Bob Dylan / The Raconteurs: Continental Airlines Arena, E. Rutherford, NJ 11.16.06

Timeless.  In years to come we will look back on Bob Dylan’s work as a musician and songwriter with pure awe.  Hundreds of years from now he may inspire Shakespearian like debates.  How can one man have been so much too so many?  But those days are far off and we still get to examine the bard in his natural state, performing on stage.  His current arena tour has him paired with newer quality acts to draw both young and old to discover new music.  In Jersey, the Raconteurs had show opening duties and performed them more then admirably. 

With a ticket time stating doors at 7:30, it was quite surprising for the Nashville by way of Detroit boys to take the stage exactly on time, but that was the case on the wet Thursday night.  Playing to a half full arena for an hour, they took a cue from Dylan by toying with their song arrangements plopping a reggae beat into “Level” and huge stomp intro that escaladed into the stratosphere during “Store Bought Bones”.  The band switched up their presentation and jammed “Yellow Sun” and received a good reaction from the sweet “Together”.  Incredibly impressive the Raconteurs style may have been a bit loud for some of the elderly in attendance, but no one was trying to cut their power cables with an axe. 

Dylan is touring with the same band with which he recorded Modern Times and this group (with Bob on Keyboards) focused on the new release, playing 5 songs from the album.  They also appeased by addressing classics with tight musicianship backing up the legend, but this night belonged to the elder statesmen in the electric blue satin shirt and black cowboy hat.  His singing was in strong form, raspy as always, but powerful on the biting “Positively 4th St.” and a stirring “Senor”.  The set alternated between blues based rockers and ballads from song to song.  A slow (bordering on boring) arraignment of “It’s Alright Ma” was chased by the boogie of the new-by-way-of-old “When the Deal Goes Down”.  The crowd enjoyed trying to match Bob’s phrasing during the two Blood on the Tracks gems “Tangled up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Faith” but the real highlights were two of Dylan’s newer tracks. 

“Things Have Changed” from the Wonder Boys Soundtrack was invigorating. Backed by squirrelly electric guitars, Bob ripped into this dense song as he waited for hell to break loose.  It never did though; the tension and sound grew as the band marched up and down the scales to bring this ride to an end.  A sure fire musical highlight of the evening, matched by the show stopping power on display during “Nettie Moore”.  The drawn out phrasing presented on this tune was meaty and lyrics like “I’m the oldest son of a crazy man/I’m in a cowboy band.  Got a pile of sins to pay for and I ain’t got time to hide/I’d walk through a blazing fire, baby, if I knew you was on the other side” scorched.  A brief stunned silence followed before the crowd erupted in applause. 

Far from a sellout of the huge arena (complete sections were empty) those in attendance caught a master still on top of his game and with the encore of two of the greatest modern songs ever written  – Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower -few left unsatisfied.  A re-emergence of Jack White to get his Jimi impersonation on would have been fun, but Dylan kept the encores to himself as he and his cowboy band continue to roll on.         

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