Review: Bob Dylan's a great with grasping growl
Claudelands Arena, Hamilton
Bob Dylan. His name is synonymous with rock n' roll and legend.
He needs no introduction and he gave none. He stepped on stage with his five band members and launched right into Things have changed, playing through half the set with no pretence or prelude on a minimally set stage, with golden light and theatrical shadow.
His hat cast his face in shadow and his hand rested on his hip as he regarded the crowd from the middle of the stage.
But when he moved off side to sit at the keys, the band were so in sync and so imbibed in the music, the show took on the vibe of a jam session we just happened to be watching through a lounge window - in the best way.
The only words Dylan actually spoke direct to the crowd were to announce a brief intermission half way through, which did the band some good, as they came out with what felt like a renewed vigour.
With subtle points to the band, Dylan queued the changes, and other than that, a quirky knee jut here and there was the only movement to betray the aloof air of mystery that has always surrounded Dylan's persona.
Of course, there's no denying that Dylan's voice doesn't sound like it used to. It comes out in a rasping growl that rises and falls in crescendos and it has been criticised during this tour. The thing is though, it would've been a little disappointing if after all these years, Dylan took to the stage and sounded the same.
There was a poignant moment during Spirit on the Water when Dylan sang the closing verse, "you think I'm over the hill, you think I'm past my prime, let me see what you got, we can have a whoppin' good time", smiling over top of the piano as if to make that exact point.
And the fans were hardly complaining. The anticipation was palpable going into the expected favourites, and it was tracks like Forgetful Heart which surprisingly took the spotlight - with the bass, violin, and Dylan's harmonica all melding together to create a stand out moment.
When the lights dimmed, Dylan made the crowd wait for the encore. A rumbling of stomping feet filled the Arena, whistles sounded, declarations of love and marriage proposals were made.
Finally, Dylan and the band closed off with Blowin' in the Wind, leaving in their wake an awestruck audience, a standing ovation, and the incomparable feeling of having witnessed a musical great - perhaps not in his prime, but by no means past it.
Bob Dylan will play at Hamilton's Claudelands Arena again tonight, and at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena on September 10.