Bob Dylan is a legend. This much goes without saying really. The man was runner up for the Nobel Literature Prize last week. His timeless lyrics and grizzly vocals have inspired a generation of musicians, ask anyone from Noel Gallagher to Bright Eyes. So, when the news broke over the summer that he was to make an appearance in the city billed as “The City of Legends”, with Mark Knopfler (the main creative force behind the Dire Straits); there was the feeling that for one night only Nottingham would truly become ‘The City of Legends’.
Over the summer, public affection for ol’ Bob was at a high. The man had just celebrated his seventieth birthday by being praised by every man and his dog in the music industry as better than sliced bread. You can see why really, you look through his remarkable back catalogue and you get overwhelmed just five songs in with the likes of ‘Blowin’ in the wind’, ‘The Times they are-a-changin’’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘Lay Lady Lay’, and ‘Positively 4th Street’ to merely name a few classics. Therefore, there was great excitement in all major UK cities at the announcement of this run of gigs. When given the tagline “Don’t you dare miss it”, you can’t help but feel ‘Don’t think twice it’s alright’, to use one of Bob’s very own songs.
That is all fine until the cheapest tickets are the best part of £70, with the others being about £75. However, hard times or not, myself and everyone else in a packed out Capital FM Arena had shed out the money to see two genuine legends of our time live in the same night. There is anticipation in the air, as it feels like one of the most majestic nights in Nottingham’s music history is approaching.
Mark Knopfler emerges to cheers and plays a set of mostly solo stuff, this would have disappointed people, were it not for his mesmerizing guitar playing. It’s easy to knock Mark Knopfler & the Dire Straits, but here was Mark Knopfler backed with a perfect backing band playing great songs to a top standard. There was a moment when an audience member near me yelled “Play something we know!” to which Mark responds with a tale and song about walking round graveyards. However, the audience’s thirst for a known song was quenched as Knopfler launched into a perfect rendition of Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers in Arms’, and then had the audience on their feet for the closer ‘So Far Away‘. The feeling in the air is that the bar has certainly been raised for ol’ Bob.
Unfortunately, what follows is what many have been warned to expect from a Bob Dylan gig now a days – mostly obscure songs, alternative versions of the ones you know, and rasping vocals. I consider myself a die-hard Dylan fan and I only knew five of the songs he played and the only real Dylan classic the crowd were treated to was ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. Dylan showed flashes of brilliance, at moments in the set and was powerful at moments; equally the rearrangements of his songs with the assistance of his band were interesting and enjoyable. However, it doesn’t matter how much of an inspiration and legend you are, it is showing your audience and adoring fans a great deal of disrespect to charge them £70+ for a ticket and then play songs that only about 5% of the audience know.
Dylan walked on to a standing ovation and off to one as well, but this seemed to be purely because he was Bob Dylan. You had to admire his performance at times, especially during closer ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, but the rest of the time you couldn’t help but wonder what you spent your money on: the banter with the crowd was minimal, you could have wheeled him out in any city in the world and it would have been exactly the same – it didn’t have that feeling of being a special occasion to Dylan, or to his adoring fans.
As ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ closes the fourteen song set (no encore) the crowd file out and the feeling seems to be quite similar all round. “Well, at least we’ve done it.” I heard someone say near to me, and that seemed to be everyone’s sentiments: it ticks off for me and many others the ‘I’ve seen Bob Dylan’ box on the lifetime checklist, but it wasn’t much else. They say never meet your idols, I’m pleased to have met (seen) one of mine and he still is one of my heroes for what he has achieved musically. But it doesn’t matter how legendary you are, you should not treat your audience with the same disrespect that Dylan did for so much money, so little show, and so few of the classics.
….. Liam has been listening to Bob Dylan – ‘Positively 4th street’ ……..