Bob Dylan? (Shrug) I wouldn’t say I dislike his work, but doesn’t he borrow heavily from literature? Without crediting or attributing. So, I’ve never sought out his music and have only come across it inadvertently and incidentally. Like second-hand smoke.
While I don’t know much about his discography I know his career has spanned decades and he’s considered a legend. He’s also worked with some of my favorites, including Tom Petty, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson and Mark Knopfler.
One fine day a text vibrates against my hip: “Join me at Bob Dylan?” Oh, he’s in town? I happily accept because, why not? I feel a little badly knowing many people who love Dylan are unable to attend his sold-out shows for various reasons.
The stadium fills quickly and swarms of eager concert-goers descend on the merchandise tables. Among the t-shirts, hoodies, ball caps, tote bags, coffee mugs, key rings, guitar picks, vintage-looking posters and more are nicely-packaged CDs. I look on with scant sociological curiosity while others shop because, you know, second-hand smoke.
We find our seats as the lights go down and he takes the stage. No opening act? Then I realize it’s exactly the start time as indicated on the tickets. Impressive. He respects his audience. Now, I am fully open to what he has to say.
Since I’m not too familiar with his catalogue the only song I clearly recognize is “Tangled Up in Blue”. I identify the hits or favorites by audience response. His accompanying musicians–who are they?–are outstanding.
He requested no recordings or photography and this is enforced. The great outcome: no sea of bright screens detracting from anyone’s experience. Nothing interferes with the music — except people trying to talk to me. I find myself wanting to shush people, people I know! At a rock concert! (Well, mildly rock-ish.)
I’m wholly focused on the music; it’s not about the show or performance. He doesn’t have any effects or pageantry. It’s not even about the lyrics, most of which I don’t catch anyway. It doesn’t matter to me in these moments whether he pilfered from those who came before him.
He doesn’t build momentum or try to elicit emotion. It’s about communicating; not fabricating connection. I’m drawn in more and more with each chord.
Each song is its own self-contained story and experience. At times the structure reminds me of jazz. Other times the ambience calls to mind Leonard Cohen. I’m attuned in a cerebral way; it’s not passionate or even intellectual.
The song sequence takes me on a ramble through thoughts and sensations, rolling around, and meandering. Not lost or confused, but an eclectic journey over fields, through forests, along the water’s edge, breathing warm air, then cool damp mist, then pelted by freezing rain, through the dark, coming out into the light, turning down dim alleyways, pausing under streetlamps, finding shelter from a brewing storm, laying back on plush pillows, gazing through ambient light, meeting in the mind’s eye.
He doesn’t regale with stories. I prefer musicians playing music to chatting in concert, but he doesn’t speak at all. Not a word. He doesn’t need to. His music speaks for him. I can only imagine the experience in coffee houses and small venues.
So, I thought I didn’t care for Bob Dylan. After this live experience, if he extends another invitation, I’ll go on that ramble with him.
This post is my contribution to Blog Dylan — A Community Collaboration.
On December 16th some of the finest bloggers in the wild world wide web gather to share their thoughts, feelings, memories, reviews and critiques of Bob Dylan — the man, the music, the legend
Love Dylan? Loathe him? Somewhere in between? Everyone knows who he is and most have an opinion. Visit here for links to all Blog Dylan contributor posts.
The aforementioned bevy of bodacious bloggers delve deep and in different directions, so visit them all for their unique perspectives, insights and stories. They’re all music aficionados and welcome your comments and discussions.
Come on by and have your say!
Video posted to youtube by user BobDylanVEVO.
Purchase song “Tangled Up in Blue” or album Blood On the Tracks here.
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