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Bob Dylan and his Band at Emens Auditorium, Ball State University (11/2/2019)

Image from Twitter
Image from Twitter

 The thought of Bob Dylan, who has proved to be a masterful lyricist/musician/poet/artist for over 50 years, playing in Muncie, Indiana, is a thought I’m sure surprised everyone in the city. Emens Auditorium at Ball State University was packed with people on the night of Nov. 2. There was one merch booth and one bar with a mile-long line. The band started playing promptly at 8 p.m., without an announcement or introduction. At 78 years old, Bob Dylan and his Band managed to play an incredible 19 song set, with a surprisingly good stage presence and performances.

A blues-filled performance

Being 78 years old, there is no way that Dylan could bring back his ’60s magnificence. The folk-blues sound he revitalized in the ’60s was almost absent; instead, a piano-driven blues sound filled the auditorium. Even the few songs he played from the classic Highway 61 Revisited were the blues-centric cuts, like “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”; however, this was not a negative. The band sounded terrific as well as Dylan. His voice fit the sound perfectly, and his piano playing was spot on. The set list was fantastic and had a great flow. He even included a couple deep cuts, such as “Not Dark Yet”, which filled the air with a brooding tone and eerie sounds that made for a great change of pace in the set. It was a great surprise to see the deep cut “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a slow piano track that wasn’t on any of his albums. I was genuinely surprised by the strength of his performance; he even stood up and played the harmonica during plenty of songs. However, while I enjoyed the blues sound he delivered, it became a little repetitive after a while. A few more reworkings of old cuts could’ve spiced up the set list a little bit.

Not just a rock show

Lights are always a big part of live performances, but the way they were incorporated in this show was beautiful. The lights changed for each song and gave off a different mood every time. “Soon After Midnight” gave off an atmospheric vibe with lights that lit up like the night sky, perfectly capturing the song’s essence. Another great aspect of the show was how the band managed to transition between the tracks. The songs never just stopped; they would end every song with a bang, then the lights would go dark, only to lead to a little drum beat and guitar doodles before starting the next track. This was something I had never seen a band do before and it worked incredibly well. There were also some interesting props on stage. Three mannequins rested behind the band, all wearing what looked like ’20s formal attire, and a small statue sat by Dylan’s piano. These were all aspects of the show that I didn’t expect at all, especially from a 78-year-old going on a small tour. The production aspects were a welcome surprise; however, I also found it strange that there was no, “Thank you, goodnight!” at the end of the show, but instead the band just kind of left.

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