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Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler at Berkeley
Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler played the Greek Theater in Berkeley last Friday, and, as with every Dylan concert I've seen (and I've seen many) it was both memorable and revelatory. Knopfler was perhaps the most worthy opening act for Bob since Paul Simon in 1999. (On that tour they took turns opening, and covered one of each other's songs. I somehow knew Dylan would cover Sounds of Sillence). Knopfler is a guitarist's guitar player, and was marvelous. Clear, precise, and courageously simple, he frails like a banjo player with angelic clear tone. I was struck by the depth of Celtic music he has mastered, and the whole lexicon of Americana from blues to folk to spiritual to jazz to Tinpan Alley. Rock is often majestic, (Henddrix, The Who, Led Zep, Crazy Horse) but Knopfler may be alone in producing chamber music.Dylan, as always, is brilliant, exasperating, and galvanizing all at once. While playing nothing from his excellent new recording, Tempest, there were many allusions to water and floods. I've never heard him play so many of the hits, and so recognizably. Charlie Sexton, who normally plays fiery lead guitar, was relegated to background riffs, and Stu Kimball, who I usually think of as a fine second guitar, took the leads. Bob's piano is primitive at best. But this night he jabbed chords out of tempo, and often skipped or added beats ala the early country blues men. A nod to the bassist Tony Garnier would be all the cue the band would receive if a 12 bar was about to be extended, or shortened. His voice on Tempest appears to be in final decline, but live it was clear and strong, and the best I've heard him in the last 10 years. The Grammy sits atop the keyboard, the stage persona moves slyly between river boat gambler, replete with hat, and finger snapping, harp playing lounge daddy, channeling Leonard Cohen through Bobby Darin. The great repository of American music, from Celt roots through Appalachia, work songs, spirituals, blues, jazz, rock and roll. It's all there. Now.