Cracking set from Dylan saves the day
Report from the Finsbury Park Fleadh 2004
Downpours, no big screens, tiresome American rehash acts, pasty-faced lager louts urinating where they stood in the crowd and then milling around in their own piss afterwards, tickets a rip-off - nearly £40 each and £12 added by Ticketmaster on ordering - fuck them, bastardos.
Counting Crows didn't go down very well with the parts of the crowd near to your reporter. "Counting Sheep" would be a better name for them, they thought. At one point the singer said "We're tired" and a proportion of the audience replied, "So are we." I thought they were not three bad, very lively towards the end.
The wonderful John Prine appeared on the smaller stage in a covered area, during a downpour, so the entire crowd tried to cram in. He said that Bush had forced him to revive his old protest songs, which he had put away in a drawer somewhere.
A fairly objective intro announced the mythic Bob Dylan, recapping his career including the doldrums. He was on keyboards for the whole session. All his effort was needed to get his croaky voice to perform. "Not Dark Yet" was perfectly timed to the setting sun, and sounded wonderful. I thought it was "Shooting Star" at first. I never rated "Not Dark Yet" till I heard this performance.
I heard somebody in the crowd say, "It's taken him forty years, but he finally got the voice right." The same person said, "He's done one of mine--Desolation Row." I hadn't realised that Dylan had stolen that song from somebody in Finsbury Park.
What I thought was some sort of homo-erotic foreplay, I was later informed was something called "blowback". A long-haired rent-boy looking debauchee put a joint, lighted side first, into his mouth and proferred the other end to his companion, a wrinkly, long-coated old rocker, who sucked on it. It's supposed to be "an amazing hit" due to some mystical turbo-charging process, but probably more to do with the recherché thrill of appearing to kiss some geezer.
It was worth suffering the indignities of the day for the session by the Maestro alone. His set list is up at Bob Dylan.com. Ronnie Wood joined the band for the encore, appropriately "Like a Rolling Stone." Great 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m - shame about the dismal day leading up to it.