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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Brixton Academy
London November 20th 2005

What sort of people go to watch Bob Dylan? “Look”, I nudged The Photographer as we trained towards Brixton, “It’s Father Ted and the auld fella”. There they were (“Father and son” said the Photographer) Dublin brogue, blue folder with careful computer printouts of all their travel and ticket details, anxiously plotting their course from the station to the Academy. Like apparent innocents abroad they stepped into the army of hustling touts that filled the platform and disappeared into the night.

Bob Dylan
We wrestled our way to the throng and joined the queue that snaked almost round the theatre – all ages, a large selection of (mostly Caucasian) nations, Dylan tour T-shirts from way back, lots of old friends. And lots of security. The Photographer was disappeared into the office by a burly looking prison guard from Cell Block H and returned after about 5 minutes, paler and sans camera. We went in search of drink.
Bob Dylan Comfortably seated, black stuff, hotdogs, potato crisps, chatting with our companion when, out of the blue, “Sure it’s yourselves again, now come on Michael” said Father Ted, or should I say Joseph, “you just sit yourself down here with the folks aff the tube, and I’ll get the beer”. Open mouthed at this non-metropolitan familiarity from these strangers on a train we then found ourselves drawn into both conversation and the wonderfully wacky world of the Bob Dylan fan(atic). That was Joseph – as his dad Michael explained, “I’ve only been doing it for a few years, but he’s been going forever.” I got a bit confused, but am pretty certain they’d been to Rotterdam, Prague and Munich on this tour. I wasn’t sure how many nights they were doing in London, and I’d guess they’d be going to Dublin too. Joseph returned from the bar, where he’d been proselytizing – “those kids wanted to know what it would be like – it’s their first time.
I told them, I said it doesn’t matter what it’s like, just remember you’re in the presence of a Living Legend”. “Now you must be going to Jimmy Ketchup’s after show party” said Joseph; “You’ll know Jimmy K” said Michael, “now he’s a nice boy - young mind, but a nice lad, very keen”. “And always great parties”. “Did you see the touts – worse than New York? Tell them about New York Joseph”. “Which time?” So we got the New York story (which involved them staying at the Chelsea Hotel), learned that they had only just arrived but were staying at London’s Fashion Rock and Roll Hotel (“is it good - you must have stayed there yourselves?”), and got good tips on how to get various electrical devices into the Bobster’s concerts – “in my boots” said Joseph. “Sure there’s always room for my camera, i-pod, I like to keep my mobile and Blackberry there too …I’ll send you some pictures, but it won’t be for a while mind, I’m not in much and I don’t like these computers”. They were looking twitchy. “Now drink up Michael, you know he’s always on time”, “never late Joseph, as punctual as a judge” and at 7.15 they were off into the crowd, as a pre-recorded overture heralded the imminent arrival of his Bobliness.
Now from the noise that’s gone on in the UK around this tour it’s clear that Dylan certainly seems to polarise folks, but I reckon that for five nights in Brixton he must have had 5,000 or so devotees each night eating out of his hands. He’s certainly hot at the moment, what with the Martin Scorsese film (‘No Direction home’) and all (are you listening Santa?). And this, lest you should be in any doubt, is Rocking Bob. Keyboard all night, a little bit of harp (which brings out whoops and bellows of delight from the audience), no guitar. He out Bill Frisells Bill Frisell in his reinterpretations of his songs, particularly the sixties classics. And his voice sounds increasingly like a parody of a parody of a parody. He says “thanguverymch” once before his final number, and introduces the band as if he’s singing a parody of ‘All along the watchtower”, which he does as his final encore. Bob Dylan
Actually I should mention that the band are very good (although there were a couple of moments when I swear they were all playing different songs) – very rocking – and the sound balance is the best I’ve heard (outside of the Barbican) all year. Nice stage set, simple lighting, very professional. And Bobtastic Bob, hunched over his keyboard, occasionally taking the centre of the stage for harmonica solos that wouldn’t disgrace a ten year old child, is …, well…, Bonkers Bob (what was he doing with his harps when the band lined up at the end – a secret The Brotherhood of the Bob symbol – like the strange Masonic design projected onto the stage and printed on all the merchandise?) an unlikely looking character to wield an almost messianic influence over his audience.
Bob Dylan
A photograph of the gig by Nick's brand new Nokia. When will Leica('s remains) make cell phones?
And most of them seem as devoted as Joseph and Michael. They know the old songs, they know the new songs. They’re all a bit more drunk than I anticipated, and the group in front of us are largeing on the exotic hand rolled smokes, but it’s all very friendly. The man next to me cries when Dylan plays ‘Don’t think twice’ as his first encore; at the end outside folks are embracing, “see you next time” (tomorrow night?).
This is real fan land. So I knew I didn’t need to bother with the set list. You can get it here along with almost anything else you need to know – why they might even get a link to this Whiskyfun review too. There’s even a website for fans who compete in teams to predict what each night’s set list will be (respect to Bewildering Bob and the band, they ring the changes frequently) – it’s where Jimmy Ketchup hangs out apparently. So I really don’t need to add any more. Oh yes – The Photographer thought it was about seventy odd points, maybe three and a half stars, I might have given it a little more. But foolishly, although it was a Sunday, we were only there for music, not worship. I’m sure Joseph and Michael, lounging in their rock and roll hotel, trashing their tea making facilities John Bonham style, would have given it 100 plus. Oh yes, and that reminds me boys. Whiskyfun might not be the Financial Times (sorry Serge – we’re back to the New York story), but at least we put you in our review. And you were worth the (hefty) price of admission. - Nick Morgan (outside photo by kate, concert by Nick's new Nokia).

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