Thursday 11th May
The 3 Arena, Dublin
Bob Dylan, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, has entered a new stage of his long career. Starting out in cabaret bars and cafés in Greenwich Village in New York City at the young age of twenty, Dylan shook American music to its folk roots during the 1960’s. He became a figure of counterculture and a major presence in the Civil Rights Movement, representing a generation of American youth. Now, at the ripe old age of seventy five, he is still going strong, continuing his European stint of his latest tour in Dublin on Thursday night.
The 3 Arena felt like an odd venue for an artist who is renowned for his simple melodies and personal lyrics. This time around however, Dylan was accompanied not by his guitar, but by a piano and a band of five musicians. The stage was relatively bare and the lights were dimmed for much of the show. Dylan began the concert with “Things Have Changed” from his 2006 album Modern Times. The metallic sound of the electric guitar, combined with the raspy voice of Dylan, set the tone for the night. As he sang the lyrics: “People are crazy, and times are strange”, silence descended on the room and it didn’t quite lift again for another few hours.
Without his guitar in hand, Dylan sat on the edge of his seat, playing the piano with clear fondness. For songs such as “Autumn Leaves” and “Why Try To Change Me Now”, Dylan stood at the mic, swaying on the spot and clutching his Stetson hat. At times, the entire scene was reminiscent of a Western saloon in a John Wayne film.
For every modern song that was played, Dylan satisfied our appetites for his earlier work with songs from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1962) and other classics. “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” was played to a different rhythm and instead of the traditional acoustic guitar that we are used to hearing on the album track, it featured a cello and an electric guitar. A personal favourite, “Tangled Up In Blue” seemed to have been bestowed more nuance because of Dylan’s revitalised sound.
After a short break, he returned on stage, Stetson hat still intact, and finished the show with two of his most iconic songs “Blowin’ In the Wind” and “Ballad of a Thin Man”. With a curt nod of his head and a slight bow to the audience, the enigmatic Dylan disappeared backstage again, leaving the crowd feeling a little breathless and completely elated. Spontaneity has always been at the heart of Bob Dylan’s music and that night, it was apparent that we had all witnessed something that would be impossible to imitate again.