Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler – Barclay

The sparkling new Barclay Center played host to two legends on the night before Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, with both musicians touring behind critically acclaimed albums.  The hype surrounding those releases certainly managed to help “sell-out” the arena, but there were full sections in the rafters that were cloaked out black to help that term along. 

Hitting the stage at 7:45, Mark Knopfler would play for an equal amount of time as Dylan with a supporting cast that would fluctuate between 3-8 cohorts. The group primarily worked their way through the 7th solo album from Knopfler, Privateering.  The outfit had a sense of country rock with British Isle elements as they played the long title track, singing about sailing to the Barbary Coast while building the tune up via a slow acoustic burn.  “Kingdom of Gold” continued down this path of folk music, stretched to epic lengths, adding a wooden flute and a nice electric guitar solo to spice things up.  Around this point, Knopfler mentioned he could hear the crowd yelling out requests, before saying “Don’t worry.” then pausing and offering “We ain’t gonna play them.”  Fans couldn’t tell if he was joking, but he was not. 

Continuing with tracks from the new album, the band played a few sleepy blues numbers that would be enlivened by very short, yet ripe guitar solos and more folk rock wanderings.  As an opening act, it certainly did not work, however if you were a fan of Knopflers new mellow release, you couldn’t have been happier.  For those who just wanted the hits he did close the co-billed set with the Dire Straits classic from Brothers In Arms, “So Far Away”.   

After a quick turnaround by the crew, the lights went down and you could hear an acoustic guitar being strummed off stage.  Soon, Dylan and his crack 5 piece backing band rolled that strumming into the surprising “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” to the delight of those in attendance.  Dylan sang the tune with a razor-like slicing that kept people trying to sing-a-long out in the cold.  His vocals warmed up considerably though, as he lead a piano-driven version of “Don’t Think Twice” that cooked, and finished with the first harmonica solo of the night. 

While the band was clad in all gray suits and Dylan looking dapper as well, a black t-shirt wearing guest had joined the band during their second song.  Sure enough, without any fanfare, Mark Knopfler performed double duty on this night. Contributing on a, sped up, set highlight, version of “Things Have Changed” the band rollicked as Dylan played the roll of front-man, bopping around the stage and looking more spry then he has in years.  The superstar extra guitarist hung around as well for the classic “Tangled Up In Blue” which had the crowd buzzing as Dylan played with the lyrics (“He headed down to New Orleans/Where they treated him like a King!”) and hinted at an epic show.

Things slowed down considerably after Knopfler left the stage and the band played “Early Roman Kings” off of Tempest.  A straight ahead and inspired version of “Chimes of Freedom” was unexpected but the energy fell back down during “The Levee’s Gonna Break.”  The show took an up and down motion the rest of the way after the amazing first few tunes. 

High points were the smooth intro which played precursor to a pretty version of “Visions of Johanna,” an echo vocal effect laden “Ballad Of A Thin Man”, the strutting “All Along The Watchtower” and the powerful violin and harp filled “Forgetful Heart.”  Some of the less successful numbers were “Soon After Midnight,” the clunking piano heavy “Highway 61 Revisited,” which never gained any steam, and the paint by numbers version of “Like A Rolling Stone."

Overall though, the band and Dylan seemed to be enjoying their only NYC appearance, making the crowd thankful they are still producing such exciting live versions of Dylan’s excellent catalog of music.

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