Dylan is still going strong


September 28, 2007

1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

3. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
4. Simple Twist Of Fate
5. Rollin’ And Tumblin’

6. Workingman’s Blues #2

7. Desolation Row

8. Beyond The Horizon

9. Honest With Me

10. When The Deal Goes Down

11. Highway 61 Revisited

12. Ain’t Talkin’

13. Summer Days

14. Masters Of War

15. Thunder On The Mountain

16. Blowin’ In The Wind

Thanks to ExpectingRain for setlist.

It was an awesome concert – he kicked it off with Rainy Day Woman with him back at the guitar after like five years of being behind the keyboards only. The show was energetic, he was very present (still doesn’t look into the audience though) and the band was excellent. The crowd was extremely enthusiastic – though I think many who don’t follow him had no idea what song he was singing (which is kinda funny). Part of the challenge is to figure out the songs – I can recognize the new ones pretty quick because he hasn’t reworked them. But the old ones are very changed. He did Blowin’ in the Wind – which is rare – and it was a wonderful arrangement, more wistful than his original anthem.

It was a sold-out concert in a wonderful venue at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia MD (outside Washington, DC). The show’s opening act included Elvis Costello who sang without a band and commanded the audience’s rapt attention (those who were there – many were off socializing elsewhere and returned when Dylan took the stage).

The song choices though took a somber tone – the stage was black with no backdrop until the familiar logo was unveiled during the encore. The stage was lit in golds and blues and stark white. There was also a large amount of incense filled fog that came from the stage, lending more to the a rather “mystical mercury” feel to the show. His performances of his stuff off of Modern Times – while the arrangements were similar – his voice was different. He does a kind of “blues talk” instead of straight singing. But he didn’t do the swooping thingy he has been doing in recent years. In fact, he was very animated in the use of his smokey voice, but you do have to forget all about the Younger Bob. Of course, his voice has always sounded older than he really is – and frankly, it still does. But his phrasing is still unique, playful, and surprising. He’s the master.

LATER: There are reports that there were 18,000 people at the concert Friday night, 4,000 more than a “normal” sell out. I wrote this today at ExpectingRain:

I also was at the Merriweather Post concert. I thought it started out rather mellow – the contrast between fired-up Elvis Costello and the early portion of Bob’s set was noted. He surprised us by hitting the stage first with Rainy Day Women – not expected, but great to see – especially since I remember seeing him do that song on YouTube with Elvis Costello at a concert in London.

I thought he was in fine voice – no swooping in and out (which sort of drives me crazy in the past, but I really didn’t hear him do it all at this concert). He does a lot of blues-talk type singing which really fits with the band arrangements.

We were having fun in my section trying to guess the songs (especially the old ones) that had been reworked. In fact, it took a while before we guessed Blowin’ in the Wind. That had to be one of my favorite arrangements ever, but the way I heard it was much more wistful, not so certain. That the answer is not here, it’s somewhere else, but it’s not here. The harp portion was truly mystical, even haunting.

I just love the new songs – they are my generation songs – and so was thrilled to hear Workingman and Ain’t Talkin. I don’t think he did either one at the Patriot Center last year, so we got a lot more off of Modern Times. Ain’t Talkin was fantastic as was Masters of War (which is the same arrangement I’ve heard before, but I still love it over the original).

The lighting of the show was also terrific – loved the outfits Bob and the band were wearing, but also loved the lighting, all blues and golds and then in the last section of the night going to silver and finally the drop down of the tour artwork (I wondered where it was) when they did the encore. The effect of the fog machines with incense lent to the mystical atmosphere. They do look like they are 1920s gangsters.

Bob was dancing a lot – again, more and more animated. Since his eyes are on the band, you still get the feeling you are looking through the windows watching the band rehearse. But the audience was probably the most enthusiastic and engaged audience that I’ve been a part of – the place positively roared and it seemed to me (I had great seats) you could see the affect on Bob. Each song built on the next song – and there was a theme going through the whole set of sorrow and resilience.

An interesting moment was as we waited for the encore – it was seemed like an impossibly long time that I started to wonder if he would come back. What took so long? It was long enough to hit the loo. But the crowd didn’t give up and kept up the roar for his return.

He came back with with the usual Thunder on the Mountain, but the big surprise was his reworked Blowin’ in the Wind. I loved it, it was mystical, spiritual – his phrasing sharp. With Ain’t Walkin still on my mind (what is it about that song that stays with you!) all I could think of was the lyric,

As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, a hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma’am, I beg your pardon
There’s no one here, the gardener is gone

Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Up the road, around the bend.
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
In the last outback at the world’s end.

And then ending the night with:

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.