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Bob Dylan is still the master of reinvention – and he doesn't care what you think

Let’s get this straight. When it comes to music: Bob Dylan can do what he wants. 

Image source: 
Getty Images from past performance

That’s just a fact. Not only has the living legend been steadily chipping away on the ‘Never Ending Tour’ since 1988, he’s responsible for some of the most significant music of the 20th century.

The fact that 1965’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ burnt the blueprint of what pop music should be and dared to dream about what it could be allows him this freedom alone.

But – and there is always a ‘but’ when you’re talking about the Bob Dylan of 2018 – that’s not to say he doesn’t have numerous aspects of his live show that aggravate zealots to no end. It’s important to note then, that Dylan doesn’t sing like he used to. Currently, his vocals sound like a cross between a blender, a handful of gravel, and a generous smattering of honey. That’s not to say Dylan can’t sing anymore. He just can’t sing like he used to.

However, Dylan has never been an artist that rested on his laurels. He wasn’t about what he ‘used’ to be when he garnered heckles of ‘Judas’ for daring to plug in an electric guitar 50 years ago, and he certainly hasn’t changed his capacity for reinvention since. That’s why, when Dylan turns his classic tune ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ into a smooth, jazz chord inflected jam two songs into his Melbourne show – you just had to go with it.

Throughout a two-hour set, Dylan weaves through his long-reaching discography – admittedly, to varying degrees of success. But I’d happily sit through several confusing Frank Sinatra covers (tonight brings us a grizzly interpretation of ‘Melancholy Mood’) just to hear Dylan play his harmonica over the still haunting ‘Simple Twist of Fate’. Judging by the applause he receives for it, the audience feels the same.

As the night rolls on, so too do the hits and misses. But when it hits, it hits like a cannonball. ‘Tryin’ to Get To Heaven’ is made infinitely more heartbreaking the older Dylan gets, particularly in times where we’re losing more icons as each month goes by. ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ shows Dylan is still an adept bluesman, and ‘Don’t Think Twice’ remains acerbic as ever.

What really illustrates why Dylan is worth seeing in 2018 is his performance of ‘Make You Feel My Love’. The track has enjoyed a recent resurgence thanks to a chart-climbing cover from powerhouse vocalist Adele. Dylan’s interpretation though, remains electric and heartbreaking all at once. In fact, it puts Adele’s to shame. Not because Dylan is a better singer. In actuality, he is far, far worse. But it’s because Dylan is raw. Off-key. Fallible, just like the rest of us. And therein lies the power of his music. It’s never been about sounding perfect. The music of Bob Dylan is about sounding human, and articulating what that means through the power of song.

For that, he can reinterpret his music any way he likes. I – and countless others like me – will still be turning up.