Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Bob Dylan in Brisbane 2007

Bob Dylan’s concert here in Brisbane last night was a revelation, a miracle. With his eyes glistening beneath a white Spanish hat, Dylan conjured up images of a younger self, of that wildly anarchic Bob Dylan of the 1970s’ Rolling Thunder Revue. And he performed here with comparable energy and intensity (albeit with greater control), reshaping and transfiguring some of his greatest songs.

The song and dance man was in fine form, and he was clearly enjoying himself. He was playful and exuberant in “Tangled Up in Blue.” He erupted into a raw and piercing harmonica solo in “Ballad of a Thin Man.” His interpretations of “Lay, Lady, Lay,” “When the Deal Goes Down,” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” were marked by subtle tenderness and exquisite longing. And his haunting delivery of “Nettie Moore” was almost overwhelming in its spare intensity – I couldn’t look, I had to close my eyes, as Dylan evoked his darkly luminous vision of a “world … gone black before my eyes.” In all this, I was above all impressed with a sense of how much Dylan cares about these songs – he is not their master but their servant, and night after night he lovingly places himself at their disposal.

But the greatest moments of the evening were the electrifying performance of “Highway 61 Revisited” and the explosive re-creation of the 2001 song “High Water.” The power of this latter performance was best summed up in Dylan’s own fierce growl, “I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind.”

If you didn’t feel this threat – the risk that you might “lose your mind” in the furnace of Bob Dylan’s creative intensity – then you simply weren’t paying attention.

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