There’s always a sense of trepidation in going to see Bob Dylan in concert—many of his shows have been panned by both critics and fans for the icon’s unintelligible lyrics, detached stage presence and revised arrangements. And while there was plenty of the above for Dylan’s 15-song show at the Pearl on July 16, the 70-year-old delivered a high-spirited performance overall.
Since photographers aren’t permitted at his concerts, here’s a visual: Dylan hit the stage wearing a black Cordobés hat, a black suit with a yellow pinstripe down each pant leg and spats. He provided early treats with “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and “Tangled Up in Blue.” He spent most of the show, as he has over the past decade or so, perched behind an electric keyboard, but he strapped on an electric guitar for “Simple Twist of Fate,” his voice a melodic rumble as he delivered each line, and played some impassioned harmonica on a rollicking “Highway 61 Revisited.”
After performing such gems from recent albums as “Forgetful Heart” and “Thunder on the Mountain,” Dylan returned to the classics to close things out. He stood out front for “Ballad of a Thin Man,” singing with a bluesy snarl as he spit out the chorus—“Do yaaah, Missstah Jones”—and playing the harp with authority. “Like a Rolling Stone” was relaxed and swinging, lacking nearly all the sarcastic venom of the original rendition. “All Along the Watchtower” turned into a driving jam with guitarist Charlie Sexton leading the way. And Dylan closed with “Blowin’ in the Wind,” turning the ’60s anthem into a pleasant country stroll, sounding perfectly content to let the song’s many questions remain unanswered.