REVIEW: Bob Dylan at Wembley SSE Arena

Bob Dylan at Wembley, May 2017
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

Bob Dylan
(Wembley SSE Arena, 9 May 2017; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Who would have thought we’d be saying that Bob Dylan sung one the best versions of the jazz standard, Autumn Leaves, that you’d ever wish to hear? Well that’s just what happened at his concert at Wembley! Along with deep down classics from his own songbook he delved in to the Great American Songbook to offer up a brilliantly paced and ‘curated’ set mixing the two with masterly composure.

Wembley’s SSE Arena accommodated Bob Dylan and his Band surprisingly comfortably. Excellent sound, a clear view despite distance and, thankfully, no video screen, so the emphasis was on listening to close on to two hours of uninterrupted playing.

Dylan’s voice is Dylan’s voice – a ravaged testament to a hard life on the road at times, surprisingly sweet and mellow at others; and a band exuding class at every turn – tight arrangements, switchings of style and mood as neat as could be. But you knew who was in charge – that’s the mark of a great artiste.

A stop-you-in-your-tracks version of Desolation Row, melodic yet cutting through to the bone, and a dragged-through-the-undergrowth take on Highway 61 Revisited, raw and surreally uncomfortable rubbed shoulders with classic songs taken on with loving respect not only for their authors, but also of the genre as he tilted the mike stand at a rakish angle in the best tradition of the crooner! Autumn Leaves and That Old Black Magic were delivered with poise and a sense of timing that many a younger hopeful would have died for!

Tangled Up In Blue took on a tough tilt and there were fine versions of more recent highpoints including the catchy lyricism of Spirit OnThe Water and the light-on-your-feet Country swing of Duquesne Whistle with Donnie Herron’s lap steel guitar evoking that train whistle blowing across the landscape, while Early Roman Kings offered more that a passing nod to blues legend Muddy Waters.

The set didn’t lack for his most well known numbers either. Don’t Think Twice, Its Alright immediately recognisable from the tenuous links to its chord structure and Blowing In The Wind, turned around with a fresh take in his encore along with Ballad of A Thin Man, losing none of it’s acerbic edge; ‘You don’t know what is happening, do you, Mr Jones?’, ringing in the ears long after leaving the arena.

Bob Dylan — vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
Stu Kimball — rhythm guitar
Donnie Herron — pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, banjo, violin
Charlie Sexton — lead guitar
Tony Garnier — bass guitar
George Receli — drums, percussion

Categories: miscellaneous

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