Dylan still on fire
from the Toronto Sun
To say that Bob Dylan's reputation precedes him would be a great understatement.
He is, after all, an icon, widely considered to be the best songwriter in the history of rock and folk.
Balancing the scales, however, is another reputation that has dogged him for over a decade: He's lost it.
Dylan's show at the Molson Amphitheatre last night blew the latter theory out of the water.
The singer's act was as intact as you could expect from someone who's spent the last ten years on a so-called "Neverending tour."
Not to mention the fact that Dylan, 56, was in hospital just two months ago with a potentially fatal chest infection.
Suited up like a Civil War-era dandy and quite alive, Dylan and his four-man band treated a crowd of 9,000 to a 95-minute set of straight-up country rockers.
And while the sounds were conventional, Dylan wasn't resting on his laurels as a hitmaker.
With the exception of two inescapable encore numbers, Like A Rolling Stone and a bluesy rave-up of Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 -- both show highlights -- he laid off the best-known classics.
He deviated from his prepared set list and scrapped a run-through of Tangled Up In Blue during a slippery acoustic passage in favor of This Wheel's On Fire.
Still, the many Dylanologists in attendence were obviously impressed with his venturing back to 1966's Blonde On Blonde album for his opening tune Absolutely Sweet Marie.
Other favorites included I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, from 1968's John Wesley Harding, Don't Think Twice, One Too Many Mornings, and even 1988's Silvio.
Dylan's stature as a performer does let him get away with a few, shall we say, idiosyncrasies that wouldn't work for a lesser artist: He frequently took wrong turns on the guitar. His inventive take on the English language left some of his best lyrics in need of a Dylanese translator.
Fortunately, his band -- which included longtime bassist Tony Garnier and steel guitarist Bucky Baxter -- followed him attentively and never let him slide.
Dylan even took to duelling with lead guitarist Larry Campbell. He became quite animated and laughed when a young girl in a pillbox hat emerged from the crowd and danced along to Pillbox.
Dylan doesn't take performing for granted. As he slumped offstage, his appreciative audience decided he deserves the same respect.
Opener Ani DiFranco proved you didn't have to be a legend to win two encores last night.
After a set by old-school country godsends BR5-49, DiFranco went over like gangbusters with a remarkable set.
A one-woman rhythm section on acoustic guitar, the Buffalo-reared singer's sound became a triple-threat with her Torontonian band, drummer Andy Stochansky and former Bourbon Tabernacle Choir bassist Jason Mercer.
Things have come a long way in the 27 years since those beards at Newport booed Dylan for going electric.
1. Absolutely Sweet Marie
2. If You See Her, Say Hello
3. Tough Mama
4. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
6. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
7. One Too Many Mornings
9. Watching The River Flow
10. This Wheel's On Fire
11. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
12. Like A Rolling Stone
13. Forever Young
14. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
SUN RATING 3 OUT OF 5
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