Dylan @ The Tivoli, August 27th

The Tivoli is on a drab one way street in a largely light industrial enclave, bookended by the Showgrounds (ghosts of many Ekkas past in the shuttered jacket potato stalls visible through the fence) and Fortitude Valley – think the blanker parts of Parramatta Rd, one shabby dollar store for every 10 residents side by side with a clutch of self consciously funky theme bars selling Vietnamese pork belly sliders for five bucks a go. (They were delish.)

Yes, Bob Dylan is playing HERE

Yes, Bob Dylan is playing HERE

Apparently the Tiv is up for sale. Hope that’s not a trade secret, but a stately old opera producer with a colonel sanders look and a gold buttoned blazer who was there for an inspection chatted happily to us queuers about it. He seemed to think there was a danger of it being bulldozed and he wished to prevent that. It’d definitely be a shame to lose it, nondescript painted brick on the outside but homely and warm for music inside. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had no plans to travel for Bobby on this tour, having used up the music obsessive quota of my annual leave on the Bruce tour. But when Bob announces a show in a 1500 max venue and it is STANDING when the rest are sitting and it is $90 (still objectively expensive one must acknowledge, but the Opera House shows cost 2.5 more and plenty of mid level draws charge that and more) well what else is one to do?  What I did was fly up after work the day before, check into my ripped-from-the pages-of-James-Ellroy budget motel between the Centrelink and the Legion of Mary and endlessly stress about whether I should sleep out all night or take my chances of being gazumped for the best spot on the rail.  When there was no one queuing at midnight I decided a minivan full of Dylanologists was unlikely to show up for at least a few hours so I got some restless sleep and came back at 4am.

 2014-08-27 12.03.44

The original plan of having everyone pick up tickets only from 5pm day of the show was always logistical lunacy but at least a late change to 10am prevented a real disaster. The Tiv staff seemed a few steps behind most of the day, a little overwhelmed perhaps by the major event which had been dumped on them at short notice. On the other hand security staff were highly professional and got their job done with authority but not bloodymindedness.

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About ten other Sydney Dylan types made the trek so there were plenty of friends and it was a very convivial day of waiting round.  The goal is to get as close as possible, which in practice means top 10 to get a central rail spot. For most of the day there were 20 odd almost half from Sydney, some Melburnians, an American and a local.  We hit the 50 mark a couple hours before show time.  And yes what you are probably thinking is correct, in a venue like that everywhere is close but nowhere is like the rail. Nowhere.  It’s worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Like it says “Floater (Too Much to Ask)”

Gotta get up near the teacher if you can
If you wanna learn anything

So far this tour Bob has basically been doing the same setlist – in two parts with an intermission (of course I didn’t budge from my rail spot but that will come in handy for the seated Sydney shows).  Hopes were reasonable that given the intimate, special nature of the show he might mix it up. At least, if he WAS going to mix it up, you’d think this would be the one.

Centre mic(s)

Centre mic(s)

And so on to the show. Bob floats out last from behind the drums with that funny little Thunderbird on a string type walk he has. The band are in matching tan suits and Bob is in black with white accents, white hat and white piping. The riverboat gambler look familiar from these last years. His shoes look black until he sits at the piano, his strides ride up and they are revealed as cowboy boots pure white from the ankle up.  I think I see suspenders when his long jacket is pulled back by a hand cocked on hip but I can’t be positive.

Things Have Changed kicks off the first set, which is the same as previous nights on this tour. And indeed the first set proceeds as in all the previous shows. Early highlights are Workingmans Blues #2, Love Sick and Pay in Blood. God, Pay in Blood. Has the Sarcastic Tuvan quality to his current voice ever been put to more effective use? As Ian who was just behind me in line noted, this is not a band where each member gets their big solos and breaks – this configuration is an ensemble with Bob musically a part of it largely on equal terms with the others. Of course Charlie stands out on lead guitar but even so, it’s an ensemble more than any other band configuration he’s had.

!!!!!!!! #bobdylan

Instagram @paleearth

For a guy who’s elevated unknowability to a living performance art and who may be (it’s one various theories) even now using a bunch of superfluous mics to hide behind, his physical presentation on stage is very open.  There’s a lot of feet wide apart pointed straight out, hands on cocked hips in a manner that can only be described as vamping. Bob is happy, smiling, lots of hand gestures accompanying the lyrics.

At this point it seems we’re getting the standard set which is no prob for me as it’s my first show this tour and sure enough after the intermission he does the expected (and wonderful) High Water. In the intermission some roadies seem to be changing the set list papers but it’s unclear if this is a normal thing or not.  But then, a departure – Girl from the North Country! There is a big cheer at “to the north country fair” as people realize what it is bit after that the crowd is silent, transfixed. I am leaning so hard forward into the rail, with tears in my eyes. It is stunning.

From there until the encore are all tour debuts.  Tryin to Get Heaven is my second highlight after GFTNC, apart from the beauty of the performance more Time Out of Mind is always welcomed by me.  A scorching Cry Awhile. Ballad of a Thin Man hasn’t ever been better (“Do YAAAAAAAAARRRGGHHhhhhhhhhh mis-TAAH jones”). Bob is sometimes talking to Charlie between songs who informs the band sp perhaps its even more spontaneous than a new second set list.

Since the band has started doing it, one of my favourite parts of the show is right at the end where they just line up and LOOK AT YOU. Like they (well, Bob since let’s be honest he’s the only one I look at. Sorry guys, luv ya anyway) really look at you, checking you out. It’s a thrill every time.

#bobdylan Tivoli, Brisbane 27.08.2014

Instagram @paleearth

 And then, they are gone and it is over.   Everyone around me is in a wide eyed daze at what they’ve just seen, some saying it’s the best they’ve seen. It was special.

I’m off to the five Sydney gigs next week but after the Tivoli they feel like something of a bonus.

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