Event review: Bob Dylan tribute night at the Oval Tavern, Saturday 20th June 2015

By - Friday 26th June, 2015

Dishing up Dylan – first come, first served. Ian Marvin listens with interest

Photo of Nick Reeves, author’s own.

Even if not everyone counts themselves as a Bob Dylan fan, they’ll almost certainly have enjoyed covers of some of his songs without even realising it. For example, it took me a few decades to identify the origins of the Roxy Music version of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. So I arrived at the Oval Tavern on Saturday evening with a sense of curiosity and anticipation, eager to discover what approach the various artistes on the bill would take.

This event was the third to be organised by Jon Roffey at the Oval under the umbrella of Big Sister (named after his former band, Ten Foot Nun), the two previous occasions covering the Rolling Stones and Neil Young. Originally held at Scream Lounge, the concept is for performers to cover two songs each, with a first come first served approach to song selection.

Jon introduced each act with wit and humour and it was apparent from his rapport that many were old friends; this only added to the enjoyment of the occasion. A constant theme was that Dylan’s songs are almost always better when performed by others. I for one was glad that nobody felt the need to as much as pick up a harmonica let alone interrupt some perfectly good singing and guitar playing for an extended solo; the nearest we got to this was a kazoo solo – but more on this later.

As advertised, performances were in a wide range of styles, and given the nature of Dylan we were treated to covers of covers as well as some very individual interpretations.

Unfortunately – and contrary to tradition – the event started promptly at 7:00pm. However I arrived just in time to hear Nick Reeves of local band Cassettes perform ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ and ‘Tangled up in Blue’, both songs that suited Nick’s distinctive warm vocal style. Vicky Walters followed with ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’ and ‘Make you Feel my Love’, somewhat in the style of Joan Osborne. The latter song of course was also covered by Brit School alumna Adele, who once in an interview located the institution as being “somewhere between Croydon and Kent”.

Terry O’Stereo And The Very Day-Glo Radio – Croydon’s leading white middle-aged rap band

We continued with El Spagerama with spirited and passionate renditions of ‘If Not For You’, made familiar by George Harrison, and followed by ‘Masters of War’. The multi-talented Jenny Lockyer continued with ‘Drifter’s Escape’ and ‘The Girl from the North Country’ which surely everyone knows. Magic Sam played us up to the break; he was going to do two songs but then he realised they were the same song in one of the evening’s more comedic moments – and I never quite worked out what he was exactly playing.

Our compere Jon Roffey started as he meant to continue, introducing Terry O’Stereo And The Very Day-Glo Radio as “Croydon’s leading white middle aged rap band”. Starting with old favourites ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and continuing with ‘I Shall Be Free’ and ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ they did the harmonica solos more than justice on the kazoo.

We then got our first taste of electric guitar with Herbie Liscious covering ‘All Along the Watchtower’, ‘Shelter from the Storm’ and ‘Quin the Eskimo’ distinctively with almost reggae style vocals.

A full band was assembled in no time at all

Sam Kronis sings with a powerful mellow voice including a strong hint of Roy Orbison which he used to good effect in ‘She Belongs to Me’, ‘Love Minus Zero’ and ‘Lay Lady Lay.’ Roger Fullilove’s lively versions of ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ and ‘Baby Blue’ got the audience moving. He then enlisted the help of ‘Tony Patience’ for ‘Forever Young’. Tony continued on solo with ‘Tomorrow Is a Long Time’ and ‘The Man in Me’ using his voice and guitar virtuosity to great effect.

Then came the moment we were all waiting for, as a full band was assembled in no time at all, giving our host Jon the chance to show off his abilities as both a vocalist and saxophonist. They played ‘Rainy Day Women ♯12 & 35’, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, all favourites and eliciting at least some audience participation.

Although I was slightly disappointed that nobody tackled the Rage Against the Machine version of ‘Maggie’s Farm’ which is my particular favourite, it was an enjoyable and entertaining evening and the Oval was literally full to bursting point. I’m already looking forward to Big Sister’s very individual take on Queen, which is scheduled for some time in August.

Ian Marvin

Ian Marvin

Ian is a product designer who moved to the borough in 2003. His interests in all things Croydon stretch from being on the committee of the Constructing Excellence Croydon Club to active membership of the Croydon Clandestine Cake Club. During the day he works on his interior lighting businesses which are also based in Croydon. In the unlikely event that he has any leisure time, he enjoys creating ceramic pieces and playing bass guitar. Any opinions expressed here are personal.

More Posts - Website - Twitter

  • funisalwaysnumberone

    I wish I was there to see and hear a night like this, as A) I’d have loved the music and B) could have avoided the snide side of Mr. Marvin’s opinion of a truly ingenious artist’s magnificent singing styles. If I’d have been there I wouldn’t have had to read such blather.

    • Ian Marvin

      Actually I didn’t indicate agreement with that view of Bob Dylan’s singing style hence ‘perfectly good singing.’ It was a good night though.

      • funisalwaysnumberone

        I must have misinterpreted the sentence, “A constant theme was that Dylan’s songs are almost always better when performed by others.”

        • Ian Marvin

          You seemed to misinterpret it as my opinion, I was reporting the words of the compère. Still, a shame you couldn’t have been there in person.

  • Peter Green

    Glad I was on too early be reviewed. ‘Roxy Music’s’ “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”? As in, the lead single from Bryan Ferry’s first album and the official launch of his solo career alongside and pretty quickly OUTSIDE the band.

    • Ian Marvin

      Apologies for missing you, and I stand corrected.