Straight Man Versus Jokerman

Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, DCU Center, October 2, 2007
By STEVEN LEE BEEBER  |  October 8, 2007
Elvis Costello

Those expecting a night of Sinatra-style duets when Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello shared the bill at the DCU in Worcester were sorely disappointed. After all, the men born Robert Zimmerman and Declan McManus are no Jewish/Irish vaudeville team. They’re the respective “voices of their generations,” even if one voice still comes through more clearly for more folks.

That said, there was a sense of reunion in the air. For, as in those (in)famous 1966 concerts when the original voice of his generation transitioned from protest singer to surrealist rocker by breaking his shows into half-acoustic/half-electric sets, here the positioning of the solo, mostly acoustic Costello before the band-supported electric Dylan caused those in the know to look back in nostalgia, whether they were supposed to or not.

If Costello was gently direct in his war-bashing references, following “What’s So Funny (About Peace Love and Understanding)” with a T Bone Burnett number about a wounded vet (and underscoring the meaning of the latter with his between-song banter), Dylan, with nary a word, brought his impeccably played Americana-style show to a close with “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “All Along the Watchtower,” merely croaking into the mic “There’s something happening here” and “There must be some kind of way out of here” to bring the crowd to its anti-war feet. In short, where the personable Costello warmed the crowd and brought it into the fold, the raspy-voiced Dylan spoke-sang to it in sandpaper-dry tones that made the import of his message all the grander. The angry young man of new wave played straight man to the jokerman of wave after wave, and the audience was wonderfully in the moment, even if it did look back in anger once or twice.

Related: Live and kicking, The 20 greatest concerts in Boston history: 16, Stepping right up, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, T-Bone Burnett
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