Freewheelin' Bob Dylan is poetry in commotion
Kitec Star Hall
The tension was almost palpable in Kitec's Star Hall last night, as fans waited to see how the Hong Kong leg of US music legend Bob Dylan's Asian spring tour would play out.
Last week the controversial rock icon was accused of selling out after reportedly agreeing to have his set lists vetted by Beijing censors for his first-ever gigs on the mainland.
Dylan's anti-war anthems The Times They Are a-Changin' and Blowin' In The Wind were notably absent from the Beijing, Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh shows - and from the Kowloon concert last night.
But that he got away with playing anti-establishment epics A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall and All Along The Watchtower must mean he and the crowd had the last laugh.
Kicking off a bluesy night at Kitec with Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, just as he had on the mainland and in Vietnam, the freewheelin' lyricist treated the 3,600-strong crowd to a career-spanning selection from his back catalogue of 450 songs.
Political numbers certainly featured, but the thrust of the show was much more vaudevillian. It was clear the 69-year-old singer-songwriter and his five-piece band were warmed up on this, the fifth leg of his Asian spring tour, and 23rd year of his so-called Never Ending Tour.
The loose set featured spring tour firsts of Senor and Just Like Tom Thumb Blues, kicking into high-gear when a well jammed, 10-verse Desolation Row, with Dylan on keyboards, highlighted his powerful scatting to great effect. A boogie-woogie rendition of Highway 61 Revisited followed.
Clad in his trademark snow-white Stetson, Dylan, who has been honing his performances since his first major gig in New York in 1961, played guitar, keyboards and harmonica during the 18-song set. In his first performance in Hong Kong since 1994, Dylan captivated his audience with sweet organ-sounding keyboard riffs during Thunder On The Mountain from 2006's Modern Times, which led neatly into his most commanding and menacing vocal of the night, Ballad Of A Thin Man.
Praise is habitually lavished on Dylan, the troubadour, for his poetry, and that is what continues to inspire his fans. But last night's gig proved he is all about performing live.
His raw, gravelly voice has become his most powerful instrument, presenting us with another side of Bob Dylan. See you tonight.