Dallas, Texas
Music Hall at Fair Park

April 4, 2024

[Robert Edwards], [Preston Jones]

Review by Robert Edwards

Bob in good form tonight in Dallas. Stood for at least half the show
and hammered the piano. Good crowd. Fairgrounds venue was comfortable
but vocals mixed a bit on treble  side. None the less Mr D in the
mood. His harp on to be alone with you was full r& b and thin silver
mercury. Ditto good bye Jimmy Reed. Key west is a mystery, no matter
how he plays it you can’t escape the charm. He gave kudos to guitar
and Tony. Drummer killed it all night long. Bob bowed and posed with
right elbow across chest and lingered on stage as lights dimmed. Agree
he seems to be saying goodbye to towns he loves. Look out Austin..


Review by Preston Jones

Bob Dylan Brings It All Back to Dallas With Hypnotic Fair Park Performance
The Nobel-winning wordsmith musician still has the spark he's carried 
since his old days in the Village.

In concert, as in most any other public, visible aspect of his life, Bob 
Dylan is resolutely inscrutable.

The pride of Hibbing, Minnesota, is almost more mirror than man at this 
point - or maybe he always was. On the cusp of turning 83 (on May 24), the 
iconic singer-songwriter - listing his innumerable accolades, from Grammys 
to the Nobel Prize, and detailing his vast, enduring influence would be a 
novella unto itself - has long served as something of a reflective surface 
for casual and obsessive fans alike.

You see, hear and feel what you want; you take from him whatever meaning 
you're meant to glean. His eclectic, enthralling music, embedded in 
multiple generations of listeners, remains stubbornly eternal - the 
visceral snare drum snap, followed by the low punch of kick drum launching 
"Like a Rolling Stone," for instance, quickens the heart as easily in the 
TikTok era as it did the age of rotary phones - and, even half a century 
later, is as woolly and indefinable as it is moving and important.

To understand that Dylan is one of the indisputable architects of modern 
popular music makes it no less overwhelming to watch him, alive and in 
front of you, continue to chase his muse down whatever paths it leads him.

Dylan returned to North Texas and the Music Hall at Fair Park Thursday 
night, as his Rough and Rowdy Ways tour, ongoing since late 2021, 
approached its terminus. He'll wrap this two-and-a-half year, eight-leg 
stint with a two-night stand in Austin on Friday and Saturday.

He was back in town relatively soon after his last trip through the area, 
which was also part of the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour, having performed at 
Irving's Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in March 2022. (Thursday's 
appearance in Fair Park was Dylan's first at the venue in almost 34 years, 
the last coming on Sept. 6, 1990, just five days before the release of 
Under the Red Sky.)

The lengthy excursion was launched in support of his 2020 LP Rough and 
Rowdy Ways, a sharp, sprawling late-career masterwork that served as the 
foundation for Thursday's roughly 105-minute performance. Attendees were 
required to seal their devices inside provided Yondr pouches prior to the 
performance, ensuring the focus was on the stage, not their palms.

Backed by a razor-sharp quintet - guitarists Bob Britt and Doug Lancio, 
bassist Tony Garnier, drummer Jerry Pentecost and multi-instrumentalist 
Donnie Herron - Dylan appeared on stage at 8:04 p.m., dressed all in 
black, and took his seat behind what looked like a baby grand piano.

The Music Hall stage was simply dressed and perfunctorily lighted, with 
some sheer curtains serving as a backdrop on all sides and some 
spotlights on stands scattered about the musicians, who formed a loose 
semicircle behind Dylan.

It gave the odd sensation of watching a band working through a rehearsal, 
rather than a performance, as the musicians often seemed laser-focused on 
Dylan's hands as they jumped across the piano keys, and tried to hang 
with the mercurial shifts in tempo, tone and phrasing.

That the evening occasionally rose above a steady simmer to approach a 
rolling boil - "False Prophet" built up a lovely head of steam, full of 
bluesy menace and bite; "To Be Alone with You" was one of several moments 
Dylan added a filigree of impassioned harmonica, even engendering some 
audience participation - was a testament to the prodigious skill of his 

It cannot be easy, even after all these nights, to step out onto a high 
wire and hope for magic to materialize. (The geographically specific 
covers he's been doling out on the tour didn't pan out for Dallas: the 
setlist slot typically devoted to each night's surprise was given over to 
Johnny Cash's "Big River" Thursday.)

