Report: Bob Dylan Live in Florida

 

 

In concert at The
Arena At Dan Taft University
Center last Wednesday
night (Oct. 6), the Bard waxes anthemic.

 

By
Lee Zimmerman

 

If
there’s any consistency at all to Bob Dylan’s live performances, it’s the fact
that there’s never any consistency at all. The best and the worst of the
Bobster’s legacy is on full display in concert, whether it’s inspired samplings
of his extraordinary catalogue – albeit in dramatically re-imagined form – or
the ragged, ramshackle toss-offs that reflect an obvious lack of inspiration.
As anyone who’s seen him will generally attest, Dylan’s not much of a showman,
rarely interacting with his audience and often bringing an indifferent attitude
that suggests he’s simply not all that interested.

 

On
the other hand, Dylan’s legacy makes any concert an event, a memory that’s
likely to linger for years to come, regardless of his intents. Consequently,
his appearance last week at Fort Lauderdale’s Dan Taft
University Center
was noteworthy, simply for the fact that he and his five-piece back-up band
broke from his usual deadpan routine and actually injected some enthusiasm into
what often seems a rather dour delivery. Still, there’s always some disparity
between anticipation and execution. It’s expected that Dylan’s going to
short-change the lyrics, rush the tempos and generally remain aloof and
inaccessible. And yet, when he offers up one of his classic gems and summons up
the inspiration and exhilaration, it brings the audience face to face with the
greatest personification of god-like genius that Rock ‘n’ Roll has ever offered,
and the passion of his performance is never more inspiring.

 

For
the most part, that was the Dylan on display Wednesday night, an artist who
opted to flaunt his material’s anthemic ambitions rather than downplaying them
merely to service his set. On “Just Like a Woman” and “Like a Rolling Stone”
(the final number of his two-song encore), he milked every dramatic nuance and
built on the familiarity factor, allowing the audience to shout out the
choruses while Dylan fired up the refrains. In fact, it was a strategy that
seemed duly designed to reward the faithful, with a good portion of the show
built on classic content – “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” “”It Ain’t Me,
Babe,” “I’ll Be Your baby Tonight” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis
Blues Again” opening the concert with a rapid roll call of unabashed standards.
Even those straining to hear what the loose intros would ultimately render were
rewarded by a faithful replay of melodies that were given fairly
straightforward treatment.

 

Of
course, Dylan did take liberties. His voice bore his trademark slur, but it
took the form of the coarse gravelly croak that’s characterized his recent
records. Choruses were compacted and often rushed, negating the impact of those
once indelible hooks. Other times, he seemed to take delight in spinning the
words into a rhythmic cadence that made the melodies more punchy and
pop-primed. As is his custom lately, his guitar playing was confined only to
the first four songs, with keyboards and only occasional harp being his prime
instruments of choice. He took center stage reluctantly, although he seemed
determined to offer up a formidable presence and give himself the authority
that the audience anticipated. Indeed, every song was enthusiastically
received, with several standing ovations peppering the performance.

 

Likewise,
the set was consistently upbeat, rocking and rollicking in a bluesy roots rock
groove. “The Levee’s Gonna Break,” “Honest With Me,” “High Water (For Charlie
Patton),” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Desolation Row” kept the energy level at
a peak, with the latter rendered as a veritable tour-de-force. The band –
Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball (guitars), Tony Garnier (bass), George Recile
(drums) and Donnie Herron (practically everything else) – did an admirable job
of keeping the melodies within their original confines, loosely building up the
momentum from ramshackle beginnings and then upping the ante with maximum
thrust. They only wavered from that tack once, on a stirring rendition of
“Workingman’s Blues #2” from the album Modern
Times
that proved both soothing and sobering. A few more offerings like
that would have been welcome.

 

As
far as Dylan’s affinity for his audience, it was, as always, negligible. He
briefly nodded towards those who had seen only his back while he was seated at
the keyboard throughout much of the show, their connection further diminished
by the white wide-brimmed hat that he wore during the entire concert. He
offered a perfunctory “Thank you, friends” just prior to the end of the regular
set, quickly introducing the other players before they disappeared offstage
prior to the audience coaxing them back for the encore.

 

Such
is the power of this poet and pundit that no one begrudges Dylan his aloof
persona. So while it was hardly a show for the ages, it was a memorable
occasion nevertheless.

 

SET
LIST

 

 

1.

Rainy Day Women
#12 & 35

2.

It Ain’t Me,
Babe

3.

I’ll Be Your
Baby Tonight

4.

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis
Blues Again

5.

The Levee’s
Gonna Break

6.

Just Like A
Woman

7.

Honest With Me

8.

Tryin’ To Get To
Heaven

9.

High Water (For
Charley Patton)

10.

Desolation Row

11.

Highway 61
Revisited

12.

Workingman’s
Blues #2

13.

Thunder On The
Mountain

14.

Ballad Of A Thin
Man

 

 

 

(encore)

15.

Jolene

16.

Like A Rolling
Stone

 

 

 

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