Bob Dylan – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2018
Love or loathe Bob Dylan’s trademark nasal pinched timbre, one can’t help but imagine a world without his prodigious musical touch. Just look at Jimi Hendrix All Along The Watch Tower or U2’s Love Rescue Me or countless other hits he’s penned over the decades for artists.
WORDS BY WAL RIED
It’s almost embarrassing how much Bob Dylan has influenced this generation. But tonight, here he was – The legend live on stage, muted against the sparse backdrop, ready to bring alive the songs that have captured the imagination of those in attendance.
Flanked by his amazing band, including 80s poster boy, guitarist Charlie Sexton & the mercurial George Receli on drums, they looked as if they had visited the local millinery & Hallensteins for dinner jackets en route to Spark Arena. The recognisable singer/songwriter wasted no time getting into it, opting to keep to stick to the setlist of his Australian leg of his Never Ending Tour.
Folk legend Bob Dylan has had quite a colourful musical tenure, including his alleged marriage proposal to Gospel singer Mavis Staples and induction with last year’s coveted Nobel prize for literature. The first songwriter to receive the prestigious award along with fellow laureates Samuel Beckett and Thomas Mann. His words the impetus for tonight’s show, highlighting the deserved spoils from his recent lauding.
Songs from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan to Triplicate were given their dues, as he quickly rattled off tunes in quickfire succession. Highway 61 Revisited, Tangled Upon Blue from his album Blood On The Tracks, were given the ‘BD’ treatment with multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron’s sublime pedal steel guitar providing the backbone to the nights Country/Bluegrass sound, while Dylan sporadically letting the harmonica out of the holster on Summer Days & When I Paint My Masterpiece to superb effect.
Personally, however, with his extensive back catalogue of thirty-six albums and numerous hits, it would have been nice to have heard some of the songs that have been a feature or more widely known. I suppose when you’ve been in the game as long as Bob Dylan, a set list is probably the least of your worries, however, I couldn’t help but think of songs that dominated my youth like, Lay Lady Lay, Hurricane, Jokerman or the mesmerising Just Like A Woman.
Considering how many songs he’s written, Dylan was a man of few words. In fact, he didn’t even introduce the band. The guy is a Legend and at the status he’s achieved he can pretty much do anything, however, it would’ve been a nice touch if he had greeted the audience, however, on this occasion, it wasn’t to be. He commanded the stage all night as the audience paid homage with applause and the occasional dance out of the seats, it was clear indeed, who the packed out crowd were here to see.
Blowin’ In The Wind & Ballad Of A Thin Man were solid choices, nicely rounding off the night’s proceedings. To me, tonight’s performance was every bit as I thought it would be, his band backed him up wonderfully and roused applause when he stood at the front of the stage or played harmonica.
Personally, I found it a little sterile in part, partly stymied by the aforementioned song choices and also the lack of giant video screens had me squinting a couple of times towards the dimly lit stage. But hey, When you’re Bob Dylan and have a Nobel prize ‘the world is your oyster’, who gives a damn?