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Comrades From The North

As we write this the tickets for Dylan‘s mini-tour of the UK have gone on sale.  This year his concerts thus far have been pretty damn good so there is plenty to look forward to.  Except that he is treading the arena boards once again.  Not even the relative cosiness of the Edinburgh Playhouse.  So, once more it will be gigs in ice-hockey friendly, acoustically bereft, hangars with no soul and about as much atmosphere as the moon.  But it will still be Dylan and it’s been a little while (not counting muddy fields) and it‘s the same for us all.  So we‘ll make the trek, eat the bad food, brave the sound system and enjoy it.  Oh, and there‘s also Mark Knopfler.

Dylan’s 70th birthday was marked with an absolute media frenzy and it was encouraging to see the well-worn footage rolled out yet again.  Much of the coverage was of the painting-by-numbers variety, directly out of the fact-files but there was some excellent coverage in the quality UK music monthlies, Mojo and Uncut.  The bookshelves groaned under the weight of a dozen or so new volumes or significant revisions of earlier works.  Our man certainly has a profile-and-a-half these days.  Seems like living legends are the order of the day and are feted in a way that would have made them extremely uncomfortable in what the hacks would describe as their heydays.

Perhaps the bravest and best tribute came from the wonderful Thea Gilmore.  Having recorded her own version of the perfect John Wesley Harding album (see Jotting Down notes) she performed the whole thing live at London’s Union Chapel on Dylan‘s 70th birthday.  Quite a feat and one hell of a tribute from an excellent songwriter in her own right. 

Returning to the subject of concert performances in large arenas, it is our view that the only saving grace of those is that they are indoors.  Save us from the endless festivals.  British TV has recently been broadcasting hours of footage from Glastonbury, T in the Park and others from the long list.  Whether it is seeing shows through a lens or the nature of an outdoor gig with all of its distractions, it’s hard to say but even vibrant young bands seem to come across as less than exciting, even detached from it all.  Perhaps it‘s more about the experience than the music?  The only recent exception we can recall is the rather fine performance given by Elbow at Glastonbury.  You can’t help but feel that the best music is being played in the more obscure tents and on any stage named in honour of John Peel.

Well that’s enough of the grumpy old men for now and we hope that you get the tickets you want for the shows you want whether in the UK or beyond.  No doubt you’ll enjoy them.  Even after all you’ve just read, we’ll enjoy them too.

May you climb on every rung,


Mike & John

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