“Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll. The voice of the promise of the 60’s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the 70’s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the 80’s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late 90’s. Ladies and gentlemen: Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!”
And with that introduction, uttered anonymously over the loudspeakers, an all-ages crowd of 6,500 rose to their feet and applauded Sunday night at the MTS Centre. A 67-year-old man and his backing band sauntered onto a simple stage, wearing wide-brimmed hats and suits, and picked up their instruments. There was no opening act, and there was no need for one; the crowd was instantly warmed up the second the arena lights went down.
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
2. The Times They Are A-Changin’
3. The Levee’s Gonna Break
4. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
5. Til I Fell in Love with You
6. Simple Twist of Fate
7. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
8. I Believe in You
9. Desolation Row
10. Blind Willie McTell
11. Summer Days
12. Nettie Moore
13. Highway 61 Revisited
14. Ain’t Talkin
15. Thunder on the Mountain
16. Like a Rolling Stone
17. All Along the Watchtower
Some friends and I had the privilege of taking in a performance of one of the last great American musicians: Bob Dylan. His “Never-Ending Tour” has made over 2,000 stops in the last twenty years, and I suspect this concert was every bit as good as the previous ones. It really was a great show. Not only was Dylan’s singing voice better than I was anticipating, but his 5-piece backing band also played incredibly tight, filling out simpler songs like Simple Twist of Fate and driving classic anthems like Highway 61 Revisited along with a sweet foot-tappin’ blues-rock groove. I thought the set list was a great cross-section of Dylan’s entire career, and even though I only own 4 of his albums, I was happy to discover that I was familiar with quite a few of the songs. I was intrigued to hear I Believe in You, a song from Dylan’s “Jesus era” in the early 80s, as well as the slightly re-worked Rainy Day Women, which was even better than the original version. I think there were songs for everyone in the audience, whether they were a hardcore or a casual fan. Dylan even stepped out from the keyboards and strapped on a guitar for Memphis Blues, which he doesn’t do every show.
Judging from the Free Press review I read, some casual fans were disappointed with the lack of between-song banter from Dylan, who mostly faced sideways to the crowd, looking at his band. Aside from introducing the band members before the encore, Bob’s only words to the crowd were, “Well, thank you friends.” Well, I guess those people were expecting a typical show from an atypical musician. For me, those four words were all the talking I needed to hear. I don’t come to hear needless pleasantries; I come for the music and on that note (pun intended), Dylan delivered. The man made a name for himself by being counter-cultural and enigmatic, and he wisely continues that style in his live shows, as he lets his music do all the talking for him. Just over two hours after taking the stage, Bob and his band stood at the front of the stage and took a bow, and those 6,500 fans rose to their feet again and applauded.
For me, the only downside of the show is that it’s going to end up cost me a fortune since I now have to go out and buy a lot more Bob Dylan albums. If you would like to donate to The Red Herring’s Dylan Fund, please contact me. I promise that all proceeds will be taken directly to the record store as soon as they are received.
Unfortunately, press photographers were not allowed at the show, so I have no photos to share with you. But here’s the set list for the night: