page by Bill Pagel
Review by "an adoring fan"
Ever since Love & Theft was nominated for three Grammys we had set last
night aside for a small party, and when, as expected, Bill Pagel announced
that Dylan would perform, well... we've been enjoying our anticipation.
I admit, though, that we never did believe that Love & Theft would win
"best album", especially since the Seattle Times thoughtfully described
Love & Theft as "inaccessible" to the masses. Even a fan could admit
this--Dylan did not produce a pop album that is thoroughly understood the
first tme every single person listens to it. However, I know I'm going to
love this album even more this time next year than I do now. His music
always grows and never fades.
That said, I was dismayed when my sister called from the east coast to
let me know that Dylan would be performing about two hours into the show,
that he'd sing Cry A While and that, no, he didn't win best album. And
though she never would have come out and told me so, I could tell by her
voice that she was puzzled by his performance.
So the show started, and I immediately tried to quell my bad mood.
Everyone in our house was chatting it up, and I wanted to listen to each
song and I so obviously wasn't going to get my wish. But wasn't Ralph
Stanley outstanding? And Emmy Lou Harris and Allison Krauss and Gillian
Welch--great! And Alicia, Nellie and India--all so beautiful, so talented
and haven't earned one crow's foot yet. I thought Dave Matthews would be
more dynamic, but he sounded good just the same. All of this in that huge
auditorium. Would anyone want to take a guess how many acres of seats are
in that place? The stages were huge--Dave's imposing fiddle player seemed
to be standing a hundred feet away from him.
Then Jon Stewart introduced Dylan, or rather didn't introduce him!
Everyone knows Dylan anyway. And where did they have Dylan play???? I
swear, it was in a box. It was hard for a viewer to transition from these
huge stages to this box where they put Dylan and his band. I read in the
paper this morning that it looked as if they were trying to produce the
effect of a smokey nightclub. That's an admirable concept, but it didn't
translate well. I like how Dylan's band stands close together and I love
to watch them interact. But in this setting, they seemed constricted,
though Charlie Sexton was certainly not tied up with a bow!
How did Dylan look? Well, the man is so extraordinary that it's hard to
know where to begin. First off, he wears beautiful clothes. This suit
was black and had silver-white stars that ran vertically along the outside
of his sleeves, and when he turned, the camera caught them perfectly. His
cowboy hat looked as if it was gray, and it had a pronounced curl to it.
But it's his face... his face is so incredibly expressive. At one point
he looked up and his eyes had such a clear light blue cast to them, the
kind of cast that conveys the depth that... whoa! And the lines across
his forehead, along his eyes and around his mouth accentuate every word,
every note as he sings with intense deliberation. But the camera's angle
seemed to be consistently off, and for a while Dylan seemed to be trying
to find his audience, and then he appeared to give that up. To be fair,
capturing that face on camera must be a difficult endeavor for a Hollywood
cameraman who, all evening, has been dealing with the young or the
botox-injected plastic faces, and here Dylan is so alarmingly real.
The song... The song was great! He could have sung anything, so of
course we have to debate why this song in particular. I had thought he
would sing Honest With Me, since he was up for an award for that song.
And there are other songs on Love & Theft that are more "accessible", such
as Mississippi or Moonlight. But he picked this one, and I think it's
because he and his band played some perfect blues, really, really, really
good. It is the sound I love to hear, that I can't really hear clearly in
my thoughts; I have to wait for a band as good as his to blow me away.
It's also a perfect showcase for Dylan's vocals as they are today. He
really bit into that song, and he growled his frustrations, and he sang a
gritty, pithy, lowdown blues.
He was easily the greatest, most inspiring artist of the evening. Still,
at the end I could not help but wish I could listen to more. It was so
good to see him up close and without the blinding lights. But I think I'm
longing for a live show, something, anything out of the box.
Review by "Todd Holden"
It was vintage Bob Dylan and His Band....
and a tighter, more solid band he's not had before. What blew me away was
the setting, harsh shadows, in a 'shadow box' setting.... Don't know if
Bob has a set director on the staff at the Grammy's but the concept was
ingenious. It fit the album , Love and Theft , perfectly.
It was like we were looking back, way back , to a time when Bob was
finding out who Bob was, and on Love and Theft, we realize the
transcendental folk singer has again come up with a stellar performance on
an otherwise unimpressive show, with the exception of U-2's opening
number, which reinforces their grip as the most relevant rock and roll
band on the globe.
Walk On was delivered to the public long before '9/11' which makes it even
more of a vital anthem to our country's recovery and fortitude.
>From U-2 to Bob Dylan, that was it for me. The harmony among Bob's band
after the second verse , just makes a body want to hear more,
and in this case, including the phenomenal set they performed in, less is
And with Bob Dylan again , understatement says it all, pure and simple, a
genius at self promotion. Remember folks, this is the man who never missed
a beat, when a simpleton with 'Soy Bomb' written on his chest paraded
around the Grammy's like a buffoon.
It takes more than a fool like that to cause Bob Dylan to wince or blink
an eye, or turn a deaf ear, he did what the coolest thing to do was, ,
...keep on playing and don't miss a beat.
bel air md.
page by Bill Pagel
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