THACKERVILLE, Okla. — Well, folks, this was a first. The winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature played a casino Saturday night, when Bob Dylan showed up as the celebrated headliner at WinStar World Casino & Resort, just north of the Texas-Oklahoma border.
He sang for 90 minutes in a raspy, nasal tone that was truly Dylanesque. The 75-year-old icon has made no public mention of being named a Nobel laureate on Oct. 13, a silence that continued at WinStar.
Nor did he show any signs of caring about the rolling thunder of rage that surfaced last week in news accounts. Members of the Nobel academy announced that they have given up trying to contact the reclusive lyricist, who calls to mind Winston Churchill's line about Russia: "A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
Indeed, Dylan did nothing at WinStar but sing. He did not say hello or goodbye to the near-capacity crowd. He offered not a single word of banter between songs. He did not introduce the members of his terrific five-piece band.
All he did was play and play well, emanating a friendly, albeit unspoken, vibe, despite security personnel ejecting concertgoers who used their cellphones to record the show. Photography was also strictly prohibited.
"He brought me up listening to Bob Dylan," said Shane Polsfoot, 27, pointing at his dad, Tom Polsfoot, 58, who lives in Sachse.
"I'm a big lyric fan," said Shane, who teaches at Wylie High School. "Him throwing me into the whole Bob Dylan experience, I've gone through his lyrics. I found that he is extraordinary at what he does."
The elder Polsfoot said he had followed Dylan "since the 1970s. I've always liked him. He's an icon. He's supposed to be the most quoted individual in the world."
As far as Dylan winning the Nobel, Tom said: "I think deep down he's happy about it. But it's just who he is. He's a free spirit. Bob is Bob."
Shane called the songwriter's refusal to acknowledge the award, "Typical Bob Dylan. I think, for him, it's the grain of typical society where people go out and they accept the award and they congratulate themselves."
The Nobel comes with a prize of 8 million Swedish kronor, a little more than $900,000. The honor is given for a lifetime of writing, not just a single work.
As the British newspaper The Telegraph reported last week, Nobel academy member Per Wastberg branded Dylan's reaction predictable — but disrespectful.
Wastberg told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter: "One can say that it is impolite and arrogant. He is who he is."
The still-slender Dylan strolled onto the WinStar stage shortly after 8 p.m., decked out in a long dark coat, tight blue jeans and a Panama hat that made him look, fittingly, like a riverboat gambler.
Not once did he pick up a guitar. He either sat at a piano, each time taking off his hat, then putting it back on and grabbing the microphone stand, without ever removing the mic itself. He used the stand like his own inanimate dance partner, swaying back and forth with it as he crooned his one-of-a-kind lyrics. For one song, he drew applause by pulling out his harmonica. But he played it without attaching it to a guitar, a long-time Dylan trademark.
He opened with "Things Have Changed," which, given recent events, carries its own special irony: "People are crazy and times are strange/I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range/I used to care, but things have changed."
He next played "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," followed by "Highway 61 Revisited" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." He covered a pair of Frank Sinatra songs, "I Could Have Told You" and "All or Nothing at All," which served as Dylan's reminder of his 2015 album, Shadows in the Night, which covers 10 songs made popular by Sinatra.
He played "Tangled Up in Blue" from his landmark 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks, and the seldom-played but enduring "Desolation Row." Near the end, he sang a breezy, even sweet version of "Blowin' in the Wind" and, most ironic of all, closed the show as though he were addressing the Nobel academy itself.
The title of Dylan's finale? "Why Try to Change Me Now?"
Monty Wood, 43, who works for Raytheon, and his wife, the Colombian-born Annie Wood, 24, who works as a model, drove in from Lawton, Okla., to see the show.
Wood said he had always wanted to see Dylan, since his father had first seen him in 1964, during his days as a student at Yale University.
"His voice gives you goosebumps," Wood said. Annie Wood said she was "very surprised" that Dylan didn't talk — at all. Even so, the couple loved the arrangement of "Blowin' in the Wind."
Monty Wood said it felt as though Dylan had taken a noisy, smoke-filled casino and made it his own, transforming it for 90 minutes into "southern Oklahoma's largest lounge. Seriously, it's as though we just heard a terrific lounge singer."
"Tangled Up in Blue" was among the songs Dylan sang Saturday night: