Bob Dylan review at Cadillac Palace Theatre: singer delivers adventurous set


Four dates into a lengthy fall tour, Bob Dylan arrived in Chicago for the first of three nights at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

Like the celebrated songwriter’s performance at the Auditorium Theatre two years ago, the evening served to acquaint the local audience with material from 2020’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways.”

Friday’s set list added the album’s “Crossing the Rubicon” to previously performed fare. The lone omission was the generation-spanning political portrait “Murder Most Foul.”

Dylan began the show with a song connected to his host city. The six-piece band lashed into Nick Gravenites’ “Born in Chicago,” first recorded in 1965 by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The staging included no frills. Road cases were stacked along the black brick wall behind the group. The musicians wore black suits, with an extra measure of sequin spangling on Dylan’s jacket and pantlegs.

Despite pre-tour rumors sparked by last month’s Farm Aid concert appearance, Dylan did not play guitar or appear alongside members of Tom Petty’s band The Heartbreakers. He instead relied upon his baby grand piano and seasoned road musicians. Longtime sideman Tony Garnier stood to Dylan’s right, playing rockabilly slap bass on “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” bowed legato tones on the spare “Mother of Muses,” nimble walking lines on a train-shuffling “That Old Black Magic,” and electric bass on “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.”

Dylan continued a longstanding habit of reshaping familiar pieces. Several reimagined classics like “When I Paint My Masterpiece” were drawn from this year’s live-from-lockdown release “Shadow Kingdom,” which recast songs from influential early albums including “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” while skirting their most familiar selections. On Friday, even those daring twists were subverted and tailored to suit Dylan’s intuitive bandmates.

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” began with Dylan’s piano and voice alone. At the second verse, guitarist Bob Britt added a spirited pop riff borrowed from Roy Head’s soul-pop classic “Treat Her Right.” Dylan hammered Jerry Lee Lewis-styled piano fills until drummer Jerry Pentecost bent the final verse into a swaggering burlesque.

“False Prophet” launched with Britt’s twanging guitar lick and settled into a loping blues shuffle. Britt and Dylan traded solo licks between guitar and piano. When Dylan growled the menacing lyric, “I’m just here to bring vengeance on somebody’s head,” the crowd erupted into spontaneous cheers.

“Gotta Serve Somebody” earned enthusiastic shouts of recognition. The gospel song rode Pentecost’s irreverent and intoxicating beat, punctuated by a bristling tandem riff between Britt and guitarist Doug Lancio. Donnie Herron’s pedal steel lent redemptive tones elsewhere during songs like “I Contain Multitudes.”

Dylan has spent so long heralded as a folk trailblazer and the voice of generations that many overlook the wit and humor in many of his songs, balanced with the gravitas of literary, political, spiritual, and historical references. “My Own Version of You” became less eerie than its studio counterpart but more unhinged when performed as an uptempo swamp-rocker. The song cast Dylan as Dr. Frankenstein on a deranged mission to create the perfect being.

Although perhaps confounding to less-familiar fans, Dylan’s reinventions were almost wholly successful in coaxing compelling new elements from a song and reinforcing his evocative wordplay. “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” represented a rare stumble, shedding a wistful and drifting studio arrangement that was perfectly matched to the song’s yearning tone. The band’s upbeat propulsion undermined the portrait of an outcast pining for an anonymous escape into an easygoing paradise.

Following a hymnal version of “Every Grain of Sand,” the performance concluded with another nod to Chicago. The band rendered Muddy Waters’ 1956 single “Forty Days and Forty Nights” as a roadhouse stomper. Afterward, Dylan walked to the rim of the stage to acknowledge the crowd before following his band to the exit.

A multi-generational audience turned out to see a living legend of popular music and got something different than what many probably anticipated. Leaning into “Rough and Rowdy Ways” and “Shadow Kingdom” for all but five songs in the 110-minute set allowed Dylan to live in his present and his past simultaneously, while his boldly rearranged selections pushed into the future.

Instead of watching a workhorse rattling off greatest hits including “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” or “Tangled Up in Blue” in rote fashion, fans encountered an adventurous artist.

At 82, Dylan remains willing to defy expectations and take risks with even his newest material. The impression made while playing his music is that Bob Dylan remains playful. 

Bob Dylan returns to the Cadillac Palace Theatre for shows on Saturday and Sunday nights. For tickets, visit

Set List:

  • Born in Chicago
  • Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
  • I Contain Multitudes
  • False Prophet
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Black Rider
  • My Own Version of You
  • I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
  • Crossing the Rubicon
  • To Be Alone with You
  • Key West (Philosopher Pirate)
  • Gotta Serve Somebody
  • I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You
  • That Old Black Magic
  • Mother of Muses
  • Goodbye Jimmy Reed
  • Every Grain of Sand
  • Forty Days and Forty Nights


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