Concert Review: The Dylan Project – Lichfield Guildhall

The Dylan Project – Lichfield Guildhall – November 10th 2013

Reviewed by: Ben Macnair / Photography by: Garry Corbett (www.jazzcamera.co.uk)

The songs of Rock’s unofficial Poet Laureate were brought to vivid life by the talented quintet that is The Dylan Project. Playing to a capacity audience equally attracted by Dylan’s timeless back catalogue and the pedigree of the musicians, The Dylan Project did not disappoint.

Led by Steve Gibbons on lead vocal, guitar and harmonica, the band comprises star players from the Folk-Rock firmament. Bassist Dave Pegg and drummer Gerry Conway are best known as members of Fairport Convention, pedal-steel and guitar player PJ Wright is from Little Johnny England, and keyboard player and accordionist Phil Bond has worked alongside a number of household names. The songs were reworked with plenty of soloing opportunity for the musicians but also retained much of Dylan’s wild mercurial sound with Gibbons’ voice being particularly well suited to the material.

They played music from throughout Dylan’s long, storied career with his early songs starting the concert. ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’ and ‘She Belongs To Me’ were fine openers, the former featuring a fine pedal-steel part. The brooding ‘The Man In The Long Black Coat’ was a master class in refined power, whilst ‘Sweetheart Like You’ was a rediscovered mid-career gem. Adele’s recent cover of ‘To Make You Feel My Love’ has gathered a new audience both to this song and to Dylan’s work. With its melodic vocal and exemplary playing, this was the highlight of the first half. A powerful reading of the story song ‘Lonesome Hobo’ opened with slide guitar overlaid with fast, aggressive harmonica and showed off the inventiveness of the band

The second half included some of Dylan’s better-known songs. Dylan was a member of the super-group The Travelling Wilburys, and this part of his career was represented by‘Handle With Care’. ‘Just Like A Woman’ was a delicate arrangement of one of Dylan’s more heartfelt love songs, whilst ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’, a request by one of the audience, was delivered with passion. A reggae reading of ‘I Shall Be Released’ featured a bass solo from Dave Pegg and four-part harmonies. Another facet of The Dylan Project was illustrated with a slow, dangerous Neo-Jazz arrangement of ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ with solos from all of the band. The slow, brooding ‘Not Dark Yet’ was another highlight of the set. After that, it was a home run of singalong songs ‘Rainy Day Women’,‘The Mighty Quinn’ and ‘Highway 61 Revisited’.

An encore of one of Dylan’s most covered songs, ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ was lifted from its acoustic beginnings and given a Country arrangement. The lack of some of Dylan’s best known work, such as ‘The Times They Are A-changing’ or ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ may have been a point of contention for some. Given the volume of Dylan’s output, The Dylan Project made a brave and, for most, very satisfying selection for this excellent concert.

After the show, the band expressed their pleasure at being made so welcome by Lichfield Arts and have requested another gig at the end of 2014.

Ben Macnair

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