“DON’T THE SUN LOOK GOOD
GOIN’ DOWN OVER THE SEA?”
A magical little evening in Valencia. The concert at Plaza de Toros left its mark. If anything, Dylan’s singing has improved compared to his last visit to the city of Valencia, back in 2006 at Viveros Gardens. The wise old bard from Minnesota starts the show with a trudging ‘Things Have Changed’ with little pageantry & aplomb. This is the song that won him a soundtrack Oscar that he brings to every show… along with a bust of a woman representing his muse.
There is a palpable warmth emitting from the stage as soon as he begins. This shows that he cares for his public and connects with them despite the nonchalant appearance and strictly no audience banter between songs. It’s a Duende of sorts and it comes and goes during the gig. His band are tight and almost minimalist in their own way. They are there to serve the song and not themselves. Their clipped virtuosity contrasts with the looser feel of Dylan’s musicianship and it works. He directs the well-rehearsed band throughout the show with an easy authority.
Strictly no snazzy keyboards on stage. Dylan alternates between sitting and standing behind a grand piano. It’s a joy to see and hear him in this stripped-down and more organic state. “It Ain’t Me Babe” is perhaps a touch lumpen, which is probably due to its unlikely arrangement and he just loves to plays around with the original melody so as to make everything almost unrecognizable save the choruses. “Highway 61” really lets the band take off with blues slide, stomping piano and a driving rhythm section.
Next up is ‘ Simple Twist of Fate’ off his “divorce album” aka ‘Blood On The Tracks.’ It’s a charming reinterpretation and his iconic harmonica playing is a joy to hear. Gone is his trademark wooziness & shrillness of sound to be replaced by a melodic harmoniousness, and the public are clearly delighted to hear it for the first time. With banjo & double-bass, ‘Scarlet Town’ is a superbly arranged rendition, which ebbs and flows. Hipster Dylan treats the crowd to a hands-free serenade, cool and standing at the mic.
‘Like a Rolling Stone’ gets the crowd clapping along and features a bowed double-bass as Dylan conducts and orchestrates the band to play with soft and loud, fast & slow dynamics. This all adds extra layers of meaning to one of his finest songs. Perhaps the most affecting song of the night is ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ which pulls at the heartstrings with its eternal theme of disappointment in love. It features a beautiful harmonica solo by Bob that is joyfully sad and reflective and poignant. He sings this one like he really means it. With powerful slap-bass, ‘Early Roman Kings’ could well be about the gangs of the Bronx but there is also a nod to the Roman Empire, here or there. His quartet really let rip with a bluesy late-night groove with shades of Muddy Waters, Son House and Booker T and the MGs. Sicily meets the Mississippi?
Some people dismiss Dylan’s “Evangelical phase” but the the fact is that he produced some great songs in that period. He treats us to a wry & wise rendition of ‘Gotta Serve Somebody.’ That’s coming from someone who has lived just a bit! Not that he needed it but winning the Nobel Prize justifies even more that what Dylan has is truly unique. He seems happier than during his last visit, the customary tension and underlying harshness in his demeanour & voice replaced by a serenity of sorts. Here is a man with nothing to prove but a healthy addiction to live performance.
His stagecraft habit of going centre-stage after every other song, for applause and effect, works because he connects all the more with the audience. The man has charisma by the bucketload and you sense the crowd is watching his every move. He says nothing but he does gesture with his hands in all sorts of positive ways. He’s someone who lets his songs do the talking…and they have plenty to say. The encore features a memorable and well-paced ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ with violin and a gloriously messy ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’ to finish. The overall vibe was very positive between the artist and his fans, who left the concert in a good mood. If this is the last time Dylan ever plays Valencia, it was a dignified way to end.
Article by Will McCarthy (copyright 24/7 Valencia)
(Bob Dylan photo by Jesus Signes)
SET LIST BOB DYLAN IN VALENCIA (PLAZA DE TOROS)
Things Have Changed
It Ain’t Me, Babe
Highway 61 Revisited
Simple Twist Of Fate
Cry A While
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Honest With Me
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven
Make You Feel My Love
Pay In Blood
Like A Rolling Stone
Early Roman Kings
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
Thunder On The Mountain
Soon After Midnight
Gotta Serve Somebody
Blowin’ In The Wind
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry