In November of 2006, when I saw Bob Dylan and His Band for the first time, I was much more excited than I was leading up to Saturday’s concert at Bethel Woods. It wasn’t that I wasn’t eagerly anticipating it, but I had seen so many great concerts of late (Richard Thompson, Wilco, Levon Helm Band) that it got slightly overshadowed. But after hearing the first few chords of a song I don’t really even like, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” I remembered why I was so excited in November and listen to Dylan more than any other artist.
Five Best…Songs from Bob Dylan and His Band at Bethel
#5. “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”
I’m in the minority when it comes to this song because I actually prefer the original acoustic version over the electric ’66 version and all other incarnations since then. But as Dylan doesn’t pull out this song that much anymore, it was nice to hear it. It was an early favorite of mine so, more than anything else, this is a sentimental pick.
#4. “The Levee’s Gonna Break”
The forgotten song on Modern Times. I actually happen to like it more than, say, “Beyond the Horizon” and even “Spirit on the Water” (although Dylan did a great version of “Spirit” during the show) but I have a feeling it’s going to become a live favorite very soon. The tempo gets picked up, Dylan’s voice rasps that much more and the band chugs along the Tennessee Two to Dylan’s Johnny Cash. Fitting that after the show, it started to pour—an event that makes perfect since Dylan played “Levee,” “High Water,” “Spirit on the Water” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
#3. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
Dylan began the night by playing five songs from the 60s and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was the third of these, wedged between “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” “Baby” is one of the breeziest songs in Dylan’s canon and too place it between “Times,” a “protest song,” and “It’s Alright,” a song pretty much condemning everything in his path, is an inspired choice. The Bethel version contained very little of its original Hank Williams-feel, but felt more like a song you would happen to hear at a dive of a bar—a glowing compliment actually.
#2. “Blind Willie McTell”
If you were to plug your ears during this song and had only the audience interaction to judge what kind of song “Blind Willie McTell” is, you’d have thought it was on the level of Bowie’s “Modern Love” or “Twist and Shout.” But when you take away the noise blocker from your ear, you realize that “Blind” is, in fact, about a dead blues singer. Instead of playing it like the original version with Knopfler on acoustic guitar and himself on piano, Dylan and Co. amped up the song and make it more of a rockin’ number than anything else. Granted, it does take away from the “real” version, but this arrangement is quite good still.
#1. “Tangled Up in Blue”
So what if I’m a sucker for this, everyone’s favorite? It’s tough to find an example of a Dylan song that has remained consistently good over the past 30 years but “Tangled”— from it’s Rolling Thunder days to the mostly dark days of the 80s with a drastic lyrical change to the current version on the current Never Ending Tour—is one of the very few. Except for maybe “Blowin’ in the Wind,” (ugh) the crowd never got more into the show than they did during “Tangled.” I mean, it is pretty much a perfect song and one that, like I mentioned, is a favorite of both casual fans and the hardcore. A rare event, indeed.
Between the final two songs, "Thunder on the Mountain" and "All Along the Watchtower," Dylan introduced the band like he always does, but after he told the crowd: "The last time we were here, we played at 6 am...it was raining...it was muddy." And that's the most we'll ever get from Bobby Dylan at a concert.
1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. The Times They Are A-Changin'
3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
4. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
5. Just Like A Woman
6. The Levee's Gonna Break
7. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
8. High Water (For Charlie Patton)
9. Spirit On The Water
10. Tangled Up In Blue
11. Blind Willie McTell
12. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
13. When The Deal Goes Down
14. Highway 61 Revisited
15. Blowin' In The Wind
16. Thunder On The Mountain
17. All Along The Watchtower