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Thursday, November 30, 2017

CONCERT REVIEW/Bob Dylan
In New York City, Two Dylans: Hopeless Romantic, Committed Musician


The Beacon Theatre marquee last Saturday night in New York City. 
Omar Moore
       

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Thursday, November 30, 2017

When Bob Dylan strolled onto the Beacon Theatre stage for the final of his five concerts in New York City last Saturday night it was a stroll of humility, even tenderness.  Mr. Dylan was accompanied on his walkout with loyal band members, a troop that meant business.  With them a Nobel Prize winner made a solemn entrance.  Bob Dylan dazzled in the ways only Bob Dylan can, displaying a repertoire of old and new Dylan staples, starting with "Things Have Changed" (the song from the 2000 film "Wonder Boys" for which Mr. Dylan won a Best Original Song Oscar) and more or less ending with "Blowin' In The Wind".  At that point I hoped for Joan Baez to appear to top off this stellar event. 

What impressed me as much as the endurance in his eighth decade was the stagemanship of Mr. Dylan as two distinct concert personas: the hopeless, pining romantic and the committed musician as a true professional.  Each took care not to override the other, dueling politely.  The concert lighting accentuated these coexisting rivals within Mr. Dylan's heart.  The stage light was an effective use of stage space: the romantic Dylan standing in a golden spotlight stage right crooning ballads.  The committed relentless professional folk-rocker under a harsher white light stage left, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing before a piano.

There was the irresistible "Highway 61 Revisited".  The old Frank Sinatra number "Once Upon A Time".  On the latter Mr. Dylan quietly and smoothly poured out his soul on a platter.  Sturdy, he seemed almost shy in performing that great song.  Mr. Dylan was reflective and vulnerable in that moment, recalling what was or maybe what could have been when it came to love's lost glories.  You don't have to hear every word Bob Dylan is saying to understand how he is feeling when he is on stage.  And his band punctuated with electric guitar riffs.  It was amazing.  And to think that years ago Mr. Dylan was pilloried for going to electric guitar from acoustic guitar. 

The Beacon Theatre crowd bounced, danced and often stood during some of Mr. Dylan's songs part of a joyous, feel-good atmosphere that engendered warmth, applause and occasional sing-along.  It was infectious and Mr. Dylan kept rocking, going from one song to the next in methodical fashion.  He was economical but never lacked the quality and essence in his method or musicianship.

Throughout a night that had already featured the phenomenal Mavis Staples in great form, Bob Dylan possessed a steely commitment to respect and consumate professionalism.  The vintage Mr. Dylan has written and performed many a protest song over the years.  On this night those songs were not supplemented with any words calling attention to saving the planet or decrying the menace pervading the current White House.  No overtures or acknowledgements.  Just the music.  Mr. Dylan did not disappoint.  He was splendid.  Still unconquered.


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