With silver buckets of incense burning behind the stage and an elaborate introduction, Bob Dylan took the stage at Assembly Hall on Friday night with his band members — all of whom were dressed in black, with Dylan looking like he was straight from an old Western movie. Elvis Costello, who also helped kick off Homecoming weekend, performed solo prior to Dylan and his band. Amos Lee opened the show with blues rock.
The introduction of Dylan consisted of majestic music with a humorous, but formal sounding, prerecorded introductory speech about his life of substance abuse and hardships until finding Jesus. Presumably satirical, the introduction was perfect for the legend.
"I think it's kind of his way of poking fun at himself," said junior Kathy Cook, a member of the Union Board concerts committee.
With mostly undecipherable lyrics and a southern blues twang, the band jammed out a vastly different version of "It Ain't Me Babe," which was hard to recognize until he got to the chorus. Cook said that Dylan's voice is an acquired taste.
"He's got that gravely voice," she said. "I think it's an effective, put-on thing. I've seen him play songs with a clear, clean voice."
The songs varied from the original versions in almost every manner. Not only were his vocals a different cadence and sound, but they had less folk and more of a southern blues sound.
"It was definitely jazzed up," said sophomore Mick Buschbacher. "He can do whatever he wants and it's OK. He's Bob Dylan."
The band grooved through the songs with long interludes and twangy guitar solos throughout. After a couple songs, Dylan abandoned the guitar for the keyboard, alternating the effect between piano and electric organ, and occasionally playing parts of his songs on the harmonica.
Finally, Dylan played "Blowin' in the Wind," a slower, more joyous version of the folk classic. At the end, Dylan walked to the front of the stage, put his hands out to the side and pointed his fingers like a pistol-wielding cowboy.
Costello was "much more cordial and pretty subdued," said Chicago resident Dan Hunt in a comparison of his usual performances. The singer came out in all-black attire, wearing his hallmark, thick-framed glasses. His shiny silver shoes stood out as he shuffled his feet on stage.
"I've heard a lot about Elvis Costello before, but now I see that he's really talented," said Rudy Cesaretti, a high school senior visiting from St. Louis.
Costello ripped through his solo set, with his rendition of "Alison" before going straight into Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said." That wasn't the end though. Before stopping this piece, he went into his famous "Radio Radio." Not only did his classics captivate the audience, but his new songs were well-received, with Costello telling the audience he was happy they enjoyed them.
Though he was more jovial than usual, he still occasionally turned to the audience with his famous, mad glare. In a rare performance without his band, Costello entertained the audience with his music as well as his personal anecdotes.
Union Board Concerts Director Adam Soiref said he was pleased with the concert, which sold about 7,900 tickets.
"I think the audience was in to it from beginning to end," he said. "Everyone seemed to have a good time."