Forever Young – The Songs of Bob Dylan, was the final gig in a series of shows that formed the Bob Dylan Birthday Festival Week at The Caravan Music Club in Melbourne's Oakleigh, celebrating the music legend's 73rd birthday. And it was, by all accounts, quite a week. The festivities kicked off on Thursday 8th May with a 'Bobwiz', inspired by the music quiz program Rockwiz and hosted by the show's own Brian Nankervis. Bobwiz was then followed by three nights of Forever Young performances, featuring an array of great artists who each performed a selection of Dylan songs.
I went along to the third and final show on Sunday afternoon and the room was full. The crowd consisted of mostly over 50s who would have grown up with Dylan's music but there was also a fair sampling of younger fans there, possibly because many of them were taking their mums out for a treat on Mother's Day but, for whatever reason, they got to hear some classic songs given new life by a very talented group of artists. Among those performing were Shane Howard, Tex Perkins, Stephen Cummings, Rebecca Barnard, Shane O'Mara, Liz Stringer, Suzannah Espie, Van Walker, Gallie and Ross Hannaford (who also played guitar with the band) with Peter Luscombe on drums, Bruce Haymes on keyboards, Steve Hadley on bass and Ashley Naylor also on guitar.
Opening with an ensemble performance of Manfred Mann's hit, 'Mighty Quinn', the band set the mood for the afternoon. Then, Rebecca Barnard gave us 'Make You Feel My Love' and Shane O'Mara joined her for a beautiful version of 'Boots of Spanish Leather'
I had never heard Van Walker before but his renditions of 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' and 'Stuck Inside a Mobile With You' really impressed me.
From Irishman Gallie, we were treated to 'Oh Sister' and what seemed to be an extended version of Dylan's 1975 hit, 'Hurricane' (a song about the imprisonment of boxer, Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter for murder) or maybe I had just forgotten how long the original was.
The evening was packed with performances of classic Dylan tunes, and some not so classic tunes as well as a few that some of us never even realised were actually written by Bob, such as Olivia Newton-John's early hit, 'If Not For You', performed by Tex Perkins who said that he always thought that Liv had written the song herself. Apparently not. (You learn something new every day.) We were lucky enough to get another two songs from Tex before interval: 'What Was it You Wanted' and 'Not Dark Yet'.
After a short break, the songs of Dylan returned, with arguably two of his best known hits, 'Blowing in the Wind' as well as 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' performed beautifully and acoustically by Suzannah Espie. Van Walker made a welcome return to the stage to accompany vocalist Liz Stringer on 'Mississippi' which she followed up with her beautiful interpretation of 'Shelter from the Storm'.
Former Daddy Cool guitarist, the legendary Ross Hannaford, who had been seated at the edge of the stage throughout the show, took to the mike for 'Trust Yourself' and guitarist Ash Naylor took over for the Jimi Hendrix classic, 'Watchtower'.
Stephen Cummings, perhaps best known to many as lead singer of 80s band, The Sports, sang 'Rita May' and 'It Takes a lot to Laugh' before Suzannah Espie made another appearance, this time with a rousing rendition of 'Gotta Serve Somebody'.
And to close the show, Shane Howard (former lead singer of the band 'Goanna' ) returned to the stage for a trio of Dylan tunes, 'Jokerman', 'Workingman's Blues #2' and to finish it off, a stirring performance of 'I Shall Be Released'.
But there was, of course, one more Dylan classic that couldn't be excluded from the set list and, for the encore, we were treated to an ensemble rendition of 'Like a Rolling Stone', with everyone in the room singing along. The perfect way to wind up an afternoon of the memorable music of a true legend. Happy Birthday Bob.
by Sharyn Hamey