Concert Review – Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour

I have been a Dylan admirer for about as long as I can remember, probably for just a little less time than I’ve been following the Beatles. Somehow I managed to blow numerous opportunities to see him, especially one where he appeared with Van Morrison that I still kick myself about.

He continues to tour and I pretty much avoided going as I just hated his “smoker’ cough” voice and what I understood to be radical reinterpretations of his own catalog. What changed my mind recently was watching his streamed concert that I wrote about a short while back. I came to like his new crooner voice and i thought the stream – which was effectively a long-form music video – was excellent.

So when I heard he was coming to town and I could get an orchestra seat (20 rows back) for about 100 bucks (88 Euros) I said fuck it, the guy is 80 years old and who knows how long he’ll keep on going.

The show was at the 3500-seat Boch Center* in Boston, once upon a time the Boston Music Hall where we saw some guy from Asbury Park, NJ long ago. The venue checked all our vaccinations and “insisted” on masks. Insisted in quotes because there was a couple (of douchebags) in front of us who didn’t wear any. They DID enforce the “no-recording” rule. If anybody flouted that rule, some woman absolutely bolted down the aisle and shone her flashlight on the hapless miscreant.

Counting Dylan, the band was six pieces (drums, bass, two guitars, keyboard and, I think, pedal steel guitar). Dylan mostly sat behind the keyboard. Every once in a while he would stand up, grab a mic, and then sort of hobble (again, 80 years old) a few steps forward then sit down again. That’s pretty much what counted for excitement.

Anyway, enough bullshit. How was it? When Dylan came out the whole audience jumped up and I couldn’t see anything. And so I thought -that’s it. I am never going to another concert again! Ever! Of course, I’ve been saying this for 20 years now but one of these days it will be true.

Dylan’s voice was a little shaky at first but he – and the whole band – got tighter as the show progressed. I was fully expecting the show to be a Sinatra-like croonfest. But I am happy to report that much of the show was quite bluesy. Not exactly Muddy Waters mind you – but bluesy.

Sometimes the band just rocked out when you least expected it. So back when he went through his religious phase, Dylan did a song called “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The band cranked this one out like it was “Johnny B. Goode.”

About half the show consisted of tunes from the recent Rough and Rowdy Ways album and the rest were older tunes, going back no further than the late 60s. Dylan has long given up any idea whatsoever of being Woody Guthrie. In fact, his setlist reminded me of that commercial he did a while back for IBM. The Watson computer (supposedly) analyzes Dylan’s lyrics and says that his themes are that “time passes and love fades.” In response, Dylan says “that sounds about right.”

Some reviewers at other shows bitched because Dylan never spoke to the audience. I think it’s because they want him to say, “We’re so happy to be back in Boise, Idaho” or whatever but frankly, I doubt if he gives a shit. Stope looking for unconditional love from your performers.

Plus, be careful what you wish for. Towards the end he introduced the band and said something like this:

“Hello, Boston. Nice to be here. You’ve got Bunker Hill. And Beacon Hill. A lot of hills. And Paul Revere. Three cheer for Paul Revere.” So, if he comes out with a song called that, you heard it here first.

I will not bore you with any more impressions other than to say that I enjoyed the show quite a bit more than I expected to. There might well have been an encore in there. It’s hard to tell because people in front of me again stood up, blocking my view.

Side note – Why is it that people can’t stay in their seats for a 90-minute show? Or for that matter show up on time? I had to get up several times to let people come and go. And after about 20 minutes, at the end of every song there was a flurry of people leaving their seats and going up and down the aisles. Tip – Get to the show early, hit the restroom, don’t drink too much so you don’t have to run back to the restroom, stay in your fucking seat. It’s not a four-hour Springsteen show.


Watching the River Flow
Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine)
I Contain Multitudes
False Prophet
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Black Rider
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
My Own Version of You
Early Roman Kings
To Be Alone with You
Key West (Philosopher Pirate)
Gotta Serve Somebody
I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You
Melancholy Mood
Mother of Muses
Goodbye Jimmy Reed
Every Grain of Sand

I found this and I will post it and you can enjoy it for as long as it lasts

*The picture says Wang Center. There used to be a company called Wang Laboratories in the area. But like all the other minicomputer manufacturers in the area, Dr. Wang got caught with his pants down when the personal computer came around.

23 thoughts on “Concert Review – Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour

  1. I like Bob and his music. The whole concert thing has just about past me by for a lot of reasons including some you noted. Good for you to face the elements and brave the public storm.


    1. For a hundred bucks how could I resist? I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. Dylan is one of those guys on another level to this day. Interestingly there were more people at this show with walkers and canes than I’ve ever seen. The boomers they are a aging.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So I suppose Mr. Zimmerman was the secretive octogenarian you seeded the other day – that’s pretty cool, Jim! 🙂

    If I recall it correctly, I previously wined about my dreadful Dylan experience back in Germany in the late ’80s. Of course, I had entirely set up myself for the disappointment when in “preparation” for the gig I had the brilliant idea to listen to “Before the Flood” back and forth. After all, it’s a live album, so I naively thought this would be a pretty good representation what the maestro would do during “my” show.

    Well, Dylan opened with “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and then cheerfully went on to only play stuff I had never heard of before. Obviously, being intimately familiar with “Before the Flood” and some other, mostly early stage music doesn’t make you a Dylan expert! Needless to add this was a bit of a bummer! Well, luckily, Roger McGuinn solo on acoustic guitar opened the night. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were on the bill as well. This helped save the overall event from my perspective.

    A dear friend who has been a professional musician since the ’70s was invited (by another friend) to see Dylan in New York at the Beacon – nice invite! I think it was about two years ago: Fourth row, so he could literally look Dylan straight in the eyes! He loved it, even though I don’t necessarily believe he’s a huge Dylan fan.

    I really like how Dylan’s voice sounds on “Before the Flood”. As such, it took me a while to get used to his current voice. I think it works really well on “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” an album I interestingly pretty much liked from the first time I listened to it. To me, it’s a true late-stage career highlight.

    With all of that being said, despite my previous disappointment in Germany, I would consider seeing Dylan again. Ah, but I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now! 🙂

    The clip you included sounds pretty good. A $100 orchestra seat certainly looks like a reasonable investment to me to see who despite occasional misses probably is the greatest singer-songwriter of our time!


    1. Yep, Mr. Z was the “senior guy” to whom I was obliquely referring. (If I recall correctly, you came to Boston and saw Neil Young at the same theater.)

      I think going to see any “mature” artist requires a certain amount of expectation-setting. Genesis is currently touring and one of the greatest drummers ever can no longer drum and has to be aided to the stage and use a cane. But I hear they still sound great.

      As to Dylan, I knew what his voice sounded like and more importantly, I knew he’d play more or less the same set so I found out what it was and listened to it on Spotify. So my expectations matched reality. The bluesy angle was a major plus. He didn’t try to sound like Frank Sinatra which was my problem with Elvis Costello not too long ago.

      As far as seeing Zimmy yourself, he is on the Never Ending Tour so you may well have a chance. For me I really dug it and it’s a box I’m happy to check off.

      Now I’ve seen the Beatles and Dylan back-to-back! Dylan in person and the Beatles of course, by traveling back in time over 50 years and not even anywhere near them. But still! 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Seeing The Beatles and Zimmy back-to-back definitely give you some bragging rights, Jim!

        This actually reminds me I should watch the bloddy documentary one more time before my one-month trial period with Disney+ expires. I really have no intention to become a regular subscriber.


        1. I may even play a Hendrix album next!!

          I’m a Disney subscriber due to a deal. One more pass through ‘Get Back,’ then ‘Hamilton,’ then done.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw him once back around 2003 – it was pretty good, if not particularly dynamic. Wonder if he’ll have Zimmerman’s Zimmerframe tour?


  4. Good on you for getting out there because as you said he is old and might not every do it again. I have never gotten in to him, but seeing him live to say I did would be worth a trip to a show. I need to check to see if he is coming here.


    1. I’m always ambivalent about seeing someone for their own sake. A friend is always asking me if I want to go see Ringo. If I did it would only be to check a Beatles Box so I never go. Plus his ticket prices are in the stratosphere. But even for a hundred bucks I probably wouldn’t go. Outside of his Beatleness his sings just aren’t enough of a draw for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I caught ‘wobbly old’ Bob some eleven years ago now in a farm field a few miles over from here…. he wasn’t in his crooning stage but even with the smoker’s cough and reinvented classics he was worth checking out and it was a surreal trip seeing Dylan in such a local environ. It was, unfortunately, a festival crowd though and while I’ve long-since sworn off being in such a crowd again and I get the feeling more them were watching just to say ‘I saw Dylan’ than to enjoy hearing Blind Willie McTell -I’m glad I did.
    Not sure I’d stump up the cash (£75 at today’s rates) to do so these days.


