The one, the only, Bob Dylan

The one, the only,  Bob Dylan

By Walter J. Lyng, November 23rd, 2012

At the end of the day, Bob Dylan can do whatever he wants, however he wants to do it. That’s the kind of clout he’s garnered in his long career as a singer/songwriter/voice-of-a generation. He visited the Bell Centre last Friday, joined by opening act Mark Knopfler, as part of the so-called never-ending tour; and as Dylan gets on in the years, it seems more possible by the day that he will, in fact, tour until he dies.
There was certainly a lot of life in him during the Friday show, however - a far cry from when I last saw him with the Foo Fighters, when he appeared frail and reliant upon the support given to him by his small, barely audible keyboard. Dylan must have taken his vitamins last Friday, as evidenced by his awkward shuffle/dance during certain numbers, his thunderous piano playing (on an actual piano), and his harmonica solos, which have evolved over the years from folksy staples to the current blues-infused outbursts.
Part of the fun of going to a Dylan show is watching a crowd break into applause upon recognising one of his classics – about a minute and a half into the song. His forever-changing arrangements and stylistic choices turn the whole show into an adventure, blending equal parts of nostalgia and curiosity. The lyrics to “Highway 61”, “Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower” might sound familiar, but the songs end up sounding like something you’ve never heard before. There’s a grungy darkness to many of these songs now; a sense of danger and foreboding that was never there before.
Set against a minimal stage-setup, Dylan, along with his well-dressed band, look and sound like they should be the house band in some kind of sinister revival tent featured in a Paul Thomas Anderson film.
A few songs from Dylan’s newest outing, Tempest, were played in the middle of the set, but the album’s catchy opening track “Duquesne Whistle” and titular 14 minute track about the sinking of the Titantic were omitted.
Knopfler, for his part, proved to be a suitable opening act, sticking mostly to his solo catalogue, but nevertheless treated the crowd to the Dire Straits classic “So Far Away” as his encore.
Dylan has toured with such a wide variety of artist that it’s hard to hold up one opening act to another. One gets the impression that artists ask to tour with Dylan, and not the other way around.
While it seems almost a certainty that Dylan will come back to Montreal within the next year or two, it was nice to see him in this fine form.

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