The Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver
Wednesday October 11 2006
The sign above the bar says, stentorially, “DRINK RESPONSIBLY”, which I duly do – just, you understand, to get myself in the mood for what turns out to be an incredible evening.
After a full month off the road, a long break that, by his standards, constitutes a season of uncommon indolence, Bob Dylan resumed his fabled Never Ending Tour on a typically unforgettable night at this vast ice-hockey stadium, home to the Vancouver Giants.
During this recent interlude, Dylan, of course, has released Modern Times, which has given him his first American number one album since Desire in 1976, and he goes into this 28-date leg of the NET more popular probably than he has been for the last 20 years.
It’s a measure, if you like, of his commercial rehabilitation that Dylan is supported at these shows first by Kings Of Leon, then, successively, Foo Fighters and The Raconteurs.
It’s the formerly-beardy Kings who open tonight, to the kind of whooping encouragement more usually heard here when men in helmets and shoulder pads are battling one another for speeding pucks, and other excitements.
Dylan is onstage promptly at 8.30pm, looking extremely dapper and for the next 75 minutes is mesmerising.
There had been much debate beforehand about whether Dylan would play anything from the new album, such is his reputation for perverse bolshiness when it comes to delivering to his fans what they most want from him.
I know longstanding fans who go to his shows prepared for pretty much anything, braced for every eventuality – from a set full of Gay Dad covers to Bob fronting a Sisters Of Mercy tribute band and encoring with a 30-minute bluegrass version of “This Corrosion”.
In the event, tonight’s 15-song set list is drawn mainly from Dylan’s classic songbook, albeit in incarnations you may not have immediately recognised – opening with a roaring “Cat’s In The Well” from Under The Red Sky, and ending almost two hours later with a torrential “All Along The Watchtower”.
Along the way, there are simply amazing versions of familiar songs that Dylan and his brilliant band at every turn seem to have reinvented – among them “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, done as a lilting country waltz, a fiddle-led version of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” that sounded like something The Velvet Underground might have left off their first album for sounding too-far out, and an impossibly funky “Desolation Row”.
The highlights tonight for many, however, might have been two songs from Modern Times he plays live tonight for the first time – a stunningly beautiful “When The Deal Goes Down” and a truly epic rendition of “Workingman’s Blues No 2”.
Can it get any better than this?
Tune in for our next report from Seattle!
Cat’s In The Well
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Tweedle dum & Tweedledee
When The Deal Goes Down
Watching The River Flow
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
Tangled Up In Blue
Workingman’s Blues No 2
Highway 61 Revisited
Simple Twist Of Fate
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower