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Concert Reviews:
Bob Dylan Reworks Songs For Palace Crowd

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, November 3, 2006

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AUBURN HILLS -- Bob Dylan in concert, like fellow rock iconoclasts such as Van Morrison and Neil Young, has long been a buyer beware proposition.

The roundly revered troubadour has never felt constrained by audience wishes or by the recorded arrangements of his material. He revels in confounding expectations and messing with his songs -- changing dynamics, re-phrasing the lyrics, stretching and twisting the instrumental attack.

It's both frustrating and fascinating, the embodiment of an artist who treats his body of work as a living entity rather than an embalmed repertoire. And while Dylan's nearly two-hour concert Thursday night at the Palace tested his fans' tolerance at times, the wise understood that it was richer than merely seeing him recreate his greatest hits. Early in the evening he snarled that "You think I'm over the hill/You think I'm past my prime," then countered that with a performance that displayed genuine engagement and passion, even if that wasn't necessarily projected towards the audience.

Dressed in black and looking like cowboy gentry, Dylan and his five-piece band took the stage to a tongue-in-cheek introduction that surveyed on his career with the same reverence Dylan shows for his songs. The show itself, meanwhile, had the feel of a group of players in a basement, huddled around the leader -- on this case Dylan center stage at the keyboards -- and taking cues for solos and changes. Things were a little loose, in other words, but only seemed to risk falling apart on a couple of occasions.

Dylan and company dipped into various periods of his career throughout the 16-song show. He showcased his latest release, "Modern Times," with selections such as "Spirit in the Water," "Thunder on the Mountain" and "Nettie Moore," and visited 2001's "Love and Theft" for a rollicking rendition of "Summer Days" and a particularly fierce version of "High Water (For Charley Patton)." He brought forth a few obscurities -- "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" and "Cold Irons Bound" -- but also tweaked plenty of favorites into the set, including "Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again)," "Visions of Johanna," "Highway 61 Revisited," "Tangled Up in Blue" and an closing couplet of "Like a Rolling Stone" (with ace lead guitarist Denny Freeman recreating the original's organ hook) and "All Along the Watchtower."

In the Foo Fighters, Dylan had an opening band that certainly gave the headliner a run for his money. Led by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl -- as engaging a performer as Dylan is retiring -- the group, expanded to eight pieces for its current tour, played an acoustic-oriented, hour-long set featuring songs from the Foos' latest album, "In Your Honour," as well as recasts of hits such as "Times Like These," "Big Me" and the dramatic set-closer "Everlong," which Grohl started alone before the rest of the band joined him mid-song. Its modern rock ethic nevertheless complemented Dylan's own aesthetic, and the Foos showed that you can still rock -- with gusto -- even without a wall of amplifiers or an arsenal of electric guitars.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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