You can’t handle the truth! Bob Dylan in Winter

BOB DYLAN & HIS BAND and MARK KNOPFLER; Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA; Thu, Oct. 18, 2012

If you have been wondering if you should bother to go see Bob Dylan or not, now is the time to get off your ass and go. Dylan is on fire and the band is probably the best he’s been with since … well, The Band.

Guitarist Charlie Sexton is back in the fold and the whole group is firing on all cylinders. Dylan isn’t playing guitar right now, but more than makes up for it with some barrelhouse, Little Richard-inspired, work at the piano. Repeatedly stepping out from behind the keys to grab a harp and blow some of the best melodic lines that I’ve heard him play, Dylan proved he can be a consummate showman when he wants to be.

Naysayers who will tell you that his voice is shot are missing the point entirely. Dylan’s aged croak cuts through the cultural haze like a damaged warning from the end of days, a tenor that gives even old chestnuts like Ballad of a Thin Man and Highway 61 Revisited new and bone-chilling gravitas.

Opening for Dylan on this tour is his occasional partner in crime, Mark Knopfler, who turned in a sublime set of Celtic-tinged folk blues, much in the Richard Thompson mould.

The former Dire Straits leader drew almost entirely from his solo and soundtrack projects and was perfectly supported by a crack seven-piece band who fleshed out—yet never overwhelmed—the subtle arrangements. Knopfler’s set was a perfect appetizer for the avant-rockabilly-blues-punk-western swing of later day Dylan. What a show.

Setlist: Watching The River Flow, Love Minus Zero, No Limit, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, High Water (For Charley Patton), Chimes Of Freedom, Highway 61 Revisited, Love Sick, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, Blowin’ In The Wind

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