Mr. Tambourine Man’s jingle-jangle morning has faded to raspy-gaspy twilight. Now they’ve even taken away his guitar.
So, it wasn’t surprising that there was a steady trickle of fans who, early on, headed for the exits at Bob Dylan’s Friday night concert at the George Mason University Patriot Center. The premature exits became quite noticeable less than halfway through his performance.
Mr. Dylan was, after all, growling his way through mostly new songs that many of them didn’t know. And most of the back-catalog numbers were — as ever — so rearranged as to be virtually unrecognizable.
Maybe the dearly departing knew what to expect and had just come to pay respects to an old friend. Several of those who bailed out early sounded genuinely shocked at Mr. Dylan’s ragged and raw vocals.
Still, the lion’s share of the initially full house was still on hand when Mr. Dylan ended his hour-and-45-minute long show with “All Along the Watchtower.” Few of the many college-age fans made early departures. Perhaps they had been drawn by the Raconteurs, an excellent opening act that blazed its way through an impressive set. If so, most stuck around to see the legend, and some danced whenever Mr. Dylan’s five-piece backing band steamed into a full-tilt boogie.
Even with one vocal chord and lung short, Mr. Dylan was still a formidable musical presence.
Looking like a cross between Slim Whitman and Vincent Price (a man of 65 could do far worse), the Western-attired headliner performed in profile the entire night, planted behind an electric organ. He occasionally blew weakly on his harp, but plucked nary a note of guitar all night.
As usual, Mr. Dylan said nothing the entire show other than to introduce his band members.
To dig the 2006 model Bob Dylan, one obviously must make a major adjustment in vocal expectations. This does not involve lowering the bar so much as it does tossing the bar out the window. Do this, and you can still enjoy his music. Fail to adjust, and you will probably hate it.
The nasal whine that at first grated but gradually grew on us back in the ‘60s is long gone, having been supplanted by a throaty growl rubbed raw by time. Vocally, Mr. Dylan has traversed into Howlin’ Wolf territory.
Dating back to 1997’s “Time Out of Mind,” he has wisely reoriented his songwriting to musical genres more befitting his weathered instrument: blues, rockabilly, Western-swing-lounge and country blues.
Mr. Dylan’s version of “Rollin’ & Tumblin” lived up to its name. With the traditional melody and chorus of the Muddy Waters’ version intact, he sang totally rewritten verses. With great humility, he nonetheless takes full writing credit for the number on his new, “Modern Times” album.
The first number of the night that “greatest hits”-type fans could really jump up and cheer for (and many did) was “Tangled Up in Blue,” the 11th of the 17 songs performed. It was one of the few hits performed, and about the only one sung in the traditional arrangement.
Other, reworked classics included “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Masters of War,” the latter totally different than the stark, barebones version from 1963. The band brooded and burned as Mr. Dylan spat out his indictment of those who profit from war.
The best of the classic tracks was “Highway 61 Revisited,” which sounded like John Lee Hooker revisited, with Denny Freeman’s stinging slide guitar burning through it like a knife..View Entire Story
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