To say that I was excited to finally get a chance to see Bob Dylan perform last night would be an understatement. To say that his performance met expectations would be a lie. That’s not to say the show wasn’t great (it was), but rather, I honestly had no idea what the heck to expect from the guy. On the one hand he’s an aging performer who’s singing voice was pretty lousy before it up and quit on him. On the other hand, he’s Bob-freaking-Dylan!
Thankfully we were not disappointed.
We arrived a few songs into the opening set by up-and-comer Amos Lee. He writes great tunes and his backing band was solid. I’ll definitely be adding his music to my collection at some point. However, considering the fact that he was sharing the stage with such music icons like Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, he was a pretty light appetizer. Aww. That’s cute, good job kid. Now get off the stage and let the pros have their turn.
Next up: Elvis Costello. All by himself, dressed all in black with just a weathered acoustic guitar hung from his neck. He was brilliant! He let loose an energetic performance full of new tunes as well as classics like “Veronica,” “Allison,” and “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding”. Seeing such an enormous personality as Costello’s confined to such an intimate setup was an experience I was grateful to share with the rest of the crowd. His final guitar strum was met with a wild standing ovation. I was quick to join in.
I’ll admit that I thought Dylan’s decision to open a show on a university campus with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was mere pandering. (“Everybody must get stoned!”) But it’s not like anyone could have deciphered the lyrics anyway. (Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Dylan’s voice has left the building.) His voice is shot. Completely gone. And by gone I mean at times sounded like a diesel engine struggling to get up an incline. And I’m being pretty generous.
I was fearing the worst for the evening when things hadn’t improved after the first couple songs. (I paid that much for this?) But thankfully the sound improved as the night went on. “He’s like an old organ,” Cheryl said. “He just needed an hour and a half to warm up.”
Once he finally got going he showed just why he’s a legend. He played a pretty eclectic mixture of older classics and tunes from his latest album Modern Times. Fans hoping to hear the classics in their standard form were likely disappointed. But that’s what’s so great about Dylan. There really is no standard form. All the “best of” material got a new dress for this tour. A dingy, funky, deep-deep blue dress.
From twenty rows away I thought I saw a wink and a smirk as he sang; “You think I’m over the hill, you think I’m past my prime.” I think that was the exact moment the performance turned the corner as from there on out Bob showed us just how much fight he’s got left. The set closed with a haunting rendition of “Masters of War,” but the highlight for me just may have been the finale – a funked-out “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
I can die now.
Bob Dylan (w/ Elvis Costello and Amos Lee)
October 9, 2007
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
2. It Ain’t Me, Babe
3. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
4. Positively 4th Street
5. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
6. Workingman’s Blues #2
7. Things Have Changed
8. Desolation Row
9. High Water (For Charlie Patton)
10. Spirit On The Water
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Ain’t Talkin’
13. Summer Days
14. Masters Of War
15. Thunder On The Mountain
16. Blowin’ In The Wind