Bob Dylan ABC Cinema Belfast 6th May 1966

I still have vivid flashbacks of this concert. I was five rows from the stage. I sat beside a girl who I thought looked a bit like Cher [Yes, Cher has been around that long!]. We chatted a bit and I borrowed her programme. When Dylan walked on stage, bang on 8 o'clock, she uttered a stifled scream and buried her face in her hands in embarrassment. Dylan, smallish, slightly built but well put together, had an aureole of fair/gingerish curly hair and looked very strung out. Very intense. He spent a long time tuning his guitar, shifting his balance foot to foot, head and shoulders jerking in quick, bird-like movements. He wore that brownish/beige large-check suit with, if I remember correctly, a sartorially clashing black and white check shirt. His face was deathly pale. Strange face: not the face of a rock singer. A face from who knows where? He never smiled once in all the two hours plus that he was on stage.

First number, She Belongs To Me. His voice is the killer. It's not the voice of the folksinger or even searing-soaring voice from Highway 61 Revisited. It's a haunted and haunting mysterious stranger/prodigal son voice. Blonde on Blonde has not yet been released so none of us has heard this Dylan.

Visions of Johanna stands out from the acoustic set - of course I'd never heard it before, and this is the only experience in my life to which the appalling clichÎ 'spine-chilling' could be applied and justified. Fourth Time Around - the audience laughs at the line 'You better spit out your gum.'

The interval ... a visit to the Gents. At the urinal a hard case [tough guy to you Yanks] with a Falls Road accent, acne and scimitar sideburns says to me out of the corner of his mouth, 'Isn't he f***ing great?'

The electric set: Bob Dylan & The Hawks. Never going to forget this. Began with Tell Me Momma and ended with Like A Rolling Stone:

Once upon a time

You dressed so fine

Threw the bums a dime ...

Maybe the greatest rock music ever played. Thought about that show almost hourly for months afterwards. The applause was rapturous at the end. He stood alone on the stage after The Hawks had left and acknowledged the cheers with a slight bow and a bemused expression.

This must have been one of the very few places on the 1966 tour where Dylan and the Hawks were not booed. [They had been booed loud and long in Dublin the previous night.]

I feel so lucky to have witnessed a moment out of time.


Jim Mulligan