November 15, 2023

Bob Dylan played Kings Theatre (Night 1)

Bob Dylan brought his Rough and Rowdy Way World Wide Tour to Brooklyn for his first of three New York City shows this week.

I will admit that reviewing a Bob Dylan concert in 2023 feels a bit trite and I'm not sure what I can possibly add to the canon of reviews for perhaps the best and most prominent American songwriter of the past sixty years, but I'll do my best and while I probably won't have anything new to say, it was an incredible feeling to be able to finally witness one of his concerts. 

On his never-ending world tour, Bob came to Brooklyn with a setlist filled of treasures that mostly stemmed from his fantastic 2020 album Rough and Rowdy Ways and while I'm sure there were plenty in attendance who wanted and expected the hits, this (like most Dylan shows) was not that kind of concert. Taking the stage just after 8:00 PM, Robert Zimmerman sat behind his black piano and for nearly two hours, played his latest versions of even his newest songs. There was a time when Dylan acknowledged that when he performs live, he views it as covering himself and even his best-known songs can often take on new identities, making them more invigorating for him to play, but can leave fans feeling a bit baffled as to what they're hearing and witnessing on stage. While he mostly stuck to the traditional takes on a lot of tunes, there were definite moments when it took me a while to figure out what song was being played only for me to realize it was one I knew in a different version. "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine" from the immortal Blonde on Blonde was the second song of the evening and while there were moments that glimmered the past, it was essentially a new take on the track that left diehards enchanted, but newcomers questioning his actions. This would be repeated throughout the night and even his more recent track, the illustrious and sprawling "I Contain Multitudes," was delivered with a newfound swing that gave the song more lilt and rhythm than the one found on the record transforming it from a quiet and intimate folk number into a one with twang and conviction. "False Prophet" was a driving song that hit with a punch and got people out of their seats as he slammed on the keys and gave his nasally wail a bit more juice, one of the more "rocking" songs from the evening that really hit his sweet spot in addition to "Black Rider," another that came to life with a new glow on stage. Steering clear of his obvious hits, he did throw in some deep cut hits like "To Be Alone With You" from Nashville Skyline and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from John Wesley Harding which had some great response from the crowd even as some yelled for others to sit down rather than rock out to Bob. At 82 years old, it's an impressive feat to see such a legend still take to the stage and deliver such a resounding set of complex songs with the most imaginative lyrics which at times were indiscernible, but impactful none the less. It's been quite some time since Bob has been known for delivering the kind of shows many expect from classic rockstars of his era, but to see Dylan at all still feels like a triumph for any fan of music and a right of passage. For some it might be checking a box on a long list, but for those who can look beyond the hits and appreciate the art for what it is, a poet reciting brilliant verse without caring about pleasing anyone or catering to the masses, it's the true sign of an icon who has been the master of his craft for over half a century. As long as he's been performing, he's always been one of a kind and this rings true now, almost, more than ever. 

Set list:

01 "Watching the River Flow"
02 "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine"
03 "I Contain Multitudes"
04 "False Prophet"
05 "When I Paint My Masterpiece"
06 "Black Rider"
07 "My Own Version of You"
08 "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight"
09 "Crossing the Rubicon"
10 "To Be Alone With You"
11 "Key West (Philosopher Pirate)"
12 "Gotta Serve Somebody"
13 "I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You"
14 "That Old Black Magic" [Johnny Mercer cover]
15 "Mother of Muses"
16 "Goodbye Jimmy Reed"
17 "Every Grain of Sand"

No comments: