Bob Dylan writes terrific songs but they’re always far better when someone else is singing them. Now I’m not suggesting Ed Sheeran or Robbie Williams should have a go but ol’ Bob’s singing of Blowin’ In The Wind is a dirge compared to Peter, Paul and Mary’s pure and elevated version.
Step forward Chrissie Hynde who spent lockdown with her guitarist James Walbourne recording nine Bob Dylan songs as a tribute to his 80th birthday, resulting in their Standing In The Doorway album, which puts the bunch of chrysanthemums I sent him via Moonpig.com into shabby perspective.
Warm up also comes from Walbourne and his partner Kami Thompson, aka The Rails, an interesting and folky act thar sets the scene for the evening. Both great voices but best in harmony when Thompson takes the lead, as in their cover of Castles In The Sun. We already know we ain’t getting rocker Chrissie but the more laid back version tonight.
And that’s just grand. Entering with her musicians, Walbourne on acoustic guitar, Danny Williams on Upright Bass and Carwyn Ellis on Keyboard; she introduces all of them before a note has been sung. Generous, classy, grey-haired and sassy. The audience are in no doubt this will be something to look forward to.
The songs are played in the same order as the album and from the opening lyrics of In The Summertime I finally feel my shoulders relaxing. There’s always a danger in going to see an older act in that their voices might be anything from mildly diminished to a national embarrassment (looking at you Macca!), we have no qualms this evening. Hynde’s voice not only conveys her unique sexy yet sweet quality but hasn’t changed a jot. Every song brings a fresh perspective and her backing musicians add seasoned expertise, richness of tone and more than a touch of class.
Hynde’s good friend Morrissey (but we shan’t hold that against her) once remarked: “Chrissie is the funniest person in the world, yet she has absolutely no sense of humour.”
Indeed she doesn’t go too much for ‘the banter’ but does remark after You’re A Big Girl Now: “I believe Bob wrote that for me, a rumour I started – and he didn’t deny it!” An oldie but a goodie…
You could imagine she might be right. “Come over here for all of that,” who else could sing a lyric so charmingly seedy? Although Hynde ends with a few of her own numbers we were also treated to two Ray Davies songs, Stop Your Sobbing and I Go To Sleep, possibly the loveliest lyrics about pure passion and utter obsession. Only a voice of agonising longing and lusty experience can convey it and Hynde has both is spades – it’s her “thing”.
The highlight of the latter part of the set was Stop Your Sobbing: “It is time for you to laugh – instead of crying…”
Right on Ma’am, what could be more pertinent to possibly the first live music gig any of the audience has seen in over a year and a half.
Whatever realm Chrissie Hynde chooses to occupy, she reigns supreme.