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They don’t come much more non-descript yet stylish than him. Dressed in an all-
black cowboy suit and hat, set against a gray backdrop and his gray-clad band, he
stood half-hunched over his keyboard, occasionally bringing in the microphone for
a harmonica solo, and through the course of about an hour and a half let the
words from more than 40 years of writing, singing and touring pour out of his

The songs told stories of love, hate, greed, despair, oppression, wealth and
poverty. The lyrics spun caricatures of folks down on their luck, on top of the world,
grappling with confusion. The band was tight, focused and ready to shift on a
dime — and they needed to, since this guy would changing direction without much

The crowd ate it up, as they should. Because, after all, this was another night on
the magical Never Ending Tour, and Bob Dylan was in total control. On this night,
Dylan was taking his famous tour — now supporting
Modern Times — into Boston
University’s Agganis Arena to wheel and deal his way through a set of classics,
newer bits and nearly lost chestnuts.

The stage set for the master by the raucous and nearly-deafening Raconteurs,
who were all too happy to bring their Nashville-brand of garage rock to Dylan’s
fans at record volume. At most concerts, the thought of the opening band playing
that much louder than the headliner — and this wasn’t just somewhat louder, this
was Zeppelin-level stuff — is unthinkable. But Jack White, Brendan Benson and
company had no plans on turning it down for the older folks during their hour-long
set. And, to be fair, for every 60-year-old who complained of the noise, there were
just as many folks dancing like nobody’s business up front.

But that devil-may-care spirit played well before Dylan, the ultimate rebel if there
ever was one. Kicking off with a dramatically-reworked “Maggie’s Farm,” Bob was
in freewheelin’ mode, re-turning phrases of old and adding zest to his vast
catalog. “Lonesome Day” sounded perfectly at home with a blues-charged version
of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” while the gentle “Don’t Think Twice, It’s
Alright” gave way to a rollicking “Tangled Up In Blue.”

Through all this, Dylan’s stage manner was played down so low that it was
distracting. There is very little pretense to Dylan these days — he is every bit the
singing, traveling cowboy he appears to be. He’s a minstrel, and he’s here to sing
his songs. He’s here to let his lyrics tell the story of his journey.

What he’s not here to do is chit-chat and make nice with the audience. If they’d like
the pleasure of listening to him, great. And, on this night, it seemed like everyone
was. There wasn’t even a “thank you” as he left the stage after “Summer Days,”
and there didn’t need to be. Evocative takes like “Blind Willie McTell” and “She
Belongs to Me” didn’t need any lengthy explanation.

Dylan did take the time to introduce the band during the encore, and when he did
speak off topic, he did it to poke fun at himself. Pointing at his keyboard, Dylan
noted that “I play these. I want to play guitar, but then I got to find somebody to play
this thing.”

From there came a Hendrix-esque version of his own “All Along the Watchtower.” It
was one more rabble-rousing story from the ultimate storyteller, and then, with a
quick wave, he was off.

A troubadour in the classic sense, Dylan weaves gentle magic on stage. Through
quick hand-gestures and one-sentence orders, Dylan guided his band through a
fantastic night of music. But it was just another night in just another city on the tour
that never sleeps. Soon, he’ll be back on the other side of the country, and before
long, Europe and the rest of the world, to bring his music to more waiting ears.

With a quick wave and a spin, he’ll be gone from the next city as soon as he
arrived. But his music resonates on, and his presence looms heavy over every
touring musician today.
Ain't talkin': Dylan lets his songs tell the story
Agganis Arena
Boston, Mass.
Nov. 11, 2006

Maggie's Farm
She Belongs to Me
Lonesome Days
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Workingman's Blues #2
Tangled Up in Blue
Blind Willie McTell
Most Likely You'll Go Your Way
(And I'll Go Mine)
Ballad of Hollis Brown
Highway 61 Revisited
Spirit on the Water
Summer Days
Thunder on the Mountain
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower
E-mail Nick Tavares at
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Intimate Secretary
Steady, As She Goes
It Ain't Easy
Store Bought Bones
Bang Bang
Broken Boy Soldier
Blue Veins
Yellow Sun
Dylan keeps his show free of frills.