“I Lie Awake And Listen To The Sound Of Pain” – Bob Dylan, Blackpool, 24th of November 2013

Last night in Blackpool. After yesterday’s amazing concert I expected at the outset that the curve is slightly declining , like the third concert without a break has tended to be. My basic pessimism has often proved to be a friend – it is thus rarely to get disappointed in life, often it turns out better than feared . So it does this evening. You wouldn’t think it could be possible – Dylan delivered a concert on a par with the previous day , but he finally trumped it with a surprising ending number. More on this later.

I’m perfectly placed in the middle of tenth row tonight , and while knowing that I have already received some extraordinary concerts in Blackpool, I nevertheless am glad that tonights concert will soon be underway. The tasteful but subdued lighting soon outlines Dylan’s silhouette, tonight in his gray and black dress , with the same hat as from the two previous evenings , getting it all started with “Things Have Changed”. It strikes me very strongly tonight that the whole concept and the whole tour is bathed in blue, in all the opinions of the word – it’s a blue period for Bob, as it often has been. While in 2011 and partly in 2012 he appeared to be both physically and mentally liberated on stage, he almost seemed happy and were often smiling, like I ‘ve never seen before this years, except in glimpses , but this has now changed. His physical presence, both at the piano and in front on the stage, is still exceptionally strong and powerful, but the smiles are fewer, and if they’re there, they are usually turned inward , except those he occasionally sends back towards Donnie Herron, like he used to. If he’s happy, he wont show it. Although he has not crawled all the way back in the shell, he appears introverted and concentrated , yet consciously and actively mediating . He surely appreciate the public’s affection and applause, but I can not see that his performance clearly is affected by this, he does pretty much what he think he should do, and each night he clearly enjoys the interaction with the almost organic tight band, combined with a increasing enjoyment of his own piano playing, which he constantly develops and gets better at. It comes inevitably to mind that he shares a legacy with us these days, neither he nor we know how long the “Never-Ending Tour” will or can continue . He sings songs from every decade since his debut, but the dominant center of gravity of the concerts are the new songs, mostly from his latest and, in my opinion, masterful album, “Tempest” . Tonight all seven of nineteen songs come from this, but we do not know until the concert is over.

Bathed in blue. For many reasons. Grief over bygone love: “She was born in spring, and I was born to late”. Grief over human terms : “If the bible is right, the whole world will explode” and “In Scarlet Town, the end is near.” Wild Cats roar and the wind howls. Recognizing the out-of-tune-with-everything-feeling and the loneliness : “I see , I see lovers in the meadow/I see , I see silhouettes in the window/I watch them ’til they’re gone and they leave me hanging on/To a shadow .” It is much too late . Recognizing that time is running out, as in the older man’s response to the forty year old’s “Heart of Mine” , the great “Forgetful Heart” , “I lie awake and listen to the sound of pain .” But the concert is actually as brilliant as yesterday, and you can almost see Dylan taste the words and rolling them in his mouth, as if he tasted good wine, before he spits them out to us , with perfect timing and phrasing , as is his trademark forever and ever. On “Long And Wasted Years” He lets us experience something that is related to so many of the great vocal performances of his, from secret recitations of unreleased basement songs from “Big Pink”, to virtuosic vocal antics in great songs like “Brownsville Girl” and “Angelina” , sources of constant delight in their studio versions , but here we get the powerful and musical recitations night after night , he paints this masterpiece anew on every concert (minus Rome) this autumn. What a blessing it is to see him this tour.

And then – grace upon grace – after the first encore I realize that something is going on, when Donnie not seem to take out his violin for “Blowing In The Wind , as he usually does , it’s dark and quiet on stage, before Dylan plays the first familiar notes of a song he’s never played live before , the, in a way, odd ending of “Tempest”, the warm tribute and greeting for John Lennon , “Roll On , John” . He does not come closer to Liverpool than this, this time, so the place is very well chosen for the world premiere . The song is a sad and blue anthem that both reminds us of the tragedy that is inextricably linked to John Lennon’s name, but perhaps as much about the existential loneliness that Dylan himself sometimes, or maybe most of the time, feel , and that we are all prevented from fully understanding. In an interview after the release of “Tempest” he talks touchingly about missing John Lennon, and the fact that they had a unique ability to understand each other’s situation, they could have had much to talk about. What more is, it has probably not gone unnoticed that the one year younger Lou Reed died a few weeks ago, and Bob has buried many dear friends over the years. “Another day in your life on your way to your journey’s end,” he sings heartfelt, – he stroked his hand quickly across his cheek a few times during the song , whether it’s tears, I don’t know. But it could have been. The song is drenched in tenderness and grief, where Dylan sensitive drives it toward the concert’s end, before he, dead serious, receive the audience’s homage with just a little nod. Maybe he didn’t wipe tears, but there were many others who did that tonight.

In the morning we’re heading for London and for the Royal Albert Hall concert on Tuesday – for the first time since the incredible and historic tour in 1966. If Dylan is aware of the historic meaning of this reunion? Naturally! If it will influence the setlist? You never know, but we can still hope for ‘Visions of Johanna’ or ‘Desolation Row’, which he did in Milan, or for ‘Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ or ‘I don’t believe you (She acts like we never have met)’, which he did in Rome. Royal Albert Hall will be the perfect time for anything to happen.

Johnny Borgan

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