|Dakota Lewis, from left, checks the tickets of guests Mumma and Martin Parker as the enter the Stroh for the Bob Dylan concert Sunday night. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Master American troubadour Bob Dylan left about 3,000 fans ecstatic Sunday after a show in the Stroh Center on the Bowling Green State University campus.
Dylan delivered a 90-minute set and an encore that was heavy on new work with a few reimagined classics thrown in.
He was backed by a veteran band that could track his every move. Guitarist Duke Robillard, of Roomful of Blues, decorated the songs with gripping solos that often highlighted the music’s link to the Delta blues, early rock ‘n’ roll and swing. On “All Along the Watchtower,” he nodded his guitar to Jimi Hendrix, who waxed a classic version of the tune.
Donnie Herron, outfitted with a van-full of instruments, added startling bits of color including banjo on “High Water (for Charley Patton).”
With so many new tunes from Dylan’s recent output including last year’s “The Tempest,” as well as new takes on old tunes, it was a show that had some fans guessing.
Alan Cantley, of Stony Ridge, said he loved the show, but conceded he didn’t know a lot of the tunes that were played. Even a familiar piece like “Tangled Up in Blue” seemed strange. “It was light years away from how he performed it in 2007 at the (Toledo) zoo,” Cantley said.
Not that Cantley was complaining. “It’s Bob Dylan.”
The rest of the crowd was in agreement, roaring after each number, and cheering Dylan on as he jammed on harmonica with his band.
In a precisely timed show — openers Dawes hit exactly at 7:30 p.m. — Dylan took the stage at 8:30 p.m. with little warning.
The lights in the Stroh went down, and the chords from an acoustic guitar rang out, and then from the still dim stage, Dylan began to sing. Here was that familiar, dark, wraith-like growl intoning “Things Have Changed.”
Dylan is a master of change.
That’s what keeps devotees April Melody and her husband, Chris Abrams, of Fort Wayne, Ind., coming to shows. This was her 82nd and his 81st show, the fourth on this tour, and they’ll be headed to Champaign, Ill., to see Dylan when he performs there on Thursday.
Sunday was an especially great day, Abrams said, because Dylan’s tour dates had been announced. The latest in what’s been dubbed The Never Ending Tour.
Moments after the show ended they had already called Dylan’s Sunday setlist into boblinks.com, a site run by Bob Pagel devoted to all things Dylan.
They knew the tunes, and who played what on each song. The band, they said, has jelled since the tour began in Buffalo, N.Y., (Melody and Abrams were there) and is one of Dylan’s strongest. And audiences have stuck with him, cheering material off his new album, like the rocker “Early Roman Kings” and the ballad “Soon After Midnight” as loudly as old favorites. “It’s taken on a whole new level of intensity,” Melody said. “Bob just keeps getting better and better.”
As well as blowing harmonica that often took on the wail of a jazz saxophone, Dylan played acoustic piano, at one point punctuating the end of “Scarlet Town” with a foot on the keyboard, evoking such rock ‘n’ roll wildmen as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
At times Dylan and the band — including Stu Kimball, guitar, George Receli, drums, and Tony Garnier, bass — seemed so engrossed in their jamming that they forgot the audience.
They played on a dimly lit stage that went black at the end of each song. Dylan stood center stage singing and playing harmonica or retreated toward the side where the piano waited. He wasn’t introduced, and he never addressed the audience, even as they stood roaring their approval after the encore, “Ballad Of a Thin Man.”
Taylor Goldsmith, of the opening band Dawes, said he and his bandmates have been inspired by Dylan’s durability, the way he can mix tunes from his earliest years with tunes from four decades ago. It’s the kind of legacy he and his band aspire to, he said, during a brief press conference a couple hours before the show.
Dawes played a well-received set heavy on songs from their third CD, “Stories Don’t End,” released earlier this month.
The show was a benefit for the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Just shy of a sellout, empty seats lined the fringes of the Stroh.
Red Cross spokeswoman Amanda Aldrich said that benefits like this help the Red Cross stay prepared for disasters like those that occurred last week in Boston and in Texas, or here in Wood County when a tornado struck in June, 2010.
Aldrich reported this morning that 2,778 tickets were sold.