Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Bob Dylan's concert at the Capital Centre Thursday night proved to be a first of a bewildering kind - it was Dylan you could dance to.
If you could wipe the music out of your ears, if you could ignore the four guitars, the throbbing bass, the saxophone (very in this year), the drums, the congas and the three gospelized back-up singers; if you could even erase the posing Dylan from your vision and focus only on his lyrics, then something of the old power lingered. But stripped of any melody, the vacuity of his newer works such as "Is Your Love In Vain" is inescapable.
What he did to his own material was arbitrary unkind, if not somehow treasonous. "Like a Rolling Stone" lost its chord progresion, "Baby Blue" lost its melody. "Just Like a Woman" was done up Motown style, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" in a bastardized reggae rhythm.
There are several possible explanations for this bizzare turnabout. Dylan could be trying to reach a younger audience; he could suddenly have been converted to a style which never attracted him before; he could have signed with Jerry Weintraubs company (John Denver, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra); he could be attempting a new critical approach; he could be short of money. Or all of the above.
The near-capacity crowd received him much more enthusiastically, as he admitted, than had most audiences on this tour. But nobody, not even Dylan, can escape his past, and the emotionless, slick performance Thursday night made him look like nothing more than a repetitive, pedestrian would-be singer with pretensions to Meaningfulness.