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Bob Dylan : Stirling Castle

Just when you think it's safe to discount him, Dylan comes up with a triumphant performance that reminds you just how relevant he is...

Bob Dylan : Stirling Castle

It is said that Marlon Brando and Orson Welles got fat because they got bored. There was nothing that could stretch them so they laid down and set about making unrecognisable monsters of themselves, attempting to challenge conventional wisdom of how great men should be.

And so it was for Dylan. So complete and utter was his influence and so complete were his songs, that for more than two decades he toured the world deconstructing his tracks to the point where they were rendered unrecognisable. Things have changed. Following a heart infection that almost killed him and a recent 60th
birthday, Dylan has gone back to his great records (particularly 'Blonde On
Blonde'), realised just how good they were, and got excited. Tonight he sounds like Bob Dylan singing the songs of Dylan covering some of popular music's most influential, enduring standards.

The majority of this greatest hits set is faithfully replayed - 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright', 'Just Like A Woman', 'Highway 61'; an attempt to finally reclaim them for himself. And at times it looks as though he has found some kind of new peace. There's a definite nod towards the Christian spirituality he embraced during the early '80s with 'I Shall Be Released' and 'You Gotta Serve Somebody'.

But then, as soon as you think he's on a redemptive road, he throws in 'It's Not Dark Yet', his chronicle of a complete loss of faith in any God. Contrary Dylan sticks a further spoke in the wheel when, as he frequently does tonight, he picks up the harmonica and sucks and spits the notes like it's the first time.

Then, as the night comes down on this Scottish Castle - with Dylan suited, like a dandy impish craggy laird, careering round the stage - and 'All Along The Watchtower' is cranked loud, and taken back from Jimi Hendrix, it's like watching him going electric all over again. Far from being content and settling into the late autumn years, you think this pensioner is, literally, raging against the dying of the light. As a second encore, he plays a track that could be brand new, but might simply be dug from a dark, forgotten vault. And you know that Dylan remains relevant, not just because he has influenced simply everybody, but because, as he keeps on keeping on, he asks questions that won't be easily answered.

Paul McNamee

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