Dylan shows a revival of sound in latest show

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Bob Dylan proved me dead wrong with his July 10 concert at Midway Stadium.

After seeing Dylan last November, I was convinced the third time would be the sour charm — the final time I saw him live.

The November concert was all sorts of disappointing. I couldn’t recognize some his greatest hits — including “Blowin’ in the Wind” — until the chorus or after. Dylan’s piano playing sounded completely separate from his band — a talented group that sounded lost trying to track its leader. The mystique of seeing Dylan had worn off, and his grumbles reached a resonance that required a translator to understand. Even worse, the crowd thinned considerably during Dylan’s set, with lines of concert-goers streaming out in disappointment or to beat traffic.

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Either his long career was near finished, or I was finished seeing him live. Or so I thought.

Then the AmericanaramA tour was announced in April when I was fresh off seeing My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James’ spectacular solo show at First Avenue. A billing of Dylan, My Morning Jacket and Wilco at an outdoor venue was too good to turn down. I assumed two younger acts, along with opener Richard Thompson Trio, would draw large fanbases in the Twin Cities and risk overshadowing Dylan.

Boy was I wrong.

When Dylan opened his set July 10 with “Things Have Changed” — the song that won him an Academy Award — he sounded as energetic and refreshed as I’ve heard him in four concerts. Dylan seemed aloof the first times I watched him live, often standing at his keyboards looking to the side of the stage away from the crowd. At Midway Stadium, he sounded motivated.

In November, Dylan sang in short, gasping bursts, but the actually sang this time around and was relatively understandable, especially on newer songs.

I was truly stunned by Dylan’s transformation. Though the difference would be lost on casual fans or Dylan naysayers, those who’ve seen him live recognized the difference. I talked to a woman who’d been to the leaving the stadium who agreed Dylan was much

He was best on his newest songs, especially those of last year’s “Tempest.” “Late After Midnight” maintained much of the touching accents it has on the album.

Dylan may have played with more motivation because Bobby Vee — one of the first musicians to hire Dylan when he lived in Hibbing — was at the show. In a rare moment of talking to the crowd, Dylan described Vee, who revealed last year that he has Alzheimer’s, as “the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with,” before covering Vee’s song “Suzie Baby.”

Despite memorable performances from Wilco and My Morning Jacket — highlighted by when the two bands joined forces to cover Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” — this was clearly a Dylan crowd for a Dylan show. And this time, he delivered.