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Bob Dylan and His Band/Monmouth University, West Long Branch, N.J./Nov. 14, 2010


For Bob Dylan fans, taking in one of his concerts these days is a bit like having a friend next to you in the car, butchering one of your favorite songs on the radio. The best course might be to politely overlook the fact that this person probably has little business singing, and try to focus on the brilliance lying beneath the creaky vocals.

Such was the experience for much of this performance by Dylan and His Band, featuring plenty of classics that only sometimes sounded like they were being sung — to use the term loosely — by the man himself. More often, Dylan, his voice ravaged for years now, barked out lyrics in a gruff, staccato fashion, but if any audience members were taken aback or put off by this, they didn’t complain (at least not too loudly), as the crowd continually offered up adoring applause for the 69-year-old songsmith and his five-piece ensemble.

Still, with Dylan’s usual off-kilter phrasing and propensity to tweak song arrangements, it frequently was a challenge to recognize exactly which tune was being played until he got through verse or began a chorus. It’s doubtful most of the 5,000 in the small basketball arena recognized that the musicians were airing a revamped “Tangled Up in Blue” for the tune’s first minute or so as Dylan rapped his way through the opening lines. Sometimes the rearrangements were counterproductive, as with the breezy, waltz-like take on “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” on which the laid-back approach and Dylan’s weak-throated vocals rendered it toothless.

On some nights on his so-called “never-ending tour,” this all probably has the makings of a disaster, yet the inspired, fluid playing of Dylan and his band salvaged the show and made it surprisingly enjoyable in spite of his limitations. Dylan’s lack of banter notwithstanding — he didn’t address the crowd until just before the final number, sneaking in a “Thank you, fans” before introducing his band — he had plenty of enthusiasm, bopping behind his keyboard at stage left while extending a few jams with lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, and at other points belting out frequent harmonica blasts from center stage. “Highway 61 Revisited” marked one successfully retooled number, as Sexton fired off sharp licks over a Booker T. & The MG’s-style boogie.

Meanwhile, another standard, “Ballad of a Thin Man” was delivered fairly faithfully but powerfully, the only twist being that Dylan’s shattered vocal chords — plus appropriately dim stage lighting — were actually an asset and gave an already menacing song a wholly sinister tone. Overall, though, to embellish that song’s best known line, one way to summarize the 100-minute show would be: Something is being sung here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

— By George Henn


“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”
“Just Like a Woman”
“The Levee’s Gonna Break”
“Tangled Up in Blue”
“Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum”
“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”
“Cold Irons Bound”
“Forgetful Heart”
“Highway 61 Revisited”
“Not Dark Yet”
“Thunder on the Mountain”
“Ballad of a Thin Man”


“Like a Rolling Stone”