The great white wonder

Because there aren’t many Nobel Laureate tribute acts you can talk with.

A word or two with Bill Lennon, who stars in The Bob Dylan Story which will be playing at the Artrix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove, on 29th June.

What can the audience expect when they see the show?
“A show which is both poignant and rocking in equal measure, performed by genuine Dylan fans who take pride and pleasure in reproducing the songs exactly the way people remember hearing them. Think of a Dylan concert in his full mid-sixties pomp and prime, throw in some carefully chosen visual projections to set the scene, a few stories about Dylan’s life and songs, and you’re getting very warm!”

How did the idea for the show come about?
“It’s a no brainer really – I have always been a fan and really it was just waiting for the right time. And although there have been other Dylan tributes, I felt it needed a proper theatre show to really do it justice. In terms of the show’s currency and appeal, the Nobel Prize award is the icing on the cake!
When did you start being a fan of Bob Dylan’s music?

“My dad had The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan on vinyl when I was a kid and I fell in love with it. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, which we do in the show, is the one that really sticks out for me from that album – it seems to be a fan favourite. I also remember hearing Positively 4th Street and Like A Rolling Stone back to back on the radio when I was a teenager and the sound of those records just blew me away.”

What is your favourite Bob Dylan song to perform?
“We do about 25 in the show and they’re all a joy to perform in their own way, but I guess it would be either Quinn The Eskimo, which was of course a massive hit for Manfred Mann, or Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 35, simply because the band just have so much fun with them, as do the audience!”

What do you make of the Nobel Prize award?
“It was a surprising choice on the face of it, but he’s certainly earned it considering his contribution to popular culture over the last half century; people will say ‘but it’s not literature’, yet I challenge anyone to read the lyrics to songs like Tangled Up In Blue, Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, Like A Rolling Stone, Subterranean Homesick Blues and then tell me the guy’s not a poet.”

Which song do you think the audience will react to the most?
“I guess that will depend on their own preferences, but there are some very poignant moments in the show – we know A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall has reduced some to tears, not least because of the accompanying visual imagery and the continuing relevance of its message; Knocking On Heaven’s Door and Forever Young are particularly emotional moments too.”

What will the audience take from the show?
“We hope people leave with a nostalgia-infused warmth, a renewed appreciation of Dylan’s music, and an eagerness to tell their friends what a great time they had.”

Why is Bob Dylan such a legend?
“He is an absolute legend, and actually has written many songs that might cause even non-Dylan fans to question their judgement! Mr Tambourine Man (The Byrds), Make You Feel My Love (Adele) and All Along The Watchtower (Hendrix) are three examples that spring immediately to mind and are all performed in the show. And ultimately, I think he gave people licence to demand more from their music experience than a lightweight boy meets girl ditty at a time when that was the norm.”

What are the trickiest things about performing Dylan’s music?
“For me, committing all the lyrics to memory so they can just flow out without me even thinking about it. As for the band, it’s been about reproducing the sounds and notes as authentically as possible so that the audience hears the songs the way they remember them. But they’ve done a fantastic job. They’re all brilliant musicians as well as being fans of the music and this show is lucky to have them.”

The Bob Dylan Story is at Artrix on Thursday 29th June. Tickets