Posts Tagged ‘Mark Knopfler’

An Evening With Bob Dylan

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The first two times I saw Bob Dylan in concert, I’m not entirely sure I gave him my complete attention. Last night I did, and I was rewarded with a very good – maybe even great – show.

Last night’s fifteen-song concert at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center spanned fifty years of Dylan’s catalog, from 1962’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” to “Early Roman Kings” from this year’s album, Tempest. A majority of the songs performed by Dylan and his amazingly tight touring band came from the 1960s – including the essential final three: “Like A Rolling Stone,” “All Along The Watchtower” and “Blowin’ In The Wind” – but there were a few other stops along the way.

Those other stops included several songs performed in a country jive pre-rock ’n’ roll style that at times, said the Texas Gal later, resembled the Western swing sounds of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. (I concurred, though I’d thought of the more recent sounds of Asleep At The Wheel.) One of those songs, “Summer Days” from Love and Theft, thus sounded as close to its original version as did anything Dylan and his band offered us last night. (Another of those Western swing-styled offerings was the opener, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” from 1967’s John Wesley Harding. Despite having once correctly predicted Dylan’s opening tune, I didn’t even try last night; I would certainly have been wrong.)

Dylan’s well-known propensity for altering the shape and sound of even his most famous songs was on full display last night. Whether seated at a grand piano or standing behind the microphone at center stage – he never picked up a guitar at all – he offered the seven thousand folks in the audience reworked versions of several tunes. The most altered, it seemed to me, were “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Highway 61 Revisited,” with Dylan’s piano leading the band in rhythmic riffs as he rapidly spat out the lyrics between those riffs. The least altered, along with “Summer Days,” was the gleeful spitefest, “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

The seventy-one-year-old Dylan didn’t speak at all last night except to introduce the members of his band, but he was in good voice – a little gravelly but not as raspy as he’s sometimes sounded lately – and he seemed to be having fun: During his ninety or so minutes on stage, he added his customarily idiosyncratic harmonica solos to many of the songs, occasionally shuffled across the stage (perhaps like the “song and dance man” he once said he was in one of his famously evasive interviews), and interjected a throaty chuckle just before the final phrase of one of the verses of “Things Have Changed,” an addition that brought him a mid-song round of applause and laughter. (Joining Dylan onstage for “Things Have Changed” and two other numbers was Mark Knopfler, whose own group offered a forty-five minute opening set.)

As I noted above, last night’s performance was my third chance to see Bob Dylan in concert. During the first, at St. Paul’s outdoor River Fest in 1989, I was distracted by both my company and by the mass of the forty thousand folks who wedged themselves onto Harriet Island, and I remember only a few moments. My second chance at Dylan live came in the mid-1990s, when Rick and I attended a show at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis. Weighted down with what I now recognize as a nearly decade-long depression, I pretty much noticed nothing.

So I went to last evening’s show determined to absorb it, and I think I did, from the opening bars of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” to the last strains of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” And even though it’s difficult to pick a best moment from a show like last night’s, I’m going to mention three: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” because it should have been on my occasionally discussed bucket list, “Things Have Changed” for that chuckle and Knopfler’s liquid fills, and “All Along The Watchtower” for its fire, both lyrically and during its long closing jam.

This video, from an October 29, 2011, performance in Berlin, Germany, will give you an idea of how “Things Have Changed” sounded last night.

And here, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is last night’s set list:

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (with Mark Knopfler)
Things Have Changed (with Mark Knopfler)
Tangled Up in Blue (with Mark Knopfler)
Early Roman Kings
A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall
Summer Days
Blind Willie McTell
Highway 61 Revisited
Spirit on the Water
Thunder on the Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower
Blowin’ in the Wind