As Bob Dylan walked onto the stage, I could feel my own heartbeat rising. For me, it was like meeting the president. At 5 foot 7, Dylan is not a big man, but his shadow certainly looms large. What other musician can claim to have won several Grammys, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an honorary Pulitzer Prize? To be in the same room as him felt as if I were touching the fabric of history.
And then he opened his mouth. Bob Dylan sings like he’s got nothing to prove, which he doesn’t. His set list drew heavily from his newer material, especially the 2012 album “Tempest.” With Dylan’s slurred growl, a serious fan might recognize each song after about a minute and even then only with the assistance of the music. However, the “Greatest Hits” fans would only recognize perhaps one or two songs out of nineteen.
It must be difficult to be a part of Dylan’s backing band, but they performed admirably and were consistently in sync with their sometimes unpredictable leader. Dylan himself seemed to be having a good time shaking his leg or bobbing his head along to the music. He spent a large portion of the concert simply standing up and singing into the microphone and for the rest of the night played the piano. He’s no Elton John, but he was definitely a more adept player than I had expected and looked comfortable playing.
Although Dylan’s voice was strained at times, there were moments of great clarity, particularly during his renditions of “Stay With Me” – the Frank Sinatra standard not the Sam Smith song – and “Duquesne Whistle.” The audience roared with applause when he performed “Blowing in the Wind” and “Tangled Up in Blue.” And when Dylan busted out his harmonica, the applause was deafening no matter how he sounded. Yes, it is true that diehard fans can sometimes give blind praise simply because of the greatness with which Dylan is often associated, but when you’ve had a career as excellent and far-reaching as he has had, is that so wrong?
For those who have a preconceived notion of Dylan as the “Voice of a Generation” or as a protest singer, this concert would probably have left them with a sore taste in their mouth. However, if you are able to appreciate some of the new directions Dylan has been taking with his music since “Time Out of Mind,” you’re bound to have a good time.