Bono enlivens Dylan's House of Blues show

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3.4.99 - Las Vegas Review-Journal

By Mike Weatherford

At first, Bob Dylan seems an unlikely party host. He's a legendary songwriter, but a relatively detached performer to be leading the opening night throw-down that launched the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday. The biggest indication that Dylan was relaxed and having a good time -- or even aware that he was playing in front of an audience -- was an occasional smile or arched eyebrow toward the crowd down front during his guitar solos. It took U2's Bono to provide that memorable moment you'd hope for on a hotel's big opening night, one where Dan Aykroyd hovered around the downstairs bar and Quentin Tarantino and Rob Schneider briefly waited in line out front before bolting for an exit door that apparently led them to the VIP area of the club. Emerging for a "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" encore, Bono not only harmonized with the legend, but customized the lyrics with lines like, "Happy birthday baby you're a star, Bob Dylan has gone too far." By letting the music speak for itself, however, Dylan offered as good a mission statement as any for the new club. The horseshoe layout really pulls everyone in close to the stage; though the concert was sold out, a good number of the reserved seats upstairs were left empty by those who apparently preferred to be on the floor. And the sound surrounded the crowd on the floor with speakers rimming the edge of the balcony. The separation of instruments made it a great way to hear the four-piece band's intricate, acoustic jamming on tunes such as "It Ain't Me, Babe." Dylan loaded the 80-minute set with favorites, disappointing only those who expected him to give the band a break and play harmonica or perform a solo acoustic song. He got no closer than a pumped-up acoustic stretch that included "To Ramona" and "Tangled Up in Blue," with stand-up bass and longtime sideman Bucky Baxter on mandolin. A rollicking "Silvio" and "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" set a tone of restrained-yet-busy arrangements that fell somewhere between the singer's folkie days and his 1992 date at Bally's, when a five-piece band steamrolled through all the lyrics in a blur. Perhaps it was reading too much into it to think that Dylan would goof on his own stereotype, but during "Just Like a Woman," he seemed to switch back and forth between his "straight" singing voice and the nasal, drawn-out silly one that people like to imitate. The biggest surprise -- next to Bono showing up -- was Dylan's cover of "Friend of the Devil," a fitting Grateful Dead tune with its line about getting home before daylight. That wouldn't happen before the Grateful Dead tone resonated again in a "Not Fade Away" encore. The song has become a sort of anthem for elder rockers. But it was a new one -- the reggae-bouncing "Can't Wait" -- that suggested the man introduced simply as "Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan" is still working in the present tense, and has yet to close the cover on his amazing songbook.

REVIEW What: Bob Dylan When: Tuesday Where: House of Blues Rating: three stars Attendance: 1,800

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on March 4, 1999 5:45 AM.

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