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Critics' Choice
DYLAN'S BUFFET OF DELIGHTS
11/24/18

By Phil Gallo

While the leftovers are down to dried bits of turkey, the vegan stuffing and that cockamamie cranberry dish your brother’s girlfriend got from a questionable cooking site, we have one more reason to be thankful: The final stops of the current leg of Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour.

Dylan’s spending his post-turkey week at New York’s Beacon Theater, opening the six-night run Friday with a set packed with classics given dramatic new twists in the arrangements and more recent songs played with vigor.

Spending the night, save for one song, at the grand piano, Dylan has dramatically shifted the power source of his band after years of standing behind and electric keyboard. He took several distinctive solos—old-timers might be reminded of his shift in guitar playing in the late ‘80s— and displayed an affinity for cocktail jazz in places. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Make You Feel My Love” were shaded in ways we haven’t previously heard from him. The two brilliant interpretations, linked by their depth in emotional resonance, could not be further apart: “Don’t Think Twice" was brittle, dark and bitter; "My Love," warm and caressing.

To top it off his voice was clear, his diction sharp. A song’s arrangement might throw you—the calypso-reggae twist on “All Along the Watchtower”; the down-tempo talk-sung “It Ain’t Me, Babe”; “Cry Awhile” set against Link Wray’s “Rumble”—but a Dylan concert no longer feels like a Name That Tune contest.

There have certainly been times over the last three decades when Dylan gives his live performances a healthy shake-up and the presentation feels thoroughly reinvigorated. Add the October-December 2018 run to that running list But with the Frank Sinatra tunes and the abundance of pedal steel solos excised, this shift feels more dramatic than others. Now, Charlie Sexton gets to flash his guitar wizardry—the man is as adept at conjuring mid-‘50s Chicago blues as he is echoing pop styles of the 1960s—the material from Dylan’s last album of original material, the underrated Tempest (Columbia) from 2012, has been thoroughly absorbed and the twists on the classics are smart rather than trivial. To call out one hard to describe example, when upright bassist Tony Garnier whips out his bow to ease Bob through a tempo change on “Like a Rolling Stone,” you feel like you’re experiencing something very special.

Dylan’s sold-out Beacon run continues Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday-Saturday.

Set List
Things Have Changed
Honest with Me
It Ain’t Me, Babe
Highway 61 Revisited
Simple Twist of Fate
Cry Awhile
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Honest With Me
Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
Scarlet Town
Make You Feel My Love
Pay in Blood
Like a Rolling Stone
Early Roman Kings
Don’t Twice, It’s All Right
Love Sick
Thunder on the Mountain
Soon After Midnight
Gotta Serve Somebody

Encores
All Along the Watchtower 
Blowin’ in the Wind