Bob Dylan’s acclaimed hosting gig on Sirius XM satellite radio seemed to pull him from behind the curtain and reveal the artist as surprisingly accessible (and funny).
A lack of spotlights for this past Tuesday night’s show at the Landmark Theater helped Dylan to blend more easily with his band, and while it established a comfortable onstage vibe, it probably always will be a stretch for him to be seen simply as one of the gang.
That distinction, of course, is what attracted a packed house for his Richmond show. Any Dylan tour begs speculation about the set list, considering his rich oeuvre, and this performance began with the Oscar-winning “Things Have Changed,” from the 2000 film “Wonder Boys.”
A row of huge, old-style stage lights hung behind the band members, bathing them in a warm glow. Nattily attired in a dark suit and wide-brimmed hat, Dylan initially strode the stage with only a mic, save for the occasional harmonica solo. Bouncing lightly along with the music, he vividly delivered 1997’s “Love Sick” as though it were part folk tale and part personal revelation. For “High Water (For Charley Patton)” he was particularly animated, as though still freshly buzzing about bringing the 2001 song to an audience.
During much of the show’s second half, Dylan stood or sat at a piano, playing along with the band for the country-tinged “Soon After Midnight” and the blues punch of “Early Roman Kings.” Much of the night was devoted to recent albums such as last year’s “Tempest” and 2006’s “Modern Times,” although one of the biggest ovations came for “Blind Willie McTell,” a track left off 1983’s “Infidels” and later released through the “Bootleg Series.”
The first of only a few older songs seemed to catch part of the audience by surprise as the current arrangement of “Tangled Up in Blue” didn’t immediately reveal its identity. “Visions of Johanna” and a lively “All Along the Watchtower” each got a warm reception, although the show’s true culmination came with its one-song encore. “Ballad of a Thin Man,” from 1965’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” was as haunting and arresting as ever, and perhaps even more so through the years one hears now in Dylan’s voice.
Opening band Dawes evoked the period when the night’s headliner was touring with his mid-’70s Rolling Thunder Revue. Torchbearers of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon sound, the quartet roused some obvious fans and found favor with others while highlighting their new album, “Stories Don’t End.”
“I wish I could tell you what it means to open for Bob Dylan,” Dawes singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith offered with obvious awe and reverence. “It’s something that’s hard to convey.”