Bluesfest 2011 – Day Five, Featuring: Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, BB & the Blues Shacks, and the Old Spice Boys. – Live Review

by: Pepa Wolfe
Monday was another delightful mix of new discoveries and big names, with a good dose of puppetry and performance art thrown in.

The day saw the some rocking blues with plenty of keys down at the Crossroads tent as German outfit BB & the Blues Shacks charmed the crowd. Physically dynamic and looking sharp, BB and his boys really ramped up the audience participation. It was an onstage/offstage love-in, complete with dancing girls on stilts.

The eccentric Old Spice Boys added their quirky flavour to the festivals proceedings over at the Juke Joint, with an approach that seemed to be minimal instrumentation, over the top interpretation. It really works for them and the small crowd as well as those grabbing a cuppa at the Chai Tent absolutely loved it, the swinging snare, uke and tea-chest bass combination supporting their cheeky comedy and some inspired moves. Their cover of Prince’s Kiss was a definite highlight.

The main tent started filling up mid-afternoon, with people keen to score themselves a spot in the BYO seating sections ready for the evening’s headliner Bob Dylan. Dylan was undeniably the festival’s biggest drawcard, with punters and performers alike quoting his name as their Must-See. Day five of the festival completely sold-out once his name was announced, the obvious demand was enough to add another day to the festival.

Notoriously shy of the press, Dylan’s request that no photography be allowed was hardly surprising, however the thousands of fans who were crammed into the Mojo tent had the unexpected disappointment of finding the big screens side of stage blank throughout Dylan’s performance. In effect, only the particularly tall and the front section of the audience could actually see him. The rest were left to contend with random glimpses of the top of his hat, caught between the shoulders of a moving crowd. As neither Dylan nor anyone in his band says a word during the set, there was no way to tell who or what was happening on stage, therefore his music, related to the armpits around you, became your Bob Dylan festival experience.

Playing a mix of classics and rarer tunes, providing fresh interpretations and teasing the boundaries of genre, it wasn’t long before the versatile six-piece launched into the familiar cadence of Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. Throughout the set Dylan switched between guitar, keys and the mouth organ, the punchy, gravelled tones of his voice delivering new time to old favourites. People sang along to Tangled Up In Blue, while Highway 61 Revisited gave a rousing dose of rockabilly. Eager fans who had struggled all night were rewarded with the encore of the classic Like a Rolling Stone, followed by Forever Young.

So, how was the show for those who could actually see it? “Brilliant!” according to a couple of blokes who were easily six foot five. In short, Bob Dylan’s music – fabulous. The armpit of the guy in front of me – not so much.

In comparison, Elvis Costello and the Imposters’ set was a breath of fresh air – literally. There was actually room to move for Costello, with the video screens side of stage beaming his close-up across the tent to accompany the initial punch of Pump It Up! The set was energetic and varied, the leading man eloquent and fun, and the music was a wonderful taste of the Costello/Imposters catalogue, with lashings of punk, reggae, country, rock and blues. Popular with the crowd were the classics, Every Day I Write the Book, the political crooner Oliver’s Army, Watching the Detectives and the broken ballad Alison.

Inviting the Secret Sisters on stage to add their magic to A Slow Drag with Josephine, Costello then joined them in three-part harmonies on the Hank William’s favourite Why Don’t You Love Me, before the rains that had been threatening all afternoon finally set in. At one point there was a wall of water surrounding the tent, with punters finally emerging from the Mojo to a wet and muddy mess… just a taste of what the final day was going to offer.

Review by: Pepa Wolfe

Bluesfest 2011 – Day Five, Featuring: Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, BB & the Blues Shacks, and the Old Spice Boys