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REVIEW: Dylan’s Boston concert shows Bob’s still got it
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The writers of this blog are not music critics, and they don't consider a second (or third, fourth or fifth) mortgage to be a perfectly reasonable course of action to pay for front-row tickets, but despite being a whole lot more middle aged than ...
Bruce Springsteen
The writers of this blog are not music critics, and they don't consider a second (or third, fourth or fifth) mortgage to be a perfectly reasonable course of action to pay for front-row tickets, but despite being a whole lot more middle aged than they were when they first put Born in the U.S.A. or The River down on the turntable, still feels like Bruce has something -- OK, a lot of things -- to say about our country and the way we live our lives, things that not a lot of other artists are saying. And whether he's talking about the knife that can cut this pain from your heart, the house that's waiting for you to walk in or what that flag flying over the courthouse means, he's nailing down feelings that are so universal that they can raise your spirits and break your heart at the same time. Plus, lets face it, the man rocks.
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Nov. 19, 2012 12:01 a.m.

I saw Bob Dylan at the TD Garden in Boston last night, and I’ll admit I was a tad nervous: I hadn’t seen a Dylan show in about 14 years, and I was afraid that in the interim he might have completed his ongoing transformation into a doddering Mr. Mumbles. Turns out I needn’t have worried.
Sure, Bob’s voice is what it is — if you go expecting a pleasant croon, or even the forceful whine of ’60s and ’70s-era Bob, you’re kidding yourself. He now has the voice of a horned toad whose hindquarters just got run over by a steamroller, and there’s no getting around it.
But if you’re an admirer, as I am, of what he’s able to do with that craggy old instrument — the way he cajoles it into doing his bidding night after night — then I’m happy to report that a trip out into the cold November night to see Dylan work his magic is still more than worth the effort.
One thing I marvel at every time I see Dylan: Is there any other artist who not only writes new arrangements to basically every back-catalog song he performs, but makes them all sound like they could fit perfectly on his latest album? It’s absolutely fascinating to watch — at one point I was sure he was going to launch into “Long and Wasted Years” from this year’s Tempest, and instead it was a lilting version of “Visions of Johanna” that sounded like he could have written it six months ago.
If you’re one of those people who wants to go to a concert to hear songs exactly like they sound on the record — and who are those people, anyway? — I can imagine you’d come away perplexed. For the rest of us, it’s a wonder to behold.
Of the oldies, a lively take on “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” kicked things off with just the right tone, and allayed any fears that all the evening’s lyrics would be filtered through a heavy helping of marbles and gravel — Bob was croaky but clear as a bell, imbuing the song with a suitable air of winking nostalgia. Joined by his opening act Mark Knopfler, a chugging “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” felt upbeat and sincere, though “Tangled Up in Blue” suffered a little bit as Dylan spit out (and choked on) more than a few of the lyrics.
There were tremendous highlights to be found, though, in his approach to his work of the last 15 years. Granted, as Bob pranced (yes, I said pranced) across the front of the stage in his double-breasted coat and straw hat, looking sort of like a nursing home patient with the mistaken impression that he’s the president of a yacht club, it was at first tempting to think he’d gone loopy. But then he simply attacked “Things Have Changed” with a sinister menace that was dead-on, a perfect approach to the song’s caustic take on a world gone wrong.
“Trying To Get To Heaven,” “Summer Days” and “Thunder On The Mountain” all made terrific use of a stellar backing band as the perfect counterpoint Dylan’s gnarled delivery, but the biggest surprise of the night had to be “Forgetful Heart” from 2009′s Together Through Life (video here). Once again prowling the stage, holding separate microphones for vocals and harmonica, Dylan gruffly caressed the lyrics, holding out certain notes in ways you would think were beyond him, the effect being a powerful, stunningly personal take on a song you may have overlooked the first time around.
It was one of those mesmerizing moments that you forget Bob can deliver until he does, and then you’re thrilled you were there to see it.
Dylan finished the show with a classic foursome — “Ballad Of A Thin Man, “Like A Rolling Stone, “All Along The Watchtower” and “Blowin’ In The Wind” — and did them all justice. But by that point he’d already proven that at 71 — 71! — he’s still capable of croaking through some of the most vital and complex songs ever written with a compelling verve that shows that he still cares about what they mean. And so should we.
  1. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
  2. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Knopfler on guitar)
  3. Things Have Changed (Knopfler on guitar)
  4. Tangled Up In Blue (Knopfler on guitar)
  5. Early Roman Kings
  6. Trying To Get To Heaven
  7. Summer Days
  8. Visions Of Johanna
  9. Highway 61 Revisited
  10. Forgetful Heart
  11. Thunder On The Mountain
  12. Ballad Of A Thin Man
  13. Like A Rolling Stone
  14. All Along The Watchtower //
  15. Blowin’ In The Wind
  16. Recent Posts

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