REVIEW: There was a real sense of occasion at Claudelands Arena on Saturday night for the first of Bob Dylan’s two shows in Hamilton.
Dylan is the first genuine A-grade music star to play the venue since it opened in 2011 and there was a genuine feeling that its time had come with the visitation by His Bobness.
There was also a feeling of uncertainty as the audience filed in: A mixture of hipsters young and old, Hamilton’s well-to-do and those who evidently just wanted to tick ‘‘Attend a Bod Dylan concert’’ off on their bucket list.
In recent years Dylan has established a reputation for live shows that don’t exactly live up to the hype. Would this be another nail in that coffin?
As it turned out, the punters were treated to a really good musical experience. Just not one many of them would have been expecting.
Right from the opening number Things Have Changed it was apparent things had indeed changed for the
75-year-old. The nasally vocal whine so fondly remembered from the days of yore had been replaced by a gravelly, often guttural growl. The song, released in 2000, had also been transformed from its original sombre state into an almost unrecognisable jaunty, rockabilly affair.
‘‘I used to care, but things have changed,’’ he growled. Does Dylan still care? Well, his interactions with the audience might be best described as minimal - he’s no showman - but this event was all about the music and it’s clear that he cares about the music very much.
This was, however, no ‘‘greatest hits’’ selection, which may have left some a little disappointed. A good portion of the two-hour set was devoted to Dylan’s newer songs off his 2012 album Tempest. The superb Tangled Up in Blue (from 1975’s Blood on the Tracks) and She Belongs to Me (off ‘65’s Bringing It All Back Home) were among the more familiar tunes to receive similar swing and jazz reworkings from Dylan’s five-man band featuring, at times, the use of banjo and double bass.
Musically, the arena felt very full, thanks to the superb acoustics. Given the somewhat intimate nature of the performance you would not want to see this show in a larger venue.
With the backdrop to the stage a set of dark curtains the disconcerting effect, for those of us in the upper echelons of the seating plan at least, was that we were gazing into the opened windows of someone’s lounge room across the street. It might have been David Lynch’s lounge. A dancing, backwards-talking dwarf appearing from the wings would not have been out of place.
The encore was a rocked up All Along the Watchtower, and a boogie woogie adaptation of Blowin’ in the Wind, both worth waiting for - particularly when Dylan whisked out the harmonica to the crowd’s delight.
* Bob Dylan plays Claudelands Arena again tonight (Sunday) before heading on to the Australian leg of the tour. He returns to New Zealand on September 10 to play Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena. Dylan’s new LP Shadows in the Night will be released later this month.
- Waikato Times