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Old 07-05-2007, 01:06 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,624
CONCERT REVIEW - entertainment - Dylan still inspiring, but the fun is missing
Dylan still inspiring, but the fun is missing
Folk legend shows no sign of fading with tour, award, upcoming release

Jul 05, 2007 04:30 AM
John Goddard
Staff Reporter

QUEBEC CITY–The lights went up on Bob Dylan slinging a Stratocaster guitar low on his hips, a sight not seen in Canada for more than three years.

Beginning with "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," he and his band rocked through an opening set of five numbers from the 1960s and early '70s at the Coliseé arena Tuesday night, Dylan taking lead guitar solos on three of them.

It was an inspiring sight – Dylan, at 66, again swivelling his legs, commanding the stage and stepping smartly to the microphone at the start of a five-date Canadian tour also taking him to Montreal last night, Ottawa tonight, and Casino Rama on Saturday and Sunday.

Online chat sites report that he picked up the guitar again in Europe this spring without explanation, just as he never explained why in 2003 he switched to electric piano. Interviewed by Newsweek in 2004, all he said was that he liked the sound of the instrument and couldn't find anybody else to play it.

At the Coliseé, Dylan returned to the keyboards for the sixth number, the recent "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and stayed there for the rest of the night, occasionally taking a harmonica solo.

His presence there proved less entertaining, and the show proved uneven in other ways.

The group showed itself capable of remarkable tenderness midway into the show on "Simple Twist of Fate." And from his pre-fame Greenwich Village repertoire, Dylan to chilling effect resurrected "John Brown," about a young soldier returning from war so shot up his mother barely recognizes him.

Two-thirds into the program, however, one song tended to run numbingly into the next and "Blowin' in the Wind" sounded so empty of its original purpose as to seem pointless.

Dylan's career is at an odd phase.

Fascination about him has rarely been stronger, and more than ever people are rushing to honour his accomplishments.

This month's The Walrus magazine features a fictional short story that puts Dylan in Muskoka. Last month, Bryan Ferry released a tribute album, Dylanesque. Yesterday, the Montreal Jazz Festival gave Dylan its Spirit Award for "musical innovation and ... influence," although he asked to receive it backstage, not during the concert.

On Oct. 1, Sony Music plans to release a three-disc boxed set spanning his entire career titled simply Dylan. Online voting by fans at will help select the 51 songs. On the same date, a one-disc "best of" compilation of 18 songs is also to be released.

On the other hand, Dylan's concerts lately have been missing the sheer joyfulness that characterized his shows for about 10 years starting in the early 1990s, when he taught himself lead guitar and traded licks with such likeable masters as Ron Sexton and Larry Campbell.

The current band members look smart enough in their matching grey suits and black shirts, setting off Dylan in his white shirt, black hat and black suit, with a red stripe down the leg.

They also play smartly and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, who went missing at Dylan's last Toronto show in November, shone on slide guitar, violin and banjo.

But by comparison to the Sexton/Campbell era, the current lineup seems overly serious and not much fun.

Dylan's voice is another problem. It has narrowed to little more than a croak.

Still, Dylan remains endlessly creative in his phrasing, in the way he falls behind the beat and jumps out in front of it.

And to his credit, he also refuses to use backup singers as a cover, but the lack of vocal range subtracts from the band's overall musicality.

Dylan wraps up the current North American leg of his so-called Never Ending Tour on July 28 in California and reopens it on Aug. 8 in Christchurch, New Zealand, before a swing through Australia.

excerpt from Fictional Short story:
A cottage visit

Bob Dylan seems to be everywhere these days. In a fictional short story entitled “Bob Dylan Goes Tubing” by Marni Jackson in this month’s The Walrus magazine, he shows up uninvited at a cottage on Sturgeon Lake, near Huntsville. During his stay with a Toronto couple and their young son, Dylan remarks that the loons are singing the opening notes to “Wichita Lineman.”

He plays Monopoly, excels at Scrabble with such words as “zydeco,” and enjoys listening to traffic reports on CBC radio. One night, the woman of the house moves to a sofa bed on the screened porch to be cooler. Dylan gets up to go to the bathroom and notices her. She and Dylan start cuddling. “He was smooth as the handle of a knife, slim as a boy, cool as china,” the woman discovers. That winter, the story continues, Dylan releases an album with a romantic title track set in Ontario cottage country.
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