Updated: Mar 16
Show Lineup: Bob Dylan
Venue: Tucson Music Hall
Bob Dylan walks on stage with his band.
In the few live performances I’ve seen, an artist has this epic intro and people are like “oh my gosh, here he comes.” Not with Dylan. Dylan just walked straight to his piano with his band members. I didn’t even realize it was him until about two minutes into the first song. My next realization:
Bob Dylan is short.
This man is a legend of American music. He’s been credited with writing some of the best protest songs ever, (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a-Changin’) basically inventing modern rock and roll, (Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde) and won the literal Nobel Prize for literature. This is the resume of a god. And he’s 5’7’. Not too short really but it’s striking when you don’t know it. Another thing that is striking when you go to the show of an 80 year old man who most people probably go to see because they think he’ll die soon:
Bob Dylan is still awesome.
I mean he’s so cool. In the resume cited above, he performed none of the songs on those albums except for “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” a deep cut off of Blonde on Blonde which sounded like a blues song from hell rather than the horn filled album version. He mostly played songs from his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. When everyone was leaving a guy in a leather jacket said “I thought he’d play more of his hits.” But with an artist who has been as idiosyncratic and dare I say punk as Dylan has throughout his career, what can one really expect?
I will discuss the music now because I don’t want this to turn into a Dylan worship piece. In the latest leg of Dylan’s Never Ending Tour (the tour was started in 1988 and has well over 3,000 shows by now) the band works as a finely tuned vessel to accompany the lyrical content. The band played about as many different styles as a blues band can. Hard-driving blues. Soft, tender balladry. Creedence Clearwater Revival if they were in that meme where the color is inverted and they become scary.
My favorite songs of this show were the ones that fit into this deranged swamp rock style. The band was a great accompaniment to Dylan, but how did Dylan perform?
As stated before, he’s still got it. By no stretch of the imagination was he ever a great singer, but he was always an interesting singer and he still holds that ability to captivate today. The way he phrases certain lines and the way he interacts with his lyrics has an ability to enthrall the listener. This worked in two different ways for me. Sometimes, the way he said a certain line was so ridiculous that I just laughed. I think the man’s sense of humor is underrated. Like he’s singing normally and then he just screams some word like “HYPNOTIZE” or “FEET” and it’s just funny. The second way is that his lyrics begin to take on some power that no other songwriter could give them. Dylan lives out his lyrics and even though he’s been singing some of these songs for an actual half-century, he still gives them urgency and immediacy. Also, when Dylan thought a song went especially well, he would walk from behind the piano to a microphone in the middle of the stage and strike a bit of a power pose and then he would walk back to the piano. This was the best thing ever. It was very cute.
But really, my favorite thing about the concert was the experience. The stage set-up was quite minimalist as it was just stage curtains with lights shined on them. The colors were just variations of red, orange, and yellow. Every time a song ended the lights would darken and the band would re-tune their instruments and then the lights would come back on. Very cool, very swag! On the right side of the venue, there were three separate men who just danced the whole time. One of them was an old hippy. He was the second best dancer. I thought he was Dylan's day one fan. The best dancer was a very old man with a very long beard who had literal balletic movements. I was stunned watching this old guy dance. And speaking of being stunned, this brings me to my favorite song of the evening, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” This has got to be the best rendition of “Gotta Serve Somebody” that’s ever been played. This song kicked major butt. The groove was ruthless and Dylan was at his peak for the night. He howled and rocked like a man who was not 80 years old. And the drum fills were absolutely fantastic. The song impressed everyone else in the venue as well, as it was the only song that got a standing ovation from the entire audience. The next standing ovation was when Dylan’s set ended and he left the stage after striking his longest and cutest power pose of the night. The people stood and clapped and waited for an encore. An encore didn’t come. Even after the great show we had gotten, there was a slight sense of disappointment among the people leaving. There may not be a better way to summarize Dylan’s career than that.
If the Never Ending Tour comes to your town next and you have the money to spend for it, do not hesitate to go. Dylan is still an artistic force and an interesting artist and you will not have wasted your money.
Reviewer Name: Luke Wise
Date of Review: 3/5/2022