Tuesday, July 24, 2007

bob's your uncle

“Bob Dylan, life, love and music”

More than fifty-odd albums over 45 years and five stars from Rolling Stones magazine for his latest offering aint bad for a musician who was once told he couldn’t sing. But surviving the flower children, the twiggy-thin seventies and the abhorrent tastes of the eighties to become an icon of the nowhere nineties and evolving naughties doesn’t mean much if your music goes over most people’s heads and hearts. Not so with the man who proved that a working class hero is something to be and that rock stars don’t have to be unbearable brats to be indomitably prominent.

It doesn’t matter if you think they’re talking about Bob Marley or Dylan Thomas or if you know nothing of Bob Dylan’s music: the premise of this dedicated tribute is that “Bob Dylan is one of the most influential musicians of all time.” and this round, the boys and girls are betting their musical reputations on it because it’s music that has moved them. Don’t agree? See the tribute show at the BMW Pavilion (the former IMAX), Waterfront, till 11 August 2007 and try to tell me that less than three quarters of the listeners were singing along. The lure might be Dylan’s allure, but the catch is that the artists and the audience might be right.

It’s a tight show with true integrity. These are not hotshot, rock star wannabes leaning on the laurels of a living legend. They’re independent musicians whose respect is reflected in the way they commit their honed, musical talents to honouring a vivid veteran with a superb yet accessible production.

The sound in the spiralling space of the auditorium that enlists awe rather than insecurity is exquisite. It’s one of the few venues where the musicians look up to the audience; and in the context of a show about a man who remained human when he became a star, this coincidental effect is absolutely apt. Even the unavoidable trips and trods over chords were handled with a self-deprecating panache and earthiness we’d expect from anybody in touch with the man’s music and a wired world. It’s not about not making mistakes. It’s about making them matter.

The show is affably presented by director Andy Lund who takes lead vocals and handles a guitar gainfully. Anton Marshall (of the dearly departed 3 Bored White Guys) bears the bass and backing vocals (and bashes the drums once, too, coz musos are the most restless of all artists). Artur Pereira is dashing and delicate on drums and kicks ass on the bass while said bassist swaps strings for sticks. Tara Fataar (daughter of the Steve) wraps her voice around the tracks just like a woman and also tinkers adeptly on the baby grand. Jann Krynauw handles the keyboard, Hammond and the organ with his eloquent fingertips, trite smile and humbly tapping toes. The intermittent backing brilliance of Robyn Auld who needs no introduction (but will get one, anyway) as a living legend in his own right adds edge and an excited air of expectancy to a show that delivers what it claims to. And if it’s not his night, then it’s any one of the other local heros’: Francois van Coke (Fokofpolisiekar), Rory Elliot, Inge Beckman (Lark), master Fataar himself... and more..

The selected songs brought to life in your slaai city bowl by the talents and commitment of independent Cape Town music professionals go a long way to proving the sweeping opening statement. The songs and its conduits argue well; if anthems like Hurricane, The Times They Are Achanging, and Blowin’ In The Wind are not proof that his work has universal relevance, it might be telling that each of the diverse musicians performing the pieces has found a piece of Bob in themselves and offered it to you on a plate. Eat your heart out with Andy’s contained emotionalism, Marshall’s mellow fire, Artur’s tender phrasing from rough drums, Tara’s emotive evocations, Jann’s understated fingering and Robyn’s unhurried and authentic, blue Rock ‘n Roll aura. You, too, can embrace your inner Bob.

Beyond the featured hits and halloed ballads that span decades of Bob Dylan’s musical evolution, some surprise songs that were primary influences on the man’s musical journey are performed with a passion that is evidently personal. The few songs that were sensitively and minimally rearranged by the quintet to suit the show remain true to the originals though they shift their shapes. In all, it’s a musical roundtrip in eighty minutes. While the 22-plus songs feature key hits that have the steep auditorium steeped in foot-stomping and hallelujah hand-clapping, they’ve also chosen a track or two that you’re guaranteed to whisper to the person next to you, “hey? That’s Dylan?”

Well, yes. That’s Dylan - one of the more surprising, unassuming and serious survivors of the post-pomo, global music scene whose proliferation of songs have hit the charts, smashed them, and slipped subversively into jet streams of the collective unconscious without losing a beat.

We know a lot about his professional success, but almost nothing about his personal failures or losses. For all his years of song writing, it seemed he survived his fame by shying away from it. In an age where constructed personalities become national icons (and then - shudder - governors of Yankee states wealthier than most African countries put together), personal privacy is probably a good thing. What we really need to get to know is the music. And there’s no way you’ll escape that in this show.

“Don’t think twice; it’s alright.”

inside insight: http://standingonthecornerofthethirdworld.blogspot.com/


  1. I was less impressed by the Dylan tribute. It lacked a grasp of the North America idioms that inform Dylan's music and squeezed his songs into the mould of South African pop. To the band's credit, there were a scattering of sublime moments (most notably the swirling energy of their take on "Masters of War"). However, bland biographical asides and shoddy multimedia inserts spoilt things for me. Memorizing Dylan's lyrics also seemed to have caused some problems.

    Dabbling with Dylan is tricky business. While his voice is carelessly described as "terrible" (www.tonight.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3949223&fSectionId=377&fSetId=251), the adjective that critics should evoke is "distinctive". Perhaps the only way to cover Dylan successfully is to move far away from the original (especially when you're handling the layer of his material that is so deeply embedded in rock consciousness).

  2. alex langa, well said.I think for the most part it was actually a personal tribute, rather than a public one!