Gig review: Forever Young: A 70th Birthday Tribute to Bob Dylan


MOST singer-songwriters don't need a lot of encouragement to lapse into Bob Dylan, so his forthcoming 70th birthday (in May) was the only excuse needed for this colourful birthday tribute. Organised by Glasgow's Roddy Hart, with his band, the Lonesome Fire, Forever Young played host to more than a dozen musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Dylan's versatility and longevity was evident from the range of musicians taking part, from Tim O'Brien bringing a touch of bluegrass to Maggie's Farm to Love and Money's James Grant taking the first half to a rocking finale in a duet with Brooklyn's Nell Bryden on All Along the Watchtower.

Poor musicians imitate, said English singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore, but great musicians steal, pointing out that Dylan's I Pity the Poor Immigrant started out as a Scottish folk song, as did A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall, sung memorably by our own Kris Drever. Meanwhile, Gilmore herself rose to the challenge of "the most depressing song of the night" with a moving rendition of Masters of War, sounding as raw and pertinent now as one guesses it did in 1963.

That was one highlight in a night full of highlights: a surprise appearance by Eddi Reader with an acoustic version of Buckets of Rain; James Grant's slow, pared-down version of Simple Twist of Fate; Rab Noakes's Mississippi reminding us that Dylan kept writing gems even in the 1990s; and Rosanne Cash took Girl from the North Country back to its folk roots in Scarborough Fair.

With so many taking part, everyone was limited to a strict two songs each. The audience would clearly have enjoyed more of all of them, but they might not have lasted the pace for an all-night Dylan marathon.