    1. Without having actually surveyed the crowd, I think i can say with a reasonable level of confidence that most of those people were there to see a guy that i bet half of them have seen before. They recognized the most obscure tunes and a few of them were older than the geezer himself! There were a few in your demographic but by and large it was a bunch of old fogies like me. And that’s about what I paid. But hell, that’s a bargain compared to some of the other shows I’ve been to. Ringo is charging £400 for some of his seats. And that’s not even VIP where I believe you get an autographed picture! Suitable for framing

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am 78 and i will be seeing Dylan for the first time in Little Rock in April. I admit that i was some disappointed to see the set list. I mean, what the hell, even Springsteen knows he has so sing Born To Run, so i was sorry to see no “Blowin In the Wind” or Like A Rolling Stone” or another half dozen I could mentionbut i will go anyway. I did see BB King once and he was in a wheel chair and couldn’t remember a single song, not even “The Thrill Is Gone”. It was sad and I guess you can say i saw BB King, but it really wasn’t BB King, if you know what I mean. After seeing Bruce Springsteen at Sprint Arena in Kansas City i have given up arenas. It was a great 40 year run but it was time. I now attend theatres and see the likes of George Thorogood, Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Robert Cray, Chubby Checker [who was one hell of a lot better than I expected} and yes [my parents would turn over in their graves if they knew] even the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and a few others. They are all actually damn good [the only one still on my bucket list is Dion, and he never plays in this part of the country], but they aren’t getting any younger either. I think the youngest is in his sixties, lol. As far as people standing up and being rude. I always check to see if the venue has a balcony. You can almost always get first or second row seats and the view is wonderful. Nobody stands up in the balcony, lol.


    1. You have about ten years on me. I bet you’ve seen a lot of shows. Yeah, I would like to have heard Dylan do a bunch of other stuff but I figured, well, I’ve blown every other opportunity to see him so this is it. The nice thing (for me anyway), is he turned it into a fairly bluesy set. So, suggest setting your expectations accordingly.

      As to BB. I saw him several times, always great. Except, as you indicate, the final time. Robert Cray was opening for him and he was so much better. BB should not have been out there. His daughter was in the audience. He introduced her then forgot she was there. Then later he had us all singing “You Are My Sunshine.” Sad. It’s almost like elder abuse when so many people are dependent on him.

      I kinda feel like you do about arenas. Pre-COVID I was haunting the smaller clubs. A lot of good acts like Fabulous Thunderbirds, Blue Oyster Cult, Squeeze, Ry Cooder come through those places. I’ve seen and written about ’em all. But even after all I’ve said, damn, I’d really like to see AC/DC and Queen. BTW, George Thorogood put on one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. But boy, that was a long time ago. You’re mostly right about the balcony. We saw Paul Simon some years ago in Boston. it was fun and upbeat. He had people in the balcony dancing and they had to cool them down so the whole thing wouldn’t collapse.

      Hey, come back any time. I have a lot of younger readers and they’re great but they don’t know half of what I’m talking about.


  7. I saw Dylan back in the 70’s on tour with The Band & he was great. I’ve always cherished his music. This Rough and Rowdy Ways tour, uhm.? Totally disappointed he did not play a couple of his old classic’s. Wish I had stayed away.


    1. Yeah, I wasn’t really expecting any. I missed him too many times and figured I might as well go. At least the band was kinda bluesy.


  8. Thanks! That’s a good review of Dylan’s late-life-shows. Bob’s the only “soundtrack-of-my-life” guy who has run the whole gamut of my sojourn. From “Blowing” at age 6 to “Murder Most Foul” in my 60’s. The albums between were all milestones. As to live shows, I’ve seen maybe 5 total. Funny story: the tour with Van Morrison? Caught ’em at Portland Rose Garden. Morrison was a true musical statesman, but then Bob came out with 4 noisy knuckleheads and a worse sound man. I couldn’t identify half the songs they were playing! Having paid my proper respects to The Bard, I shook my head and left early with no hard feelings.


    1. Dylan shows seem to be hit or miss, eh? Having blown so many opportunities to see him (starting in the 70s) I figured it was never gonna happen. But as I mentioned in the piece, I liked that streamed music video and have somewhat adjusted to his voice. Not a great show but really kinda bluesy. The days of The Band, Dead and Petty with him are, alas, history.


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