Bob Dylan plays to empty seats and still makes it memorable

Bob Dylan, pictured here at a tour stop earlier this year, never stops touring (and almost never allows himself to be photographed).
Photo: Rex Features

The Details

Three stars
October 27, Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Bob Dylan shouldn’t be playing arenas, especially in Las Vegas. That was one obvious takeaway from Saturday night’s Mandalay Bay Events Center tour stop, which found more seats vacant than not. By night’s end, even more were empty, a product of the iconic poet-rocker’s unique ability to madden folks who thought they were fans. But those who left early missed out, on a show toward the good end of Dylan’s unpredictable live teeter-totter.

Opener Mark Knopfler, whose presence on the bill might have persuaded bookers to opt for the large venue, proved to be less than exciting in a lengthy support role, opting to forgo his Dire Straits catalog until the last of 11 numbers (“So Far Away”). A few of the others, namely “What It Is” and “Hill Farmer’s Blues,” featured towering examples of Knopfler’s ominous guitar work, and the Englishman’s voice stayed strong throughout. But it’s a mystery why the man who played a handful of Straits songs at the Joint in 2008 kept most of his crowd-pleasing favorites in his pocket this time.

Dylan chose the opposite route. The never-ending-touring 71-year-old opened with a classic pairing of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Girl From the North Country” and, despite having well-received September album Tempest at his disposal, continued mining exclusively from his past, delivering “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Highway 61,” “Ballad of a Thin Man” and a familiar exit trio—“Like a Rolling Stone,” “All Along the Watchtower” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”—over the course of a 90-minute set.

Though not as energetic as at last year’s primo Pearl performance—this time he mostly stayed at his piano, blasting out on harmonica a few times but never touching a guitar—Dylan was in solid voice, with a surprising percentage of his lyrics easily discernible. If you’ve never seen him, now’s a decent time to do so, though you might wanna wait till he’s back in more intimate surroundings. Unless you like having a row, or maybe an entire section, to yourself.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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