Review of his gig in Vicar Street, 13 Sept 2000
In case you've been living in dream world of late, you may or may not have heard that Bob Dylan was to play a special "intimate" gig at Dublin's' Vicar Street before his sold-out Point Depot aircraft hanger show. You may also know that tickets for the gig (900 of them) sold out in 55 seconds flat. What you probably didn't know was that the great general public was "treated" to roughly 200 of these. The rest, well where do you think they went? The majority certainly didn't fall into the hands of Dylan fans. According to whomever you believe tickets were changing hands for about "1,000 outside. So where did I get my ticket? Well, the crafty work of two gentlemen who wish to remain anonymous but are living out a High Fidelity situation in a record shop meant that on September 13th I had a Dylan ticket. Easiest "37.50 ever spent. Na na na nana!
Outside Vicar Street security was a tight as you were going to get when it was pissing rain. Touts were in abundance. Outside the Spar shop I was offered "400 by a desperate punter/tout. I couldn't make out who he was really. All I saw was this sweaty, rain soaked bundle of "20 notes and a man begging to see if I knew where he could get a ticket. When I said that I might know someone who had a spare his demeanour turned to crafty Dubliner. "Right bud, where is it? I'll be waiting here, right? Come back now the minute you get word, right? Don't forget me. "400 cash, right?" The thoughts of "400 lining the pockets crossed my mind for about 30 seconds. In that 30 word spread amongst the hungry touts. A posse of them appeared out of nowhere."Tell him I'll give him a tonne" screamed one optimistically; "Do you have the tickehh?" enquired another in a not-too-friendly way. I recognised one of the touts. Fitzer was him name I recall, I'd bought tickets from him before outside various venues in Dublin, and rather bizarrely Galway. I remember buying a Primal Scream ticket from him once for a fiver, another time he offered me a fiver for a James ticket. Anyway, I knew there was only one thing I could do: get into the f**king gig. This was a dream gig, to tell with the cash. Past a cordon of uninterested Gardai and some desperate fans holding up assorted signs looking/begging for tickets at any price and I was at the door. I'd promised myself not to be doing any celeb spotting but BP Fallon and "the" Edge searching their pockets for their tickets hampered my entry into Vicar Street. Bet they didn't pay for them. Anyway, once inside you couldn't help but taste the buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air. There was feckin' celebs everywhere and a fair proportion of people who obviously didn't know who the hell Bob Dylan was. It was probably their first gig too. Fresh faced and bewildered to be there, only here for the social occasion of it all it seemed with many of them I spoke to. I began to feel sorry for the dedicated fans outside watching through the windows as drink was consumed at an alarming rate. Once inside the venue though, the real fans were to be found. Up in the balcony the seats remained empty. They did so until after the first song, there was G&T's to be drunk obviously, and many backs to be slapped. There was rivals squaring up to each other. Dennis Desmond and Jim Aiken, the gang from Whelan's and the TBMC (they're not stars), Paddy Casey and Mundy etc, etc... Even so, f*ck them I thought. There was history in the air.
There was a deep smell of incense in the air as the house lights went down. A few minutes later and there he was, amid a surreal blast of strobe lighting the angry old buzzard himself, Columbia recording artist Mr Bob Dylan. To say it was a thrill, nay, an honour to see the man this close was an understatement. Resplendent in natty suit and bizarre white cowboy boots he looked about 70, but what followed could have been from any year in Dylan's long and varied career. Surrounded by a band straight out of a saloon in the old West he opened acoustically with Duncan and Brady. The roar that greeted the songs conclusion was incredible, even the VIPs who'd freshly joined the crowd stood and clapped. A reflective 'To Ramona' followed; it was bookended by a loose 'Desolation Row'. 'Tangled Up In Blue' from the classic 'Blood On The Tracks' LP was also in there in the shows opening acoustic onslaught. When it finished Dylan uttered his only words of the night: "Thankewww."
Playing his guitar like a man shooting fish, Dylan and band launched into the
first electric number of the night. The good time boogie of 'Country Pie' was greeted
with a customary shout of "Judas" from a portly gent to my left. More of his more
recent numbers 'Can't Wait' from the excellent 'Time Out Of Mind' LP followed that
and after that it was sweet sailing. 'Just Like A Woman' for some reason sounded
exactly like The Pogues' 'Rainy Night In Soho'. Even down to the mumbled mess of
the lyrics it sounded like the Pogues. I thought I was alone in thinking this but
over the crowd singing along with Dylan someone was whistling that Pogues riff.
As the crowd swelled in voice with Dylan I thought of Shane MacGowan's lyric:
"I sang you all my sorrows / You told me all your joys" and "Now the song
is nearly over / We may never find out what it means / Still there's a light I hold
before me / You're the measure of my dreams / The measure of my dreams." To
see Dylan this close was the measure of many a dream tonight in Vicar Street. Even
in the VIP section where Elvis Costello seemed to be crying. Dammit, I promised
not to star spot.
Dylan took out the harmonica for a teasingly rocky 'Drifter's Escape', he then seemed to genuflect before the crowd. Either that or he was tying a bootlace. He finished up the set with 'Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat' and with that he was gone. But, in true showman style he was back soon and then it happened. Bob Dylan smiled. Not once, not twice but several times. 'Things Have Changed' was possibly the newest song aired tonight and, in all honesty, at this stage it looked to be the song Dylan was enjoying the most. In case you can't find it, check out 'The Wonder Boys' soundtrack on Columbia Records. It's a superb track and in the company of such a wealth of classic songs aired tonight it stood it's ground impeccably. It's refrain "I used to care but, things have changed" was autobiographical for Dylan for much of the show. His guitar was slung groundward, a sour look on his face for 90% of the show and a stage charisma of a ghost; he looked at times like he was just going through the motions, at times barely audible on stage. But 'Things Have Changed' and the response he got for the encores brought about something different in him. They were played with heart and conviction, each one a classic played a thousand times before but tonight sounding as though they were recorded only last week. From the seminal 'Like A Rolling Stone' via 'Girl Of The North Country', 'Highway 61 Revisited', 'Blowing In The Wind', 'Till I Fell In Love With You' to the closing 'Rainy Day Women # 12 & #35' Dylan and the band were on fire. According to many it's the longest set of encores he's played in a long time. He played less the following night at The Point. During the encores he genuinely seemed surprised with the adulation and ecstatic reaction he was getting. 'Like a Rolling Stone' and 'Blowin' In The Wind' in particular were greeted and appreciated in the most tumultuous way. Dylan would take off his guitar, and Willie Nelson style hod it over his head still strumming, then put it back on again and play some more. Not bad for an oul lad.
For two hours this was magical stuff. It was a pity it had to end when the encores showcased a side of Dylan you thought was long gone: a performer. Outside TV cameras and Radio reporters were desperate for soundbites from those exiting. For once, even the celebs present were speechless. The touts were gone and the streets were paved with goodness again. This was incredible, an honour, a privilege and a joy."A measure of my dreams" as Shane MacGowan sang?
Neil Young is strongly rumoured to be doing some similar shows like this in the Spring. Start queuing now?
That set-list in full, I think:
Duncan & Brady
Tomorrow Is A Long Time
Tangled Up In Blue
Ring The Bells
Just Like A Woman
Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat
Things Have Changed
Like A Rolling Stone
Girl Of The North Country
Highway 61 Revisited
Blowin' In The Wind
Till I Fell In Love with You
Rainy Day Woman #12 & #35