Cross item number fourteen of my list of things to do before I die: I have seen Bob Dylan (number fifteen, touch Dylan, is still unaccomplished).
Having missed Amos Lee, our “opener” was Elvis Costello, playing solo acoustic “For the first time in 12 years!,” according to the outrageously overpriced poster I purchased after the show. There are only a few people famous enough to have a veteran like Elvis Costello open for them; Dylan is one of those elite few. I’m not the biggest Costello fan, and I didn’t really expect much from him, but he totally blew me away. His voice was *perfect”* throughout his whole set, and he got a lot of distance out of his guitar. He didn’t really have the disposition of a solo acoustic performer, still using the same “moves” he uses when playing with a band’s backing, proving where exactly he belongs in the musical hierarchy, but he did an excellent job.
When Dylan took the stage, it was with a guitar in hand, and followed by six identically-dressed band members. “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” was the first song they played, and, get this: Dylan played lead, and he wasn’t half bad! Dylan unfortunately only stayed on guitar for the FDA-mandated minimum amount of time to keep up the buzz around the return of his on-stage guitar-playing (three songs) before returning to his keyboards and focusing on his vocals.
As I had hoped, Dylan’s set list contained a large amount of his newer songs and a relatively small amount of his classic songs. Whenever I mention this preference to anyone even remotely in the know about Dylan’s career, the response is inevitably “WHAT?!” I think I have a good reason, though: I don’t want to hear the sixty-six-year-old Dylan trying to sing the songs that the twenty-year-old Dylan had difficulty singing. The fact that the singer who wrote most of the songs I listen to when I want to feel younger then I am is sixty-six is a depressing enough prospect, thank you. It was good to hear him try to stumble through “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” but I preferred to sit back and let him sing “When The Deal Goes Down” almost exactly as it appears on Modern Times.
Dylan didn’t really acknowledge our presence as the audience until near the end of the show, when he took a few seconds to allegedly introduce His Band (I look forward to their first record, Music From Big Pink sets the expectations high), though it sounded like incoherent mumbling to me. I guess he was a little hard to understand throughout the whole show, but didn’t notice since I knew just about every word (thanks to a nine-month period of nothing but Dylan on my iPod).
So Elvis Costello kicked ass, and Dylan… well, Dylan was Dylan. That should be more then enough.