Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, November 14
With guest Mark Knopfler adding all the right licks, Dylan was enthusiastic enough to extemporize a few lines. After, "I thought I saw something move," he added a jokey, "What could it be?" And after "Put it in a wheelbarrow," a goading, "And then what?" Having established that he indeed still had something to offer, he strutted over to the grand piano to pound out some loud discordant mischief.
Next, Dylan did what he has largely refused to do on this tour — he played a song from Tempest, a serviceable version of "Early Roman Kings." The song that followed was a pleasant surprise. A deep cut from the back catalogue that has only recently been dusted off after years of neglect: "Joey," an anthemic tribute to New York gangster Joey Gallo. Though he could not hold onto the long "Jo-eeeee" of the chorus, and instead shouted a clipped "Joe/E," this was the most powerful performance of the night. Another possible lyrical replacement here — the line, "Called them amateurs," sounded an awful lot like, "Called them entrepreneurs." A possible post-election dig at Romney? You never can tell with the poet laureate of rock'n'roll.
Sadly, although Bob was giving his best, "Joey" drew a muted response from the lacklustre crowd, some small pockets of "Joey" enthusiasm were found in the beer line. This is the paradox of Bob Dylan fandom — some take out loans and let their children go hungry for the chance to see a moment like this, others text in confusion or outright leave.
A workmanlike effort on "Visions of Johanna," the perfunctory yet crowd-pleasing "Highway 61 Revisited" and the rollicking "Thunder on the Mountain" all helped to provide a sense of value for those who weren't really sure what they were experiencing for most of the show.
Many early walkouts greeted "Ballad of a Thin Man," as though enough growling was enough growling already. This was a shame because Dylan really strove to connect with an impassioned harmonica solo late in the song. There's also a cool reverb effect that always make this a little less boring for those who have heard it ten thousand times.
Even the nearly exhausted "Like a Rolling Stone" had some minor efficacy, but a guy in his 60s was overheard saying, "He should be embarrassed." Then, why come? YouTube could give you an indication of how Bob sounds in 2012, pal.
Here's a theory: Since the oddly perfect New York Post headline, "Bob Dylan Heart Scare" in 1997 and the subsequent release of Time Out of Mind, thousands, perhaps millions, have attended his shows fearing they might never have another opportunity. That was 15 years ago, so it's certain these hospice-duty fans have not always been thoroughly entertained in their prolonged funeral march. Yet no serious Dylan fan could ever risk missing the Bard's last appearance in his/her region. In the light of cold economic truth, this deathwatch is a big part of the never-ending tour's ongoing profitability.
Which doesn't actually matter one bit. Because at the end, Bob asks, "How does it feel?" and sure, maybe he was barky and didn't do much actual singing, and maybe five hack writers are at that moment finishing their "Time for Bob to retire!" column, but Bob Dylan asked you, "How does it feel?" and that is worth something big and true and meaningful to anybody who cares the least little bit about good American music.
ReviewsJun 19, 2015
Gina ChavezThe Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 18
Gina Chavez is one of those artists whose music is impossible to pigeonhole. On up.rooted, the exceptional sophomore album that garnered Cha...
ReviewsMay 26, 2015
Shakey GravesSasquatch Stage, George WA, May 24
Last year at Sasquatch, Shakey Graves performed at the small Yeti stage and managed to pack the venue to the brim as fans and music lovers f...
ReviewsApr 30, 2015
Sufjan StevensMassey Hall, Toronto ON, April 29
It wasn't until halfway through his Massey Hall set that Sufjan Stevens finally addressed the elephant in the room. His new album, Carrie & ...
ReviewsApr 26, 2015
Downtown Music Crawl with Peter Willie Youngtree, Ginger Snaps, Jon Mckiel, Susie Asado and Painful ShiversVarious Venues, St. John's NL, April 26
Sunday's Downtown Music Crawl followed the same format as the Quidi Vidi edition on Saturday. It started at Model Citizen, where Painful ...
ReviewsApr 26, 2015
Quidi Vidi Music Crawl with Dark for Dark, Gianna Lauren, Donovan Woods and WeavesVarious Venues, St. John's NL, April 25
The Quidi Vidi Music Crawl is just another example of Lawnya Vawnya's attention to detail, as the fest allows patrons to hit all of landmark...
ReviewsApr 12, 2015
Mike Edel / Towers and TreesThe Roxy Theatre, Victoria BC, April 11
About six weeks ago, Mike Edel and Adrian Chalifour, vocalist and guitarist of opening act Towers and Trees, spent the day madly cycling aro...
ReviewsMar 31, 2015
The DecemberistsMassey Hall, Toronto ON, March 30
From the second he strolled onstage holding a wine glass and acoustic guitar, the Decemberists' frontman Colin Meloy cleverly and self-aware...
ReviewsFeb 22, 2015
Kevin Morby / Jessica Pratt / Malcolm JackElectric Owl, Vancouver BC, February 21
This was a cool bill from start to finish. Vancouver's Malcolm Jack opened with selections from his dreamy Dada Plan project, all jangly sol...