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Old 07-09-2007, 08:33 AM   #23
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,489

Casino Rama, Rama - July 7, 2007

Enigmantic Bob Dylan still climbing the hill

RAMA, Ont. -- "You think I'm over the hill, think I'm past my prime?" sang Bob Dylan on Saturday night during the first of two sold-out shows at Casino Rama.

At least the enigmatic 66-year-old folk hero proved the first statement to be untrue.

Clearly, Dylan's voice -- never his strong suit and now more nasal and pinched than ever as he delivered almost indecipherable lyrics -- isn't what it once was during his '60s and '70s heyday. But Dylan over the hill? Hardly.

His never-ending tour -- he was only just in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre last November -- seems to have kept him young at heart as he delivered a lively hour-and-45-minute concert on Saturday night that would have put someone half his age through their paces.

There was a lot of jamming going on between the grinning Dylan and his current five-piece band -- all nattily attired in grey suits, black shirts and black hats -- including multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron on slide guitar and violin.

And Dylan, who suddenly picked up the electric guitar again this spring in Europe after switching to electric piano in 2003, was up for any and all curveballs.

Such well-known songs from his catalogue as Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, Lay Lady Lay, Just Like A Woman, Highway 61 Revisited, Tangled Up In Blue, All Along The Watchtower, and Blowin' In The Wind, and the lesser known Watching The River Flow, were given new twists in terms of arrangement and vocal delivery. Still, none were the weaker for it.

Dylan's cryptic sense of humour is still intact, too, as witnessed by the appearance of his Oscar (for Things Have Changed from the Wonder Boys soundtrack) atop a speaker for the entire show.

Still, just six songs into the concert, he traded in his electric guitar for his electric piano and you almost wished he went back and forth between the two instruments for the duration of the night.

Thankfully, he occasionally played harmonica.

The only time Dylan, decked out in a black suit and grey hat, spoke was to introduce his band members and, as usual, no photos were allowed, which also meant the large video screens on either side of the stage were black.

And when he stood alongside his band at the end of the night taking in the standing ovation with the house lights up -- by this time fans had rushed the stage and filled the aisles -- Dylan simply stood there and raised his hands.

The gesture was simple but powerful and the audience seemed to understood what it meant: He was grateful for a grateful audience.

Just this past week, the Montreal Jazz Festival gave Dylan the Spirit Award "for musical innovation and influence," while Bryan Ferry's just released tribute album, Dylanesque, would seem to drive home that point.
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