November 13, 2016
Review by Allison Davis
I just turned 30, and I believe this was my sixth Dylan show.
I often think about what Dylan meant to listeners in the '60s. I love Dylan,
but even I didn't understand how powerful his music can be during a time
of grief. As a Jewish woman who grew up in the Midwest, I spent the past
week troubled by the political climate. This concert made me weep.
Dylan opened with "Things Have Changed"--"People are crazy and times are
strange." He did his little Dylan dance which reminded me of my dad. The
lyrics were so clear I had to double check that it was him. He then moved
to the piano, took off his hat and set it upright like he was expecting tips,
and started into "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." "Highway 61 Revisited"
was unfortunately more relevant than ever:
Now the rowin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun.
Next was "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" followed by "Full Moon And Empty Arms."
He picks his mic up during the Sinatra songs--there was a clear switch in his
demeanor between his piano-jams on Highway 61 and the moody Shadows in
the Night/Fallen Angels songs. My theory on Shadows in the Night is that Dylan
thinks of Sinatra as an Italian-American folksinger--sort of the Woody Guthrie of
Ellis-Island America. I also wonder if Dylan maybe feels lonely night after night
and the world-weary spirit of Sinatra maybe keeps him company.
He moved into "Pay In Blood"-- "Another politician pumping out the piss" and
"You bastard! I'm supposed to respect you!/I'll give you justice, I'll fatten
your purse/Show me your moral virtue first."
One of my favorite songs of the night was "Melancholy Mood," a song that my
father used to sing walking around the house when Fallen Angels first came
out. He sang it like a sweet Jewish-American lullaby for my soul. Next came
"Duquesne Whistle"--appropriate as the concert was blocks away from the
historic Chattanooga Choo Choo terminal.
THEN HE PLAYED "LOVE SICK"!!!!!!!! It was so sharp, so focused, so tormented.
The few other Dylan nuts up in the balcony with me just started screaming and
all the casual fans (the majority at this show, it seemed) were like, "What song
All the lyrics and music were changed in "Tangled Up In Blue." Last time I heard
it live was back in 2002 when I was 15 I think? Unlike the next song,
"High Water," which I've never not heard at a Dylan show.
"Why Try to Change Me Now," to me, is what Dylan probably thinks about the
Nobel--"Don't you remember I was always your clown?/Why try to change me
now?" (For the record, as a poet and teacher of literature, I think Dylan was a
great choice. He brought poetry from the upper class to the people, as bards
and poets traditionally have done since the days of Homer.)
Next were "Early Roman Kings" and "I Could Have Told You," most of which I
spent waiting for "Desolation Row," which I assumed was coming.
"Desolation Row" has always been one of my favorite Dylan songs. He played in
on piano and the words were almost too-clear. When he reached "When you
asked how I was doing/was that some kind of joke?" my mind changed. I felt like
I was one with every Dylan fan who ever lived. Sitting in the theater, I felt like
I've been waiting for those two lines my entire life, and they validated not only
how I was feeling post-election, but also as a human. I was totally sober and I
felt like I mind-melded with Bob. Is this ridiculous enough yet? I mean it.
Next came "Soon After Midnight," "All Or Nothing At All," "Long And Wasted
Years," and a beautiful "Autumn Leaves."
I knew he was coming back with "Blowin' In The Wind." My family sings this song
at our seder every Passover, so I've long associated it with freedom and salvation.
To hear Dylan sing it made me think of all of the people who have sat listening to
him sing it. I felt like I was sitting out in the grass at Newport. I thought about
how much Dylan has seen, how many places this song has been. How scared I
am for the future like many have been scared. I felt like I was part of something
bigger than myself. "How many times can a man turn his head/and pretend that
he just doesn't see?"
He closed with "Stay With Me." He didn't say a word, didn't introduce the band,
just bowed and walked off. Love you Bob.
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