‘In the presence of a godlike genius’

Bob Dylan ' captured here on stage in June. Below: Bob Dylan and his band at the end of Saturday's gig. This shot was taken by a fan as press photography was banned from the shows.
Bob Dylan ' captured here on stage in June. Below: Bob Dylan and his band at the end of Saturday's gig. This shot was taken by a fan as press photography was banned from the shows.
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Music legend Bob Dylan played three sold out shows at Blackpool’s famous Opera House this weekend, Gazette Entertainment Writer STEVE CANAVAN today gives his view on a weekend music fans will never forget.

It is a very odd thing. The man can’t sing particularly well, engages in absolutely no banter with the audience, and looks so frail you fret he may keel over at any minute.

Bob Dylan and his band at the end of Saturday's gig. This shot was taken by a fan as press photography was banned from the shows.

Bob Dylan and his band at the end of Saturday's gig. This shot was taken by a fan as press photography was banned from the shows.

Yet somehow it doesn’t matter for it’s, well, it’s only Bob Dylan.

He is more myth than artist now.

Despite hitting the grand old age of 72 and playing hardly any of his best songs (and on the odd occasion he does, changes the tune so much it is almost unrecognisable from the original), he is still spectacular to watch.

It isn’t that him or his music are particularly impressive any more (I await a deluge of emails from Dylan diehards). It is the fact we as an audience are watching a living legend, a man who changed the course of history when he emerged from the folk clubs of Greenwich Village at the start of the 60s and prompted a musical revolution with songs so good and lyrics so bizarrely fascinating it felt like he’d come from a different planet.

To have a man like this in Blackpool for three sell-out nights was wonderful, a shot in the arm for a resort that whatever kickings it gets, keeps on getting up.

Dylan in Blackpool, for the first ever time, is a moment that will go down in the town’s folklore.

And if you want an idea of the appeal of Bob look no further than Doug and Jenny, a lovely couple in their mid-60s, I got chatting to at the interval.

They had flown in from Alaska to watch all three of Dylan’s gigs at the Opera House.

It begged the question, why? “Well if this were the 16th Century and you had the chance to see Shakespeare would you go?” replied Doug. Well, yes, but not if it meant shelling out a couple of grand and making a 6,000 mile round trip.

Turns out he and Jenny were dab hands at this though. They had seen Dylan 530 times. “We’ve not been to Blackpool before so we thought we’d come,” Doug added. “You’ve got a nice zoo.”

There were many more local Bob and Jennys in the audience, those who grew up with Dylan’s music and view him as a god.

Several members of the audience jumped to their feet and made a ‘we are not worthy’ gesture after Bob finished each song.

Those songs were performed excellently, Dylan’s five-strong band superb musicians, as you’d expect (you wouldn’t get chosen to tour with Dylan if you weren’t the very best out there).

There was near delirium when Dylan walked on stage dressed in snakeskin jacket and wide-brimmed hat.

A Lancashire voice cried from the stalls, “Take yer ‘at off Bobby”. At 72 you wouldn’t want him to take much more off.

Dylan, who didn’t once speak to the audience (other than just before the interval when he muttered something indecipherable about there being an interval), declined the offer and got on with playing a stream of songs, the majority from most recent album Tempest.

He did belt out a few what you’d call classics, including Tangled Up In Blue and Blowin’ In The Wind. The former sounded vaguely like the album version, the latter nothing like the song we know and love.

To me that’s a tad frustrating but, hey, the bloke has been on the road so long (this tour, the ironically-named Never Ending Tour, started in 1989) he can do what the hell he likes.

It was an honour to get a glimpse of a legend on home turf and a terrific, thrilling gig, but it was ironic afterwards to see a large crowd gather to watch a clever busker who had craftily set up outside the venue’s entrance.

He made a fortune as those who’d been at the Dylan gig joined in classics like The Times They Are A Changing and Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright with gusto. In truth, it’s exactly what they want from the real Dylan, but they’ll never get it.

But perhaps that’s exactly what makes Dylan so godlike, the fact he has forever driven forward rather than resting on the laurels of his back catalogue.

It meant Blackpool didn’t get a night of singalong anthems but it did get three evenings in the presence of one of the greatest artists the planet has ever seen.

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