For fifty years Bob Dylan’s music has transcended generational gaps, musical fads and genre distinctions. To celebrate his legacy, five of Australia’s finest 21st century performers: Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe, Josh Pyke, Kevin Mitchell of Bob Evans/Jebediah, Holly Throsby and The Grates’ Patience Hodgson played the first date of their ‘Bob Dylan Night’ tour at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre.

Led by Even guitarist Ash Naylor, the six-piece house band began the night with a powerful rendition of 1976 release ‘The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)’ before the night’s first performer, the ARIA Award winning Josh Pyke took to the stage with a sweet cover of ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ – an interesting choice for an opening number.

Pyke produced admirable covers of favourites such as ‘Tangled Up In Blue and ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ – the lyrics still proving socially relevant fourty-eight years after they were written. Yet it was the collaborations with his “old school chum and good friend” Holly Throsby on ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ and with his Basement Birds bandmates Kevin Mitchell and Kav Temperley on ‘I Shall Be Released’ and ‘Mr. Tamborine Man’ that Pyke really shined.

Appearing small and timid on the stage of the Palais Theatre, singer-songwriter Throsby’s heartfelt performances induced goose bumps each time she graced the stage, providing the first act with sweet renditions of ‘Girl From The North Country’ and ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’. Allowing the audience insight into her choice to perform the second song, the diminutive songstress claimed she chose it because “it should have been a greatest hit”.

ARIA and APRA award-grabber Kevin Mitchell received a warm response from the crowd with his performance of what he claimed to be “One of Mr. Zimmerman’s many timeless classics”, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ before welcoming Patience Hodgson of The Grates on stage for the first time to accompany him for the 1970 hit, ‘If Not For You’.

Hodgson’s trademark, effervescent behaviour was a welcomed presence on stage throughout the night, as she performed the highly acclaimed ‘Visions of Johanna’, took her shoes off to bounce around whilst performing ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’; and performed a “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” with Throsby.

“You can’t help but get excited when Patience takes the microphone off the stand” remarked Temperley, the Eskimo Joe frontman also producing the most theatrical and intense performances of the night; particularly his outstanding cover of the 1975 biographical hit ‘Hurricane’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. The latter saw a tambourine-wielding Mitchell and Hodgson run around the theatre interacting with members of the audience.

The final song for the night saw all five outstanding performers uniting for the 1965 classic “Like A Rolling Stone”- showcasing their voices both individually and altogether one last time. It was a strong finale, which provoked many in the audience into a standing ovation.

Whilst there was a cross-section of fans spanning from toddlers to grandparents in the audience, the night focussed Dylan’s fifty-year, forty-seven album career into albums released between the years of 1963 to 1975. Whilst it would have been interesting to see the merry band of Australian performers broadening outside the 12-year catalogue, to include everything from Dylan’s self-titled debut album to his 2009 ‘Together Through Life’; it was the only minor disappointment of the night. Each performance was as strong and unique as the one before it, enthralling the crowd with renditions enthusiastic and faithful alike.

– Eva Dent