Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Bob Dylan – Dance Me to the End of Love Review

Sluggish clarity takes hold of an ill mind when listening to Bob Dylan’s covers. His works are endless, with Johnnie Mercer pieces on his live tours and a plentiful helping on Triplicate seeing the master of music work through the great and traditional American songbook. Bunged up with flu and looking for an immediate cure, look no further than Dylan and his recent cover of Dance Me to the End of Love, the incredible piece from the late Leonard Cohen. Spur of the moment excellence, thankfully captured and pieced together from a recent gig in Montreal, Canada. Justice served to one of the best-written songs from a Dylan contemporary, there is no close second for Cohen, he is as good as it gets for his era.  

Hearing Dylan cover this piece and the crowd holler and applaud this effort is a delightful piece. A massive thanks must be handed to those working hard to rip the audio and turn it into listenable pieces. Dance Me To The End of Love sounds as good as it shall for a rip of a concert where recording is, presumably like the UK tour, banned entirely. This is the wider reason for recording concerts. Moments such as this are no longer lost to time. Would this Dylan cover be enchanting and doused in legend had it not surfaced on YouTube? Possibly. But it would be the loss of tens of thousands who were not in attendance, who had no chance of knowing or hearing of this Dylan cover. We are better off for the use of recording in concerts, so long as it does not interfere with the art on show. 

Dance Me to the End of Love then, given a neat Rough and Rowdy Ways spin in a similar style to the other covers of Dylan’s tour lineup, is a real treat. Dylan now has the gruff and thick voice necessary to deliver justice to this piece. Covers like this are a crying shame when lost to time, and even in this state of crowd-heavy noise, the chances of hearing one of the greatest do it cover another of similar quality is beyond the pale. Dance Me to the End of Love lends itself nicely to Dylan and his late-game style. Emotive and powerful in inevitably equal measure, the sway and slender cuts of ragtime feel to this cover are a true delight for the ears. 

What a wild treat it must have been to hear this in person. Thankfully the modern world has fished out bits and pieces which means no recording is sacred or lost. Here we are with a Cohen cover on our hands and a beautiful bit of piano and percussion work to boot. Slotted in neatly between the That Old Black Magic cover and band introductions for Mother of Muses, it is incredible to think Dance Me to the End of Love is not a setlist essential. There it is, just thrown out as though it is no big deal. Dylan has operated this way since Love and Theft, downplaying his grand and great achievements. His cover of Dance Me to the End of Love may never be released, but for a man synonymous with bootleg tapes, this may be one of the best-released fan recordings.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet


  1. I agree with everything you’ve said. For me, the real artistry with Dylan’s cover is in the phrasing variations, as is so often the case. I love how he stretches out ‘end’ in the titular line, giving the song a different kind of pained finality compared to the glorious misery at the heart Cohen’s doomed romance.

  2. I was so looking forward to this show in Montreal, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. No problem in that regard. The Cohen cover was such a musically transcendent moment, and combined with the emotion of celebrating a local hero, tears of joy welled up.

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