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Dylan. By Kevin Barrington.

There was that nervous anticipation as we sat down in the Point. It’s Bob Dylan after all. And at 81 he is still challenging. There’s none of that reverence that bordered on the mawkish that greeted Leonard Cohen. But Leonard had almost become a legacy act. While Bob was still pushing boundaries leaving an audience always unsure of what to expect. The only one criticism one could have about Dylan over the past 20 years is that he is no longer creating soundscapes. He is not creating wild mercurial sounds like he did in his Blonde on Blonde heyday. No, these days Dylan curates more than creates. He takes the sounds of the American songbook over the past century and makes them his own with his unique voice. Dictation is Dylan’s genius these days. He may not create with the same brio he did in the 60s but he can rival any poet for impact with his intonation. And so to the show. He’s almost hidden on stage, lurking behind a battered piano, pulling off a lifelong ambition to separate the dancer from the dance. There’s no cliche here. In fact, if anything, it is very anti rock n roll. We were way past that. First impressions: the minimalist stage setting. The 30s art-deco-ish lighting. The jazz-like layout of the musicians. Yeah sure Bob is centre stage but hidden behind the beat-up upright piano. No spotlights. No iconography. None of that jazz. We’re taken through decades of sound with Dylan, magpie-like, stealing all the best shiny sonic stuff. He takes us hovering over a century’s entertainment. Popping down to pluck all that’s precious. The master of the American songbook. And at 81, he seems finally free. He didn’t feel the need to deface his own work. Or subvert audience expectations. Tonight at 3Arena he was going to embrace his work. And that’s what he did. It was less anarchic than normal. But it was magical. From the very first notes. And Dylan’s voice at 81 was startling. vital and always bleeding meaning. And we had so many Bobs it was disconcerting. We had balladeer, burnt out Bob, crooner, poetic Dylan, love song maestro. Ah stop it, stop it stop it Bob. This is too much. Way too many yous. Bob Dylan, do you know something? You contain multitudes. And more. As did the band. The usual suspects. With Tony Garnier hitting what must be 30 years. This band is effortlessly stunning. You gotta be if you’re with Dylan. If you are going to raid a musical century’s lost ark, then you gotta know those Indiana Jones’ moves. And these dudes, they literally know the score and the scores. They just don’t make a big deal about it. No grimacing guitar. No cliche. it’s just all in a day’s work; just presenting genius. Yes you heard me right. Genius. This gig deconstructed the whole rock n roll show. While joyously putting rock n roll in its place in the musical cannon. Alongside jazz and blues. And chanson. And performance poetry. And whatever you are having yourself. Dylan at the end of his game, at the height of his game, showed us all the pieces. Stop looking at me and listen, he so divinely sang. We won’t play that silly encore game. We’ll just the end the show like adults. Bob, I get it. I get it. I really do. But bad news for you. It just makes you so much more fascinating. Keep it going you angel headed hipster. We need more lights in the night