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May 9, 2016

Fans young and old bob along to Bob Dylan


Courtesy Brian Boates

As expected from an aging icon, Bob Dylan’s concert at the Mullins Center Saturday was a pleasant show, but no extraordinary performance to be rendered as irrevocably memorable.

The smell of marijuana was in the air as a crowded audience of University of Massachusetts students, faithful fans and walking stick pensioners took their seats. The younger crowd had come to witness a living legend, while the older generation likely came due to their own personal experiences with Dylan, many having grown up listening to him and following his story.

The band strolled on to the stage, undecorated except for the royal blue lights that illuminated it. Band members were dressed in hats and grey suits and resembled a 1920s gangster squad. Moments later Dylan appeared, dressed in a black pinstriped suit, black hat and white spats. After receiving a thoroughly warm welcome, Dylan took straight to the microphone.

Never once during the concert did Dylan address the audience, maintaining his rock and roll enigma but offering no personality or insight to himself as a musician. Visuals were lacking as well, giving emphasis to the music alone. Despite his signature tone, at times it was hard to distinguish lyrics, his wise words became disorientated by his gravelly aging voice.

Dylan stuck to his grand piano and harmonica, never once reaching for an acoustic guitar to play a song solo like he use to. The star never performed anything other than what he wanted to, despite the crowds’ screaming requests to hear classics including “Like a Rolling Stone.” For the final song of the night, he finally performed his classic haunting hit “All along the Watchtower,” a familiar tune that was famously covered by Jimi Hendrix. The song brought a fading audience back to life as members of the crowd responded to each crisp note Dylan played. They watched him through neon lights, clinging on to every lyric before delivering a huge applause and a standing ovation.

At times it was easy to tune out Dylan’s music, and it was clear the crowd was determinedly waiting for his more popular, recognizable songs, rather than his enjoyable but unmemorable new material. The band members helped him maintain a steady beat throughout his two-hour long set. They rocked and rolled through the leisurely performance, with Dylan only exerting his strong pair of lungs to play the harmonica.

Throughout his extensive career in the music industry, Dylan has had an almost unparalleled number of artistic variations. Many people gravitate toward one form of his expression, from the early folk Dylan on the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” to the electric “Blonde on Blonde” Dylan, leading to disappointment when they only see the modern traveling bluesman who performed on Saturday night. However, Dylan did take the audience on a journey of his musical evolution across the last five decades, performing his music from folk, rock, blues and country genres.

Concerning the unpredictability of Dylan’s set list, 62-year-old Budd Miller, a fan of Dylan since he was a teenager, said, “I’ve been with him all my life, but even I don’t recognize the songs sometimes.” However, Miller affirmed that Dylan still manages to refresh his songs; they are “never boring, never the same,” he said.

Thankfully, when Dylan began “Thunder on the Mountain” from his 2006 “Modern Times” studio album, the audience began to move. During the song, Donnie Herron played lap steel (a type of steel guitar) while Tony Garnier strummed a standup bass. It was a poignant peak to the performance, watching even the crowd’s older members doing exactly what they loved during the height of Dylan’s popularity: rocking out. There was no longer pity for the gritty vocalist, but instead deep pride for the iconic performer.

It is a credit to Dylan that he has been able to reinvent himself so many times throughout his career, still creating albums at an age by which most artists generally resign. He delivered a strong performance for an artist of his age, but it couldn’t keep attendees from leaving throughout the night – some happy to watch the legend for only a moment before continuing their Saturday night; others disappointed to see an icon far beyond his prime.

Steph Cann can be reached at scann@student.umass.edu.

Comments
7 Responses to “Fans young and old bob along to Bob Dylan”
  1. Bill Sykes says:

    Not a bad article but just like all the other reports. I could have written it myself without being there. He never talks to the audience. He is not just creating albums but bestselling albums- that fact changes the emphasis somewhat. Modern Times, Together through Life and Tempest have all been top sellers. Steph implies a fading Dylan but this is far from the case. His last CD is one of his best. People always walked out on his shows- even the magnificent 1966 ones. There is nothing sad about Bob because he is allegedly past his prime; if people don’t get it that is not his fault. Lots of people don’t like Shakespeare, Milton or Picasso but they do like things like kitsch ducks on the wall. The pontifications of punters at the show mean as much as it would if Lindsay Lohan decided to criticise John Keats

  2. Hans Altena says:

    What is really sad is the way critics keep repeating views that seem to be taken already before the concert has taken place. Anyway I understand that this critic left before the encore. This performance of Dylan has been taped so I could listen to it, and maybe the audience had a sound less crisp as what I heard, but Dylan was pronounciating sharp and clear as I haven’t heard him do in years life. The fact that this curent band has a toned down way of playing, due also to the acoustic rythm guitar and the very subtle soloing of Duke, gives the master a chance to bring his poetry and intense way of singing to the foreground, without having to belt. I for one am glad that at last he is not trying to rock out all the time. And the setlist is a refreshement, finally he has left the path he took these last two years of delivering a greatest hits show, it is great to hear him do what suits him best now: the brilliant material from his last masterpieces, that shine as much as the stuff from the sixties. Those that cannot moev into the future with him should stay in the past. They never got his message: don’t look back!

  3. spartacus says:

    as with most concert reviews of bob, the comments contain far more insight,knowledge and opinion than the actual review!

  4. David Franz says:

    I approached this concert with open heart, open mind and open ears and was blown away by the experience. The recent songs were spectacular and the reworkings of the classics were equally good. “Things Have Changed,” Thunder on the Mountain” and “Scarlet Town” were highlights of a set full of highlights.

    The band was tight, fluent and endlessly inventive. I never stopped bobbing my head. The crowd seemed to agree spending a significant amount of time on its feet.

    “Walking stick pensioners?” Really?

  5. Mark says:

    not to pile on, but this isnt the first time i,ve choked on “but offering no personality or insight to himself as a musician.” he played and sang for what ninety minutes and still you heard no personality or insight to Dylan as a musician? here,s a hint, even when you attend an evening of hackneyed bar-band cliches or ham-fisted broadway froth, that is the musicians offering personality and insight. every single time, never fails.

  6. nymichael says:

    Went with my 20 yr old daughter her 7th show and her 21 yr old friend her 6th show . They loved it and want to go again . What good am I and four tempest songs no more needs to be said. 5 songs center stage . Alot of slow stuff which I love and a very very happy energetic Bob Dylan. See you in lowell

  7. Dante says:

    All in all a great show. First of all, we came to hear his songs, not to listen to him talk – and sing he did! Sound system was clear, Dylan’s voice was clear, the music was great. Delivered better than expected, so not sure where the complaints came from.

    The two hour show (actually about 1 1/2 hrs) flew by.

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