2 Views Of Bob Dylan Come Out At The Mann

Posted: July 07, 1988

Bob Dylan in performance, 1988: One minute he's offering a not-quite-sugar- coated rendition of the early, observant gem "Just Like a Woman," carefully following the ebb and flow of the original melody.

The next, he's hurling the phrases of "Like a Rolling Stone" bitterly, as though pitching a spiteful batting practice, disinterestedly discarding one strike after another.

The dark side of Bob Dylan still rears its head on occasion, and this is a good thing. Last night at the Mann Music Center, Dylan treated the near- capacity crowd to a well-planned 75-minute show heavy on his songwriting gems - many of them recharged by his unexpectedly urgent jabs and an emphasis on living, breathing, sometimes kicking performance.

If the last few Dylan albums - and particularly the recent Down In the Groove - have done nothing else, they've indicated that the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is interested in expanding his works every time he performs.

Songs long familiar to his audience blossomed again in the outdoor setting, as guitarist G.E. Smith led Dylan's cohesive backing trio through wholly changed treatments of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and "Gotta Serve Somebody."

Smith's solo play sparkled throughout. Inspired by Dylan's oft-improvised vocals, the guitarist pinched and wrenched the strings of his instrument to supply the music with a deliberate sense of the blues, even in unlikely places such as the jangling instrumental coda to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

The band's only weak spot was bassist Kenny Aaronson, who sounded positively wooden on the set's shuffle-blues selections.

Other highlights included a lilting, two-guitars-only version of "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" and a surprisingly fervent "I Shall Be Released."

Opening for Dylan was The Alarm, whose 45-minute set was competent, if uninspired.

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