Finsbury Park in north London turned into an island within the island last weekend when Bob Dylan headlined the Feis music festival that was returning after a gap of six years to celebrate its 21st anniversary.
It was a coming of age party. Dylan himself turned 70 in May, so the tribute to the greatest bard of our times couldn’t have been more fitting.
In turn, the legend didn’t disappoint the 35,000 fans who turned up for the concert. It had been raining, turning the grounds into slush, but the weather held up for Bobby. Such things happen.
The man clearly enjoyed himself, flashing a rare smile and even dancing a half jig in his black suit and white fedora hat, whizzing through a tight set of 15 songs (from an oeuvre of some 500, let us remind ourselves), and marking a seeming return to his bluesy roots.
Switching seamlessly between guitar, organ and harmonica, he allowed long instrumental solos to punctuate his gravelly singing.
Strangely, a small group of Muslim radicals too had decided to make their voices heard — they were carrying anti-Israel placards and were shouting out things to no one in particular.
Finsbury Park is home to a large mosque, whose Imam was the Egyptian-born hate preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri. Abu Hamza is serving a seven-year sentence in a British prison for inciting murder and racial hatred.
Happily, the protesters were bundled out by stewards after a near-scuffle with a couple of music lovers.
The protesters didn’t seem to mind — clearly, they were not there for the music.
As the evening wore on, Dylan got better and better. And when he sang his celebrated Ballad of a Thin Man, with its prescient refrain, something’s happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones, I turned around to find a young couple, who had met each other just minutes earlier, locked in a tight embrace.
Dylan’s for lovers, not messengers of hate.