LEWISTON – A large crowd turned out Wednesday night to spend some time with a lively septuagenarian who will soon be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
At one point, the esteemed gentleman offered a historical discourse on the “Early Roman Kings.” But the nasty, hard, amplified blues riff it rode on was far from academic.
The aforementioned honoree was, of course, Bob Dylan.
For his latest visit to the Pine Tree State, the legend from Minnesota offered a small selection of the many songs he’s written over a long career. Blues was definitely a factor, though, perhaps because of the presence of guitarist Duke Robillard, a new addition to the band.
Dylan’s last visit to the venue was a general admission event. This time the seats were reserved, but neither Dylan nor the crowd were reserved as the master and his band told musical stories, often about tough lives lived and evil ways unchecked.
Especially impressive this time was his harmonica playing, which got some of the loudest applause of the evening. On “Beyond Here Lies Nothing,” he stood center stage, legs slightly apart, and blew a haunting line that was about as good as it gets.
Dylan, otherwise alternated between center stage and setting up behind his keyboard. From there, he appeared to call an audible at one point, as the band broke into a rousing version of the rockabilly tune “Summer Days.”
For oldies, he offered “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Visions of Johanna.” But the best moments came on the newer tunes. “Scarlet Town” and the mysterious “Pay in Blood” were powerful.
The California-based band Dawes opened the show with a brief set. Some may remember them as part of last summer’s Mumford & Sons extravaganza in Portland.
Though they’re sensitive about being labeled retro, it was hard not to think of older classics when hearing songs like “From a Window Seat,” a gem of a tune off their just released disc “Stories Don’t End.”
Though when listening to his singing voice you may feel compelled to offer him some tea and honey, Bob Dylan’s story also seems not ready to end anytime soon.
— Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.