Wild Young Minds: Latest repertoire is perfect for Dylans raspy voice

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Latest repertoire is perfect for Dylans raspy voice

Is a 72-year old guy still capable of giving a convincing performance for an audience of old critical fans? That was the question that arose when I heard the announcement that folk- and rock legend Bob Dylan would give two concerts in the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. His age was clearly visible: wild curly and grey hair, a stiff stance and a marked face. The Dylan of the sixties is vaguely recognisable, but the most important question is to what extent that accounts for his brilliant musicality. 

Along with the first notes that are striken, it becomes clear that his voice has adopted a great dose of rawness over the years. Dylans voice is hoarse, gruff and so grumbling that it makes Tom Waits sound sweet. This voice matches the songs of his latest record 'Tempest' perfectly, on which blues and folk have a leading role. The grumbling gives force to the heavy blues, which is played in a convincing manner by the band.

The performance of classic hits as 'She Belongs to Me' and 'Tangled up in Blue' is more like a quest for recognition. The known repertoire might be given a new dimension by the unrecognisable performance of the songs, but it is very clear that this dimension isn't a positive one. Because of the fact that the lines are hard to recognize, it's impossible to sing along and so the audience stands straight and static, such a shame. Also, the grumpy grumbling doesn't show a lot emotion. Dylan seems to want to get rid of the songs and he shows this quite obviously.

After a break of half an hour - after all, Dylan is an oldie - there's more speed in the show. The energy is back and we see this in songs as 'Early Roman Kings' and 'Duquesne Whistle'. Dylans strong voice sounds convincing and it underlines the darkness of a song as 'Pay in Blood'.

The recent song 'Forgetful Heart' tops things off. A beautiful ballad which, this time comprehensible, brings up emotions both in the audience and for his Bobness. The quite reserved audience gives a tremendous applause in the middle of the song. Dylan shows his sensitive side when pronouncing the words 'All night I lay awake and listen to the sound of pain'. His voice is strong and accurate, which feels quite penetrating, but in a good way.

The band adapts itself formidable to Dylans tone of voice and gives a bit more swing in the show. Dylan shows various musical sides as well. When he's playing the tambourine, the old Bob returns for a bit. He does this quite pure. Dylan plays the piano and guitar as well and proves to be quite musical after all this time. 

Unfortunately, the dynamics on stage, stays on stage. Dylan is known for his boring concerts, due to a limited interaction with the audience. And indeed, the nights isn't filled with talks and thanks. Even worse: Dylan doesn't show any affection at all. This may seem indifferent, but it adds to his image. His crusty and moody and rebellious image, which gives him an air of mystery. And nothing's wrong with that, if you ask me.

Despite this, Dylan isn't too faint and returns - after having left the stage - back to delight the audience with two classics. When hearing the beginning tunes of 'All Along the Watchtower' a loud cheering fills the hall. 'Blowin in the Wind' is received enthusiastically as well. As much as the performance went up after the break, as much as it went down again now. It becomes clear at once that Dylan is best to limit himself to his new songs. The classics sound cliché, too easily gotten rid of and brought with less emotions than the new ones. The themes that Dylan brings forward with these two songs, are hard to translate to 2013. Racial segregation is no longer an issue and Dylan feels this as well. 


To be honest, all classics Dylan performs in the two hours are hard to transfer to his current voice. That voice is raw, that voice is raspy and this makes this voice right for the heavy blues of 'Tempest'. That's why Dylan should listen to his own voice - as he has done all his life - and focus on his latest repertoire. The latest repertoire that was brought to us tonight in a convincing manner, sensible and with a strong teamwork. Hat off for the new Dylan.

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