Bob Dylan is skipping over Minnesota on the current leg of his Never-Ending Tour, so one of the Midwest's only chances to see the man in action was to trek over to Michigan last weekend for the Rothbury Festival. And it's a shame that Dylan won't be swinging through town this summer, because his epic set Sunday evening was one for the history books. Dylan played for over two hours, and as you can see from the setlist below, he unearthed several gems and crowd-pleasers for his headlining performance.
Surprisingly, Dylan only played one song from his new album, Together Through Life ("Jolene" during the encore), but it made room for lots of old familiar favorites. His voice sounded remarkably clear and crisp, and he was upbeat and energetic throughout the entire set -- of the handful of times I have caught Dylan live, Sunday night's show was by far the most youthful and vibrant performance I have seen by him. He seemed to feed off the energy of the enormous crowd (this year's Rothbury Festival sold over 30,000 tickets, a sizable portion of whom were pressing toward the main Odeum stage to catch a glimpse of Dylan in action), and the sea of people responded with waves of recognition and appreciation as he rollicked from tune to tune.
In typical Dylan form, he only spoke once during the encore when he introduced the members of his band, but he was visibly excited, at times stepping out from behind his keyboard to sing at the center of the stage and doing a subtle little jig as he paced the stage in front of his band. He started teasing the crowd with classics like a reworked version of "Tangled Up in Blue" toward the beginning of his set, and hit a comfortable stride halfway through with songs like "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again." Dylan played with the phrasing of the more familiar verses of his songs, stopping and starting so he could listen to the crowd sing along with every word.
There was no doubt that he would play an encore -- his set was the final climax of four days of music that included performances by the Dead, Willie Nelson, Nas, the Hold Steady, Ani DiFranco, and many more. Chants of "Dylan, Dylan" and thunderous applause brought him back out for a few more songs, including a dynamic, expansive version of "All Along the Watchtower" and a joyful rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind."
Set list: Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat / Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power) / Tangled Up In Blue / Rollin' And Tumblin' / Spirit On The Water / High Water (For Charley Patton) / 'Til I Fell In Love With You / Po' Boy / Highway 61 Revisited / Ballad Of A Thin Man / Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again / Nettie Moore / Thunder On The Mountain / Like A Rolling Stone.
Encore: Jolene / All Along The Watchtower / Blowin' In The Wind