- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

''He doesn't sound that bad," said a twentysomething guy behind me about halfway through "Desolation Row."

That pretty much summed it up. Bob Dylan was back again, considerably grayer and more haggard than in his "Freewheelin' " days but in fine musical form.

Mr. Dylan has been known to mumble through a song or two or a whole concert. His reedy voice and distinctive cadence have spawned many a stand-up joke.

But his enunciation was relatively clear on Sunday night as he played to an appreciative and nostalgic crowd at Towson Center, on the campus of Towson State University.

The songwriter is an icon, and the crowd from potbellied graybeards to tie-dye-clad, cell-phone-toting, college students knew it, cheering old favorites and singing along.

Mr. Dylan has been touring nonstop for a few years, and the Towson concert was the last on his current go-round. It was an unusual venue choice, a college gym with bleachers and a standing-room only floor area. Thankfully, the sound was good, further clarifying the lyrics.

The singer mixed up old tunes with new, but the biggest surprise came on some old standbys.

"Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" were almost unrecognizable. Mr. Dylan changed the tune and word emphasis to make the classics fresh, and the revamp worked.

The other surprise was that Mr. Dylan appeared to be having a great time. That is, behind his characteristic catatonic glare and hangdog look, his passion for music was evident.

During "Tangled Up in Blue," another classic, he even almost smiled, the corners of his mouth twitching as if to laugh at his legendary status.

His sarcasm came through on other songs as well, including the newer tune "Things Have Changed."

"I used to care/ But things have changed," he sang.

The strange thing was, he did still seem to care. The set list ranged through different styles he's sampled through the years blues, country, folk, rock. Mr. Dylan played enthusiastically, for him, anyway, swaying back and forth and jamming with the lead guitarist.

After a brief break, he returned for a classic-heavy encore, playing "All Along the Watchtower" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."

For his final encore, he launched into the crowd-pleasing "Rainy Day Women No. 12 and No. 35," whose "Everybody must get stoned" chorus must have been pretty rebellious when the song was released in 1966.

Now the song is like Mr. Dylan. A little dated, a little jaded, but brilliant all the same.

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