Worcester — Last month, Mark Ronson produced a remixed version of the Bob Dylan classic "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)," brightening it with horns and punchier rhythms. Last night at the DCU Center, Dylan himself remixed the song live on stage, swirling the familiar rhythms of the Blonde on Blonde nugget into a whole new pattern with the aid of his crack five-piece band.
The Ronson single, which is the first "official remix" of a Bob Dylan song, is a novelty of sorts and another piece to the Dylan hagiography that was further expanded yesterday with the release of a three-disc greatest hits collection and gets another chapter later in the month with the DVD release "The Other Side of the Mirror," a chronicling of Dylan’s appearances at the Newport Folk Festival in the 1960s.
But to understand why, after 40 years and countless looks back upon a storied career, people still find it intriguing to put together musical puzzle pieces into some sort of understandable picture, one simply had to sit back and absorb Dylan’s crisp, 100-minute outing at the DCU Center. Through 16 songs, Dylan both celebrated the breadth and diversity of the American musical canon, authoritatively grabbing hold of folk, rock, jazz and blues — and claimed his place within that canon, particularly as a lyric writer capable of shaping such cryptic images as leopard-skin pillbox hats, watchtowers and highways into something meaningful.
Perhaps Dylan was in such fine form because of the high standards set earlier in the night by openers Amos Lee and Elvis Costello. Costello in particular was a marvel to watch as he played solo versions of such classics as "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" and "Alison" alongside new material and a celebratory cover version of Van Morrison’s "Jackie Wilson Said." It would not be fair to call Costello’s set stripped down, as he simply rocked the joint even though he was by himself armed only with a few acoustic guitars.
Dylan likewise hit the stage ready to roll. His show-opening "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" was spot on and showed no signs of being a warm-up tune. Dylan stayed center stage playing electric guitar through that song, plus "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right" and "Watching the River Flow," moving respectively through thumping rock ’n’ roll, jaunty country and hypnotic blues via the arrangements he crafted for each song.
Dylan then moved to the electric piano he has been manning for the past couple of years and laid into the dark anti-war ballad "John Brown." A screaming blues blowout with "Rollin’ and Tumblin’ " introduced the first of several selections taken from Dylan’s most recent album "Modern Times." Concert highlights drawn from that album included the jazzy "Beyond the Horizon" and epic "Ain’t Talkin.’ "
Dylan’s band of guitarists Denny Freeman and Stu Kimball, steel guitar, banjo and fiddle player Donnie Herron, bass player Tony Garnier, and drummer George Recile followed the leader’s every move and made possible the show’s broad shifts such as the one from the swinging "Spirit on the Water" into the rollicking "Highway 61 Revisited."
The Western gunslinger outfit Dylan wore, his on-stage reticence barring simple band intros, and his voice that operates in a range all its own are the sorts of outward ingredients that nobody would guess could amount to musical greatness. Yet there they were, pieces of a puzzle one can happily still try to put together.