Two nights in Ohio with Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Taft Theatre / Nutter Center
Cincinnati / Dayton, Ohio
October 15 & 16, 2007 

Bob Dylan continues to rearrange and change his music, sometimes in the same set as he did at Cincinnati, Ohio’s Taft Theatre on October 15.  Starting with a mumbling, hard to identify "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat," Dylan espoused tight constraint over loose improvisation.

By the time his snazzy dressed up backing combo hit their stride on "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right," Dylan was already two steps ahead of them, and the rest of the sold out audience as well.

The evening’s most riveting moment came out of a deeply emotional reading of the reggae inflected "Love Sick" from 1997’s Time Out of Mind.  A powerful "Rollin’ and Tumblin’" started the bulk of material from his Modern Times disc.  "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" was well received as the crowd hung on every one of Dylan’s guttural utterances. "Workingman’s Blues #2" and "Spirit on the Water" followed, and Bob was recreating lyrics on the fly as his band arrangements took on a new, leaner direction. 

By the time he hit the back stretch, Dylan’s claustrophobic cacophony of vibration had the Taft’s denizens mesmerized, literally to the point where you could hear a pin drop.  As he soaked it all in, Dylan turned another daring corner, resurrecting a modern version of "Highway 61 Revisited," and plotting through a spare, haunting "Ballad of a Thin Man." 

The standing ovation that followed Dylan’s stage departure was rapturous, and the building shook from his double barreled encore of "Thunder on the Mountain" side by side with the prophetic "Blowin’ in the Wind." Bob Dylan brought the words, action and rhythms to back up his forcefully focused  Cincinnati performance.

Ever the chameleon, Dylan concerts often fit his mood. That certainly was the case the next night at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton.  The previous evening had been an intensely tight experience with little room for error.  On the other hand, starting the Dayton show with "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," Dylan was setting his group’s arrangements to big band swing mode.

By the time "It Ain’t Me Babe" started percolating, Bob was smiling at the front rows, and slamming down hard with sizzling electric leads.  Keeping faithful to the tour’s routine of lining up water songs back to back, Dylan and co. guided the audience across a precipitous threshold by following "The Levee’s Gonna Break" with "Spirit on the Water." 

Dayton was blessed with a fiery rendition of one of Bob’s recent chart toppers, "Things Have Changed."  But, it’s the return passage through time that most Dylan fans seek, and he provided plenty of nuggets, from the poignant "My Back Pages" to a rollicking and loose "Highway 61 Revisited" to the dangerously damning "Masters of War."  

After he left the stage, the entire Nutter Center coalesced into one great roar of approval and admiration. All of that love could not have been lost on rock’s most enigmatic journeyman.  And, he responded with an improvisational masterpiece of an encore, turning 20 minutes into pure heaven for the dancers and twirlers on the floor by pairing "Thunder on the Mountain" from Modern Times with the venerable war horse anthem, "All Along the Watchtower." 

There was no doubt after that; Bob Dylan came to the Nutter Center with enough ammo to jam all night, and those in the facility walked away having had one heck of a good time.

October 15: Cincinnati 

Set: Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Watching the River Flow, Love Sick, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, When the Deal Goes Down, Blind Willie McTell, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, Workingman’s Blues #2, High Water (For Charley Patton), Spirit on the Water, Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Summer Days, Ballad of a Thin Man 

Encore: Thunder on the Mountain, Blowin’ in the Wind 
October 16: Dayton 
Set: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, It Ain’t Me Babe, Watching the River Flow, Love Sick, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Spirit on the Water, Things Have Changed, Workingman’s Blues #2, High Water (For Charley Patton), My Back Pages, Highway 61 Revisited, Nettie Moore, Summer Days, Masters of War
Encore: Thunder on the Mountain, All Along the Watchtower