Bob Dylan has changed sound and shape so many times over his 50-plus-year career that his fans sometimes forget that change is his preferred method of transportation. Here’s a look at four different Dylans, and an estimation as to which one(s) you’re likely to see during his three-night residency at the Paramount, which begins Friday, Oct. 17.
The Bob Dylan You Heard on “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits”: This man no longer exists — if he ever did. Some people confused him with being a prophet or at the very least prescient. But let’s get serious: How insightful is it to say “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ”? When were times not a-changin’? Please.
Dylan’s never had a great voice, but when he was a young man, it was at its best: nasal, but relatively clear. I mention this Dylan — and this record — first because there’s a high percentage of attendees at Dylan shows whose familiarity with his oeuvre begins with “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” and ends with “Just Like a Woman.” And that’s OK. You don’t have to be familiar with an artist’s entire catalog to enjoy a show. But you should be forewarned: The times, they’ve been a-changin’.
The Keyboard-Pounding Road Dog: One thing you can cross off your list is for Dylan to spend the evening serenading you from behind his acoustic guitar. He’ll pick it up for a few songs, but expect him to spend more time pounding away at his keyboard. Other than lyrics — pushed through his gravelly, unmistakably 21st-century Dylan pipes — the only words you’re likely to hear are the names of his band members, who are always a treat to watch.
The Autopilot Shoe-Gazer: A Count Basie contemporary once told me that he asked the Count what he saw when he looked out the window of his bus. His response? “Another town, another job.” There are nights — like Dylan’s 2012 set in Seattle with Mark Knopfler in tow — when Dylan makes you feel this was just “another town, another job.”
The Seductive Journeyman: Not just the best Dylan show, but one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, was Dylan’s set at Bumbershoot 2010. We were close to the stage — not close enough to see the wrinkles lining his face, but plenty close to see him grin, sashay and all but put the moves on row one.
Somebody must have dropped an upper in his Earl Grey that morning. The band, meanwhile, was killing it, pulling from every corner of his catalog: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Jolene.” Like many of his shows, he closed out the night with “Like a Rolling Stone.” If you didn’t listen closely, you were liable to have missed it: Dylan re-imagining his hits live, often performing arrangements that are vastly different from what you heard on “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.”
The times are, as ever, a-changin’.
Bob Dylan and His Band
8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Oct. 17-19, Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $46.25- $121.25 (206-682-1414 or stgpresents.org).