The Petty Archives

No protesting, simply rapture for today's dapper Dylan
By Richard Guilliatt
Melbourne Age - February 21, 1986

Bob Dylan is punctual. So punctual, in fact, that barely half the crowd had taken its place in Kooyong tennis stadium when he took to the stage at 7.50 sharp last night. The result was a low-key beginning to what became a rapturous reception for Dylan's first Melbourne concert.

The crowd in places resembled a 20th anniversary meeting of the Melbourne counterculture, everyone looking greyer, more weathered and better dressed, much like Dylan himself. Some people leapt to their feet and did the Woodstock Writhe, just for old times' sake.

Dylan spent much of the first half-hour looking uncomfortable, tilting his head quizzically and smiling to himself. As darkness fell he played a short and dramatic acoustic set, loosening up and chatting to the crowd.

"You know, famous people have to do press conferences, so you sit there facing maybe 100, 200 people who ask you all kinds of questions about your personal life, your politics, your religion and your sex life," he said. "It don't make no sense to answer personal questions. I figure a person's life speaks for itself."

There also were a few typically barbed moments. "Shut up you -- shut up" he advised a persistent admirer in the front row. In "Ballad Of a Thin Man," he directed the audience's attention to the last verse: "You hand in your ticket/go see the geek..."

The element of self-parody in Dylan's melodramatic singing seemed an acknowledgement of the wya he is trapped by his past. Older songs like "Positively 4th Street" and "Masters of War" far outshone the newer, more gospel-inclined material of recent years. Only "I'll Remember You" and "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" stood out among his recent material.

A couple of country standards, "Lonesome Town" and "Borderline," got sympathetic treatment from the Tom Petty band. The anthemic "Like A Rolling Stone" predictably elicted the biggest reaction, with Dylan singing it with surprising passion considering the song's age.

He closed with one of those heavy metal odes to Jesus which have found such a big part in his repertoire in the 1980s. The crowd seemed more intent on worshipping Dylan.

Bob Dylan performs tonight and tomorrow at Kooyong Stadium.