IN TUNE: A Bob Dylan song is like an old suit that never goes out of style. It may hang there, unused for a time, but it’s great to try it on again, now and then, just to see how it fits. So when Dylan brought his Never Ending Tour to West Long Branch on Sunday night, it was fun rummaging through the old walk-in closet.
The good news is that Dylan is still a legend, an amazing character, incomparable in so many ways. The bad news is that his trademarked bleating-sheep singing voice has been coarsely reduced to a cross between Tom Waits and an Oldsmobile that just won’t turn over.
Sadly, some of the older suits just don’t fit anymore.
That’s not to say this wasn’t a great, memorable event. Opening with “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35,” Dylan and his very capable band took us through 48 years of stories, including “Just Like a Woman,” “The Levee’s Gonna Break,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Tangled Up in Blue.”
The band, led by guitarist Charlie Sexton (you may remember him from the moving version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with Justin Timberlake on the “Hope For Haiti” Benefit ), provided strong, modern arrangements for the old and new tunes.
As always, Dylan didn’t hesitate to change things up. Several times, the audience at the MAC Auditorium at Monmouth University was taken into dark closets, through songs that lasted minutes before anyone recognized what they were.
And what a thrill it was to be taken down the new road. The vocals make it tough to follow the powerful lyrics, especially on the ‘60s classics — as if I‘m telling you anything new.
Simply: Dylan’s vocal style is limited to three- or four-syllable phrases that are almost belched out. Fortunately, with more recent tunes, such as those from “Modern Times,” he can still bring the house down. The rest relied on long memories and audience participation.
Sure, the times they are a-changing. But so is Bob. And so are we.
Nothing wrong with that.
THE SET LIST:
1. Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
2. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
4. Just Like A Woman
5. The Levee’s Gonna Break
6. Tangled Up In Blue
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
8. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
9. Cold Irons Bound
10. Forgetful Heart
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Not Dark Yet
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
16. Like A Rolling Stone