OMFG! What the hell is this guy eating? At Deer Valley Resort last night, Bob Dylan, approaching 70, totally rocked the house. And I mean, ROCKED the house. This was probably not an ideal show for Dylan purists. He never once sat down or even picked up an acoustic guitar. In fact, I noticed a few groups of folks heading for the exit of Deer Valley's Snow Park amphitheater three or four tunes into the concert. But for others, like me, this was the dream show we'd always hoped for from The Man.
Backed by his killer group of longtime road warriors, including default band leader and outstanding guitarist Charlie Sexton, Dylan hit the stage with smoking versions of "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" and "This Wheel's on Fire." Somewhere, recently, Dylan and his band have discovered the backbeat. Funkified versions of tunes like "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and "Just Like a Woman" show that Dylan isn't afraid to fuck with his own discography. He altered the phrasing of almost every familiar song. On "Just Like a Woman," each line featured a long pause and then a hurried-up punch line: "She takes .............. justlikeawomen. She aches ................ justlikeawoman."
By the time Dylan and his band launched into their fifth song of the night -- a sizzling version of "Things Have Changed" -- the entire Deer Valley crowd was on its feet and never sat back down. Dylan wouldn't let them. Throughout the evening, he and the band seemed to have something to prove. Playing a surging, gurgling organ through Leslie speakers, there were times when I thought I was hearing Deep Purple, not Dylan. Songs like "Tangled Up in Blue," "Masters of War," "Highway 61 Revisited," "Jolene" and others -- all of them, in fact -- were tight, funky, fast and furious, with a swamp-rock underbelly pinned down by bassist Tony Garnier. It was such a strong show that Dylan could even be forgiven his occasional misconceived guitar solo -- forays that didn't always completely work. He was having fun.
Dylan didn't address the audience once, except to introduce his band, which was fine with me. He was busy massacring the crowd and giving notice to wannabe, younger rockers. This was a lesson in how it's done. At last night's show, Dylan seemed to be throwing down a gauntlet of some sort. Never one to allow himself to be defined by others, he took a page out of the Springsteen playbook, delivery a relentless volley of driving songs, taking no prisoners.
He's always had a sense of humor. And, from the stage, simple hand gestures -- and upraised palm, for example -- seemed to pay tribute to Bobby Darin or Sammy Davis Jr. more than his rock and roll colleagues. Wrapping up his encore with a knockout rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" that was more akin to Jimi Hendrix' version than his own, Dylan left no doubt about who the heaviest rocker on the planet was last night. He seemed to be having a blast. And so were we.