It was no surprise that Bob Dylan’s latest offering, “Tempest,” found music scribes tripping over each other to extol its virtues upon the set’s release in September.
Still riding a tide of critical and commercial acclaim since 1997’s “Time Out of Mind (and his 2009 holiday offering, “Christmas in the Heart” apparently not factored in this winning streak), “Tempest” is, truth be told, a sturdy set. Like his last set of original material, 2009’s “Together Through Life,” the Bard has notably subbed the amplified swing found on 2001’s “Love and Theft” and 2004’s “Modern Times” for a more subdued, laid back approach.
Joining Dylan on the road on his fall jaunt in support of “Tempest” is Mark Knopfler who, along with leading Dire Straits from the 70s through the early 90s, is a familiar face amongst the longtime Dylan faithful; Knopfler provided musical backup to Dylan in his still-beloved Christian-themed offering, 1979’s “Slow Train Coming,” and sat in the producer’s chair alongside Dylan for the latter’s 1983 set, “Infidels.” Where Dylan and “Tempest” received oodles up press around its release, the buzz – at least on this side of the pond – was slight when it came to his most recent collection,” “Privateering,” which came out a week before “Tempest.”
At first listen, the 20 tracks that make up “Privateering” beg for comparisons for “Tempest.” On their respective sets, both Knopfler and Dylan have created subtle sonic scapes which, as a result, put the focus on their compositions rather than the execution. When compared apples to apples, though, it can be argued that many of Dylan’s songs tend to wander, with Knopfler’s tracks brief, focused and, arguably, the better of the two albums.
For those whose Knopfler experiences largely begin and end with Dire Straits’ `78 single “Sultans of Swing” and 1985’s full-length “Brothers in Arms,” this may sound like a left-of-center opinion, but Knopfler has been quietly releasing some of the finest music of his career in the 15-plus years since the band called it a day. Post-Straits sets such as 1996’s “Golden Heart,” 2000’s “Sailing to Philadelphia” and 2004’s “Shangri-La,” in a just world, would received the same attention as Straits faves such as their 1978 self-titled debut, “Brothers” and their arguable masterwork, 1980’s “Making Movies.”
Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9, United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago. $50-$129.50. FYI: (312) 455-4500, UNITEDCENTER.COM
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For more information, contact the venues or ticket sales agencies listed below. Unless otherwise indicated, all shows are all-ages.
The Airborne Toxic Event, Dec. 31, Metro (18 and older, METROCHICAGO.COM)
Concrete Blonde, Dec. 21, Park West (18 and older, JAMUSA.COM)
Maroon 5, April 6, Allstate Arena (ALLSTATEARENA.COM)
Ellie Goulding, Jan. 29, Aragon Ballroom (ARAGON.COM)
The Saw Doctors, March 22, Vic Theatre (18 and older, JAMUSA.COM)
Great Big Sea, March 20, House of Blues (17 and older, HOB.COM)
The opinions expressed solely are those of the writer. Tim Shellberg can be reached at T.firstname.lastname@example.org.