Friday, May 08, 2009

Bob Dylan at The O2

I was disappointed and bored for much of this show. But then what did I expect. I know his voice is shot, I know he famously does not engage with his audience.

The man is a gurning caricature of what was - wearing a wide-brimmed caballaro's hat and what looked like pyjamas. The voice can no longer handle the rolling grandeur of pieces like Desolation Row. The songs are broken into choppy segments and Dylan croaks out incoherent lyrics with random emphasis. It was as if he could only utter a few words at a time before running out of breath. He murdered Like a Rolling Stone and Blowing in the Wind and I only realised after the show that he'd performed Ballad of a Thin Man.

But the band were great and there were more than a few bright moments: Summer Days sounded like a rockabilly classic, Highway 61 Revisited was passable, and If You Ever Go to Houston accommodated his ruined voice better then the older work. The crowd in general seemed to like him and the new stadium is a huge improvement.

One notable flaw was the absence of big screens. Maybe this is part of Dylan's increasingly uncommunicative attitude at concerts. At the Leonard Cohen gig last summer you could see every expression on the great man's face no matter where you were sitting - and this added greatly to the atmosphere. Here Dylan lurked somewhere under his hat brim but his appearance and expressions were lost on most of the audience - half of whom he had his back too for most of the show anyway. And of course not a single word of greeting or thanks. Not that his fans care a whit. I can't help but see it as self-indulgent arrogance. And strange in one who talks to us on his radio programmes and confides to us in his Chronicles.