Writer: Michael Gray
Reviewer: Ray Taylor
Michael Gray is a renowned world authority on Bob Dylan, having studied him over a lifetime and produced two monumental books on Dylan’s life and work. He attempts to distill all his knowledge and appreciation of Dylan in this one-man performance that is partly lecture, but also includes rare footage and soundtrack recordings.
Gray recounts Dylan’s life story while at the same time traces the history of rock’n’roll with such names as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others. Dylan’s place in the rock’n’roll Hall of Fame and his ever-changing relationships, styles and influences is fully explored with good use of illustrative recordings and footage (these last slightly spoiled by not being properly synchronised). Gray is a very fluent and informative speaker, entertaining his audience without the use of notes for a shade over two hours.
Gray obviously has an obsession with Dylan and there is always going to be much in his presentation that borders on idol worship, but this is occasionally balanced out by some severe criticism of some of his output. There is also a fair amount of personal anecdote, with one very intriguing account of when he personally met Dylan.
It is difficult to gauge just how much of all this material would be new to the average Dylan fan, but to anyone who has only an average knowledge of Dylan based on the most well-known of his recordings, this show is very enlightening. It is likely to encourage people to explore the back catalogue and even read a biography or two.
Gray succeeds in educating his audience while at the same time inspiring them to find out more. Dylan is a colossus of the folk and rock’n’roll era, but he is more than that. A poet, wordsmith and musical genius who has evolved through many guises and who is still productive today.
Reviewed on 12 September 2015.