REVIEW:Bob Dylan, BIC, Bournemouth
THE version of Dylan I hold in my mind is that of the time when his star burned the brightest – the 1960s, when he was held up as the poster-boy of the American counter-culture movement - the Dylan I heard as a boy on my dad’s LPs.
I was unsure who or what to expect, well aware of his advancing age and departure from this incarnation of the fictional character that Robert Zimmerman conjured up in the late ‘50s as he – through his last three studio albums – has been reinventing standards of the American songbook.
Under darkness and twangy chords from an electric guitar six silhouettes appear on stage. As the lights come up, unmistakable, a wiry figure stands legs apart behind a baby grand piano dressed in a black suit and with a wide-rimmed white hat concealing his face.
His band, spread across the stage behind him, begins to play. The opener, Things Have Changed - composed for 2000 film Wonder Boys - rings out, his voice undeniably gravellier than at the time.
What followed was a sometimes energetic, sometimes melancholic mix of covers of American standards and re-done blues rock renditions of Dylan classics - at once giving his voice and the songs new life. He strode between the grand and centre stage for different sections, where he stood swinging the microphone stand about his side dramatically.
A highlight was one of the 359 songs the tireless musician has penned over his almost 60-year career, Early Roman Kings. Sections of the crowd agreed, whooping in appreciation at the opening riffs. Dylan gave a swift double handed gesture of appreciation.
After retreating offstage, and returning, we heard a new rendition of Blowin’ in the Wind, almost with echoes of Tom Waits’ vocal style and a full and lively backing. After the encore, under dimmed light, he and the band assembled in the centre of the stage, Dylan finally removing his hat. As the lights came up he replaced the hat, again obscuring his face. He pulled three poses in as many seconds, turned and walked off stage – I was still unsure of what the enigmatic man had provided.
As he told us in Early Roman Kings, he ain’t dead yet, his bell still rings.