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Dylan and McCartney rock Guadalajara

May 12, 2012

Nostalgia was back in vogue this week as Guadalajara music fans of all ages lapped up concerts given by two legends of 1960s rock and pop: Sir Paul McCartney and the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Aged 70, Dylan has come a long way from being infamously heckled as “Judas” for switching from acoustic to electric guitar, with the latest leg of his “Never Ending Tour” bringing him to the Telmex Auditorium on Wednesday night.

A unique counter-cultural icon, Dylan has taken on many guises throughout his career of over 50 years: those of folk singer, protest artist, rock star, New York hipster and born-again Christian standing out most prominently.

Since his 1962 debut, Dylan, has released 34 studio albums, 58 singles, 13 live albums and a host of official bootlegs and compilations. His prolific songwriting is surpassed only by his tireless commitment to a relentless touring schedule that would leave artists half his age collapsed from exhaustion in a rehab clinic.

Appropriately dubbed the “Never Ending Tour,” his current jaunt began the same year this writer was born. It has seen Dylan and his band average around 100 shows a year for the past two decades.

The latest of those showcased Dylan’s talent for reinvention with a 90-minute set split between classic and newer material.

Presumably to stave off boredom after so many years on the road – or perhaps through sheer perversity – Dylan now renders many of his oldest songs almost unrecognizable. Backed by a tight five-piece band playing bluesy new arrangements, he completely changed the rhythm of his vocals, often leaving the audience unsure of what song they were even listening to for the first minute or so.

This meant there were few mass singalongs but it must leave Dylan more artistically fulfilled; he can hardly be accused of pandering to nostalgia by simply wheeling out the big hits.

Switching between harmonica, keys and guitar throughout, the croaky voiced singer-songwriter led his southern blues band through a reworked “Tangled Up in Blue” and a rocking “Highway 61 Revisited.”

A more faithful rendition of “Ballad of a Thin Man” drew great applause, before an epic “Like a Rolling Stone” brought the entire audience to its feet. The electric final song, “All Along the Watchtower,” was closer in style to Jimi Hendrix’s famous cover than the acoustic original. Despite the crowd’s calls for more, there was no encore.

Dylan was preceded in Guadalajara by one of his most famous contemporaries, Sir Paul McCartney, who played the Omnilife Stadium on Saturday night.

The 69-year-old former Beatle knows how to give his fans exactly what they want and drew rave reviews for his more straight-up, hit-laden performance. McCartney ran through an incredible 42 songs in a mammoth three-hour show before an ecstatic audience of 34,000.

Savoring his first appearance on Tapatio soil, McCartney wished the audience a happy Cinco de Mayo and was joined by a troupe of local mariachis on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” one of many Beatles classics aired on the night.

He even learned a few Spanish phrases for the occasion, declaring, “¡Hola Guadalajara! ¡Qué onda guanatos! Esta noche voy a tratar de hablar un poquito de español, pero más inglés. Estamos muy contentos de estar por primera vez aqui,” before launching into the early Beatles hit “All My Loving.”

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