Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bob Dylan - November 13, 2010 - Smith Center, George Washington University

The Never Ending Tour stopped by GW last month. I haven't been to the Smith Center for a concert in a very long time (saw the Clash there in the '80's) and I was glad to see there is still a hall that sells General Admission tickets. We camped out on the floor hoping to optimize the acoustics. The place is small enough that any location is fine for viewing and listening.

The show opened as it always does with a deep voiced announcer on the PA:

"Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the 70s and 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, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen —Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!"

Then Bob kicks things off the show with a rollicking "Rainy Day Women" followed by one of my favorite concert tunes "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)". During this one he came from behind the keyboards and sang with animated hand gestures and played harmonica. Other highlights included "Just Like a Woman" with Bob on keyboards and band member Donnie Herron (pedal steel) keenly watching him play and shadowing every chord that Bob would play. This occurred on several songs but it was most obvious during the instrumental break on "Just Like a Woman".

In addition to Bob's hand gestures and (almost) dancing there was a large fabric hanging behind the stage that was used as a screen during several songs to show ghostly black and white live video images of Bob singing. I've never seen that before, it was pretty cool.

Other highlights were a very nice "Simple Twist of Fate" with Bob on lead guitar followed by a rocking "Highway 61 Revisited". There were also more recent tunes like "High Water (for Charlie Patton)", "Ain't Talkin'", and "Thunder on the Mountain". All in all a really great show with a nice mix of old and new.

Finally, what I liked most about the show was there were so many young people there really into the music. I remember going to a Dylan concert a few years ago at George Mason University and I literally was one of the youngest people there! I kept wondering where are all of the students? But the GW kids turned out en masse and were having a great time. At 69, Bob Dylan is an American icon and it was good to see that at least some of the next generation appreciate him.

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