On Thursday, 27th October 2022, the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature winning, legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan hit Hull (2017’s UK City of Culture) on his most recent worldwide tour.
Having sold out in minutes, making it one of the biggest selling gigs ever at the Bonus Arena, the atmosphere within was unreal. People shared their memories of Dylan, dipping into the decades recalling their initial introduction to The Voice of a Generation.
The audience, which consisted mainly of middle-aged folk, longingly looked up towards the platform stage in anticipation of the iconic legend’s imminent arrival. Having not seen Dylan perform live before, I was unsure what to expect, heightening my anticipation.
The amber stage lighting that accompanied the band was the perfect connection with the sounds of the electric instruments accompanying the classic double bass. His all-male band, sharply dressed in all-black suits, nodded to each other and the beat as they struck up. Dylan himself popped his head up from behind his piano which was awkwardly positioned, hiding him away from his audience. No matter, the crowd cheered with joy and love towards Dylan as he performed from his hiding place. This was disappointing from an audience’s point of view; seeing the artist is as important as the music. The single glimpse of a frail 81-year-old Dylan showed years of a rock lifestyle having taken its toll when he revealed himself from behind his piano to thank his audience.
The gig wouldn’t make my top ten, but certainly my top fifteen. The non-existent audience and artist rapport was unfortunate, and sometimes leads to people not giving performers due credit. Don’t they know its rude? It’s a shame that I struggled to watch the set’s finale over the heads of those who elected to depart early, and was mildly surprised by their lack of gratitude and grace.
The best received tracks were Mother of Muses and Black Rider which earned rounds of applause. If you were to close your eyes and sit back you would have likely found the performance to be more of a chilled sensation, more poetry to music than anything.
Every Grain of Sand was the perfect ending to the evening and fulfilled the dedicated audience who responded with a raucous round of applause. If you wanted old time Dylan, complete with the knee-bends, then you would have left disappointed. His set consisted of much fewer classics and more recent material. His performance is no less for this and his songs retain ambiguity and are open to interpretation of their ultimate meaning. Dylan’s audience continue to acknowledge his changing identity and shifting vocals. And as the years pass, he more than satisfies the changing expectations of his audience.
This tour did not disappoint. However, it was not what was expected. We certainly hope he makes it back to these shores again before he hangs it up, although as the final song lyrics acknowledged, this might have been our last chance, ‘I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man/ Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand ‘