Bob Dylan Concert Review – Ottawa June 29, 2017

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan brought his band and tour to Ottawa last night amidst the rain of a soggy June Day.


At 8:10 the band took the stage with Dylan not far behind, opening with “Things have changed.” A great piece as Dylan is constantly altering how he approaches music, not satisfied with keeping things the same too long.


His stage was designed to look like an old nightclub, everything about it had the fifties or possibly sixties feel. Dimly lit with many different lighting arrangements, Dylan offered the stage as a place of focus where the music seemed most important. There were no big screens to project images or video, no flashing lights, and a no camera/phone request strictly enforced. I understand many were not pleased with the idea of pocketing their phones in the beginning, but as the show matured it was clear this strategy freed people to focus on the stage and music.


At 75 Dylan’s voice is slightly deeper now but still very capable of reaching all the required notes, running all the inclines, drags and hollows that is his trademark. In a ballad covering Sinatra “Why try to change me now,” Dylan’s voice so solid and beautiful it brought chills.


His band are seasoned veterans, offering Dylan the ability to arrange songs any way he might wish. There were blues and jazz numbers and everything in between including great steel guitar on tracks needing a slide. Dylan stayed with the piano or moved to center stage for ballads, but did not play guitar or harmonica during the show.


“Early Roman Kings” a blues number from the 2012 album Tempest, had the whole building on the rails as if in an old freight car, the car swayed, the steel wheels bouncing from rail to rail.


The sound in the Canadian Tire Centre was impressive! A bit heavy on the bottom end, but there was clarity across all instrument levels and vocals. As expected it was not a loud show and did not require protective ear gear.


One should remember that Dylan is now mid-seventies and knows what works, and what doesn’t. It was very clear that Dylan created a show and set list that offered fans a taste of everything from his career. He came to play and sing his songs, making each song special and giving full effort toward the outcome. In one moment, as a song came to the final notes Dylan held the vocal, bringing the word “incredible” to mind. Where many artists would have finished and smiled much sooner, Dylan held the note, bringing it upward and then back down and into subtle sustain as his breath finished.


Dylan has the luxury with his songs to arrange them so many different ways. And with this band, he gave some standards such new life. At one point I thought I heard influences from other artists making way into his songs. Was I dreaming? Or was Dylan, a man who everyone looks to for inspiration befriending signature moments of other great artists and friends?


People over the years have said that Dylan is moody sometimes qualified as grumpy. I understand where this comes from as he didn’t interact through conversation with the audience during the show. He seemed gracious and appreciative offering many gestures toward the audience. Comradery on stage between Dylan and his band was strong, where the music was number one priority as is always the case with Dylan.


Dylan had an effect on me last night. There were several moments where my eyes got misty as I fell into songs, into places of impossible magic. The breath and voice of Dylan so powerful. In another moment, I thought I was being called to run away from home and join the circus (really). Dylan knows this about his music and teases the audience to be as open as he during the performance.


Dylan who did not play “Like a Rolling Stone” last night, has said he does not remember writing the song, does not remembering the person who wrote it. He seems very content to leave the past behind, trying to keep the moment fresh.

Last night’s show is proof that Dylan at 75 is as relevant today as any time in his career. I don’t think those in attendance last night left without acknowledging the brilliance Dylan is, the unique qualities hidden in his work and performances.


I find it impossible to offer a favorite, although “Autumn Leaves” a Sinatra cover was incredible.


The set list was very balanced and offered as a link here. The show ended just after 10 pm.


The encore was;


Blown’ in the Wind (1962)


Ballad of a Thin Man (1965)


By Tom Kelly


1 Comment on this Article

  1. Tom, July 1, 2017

    Kudos on the review, Tom! It sounded like a great concert. Although I would have missed hearing Dylan sing “Like a Rolling Stone”, I hope I would have heard Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Don’t Think Twice, Blowin’ in the Wind. Did any of those make his playlist? I’ve never seen or heard Dylan live, but I’ve seen him on TV and between sets he’s never been much of a conversationalist. He keeps all of his words for his lyrics and does more than just fine there.

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