LINCOLN — You don't always know what you'll get when Bob Dylan takes the stage.
Well, that's not entirely true. If you know Dylan’s recent tours, you at least know it will be unpredictable.
If you're not aware of his current predilections — occasionally mumbled lines, somewhat gruff delivery, new arrangements of old songs and a preference for his newer material — you may have been of the same disposition as the many who walked out of Wednesday’s show early.
The legendary singer-songwriter held court for two hours at Pinewood Bowl, but he didn't play too many of the songs that cemented his legendary status for the 3,000 or so in attendance.
In a light, wide-brimmed hat and dark suit, Dylan stepped to the microphone and started in on “Things Have Changed.” Except for a 20-minute intermission, Dylan didn't stop the show except for the time it took to walk from center stage to sit down at a keyboard.
Most of the set came from his three most recent albums: a pair of releases covering selections from The Great American Songbook and his latest album of originals, 2013’s “Tempest.”
That meant the two-hour show often alternated between the blues-rock of his most recent material and the jazz ballading of old Frank Sinatra songs.
And that left some fans scratching their heads or, worse, getting up and leaving the venue.
Dylan’s vocal delivery has always been his own, but modern times have left him a little more gravelly, and at times it made for an odd scene.
As he finished “Long and Wasted Years,” some fans streamed out of the venue early while others remained in their seats whistling and cheering.
Those fans that gave up on the show clearly hoped for something else, and I can't blame them.
If I were picking the setlist, it would certainly include “Thunder on the Mountain,” “The Times They are a-Changin’,” “Shelter from the Storm” and “Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.”
But only Dylan gets to pick, and Dylan likes the new stuff.
If you came knowing Dylan’s current deal (which I very well do), it was quite a show.
Dylan occasionally played harmonica melodies that became the highlight of those songs including “She Belongs to Me,” and his work on the piano during “Early Roman Kings” held the rocking song together.
Dylan's crooning was actually quite good, and it showed that even though he doesn't always appear to give his full effort at singing well (and clearly), he's at least capable of it.
“I'm a Fool for You” was simply wonderful, and “Melancholy Mood” showed a jazzy side of Dylan I don’t think you can see about anywhere else.
Of course, he did play at least a pair of his most iconic songs, though not exactly in arrangements that were particularly recognizable.
It took until the chorus of “Tangled Up in Blue” for most of the crowd to recognize it, but the rocking version of the song infused it with a vibrant life.
During the old bard’s encore, he sat at the keys once again to play “Blowin’ in the Wind,” though its blues-rock arrangement and Dylan’s peculiar vocal melody made for a version it seemed no one had ever heard before.
But as Dylan sang in his version of “Why Try to Change Me Now,” he's probably got some habits that even he can't explain.
Dylan's been doing things his own way since 1960. Is there any good reason why we should try to change him now?