MUSIC: Bob Dylan and Dawes at the Ryan Center

Friday, April 12, 2013


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What about Bob? He was right here, perpetuating the legend, at URI's Ryan Center.

Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour” rolled into the Ryan Center on Monday night. The band is currently on a college campus swing, and featured a new addition, RI’s own Duke Robillard on lead guitar.


Acclaimed LA band Dawes opened the show.  D-A-W-E-S reminded us who they were a few times.  (At least there was some banter, something rarely offered by the featured act.)  They are a decent rock band building a loyal following.  The group epitomizes the Laurel Canyon sound, heavily influenced by Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon, with a riff or two of Tom Petty mixed in.

We heard you, Dawes – your new CD is out – we can find it over at the concessions booth.  If we like you, we’ll check it out – don’t overplay the self-promotion!

And we do like them! Songs like If I Wanted Someone, A Little Bit of Everything, and From a Window Seat, are well crafted.  They are made for 70’s FM radio. Their new album, Stories Don’t End, is out this week. So, like they said, buy it!

Bob Dylan

So, what about Bob?  That’s a question that arises frequently at concerts.  When touring artists share their influences, someone in the crowd inevitably shouts out “What about Bob?” Of course, the artist on stage pauses and smiles, quietly acknowledging the oversight.

Is it fair to say that every single musical artist since has been influenced by Bob Dylan – whether they know it or not? His music, lyrics and vision have become such a ubiquitous part of the modern American experience, the rock and roll cannon, that he is sometimes almost an afterthought.  And that of course, is a part of his mystique.

On his fourth visit to the Ryan Center, Bob Dylan met expectations. Dylan played a Dylan show. Uttering not a word to the crowd between songs, he growled out his lyrics, accompanied by a touring band well worth the price of admission. They played a solid set of 16 tunes, with four songs from his newest album, Tempest (2012). In recent years, many have noted the poor quality of his voice… duly noted.  But this isn’t American Idol – you don’t go to a Bob Dylan concert to see if his voice is “pitchy.”

One highlight of the show had be the soulful sound of local legend Duke Robillard.  Duke’s bluesy 1950’s rock vibe works nicely with Dylan’s new material. In a rare moment, even Dylan appeared impressed. During Thunder on the Mountain, he leaned over his keyboards and watched with awe as Duke plucked out a few notes.  Veteran Dylan fans were further impressed with the steel drum-like solo during All Along the Watchtower.

The band’s current line-up offers a restrained, almost “Unplugged” feel. On Pay in Blood, from Tempest, they impress with a swamp-rock sound ideally suited for Bob’s growl. As for Dylan, he is the ever-present showman, shuffling around center stage or tickling the ivories on his grand piano. (Dylan without a guitar – acoustic or electric – who would have thunk it?) And of course, he still thrills the crowd when he pulls out the harmonica. 

For years now, casual fans have been going to Dylan shows expecting to hear album versions of 1960’s classics. Well, that ended in the early 70’s.  Dylan defined the 60’s rebellious spirit, and he continues to live by that virtue. And Rock and Roll doesn’t come with a money back guarantee.


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