We are probably not going to see Bob Dylan performing in the North East again. But Ron Clarke reports on the next best thing.
NOT so much a project more a labour of love. In a year when Bob Dylan recorded Tempest, his highly acclaimed 35th studio album, a group of highly talented musicians are still hitting the road to celebrate his music.
Almost every winter for the past 14 years veteran rocker Steve Gibbons has got his musical mates together to fine tune and pick their way through the American legend’s never-ending catalogue.
The end result is The Dylan Project and an evening of everything from the very beginning to the very latest. The standards to the less well-known. It may be getting a little more difficult but the fascination is still there.
“He has an incredible growl going now which is beyond my range and a little more difficult to mimic,” admits Steve, who at 71 is the same age as Dylan himself. “His latest album is dark but fairly hypnotic and fascinating. Some tracks, like Long and Wasted Years, are not that easy to do in terms of delivery but we may have a go at it.
“I am amazed at the number of gigs he is still doing round the world and he seems to have struck a rich vein of form again.
“His phrasing is still unique and his timing is superb. The way he fits the words together is very clever.
“The mid 60s were absolutely fantastic. A golden period, great albums. But his latest albums have been wonderful and he keeps on bringing them out. I am fascinated by the whole ambience. The words, the gruffness of his voice, the songs are phenomenal.
“He is one of the great survivors. Others have been and gone or had world tours with large gaps in between. He just keeps going. You are never surprised by anything Dylan does.”
Steve’s first taste of Dylan came when he was given a copy of Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan to listen to. “Track one, side one, the voice made me tingle. The song made me shiver. The moment is frozen.”
It was then a twist of fate when he caught up with Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg a few years ago.
Their collective enthusiasm for the troubadour took over and they decided to record an album of his songs. The Dylan Project, now with Gibbons, Pegg, Gerry Conway, PJ Wright and Phil Bond, was formed.
The ultimate would be the man himself joining in with them. Steve says: “Yeah, a knock on the door and saying, ‘how are you doing?’ But I don’t think it is going to happen.”
Steve is more than content with the honour of giving his own interpretation of Dylan’s songs.
He says: “It is only this time of year when we get together which sometimes is not the best for travelling.
“A couple of years ago we were snowed-in up in Scotland. But it was fun.”
:: The Dylan Project play Hall One of The Sage Gateshead on Saturday. Box Office: 0191 443 4661.