Black Hen Music and the Cap Global Roots Series
Barney Bentall with Steve Dawson

Date and Venue 27 March 2013, 8pm | Electric Owl, 928 Main Street, Vancouver

Reviewer John Jane

Barney Bentall has been an indie rock staple in Vancouver for at least a couple of decades. He is perhaps best known for fronting his 1990s-era band, the Legendary Hearts. However, for this special gig he performed Bob Dylan's seminal recording Blood on the Tracks in order and in its entirety.

Regarded by many as one of Dylan’s best, the 1975 album marked Dylan's return to the Columbia label. It sharply showcases Dylan’s profound lyricism while all but a couple of the songs encompass heartache, loneliness and acrimony with past lovers.

Bentall has a similar edgy, nasal timbre to Dylan, so his vocal interpretation isn’t that far from the original. He was especially faithful on his renditions of the plaintive "If You See Her, Say Hello" and the ambiguous "Shelter from the Storm."

But while Blood on the Tracks is almost entirely acoustic, Bentall, with Steve Dawson on guitar, Geoff Hicks on drums, Chris Gestrin playing keyboards and Keith Lowe on both electric and double bass, fearlessly substituted the stripped-down arrangements with much heavier emphasis on instrumentation.

For those who were looking for re-imagined interpretations, they might have enjoyed the more subtly arranged "Idiot Wind" that featured Dawson on pedal steel guitar and Lowe moving to his stand-up bass. Bentall’s vocals departed significantly from Dylan’s rather more personal version.

Bentall obviously knows these songs well, although, he admitted to frequently skipping over the lengthy "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." The song is one of my personal favourites because it shows us the songwriter’s wry humour and Bentall even managed to add an extra layer to the thirteen verse epic with his own sense of fun.

Earlier, Dawson with Lowe, Hicks and Gestrin kicked off an evening of great music with an eclectic forty-five minute set that ranged from Ellington to Stompin’ Tom starting with Dave Alvin’s “Jubilee Train.” The four piece band moved right along with the Ry Cooder composition Boomer Story and an instrumental version of Harvest, a Neil Young original.

It was Bentall himself that confirmed the rumour that Steve Dawson would soon be leaving Lotusland for the cold grey concrete of Toronto. Too bad – he’ll be missed.

© 2013 John Jane