FOLLOWERS of Bob Dylan have long accepted the fact that live, the man is far from predictable. It’s not so much that one tour might differ from the next, of that one show might differ from another, but more that Dylan’s readings of his own songs could often differ substantially from night to night, if not chord to chord.
Whole verses could go missing, choruses might end up unrecognisable, and the timings had an awful habit of a-changin’.
Whether this was due to restless genius or fast-approaching senility – the tyrannical troubadour is 52 this month – has long been open to debate amongst Bobcats, the name given to his most ardent admirers.
What doesn’t seem to be open to debate though is the man’s current lucidity. Reports from recent dates on his aptly named Never Ending Tour – it has been steaming along since 1986 – tell of a man reborn, of songs revitalised and re-energised like never before.
There’s even been talk of his trademark shades having been removed, and even his ever-trusty guitar having to sit a few songs out.
And sure enough, last night as His Royal Bobness strolled on at the Point, shades and guitar abandoned in favour of his harmonica, for the first two numbers he looked like a tortoise without his shell.
After a muted intro of Crash On The Levee and Where Teardrops Fall, Dylan strapped on his guitar and the band soon thundered through such old favourites as All Along the Watchtower, Just Like a Woman, and a stripped-down Mr Tambourine Man.
And the fans, from teenagers to pensioners, loved every moment of it. But then most had come to simply revere and worship an icon they had been following for most of their lives.
The expected all-star, mike-sharing finale duly arrive, with Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and Carole King all joining in firstly for a rendition of Van’s Real, Real Gone, and then finishing up with rousing, if typically shambolic, never-ending versions of I Shall Be Released and Rainy Day Women.
A magical night.