Bob Dylan’s so-called Never Ending Tour, a string of concert treks that have kept him on the road nearly nonstop since 1988, will someday end with Dylan’s final bow.
But for now, the folk-rock icon with the gravelly voice, poetic songs and enigmatic personality shows few signs of slowing down.
If experiencing Dylan in concert is on your bucket list, there’s no sense in putting it off. The 73-year-old troubadour and his seasoned, five-piece band were in fine form Friday night for the first of three concerts at the Paramount Theatre, performing to a near-capacity crowd spanning several generations.
It was Dylan’s first U.S. concert since finishing a series of dates in Australia and New Zealand last month. But the enduring singer-songwriter didn’t waste time with such niceties as “Glad to be back in the U.S.A.” or “Hello, Seattle.” He and the band opened promptly at 8 p.m. with “Things Have Changed,” “She Belongs to Me,” “Workingman’s Blues #2,” “Duquesne Whistle” and other songs from a set list that has sustained them the entire year.
Dylan, dressed in his trademark black suit, black-and-white cowboy boots and wide-brimmed hat, alternated between piano and harmonica, singing in a voice that has evolved into a distinctively raspy warble.
The stage was simply but elegantly set, like a formal dining room, with subdued lighting, plush drapes and well-polished instruments. Sound was decent, allowing the audience to savour Dylan’s lyrical brilliance.
Backing Dylan were lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, rhythm guitarist Stu Kimball, bassist Tony Garnier, drummer George Recile and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, formerly of Nashville’s BR549. Together, they provided strong, nuanced support.
With a career that began more than five decades ago, Dylan has a vast repertoire of songs with political, social and literary themes. Yet he is constantly evolving, performing his profound and poetic masterpieces with a fresh sound.
Standouts in the 19-song, career-spanning set (split in half by a 15-minute intermission) included the classic “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Fate” (featuring arrangements quite different from the originals), the bluesy “Love Sick” and the lovely “Spirit on the Water,” a love song featuring the lyric: “You think I’m over the hill/ Think I’m past my prime/ Let me see what you got/ We can have a whoppin’ good time.” The audience responded to the set with loud applause and occasional whoops of delight.
The concert closed with a spirited encore featuring two of Dylan’s most famous songs, “All Along the Watchtower” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” After the final notes, Dylan and his band simply took a bow and quietly left the stage.
Additional shows at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Paramount, 911 Pine St. Tickets are $46.25-$121.25 (206-682-1414 or stgpresents.org)