Dylan’s Fine Show At Verizon Last Night

I suppose that, if Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King had conspired to move the hotel in The Shining to some hill region outside of Memphis, they would have built a set, and clothed the amazing band Dylan plays with, for the barroom scenes.  For Dylan’s whole presence these days is meant to conjure us back to a day that never existed, when bands effortlessly plied the waters between blues and rock’n’roll, and most of all swing.  Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys comes to mind when we see them, Dylan in his black velvet pajamas with the red stripe and his hat on, the band all clothed in stage suits and standing dutifully in their places.  Has there ever been so subtle a band, so supple a band, to play big basketball arenas?

His voice strong, but caught in that low-growl single register with its barks for emphasis, Dylan and His Band — yeah, His Band — played wonderful versions of “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Highway 61,” even a lovely encore of “Blowin’ In The Wind.”  “Early Roman Kings” was especially strong, for how could it not be with George Receli, the closest incarnation we have to the great blues drumming of Fred Bellow, kicking the band through its paces.  Dylan was frisky, playing barrelhouse piano, mostly, though of course he is so perverse that when it came to a great version of “The Ballad Of A Thin Man,” the one song that live he used to play piano on, last night he didn’t.  Go figure.  Every time the band sounded spectacular, it was because Dylan hit just the right note, and every time the band was off, it was because he hit the wrong note.  After 50 years of playing it, he can play “A Hard Rains A-Going To Fall” any damn way he wants to.  It’s his band.  His show.  We continue to give thanks we get to see him.

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