I’ve heard a lot of people gripe after seeing Bob Dylan live, and the story is always the same: nothing sounds like it used to.
I can think of a few answers to that complaint, not the least of which is this: Bob Dylan, perhaps more than anyone else in the whole of the music industry, has earned the right to do whatever the hell he pleases. Only when you can name another musician with a career as long and illustrious, a catalog as massive and memorable, or a persona as mythic, can you criticize his choices.
And if you saw him Saturday night at Jacob’s Pavilion, one thing is clear: Bob still knows best.
Dylan kicked off his set with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and when he sang the familiar chorus, lighters zipped on all over the crowd. The night saw Zimmerman on organ, harmonica, guitar, and hands free with remarkable stage presence at the mic.
This was a Bob who looked markedly younger than on previous tours — and his set list reached back into his younger years too, with surprising, early '60s protest tunes like “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”
He grabbed the mic-stand and moved — almost danced — while he balanced the show with crowd pleasers like “Simple Twist of Fate” and “Tangled Up in Blue” along with deep cuts like “Mississippi.”
As usual, the audience was full of everyone from teenagers to wine-guzzling baby boomers, making clear Dylan’s penchant for roping in new fans even decades after his first hits.
The whole crowd went wild for opening chords of his perpetual encore “Like a Rolling Stone,” and his khaki-clad band closed the show with “All Along the Watchtower.”
And when the band finally stood in line to take a bow, Dylan stepped out a little further. He formed each hand into the shape of a gun and, taking an awkward little bow, pulled both triggers. It was a fittingly unpredictable gesture from an artist who is famous for defying our perceptions.
You still don’t like the way he does it? He probably doesn’t care. —Lydia Munnell