Despite having the daunting task of opening for arguably rock n’ roll’s 20th century Poet Laureate, Paul Kelly demonstrates that he could arguably hold the crown of Australia’s version. Joined by nephew Dan Kelly on electric guitar, Kelly senior receives a deservedly warm response from the crowd as ripples of recognition and applause emanate through the crowd and Australian classics such as ‘To Her Door’ and ‘(I’ve Done)’ All The Dumb Things receive big responses. Kelly junior adds electric guitar flourishes to his uncle’s acoustic strumming, simultaneously playing bass and lead parts. ‘How To Make Gravy’ also receives a warm response, with the lyrics resonating on Easter Thursday as much as they do at Christmas. An á capella rendition of ‘Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air’ concludes a short but beautiful set.
As the simple stage set reveals Dylan and his band and they launch in to ‘Gonna Change My Way of Thinking’, it becomes immediately apparent that Dylan’s voice is shot. A low end rumble that resembles the Cookie Monster imitating gravel in a blender, the lyrics of ‘Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)’ off 1978’s Street Legal are indistinguishable. An early highlight of the gig is ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ which sees his voice loosening a trifle and his trademark nuanced delivery becoming clear, if not even menacing as he leans in to the microphone sans guitar. Indeed, Dylan stays on the organ for a significant amount of the gig, giving the whole performance the air of a bluesy soul revue with a preacher occasionally spewing forth a few gravelly lyrical denunciations of the Western World and relationships.
The high shadows of Dylan and his band reflected on to the stage backdrop give the setting a suitably gothic effect, Dylan’s ‘modern gaucho’ flat brimmed hat and three quarter length jacket adding to a sense of foreboding and evil. ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ comes across somewhat flat before ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ sits in a much better groove. Concluding the first set with ‘Ballad of A Thin Man,’ Dylan strides off stage, none the less leaving an audience still in anticipation for an encore. Returning to the stage ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ is given a relatively short rendition, his iconic accusatory lyrics muffled by his low growl; the sound of 20,000 packets of cigarettes coming home to roost. ‘All Along The Watchtower’ gives you a second of confusion before you remember that Hendrix was only covering Dylan’s work, while this version is given an almost jazzy, smoky rendition. ‘Forever Young’ is a fitting, reflective finale – the audience perhaps wishing that the Dylan they grew up with and similarly grew old to could indeed be forever young. and the ravages of time dispensed with.
– Jim Murray