when great singers grow old ( bob dylan at the royal albert hall )

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of all musicians on a stage, the ones who’ll have the trickiest time in later years are singers. it can be fairly uncomfortable watching a creature over sixty who had spunky hit records forty years ago trying to pull it off all over again night after night. the songs they once sang with ease, now bully them on high notes. it’s a tough one.

then again there’s a handful who face their new craggy limitations head on. it’s possible johnny cash and bob dylan caught sight of themselves naked in a mirror one morning and thought maybe by bringing it down, by working cleverly within this compromised body, i could do compelling work.. maybe this saggy old skin is new raw material for an audience in the same place.

everyone was shocked when johnny cash in his final hours made such a powerful record. his version of nine inch nails ‘hurt’ is maybe the most truthful compelling thing my ear will ever hear. it’s the sound of a man working within extreme limitations. he is free of every last inch of denial, and we the listener relate without even trying. we’re not being lied to.

i was lucky enough to see bob dylan at the royal albert hall the other night. sometimes i dread seeing old performers cause i’m faced with folk my own age who i fear will stink of boiled cabbage, however while i sat like a little fruit in a box above the stage, i found myself loving the view of dylan’s audience. the ones in the front row by the stage were discreetly grooving away like little pussycats, and during intermission the ones in a neighbouring box eves dropped on my conversation with thomas and joined in with praise for what we were witnessing. dylan’s audience is real nice.

never let it be said that old curly chops can’t sing. he’s always had a mindful approach to it. this year he’s confounding everyone by singing sinatra in a mood of softness that someone like tony bennett would enjoy.. he walked back and forth from a piano like he’d been riding a donkey all day, or come fresh off an operating table from hip replacement surgery. it was the most human yet theatrical stroll i’d ever seen…cutting a dash in winkle picker cowboy boots and hat that he never once removed, he looked like an old sheriff who no one dared mess with. he hardly spoke, yet radiated warm regard for his audience, and we returned it. he’s got a gifted pedal steel player in his band as well, and how i love that dreamy sound.dear reader, have you ever been to the albert hall?… i hope if you haven’t,that you one day will. as you walk towards that jewel of a spaceship early in the evening, you just know you’re headed somewhere special. right away on walking through one of her many doors it’s a charmed experience. even the toilets smell nice. i can force myself  to enjoy the rude stench of strong stale urine at the hammersmith odeon by pretending it’s all part of some rock and roll ritual, but it sure is nice to occasionally visit a music venue where the toilets smell of roses and respect for the human race. if i’m not mistaken, the curvy corridors have had a fresh lick of paint as well.

i wonder where dylan stayed while he was in london. i like to think it was a low key house in hampstead instead of some big hotel on park lane. i like to think he had supper at the troubadour in earls court where he once dated marrianne faithful in the 1960’s. i see judy collins is in town at the same time, and i like to dream that he maybe took her there since they’ve known each other since they were young… paul simon also used to hang out and play at the troubadour when he lived here in the sixties…..have you noticed how paul simon in his 70’s now looks like mel brooks?!…Pelosi+Reid+Join+Paul+Simon+Children+Health+lVUsP4JHJXdlPA-14735134

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19 Responses to when great singers grow old ( bob dylan at the royal albert hall )

  1. A lovely venue. I have shied away from seeing Dylan as I heard it was rather hit and miss, but perhaps that’s only if you’re expecting him to be the firebrand guitar and harmonica touting guy from the sixties. Sounds like a great evening. I’m going to have to change my Dylan-avoidance policy…


    • he didn’t play a guitar once..but it was a nice moment when he took his little harmonica out of his pocket,and it was one of the few nods to the past…i nearly didn’t go…i’d seen him at earls court exhibition centre in 1978 and it was awful…awful sound and i was too young,but i like this low key thing he’s been edging towards since the oh mercy record…..you’d love these shows…richard hawley would surely have loved it..right up his street.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This made me laugh. Went to see Al Stewart with my dad at that venue in May – he was disgusted by the audience. Kept complaining how old they all were! (Then had to look in the mirror when he went to the gents.) Oh dear. Happens to us all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha… i love al stewart…i played his year of the cat album millions of times…great lyric writing on that record,and i love the pure abbey road studio production of it. age is disgusting… it takes enormous amounts of humour to cope with it…but you’re light years away from that dilemma alexander.


  3. Perceptive writing….. here’s to not defining yourself by your past glories! Cooler than artists pretending they’re where they were 40 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • you’re right kathy…he is super cool, though i feel for the ones who pretend they’re still young..sometimes there’s a wall of business and audience encouraging the denial. it’s difficult for everyone in rocknroll.


  4. yeah, must be hard to sing those former hits when your head’s in a different place.


    • i think there’s the physical aspect more than anything…as you’ll know,you can sing the exact same lyric and the circumstance of the singer can bring a whole new meaning to it,if she or he allows it…voices are delicate human tissue…so delicate…yours,I’m glad to say is in very fine form xxx


  5. Richard Malpas says:

    I was at my brother’s wake and a friend asked what I was doing the following night, my brother would have understood at that delicate time, so I agreed ( if the boot was on the other foot he would have done the same )…haha !….Dylan was at Wembley Arena, year 2000….the band were first class but he struggled a bit with his voice but got through it..it ended being a great night nevertheless……as for The Albert Hall…I saw Clapton there years ago, maybe ’87….a wonderful night, the sound was quality…..


  6. Neil Harvey says:

    Paul looks very Mel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. oorlab says:

    Saw Dylan in Amsterdam twice last few years – great band, fine interaction. Seemed like they read eachother’s mind. The acoustics of the venues wasn’t that good though, I bet Albert Hall has the best. The concertroom so much defines music. You may read about this in David Byrne’s fine book “How music works”. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • i’ve been meaning to read the david byrne book for ages .. you have finally sent me off to the bookstore for it today…i do love the albert hall…that along with ronnie scotts are my favourite music rooms in london.


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