Bob Dylan at the Marquee, Cork, 16 June 2014
How many times has Bob Dylan performed Blowin’ In the Wind? The answer my friend is not even important because each and every rendition is totally different to the last. This is what keeps die-hard Dylan fans on his trail after all these years and what keeps the man himself at the top of his game after all this time.
Few other septuagenarians could drag a few thousand pasty people out of the seldom seen Irish sunshine on a simmering June evening but the queues which snaked beyond Live at the Marquee’s riverside location were testament to Dylan’s ongoing appeal.
The crowd were an agreeable mix of fans, old and new, along with a smattering of the curious who came out to see a legend on Leeside. The near capacity tent was heaving both physically and figuratively as anticipation grew when we waited for the show to commence. The stage was bathed in a soft yellow light by a series of large lamps that made it look like an old sepia photograph.
Dylan cut a striking figure when he took to the stage alone, sporting a natty boater hat and wielding a guitar. He was soon accompanied by a five-strong band who mirrored his neat apparel and included the formidable Charlie Sexton on lead guitar.
Opening number, Things Have Changed, was warmly received but it was nothing compared to the applause which She Belongs To Me garnered when Dylan introduced the harmonica and it seemed like the show was somehow authenticated.
While Dylan is not now and has never been grouped amongst the finest of vocalists, he’s certainly one of the most distinctive. It’s his muffled lyrics which slide into one another define him and it all sounded wonderful. Sure, his vocals are not as they once were were but that’s living for you.
A man of few words, there was little audience interaction but Dylan did manage to exchange pleasantries with the crowd. In place of banter, the songs spoke for themselves and we’re not sure if many people have better stories to tell. The decade traversing setlist included songs from 1963’s ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (Blowin’ in the Wind ) to 2012’s ‘Tempest’ (Duquesne Whistle).
Dylan’s sprightly stage presence defied his age but we were all grateful when the band called time for the interval and we could soak up the last of the day’s rays and do whatever needed doing without missing any of the show. Why aren’t there more intervals? Bring back the interval.
The second half turned into a real bluegrass hootenanny, Bob even brought along a pair of dancers to jitterbug their way through High Water (For Charley Patton). Simple Twist of Fate was completely re imagined, almost unrecognisably, and we all swooned as the soaring violin became the centrepiece of Forgetful Heart and the atmosphere became thick.
Dylan finished up with Long and Wasted Years, another from ‘Tempest’. The crowd become rowdy as they bellowed and whooped for Dylan and co. to return for an encore, and return they did with a glorious rendition of All Along the Watchtower. They finally finished up with a more exuberant delivery of Blowin’ in the Wind than we could ever have imagined.
We can’t wait to hear it again when he next pays us a visit, but totally differently of course.