I had posted this elsewhere but thought I should share it here as well:
We went to see Bob Dylan last night. We've seen him a dozen or so times over the years, but this was the first in a while. It was an excellent show in a venue (Durham Performing Arts Center) that has excellent sound and sightlines. I'd shelled out for good seats so we could see pretty well. Except for the guy who kept kicking the back of my seat, it was really a perfect night of music.
I've heard everyone's opinions about Dylan's voice and you can keep yours to yourself. Fact is, I don't think anyone sings his songs better than he does. The show started with "Things Have Changed," which won him the Oscar he displays onstage (I wonder if he'll bring the Nobel Prize out on tour as well). Then he moved to the grand piano and played some older songs including "Don't Think Twice" (which made me think of William Gay's wonderful and humorous essay about that song) done over with roundhouse piano and a rollicking beat, "Highway 61," and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue."
When Dylan switched to keys in the early 2000s, a disappointment because he had become a good guitar player, he played electric keys and was hard to hear. Now the grand piano is well miked and up in the mix and it's possible to hear what a fluid player Dylan is. He only played harp on a couple of songs last night, and when he played the Sinatra-type songs from his last two albums, he stood center stage and sang, doing kind of a hyper little Chaplin shuffle during instrumental breaks. I get the feeling that without something in his hands or a task in front of him, Dylan is a bit lost.
With a catalogue as deep as Dylan's some part of it is bound to get short shrift. Last year he played two songs from from sixties and two from the seventies in favor of songs from 1997 onward. Last night, he played only "Tangled Up in Blue" from the 70s, and that was with mostly new (perhaps improvised) lyrics.
Dylan's band is first rate these days. The bass player, Tony Gardiner, has been with him since the mid to late 80s and George Recile has been around since 2004 (Jamie and I saw his third or fourth show with Dylan at the Orange Peel in Asheville back then). The other players--Charlie Sexton is the only one whose name I know though I recognize all of them--are just wonderful at Dylan's uniquely American blend of blues, rock, tin pan alley, old time music. They might really be one of the best bands in America today. "Desolation Row" and "Pay In Blood" were special highlights for me. I'm sure others have their own favorite moments.
We ducked out after "Blowing in the Wind," the next to last song so we could beat the traffic. I left feeling better about the world and its stupid politics and very lucky, once again, to have shared some of my time on this planet with Bob Dylan.