Bob Dylan: Can't Wait!

Benedictine University - Lisle

November 11, 1997

First Appeared in The Music Box, January 1998, Volume 5, #1

Written by John Metzger


This summer, Bob Dylan performed at the massive New World Music Theatre, but on November 11, he quietly brought his entourage to the Dan and Ada Rice Athletic Center at Benedictine Univeristy in Lisle, Illinois. This 3,700 seat venue provided decent sound (at least for those close to the stage) and an excellent opportunity to see Dylan in a setting that was up-close and personal.

Not that the school had any clue as to how to stage a major concert event. The ticket-buying process was a nightmare, as the point of purchase was moved at the last minute causing even the security guards some rather major headaches. Parking was no easier, and in the hours before the show, the streets surrounding the school became a huge parking lot as cars were directed rather carelessly to a variety of remote lots.

Despite all this, the show was spectacular. Opening with Maggie's Farm, Dylan and his band quickly found their groove. Many of the live versions of this song boast a hard-hitting Neil Young/Crazy Horse-like punch, but this version was remarkably different and it carried it a country-twang and a subtle Byrds-ian gallop. Perhaps this was a bit of foreshadowing on the part of Dylan: A stunningly brilliant performance of Mr. Tambourine Man closed out the acoustic portion of the show. Indeed, Dylan carried the crowd through the smoke rings of its collective mind, down the foggy ruins of time, and far past the frozen leaves falling from the trees on this cold, fall evening. Dylan is a poet, but he's also an amazing vocalist as he so easily lent weight of this song with his every vocal inflection.

Dylan's amazing vocal prowess and tonality also drew the audience deeply into stellar versions of Simple Twist of Fate and Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, the latter of which was delivered as an acoustic selection as part of his quartet of encores. So often, his voice is misunderstood and criticized, but on this evening, his vocals brought a highly emotional twist to his incredible lyrics. Tangled Up in Blue also appeared in an acoustic format, though it was very different from the familiar album version. The song was even more upbeat as Bucky Baxter flavored it with a beautiful mandolin accompaniment.

As good as all the classic material was, however, Dylan was even better on the material from his latest album Time Out of Mind, which undeniably is his best outings since Blood on the Tracks.  He performed four songs from this disc at the show, and each carried a more immediate and urgent feel than its studio counterpart. Better still, each also fit in perfectly with all the older gems. Cold Irons Bound drove over a heavy drum and bass beat, like a freight train out of control. Dylan has already reworked Can't Wait into a funky, rhythmic, upbeat song while maintaining its blues-based groove. All in all, it was an outstanding evening that provided further proof that Dylan is back at the top of his game.

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Copyright 1997 The Music Box