Bob Dylan rolls into town tomorrow night for a date at the 3Arena. If you’re heading along, I’ll see you there. If it’s your first live Dylan experience, here are a few tips. Don’t worry, there are no setlist spoilers!
- Don’t expect his voice to sound like it did in the ’60s. Or the ’70s. Or, for that matter, the ’80s. What we’ll kindly refer to as Bob’s “singing” voice has, in recent years, resembled a growling dog in need of a throat-clearing. To whit, “Pay In Blood” from 2012’s Tempest album
However, since 2013, when he’s been releasing albums covering The Great American Songbook, Dylan’s voiced has become softer, and sweeter. Here’s a track from 2017:
So we’ll probably get a couple of Bob voices at the 3Arena tomorrow night: Sore-throated dog, and sore-throated crooner
2. Don’t expect the music to sound like it did on the records
Dylan has an excellent band. They can turn their collective hands to anything. And they need to. Dylan has long been a fan of changing arrangements, keys, tempo, lyrics, and whatever you’re having yourself when it comes to live interpretations of his oeuvre. Oftentimes he’ll spring a song on his band mid-concert, along the lines of, say, “‘With God On Our Side’, polka-style, in C-sharp”. They just have to go with it. The Bob doesn’t do this to be ornery, he does this to keep the songs fresh for himself after so many years of performing.
3. Don’t expect a glut of “hits”
He plays what he wants to play, not what you want him to play. Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits is a CD, it’s not his live show. Having said that, he could get a notion that he wants to play all his hit singles, in chronological order. He’s funny like that.
4. Don’t expect any “banter” with the crowd
After 22 years and 17 Dylan concerts, the only non-lyric I’ve heard from his mouth is “Thanks, friends”. Maybe once every 3 gigs. That’s it. If you start chanting “Olé, Olé”, he’ll probably just stare at you, bemused, before launching into a b-side from 1974. Oddly though, he has been known to make the occasional Dad Joke from the stage, usually at the expense of a member of his band
5. At least two songs in the show will be transcendent
There will be a couple of occasions during the show when you’ll find yourself marveling at what you’re hearing and seeing. I’m not just talking about the way you might feel at any gig by any of your favourite artists. It’s something different, which is hard to explain. In a nutshell, at some point tomorrow night, you’ll be able to hear a pin drop in the arena, and if you look around, you’ll see rapt faces, fans utterly in the moment, aware that they’re witnessing something truly special.
6. Watch out for the “Dylan Shuffle”
It’s an odd little dance he does, but blink and you’ll miss it. He also pretends to play air piano during it. We think it means he’s having fun
7. Appreciate where you are
That’s BOB FUCKING DYLAN on that stage. Be grateful he took time out to come see us.