Say what you will about Bob Dylan - at 66, the man still knows how to rock. Dylan is a living legend, one of the few socially conscious rock troubadours to make it out of the '60s alive.
And thank goodness he did. He and his five-piece band proved they still have what it takes get an arena of thousands on their feet screaming. Dylan filled Charlottesville's John Paul Jones Arena Thursday with his blues-infused, country-tinged, good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll.
In a wide-brimmed flat cowboy hat, hips swinging, Dylan proved his talent on guitar, keyboard and harmonica. It's impressive that the man has made a career with a voice that sounds like he's got a mouthful of cotton balls, but those nasally vocals are what make his voice unmistakable.
The show was a best-of bonanza, combining '60s classics, tracks off his 2006 album, "Modern Times," and notable bits and pieces in between. The mix might have been because he's releasing yet another greatest-hits album in October or maybe because he has a solid songbook nearly four decades long.
A particularly rousing rendition of the 1965 hit "Highway 61 Revisited" really got the crowd going. In "Spirit on the Water" he jokes about his age: "You think I'm over the hill. You think I'm past my prime. Let me see what you got. We can have a whoppin' good time."
Dylan made the audience practically beg him to come back onstage for an encore. I guess when you're Bob Dylan you can make them wait an extra few minutes, just to be sure enough they make enough noise to warrant the extra songs.
And what an encore it was. They played the up-tempo, hard-rocking "Thunder on the Mountain" from "Modern Times" and the pièce de résistance: his oft-covered 1967 masterpiece "All Along the Watchtower."
Opening for Dylan was Elvis Costello, a headline-worthy act in his own right. He played an engaging and impressively energetic solo-acoustic set, which included his classic hits "Alison," "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."
His British wit proved just as charming between tunes as he told tales of spotting Schwarzenegger in a restaurant and recounted the genesis of his politically charged newer songs. Costello and Dylan made for a solid tour pairing, with the former's charm and short, poppy songs complementing the latter's straight-to-business rocking jam sessions.