|My ticket stub|
The reviewer from the Morning Call newspaper sums it up well:
Bob Dylan shows Stabler a whoppin' good time
Veteran rocker delivers a near masterpiece
By John J. Moser, OF THE MORNING CALL
8:14 PM EST, November 13, 2010
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
The question is what made Bob Dylan, at 69 years old and having muddled through a mediocre show last summer at Allentown's Coca-Cola Park, put on a performance Friday at Bethlehem's Stabler Arena that was vital and exciting — a near masterpiece that was far better than anyone had a right to expect?
For 103 minutes, Dylan became an animated performer, broadly and intently gesturing as he stood at a microphone in front of the stage and sang — really sang, infusing his vocals with texture and emotion.
Or dancing as he added inspired flourishes on his keyboard. Or playing rich, inviting harmonica.
Dylan's five-piece backing band, again being led by guitar whiz Charlie Sexton, was just as good — crackling and tight, urgent and intuitive.
It wasn't that Dylan — playing his sixth show at Stabler; a record for the venue — changed his set that much from last year's show. Eight of Friday's 16 songs also were played at Coca-Cola Park. He simply played them much better.
Such was the case on the opening "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," with which he also opened last year. In a wide-brimmed white hat, he twisted his shoulders and kicked his legs as he played keyboards; his singing and phrasing were animated.
And he only got better as he went along. He strapped on his guitar for a jaunty "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and croaked and growled the lyrics, sometimes spitting out the words as he and Sexton — playing his guitar like a gunslinger or from his knees — dueled to a hootchie-cootchie finish.
The band was wonderfully expressive on "Just Like a Woman," and Dylan was at his playful best, pausing during each chorus to let the audience sing "just like a woman" before he did. He played his keyboard like a carousel calliope as Donnie Herron accompanied him on lap steel guitar.
Dylan played lead guitar and sang so well on "Simple Twist of Fate" that the audience spontaneously broke into applause mid-song.
And his singing was exceptional — that's a compliment you don't hear much these days — on "Summer Days." His voice reached high — also something you don't hear — to complement his keyboard playing.
But the highlight was "Tangled Up in Blue." In a spotlight at the front of the stage, Dylan performed his mid-career masterpiece as well as he ever has. He transformed it from a young man's searching to the studying, understanding and regret that comes with age.
But that was only the mid-point of the show. He followed with a nine-minute churning, burning, steamrolling "Highway 61 Revisited," yelling the lyrics and duck-walking at the piano.
And Dylan's voice was again wonderful on a shuffling, tender "Working Man Blues #2." As he sang, he pointed to the audience, reached out his hand like a carnival barker, or sang open-armed.
The requisite closer, "Like a Rolling Stone," was, of course, wonderful — both beat-heavy and chiming; Sexton's guitar swirling amid Dylan playing the familiar keyboard riff. It, too, became less a tale of spite and revenge than Dylan imparting knowledge: more knowing, less hurt, acceptance replacing bitterness.
Dylan went nearly the entire night without speaking to the mixed-age crowd of more than 3,000 people, finally saying, "Well, thank you," before the encore and playfully introducing his band members.
But throughout the night, his music spoke volumes to the people in the crowd. And they clearly understood – not just the songs' meanings, but that they were seeing something special at Stabler.
During yet another wonderfully voiced song, "Spirit on the Water," in mid-show, Dylan sang, "You think I'm over the hill."
"No!" the crowd roared back.
"Think I'm past my prime/Let me see what you got/We can have a whoppin' good time."
Friday was, indeed, a whopping good time. As good as you'll ever see Bob Dylan.
Copyright © 2010, The Morning Call