Last night was Bob, tonight it’s Burns. I’m fair bursting with inspiration. If I only get to one Celtic Connections gig this year, (and it’s looking increasingly likely unless anyone has a spare ticket for John Grant on Sunday night) then I couldn’t have picked a better one than the Dylan 70th birthday celebration at the Concert Hall. As a borderline obsessive I was in Bob heaven.
The night was organised and orchestrated by local musician Roddy Hart, whose band The Lonesome Fire acted as house band for the evening, and they were more than up to the task. The list of those they backed is an impressive one. On stage we heard Rab Noakes, Tim O’Brien, Eddie Reader, Thea Gilmore, Gemma Hayes, Kris Dreever, Nell Bryden, James Grant, Josh Rouse, Laura Cantrell, Tommy Reilly and Rosanne Cash. But the real star of the night was absent, despite rumours that suggested otherwise.
Dylan is not only one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, what a night like this proved is that he is a great singer. Yes he is. His voice suits his songs perfectly, and even though many of the above singers are pitch perfect you were pining to hear Bob. There were notable exceptions. Tim O’Brien’s blugrass version of Maggie’s Farm gave the song new energy, Nell Bryden and James Grant raucously kicked All Along the Watchtower all over the place, and Josh Rouse came closest to capturing Bob’s spirit with his versions of The Man in Me and Lay Lady Lay.
But perhaps the stars of the night were Nell Bryden, who bravely, and brilliantly, sang Just Like a Woman, and Rab Noakes, whose version of Mississippi was spine-tingling. However, the real treat was to sit and hear those songs played in one night. Hart did a great job as ringmaster and was hugely impressive when it was his turn to take up the mike. He was obviously having a ball up there. The crowd were slow to warm up, but after the interval drinks kicked in they began to holler and heckle like a Glasgow audience should. The final encore of Like A Rolling Stone, which had all involved back on stage, was met with a standing ovation and an outbreak of communal singing. It was a fitting end to a great evening.
In the spirit of the night, and the fact that finding Dylan footage online is almost impossible, I give you three of my favourite Dylan covers, all of which are notably different to the originals. The first is a man who divides people, particularly when dealing with Dylan. In my eyes he can do no wrong, in terms of music at least (I stick my fingers in my ears like a child when people mention his politics. Hey, I never claimed to be consistent). This is Bryan Ferry’s version of Positively Fourth Street:
Next up is Gemma Hayes and Magnet. Hayes covered The Times They Are A’Changing and Most of the Time at the concert. The former didn’t quite suit her voice, and the latter is one of my all time favourite songs so she was always going to struggle to impress me with her version. But she is a terrific singer, and everyone would benefit by owning a copy of her album Night on My Side. This is the video for their cover of Lay Lady Lay:
This is rare wee oddity. It’s from a radio concert from 1975 and it’s Bruce Springsteen covering I Want You:
Happy Birthday Bob when it comes, and remember that a pencil moustache on a 70 year old is an impossible look to pull off, unless your name is Vincent Price.