Bob Dylan used to be famous for changing up youth culture with every new album and every new sartorial look. That's not true anymore, of course. But the 65-year-old Dylan is still the biggest folk-rock icon the world will ever know. And if the long, spirited set of oldies and hard-charging blues material from his recent Modern Times album he dashed through with his slick, five-piece backing band at the Kohl Center on Halloween night is any indication, he certainly won't be mumbling his way off this mortal coil.
Or shuffling off into the history books clad in geriatric loafers and sans-a-belt pants. Indeed, one of the oddest things about Dylan's recent renaissance is the look he now sports, which takes the hat-and-boots style of a natty gaucho and crosses it with the excesses of classic Nashville Western wear.
Then again, when the old guy is as feisty as he was on Tuesday, he can wear anything he'd like. This is the new, reinvigorated Dylan. Whether he was leaning into his modest electric keyboard for a cantankerous reworking of "Maggie's Farm" or rocking out, legs splayed, to Muddy Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin'" as his band mixed muscular, sweet-home-Chicago-style grooving with high-decibel rock 'n' roll, he was plainly having a damn good time.
And so was the crowd. Indeed, most folks in the floor seats remained standing throughout his performance.
Not everything has changed about Dylan live, of course. He still says almost nothing to the audience. (On Tuesday, he introduced the members of his band, and that was it.) And he still, alters most of his old hits so much that it takes a minute or two to realize, "Hey, isn't this 'Like a Rolling Stone'!"
But no matter. This is Bob Dylan, after all, and he has nothing to prove to anybody.
Hell, that he now deigns to climax his sets with a more or less straight reading of his greatest electric tune, "Highway 61 Revisited," is a blessing. Not to mention an indication that, as the hour grows late, he still has respect for his legions of fans.
Openers the Foo Fighters gave it their all on Tuesday as well. Performing with an augmented 8-piece unit that included a violinist, a keyboard player and former Nirvana and Foo Fighters tour mate Pat Smear, leader Dave Grohl was in fine voice throughout the band's rapidly paced set. A delicate run-through of the Nirvana B-side "Marigold" was a real treat, as was Grohl's tongue-in-cheek banter with the expanded Foo Fighters' hard-working triangle player.