On a very cold August night, Bob Dylan blessed us with his presence bringing his Never Ending Tour to the City of Churches. This would be his first performance in four years in Adelaide, playing in the Grand Marquee tent in Bonython Park.

Special guest and one of Australia’s most cherished talents, Vance Joy opened the show in solo mode to a building and curious crowd.  Vance commented on the occasion, ‘what an honour and cool thing to do to open for Bob Dylan.’ From his 2014 smash debut Dream Your Life Away, he played hits such as Mess is Mine, Georgia and certified anthem Riptide. This was contrasted alongside newer releases like Saturday Sun and We’re Going Home off 2018’s Nation of Two. Vance finished his set with ‘thank you audience and Bob Dylan for allowing me to open your show, something I will treasure forever.’

After a short break a five piece band appeared on stage in light grey suit attire, with minimal theatre lighting dimmed to create an ambient and thoughtful mood.  Bob Dylan soon joined them to large applause, taking his place at a grand piano as the band commenced Things Haven’t ChangedIt Ain’t Me, Babe was next, followed by Highway 61 Revisited. This catchy upbeat number was then followed by a slow change in pace with Simple Twist of Fate featuring Dylan effortless harmonica prowess.

The jazz inspired Duquesne Whistle from his most recent studio album Tempest was next featuring Tony Garnier’s fabulous double bass ability.  Still with his eerie presence, Dylan played When I Paint My Masterpiece with Charlie Sexton’s lead guitar feature.  The ballads Trying To Get To Heaven and the emotional Make You Feel My Love followed which were complimented with Dylan’s harmonica and piano solos. Tangled Up In Blue was reinvented as a small bar-room blues piece, only recognisable when the singer intoned the chorus lyric. Desolation Row was also presented as a reworked version for electric guitar with most of the melody lines still intact.  The crowd quickly recognised the revised version of Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, a definite standout of the night.  More recent songs, Thunder On The Mountain, Soon After Midnight and Gotta Serve Somebody completed the main set in fine fashion as the band left the stage.

Returning to the stage quickly without delay, Dylan moved in to the well-known song Blowin’ In The Wind with some tasteful and acoustic guitar playing accompanying his raspy unique voice, ending with a standing ovation.  The final song of the night Ballad Of a Thin Man, was told in a story-like fashion and was a fitting finale with another standing ovation from the audience.  This concluded the evening and was the only time Dylan and his band acknowledged the crowd, taking centre stage for a brief bow before leaving the stage for the final time.

Bob rarely plays guitar live any more, preferring to play behind a grand piano. This dynamic alongside his unique narrative like lyrics and engaging band seems to be a winning formula for the ensemble as it has been entertaining crowds across the globe, while still giving Dylan the freedom to be him.  In essence Bob plays what Bob wants to play, with the set structures changing from show to show. His band is an impeccable collection of musicians, some of whom have been with him for many years now.  These outstanding musicians are so adaptable with their style, reinterpreting the songs with Dylan’s changing and deceptive mind and mood.

The night was a magical experience (although I wouldn’t want to be sitting at the back of the marquee tent with a restricted view and sound), with Bob Dylan and band leaving a lasting impression on young and old folk, some who witnessed his talent for the first time.

Bob Dylan once again gave a great performance and showed that he is in a good place with his music, reflecting on stage with his band interaction.  He simply let the music speak for itself, and it spoke volumes, as Bob did not engage with the audience at all.  This show was a great experience, easily topping his last Australian tour in 2014.

A true musical genius and one of a kind story teller.

Live Review by David Kerr

Photo Credit: Ken Regan