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Concert Reviews:
Bob Dylan shows off his -- yes -- singing chops at the Fox
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- Bob Dylan didn't spend much time promoting his latest album on Friday night, May 15, at the Fox Theatre.

But the show certainly demonstrated just how important "Shadows in the Night" is to him.

The collection of pop standards, released in early February with a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Top Folk Albums chart, is Dylan's best recorded vocal performance in years. On Friday he brought that renewed zeal for singing to the stage, letting the clarity and emotive passion showcased on the album fortify his previous material, favorites and deeper cuts alike.

The 73-year-old Dylan can, of course, be a buyer-beware proposition in concert. Not unlike a jazz musician he treats his songs as living, evolving entities, regarding the recorded versions more like templates than definitive versions and freely and unapologetically changing arrangements and even melodies to suit his momentary muse. Go to a Dylan concert before and you might hear a lot of songs you know, but you might not know it's them -- at least not right away.

But as Dylan sang in Friday's opening number, "Things Have Changed." On his current tour he's playing the same songs every night -- not even altering things on Friday to acknowledge the death of fellow American musical icon B.B. King -- and the clearly well-rehearsed and carefully prepared show benefited from the repetition. The 19-song, two-hour (including intermission) set was Dylan at his most accessible, singing clearly and in full voice, confident enough that he was even lit more brightly than he's been in years.

And while he still gave many of the songs an overhaul -- most notably a vamping version of "Tangled Up in Blue," a breezy rendition of "Simple Twist of Fate" and a loping, understated recast of "Blowin' in the Wind" -- Dylan's vocal performance gave them a melodic focus that made them easy to grasp and appreciate.

Dylan drew just two tracks from "Shadows in the Night" -- Yves Montand`s "Autumn Leaves," which closed the main show, and the Frank Sinatra-popularized "Stay With Me," which was the final encore. The main weight of the show was devoted to its predecessor, 2012's "Tempest," with six songs, including the hard-edged "Pay in Blood" and a moving second-set coupling of "Scarlet Town" and "Soon After Midnight." Dylan also reached deep into his extensive catalog for early material such as "She Belongs To Me" and obscurities like "Waiting For You," which fit well alongside more contemporary favorites "Love Sick" and "High Water (For Charley Patton)."

But the focus of the night was not so much what Dylan played but HOW he played it this time out -- a riveting, engaged session that offered yet another fresh look at an old master.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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