Is it worth a minimum of say, three Andy Jacksons to see Bob Dylan on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena?
That would be the 71-year-old grandfather of nine, contemporary of the Beatles, Medal of Freedom recipient, multiple Grammy winner, somewhere north of cultural icon who transformed rock 'n' roll and single-handedly kicked down the barricade that would have shut out Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Kate Wolf, Steve Goodman, John Gorka and several subsequent generations of songwriters.
Like so much in life, the value of an investment depends on the return expected.
An easy three-Andy investment would be the redoubtable Mark Knopfler, who opens for Dylan and whose guitar virtuosity has enlivened several previous Dylan albums.
If Dylan wants to brood in the dressing room and Knopfler can offer up more of his compelling two-CD, 20-song album "Privateering," so much the better. Not that there's been any doubt as to Knopfler's caliber as musician and tunesmith since the first album by Dire Straits 30-some years ago.
Bottom line: Whoever Dylan is Saturday night, it's a bonus. Experiencing a performance by Dylan isn't vital by any means. But it's certainly valuable in appreciating the man's extraordinary social and musical impact.
True, his shows would benefit from him tearing a page out of Demosthenes' playbook and wedging a large jawbreaker between cheek and gum to improve diction.
Dylan is very forthright in alerting potential concert- goers that their evening won't be spent with the earnest folk singer of a half-century ago, the androgynous provocateur of "Blonde on Blonde" and "Highway 61 Revisited," the bucolic bard of "Nashville Skyline" and "John Wesley Harding," the wistful divorcé of "Blood on the Tracks" or the praise-giving believer in "Slow Train Coming" and "Saved."
Ditto for the personas in between.
"When you ask some of your questions, you're asking them to a person who's long since dead," Dylan told Mikal Gilmore in a wide-ranging, late-September Rolling Stone interview.
"I would love to go back and find him, put out my hand. And tell him he's got a friend. But I can't. He's gone. He doesn't exist."
Dylan denies it in the same interview but, over the past decade or so, he's become something of the craggy bluesman who appears intent on going down swinging in both the Sonny Liston and Sonny Boy Williamson senses.
It's impossible not to think Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf or John Lee Hooker when hearing a number of the hooks of Dylan's most recent songs. He often credits his inspirations, such as Delta bluesman Charley Patton on "High Water (For Charley Patton)."
His band, as it's been for several decades, is so ridiculously proficient it's not uncommon to leave thinking that Dylan, hunched behind his keyboard (arthritis hamstrings his guitar-picking), isn't exactly bringing it all back home.
Judging from Dylan's 2012 set lists through early this month, between a third to nearly half of his usual 15 to 16 songs are tunes written beginning with his 1997 album "Time Out of Mind."
He's opened several shows with the greatest Tao rocker of all time the 40-odd-year-old "Watchin' the River Flow," and he invariably includes "Tangled Up in Blue," with its evocative back-and-forth third person/ first person narrative.
The final five songs of each show appear chiseled in stone: "Thunder on the Mountain" from 2006's "Modern Times," with its tip of the hat to Alicia Keys; "Ballad of a Thin Man," whose "something is happening and you don't know what it is" coda is still as chilling as when it was first placed on vinyl 47 years ago; and, all too predictably, "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watchtower" and "Blowin' in the Wind."
Fine, but a sprightly reggae version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," plaintive "I Shall Be Released" or epic "Brownsville Girl" also would fit neatly into the final five or be welcome substitutes for some of the "new" tunes.
Dylan says he feels a stronger affinity for the material of the past 15 years. And, hey, he's the one going out month after month, year after year, all over the world on what's often called his "Never-Ending Tour." So how best he floats his own boat is probably the most important issue. Certainly to him, anyway.
The problem is for those with multiple decades of familiarity with the prodigious output of the most famous native son of Duluth, Minn., the "new" tunes don't provide anywhere near the same number of thrills from unexpected rhymes or the jaw-dropping kaleidoscopic imagery of just to pick one song "Desolation Row," which Dylan has been performing periodically this year.
Then again, Dylan loves to shock and surprise. He's done it for decades.
Odds are, Saturday won't be an exception.
What: Concert, with Mark Knopfler opening
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sleep Train Arena, One Sports Parkway, Sacramento
Information: www.ticketmaster.com, (800) 743-5000