Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard and The Strangers

TCC Arena, Monday, April 10

A few random musings and observations about last week's show:

· Dylan's live MO these days is fairly standard: He plays whatever the hell he feels like for an hour and a half (classics and obscurities are largely given the same treatment--rearranged to the point that they're virtually unrecognizable from their album versions), then gives the audience what they want in the encore--relatively faithful versions of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower."

· If you're a Dylan freak and are out to convince your unconverted friends that they, too, should love His Bobness as much as you, the best place to start is loaning them some albums--not talking them into buying a $50 ticket, only for them to tell you later, "Well, I mean I guess it was cool to be in the same building as him and all, but ..."

· To be fair, it was a rather low-energy, somewhat lackluster show, though it had its moments. Among them: A gorgeous chamber-pop arrangement of "Girl From the North Country" that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Rushmore soundtrack, and a dirgelike, circus-music take on "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," complete with a crowd roar when he came to the line, "Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked."

· For the past four or five years, Dylan has been playing keyboards instead of guitar when he plays live. Who the hell knows why? He cuts a far more riveting figure when he's peeling off an unexpected guitar solo than when he's banging out organ chords.

· Even if you know all the words, never attempt to sing along at a Dylan show. His ever-shifting phrasing will make you look foolish every time.

· Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but was opening with "Maggie's Farm" a sly nod to the immigration policy protests that happened earlier in the day?

· NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who was seated just a few feet away from us, danced all night long, and in the process officially wrested the "Goofiest, Most Lumbering White Man in America" title away from reigning champ Tom Danehy.

· At age 69, Merle Haggard sounded as great as he ever has--not unlike the showing 74-year-old George Jones put in a couple of months ago at the TCC Music Hall. Even so, to the dismay of many, there was no "Okie From Muskogee."

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