Bob Dylan, Brixton Academy, London, 23-11-05

“Come in” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

I can't think of how to describe last night's concert. Talking about Bob is overdone - the 250+ books written on him prove that and what more can I add that would be new? I just looked at the setlist and I could have sworn he played If Not For You and I told my concert companion as much when he asked but I see now it wasn't played. That's Dylan for you, content to confuse his audience. Purposely creating arrangements and methods of song performance that preclude singing along, the staple of any gig. Aside from a crowd pleasing encore the show was serene and even confusing occasionally. He keeps us guessing.

That look that each devoted Dylanologist gives to each other when a song starts is familiar to me. A slightly bemused look while you try and recognise it. You can't usually do it from the music, unless the intro is blindingly obvious as in the case of Like A Rolling Stone. You can't do it from the voice because his phrasing is so off centre that the throaty Dylan gargle has now become almost unintelligible. So you listen hard, to catch the odd phrase. It's a game I've been playing for years and, after over a dozen Dylan gigs, my parents are considerably better at it than I am.

The gig started, as the previous 3 nights have, with his Link Wray tribute, a snippet of Rumble. Strangely enough, the last time I heard that was when Bowie started with it at Riverside. His excellent band have created the best kind of accompaniment - both loose and tight, they breathe new life into many of the songs. Aside from a spirited band introduction before the encore Dylan didn't say one word to the audience, as is his way. The years have taken the guitar ability from him I hear so these days he's perched behind an electric piano, clad in cowboy hat and sharp suit.

The curious thing about him is how he draws you in, despite seemingly appearing so aloof as to not care if the audience is even present. But that's the paradox, he must care or why would he have played 150 gigs a year most years since 1988? He takes the applause and must feel the sheer reverance from those who've come to pay their respects. Not to an oldie act like The Stones who people feel they need to see live before someone dies but to a vital, creative and fascinating artist, still. The recent Scorsese documentary seems to have reinvigorated the too-cool London audience and they've realised this man is to be admired and followed. As I said yesterday, you can't explain Dylan to people. As a wise man said, 'You're either on the train, or you're not'.

I found myself smiling so much last night, glad I was there, glad he was there. I'm sure he'll be in my town again soon. As he said in Chronicles, that's the deal he's made. My highlight was Shelter from The Storm, simply because I'd never heard it played before. Positively 4th St was a joy too. A passionate cover of Fats Domino's Blue Monday started the encore as again, we all looked quizzically around. The Dylan collective whispering 'What's this?' to each other. Seeing him live is always filled with surprises. I will keep going for as long as he is and I will meet him half way, always.

Maggie's Farm
She Belongs To Me
Cry A While
Shelter From The Storm
Down Along The Cove
Positively 4th Street
High Water (For Charley Patton)
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
Million Miles
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Honest With Me
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
Summer Days
Blue Monday (orig by Fats Domino)
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower