November 15, 2017

Bob Dylan does it his way singing Sinatra

Dylan returned recently for a two-night stand offering non-rock tunes as well as classics from his canon

Bob Dylan Musicians
Bob Dylan Nick Ut/AP

Bob Dylan in concert, Aug 3, 1986.

Bob Dylan has his own agenda. That’s the way it’s always been with the legendary singer-songwriter. It’s Dylan’s way or Highway 61 since he left college in Minnesota and moved to Greenwich Village to reconfigure the folk scene in 1961.

The iconoclast, who has lived much of his life in a fortress of solitude, rarely grants interviews. He does little to publicize his work. Despite that, the venerable Rock & Roll Hall of Famer has sold more than 100 million albums. Dylan is intensely private, but has played more shows than Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones and U2 combined over the last quarter century.

Dylan, 76, is out there, but few can actually touch the enigmatic recording artist, who finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature in April.

Former heavyweight boxer/actor Randall “Tex” Cobb used to be close to Dylan. 

“He’s a huge boxing fan,” Cobb said. 

“Back in the days when I fought, we became friendly. He would have me stand on the stage so I would be the first person he saw after he performed. There’s nobody like Dylan.”

Dylan certainly does it is his way. That almost explains his latest sonic curveball. Dylan belted out Frank Sinatra songs during his two-night stand this past weekend at the Tower Theater.

During Saturday’s show, Dylan put his own spin on Ol’ Blue Eyes’ “Melancholy Mood” and “The September of My Years.” Dylan, who is well past September, also delivered a version of Tony Bennett’s “Once Upon a Time.”

Those songs were offered in support of his latest album, “Triplicate,” which features covers of classic American songs. Dylan, who can be stone-faced throughout his concerts, grinned while delivering versions of those non-rock songs.

“Blowin in the Wind” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” closed out the one hour-45-minute show in which Dylan didn’t say one word to the audience.

The seminal bard also played a number of his own favorites during the 20-song set. “Tangled Up in Blue,” which was refreshingly revamped and "Highway 61 Revisited” were rendered. The capacity crowd enthusiastically greeted such late Dylan nuggets as “Thunder on the Mountain” from 2006’s acclaimed “Modern Times” and “Love Sick” from 1997’s “Time Out of Mind.”

“Blowin in the Wind” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” closed out the one hour-45-minute show in which Dylan didn’t say one word to the audience. He also didn’t express himself on guitar. He preferred to sing while behind a grand piano.

Dylan, as usual, only revealed bits and pieces of himself through song. That didn’t change, but the content delivered by music’s most mysterious songsmith does change. Dylan plays about 100 shows annually. He retreats to his space when he’s not under the lights, but at least the unapproachable songsmith shows no signs of slowing down.