The Swedish capital’s Globen arena was packed with Dylan contemporaries, but also many fans who were one or even two generations younger than the 64-year-old star, and several had brought their young children.
But however eagerly awaited the concert, many fans and reviewers were left disappointed.
They heard a show heavily tilted towards recent songs, notably from his latest album “Love and Theft” from 2001, and some 1960s classics with an electric band makeover that made them only vaguely reminiscent of the 1960s, when Dylan first played them with just an acoustic guitar.
His five-peace band, featuring electric guitars, slide guitars, bass, drums, and violin pushed the decibels while Dylan, who played electronic keyboard and harmonica, never touched a guitar during the concert.
Dylan’s voice has become softer, having lost much of its sneering twang of the early days, but remains instantly recognizable and still forceful enough to cut through some of the more monotonous band background music like a jagged knife.
“It was okay but not his best concert,” judged Michael Tim, a 55-year-old Dylan fan with 10 Dylan concert visits under his belt. “His voice has become more limited and he’s playing the same stuff he played last time, two years ago,” he told AFP.
Some concert goers were put out that Dylan, dressed all in black with a quaker hat, remained coolly aloof throughout the show, never addressing the audience except to introduce the band, and barely acknowledging applause.
But others were unfazed. “He’s so very very cute,” gushed Maika, a Dylan fan in her thirties who last saw Bob perform in Stockholm 14 years ago. “He’s very moving, and doesn’t have to do much. Just the way he moves his feet does it for me, it’s still the same magic.”
The reception for Dylan was friendly, but when a group of fans in the all-seats arena stormed up to the stage after a gripping rock’n’roll version of 1960s anthem “Highway 61 Revisited” they were politely but firmly escorted back to their numbered seats by security guards.
After the incident, listeners were mostly content to bob their heads, although most listened in quiet concentration, at least until Dylan played “Like a Rolling Stone” as an encore, causing a fresh wave of enthusiasm, before walking off the stage without even a look back.
The European tour runs until November 27. After gigs in Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere it will culminate in five shows at London’s Brixton Academy and two concerts in Dublin.
Dylan fans worldwide have already had much excitement recently with the release of director Martin Scorsese’s epic documentary “No Direction Home” this year which charts Dylan’s meteoric rise to superstardom through unusually forthright interviews with the man himself and a host of both besotted and reproachful contemporaries.
Dylan, who started as a protest folk singer in the 1960s, the decade that propelled him to world fame, has also published an autobiography “Chronicles” and “The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, 1956-1966” within the past 12 months.
Chatrooms are abuzz with rumours that the second instalment of “Chronicles” is forthcoming, and that a new studio album could also be on its way.