There is an end to everything. Even “The Never Ending Tour” that Bob Dylan commenced in 1988. He has since given his world of fans just about every minute of his long and colorful life. He has been playing around 100 days a year every year since the tour began. That’s roughly 2,400 shows to date! His various band members as well as critics have reported that Dylan remains completely unpredictable in spite of his exceptionally heavy schedule. He not only alters his arrangements every night, but also the instruments he plays for each song and even the way he sings them, i.e. the Tom Waits roadhouse-cleric thing he’s got going on with “Tangled Up in Blue:”
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through,
Tangled up in blue
The tour is scheduled to end just before the world does at the end of this year in New York. By then, the legendary songwriter will have celebrated his 72nd birthday. Dylan will live forever through his enormous collection of highly revered works, but the man’s body is getting up there now. I am blessed beyond words to have been able to be in his presence as he graced the Hollywood Bowl’s stage and gave the sold-out stadium his everything for a non-stop 90 minutes.
Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits warmed the crowd up with bits from his solo career and some bluesy finger-picking jam sessions before Dylan came out and started the show with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” The new renditions of his songs paired with Knopler and a five-piece blues band resulted in a very dramatic change in the distinct folk sound Dylan’s fans are so familiar with. So crowd interaction was almost non-existent since it was nearly impossible at times to even determine which song he was playing.
Plus, that famous growl of a singing voice has only become more ferocious over the years. No one was complaining though. I have never seen so many standing ovations in one show. Bob didn’t seem surprised by them either.
Dylan strays from the guitar these days on account of his arthritis. He seems to be most comfortable with the keyboard now and often times gets overpowered by the other musicians and their energetic blues. Personally, I would have rather listened to Dylan behind a piano and a harmonica in a small room performing alone. But if Bob wants blues raging over his stage, then that’s exactly what needs to happen.
I was a bit surprised – but far from disappointed – by the new sounds Dylan was making, but was oh so very happy when those old lips kissed that harmonica. Nothing has changed there. No one on that stage can overpower that gem. It made its first appearance in “Things Have Changed” and the crowd lost it, Dylan again mincing it with his dark comedy gravel-sermon:
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m outta range
I used to care, but things have changed
“Like A Rolling Stone” was quite the finale, amongst stock favs “All Along the Watchtower” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The changes were not too drastic and so the crowd didn’t hesitate to sing along. Whether we were singing the same melody as Bob – it didn’t matter.
No hello. No goodbye. No encore. No need.
Thank you Bob.