He shuffled onto the Smith Center stage Saturday as if he’d been born there. The aging face of one of the greatest musicians of all time grinned with the vitality of a child eager to perform. Bob Dylan had arrived.
At 69 years old, Dylan has been traveling continuously since he first began the Never Ending Tour in 1988. Saturday only added another show to the more than 2,000 he’s played since then.
Dylan and his five bandmates walked onstage dressed in black to the screams of his impatient fans. At first glance, only a white hat and a boyish grin distinguished Dylan from the rest of the band in the darkened atmosphere of the Smith Center.
At almost full capacity, the arena reeked of marijuana and incense as Dylan’s fans pushed their way toward the stage, revealing a variety of ages that emphasized Dylan’s lasting impact over the years.
As he opened with “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” Dylan’s voice still had its signature folk snarl but was more raw than in his peak of stardom.
After almost half a century in the music industry, the “poet laureate of rock and roll,” as he was introduced, looked weathered.
For a little over an hour and a half, the performance drew the audience into memories of a time when Dylan looked a little bit younger and sounded a little more clear. His voice endured through “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” – as he jumped between the harmonica and his own rough vocals – and “Highway 61 Revisited,” though at that point in the set the lyrics were barely discernible.
Since his debut self-titled album came out in 1962, Bob Dylan has been causing a raucous with the sly look in his eyes and the dry rasp of his voice. Legally changing his name the same year, Dylan has spent almost 50 years in the music industry pushing boundaries, recovering from drug addictions and bouncing between religions.
While his voice has worn itself down over the years, the passion that pushed Dylan through his music career was still evident in the way he threw himself into his performance. As the encore came, Dylan looked as if he could go another hour, rocking along as he played and smiling wholeheartedly as the crowds cheered.
As the first chords of “Jolene” broke into the arena, the crowd was roaring more than it had when Dylan first walked onstage.
Shouting “How does it feel?,” the crowd erupted into song as Dylan played “Like a Rolling Stone” at the end of the concert. With a final wave into the bright lights of the stage, Dylan stepped off into the darkness.
Micah Lubens, who graduated from GW in the spring, said the concert was still “what he expected” even though he thought the singer was much better when he was younger.