In one of the best books to focus on the Never Ending Tour, Lee Marshall argues that Bob Dylan decided to dedicate himself to touring as to escape from the nostalgia that threatened to freeze his stardom in the sixties.

Just as Like A Rolling Stone had showed Dylan a new way to write, the NET showed him a new way to perform. And not only was it to transform his relationship with his audience, the experience somehow reopened the creative floodgates that spawned three critically acclaimed albums (four if we count the last in the Bootleg series).

But for a man so anxious to escape the sixties, it was strange to see Dylan at the NIA dedicating so much of the evening to Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. It was all the more bewildering when his excellent new album, recorded with his touring band, was about to top the UK album charts, confirming the old boy to be in top form. Judged to be the perfect soundtrack for a down but not quite out America, the album is being ignored on the tour, we are told, because of the difficulties of introducing an accordion – ironic from the man credited with inventing folk rock.

True, the set changes substantially every night but Dylan seems no longer connected to any of his seventies and eighties material. At the NIA the only song from either of those two decades was a disappointing reworking of Man in the Long Black Coat.

But given Dylan’s view that his records are mere blueprints of songs, even the likes of Desolation Row and Most Likely You Go Your Way sound new.

He now sits behind a keyboard on the side of the stage, facing the superb musicians who seem to get better with each tour.

The opener, Wicked Messenger, confirmed that Dylan’s vocals are stronger than in recent years, although he only ventures to centre stage for It Ain’t Me Babe, the one time he played guitar.

The discerning NIA audience reserved their most enthusiastic responses for Working Man’s Blues and Ain’t Talkin’, both performed with real warmth that made you wish that at nearly 68 he was in reflective rather than quite such rockin’ form this spring.

After the show, only a few were to be heard arguing about whether the closing number had in fact been Blowin’ in the Wind. If you wanted the Freewheelin’ version, I guess it is best to stay at home and watch the Co-op advertisement on television. But how well those songs from Together Through Life would have lengthened memories of the evening.