The relative intimacy of the 2500 capacity Riviera Theatre is what drew me in for Saturday night’s performance by Bob Dylan & His Band. The degradation of the vocal prowess of the poet laureate of American folk music (as he was introduced) is well documented. What I found most disappointing however were the sometimes unrecognizable arrangements of Dylan’s “hits” and standards.
After opening with a rough version of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” I was nervous for what I was in store for. Happily Bob’s voice improved as his “instrument” warmed up. The songs from his four most recent studio albums were the ones on which Bob’s voice sounded most at home, perhaps a product of him knowing his own limitations and writing to his strengths. “If You Ever Go To Houston” and the curious Alicia Keyes referencing tune “Thunder On The Mountain” were both rollicking good times.
For me, my $60 ticket was justified by the set proper closer “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” quite possibly my favorite Dylan song from my favorite Dylan album. Finishing a close second in the near and dear to my heart department were the two Blood On The Tracks tunes, “Simple Twist Of Fate” and “Tangled Up In Blue,” both of which stood up quite well in tone and arrangement.
More casual fans may have been let down, but if you know your Dylan lyrics, the 2010 version of Bob is still quite enjoyable. While Dylan spent the majority of the show at his keyboard standing in profile to the audience he did play guitar and harmonica and at times twisted his legs and got animated with his arms.
Apart from being true to the calendar there was nothing to differentiate what was billed as a “Special Pre-Halloween Party” from any other show as far as I can tell. The bonus of the night came in the encore which has recently consisted solely of “Jolene” and “Like A Rolling Stone.” The unexpected tacked on surprise was “Forever Young” closing out the show. Bob Dylan, may you stay forever young and thank you for decades of rewarding material.
1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. The Man In Me
3. Things Have Changed
4. Positively 4th Street
5. Summer Days
6. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
7. Cold Irons Bound
8. Simple Twist Of Fate
9. High Water (for Charlie Patton)
10. If You Ever Go To Houston
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Tangled Up In Blue
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. Forever Young