Bob Dylan & His Band

Bob Dylan performs life at Cardiff's International Arena
  1. Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
  2. Mr. Tambourine Man
  3. Lonesome Day Blues
  4. Under The Red Sky
  5. Rollin' And Tumblin'
  6. John Brown
  7. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
  8. Tangled Up In Blue
  9. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
  10. Masters Of War
  11. Highway 61 Revisited
  12. Nettie Moore
  13. Thunder On The Mountain
  14. Like A Rolling Stone
  15. All Along The Watchtower
  16. Spirit On The Water
  17. Blowin' In The Wind
Setlist of Bob Dylan & His Band, Cardiff International Arena
28 April 2009
Last night I saw Bob Dylan and his band for the first time. Dylan was performing at Cardiff International Arena, and played a set that blended recent material with signature songs. I was surprised to see how sprightly and youthful he seemed, punctuating chorus and verse with a piano chord and a wry grin. The band were conservatively clad in light grey suits, and all wore hats that distinguished one from the other. Needless to say, Dylan's was the most extravagently-brimmed.

I've been a fan of Bob Dylan's music for two or three years, and remember an entire summer when I listened to nothing else. And I mean nothing. Whether I was walking through the city, running through the park, or sat writing at my desk, I would be listening to Blood on the Tracks or Desire or Blonde on Blonde, or just about anything I could lay my hands on. Time was principally divided between listening, and trawling collections in record shops. On hot, sultry nights I listened to Time Out of Mind with the window open.

I can say with some certaintly that I like almost everything Dylan has done. Ahem: with the exception of some of his '80s material. For a time his iconic image even extended towards something close to hero-worship and adoration. After watching documentaries and historic footage of the man, he became an image to aspire to and emulate. There's an element of this that persists even now. I'm a great admirer of the music, and of the man. And I think his ability to manufacture and maintain such a rich and compelling stage persona is unrivalled in the business. Robert Zimmerman, despite appearances, has always remained masked and anonymous.

The music last night spanned much of his career, and infused love, loss, and existence in a grand American tradition of blues chords and rhythms. The quality of his voice is at times harsh or sweet, but it was the humour in a turn of phrase or an emphasis that caught me off guard. Dylan has never been a singer, but he's one of the greatest singers we have. Familar lyrics found new meanings, or new allusions, and the performances cast each song in a different mood to one I was expecting. Masters of War had a particularly cold and biting impact, an apocalyptic version with the band cast in a burning orange light. Lonesome Day Blues played hard and fast, and was undoubtedly one of the highlights. But it was Tangled Up in Blue, a song originating on Dylan's deeply personal, mournful and bitter Blood on the Tracks that stole the show.

As for me? I think it's time I was reacquainted with some of his records. I'm already there in my mind, and that's good enough for now.
'Well, my heart's in the highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There's a way to get there and I'll figure it out somehow
Well, I'm already there in my mind, and that's good enough for now.'

Bob Dylan, 'Highlands'