I just got home from the Bob Dylan show at the Agganis Arena. I wouldn’t want to be a music reviewer, because the superlatives just get lame after a while. But Dylan was incredible, amazing, astounding, whatever you want to call it. He was absolutely on top of the moment, dancing and swaying at his keyboard, singing as well as his blown-out voice allows, even telling a joke near the end of his two-hour set. Media Nation Jr. and two of his friends came along, and they saw and heard something I hope they’ll remember for a long time.
This was the third time I’d seen Dylan. The first was in 1986, when he was playing with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at Great Woods. The second was in 1989 at the Opera House [Note: This is a correction, as I’d originally said the Orpheum], with a small band fronted by G.E. Smith. He wasn’t bad on either of those occasions, and in ’89 he at least had a decent new album (“Oh Mercy”) to promote. But he seemed like a faded legend trying to push his career past the expiration date. Tonight he was a legend reborn.
OK, enough. Here’s the set list from tonight’s show:
- Maggie’s Farm
- She Belongs to Me
- Lonesome Day Blues
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
- It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
- Workingman’s Blues #2
- Tangled Up in Blue
- Blind Willie McTell
- Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
- The Ballad of Hollis Brown
- Highway 61 Revisited
- Spirit on the Water
- Summer Days
- Thunder on the Mountain
- Like a Rolling Stone
- All Along the Watchtower
The obscure favorite, for me anyway, was “Blind Willie McTell.” The most radical rearrangement was of “It’s Alright Ma,” redone as hard rock; I couldn’t place it until Bob got to the line about the president standing naked, always a crowd-pleaser.
I also didn’t understand why he included “Spirit on the Water,” one of the wimpier efforts from his new album, “Modern Times,” until he got to this: “You think I’m over the hill/ You think I’m past my prime.” (Cries of “No! No!”) “Let me see what you got/ We can have a whoppin’ good time.” (Cheers.)
Oh, yeah. His joke. After he introduced his band, which includes three guitarists, he leaned over his cheesy organ and said, “I’d like to play guitar, but then I’d have to find someone who can play one of these.”
The Raconteurs opened. They were loud and good. The weird highlight: a Led Zeppelin-esque remake of Cher’s “Bang Bang.”
A whoppin’ good time was had by all.
More: The Herald gets a review up on its Web site. Not bad, though reviewer Jed Gottlieb seems more surprised than he should be by Dylan’s late-career eccentricities. Nothing in the Globe, not even here.
Still more: The Globe finally checks in, with this Sarah Rodman review.