It wasn't one of those masterful, revelatory Dylan concerts, but it wasn't bad, either.
Decked out in a black suit with bold white piping and sporting a black gaucho hat, Bob Dylan settled into the Times Union Center on Saturday night before a crowd of about 7,000 fans who spanned several generations.
I guess we're going to have to amend that Voice of a Generation descriptor.
Launching into his opening "Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat," Dylan and his crack band (wearing matching maroon-colored suits) were at their best when they were rocking the blues. Led by bassist Tony Garnier and Texas guitar slinger Denny Freeman, Dylan's five-piece backing band rocked hard on the basic blues tunes old ("Highway 61 Revisited") and new ("Rollin' and Tumblin' ").
Although Dylan's voice sounded more ragged and graveled than ever, he certainly wasn't resting on his laurels with his song selection. He played at least a half dozen songs from his latest album, last year's "Modern Times," and the rollicking jump blues-meets-rockabilly rendition of "Summer Days" was the highlight of the night.
In his effort to continually re-invent his vast catalogue of songs, Dylan definitely tossed in several curveballs during Saturday's 16-song setlist.
There was the swirling, jam-band guitar solo that capped "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." There was the strange, cha-cha-like re-arrangement of "Simple Twist of Fate." And there was the slinky, Gypsy-inspired rendition of his Academy Award winning "Things Have Changed," with the actual Oscar sitting on top of a case just behind Dylan, as it always does.
Dylan still makes great records, and his new three-CD greatest hits compilation, "Dylan,"can fill you in on your favorites that he didn't get around to playing on Saturday. But he's always been something of a crapshoot in concert, and at the Times Union Center he didn't really hit the mark until late in his two-hour show.
Elvis Costello was more of an opening act than a co-billed headliner, and his solo performance was only 45 minutes long, but it was solid right from the start, strumming up a storm on "The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes." Costello, too, mixed numerous older tunes into his set, including a rousing "Oliver's Army" and "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?"
But he also served up a pair of Coward Brothers tunes (his collaboration with Midas-touched producer-songwriter T Bone Burnett) and earned some of the loudest applause of the night by slipping from "Radio Sweetheart" into a rousing version of Van Morrison's soul-soaked "Jackie Wilson Said."
Starting off the evening at 7 p.m. was young singer-songwriter Amos Lee, who managed to hold his own on the bill with the intimidating Dylan and Costello, thanks to a versatile backing quartet who could churn up the rock ("Supply and Demand") as well as the moody, roots-centric "Black River."