Ann Arbor News, October 13, 2007

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Thunder ... and mumbles:
Highs and lows at Dylan, Costello show


Roger LeLievre

There's something I have never understood about Bob Dylan — why write such profound, poetic lyrics, only to mangle them in concert? Is it too much to ask that more than a word here or there be understandable?

OK, I know Dylan is Dylan, some shows are better than others, and maybe to be in the presence of such a music legend should be satisfaction enough. And at times it was. But there were other moments during Dylan's show Friday night at a not-quite-full Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center that I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about.

And then he would tear into a classic like "Highway 61 Revisited" and I would understand.

All in all, Dylan's five-piece blues-rock band really cooked, and his efforts on guitar, keyboard and harmonica were flawless. He mixed classics ("Don't Think Twice," "Masters of War," "I Want You," "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again") and tracks from last year's CD Modern Times ("Spirit on the Water," "The Levee's Gonna Break") and closed on a high note with rousing versions of "Thunder on the Mountain" and "All Along the Watchtower."

Clearly the crowd adored him — and given his stature, what do a few mumbled lyrics matter after all? If you wanted lyrics, better to have focused on the set by new-wave original Elvis Costello, who provided a superb, if short, 45-minute solo performance before Dylan and his band took the stage (singer-songwriter Amos Lee also performed, the first of the three acts).

Costello, wearing his signature, thick-rimmed glasses, sang the pants off songs like "Red Shoes," "Veronica, "River in Reverse," "The Scarlet Tide" and "Radio Sweetheart." His "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding" was particularly stirring, his between-song storytelling added an element of engagement with the audience missing from Dylan's set.

Despite the campus setting, the audience skewed heavily toward middle-agers glad to see two musical icons still a-rockin' and a-rolling after all these years. And in the end, that's all that really matters, right?

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The Ann Arbor News, October 13, 2007


Roger LeLievre reviews Bob Dylan and opening act Elvis Costello, Friday, October 12, 2007, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI.


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