Reviews

Toronto, Ontario

Air Canada Centre

July 5, 2017


[Vish Khanna], [Wilson]

Review by Vish Khanna



Based both on this current tour and the sentiment within his latest batch of 
records, it feels as though Bob Dylan  one of our hardest men  is finally, in 
his own uncompromising way, beginning to soften. 

If you've followed Dylan live the way some of us do (this was the third of four 
Ontario shows I plan to attend this week), you can revel in the new material 
and/or marvel at how his classics never stop evolving. You wind up enthralled 
or possibly alienated; it's all on you, really. But you will feel something deep 
and altering. 

In many ways, Dylan and his band have crafted their most inclusive and dynamic 
set list in some years and, rather unusually, stuck to it every night of the tour 
 far, making for a tight, well-oiled, crowd-pleasing show. 

After the menace-laced shuffle of Things Have Changed, an Oscar-winning 
latter-day hit, fans at the Air Canada Centre were treated to a shimmering 
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright and a really ferocious Highway 61 Revisited. 
These two songs from Dylan's breakthrough period in the 60s set something 
of a familiar mood for die-hards who cling to his earliest material. 

That said, it was gratifying to hear the warm ovations that greeted songs 
from Dylan's last three releases  Shadows In The Night, Fallen Angels and 
Triplicate  which have found him exploring noir-ish chapters of the American 
songbook that he had no hand in composing but which profoundly shaped 
him as an artist. 

People light up for Why Try To Change Me Now, Stormy Weather and the truly 
haunting Once Upon A Time. Dylan croons them all, modifying his delivery and 
attack, and sets these melancholy tunes some distance away from the more 
vicious Pay In Blood or the biting Long And Wasted Years, which, since its last 
time through Toronto, has developed a couple of math-rock parts. 

Dylan's current band consists of bassist Tony Garnier, drummer George Receli, 
guitarists Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball, and steel player/violinist Donnie Herron. 
Their work with him isn't often given the justice it deserves. Their sound is 
unprecedented: as if the future swallowed up the past  all of the past  to 
get to some entirely new cultural place. Only this band with this singer and this 
aesthetic right now could make a standard like That Old Black Magic inexplicably 
kick ass. 

For his part, Dylan continues to operate like a pure, focused entertainer. He 
keeps his own songs guessing, jettisoning beautiful turns of phrase in Make You 
Feel My Love and Tangled Up In Blue for new words that say something else. 
It's presumably kind of fun for him, all of this rebooting, and it keeps fans on 
their toes. 

He doesn't banter or, as was often the case in the recent past, even introduce 
his band any more. There are no cheat sheets or prompters or other stage 
crutches. It's a marvel, really, watching this 76-year-old man, with the swagger 
of the longest living punk rocker this side of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, 
operate at the highest level. 

He pops his head up from his baby grand piano like he's commanding a rumbling 
tank. He takes centre stage with a golden mic on a straight stand. He grins a bit, 
nodding slightly to us with a detached but apparent gratitude. It's alluring, his 
presence. You can't look away. 

Dylan has always communicated in his own unique manner and, on this tour, on 
this night in Toronto, he and his dignified band brought us all into their weird 
world. People are crazy, times are strange. If it once seemed that Bob Dylan 
didn't care, well, things have changed. 

[TOP]

Comments by Wilson



Well, the American song book is alive and well and thriving, thanks to
another stellar performance by its champion.  He keeps adding to his
brilliant rewrites of what are already historical tunes.

There is no stormy weather when Bob Dylan takes the stage, just that old
black magic.

Wilson 

[TOP]

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