Sunday, July 19, 2009


At this point, I'm only going to see Bob Dylan if there's someone else great on the bill. I had kind of decided to stop seeing him perform a while ago, but this tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp seemed to be a good time to give him a try again. I only caught the second half of Willie (the town of Bethel isn't equipped to handle the influx of traffic for an event like this, it took over an hour to go the last ten miles). But Willie kind of does the same show every time, and it's always great (in my opinion, anyway). Personally, I'd like to hear some of his more recent material, but he knows what the people want - and this wasn't necessarily his crowd - and he delivered.

Last year, John Mellencamp stopped just cranking out his hits and doing different versions of classics like "Pink Houses" - a la Dylan - and focusing on his new material. He played a couple of songs from his latest, Life, Death, Love and Freedom, which were great, and a song from his next album too.

But the part of the show that stood out most for me was Dylan. The first time I saw Dylan was in 1993, I think. He was co-headlining with Santana. I was a huge Dylan fan by then, but had heard all the stories about how awful he was live. I wanted to at least see him once. He knocked me out. I saw him probably 10-15 more times through the '90s, and he was great every time. But the three times I've seen him in the '00s, he's been a letdown. Plus, I saw him join Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band on the last night of their Rising tour in 2003 at Shea Stadium: they did "Highway 61 Revisited" and it was embarrassing. So as I had done with the late James Brown and Ozzy Osbourne, I decided to enjoy the records, and not be let down by the performances.

Well, last night was great. Every song was either from the '60s or the '00s, and they all came off great. The standouts: the opener, "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" (Bob played electric guitar on that), an electric "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (also with Bob on electric guitar, he played keyboards for the rest of the night), "The Levee's Gonna Break," "Workingman's Blues #2," "Thunder On The Mountain," and, yes, a rocking "Highway 61 Revisited." The two best parts: an electric version of "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding," and a gorgeous version of "Forgetful Heart" from his great new album Together Through Life, which featured Bob singing and playing harmonica in front of a mic (no keyboards) like an old school crooner. Sometimes you wonder if Bob prefers playing the songs with the band to actually singing, and feeling, the lyrics, but you didn't on this one. It was incredible.

Anyone know the next time Dylan is playing New York?

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