You never quite know what to expect from a Bob Dylan gig, guitar, piano, both, which of the old tunes will make a comeback into the set? As we take our seats awaiting the arrival on stage of a bona fide musical legend, the upright piano placed facing the audience centre stage is a bit of a give-away. When Dylan and his band take to the stage, Dylan stands behind his upright piano so only head and shoulders visible, he’s eighty-one, he’s Dylan, he can do what he wants, and quite frankly has done since he started! 

He never gives in to the demands of a greatest hits set, although you’ll always get a few classics sprinkled amongst his latest offerings. Thankfully, his most recent album ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ is a blues infused folk rock gem, from which we get the subtle yet sublime ‘I Contain Multitudes’, the all out blues stomp of ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reid’ along with most of the album’s tunes. There’s songs picked from across Dylan’s sixty years’ worth of albums, with stand outs being a piano driven exuberant version of ‘Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine’ from my favourite Dylan album, ‘Blonde On Blonde’ and a vibrant yet beautiful version of ‘To Be Alone With You’ from 1969’s ‘Nashville Skyline’ album.

There’s never a lot of interaction between Dylan and the audience, “We feel privileged to play here for you tonight” being the only words uttered apart from the occasional “thank you”, additionally Dylan emerges from behind his upright piano every few songs, to do a centre stage shuffle before resuming his position behind the wooden upright piano. The band stand around, tight but with a relaxed improvisational swagger, all eyes on Dylan as band leader, waiting for their cues. No guitar picking from him tonight, but with a guitarist, slide guitarist, double bass player and jazz style drummer on the stage too, this doesn’t matter, as Dylan on the piano, is still unmistakably Dylan – that vocal phrasing, mixed with the folk meets easy listening style croon he’s developed, delivering his lyrical riddles perfectly.

On the final song ‘Every Grain Of Sand’ from 1981’s ‘Shot Of Love’ album, Dylan gets out his harmonica and plays it as well as you’ve heard him in every bit of vintage concert footage from his past, it’s a sound synonymous with the folk legend, and a fitting end to a well-honed set. Still doing things his way, with no encore, Dylan and his band take a bow and exit the stage. Brilliant blues nestling nicely alongside his classic folk and rockier tunes, defiantly Dylan all the way.

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.