Wednesday, August 5, 2009

... but willie, john and bob were excellent

So last week we went to see bob dylan, opened by willie nelson with john mellencamp sandwiched in between.
it's been a long hot week, dry but for buckets of sweat ... at the concert all the guys on stage were dropping buckets, they looked like watering cans.

Willie Nelson I saw before at HOB ... but he was a lot better this time. He seemed more comfortable, more at home in the outdoor setting that is Cynthia Woods Mitchell. He sure seemed to enjoy himself a lot more. Willie is long past his prime and I wasn't necessarily that keen to see him again but it was a good show, much better than at HOB. He has a lot of energy for an old guy ... he just started out and ran through (not all) his hits (there are too many) but he played pretty much non-stop for over an hour. I think he may not be around all that long so I'm glad to have seen him put on a good show...

Next up, John Mellencamp. I wouldn't pay to see him, but he was on the ticket so ... passable and I guess it was a good show if you like Mellencamp. He seems to have had a come-to-Jesus moment and his newer stuff is a little more bluesy than his older songs, but I still wouldn't pay to see just him.

Then, on time and as scheduled, at 9:10 pm, comes Bob Dylan. You might think this is a strange grouping anyway -- Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan -- apparently they put a tour together based on their experience doing Farm Aid together ... M said what is farm aid? after researching on her trusty i-phone what the relationship was between the three. But leave it to M to leave no question unanswered, or at least to leave no answer not searched for. I didn't realize how long ago all that was, or how old I am compared to what I used to be.
So here comes Bob Dylan.
First thought ... he's bigger than I thought...
followed quickly by
what big feet
and then
he's really not that big but he has a long waist ...
and his voice is about shot if compared to most of the Dylan you might hear on the radio, leaning not unfavorably more toward Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen ... I thought Waits and M thinks Cohen, who she really likes a lot.
So here's Bob and what he calls his "all stars;" all-male band all in white jackets, black hats but for Bob, he's in all black and a planter Jim hat. Too electric if you ask me, which no one did ... but judging by the mass exodus as Dylan played there were an awful lot of people less than overjoyed by the result. Like a stomped anthill, lines and lines of people in constant motion toward the exits ... and since CW is an outdoor venue with the stage at the bottom of a hill the effect was much exaggerated as we're sitting near the stage and could see the entire "hill" from where we sat.
I don't know why I noticed his boots but for such a small guy his feet are really big, or at least hsi boots were ... shiny black pointy toed boots. Looked like cowboy boots, maybe the pointy toes made them look longer, and the shininess didn't detract from the perception that his boots seem dispropotionately long for the rest of him. No one cares about his boots or his feet for that matter, I'm sure, and I know I don't care, and I realize it's a weird thing to notice about anyone, but ...
The music ... all M wanted to hear was "Like a Rolling Stone" but she figured after 40 years and innumerable requests he'd never play the song but he did ... although M didn't recognize it 'til I told her that's what he's playing. And she didn't recognize Watchtower either, or understand most of the lyrics (they were all pretty mush-mouthed mumblings) but she really did like the show ... the "accompaniment" as she says.
I - not being a music critic, knowing nothing about it - was a little disappointed. I didn't expect him to sound like "classic" Dylan but I also didn't expect someone who seemed to be just going through the motions, overpowered by his band. Still overalll the show was pretty good. My personal preference would be he lose the big electric band and play himself, something more than a wail of the harmonica here and there and a coupla riffs on the keyboard. It was mostly a wall of noise by the white-clad band and some mumblings, almost impossile to discern over the amps. How about playing the guitar, strip down the band, turn down the volume so we can hear the music and the lyrics rather than be accosted by it? Those few lyrices you could hear were promising, and he did play for more than an hour, pretty much non-stop, but he didn't seem to have any fun. No interaction, not that you'd expect a lot. At the end he introduced the band, they're standing there in a line, and it looked like Dylan was going -- was really trying -- to say something but couldn't quite get it out.
Would I go to see him agaain? Sure. But if this was the only Dylan I'd ever heard, or even the most Dylan I'd heard, I don't think I would. I wonder why he's doing concerts if he's having as much fun as he seemed to.
For a guy who was introduced as "the voice of the 60s" and whose status as a protestor was touted the whole thing was kind of incongruous and, in retropsect, the whole thing was kind of sad ... like he had to do a show 'cause he sure didn't seem to enjoy being there.
But what do I know?

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