Bob Dylan was in excellent form Saturday night, during his sold-out Bangor Waterfront performance. More than 8,000 people of all ages came out to see the rock ’n’ roll icon play a selection of classics and deep back catalog cuts, on a cool, humid August evening.
The vibe was both reverent and laid-back, as longtime Dylan fans and new initiates enjoyed everything from opening song “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35” to recent fan favorite “Thunder on the Mountain,” from his 2006 album “Modern Times.” Dylan fans cut across generations, from the baby boomers who grew up with his songs defining the 1960s, to teenage listeners who came out both on their own and with their parents.
“My wedding song was ‘Emotionally Yours,’ off of ‘Empire Burlesque,’” said Leslie Staples of Liberty, who came with her friend Cindy Kekacs, of Bangor. “He’s an icon. He’s a great poet. I’m so glad to have him here in Bangor.”
“I think what it is that makes him stand the test of time is that he’s just a great writer,” said Kekacs. “It’s all about the words.”
The words, yes, but also the music, as Dylan and his crack touring band melded rockabilly, blues, bluegrass, country and myriad other influences into one rollicking, satisfyingly groovy sound. Revamped versions of songs like “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” off 1963’s “The Time They Are a Changin’” and “Simple Twist of Fate” off of 1975’s “Blood on the Tracks” showed off Dylan’s constantly changing repertoire. The Dylan a concert-goers sees one year may be totally different from the Dylan one might see the next.
Jane Disney of Bar Harbor first saw Bob Dylan live in Pennsylvania in 1979, during his born-again Christian phase. More than 30 years later, Saturday’s Bangor show was her second.
“He didn’t play one of his classic songs at that time. He wore this incredible blue silk jacket with a black leather collar,” she said. “I’m very excited to see him now. I get to hear all those songs I’ve wanted to hear for years.”
Disney brought her two children, Madeline and Orrin Johnson, 19 and 26, respectively, both also of Bar Harbor.
“When I was 12 I remember I brought a Dylan CD to school, and all the kids were like, ‘Why are you listening to this old guy?’” said Orrin Johnson. “I was like, ‘I’m pretty sure this is good music.’ And I was totally right.”
“‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ was the first song I ever learned on guitar,” added Madeline.
Concert-goers were not allowed to bring in point and shoot cameras, and the press likewise was not allowed to take photographs during the show. It appeared that most of the crowd was more interested in simply listening, however, to exciting versions of songs like “Highway 61 Revisited” and a slow-burning, sly take on “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Dylan even played a funky version of “Things Have Changed,” his 2000 Academy Award-winning song from the film “Wonder Boys.” For the encore, Dylan played two bona fide hits: “Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower.” For his first Bangor appearance in more than 10 years, Bob Dylan did not disappoint in the least.