The genius of Bob Dylan

By Beatle No 5

No one can accuse Bob Dylan of ever being conventional. In the early sixties he enraged folk purists when he abandoned his trademark acoustic guitar and went electric.

He also went through that famous Christian phase in the seventies and released that triumvirate of salvation-drenched albums. As recently as last year he controversially declined the invitation to attend the award ceremony as recipient for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I was fortunate to catch the Singapore leg of the 2018 edition of his Never Ending Tour on August 6.

No introductions, no audience banter, no reminiscing of old famous stories, in fact not a single word spoken by him in between songs.

He prohibited any photo- or video-taking, and stayed off centre stage largely consigned behind a black grand piano rendering unused two microphone stands to the dismay of the near capacity crowd at the Star Theatre.

This is vintage Dylan, always adding to his mystique. The 77-year-old Nobel Laureate was in fine form and stayed consistent with his current tour setlist.

True to his unconventional nature he eschewed classics like Mr Tambourine Man, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and the song voted number one on the Top 500 songs list in the Rolling Stone magazine readers poll Like A Rolling Stone.

The big surprise is that Dylan is an accomplished pianist.

The crowd went into raptures when he switched to his trademark harmonica but perplexingly stayed away from his guitar.

The master of reinvention changed the presentation of his songs at will backed by his five-piece efficient band.

Highlights included a wistfully stripped down Make You Feel My Love, the tightly fit Gotta Serve Somebody with the chugging Peter Gunn theme in tow, a mean honky tonk Early Roman Kings, a rearranged Blowin’ In The Wind and the snarling Ballad Of A Thin Man, the last two songs performed during the sole encore.

The crowd waited longingly for another encore which did not materialise.

It is a crying shame that Dylan deemed it fit to give Malaysia a miss for this tour and limit his pitstops to five other Asian cities.

It is certainly high time for the relevant powers that be in this country to pull out all the stops to bring the Jokerman to perform on our shores, as his legendary concerts will not always be never ending.

Beatle No 5 is an FMT reader.

The writer’s views are not necessarily those of FMT.