Eternal Dylan

Bob Dylan and his band, in an image taken from outside the concert venue.
Bob Dylan and his band, in an image taken from outside the concert venue. / HUGO CORTÉS
  • The Nobel prizewinning singer-songwriter proved on the Marenostrum stage in Fuengirola that his art is alive and kicking, performing his classics with fresh and modern arrangements

Fuengirola. The word "legend" falls short when it comes to describing Bob Dylan. It was already insufficient 20 years ago when he first took to a stage in Malaga. The feeling that this might be the last chance to see this icon of popular culture perform on stage was present back then in the Malagueta bullring, and it was back last Saturday 4 May when Dylan appeared on the Marenostrum stage in Fuengirola. Thanks to Fox y Riff Producciones, his audience had another chance to experience that aura of an immortal musician whose secret nobody knows.

With his audience on their feet, Dylan went straight to the piano, an instrument he barely moved away from all night. Some 4,500 fans occupied the stands while numerous others followed the concert as best they could outside the venue.

But Bob Dylan is not ready to be a museum piece and neither does he need photos to share with his friends on social media. That's why he avoids the press, runs from photographers and strictly prohibits the use of mobile phones and cameras at his concerts. An announcement and dozens of signs warned the audience; and if anyone pretended they hadn't noticed, a huge security deployment controlled every flash.

Eccentricities aside, Dylan proved in Fuengirola on Saturday that he is a living artist who creates art live on stage, a musician capable of building sublime moments simply with the versatility of his phrasing, needing no special effects or fireworks.

Despite his shy character, his almost 78 years, and a voice less clear than it was in the sixties, this was still the same Bob Dylan.

You only had to look at the audience as he played the opening chords of a revamped Simple Twist of Fate on his harmonica to see that the Minnesota-born musician's hypnotic effect is the same as ever. Then came a special gesture for the local audience: he changed the lyric "she was born in spring" for "she was born in Spain".

Things Have Changed opened the night, as has become the norm in this Never Ending Tour, but sung with a totally different rhythm.

The concert followed the usual script. As expected, Dylan had no more words for his audience, just a couple of timid gestures of acknowledgment after the applause.

There were no more surprises - only the addition of Dignity, a rarity in his live performances that has appeared in this Spanish leg of the tour.

However to make up for the lack of changes to the setlist Dylan did introduce new arrangements that freshened up some of his classics.

It was hard to recognise It Ain't Me Babe at first but the result worked; and he triumphed with an eclectic Like a Rolling Stone, with some parts slowed down to the maximum as Tony Garnier played his double bass with a bow. This had the audience on their feet to join in the famous chorus, as Dylan played the piano.

The artist pleased his fans with a large number of the classics that have turned him into an eternal songwriter, as always supported by a band that followed his every step with precision: Charlie Sexton on guitar, Tony Garnier on bass, George Receli on drums and the multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, who played everything from the steel guitar to the violin.

With Don't Think Twice It's All Right, Dylan created a magical, almost intimate, moment, helped by the setting between the sea and the Sohail castle.

The dark Scarlet Town also brought memorable minutes, with Dylan in the centre of the stage tilting his mic stand and gesticulating more than usual.

Highway 61 Revisited was electrifying, and his audience loved his version of Early Roman Kings, the powerful Love Sick and the rock and roll charge brought through Thunder on the Mountain.

The setlist ended with Gotta Serve Somebody, before the encores, when Dylan came back with two classics: a beautiful Blowin' in the Wind with violin accompaniment, and It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.

Dylan's public listened attentively, as if they were at a mystical meeting where the only words that count are those of their leader.

Despite the security, some couldn't resist reaching for their mobiles to record the moment. The vast majority though settled for the image etched on their memory without the need of technology.