Bob Dylan, Festival Pedralbes, Barcelona, July 4th 2015 Concert Review

Set in the heart of Barcelona, this is one of the nicest places to watch a concert. The warm Catalan air, lush greenery and stunning palace that is visible through the palm trees that seem to sway in time to the music, seem never mind a world away but an entire galaxy from my gigs as a youth through to a thirty something. As I sipped on my wine, I recalled times being crushed between sweating gyrating bodies, cigarette smoke and substances a lot stronger than nicotine clogging the air, while tirades of “beer” filled glasses rained down from just below the claustrophobically low ceiling. There’s a place for both, but tonight, this setting seemed perfect for Bob Dylan, and a Bob Dylan concert.

There are several things that you can expect, and probably more that you shouldn’t from a Bob Dylan Concert nowadays, as his Never Ending Tour takes in city after city, after just a few short months off over the winter. Dylan – 73 years old – has a touring schedule that would prove too gruelling for someone considerably less than half his age. Since 1988, when he suddenly discovered his love of the road, he has played at least 80 shows a year, managed 92 last year, and all being well will tick off 86 this year including 9 in the UK in the Autumn.

One of the main things you certainly shouldn’t expect is a “Best Of” set. When you have achieved as much as Mr Dylan unquestionably has in the music industry one can’t begrudge him playing what he wants, exactly how he wants to. And maybe there will be a “Best of Tour” in the future, before the Never Ending Tour does inevitably end – even legends have to hang up their harmonica one day. So, those without extensive knowledge of his even more extensive back catalogue may hear tunes that will have them scratching their heads, and certainly anyone expecting “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Mr Tambourine Man”, “Lay Lady Lay” or “All Along the Watchtower” will be disappointed. But not that disappointed. It’s impossible to get away from the fact as you watch the be-hatted gentleman who shuffles as opposed to strides along the stage nowadays, that you are watching someone special. Even those songs that aren’t as recognisable, and maybe wouldn’t stand up under scrutiny beside those that adorn his best off albums still offer plenty. That said there are still familiar and fantastic songs in there.

Drifting off into the Barcelona night, reflecting how rare it is now that I’m one of the youngest in the audience, I found myself envious of those who would see him repeat the set through the rest of Europe in the coming weeks and months.

The set list contained no surprises for those with an internet connection. It is the same one he has played to cities around the world for months, with only the very occasional addition. What does change is the performance, and chatting to people after the show – which went down universally well, it becomes obvious that though the great man doesn’t have off days, there are certainly off songs. Luckily for those who take in whole rafts of his tours, travelling from city to city, these songs tend to differ from gig to gig. Being kind, you can put this down to a nod to the set lists’ inflexibility, but more than likely it’s simply because he’s a 73 year old man. A 73 year old man who has crammed a whole lot more than 73 years’ worth of experiences into that time.

Audience engagement was minimal – his backing band didn’t get introduced, but he did seem keen to give the crowd what they wanted in terms of quality. His voice, guitar and harmonica playing were more often than not spot on, and he has ditched his more rustic performances of years and decades gone by, and now sounds as polished as a Bob Dylan concert is ever going to be. Lasting something approaching a hundred minutes, punctuated with a 20 minute break, the set featured “Autumn Leaves” and “Full Moon and Empty Arms” from Shadows in the Night his recent album of Frank Sinatra covers, while the two song encore featured a stunning big, bold, even brash version of “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and the crowd pleaser “Love Sick” played at its stomping best.

Drifting off into the Barcelona night, reflecting how rare it is now that I’m one of the youngest in the audience, I found myself envious of those who would see him repeat the set through the rest of Europe in the coming weeks and months.

et in the heart of Barcelona, this is one of the nicest places to watch a concert. The warm Catalan air, lush greenery and stunning palace that is visible through the palm trees that seem to sway in time to the music, seem never mind a world away but an entire galaxy from my gigs as a youth through to a thirty something. As I sipped on my wine, I recalled times being crushed between sweating gyrating bodies, cigarette smoke and substances a lot stronger than nicotine clogging the air, while tirades of “beer” filled glasses rained down from just…

Review Overview

Stomping Best

Summary : Audience engagement was minimal – his backing band didn’t get introduced, but he did seem keen to give the crowd what they wanted in terms of quality

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Set List

  1. Things Have Changed
  2. She Belongs To Me
  3. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
  4. Workingman’s Blues #2
  5. Duquesne Whistle
  6. Waiting For You
  7. Pay In Blood
  8. Tangled Up In Blue
  9. Full Moon And Empty Arms

     (intermission)

  1. High Water (For Charley Patton)
  2. Simple Twist Of Fate
  3. Early Roman Kings
  4. Forgetful Heart
  5. Spirit On The Water
  6. Scarlet Town
  7. Soon After Midnight
  8. Long And Wasted Years
  9. Autumn Leaves

            (encore)

  1. Blowin’ In The Wind
  2. Love Sick

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