Friday, October 30, 2009

Dylan Review

I went and saw Bob Dylan last night.


First of all, I'm a huge Dylan fan, so I'm biased. But I've also never seen a Dylan show that I've liked. So I was a little wary.

This was way different.

The gig was at the Aragon Ballroom, the "Brawlroom" as we used to call it, when it had a staple of metal acts on a constant basis. Craziness abounded indeed for many a reckless teenager.

That was not how the Dylan show was, though (no kidding.)

No, despite the lack of a mosh pit, the Aragon was the absolute perfect place for Dylan to play. Like I said, I've not seen a show of his that I've liked, and after last night, I learned why.

It was the room. I'd forgotten how cool the Aragon is.

Dylan is a genius, as most of you know (or will at least acknowledge.) He'll probably have a reputation along the lines of Beethoven and Mozart a century from now (provided we have blown ourselves up or died off as the result of an uninsurable, I mean incurable, disease.) And, really, the best way for that genius to be performed is in a small and intimate setting. This just doesn't happen in a stadium or arena or festival. Dylan is subtle, dynamic, and always changing. It just doesn't seem to work, in my opinion, in a large venue.

The listed capacity for the Brawlroom is 4500, though I doubt it. I'd say more like 2500. No matter, there was probably only 1000 people in the audience (which was fine with me. A lot of people missed out. Suckers.)

He kicked off the show with two rarities. First was Watching the River Flow, released only as a single, and then Girl From the North Country, released on both the Freewheelin' album and Nashville Skyline (one of my faves.)

This really set the tone of the show. He was doing older stuff, but in the current style he's been developing over the past decade. That's standard for him. And if you're really a fan, then you already know that, really, this is a blues band. The last 4 albums that he's put out, going back to '97's Time Out of Mind, are a collection of true roots/blues/americana music. He's been going back to the beginnings and developing something very much minty fresh while being true to a bygone era.

Certainly better than most of the blues bands in Chicago, the so-called "Home of the Blues".

He was sporting a 6-piece band (2 guitars, bass, drums, keys/horn/3rd guitar, and Bob, who played guitar, keys, and harp,) basically the same unit he's been using for the last few years. Last night, the lead guitar player for the gig was Charlie Sexton, who is, in a word, smokin'.

And this is what makes Dylan so great, especially at this point in his career. His m.o. has always been re-invention, from the folk days, converting to electric at Newport and rocking, to finding God and putting out gospel (those were not very good records, his "godrock".)

Nowadays, he's clearly paying homage to Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Hoagy Charmichael, but making it Dylan.

Off of his latest album, Together Through Life, he played Hell's My Wife's Hometown, in the vein of Willie Dixon's I Just Want to Make Love to You, with dynamics that were so effective and well executed, you would have thought this was a bar gig (I saw Dylan in a bar once, but that's another story for another day.) The bass man was playing an upright, the drummer was using brushes, and Bob was playing leads, using sparse phrasing, and mostly picking single notes.

He also played Beyond Here Lies Nothing, also off the new record. This is in the style of Otis Rush's All Your Lovin' , done entirely as a rumba. The drums were powerful and tight, and the interplay between Dylan and Sexton was flawless and easy. They've been together a while, now, and it shows.

Most of the tunes were newer, which I enjoyed. I really like the recent catalog. Some were hits: Stuck Inside a Mobile, Highway 61 Revisited, Just Like a Woman, and of course the money song, Like a Rolling Stone (everyone has to play their signature. It's almost mandatory.)

None of them were done as they were on the album.

He even re-invents the old stuff. And the small venue is where you can really see (he's an outstanding band leader, and his guys never take their eyes off of him, lest they miss something) and hear it all unfold.

Really, though, my words cannot express what really went down. I feel bad about that. You really should have been there.

I'm going back to see him again tonight.

So it goes...

1 comment:

  1. I should have been there, this is not up for discussion. But I wasn't. So tell us about the second show. . . What did he play? Highlights? Lowlights? You are my witness.

    Do tell. . .