July 15 2013
Just eight months after Bob Dylan's 2012 Air Canada Centre concert (reviewed here) which seemed as divisive as Newport '65 or San Francisco '79, he returned for an outdoor summer show at The Molson Amphitheatre (the venue for three previous visits in 1997, 2000 and 2002).
Setting up the crowd for a long evening of music, the bill also included The Richard Thompson Electric Trio, My Morning Jacket and Wilco.
Dylan and his five piece band took the stage at 9:37 for a sixteen song, one hour and thirty-five minute long set. Roomful Of Blues founder Duke Robillard had been holding down the lead guitar spot in Dylan's band but recently and quite suddenly it was announced (by Robillard himself) that he was out. Initial reports had long time Dylan axe-slinger Charlie Sexton back on board but the Toronto audience was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of local musician Colin Linden on lead guitar.
Linden cautiously avoided overplaying (reportedly Robillard's downfall), instead contributing a tasteful solo to "Soon After Midnight"and some bottleneck slide work on "Blind Willie McTell" that fit fine.
Dylan himself alternated between playing piano (behind which his 2001 Oscar statue could be seen resting on the top of an amplifier) and standing center stage holding his microphone staring deeply into the first few rows in front of him. His stance at times suggested a boxer staring down an approaching opponent. That adversary may have been the audience's expectations. Long considered by many as a 60's icon, Dylan asserted his contemporary credentials by making exactly half of the sixteen song set from the last fourteen years. Unlike at the 2012 ACC show where only one song was offered from the newest album Tempest, on this night Dylan presented three: "Soon After Midnight", "Early Roman Kings" and "Duquesne Whistle".
After a buoyant "Summer Days" Jim James from My Morning Jacket and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy joined in on a cover of "Twelve Gates To The City " which Dylan even turned into a sing-along, pointing to the crowd and saying "Your turn!"
Following a yet-again re-arranged "All Along The Watchtower" (different guitar parts, very percussive piano) Tweedy and James returned for a finale of "Blowin' In The Wind".
When it was all done, Dylan and his band stood silently at the lip of the stage observing the crowd for a few minutes. If Bob was unhappy with how the night went, he wasn't letting on.