Is a music lover truly a music lover without a Bob Dylan pilgrimage under their belt?
I ventured down to Wollongong (20 August) to experience the one, big glowing timeless name that lingers atop my bucket list; a lifetime-awaited show coming to fruition.
With questionable reviews from the last few tours, I'd put off this endeavour to avoid possible disappointment. But with devastating losses in recent years with Cohen and Petty – just to mention a few – I wasn't missing this opportunity for anything.
I approached the WIN Enterntainment Centre by passing countless, overflowing establishments on an icy breezy Monday night – there was only one reason for this and his name was Bob. Comments overheard by long-term fans included 'He goes on at eight, not a second later'.
If you had done your research, there's a few things you wouldn't be surprised by. If you hadn't done your research you may have been in for a shock.
There was no support act for tonight and who really wanted one anyway? There was only one reason we had all come out and that was satiating enough.
The stage was dressed minimally but homely, set up for the accompanying five-piece band with a baby grand piano out front for The Man. The lighting was gorgeous and classic, emitting brown and gold hues lending the stage to an intimate vibe for the entireity of the set, emulating a by-gone era New York jazz club with smoky corners and dark, wooden panelling.
Dylan is known for his punctuality, professionalism and no-fuss approach. He entered the stage to an ecstatic crowd several minutes after eight to my surprise (yes I was counting) and got straight to business.
Meanwhile guitarist Stu Kimball was having initial tech issues, quickly fixed - several crowd members yelling words of love and support direct to Stu. It was kind of nice that things happened off-cue, reminding us that some of us are human afterall.
There are a couple things you need to know about a Dylan show: There are no hellos, goodbyes, introductions or thank yous. There are also no songs that sound overly like their originals – this second point bringing in an element of pure genius as far as I'm concerned – with unrecognisable musical arrangements and some with almost completely new lyrics: 'Gotta Serve Somebody' (1979) ticking both those boxes.
Those two above points causing commentary among some unaware or previously uninitiated, and enough content to create a spectacle in the 'comments section' post-show. Regardless, we were spared some massive sing-a-longs, particularly the first encore 'Blowing In The Wind', and for that I am grateful.
When you have brilliance immortalised on recordings, why even bother try to recreate it live, particularly 50ish years later when you're 77-years-old and your voice has undoubtedly changed?
There was great people-watching to be had tonight with pockets of baby boomers rocking out in their seats and the group of 'regulars' spread across the floor seats who were predictably quick rising to applaud on foot before the end of every single song before the lights would black out.
Then there was the thrilled man who was fist pumping, ceiling pointing with airborne lasso moves to the embarrassment and irritation of the young women next to him.
One of the night's highlights was a very special performance of 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright' (1963). Dylan hasn't performed solo in around 25 years and witnessing him on piano with the barest of backing from his band was spectacular and rather emotive as this slow rendition turned the original song's youthful snark into sadness. I may have had something in my eyes during this part of the night.
Dylan was in fine form and looked to be in great spirits. He spent most of his night moving between sitting on his piano stool and standing up playing rock & roll style, legs spread with a passionate intensity to each song.
That voice, oh that unmistakeable, timeless voice has certainly become raspier which complemented the more jazzy and swing style infused song arrangements, but he's still hitting high notes to round it all off.
There were only gushing people and grins to witness as I left the venue. Bucket list show achieved in all its glory, thank you Bob Dylan.