When Bruce, Bono, and Billy were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York a couple of weeks back, there was another big-name B who couldn't be bothered to take part in celebrating either his or anybody else's illustrious past.

That would be Bob - Dylan, that is - the 68-year-old ghost-faced bard who was busy being born, not busy dying, at the Liacouras Center on North Broad Street on Monday night. Standing beneath cherry-red banners that celebrate the Temple University men's basketball team, Dylan dressed his stellar five-piece band in black, and he wore a spangly vest and white-ribbed pants topped off with a broad-brimmed white hat, just to let you know he was one of the good guys.

Dylan's latest surprise move has been to release a holiday album, Christmas in the Heart. But, unsurprisingly, at the Liacouras he didn't do any songs from it at all, or even mention its existence. He did dip into his other 2009 release, Together Through Life, however. He essayed both the moody, Otis Rush-derived "Beyond Here Lies Nothin' " to memorable effect, and he did the relative throwaway "Jolene," which was sandwiched between the crowd-pleasing encores of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower."

Though the nearly two-hour show wasn't heavy on new material, Dylan's performance wasn't preoccupied with looking back, either.

Sure, the grizzled, gravelly voiced ur-singer-songwriter came out on stage - following the standard cheeky introduction that tags him as "the poet laureate of rock and roll" - to the sneering Blonde on Blonde classic "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again."

But more than half of the 17-song set was dedicated to latter-day material, dating forward from 1989's Oh Mercy, represented with "Man in the Long Black Coat," which, in typical Dylan fashion, imbued heartbreak with the fatalistic power of myth.

And more to the point - and as is always the case on the Neverending Tour, which finds the troubadour in Fairfax, Va., tonight - the songs Dylan performs from his vast catalog are subject to nightly reinvention. The results of that native restlessness that has allowed Dylan to keep hiding in plain sight for 41/2 decades, though, can be mixed.

On Monday, the gentle love song "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," which was one of only two songs on which Dylan played guitar, got a melodic reworking that conveyed a fresh tenderness.

"Desolation Row," however, was tinkered with to its detriment, with Dylan enunciating each lyric with shocking (for him) clarity in a singsong manner that robbed the song of its apocalyptic power.

Dylan mostly stayed behind the keyboard, which could occasionally be heard in the mix in the arena, which was a little more than half-filled, but he also frequently strode to center stage to sing and blow robust harmonica, digging deep on a jagged "Cold Irons Bound" and ripping "Ballad of a Thin Man."

All in all, it was a highly energized performance for Dylan, Version 2009, and much credit for that must go to Charlie Sexton, the hot-shot guitarist who recently rejoined Dylan's band. The Texas instrumentalist played alongside guitarist Larry Campbell in one of Dylan's greatest bands, from 1999 to 2002. In that era, Dylan himself was playing lots of lead guitar, so Sexton's opportunities for soloing were somewhat circumscribed.

Dylan's current band puts the varied talents of Donnie Herron to good use, featuring him on lap steel on "Highway 61 Revisited" and trumpet on "Beyond Here Lies Nothin.' " But when it comes time to stretch out and please the young jam-band fans who now make up a significant portion of Dylan's following, Sexton has plenty of room.

Sexton made the most of his opportunities, letting loose with one sharp, well thought-out solo after another, whether it was country flavored on "I'll Be Your Baby," or righteously bluesy on "High Water (For Charley Patton)." And perhaps most important, Sexton seems to have a comfortable unspoken rapport with his inscrutable employer, which put the cranky genius in high spirits. And when Bob's happy, we're all happy.