Published Jul 20, 2009Maybe Bob Dylan got sick of the shit reviews ignorant small-town music writers were giving his summer ballpark tour, because he delivered maybe his best show of an already impressive 2009 in the equally shitty Syracuse, NY, on Sunday night. His voice - described as "croaky," "lazy," "baseballs in his mouth" by various irrelevant rags - rang clear as a relative bell. His enthusiasm was something most Dylan fans only dream of, and his usually stoic demeanour was replaced by a near-constant smile, augmented delightfully by a comical duck-walk behind his organ.
Even his standard closer "All Along the Watchtower," which often feels like a forced obligation, was filled with passion. His newest songs in the set "If You Ever Go to Houston" and "Jolene" had a lesser effect, but weren't the difficult lags sometimes present in his live shows.
Classics like "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" provoked a feverish response, but lesser known offerings like "Summer Days" and "High Water" had the crowd rocking also. And if the crowd rocks, so does Bob. Sixty-year-old men busted their meagre moves to "Highway 61" near the stage and teenage kids had a look in their eye suggesting, "Maybe there's something to this Dylan guy beyond the greatest hits after all." Hopefully, they can teach their complaining elders a thing or two and tell them that if you're going to bitch about Dylan so much, you'll have to give up the legacy of being a child of the '60s - you can't have it both ways.
It's a considerable irony that the same people who eventually adored Dylan for his electric Judas period don't want his innovative phrasing and playful performances like this one. Instead, they crabbily demand something like the static, depressing CD facsimiles the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have ruined their reputations with among serious music fans.