So how is 71-year-old music icon Bob Dylan on stage these days? Still playing on 'Like a Rolling Stone'? Still 'Mr. Tambourine Man', a 'Jokerman' whose songs are a lyrical 'Hurricane' and who continues 'Blowin' in the Wind'?
No. No, 'The Times Are A-Changin'' and he, or at least his music, is now 'Knockin' on Heavens Door.' But enough of borrowing from Dylan's plethora of forever-stamped-in-our-mind song titles to get to point that the man, never known for consistently delivering strong stage performances, may be reaching, and attaining, new on-stage lows.
Dylan played the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada on Wed., Nov. 14 and the results were mixed, or not even mixed but just plain bad. The 63-year-old Mark Knopfler was on the bill, critics said good things about him, and the band Dylan was working with were experienced and by all accounts turned in a credible job. The problem with the concert was its headliner, Bob Dylan.
Reviews of Bob Dylan concert: mumbling unintelligibly
Reviewers and fans at the concert write that more than ever he is mumbling his hallowed lyrics, and in random order, which they suggest doesn't matter because the lyrics are coming out as unintelligible. Ben Rayner in the Toronto Star wrapped those thoughts up nicely: "Dylan spent the bulk of (the performance) seated behind a piano at stage right, barking, braying and hoarking unintelligible linguistic formations into the microphone and banging out ill-disciplined boogie-woogie licks on the keys."
A particularly damning review comes from a commenter on an entertainment website. "I love Dylan but he is no longer fit to be touring. It sounds like he's singing in a different language," Llyra writes on Exclaim.ca. "He is too close to the mic at times and it hurts the ear to listen to him. He changes the melodies of his popular tunes to the point that they are no longer recognizable. It was a horrible performance."
And Jane Stevenson of the QMI Agency writing in the Toronto Sun opines that criticizing Dylan's singing is too easy a task - but was compelled to do so anyways: "A notoriously hit and miss performer, he was definitely more miss than hit on this particular night," she wrote. "And while criticizing Dylan's vocals at this point is a little like shooting ducks in a barrel, if you don’t want to be seen clearly, it certainly helps if you can be heard clearly." Stevenson also wrote that it was difficult to tell when he was actually singing his lyrics, which she added were "drastically rearranged" in any case.
Fans exit Bob Dylan show
The 8,000 fans at the ACC stayed for the hour and 20 minute set Knopfler played - unannounced, Knopfler later came back out to play a few songs with Dylan - but many did not for Bob Dylan's set. Rayner wrote that "disgusted patrons of an age that clearly should have known better" were left "shaking their heads and emitting disapproving clucks as they made for the exits early in a steady trickle." Dylan paid it no mind.
Tour controversy is nothing new to Dylan, while touring in 1965 with 'The Band' he was routinely booed for going electric. He continues this tour and in the next week will play Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Brooklyn, showing no signs of seeking 'Shelter From the Storm' created by performances that are less than stellar.