Bob Dylan begins his Australasian tour at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton tonight. It will be his 41st concert for 2014, and the 2606th since his Never Ending Tour began in 1988.
So what can we expect for our $190 premium seats?
Dylan concerts tend to be emotionally-charged events. Expectations are high (he's BOB DYLAN right? This might be the last time we get to see him).
Yet at almost every Dylan concert over the years I've been to, at least some, and sometimes many, of the paying punters have had their expectations dashed.
The most common complaints: he doesn't talk; the songs are unrecognisable; his voice is shot; he could never sing anyway; he doesn't let the band play; he doesn't play his old songs.
Dylan, it would seem, doesn't give a damn. "This is how I spend my days/I came to bury, not to praise" he sings in Pay in Blood, the bitterest song on the 2012 Tempest album, and a tour de force in recent shows.
And indeed, if your idea of Bob Dylan's artistry includes apocalyptic prophecy, biblical vengeance, razor sharp lyrics skewering the powerful and corrupt, visions of hell and pleas for redemption, tales of lost loves and the closing of doors, not to mention a musical tour through rock, blues, western swing, country and electrified folk, then you won't be disappointed.
Hopefully tonight Dylan will stay true to the show he's been touring around the world over the past 18 months.
If so, we will see a carefully thought-out set list structured around five or six songs from the Tempest album, a selection drawn from the previous three albums, Together Through Life, Modern Times and Love and Theft, a song or two written for movie soundtracks, and a smattering of songs drawn from the rest of his career.
Dylan's show challenges his audience with the musings, world-weariness, anger, regrets, self-doubts and judgments on the world of an old man who has seen, read and written much, played more than most, been everywhere and pissed off many, including most of his fans over the years. That he is acutely aware of his mortality is palpable.
That Dylan stands by, wants you to hear, and indeed very much gives a damn about his most recent songs, is testimony to his courage as an artist, but also to the quality of his late period output.
Whether these songs stand up with his very best only time will tell.
But only a stone cold soul too fixated on hearing Like a Rolling Stone one extra time could remain unmoved by the truly scary lament of Tempest's Scarlet Town, sung in recent shows with chilling effect.
Leave your expectations at the door, let Dylan do the talking, let yourself be moved and mystified whatever he sings.
You won't regret it.
- Waikato Times