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Bringing It All Back Home
Bob Dylan at Slane - The music, the magic, the mayhem and so much more...
Niall Stokes, 27 Jul 1984
It's a courageous and dignified stance in this mega-homogenous time, and Dylan, at 43, looks like someone who can stand his past and present face-to-face without flinching. Certainly "Every Grain Of Sand" sounded fine leading into "Like A Rolling Stone", which closed the performance proper.
But it's probably for the 10 song encore that this gig will be remembered, firstly as Dylan and his acoustic stitched some things into the record, with the great picaresque gypsy anthem "Mr. Tambourine Man", the seminal anti-war song "With God On Our Side", "North Country Fair" and a radically altered "Twist Of Fate", (boasting the first really great solo from Mick Taylor) and secondly as he brought on his special guests . . .
The roar of fulfilment and joy as he introduced Van Morrison was like a huge tidal wave of release, all those years with all those albums, two critical figureheads of a generation, up there together. Van singing Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" which he recorded 15 or 16 years ago, and Dylan playing along on Van's "Tupelo Honey". A great moment, for all sorts of reasons, most of them emotional.
But it was good to see two people who'd been singing before half the audience was born, up there proving that you can put on weight, get lines around your eyes, lose some hair, lose some speed but still continue to say something as long as you have something to say. That age is only an age, and not death, and, as Van Morrison quoting Samuel Becket, said "I can't go on . . . but I'll go on".
The Jack of Hearts pulled one more ace from his sleeve - Bono and Leslie Dowdall of In Tua Nua to scat along on "Leopardskin Pillbox Hat" - Steve Wickham on fiddle was another guest - before a great "Tombstone Blues", "The Times They Are A-Changing" and "Blowing In The Wind".
Well, the more they change, the more they remain the same. This was an affirmation, a welcome return for one of folk-rock's true giants, and the only possible antidote to the rest of the weekend's darker passages . . .