Bob Dylan
House Of Blues, Thursday, February 21, 2008
Dallas, Texas, USA

If the second and third shows of Dylan's town-buzzing three night stand at House Of Blues are anywhere as good as tonight's debut performance, Dallas Dylan fans are in for quite a treat.

As expected, these warmup dates, which precede a month long tour of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, and the only concerts in America on this leg of the tour, will likely turn out to not be a typical series of Dylan shows, if there is such a thing. Thursday's show was heavy on current material, and contained very few greatest hits, which I personally found refreshing.

Including two encores, the entire gig clocked in at almost exactly two hours. Many fans had hoped that he might stretch out and play even longer, but it was not to be. For a first night of a tour, the band was extremely hot and well coordinated, both musically and visually. All band members but the drummer wore matching grey suits and stylish hats, while Bob stood out in his crisp black western suit with white trim along the sides of his pant legs, as well as white decorations on sharp black cowboy boots.

Many fans have grumbled in recent years about Bob's preference for the keyboard, so there was a buzz when the first two songs featured Bob trading hot guitar licks with his main guitarist Danny Freeman. If someone had yelled "Freebird," they might've been up for it. But Bob quickly made his way to his piano, which seemed to disappoint many. Gone is his antique Fender Rhodes, replaced by a contemporary, high tech digital keyboard. He stayed there for the rest of the show, not far from his Oscar statue which stood proudly atop his guitar amp, right next to an open case of harmonicas; boxing gloves and trophy of a True Champion.

I'm fairly sure Bob never uttered a single word to the audience, not even the customary thank you or god bless or we love you Dallas. His voice, while sounding just a hair more worn than usual, if one can imagine, carried itself just fine throughout the evening. As his voice continues on it's merry path to destruction, it only becomes more interesting, still finding new twists and turns and never too far from raw emotion, in spite of the repetition of the material.

I am pleased to report that most of the obvious hits were missing in action; Bob did not perform any warhorses, not even "Like A Rolling Stone" or "Rainy Day Women," which I found to be a relief. By my account, only one classic hit single was included in the set, a scorched rework of "Blowing In The Wind," which was so far off the map it gave me a new appreciation for this song and Bob's willingness to throw history itself out the window, or did he ask it to please crawl out? Also better off from drastic alteration were "Ballad Of A Thin Man" (the only time I've ever heard this song sound happy), and a white hot blues version of "From A Buick Six."

Songs from his last hit album Modern Times dominated the set, which few seemed to have any complaints with. "Spirit On The Water" was delightful and moving. Tellingly, three very sexy teenage girls pressed themselves against the barrier at the foot of the stage, dancing and singing along with all the new numbers for the entire show. Robert Zimmerman, America's newest teenage rage. Modern times, indeed. He once ruled the Sixties, and now rules IN his 60's.

After the stunning "Blowing In The Wind," and he can rerecord a new studio version in this manner, as far as I'm concerned, 1600 fans stomped and screamed for a third encore, not knowing that Bob Dylan had left the building, like a bomb leaves a building; beautifully destroyed.

Typically, I avoid the merchandise table after a show. Tonight, I spent $75 on a shirt, a poster, and a tour program. $75 and twenty years younger, for at least a few hours. Not a bad deal at all for one my age. With tickets for Friday and Saturday as well, I am compelled to believe that this will be a week to remember, for Dallas, Dylan and myself.

At the O2 Arena in London six weeks ago, after a near perfect Led Zeppelin reunion, a friend and I asked each other, 'How the hell do we follow this??' I think I know now.

Bucks Burnett
Thursday Feb. 21

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