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Dylan: ageless, peerless, perfect

By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 4, 2002


Rock legend Bob Dylan and His Band rolled into the Ice Palace Saturday to treat several thousand fans to a perfect performance. Dylan, 60, culled generously from his decades of superb songs and also served new material from last year's masterpiece "Love & Theft."

Rock legend Bob Dylan and His Band rolled into the Ice Palace Saturday to treat several thousand fans to a perfect performance. Dylan, 60, culled generously from his decades of superb songs and also served new material from last year's masterpiece "Love & Theft."

Dylan may now be a senior citizen, but he's lost none of his punch. He'll forever wear the label of spokesperson for the 1960s generation, but his message is powerful for folks of any age.

In a time when the current popular music landscape lacks a visionary of its own, Dylan's gruff, provocative and tough-minded presence is appealing. Sexagenarian or not, in rock's world of sages and soothsayers, Dylan is still peerless.

As an artist, he bursts with a creativity both seasoned and playful. Dylan and His Band, which includes the lanky, talented Austin-based blues guitarist Charlie Sexton, were so frolicsome, the vibe seeped into the audience. Fans -- an exact attendance figure was not available -- stood many times to applaud and groove. Yes, you can dance to Dylan -- who knew?

Dylan himself was a wonder in a large, white cowboy hat and a western suit -- not quite as garish as one of Gram Parson's beloved Nudie suits, but flashy enough. The night's music had a decidely twangy feel, with Dylan emerging to the opening strains of Aaron Copland's Rodeo.

Classics such as Hey Mr. Tambourine Man and It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) were invigorated by the tight band, Dylan's gargle-on-gravel vocals and the Palace's surprisingly crisp acoustics. (Apparently Dylan's sound guy is doing more than just burning bushels of Nag Champa incense down there.)

Dylan's sassy leg thrusts, kicks, and shuffles were a delight, as was witnessing his frequent grin. He's at home on stage. Sure, we were several thousand strong in that arena, but it felt like we were in his living room, even if he didn't talk to us at all.

Dylan tweaks every song, pulls something different from its core, explores the thing and offers it to fans. Who recognized the night's last encore Blowin' in the Wind, totally deconstructed, until Dylan and his cohorts began brightly harmonizing its chorus? It was the same with Forever Young.

The timely Masters Of War resonated, with the crowd cheering its antiwar message. Lay Lady Lay was gorgeous awash in Larry Campbell's pedal steel guitar. Campbell's zesty banjo on the new High Water was just as tasty. The rave-up Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum was fiery and fun. Several new numbers were fresh with a rockabilly feel.

Former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts, who lives near Sarasota, joined his old pal, adding bluesy riffage to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.

-- To contact Gina Vivinetto, e-mail gina@sptimes.com.

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