August 21, 2012
Review by Dennis James
It’s been 5 days since I saw Bob Dylan for the first time. I’ve spent a
lot of those 5 days re-living the experience in my mind, trying to figure
out what it all meant. I’m 52 years old, I have about 5 Dylan albums and I
know Blood on the Tracks and Hurricane the best. There are a ton of Dylan
songs that I wouldn’t know even if I heard the original. So I was a bit
scared that this concert would be a mystery to me. What’s all this Good
Bob/ Bad Bob stuff? I was afraid to find out. I may have never gone to a
Dylan concert except my 23 year old son bought the two tickets as a
birthday present to me. I had to act happy about it, even as I worried.
To his credit, my son is a Dylan fan and (with that youthful sharp
memory) knows more Dylan tunes than I ever did. We drove over 3 hours to
Rochester, Minnesota. We found free parking only 2 blocks away. We
followed the stream of people, a casual group of all ages, and saw lots of
long gray hair. A sign on the way in sternly announced NO Cameras, blah
blah and it just reinforced my idea of this aloof performer who’s already
pissed-off at us before we even sit down. We found our seats in the
balcony. People are filing in. Would it be half-full like places I have
read about? A roadie comes out and tunes up a few guitars. People are
still coming in. The lights go down for a moment , and only a moment, and
then it’s ON.
POW! This band is in high gear, and there’s Dylan standing at an upright
organ and he starts singing and he sounds great and clear and my eyes are
watering a bit from the sheer joy.
It took 5 seconds for me to know that this was gonna be a helluva show.
Now I won’t lie to you, even some of these very famous songs were not
recognizable to me. But they kicked ass in every way. The band was tight
and loud and on the second song Dylan moved to the piano. A few songs
later he sang Tangled Up In Blue (which I did recognize, thank you very
much) and when he blew that harmonica the place went nuts.
After the clear singing at the start of the concert he quickly went to
the gravelly, snarling hard-to-understand vocals that we all know about.
But, I swear to you, I didn’t mind at all. It was a prize to hear the
occasional lyric and go “Yeah I got that!”. It ‘s a challenge.
The bluesy fast-tempo songs just kept coming. Bob, uh, excuse me, Mr.
Dylan plunking away on the piano and his talented band holding it all
together. Then, “Spirit On The Water”. One of my absolute favorites.
Instantly recognizable to me and that’s when it was full-blown tears
flowing. My son reached over and patted my knee. He knew what was going
on. My favorite line in the song is “I can't go to paradise no more, I
killed a man back there” And then he sings:
You think I'm over the hill
You think I'm past my prime
Let me see what you got
We can have a whoppin' good time
…and when he sang those lines, sitting at the piano, he was looking at the
crowd and asking them, asking US, “You think I’m over the hill?” and the
answer was Hell no. More jammin’ songs followed, and like I told you
before, some I knew, some I didn’t. They all fit into this night, this
mood that was created. Dylan grabbed the guitar for only one song, played
the hell out of his harmonica and continued to work the piano in and
sometimes out of the songs. When he played Like A Rolling Stone it became
a sing-along, and Dylan knew it, and encouraged it. Who’s this guy I’ve
been reading about who doesn’t communicate with his audience? I have never
been communicated with so directly. I could not take my eyes off of the
stage. I could not sit back into my seat. That’s the secret! It was a very
personal concert. And the lady behind me who squealed in excitement for a
song I didn’t even know, she was having her personal concert. Simply,
Dylan's band is all about the music. They never let up. But the end must
come. All Along the Watchtower. Loud. Ear-piercing painful loud.
It’s over, but then cheers and an encore. Blowin’ In The Wind. And it’s
perfect and I hope my son understands the history he is witnessing. I
momentarily glance down on the floor and see a few strays wandering OUT of
the arena (gotta get to the car!) while Bob Frickin’ Dylan is playing
Blowin’ In The Wind! Turns out, my son saw exactly the same thing and
could not believe it either. We get to the car and let our hearing return.
Wow, I say, over and over. So this is my advice. Go! Get there on time
‘cause when it’s time to play they are not waiting for you. Thanks son,
for taking me to see The Great Bob Dylan.
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