Air Canada Centre
Nov 14 2012
Ending a six year sabbatical , Bob Dylan's return to the city of Toronto (and the same venue as his last visit) was as enjoyable for the longtime followers as it was frustrating for the newcomers.
The show opened with a buoyant "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" followed by "Man In The Long Black Coat", one of three songs featuring the unmistakable fluid guitar work of guest Mark Knopfler. The blues vamp "Early Roman Kings", unfortunately the only number played from his excellent new album Tempest, led to the big surprise of the evening "Joey". Veteran audience members were heard gasping upon recognizing the lengthy 1975 composition.
During "Ballad Of A Thin Man", Dylan's microphone had a reverberating echo effect pushing his vocals around the arena in a circular pattern. Musically the band was, as usual, that perfect coalescence of untethered freedom and strict respect for the source material. On many songs the band would find a dark blues groove and then dig in deep, following it wherever it may take them. The middle section of "All Along The Watchtower" had a spellbinding aquatic throb to it unlike anything I have ever heard at a Dylan concert.
What's truly perplexing after all these years s the number of audience members confused by Dylan's live performance style. Yes, the arrangements are far different than on album. Yes, except for introducing his band members, he does not generally speak to the audience. And yes, his vocals these days are more Tom Waits than Ricky Nelson.
But none of this is news, in fact it describes Dylan's approach to live performance for years now.
To all of those who angrily walked out early, why were you expecting anything else?