Bob Dylan - Royal Albert Hall, London

Another year, and another addition to the relentless Never Ending Tour that began in 1988. The band may have an evolving line up, but the man himself is obviously the focus of the evening.

As part of a 5 night residency at the grand Royal Albert Hall, night 4 sees the 74 year old Bob Dylan in fine form promoting his latest 36th studio release Shadows in The Night, and in suitable bluesy-crooner form. Taking to the stage at 7.30, the man of few words launches into a 20 song set uttering a few words at an interval. Despite the lack of verbal interaction with the audience, it is his performance, set list, and arrangement that draw you in – if you want to listen to him talk, then seek out his excellent Theme Time Radio Hour podcast.

Strolling onto stage in a wide-brimmed hat and suit, with his band in matching muted blue and black suits, the atmosphere and arrangement puts you in mind of a smoky New Orleans speakeasy with low hanging lights casting shadows across the stage. The staging and style harked back to Tom Waits on his last Glitter and Doom Tour – imagine Dylan’s Southern dandy singing on a paddle steamer compared to Waits’s carnival barker. With a set list drawing heavily from Dylan’s later albums – such as Shadows..., Tempest, Modern Times and Time Out Of Mind - the set list is classic track-lite but gripping nevertheless. Starting with a cracking version of 'Things Have Changed', the mix of Country and Jazz tone is set for the evening.

The most interesting element of the evening is seeing Dylan settling into his new role of classic crooner (fuelled by the recent Shadows… album of Sinatra covers). Dylan’s voice could have never been described as angelic, but as the years have taken their toll on his voice, with it’s timbre and tone dropping, resulting in an even more gruff and husky voice than heard before. Wisely, when tackling the classics of the evening, Dylan does not attempt to replicate his older sound, instead focusing on new arrangements giving these tracks a new lease of life that never leave you feeling like Dylan has past it. 'Tangled Up in Blue' is especially a high point, closely followed by a piano and big band reworking of 'Blowin’ In The Wind'.

Although the crowd are waiting for the hits, its actually the newer tracks that provide the standout moments. From brilliant versions of 'Spirit on the Water' and 'High Water (For Charley Patton)', to versions of American Songbook classics such 'Melancholy Mood', 'Autumn Leaves', and a beautiful take on 'What’ll I Do'.

A short set (7.30 start, with a 9.45 finish – including interval), you still don’t feel cheated as you have experienced a great performance by a living legend.

Pt1.
1. Things Have Changed
2. She Belongs To Me
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
4. What’ll I Do
5. Duquesne Whistle
6. Melancholy Mood
7. Pay In Blood
8. I’m a Fool to Want You
9. Tangled Up in Blue

Pt2.
10. High Water (For Charley Patton)
11. Why Try To Change Me Now
12. Early Roman Kings
13. Where Are you
14. Spirit on the Water
15. Scarlet Town
16. All or Nothing at All
17. Long and Wasted Years
18. Autumn Leaves

Encore
19. Blowin’ In The Wind
20. Love Sick

Last updated: 04/05/2018 15:17:05

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