When you've seen Bob Dylan live as many times as I have, you kind of come to expect the unexpected. Based on the ten or so Dylan concerts I've seen since 1974, the man largely runs hot and cold. From my experience at least, you are either going to get the quieter, introspective "detached" Dylan or the somewhat more energetic "song and dance man" model.
As old as I am (50 for those keeping score), I am not nearly old enough to have seen Dylan when he was pissing off the folkie purists at Newport by strapping on an electric guitar with Mike Bloomfield and the like. For those memories, I'll have to settle for my DVD of Scorsese's brilliant No Direction Home.
Nor was I old enough to witness his original groundbreaking shows in the sixties with The Band. My experience with Dylan live actually began when I was a high school senior in 1974. Eighteen years old at the time, I wandered down to the Seattle Center Coliseum on pretty much a lark and ended up accepting a free ticket to his sold out reunion show with the Band from the stoned out hippie who offered it up to me. Imagine my luck.
After witnessing that amazing show, which is captured on Dylan and The Band's live Before The Flood album, I became a fan for life.
Of the many Dylan shows I have witnessed, I've seen him through most of the more interesting phases of his career since that time. I saw the Vegas model Dylan introduced on the tour for Street Legal in 1978 (and later captured for posterity on the Live At Budokan album), where Dylan debuted his "song and dance man" routine in earnest.
I saw him on the Jesus tour where he pretty much pissed off every hippie and leftover sixties radical still alive by performing a super-charged gospel revival show and refusing to play stuff like "Like A Rolling Stone." About a year later, I saw Dylan when he came back and played a "greatest hits" show that seemed almost like an apology for all of the hell and brimstone of that "Born Again" show — a rare artistic compromise in a career marked by so few of them.
Through it all, I can tell you what they say about Dylan live is largely true. Not only does the man run either very hot or very cold, but you can pretty much count on him reinventing his songs in a concert setting every time. Usually to the point where it may take a minute to even recognize them — at least until the lyrics start to kick in.
Bob Dylan And His Band "In Concert And In Show" October 13, 2006 at Seattle's Key Arena, was no exception.
Taking the stage to one of the most bizarre self-deprecating introductions I've ever heard – the intro read more like a career bio mentioning everything from his "poet laureate" status to his Jesus years – Dylan and his amazing band played a dazzling near two-hour set (long by Dylan's recent live standard). It was a show that was long on radically revamped versions of old hits, and surprisingly short on material from his brilliant new Modern Times release.
On the second night of an arena tour meant to promote that album, only three of its songs showed up on the setlist in Seattle. The first of these, a poignant and lovely sounding "When The Deal Goes Down" found Dylan in fine voice for a version that remained true to the album. "Workingman's Blues #2," Dylan's most recent lesson on war and economics (and one of Modern Times many standouts), came a few songs later.