Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bob Dylan at E. J. Thomas Hall (April 19, 2013)

Bob Dylan never makes chit-chat on stage and speaks only when introducing his band, but he didn’t even do that at Akron’s E. J. Thomas Hall on Friday night. He brought his hat with him but never wore it. He never cracked a smile the way he did many times last August in Youngstown. Maybe he didn’t feel well or was in a bad mood. It was a good show, but a little flat.

He opened with “Things Have Changed,” an appropriate choice for these troubled times (“If the Bible is right, the world will explode”), then segued into “Love Sick” from 1997’s Time Out of Mind. From the ’80s, there was “Blind Willie McTell” with a bluegrass arrangement that was one of the evening’s highlights, and "What Good Am I?" from 1989's Oh Mercy. The 1970s, the decade of Desire, Street Legal, and Slow Train Coming, were represented only by “Tangled Up in Blue” from Blood on the Tracks. From the ‘60s, he gave us “Visions of Johanna,” with an intro that sounded similar to "Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues." The decade with which he will forever be associated was also acknowledged with “All Along the Watchtower,” and the encore, “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

But there was no “Like a Rolling Stone,” nor did we hear “Simple Twist of Fate,” or “Rainy Day Women,” staples of late that were pruned from his set to accommodate several selections from the recent Tempest album. That would be fine if not for the continued inclusion of some less memorable cuts from Modern Times and Together Through Life. The man’s song catalog is equaled only by the Beatles, and it would be great to hear “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Every Grain of Sand,” or something really surprising like “The Mighty Quinn” or “Foot of Pride.”

The stage was always dark, cast in a sleepy blue hue, and Dylan spent most of the time hunkered over an organ in the corner where he seemed to be reading those newer songs from lyric sheets.

I arrived too late to see much of Dawes, the opening act, but I liked what I heard.

It may not have been a great show, but it was a good one. And it was Bob Dylan. That’s enough.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks

1. Things Have Changed
2. Love Sick
3. High Water (For Charley Patton)
4. Soon After Midnight
5. Early Roman Kings
6. Tangled Up In Blue
7. Pay In Blood
8. Visions Of Johanna
9. Spirit On The Water
10. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
11. Blind Willie McTell
12. What Good Am I?
13. Summer Days
14. Scarlet Town
15. All Along The Watchtower
16. Ballad Of A Thin Man

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