Dylan said little more than "Thank you" to those assembled. The room was 
nearly sold out, but scattered pockets of open seats were visible here 
and there. His indifference to the occasional standing ovations did 
little to deter the vocal appreciation he was shown from the moment he 
stepped on stage.

To step inside a late-period Dylan performance is to confront a handful 
of truths, which even despite the man's fondness for the slipperiness of 
perception and sleight of hand, cannot be denied or ignored.

The most pressing and obvious truth is no matter how invigorated or 
inspired Dylan may seem when he's on stage - this time around, largely 
parked on a piano bench for the duration - the master is much closer to 
the end of his days than the beginning. As the man once sang, it's not 
dark yet, but it's getting there.

Thus, an air of fragility and inevitability haunts the proceedings, 
giving the evening a heft and depth far beyond a simple Thursday night 
rock concert. Mortality lingers in the margins of all our lives, artist 
or no, promising nothing and capable of taking everything in a blink. Is 
this the last time for him, for us? We just don't know.

Another truth is Dylan, quite simply, isn't here to please any of the 
paying customers. Satisfaction is his alone, and hoping for anything 
otherwise is a fool's errand. His records are the starting point for him, 
a moment in time preserved, and not the model for how he approaches a 
song of any vintage in his catalog, whether it was cut during the Nixon 
administration or during Obama's.

Tangled Up in Bob

Show up expecting to hear, say, "All Along the Watchtower," "It's All 
Over Now, Baby Blue" or "Visions of Johanna" rendered as they were upon 
first release, and you will be mightily disappointed. He is as 
indifferent to the known structures, tempos and melodies of songs 
released less than five years ago as he is those ingrained in the 
American cultural subconscious.

While the privilege of being in the room and watching him work in 
relative proximity should tide most folks over, it's amusing to see 
fans so frothed in comment sections with indignation and entitlement 
that Dylan won't give them what they paid for, dammit.

It is also true there is simply no one else like Bob Dylan. To have so 
thoroughly shifted the planet's axis, assimilating inspiration from all 
corners of the American musical diaspora and turning popular music into 
something of equal weight, force and import, on par with literature or 
visual art or theater, is a feat no other recording artist can feasibly 
lay claim to doing.

That Dylan also wears the weight of such accomplishment so lightly - 
arguably even taking some considerable pleasure in confounding the 
lofty, impossible expectations befitting an artist of such consequence - 
is no less of an impressive feat. Where he's been isn't where he's going, 
and the journey, from his earliest days eking out a living in New York 
City folk clubs to his twilight, holding court in enormous and intimate 
venues alike, is of far more importance than any destination.

Holding all those unassailable truths in your mind as you watch the 
82-year-old musician move through his set is crucial, as taking the 
performance on face value can be a gamble.

Sure, his voice has thickened and slurred and pinched and wobbled as the 
years accumulated - the "thin, wild mercury sound" of his nervy early 
work is a distant memory now - and, unlike most assiduously polished pop 
ephemera of the last 50 years, Dylan's high baritone was and remains an 
acquired taste.

It is a distinctive instrument built to convey the meaning and mood of 
the songs at hand, heard and considered. Dylan's singing, however 
pleasant or abrasive, yearning or dismissive, was never something that 
went down as smoothly as the pop and jazz crooners whom he fervently 

Shockingly, however, he sounded clear (well, as clear as Dylan gets, 
anyway) and strong Thursday, as the venue's sound mix was superb, 
providing clarity and separation of the instruments and vocals. It was 
arguably the biggest surprise of the night: an easily heard live 

The night was, on balance, an unassuming one, albeit occasionally 
hypnotic and frequently riveting. Dylan does care, even if it often 
seems like everything is treated with a diffident shrug. Watching him 
rise off the piano bench, cupping a harmonica, or leaning into the 
microphone to enunciate a particular line was to understand how he's 
guarded that flame for so very long.

He hasn't lost the spark. While so much else about Bob Dylan might be 
a mystery, that much was evident to anyone who cared to look Thursday 

Preston Jones' review in the Dallas Observer of Bob’s show in Dallas on April 4, 2024


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