Bob Dylan and his band

Kerry Meech 27/06/2006

There has always been a heated debate amongst music lovers regarding the age at which musicians should stop performing, so contentious is this subject that some stupidly hoped Keith Richards coconut tree incident would derail The Rolling Stones touring plans…What? I hear you say! A feeble tree forcing The Stones, the cockroaches of Rock'n'Roll music into early retirement?! Fortunately for Richards the tree just wasn't big enough, but that doesn't stop some people from wishing it was.

Tonight I found myself thinking the unthinkable…Bob Dylan, the ultimate folk icon and free-thinking poet of a generation is sounding so uninspiring that I wished I was across the road at Cineworld watching this weeks selection of bland, formulaic American Rom-Coms instead.

Over the past few years Dylan's live performances have become notorious with many of his concerts being criticised for being personal vanity exercises, consequently many of his classics have been ignored only for him to play experimental versions of new songs, which quite frankly no one wants to hear. Of course I understand the importance of airing new material as it does play a key role in any artists personal development, however tonight's set list seemed to alienate many of the less hardcore Dylan fans.

At the grand old age of 65 Dylan's voice still maintains its emotive qualities of his youth, in fact the fragility of his aged voice does give way to moments of rawness which remind you of his lyrical genius. However his keyboard playing does seem oddly unfamiliar and out of tune, hampering many of his songs, including Love&Thefts, 'Dweedle Dee and Dweedle Dum' and 'Mississippi'. What surprised me most though was the apparent lack of expertise within his band, in fact at times most of the band were relying on the lead guitarist who seemed to be the only one, apart from Dylan, who knew what was being played. The overall sound was horrific, not unlike how I imagine an ill-advised, deaf, jazz band to sound, the only saving grace was the quietness of the stage volume, needless to say many members of the audience, myself included, left before the encore.

I couldn't help thinking that perhaps the time has come for the moustachioed Dylan to hang up his black cowboy hat and stick to writing literature, which he has proven to be extremely gifted at. This of course would devastate his music fans but after tonight's performance I can honestly say they really would not be missing out on anything. Of course another option is to continue releasing albums without the touring, apparently Rick Rubin is free at the moment…