Bob Dylan does what he wants.
Take for example, “Blowin' in the Wind.” Dylan played it at the end of his nearly two-hour set Saturday night at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. Fans wanted to sing along — some did — but Dylan did it at his own pace.
As he played a ragtime-style piano melody, Dylan's band played it like an old-time, classic pop tune. And instead of the familiar cadence you can probably sing to yourself right now, the legendary songwriter and singer belted out the lyrics to a beat all his own.
That's the way it went all night from “I'll Be Your Baby Tonight” to “All Along the Watchtower.”
Even “Thunder on the Mountain,” a relatively new song, has taken on a new life especially with Dylan's grumbling, growling vocals.
Though it could be frustrating to not hear the songs as you've heard them on the radio, you have to remember that he's been playing some of the songs for 50 years. Also, it's Bob Dylan. He has always done exactly what he wants.
Dylan, in a dark suit and tan, wide-brimmed hat, played organ, piano and harmonica — lots and lots of harmonica. The only thing he didn't pick up was a guitar.
Most of the time, Dylan, 71, stayed behind the ivories, but occasionally, he came out front and sang. Whenever he danced, the audience cheered like crazy.
Most of the tunes have been updated with a blues-rock tone, which has been the general ambiance of his last few albums.
The show felt less like seeing a folk icon and more like seeing an old-timey band in a saloon.
He played old and new through the set. Every time he launched into a familiar song, small groups would burst into applause. It must have been their favorite.
It was a great show, if you can get past Dylan's eccentricities, but unfortunately only about 3,500 people made it to the show. The big arena felt a bit empty, which was a shame. Music fans missed out.
Mark Knopfler, formerly of Dire Straits, opened the show and nearly stole it.
He and his seven-piece group played solo songs such as “Privateering” and Dire Straits tunes including “So Far Away.”
The audience ate it up and went wild for him, especially when he played melodic guitar licks. He is, after all, on Rolling Stone's list of the top guitarists of all time.
Knopfler also appeared with Dylan for four songs — “To Ramona,” “Things Have Changed,” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” — where he played lead guitar.
“Thank you, Mark,” Dylan said. “That was Mark Knopfler on guitar.”
It was one of only two times Dylan addressed anyone, including his band. Later, he very quickly introduced his band.
“Thank you, friends,” he added.
It was more than I expected out of Dylan, who often barely acknowledges he's even playing in front of an audience.
My favorite parts of the show were some of the obvious classics including “Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower.” As mentioned above, the tunes were different from what I was used to, but it only showed the songs stand up enough on their own to be translated in different ways.
I expected more from his latest album, “Tempest,” but I was fine hearing songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blind Willie McTell.”
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