Syracuse University Daily Orange, October 9, 2007

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Gathering moss


Alex Shebar

Aging Dylan's eclectic set list still captivates audience despite weak vocals

They were all in Syracuse last night, turning the War Memorial at OnCenter into the hippest place around. From the beat poets to jazz men to dancing hippies and, yes, even the whole family — all people that were "with it" danced and sang throughout the night.

Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello were in town.

The two icons performed for a solid three hours. Both are known for performing a varied style of music, and neither disappointed, changing genres song by song.

Dylan was on for two hours, backed by a five-piece set of extremely talented musicians. The audience danced with the upbeat rock tunes, clapped along with the slower folk ballads and did everything in between for the set of swing, blues and country he provided.

"It was awesome. He's old, but he still was great," said Matt Schoeneck, a sophomore business major who as been listening to Dylan since he could comprehend music. "It's still the same, it's still Bob Dylan."

Dylan's music may still hold the same power, melody and meaning for more than five generations, but unfortunately, his voice hasn't held up nearly as well. A man known for mumbling his way through the lyrics, Dylan seemed to sink to a new low with spoken-word versions of his tunes that seemed more gibberish than English.

"His voice has definitely deteriorated a little it, but it's still not so bad," said Sarah Wyman, a junior environmental biology major at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Of course, that was if you could tell whatever song he was singing. Except for an incredibly awkward, out-of-rhythm version of "Like a Rolling Stone" that rendered fans incapable of singing along, Dylan ignored all of his staples.

Though, it might be true that any artist with 49 albums (not counting bootlegs or other albums he's been featured on) who has toured as long as he has would be sick of singing "Blowin' in the Wind" or "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

What he did play was a mix of easy-to-listen-to songs from over the years, and he performed them well. Dressed in a dark suit topped by a gleaming white cowboy hat, Dylan stayed on piano and harmonica, letting his band fill in the guitar and drums.

He opened with "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," a fast-paced electric blues song from 1966's "Blonde on Blonde." Throughout the night, he would hit other singles like a slowed-down version of "Positively 4th Street," as well as "Working Man's Blues."

Dylan also included a fair amount of songs from his latest album, 2006's Modern Times, his first No. 1 album in the United States since 1976's Desire.

Costello, on the other hand, seemed to know just what his audience wanted to hear. Touring solo for the first time 12 years, he weaved in and out of his classics, sandwiching them between unknown, but enjoyable songs.

Starting without an introduction, Costello began with a bang, strumming hard to "(The Angeles Want to Wear My) Red Shoes" from his 1977 debut, My Aim Is True.

Throughout the night, he played his other hits including "Alison," "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and "Veronica," though the concert lacked some favorite classics like "Every Day I Write the Book" and "Watching the Detectives."

The set was done entirely alone: just Costello, a guitar and a spotlight. This left many of his songs feeling empty because he's known for having loud and varied musical accompaniments.

Though noticeable that he didn't have a band, it wasn't entirely unwelcome. And every time Costello needed some backup, he got the audience to sing along with him.

"He really rocked out, especially signing solo," said Andrew Lipsitz, an undeclared sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. "He didn't freeze at all on stage, he rocked on."

What Costello lost in full-bodied sound, he made up for with an intimate setting. It was him, alone, singing to the audience, and the connection was palpable.

"Playing right on the edge of the stage was fantastic," said Chris Bentley, a freshman natural resources major at Cornell University. "A lot of people resent him for not using The Attractions (Costello's former band), but I enjoyed the acoustic. It was an interesting change."

The show was opened by Amos Lee and his backing band, which did a combination of country, folk and soul. It was a solid and varied opening to a night that contained similar music.

The show proved that with the right talent, any city can become hip — especially when it welcomes Bob Dylan.

"It was Bob; he's a pimp," Schoeneck said. "He's still so cool. He hasn't change at all."

Jamie Groeneveld contributed to this story.

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The Daily Orange, October 9, 2007


Alex Shebar reviews Bob Dylan and opening act Elvis Costello, Monday, October 8, 2007, War Memorial At Oncenter, Syracuse, NY.

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2007-10-09 Syracuse University Daily Orange page 12.jpg
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