Staff Pick: Bob Dylan at the Palace Theatre

The music legend brings his Never Ending Tour to Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 6

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
In this Jan. 12, 2012, file photo, Bob Dylan performs in Los Angeles.

Rolling Stone rightly described Bob Dylan's recent tour-opening show in Milwaukee as a "new era" of his Never Ending Tour, due both to the nearly two-year break from the road caused by COVID shutdowns, as well as to recent changes to Dylan's touring band, which now includes drummer Charley Drayton and guitarist Doug Lancio, who joined longtime bassist Tony Garnier, veteran pedal steel player Donnie Herron and guitarist Bob Britt onstage in Wisconsin.

The shows are the first Dylan has played since the release of his most recent full-length, Rough and Rowdy Ways, from 2020, and, on opening night at least, the set list drew heavily upon this album. Dylan played eight of the LP's 10 tracks, including centerpiece "Key West (Philosopher Pirate)," a winding, nearly 10-minute stunner that sets listeners amid the Fishtail Palms and orchid trees at the far southern tip of Florida.

Of course, this being Dylan, he could opt to forego playing anything off of Rough and Rowdy Ways when he stops in Columbus at the Palace Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 6, instead dedicating his time onstage to exploring the dustiest corners of mid '80s albums such as Knocked Out Loaded (though, to be honest, we'd have zero issue with hearing album highlight "Brownsville Girl" in concert).

It's that unpredictability and that outright refusal to turn every set into a greatest hits production that has long been the draw of the Dylan live experience, along with his unchecked desire to reinvent his back catalog. Rolling Stone wrote that Dylan stripped "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" of its country roots in Milwaukee, reestablishing the song with "an almost bossa nova groove."

So while the Palace Theatre might be packed with Boomers this weekend, these shows aren't fueled by easy nostalgia. Rather, Dylan continues to freely chase his muse wherever it might lead him in the moment. All audiences can do is try to keep up.