Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Reports from Bob Dylan's sold out North American tour are almost unanimous in their acclaim: at 82 Dylan is in good form, sometimes speaks to the audience (rare), mixes up older songs or deep cuts with his last studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways and in many places pays tribute to a local hero by singing one of their songs: Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to The End of Love in Montreal where he is buried.
He has also included songs by Johnny Mercer (That Old Black Magic a regular feature), Grateful Dead (Stella Blue or Brokedown Palace), Merle Haggard (Footlights) and others he admires.
Have we reached peak Dylan in 2023?
Touring (no phones allowed); the expanded reissue of his Live at Budokan from 1978 (the tour which brought him to Western Springs in Auckland); the Shadow Kingdom film and album; the Time Out of Mind set in the Bootleg Series; the vinyl reissue of his Christmas in the Heart album; reproductions of his paintings in touring exhibitions; his Heaven's Door whiskey distilled in Kentucky; new biographies . .
And of course tribute albums.
As far back as 1965 artists as diverse as black American folk singer Odetta, and guitarist Duane Eddy were covering Dylan, the instrumentalist Eddy proving that Dylan was more than just a wordsmith but also wrote memorable melodies.
Last year Chrissie Hynde offered Standing in the Doorway.
Last year, at London's Royal Albert Hall, Cat Power – no stranger to recording tribute albums – replicated Dylan's 1966 Manchester Free Trade Hall show when someone notoriously shouted “Judas,” a concert long misattributed as having occurred in London's Royal Albert Hall.
Dylan – playing an acoustic first half, an electric second with the makings of The Band – was booed by folkies who believed he'd betrayed them. Dylan and the band played on.
Some might argue because Dylan's contentious, combative Manchester concert has been officially released, Power's tribute is redundant.
But she brings empathy, distinctive intonation and different emphasis to the acoustic songs while locating their elegant melodic beauty (among them the 12 minute Desolation Row). If, in the electric half, she doesn't tap Dylan's sometimes venomous delivery (Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Ballad of Thin Man, his furious Like a Rolling Stone after the “Judas” jeer) that's understandable. Different times.
But the same extraordinary, if elliptical, songs.
You can hear this album at Spotify here