Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dylan Concert Review from Kentucky this week - performance is "compelling" with an "often confounding sense of immediacy"

NOTE FROM BB: Thinking about Saturday's concert and read this review from this weeks' Kentucky show. What about that intro?? Serious or winking? I think it's winking.

Dylan delightfully strange in Lexington
By Walter Tunis

Bob Dylan proved himself a poet, social observer and fanciful romantic on record long ago. Last night, though, he cemented another artistic persona -- that of a concert performer with a compelling and often confounding sense of immediacy.

Depending on your sense of involvement with Dylan's wondrously corrosive 90-minute performance at Applebee's Park in Lexington, what you saw onstage was either a folk troubadour still enraptured with the possibilities of recasting his best-loved songs in jagged electric contexts, or a vandal who took his own prized pop masterpieces and tossed acid on them.

For the former camp, we offer Lonesome Day Blues and Highway 61 Revisited as trophies from the evening. Separated in the Dylan catalog by 35 years, the tunes became instinctual joyrides last night. Lonesome Day took a traditional 12-bar blues form and warped the daylights out of it, while Highway 61 was a cannonball in motion, a ball of electric grooves wild with raw but streamlined energy.

As evidence for the skeptics, there was Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. Here Dylan seemed impossibly isolated from the rest of his industrious band, which included BR549 steel guitarist and fiddler Donnie Herron. Trapped behind a small electric keyboard to hammer out riffs that sounded like a distant calliope, and armed with a vocal wheeze that even by Dylan's standards seem scorched, this '60s gem made for some pretty uneasy listening.

But such is the draw of a Dylan show. Of course, even the resulting wreckage holds a certain fascination. Watching what was once a political rant like It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding mutate into shards of broken electric blues was like watching a building implode in slow motion. It was frightening and artistic even in the odd new shape that emerged from the ruin.

When you get down to it, in fact, there was hardly a moment of Dylan's program that didn't seem delightfully strange. Even the recorded stage introduction, which dubbed Dylan "the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll" but dragged on to say how he "disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to find Jesus, who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s" was so unashamedly weird.

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