Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Orpheus Ascends: Dylan In Hong Kong

"The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew"
*Updated below*

It's a rare privilege to be in the presence of a legendary artist celebrating his life and work the way Bob Dylan was doing last night in Hong Kong. It's even rarer to be center-front swaying with the one you love to "Forever Young" while he and his band of bruised renegades lay down the law:
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay, forever young
The last time Bob played here in 1994 he closed with "Blowin' In The Wind." He didn't even play it last night, despite the banshee screaming for it at stage right. Bob can't please them all, it's true, and his voice isn't everyone's cup of meat, but who cares? It's Bob Dylan...in fucking China! Well, technically the SAR, but that doesn't sound quite as novel. Lucky for us, he wasn't resting on any laurels. He gave an inspiring performance, smiling like a prancing dandy behind his keyboard, while his band smoldered or blazed through unexpected nuggets like "Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)" and "Blind Willie McTell."

I've seen Bob play four times before and this was by far the best. He was having a great time reveling in the moment - sweat dripping from his face and hair - before 3000-plus fans on the cusp of his 70th year. At times it was like watching your uncle doing the old soft-shoe in front of the mirror or a master poet caressing the contours of a familiar lyric:
Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
(via SCMP)
His band - Tony Garnier on bass, George Recile on drums, Stu Kimball on rhythm guitar, Donnie Herron on banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel, and Charlie Sexton on lead guitar - were white hot, nailing the tightest rhythm and sweetest flourishes to the good ship Bob. Sexton played at least six different guitars, my favourite being the Gretsch White Falcon, as fat as a Cadillac, that he pulled out for "Highway 61 Revisited." At the end of the gig, Bob gathered the band around him as a farewell and disappeared, leaving his golden Oscar behind to watch over the hallowed stage as we reluctantly drifted for the exits. Yup, it was that good...AND he played over half of Highway 61 Revisited, too.

Set List
1. Change My Way Of Thinking
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
3. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. Honest With You
6. Simple Twist Of Fate
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
8. Blind Willie McTell
9. Jolene
10. Desolation Row
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Spirit On The Water
13. My Wife's Home Town
14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Ballad Of A Thin Man


16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. Forever Young


I have to correct the South China Morning Posts' erroneous review posted on Expecting Rain. Bob played 17 songs, not 18 and he didn't sing all 10 verses of "Desolation Row" - he sang 5: #1, #2, #5, #6 & #10. And he DEFINITELY didn't do any "scatting."

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