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Bob Dylan at The Joint: Review by Erik Kabik

Las Vegas photographer Erik Kabik attended Bob Dylan’s show and filed this report with us:

Although I was unable to photograph Bob Dylan tonight at The Joint, I attended the show and wanted to share my perspective. I’m a Bob Dylan fan and veteran of approximately 50 shows since 1986.

We have many superstars who come through Las Vegas, but in the test of time Bob Dylan may be one of the most influential artists who regularly passes through and anytime he performs in our city it is an occasion worth noting. There are very few artist of today or even yesterday who cannot attribute some part of their artistry to Bob Dylan and his impact on popular music.

There are many legendary artists who have brighter flames (and greater popular appeal)……such as the Beatles or even Michael Jackson but Bob Dylan holds the unique place in pop culture as the artist who was and is simply the most influential for the past 40+ years and who has impacted and inspired the most influential artists of our time. He is to modern music what Mozart and Beethoven were to classical music. When it comes to modern day R&B, Hip-Hop, pop, hard rock, country or any contemporary music with lyrics Dylan’s influence can be traced as the source for inspiration that led to the atmosphere and culture that allows for artistic exploration of ideas to be expressed thorough popular music. His career spans almost 50 years and still today he produces groundbreaking albums that are critically acclaimed by fans and industry insiders alike. Even people who are not Dylan fans probably like a Bob Dylan song that has been covered by a contemporary artist.

Tonight’s performance at the Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas was one of his great performances in Las Vegas in recent years. With the re-introduction of guitarist Charlie Sexton into the band…Bob Dylan seems invigorated and revived in his stage presence and delivery. The band is simply a powerhouse and Sexton lead the band through each number with skillful guitar artistry and leads and a stage presence that seems to inspire Dylan throughout the show. Dylan was smiling often and looked giddy at times with the interaction between he and sexton and the band. This is simply one of the last great American Bands on the road and it’s music your unlikely to hear anywhere else. As part of what has been dubbed Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour, this incarnation of the Dylan band is a refreshing lineup in comparison to the last couple of bands in recent years. They have all been good in different ways but this band stands out and feels like a milestone in the last decade of Dylan Bands.

His set was solid from star to finish and included new arrangements of the songs ‘cold Irons bound’ and ‘The Man in Me’ and ‘Thunder on the mountain’. His ballad, ‘Forgetful heart’ was a show stopper as he took front and center with his harmonica in hand and sung a sweet ballad with his snarly grisly voice full of pure emotion and feeling. Dylan pulled out an electric guitar during ‘Dont Think Twice It’s Alright’ , and again in a slight rearrangement of the song, he left some in the crowd scrambling to identify the tune. That’s the beauty of Bob Dylan…he does not come out and do cookie cutter shows of his songs as you expect to hear them. He is a true artist and renders each piece of his music as he sees fit. At each Dylan show the songs are delivered like new pieces of art each time they are performed and he imparts his current take on the songs into the delivery of the lyric and the tone. It’s not a reproduction of the song as it was recorded on the album, but Dylan’s interpretation of his own material with added verses….changes in vocal delivery and musical arrangement.

He also performed what was the most powerful and high spirited versions of Highway 61 Revisited I have heard in years. It was electrifying and he was all smiles with his band as the jammed out this number to it’s full grandeur. The guys were simply rocking the Joint.

It was the set closer, ‘Ballad of a thin man’, that brought the crowd to it’s knees. Dylan took the microphone off the stand and arms outstretched he sang some of the most prolific lyrics in modern music. He sang the verse….”Something is happening here and you don’t know what it is… you, Mr. Jones?” and you could feel the chills run through the audience in the Joint. This performance reminded me of performances I have seen in films from the late 60′ s in Europe. It was chilling and haunting and the band, all dressed in white suits….draped in low direct warm light backed by a black backdrop and set, delivered Dylan’s scornful and personal ballad with gut wrenching emotion and accuracy. Dylan’s voice was crisp, clear and present as ever and Ballad Of A thin man seems as pertinent in 2009 as it did in 1965 when it was released on his album Highway 61 Revisited.

He came back out to perform his 3 set encore and held the crowd firmly in the palm of his hand. Again Dylan was moving through each song with smiles, dancing around the microphone and delivering every verse as if it were his last verse.

At times his show is just a straight up rock and roll show and then at others, what my friend referred to as a Honky Tonk show. It’s big band….it’s vaudeville, swampy southern roots blues and rock all rolled up into one great American band. I think the Grateful Dead may have been the last great American experience a fan could have out on the road with a band and Bob Dylan and his band may be the last great American Band. The good part …they are on a never ending tour so you can probably catch them next time if you missed this one. Dylan shows no signs of slowing down.

At 68 years old Dylan is as prolific and present of an artist as he ever was.

Playlist: Las Vegas, Nevada Hard Rock Hotel & Casino The Joint October 18, 2009

1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (Bob on keyboard)
2. The Man In Me (Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on trumpet)
3. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Bob on guitar)
4. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on trumpet)
5. Spirit On The Water (Bob on keyboard and harp)
6. Forgetful Heart (Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on violin)
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (Bob center stage on harp)
8. Beyond The Horizon (Bob on keyboard and harp)
9. Cold Irons Bound (Bob center stage on harp)
10. Tryin’ To Get To Heaven (Bob on keyboard and harp)
11. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
12. Po’ Boy (Bob on keyboard)
13. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard)
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage on harp)

15. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)
16. Jolene (Bob on keyboard)
17. All Along The Watchtower (Bob on keyboard)