't as I think they are first class idiots who don't deserve to have £200 to spend on tickets. Listen and learn about the artist that you are forking out money to see instead of clinging to some irrelevant and atrophied memory that lingers in your aspic coated mind; its all available at the click of a mouse. Even with the distraction of sharing a box with two such fools masquerading as Dylan fans (my particular creatures arrived late, talked through most of the show and left in the middle of Love Sick having stated "I love this song", Dylan's commitment to his craft was plain to see and a pleasure to be witness to. Up close on the other two nights the sheer genius of Dylan and this band was overwhelming. The final paragraph of this review is one of, if not the best, descriptions of the sheer audacity with which Dylan has delivered this latest leg of his tour that I have read. I hate to do this but I cannot think of a way to say it better but "every one of them words rang true. And glowed like burning coal". Bravo Tim and a shout out to Mat Snow for his excellent comment.

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