Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bob Dylan amazes Maryland - Silver Chips Online

"Emma Zachurski, Online Entertainment Editor

From the very start of his career, Bob Dylan has captured audiences everywhere with his extraordinary music. Now, at the age of 64, Dylan is still a fascinating musician as well as a great performer who continues to deliver excellent concerts to thankful fans. The night of June 14 at Prince George's stadium in Bowie, Maryland was no exception to Dylan's remarkable streak of crowd-pleasing performances. Dylan's concert brought a mixed group of fans together to sing along, dance and cheer throughout yet another amazing show by the incomparable artist.

Prior to Dylan's set there were two opening acts: the bluegrass group The Green Cards and country-star Willie Nelson. I arrived about thirty minutes late, thus missing The Green Cards' brief performance. While I'm not sure whether or not I was fortunate to miss the first act, I do know I wish I had missed Nelson's set.

Though Nelson is by no means an untalented musician, I have never been terribly fond of Nelson's country music styling, so enduring his set was quite an uncomfortable experience. I wasn't alone in my disenchantment either. As Nelson covered all of his hits from 'On the Road Again' to ' Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,' there was a clear distinction between the Nelson fans, who yelled 'We love you Willie' at the end of each song, and the Dylan fans, who politely clapped during the set trying to hide bemused faces as they grew anxious for Dylan's appearance.

After going through a handful of other famous songs, performing covers of songs like the classic 'Georgia on my Mind,' handing over the spotlight to his son to play a few blues songs and featuring his back-up guitarist on a few Merle Haggard covers, Nelson left the stage.

As roadies took down Nelson's Texas flag backdrop and instruments from the stage to set up for Dylan, the audience grew extremely eager and excited. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn't about to see Dylan anytime soon.

While waiting for Dylan, the crowd passed time by throwing around balloons, lighting up cigarettes, inching up closer to the stage, sipping their drinks and, of course, filling the air with pleas of "We want Bob!"

About 45 minutes later, the audience's requests were fulfilled. As Dylan emerged on stage decked out in a black and red ensemble and a black cowboy hat with a few graying curls peeking out, the crowd's applause rose into a roar of delight.

Upon Dylan assuming his position at the keyboards of the stage's left side and his back-up band picking up their instruments, the lights tinted the stage blue and the crowd danced as Dylan and company played an energetic, rearranged version of "Drifter's Escape" from "John Wesley Harding."

While at first it was a bit odd to hear the tempos, instrumentation and style of some of Dylan's biggest hits completely revamped, it was more interesting listening to how he reinvented the tunes. Dylan pulled off his reinterpreted songs with the help of his talented back-up band and, most importantly, his own musical dexterity, which enabled him to articulate his lyrics well in his now raspy voice and deliver some marvelous harmonica solos on center stage.

Being a mere few feet away from Dylan only made the effort and talent involved in the show all the more noticeable and awing for me, as well as for many other people ranging from young to old, who were closely squished together in front of the stage.

As Dylan's set continued, he kept the energy flowing and the audience engaged with various rock-infused variations of both his classic and more recent songs. Older, rearranged and especially memorable songs performed included the classics "Highway 61 Revisited," "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" and "Chimes of Freedom." More recent tracks included the ballad "Shooting Star" from 1980's "Oh Mercy" and "Bye and Bye" from 2001's "Love and Theft." Other songs performed during Dylan's set were "Señor (Tale of Yankee Power)," "John Brown" and "This Wheel's on Fire."

Dylan proceeded to finish his set with the spirited "Summer Days," leaving the crowd to wait eagerly and cheer hopefully for his return. The audience's hopes were satisfied and then some when Dylan stepped out to give a magnificent encore consisting of "Masters of War" and a true-to-form "Like a Rolling Stone." Voices from all over the enormous stadium chimed in to the two landmark songs, making for an incredible closing to a great concert.

Overall, Dylan's concert once again proved that his musical ingenuity, energy and spirit are all still intact, and gave fans hope that he won't be retiring from the stage any time soon."

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