Bob Dylan is one of the most influential people of the last 50 plus years. He isn’t the same man that helped change the world in the late 1960s but he still has an aura of greatness around him. He won’t sound like the Bob Dylan you hear on the radio if you see him live now and he won’t act like it either. He is still stoic and strange, wearing his best “Bob Dylan mask” and putting on the show he wants people to see.
If you go to see him expecting to hear “Like A Rolling Stone” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 2015 you’ll be disappointed. In fact; out of his 20 songs performed in Kansas City (and the same setlist on the rest of the tour) only 4 were written by Dylan before 1997. Because he is such a different performer now I applaud him for this. His career has endured several sub-careers and he is performing primarily what is his latest and most relevant material.
He has a deep snarl and very little stage presence in his advanced age but still conducts his concerts effectively. He performs them as if they were a play, with no audience interaction, it is just the spectacle the audience pays to see. He voice growls through songs like “Things Have Changed” and “Pay In Blood” while his five piece backing band shines as tight and flawless as you’d expect. Dylan takes his time in his white suit and cowboy hat at his piano then gets up to be alone at the mic for several songs. Fans would love to see him strap on a guitar but it’s been over a decade and likely won’t happen again.
His vocals crack and give out on him occasionally with his current style but he takes it all in stride. Where his singing disappoints on “She Belongs To Me” and especially on “Workingman’s Blues #2” he more than makes up for on other songs. His bouncy version of “Early Roman Kings” was great and his first set’s closer “Love Sick” rightfully received the largest ovation of the evening. He can still get down and rock with his ace band on songs like “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” and one of the best songs of the night, “Duquesne Whistle.” He isn’t afraid to take on slower songs focusing on vocals either, “Scarlet Town” and “Waiting For You.” Possibly the most shocking thing to see was Dylan absolutely nail two songs off his most recent record of all Frank Sinatra covers, his vocals still growled but were completely under control and delivered the songs delicately. Dylan addressed the crowd with one sentence not in a song the entire show, he even said nothing at the end, he simply took a step forward from his mic after the last songs to stand for a few moments before quietly retiring backstage.
Dylan won’t blow you away if you are expecting the 60s and 70s Dylan and I’m sure many walk away disappointed because of this but still at 74 he is a great performer and doing exactly the show he wants to do. His performance of nearly all new songs proves his confidence in the material and if that is what you want to see you are going to love it. Bob Dylan was the 60s Dylan in the 60s and the 70s Dylan in the 70s. I paid to see the 00s Dylan and it was worth every damn penny.
Bob Dylan setlist from Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO 5/10/15:
- Things Have Changed
- She Belongs to Me
- Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
- Workingman’s Blues #2
- Duquesne Whistle
- Waiting for You
- Pay in Blood
- Tangled Up in Blue
- Love Sick
- set break
- High Water (For Charley Patton)
- Simple Twist of Fate
- Early Roman Kings
- Forgetful Heart
- Spirit on the Water
- Scarlet Town
- Soon After Midnight
- Long and Wasted Years
- Autumn Leaves (Frank Sinatra cover)
- Blowin’ in the Wind
- Stay With Me (Frank Sinatra cover)