Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bob Dylan in Fine Late-Career Form at Njpac

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bob Dylan in Fine Late-Career Form at Njpac

Article excerpt

"Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked," sang Bob Dylan in the '60s. These days, he's applying the principle to himself.

Dylan's sold-out Wednesday night concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark was a rare example of a rock dinosaur standing figuratively naked. His gruff, weathered voice made him sound like the 73-year-old man that he is. He didn't rely on past hits: Only four songs came from his golden era (early '60s to mid-'70s). He didn't even use traditional rock-concert lighting, but stood (or sat at his piano) in the shadows all night long, as if to say: The music is the only thing that matters.

I have to admit, I haven't always been satisfied by Dylan's concerts in recent years. Sometimes the vocals have just been too garbled, or the performances too diffident. But I felt that Wednesday's concert was as good as late-career live Dylan gets, and wholeheartedly recommend that fans try to catch a show at the Beacon Theatre in New York, where he will be until Wednesday. (He had a secret weapon in Newark, though: The world-class acoustics of NJPAC's Prudential Hall, which helped listeners not only understand Dylan's vocals, but also catch every subtle shading of his sharp five-piece backing band.)

Dylan opened the show on a defiant note, with "Things Have Changed": "People are crazy and times are strange/I'm locked in tight, I'm outta range/I used to care, but things have changed," he sang, and you could almost see him smirking. And though much of what came later was pretty dark -- the writing on his last few albums has often been a kind of musical version of ruminative film noir -- he did show that he still cares, in the encores, by singing his landmark ballad of social concern, "Blowin' in the Wind," followed by a sweetly crooned ballad, "Stay With Me" (recorded by Frank Sinatra in the '60s and possibly recorded for Dylan's covers album, "Shadows in the Night," due out next year). …

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