Sunday, 26 June 2011

LIKE A COMPLETE UNKNOWN: Bob Dylan at the FEIS Festival 2011

Lost: one musical legend, cult condition, last seen with magical abilities to sweep millions off their feet with his old enchanting songs.

No, that’s not the guy who was performing at the FEIS festival last Saturday in Finsbury Park. The guy I’m talking about is known for his poetic lyrics, and not his defected speech problem. The guy I was looking for is famous for bringing out a rebellious-yet-pacifistic atmosphere among his devoted audience, whereas this guy was just bringing out the rebellious part out of the annoyed audience.

Expectations. My comrades & I, proudly presenting our backstage passes before the show

I didn’t presume to understand the relation between the Jewish-American singer/songwriter and this Irish music festival, otherwise filled with patriotic acts such as the meritorious Cranberries and the Irish answer to Johnny Cash, Christy Moore. I did not even expect much from the 70-year-old poet who was never known for his mighty vocal abilities.

I did, however, expect to be filled with nostalgic euphoria, the kind you get whenever an old, loved musician tries to perform a classic you grew up on without doing it justice (because, let’s face it, it ALWAYS sounds better when played in your home stereo / iPod), but despite that still manages to deliver his grace to the forgiving audience. 

There was no forgiveness amid the audience on that rainy, muddy Saturday. The over-fatigued artist started his set trying to cover his frog-like voice by adopting a Tom Waits style, when performing classics like “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. The only reason we actually recognised the song was due to the high-alertness of the guy standing in front of us, commenting to his irritated friends, “You know that song, ‘It’s all over now baby blue’? This is it!”

The rest of the set list followed with either unfamiliar tracks or classics that you never had a shot recognising anyway. And so none of us got that nostalgic rush we were hoping to get. But we were still building on the encore to save the evening.
An indifferent audience

To my surprise, once Dylan was off the stage, the encore didn’t take long to happen – perhaps a sign of an impatient audience not to be tangled with. 

It started with the much-needed classic Like a Rolling Stone. And for three minutes there, everyone was chanting to it as if begging for a last chance of that festival atmosphere we were all lacking so desperately.

Needless to say, after that song was finished, my partners and I were having difficulties recognising the last two, All Along the Watchtower and Blowin’ in the Wind, due to the tired mumbling of the lyrics and the completely altered familiar tunes we were waiting for.

What could have been a glorious evening, was carelessly blown in the wind. And rain.

The view from up stage...