By Jeremy Miles
BOB DYLAN hauled his Never-ending tour into the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday and blew the place away.
Four thousand fans had travelled from all over Europe and beyond to witness this troubadour poet who looks like Hank Williams' ghost in action. They weren't disappointed. He treated them to a 21 song set that lasted almost two-and-a-half hours and drew from almost the entire span of his 40 year career.
It included classics like Desolation Row, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Subterranean Homesick Blues and Like A Rolling Stone, a beautiful version of Boots of Spanish Leather and many, many more.
There was also a stunning performance of the Buddy Holly/Rolling Stones number Not Fade Away - a joyous rock 'n' roll history lesson.
But this really wasn't about the past and Dylan was clearly pleased at the ecstatic response to his newer material, particularly the great versions of Summer Days and Honest With Me from the Love and Theft album. Those with sharp eyes will have noticed his recently awarded Grammy sitting proudly on a speaker at the rear of the stage.
Even though these days he sounds as though his vocal chords have been processed in a cement mixer, Dylan is on great form. His vocals can twist from a strangled growl to a sweet country coo in a second.
Applied to radical re-workings of old favourites, it's a sound that works superbly well, particularly with such an amazing band.
With Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton on guitars, Tony Garnier on bass and the great Jim Keltner on drums, it seems there's nothing Dylan can't do. Their communication is positively telepathic. Their music a heady mix of country rock, jazz and blues.
And if things do go wrong there is always the audience to help out. When microphone problems threatened the end of his cold war anthem A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, he simply turned to the faithful and they sang the song for him.
A great night! Even Dylan was smiling.