Review: Bob Dylan at the Oakdale Theatre

It's hard to know what to say about a Bob Dylan show. Although he has a reputation to be a sporadic performer, every show I've seen of his has been at least good, with the best being his 2010 Charlottesville, VA gig (in which he threw his harmonica into the seats at the end).

Dylan preformed at the Oakdale Theater-a venue that leaves much to be desired. The Oakdale's feel and structure seemed to be more suited for a corporate retreat, TED talk, or as a friend remarked, Sesame Street Live. Despite the Oakdale's placidity, Bob rode the strength of his band to deliver a solid set to the Father's Day crowd.  

The Show:

Following a brief acoustic "introduction in the dark", the lights went up and the band broke into "Things Have Changed". What a perfect opening song, honestly, and seeing Bob on stage banging on the piano in his suit, white boots, and bolo was hard to wipe the smile off my face. He preformed a fantastic, bluegrass soaked version of "Summer Days", a rousing rendition of "Highway 61", and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his Sinatra covers (there were 8). "That Old Black Magic" was downright fun, with Bob placing his left hand down, palms forward, just before the shotgun-loud snare drum kick from drummer George Recile fired away.

Another memorable moment? Bob had plenty of trouble getting his second tune, "It Ain't Me Babe", off the ground. The guitar wasn't plugged in (yes, Bob did play guitar for one song, but no harmonica) and Bob fumbled for the output jack. Then, the microphones got tangled up in nothing: one fell into their air, only to be intercepted by left fielder Bob Dylan before the ball rolled to the warning track. It was a nice catch. 

In my estimation, Bob did play a generous portion of his 2012 album Tempest. Perhaps too generous. Most of the Tempest tunes (minus "Pay in Blood") meandered nowhere in the midst of Bob's mid-temo barks. "Desolation Row" suffered the same fate, and I found myself sort of waiting for that song and a few others to just to be over. Nevertheless, microphone-holdin n' crooning Bob was great, indeed, and the encore featured a heartwarming "Blowing in the Wind"and a skeleton shakin' "Ballad of a Thin Man". 
Image result for bob dylan oakdale theatre

I must admit, after seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers preform at the Meadows outdoor venue in Hartford less than a week earlier, I began to yearn for a Bob Dylan that performed the greatest hits, true to their recorded nature. Obviously, a pipe dream on my part, as Bob has always changed arrangements and setlists to suit what he wants to communicate on a given night. He's an artist, he don't look back.

So what happened at the Oakdale?

To one casual fan who I discussed the show with, Bob left much to be desired, which entirely makes sense. He left out the hits, changed arrangements, and played too many songs off Tempest.

As for me? As I was taking in the show, I was reminded of a brief chat I had regrading Dylan's live performances with a professor of mine, who made a comment that resonated with me: "I attend Bob's shows to honor him". I find that perspective refreshing. So, yes, I treasured every moment of the show, and was eager to honor Bob and his music with my attendance.

What about Bob? He seemed to enjoy himself, as always.

I'd go see em' again.

Thanks for putting on a show, Bobby. 


  1. I enjoyed reading your comments. I think you were about 6-7 rows ahead of me in Section 103.
    Dylan Concert #28. Here is my brief review:

    My 28th Dylan Show did not disappoint. The highlight of the evening was a new rendition of Summer Days featuring Donnie Herron on the violin. A sedate crowd with a median age of 50 to be my best guess. Very tight security as mentioned on the Jimmy Fallon show a few nights ago from his trip to Port Chester. No intermission on this leg of the journey. Dylan plays a role as part Rudy Vallee and part Charlie Chaplin during his crooning to the oldies tunes. He appears to be having fun! I wonder if I will have his energy at 76! He also managed his way through a couple of malfunctions: wobbly mic stand and faulty stool. Earlier this week I thought of an apt comparison on the Dylan I have come to know: Dr. Who. Dr. Who has his T.A.R.D.I.S. and Dylan has his Cowboy Band to take us back and forth through time. Dr. Who regenerates himself so that his 13th version is currently airing on BBC America. Dylan has gone through the regeneration process a variable number of times depending on the observer. The scenes from his songs [Desolation Row & Highway 61] could take place in distant galaxies many light years away. Dr. Who is “The Doctor” – Dylan is … well, he is “Dylan.” [In honor of Father’s Day, I thought it would be a great touch if Jakob Dylan had made an appearance. Perhaps he was there somewhere in the audience. It was 20 years ago (my 2nd Dylan Show) at this site that Rick Danko came on stage for a wonderful version of This Wheel’s on Fire.]

    1. Whoah- wish I knew you were so close. Great show. Your right, those songs travel through history and time in a way no other songs can. I'll have to check out Dr. Who!

  2. Great analysis Stefun! For me, the beginning and end were the strongest points in the show. The acoustic opening in the dark gave me chills and The Ballad of the Thin Man rendition was an awesome send-off. I always tell people that Dylan concerts are more about breathing his air than the music, but I think Ernie's mindset is more poignant.


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