REVIEW: Bob Dylan, Blackpool Opera House

A file picture of Bob Dylan who played at Blackpool Opera House on Friday night
A file picture of Bob Dylan who played at Blackpool Opera House on Friday night
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“Bobby, I love you!”

If anyone deserves a bit of man love from the crowd, it’s Bob Dylan.

So shouted one of 3,000 or so awe-struck disciples, this particular follower vocalising what many in the audience were probably thinking.

While this adoration is to be expected on the first night of three sold-out shows at the Winter Gardens (how good does that sound?), there was a palpable sense of being in the presence of greatness.

His voice may have been weathered by relentless gigging (three a week for the best part of 25 years) but his songwriting and stature remain undimmed by the passing of time.

On Friday night, rumours of his demise seemed as ridiculous as they were premature, Dylan producing a mesmerising two-part show sparking many a ‘I was there’ moment among the audience.

He started with Things Have Changed, the soundtrack from Wonder Boys, before the first spine-tingling example of his harmonica brilliance on She Belongs to Me.

It took him a while to warm up, his gravelly tones making some of the lyrics indecipherable to all except the diehards.

But he hit his stride with Waiting For You before indulging us with Tangled Up in Blue, one of only two tracks from his magnum opus Blood On The Tracks.

After a brief break he returned, crouching astride his piano to rattle through High Water and Simple Twist of Fate.

The musicianship was tighter than a Yorkshireman’s pocket, allowing Dylan’s songwriting to shine as bright as ever.

But it was Forgetful Heart which proved to be the unexpected highlight.

Hardly registering on 2009’s Together Through Life, it took on an ethereal, delicate beauty that meant you could have heard a pin drop.

It heralded the first standing ovation, grown women leapt to their feet clearly overtaken by a soaring feeling a life’s ambition to see this monolithic musician in the flesh.

For someone so globally huge, it still felt intimate, with all photography banned and any sign of a flashing Smart phone instantly slapped down by the venue’s staff.

A finale of All Along the Watchtower and Blowin’ In The Wind was about as iconic an encore as you can get, the latter sparking a full-on standing ovation, a deity-like Dylan milking the praise, hand on hip, before disappearing into the night.

Blowin’ in the Wind might be a punked up version tonight, or stripped back to its acoustic grandeur. After more than 50 years in the music business, he can do what the hell he likes.

Still his impact is being felt on the next generation.

Andrew Sullivan, 18, from Poulton, was in the stalls with his dad.

“I don’t know too much of his music,” he conceded afterwards. “But it’s Bob Dylan. He’s a living legend.”

In the era of instant reality TV music stars and disposable dreams of stardom, Dylan is an antidote.

We will never see a man of his ilk ever again.

And, at the age of 72, chances of seeing Dylan in Blackpool again could be rare.

But for two glorious hours he was ours.

An utter triumph.

Andy Sykes

Twitter: @AndyJSykes