The man who turned the world upside down in the 1960s with his songs of protest has returned once again to the concert stage this week in Milwaukee at 80s years old. Like the old time blues and jazz singers who sang on stage until their hearts stopped beating Bob Dylan has continued his life work not letting age or time get in the way. While the pandemic put a hold on him performing for two years as well as everyone else, without fear the man is back. On Tuesday night November 2 2021, Bob Dylan opened up his tour with a dazzling concert at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater. Armed with some new musicians in the group, Bob Dylan opened the show with his classic rocking blues based tune called “Watching The River Flow.” With a handful of new players in the band it was probably a safe opening number to go with. The song is simply based on three chords which would allow even pro musicians to settle in easily in an opening night show.
Gone from Bob Dylan’s band is his longtime guitarist Charlie Sexton. The legendary guitarist’s career had started as a hot session guitarist when he was just a teen and then blossomed into a solo career with his band the Arc Angles as well as having a solo hit called “Beat’s So Lonely.” We are sure Bob Dylan misses having him by his side. The brilliant guitarist has been replaced by Doug Lancio. Also new in the band is drummer Charley Drayton. Filling out the rest of the group who have already toured with Bob Dylan was bassist Tony Garnier and guitar players Donnie Herron who plays pedal steel and guitarist Bob Britt.
Bob Dylan was in fine voice for the entire night. He would stand front and center singing and went to the upright piano on stage often. Bob Dylan performed sixteen songs in the main set and two songs in the encore. After opening with the rocking “Watching The River Flow,” which came from the 1971 Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II, album, Bob Dylan shifted gears in to the song “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine” which was originally released on one of the greatest two record sets ever released in classic rock history called Blond On Blonde. The album was released all the way back in 1966.
After opening the night with two songs from his legendary classic rock days Bob Dylan tilted towards his most recent release Rough And Rowdy Ways with a performance of the album songs “I Contain Multitudes.” While many people framed the Bob Dylan concert as a continuation of his never ending tour, concert promoters were indeed labeling the show as part of his Rough And Rowdy Ways tour. A good reason for calling it the Rough And Rowdy Ways tour is because Bob Dylan performed six songs from the Rough And Rowdy Ways album that night. Those songs included “I Contain Multitudes,” “False Prophet,” which followed “I Contain Multitudes” in the set, “Black Rider” “Mother of Muses” “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” and “Goodbye Jimmy Reed.”
Bob Dylan did reach across the long range of his vast catalogue for some of the other songs he performed that night. For those who wanted to hear some of the big hits, Bob Dylan obliged those fans with wonderful versions of “Simple Twist Of Fate,” “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” and Gotta Serve Somebody. Other highlights of the night included stunning performances of “Love Sick,” “Early Roman Kings,” and the show closer “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.”
It felt good to see Bob Dylan back out on the concert stage. I remember when he released Time Out Of Mind in the 199os. Many of us thought that might be the last great Bob Dylan album. He seemed so old back then. Yet the man has continued to release fabulous albums and still be relevant to so many music fans. We hope the younger generation begins to discover what this man meant not just for music but basic human civility over all these years. Good to have you back Bob, we hope you keep going for another twenty years.