Two things are quickly apparent at a Bob Dylan concert.
First, this isn’t the oldies circuit. While the set list includes a fair number of Dylan’s hits from his five-decade-long career, his songs — new or old — are updated and refreshed. They sound like the original recording, but melodies are slightly altered and timing mixed up, keeping old standards from sounding tired. A sing along this is not.
And, Dylan is a heck of an organ grinder.
For the set list Thursday’s concert at Chastain Amphitheater, Dylan turned to both his classics (“Tangled Up in Blue,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “Like a Rolling Stone”) and tunes from the last decade (“Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” “Sugar Baby,” and “Mississippi.” — a list that showed the depth and skill of Dylan’s backing band, which has for the most part remained the same for the last four or five years.
During the roughly 90 minute concert, the poet laureate of American music showed once again that he has a unique knack for re-inventing even his most famous compositions.
For the better part of the past decade, Dylan has played keyboard during live concerts and in this latest tour, it seems Dylan has elevated his game to a new level. His interplay with guitarist Charlie Sexton on “Highway 61 Revisited,” “The Levee’s Gonna Break” and “Thunder on the Mountain” was nothing short of inspirational.
Dylan and his band sizzled, but they never overpowered the venue. They added a summer bounce to “Mississippi” — a decade-old song from 2001’s “Love & Theft” — and Dylan seemed to half-speak, half-sing the words to “Tangled Up in Blue” while his band provided a funk-like groove in the background. As odd as that may sound on paper, it works live. The band had purpose with every note it played.
The crowd, which sat for most of the concert, came alive for “Like a Rolling Stone,” which opened Dylan’s two-song encore. Is it too bold to suggest this may have been the best version since the Free Trade Hall performance of 1966? Maybe, but it was a highlight of the show.
The energy level rose with each song, and Dylan’s voice opened up as the night progressed — like a fine bottle of wine after it is uncorked.
The set list for Thursday’s show:
- Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
- Things Have Changed
- Tangled Up In Blue
- Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
- The Levee’s Gonna Break
- Sugar Baby
- Highway 61 Revisited
- A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
- Thunder On The Mountain
- Ballad Of A Thin Man
- Like A Rolling Stone
- All Along The Watchtower
It’s impossible to know what Dylan was think during Thursday’s performance, but it sure looked like he was having fun — the audience certainly was.