An Argument for Dylan

What are the chances?

Driving along and there you see a big sign flashing “Bob Dylan in concert.”

Since I have never seen him and I might not get another chance, I thought I’d be an idiot not to grab this opportunity. He is, after all, truly a living legend.

Veronica wasn’t overly thrilled since she had seen him several times before (her dad is the quintessential old hippy making the annual Dylan pilgrimage). I tried to think of some provocative ways to sell her on the idea of spending a hundred bucks and a couple hours of her life listening to unintelligible lyrics mumbled by a 70-ish year old man.

I tried the living legend idea but she had seen him before, so…as we talked about it, I stumbled on what I think is the real reason for anyone to be interested in seeing Dylan, even if they don’t particularly care for his music.

Few people in the history of the arts ever make significant changes in the way their medium is executed. Bob Dylan is one of those few. He fundamentally changed the way songs are written, not musically, but lyrically.

There is a noticeable difference between songs before and after his influence. Before Dylan, lyrics told stories in a clear, straightforward manner. The use of imagery was mostly confined to the music itself, with melody and chord structure. He changed that.

Now it is common for the lyrics to be used as a vehicle to “paint a picture” as much as the feel and form of the music. Bob Dylan had a huge hand in making that happen.

This point made an impact on Veronica and now she was actually looking forward to the show (I wisely decided not to remind her that she wouldn’t be able to decipher a word the man sings – lest I lose the whole lyrics argument).

We arrived just before showtime without tickets and by complete dumb luck got seats in the third row that were somehow overlooked in the advance sales.

What can I say, we lead a charmed life. The first thing I noticed upon entering the arena was the crowd. It’s been a long, long time since I have been to a big stadium rock concert but I still remember what it was like…and this wasn’t it.

I actually felt like one of the younger ones there. This was probably a good thing. No mosh pits, groupies, biker security or clouds of pot smoke to obscure the reason we came. There was, however, a quite large contingency of younger kids from the local college willing to stand though the entire show in exchange for the cheaper ticket prices.

Perhaps that’s where some secret herbal fires were burning. It did seem like a small whiff drifted by now and then.

As for the show itself, it was pretty much what I expected, except that Dylan has reinvented himself as a keyboard player on this tour. He only touched a guitar on a couple songs and used the harmonica mainly to add a little color here and there. The crowd went wild every time he touched the harp though, so it worked.

Dylan’s been known to do entire shows of songs only a hardcore fan would recognize so we were happy to be graced with some classics like “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, “Maggie’s Farm” and “All Along The Watchtower”. All nostalgic, bring-you-back-to-a-certain-place-and-time classics.

For Veronica, an especially fond memory occurred during “Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35” (huh?, oh yeah, “Everybody Must Get Stoned”) remembering her mother’s shock that her father was listening to “that song” in front of the children.

Daddy easily explained it off as a song about Jesus, which is funny because it’s (kinda) true. A fine little childhood memory that made Veronica smile.

It can be a bit off-putting how Dylan never acknowledges his audience, it’s almost like watching a rehearsal. You can see that as good or bad, personally I find something to like in it.

The lighting is sparse – you never really get a good look at him, the stage very pared-down. It’s almost as if the crowd is an afterthought. I can see how after several decades of performing these songs he might purposely phrase his lyrics so that it doesn’t turn into a sing along.

It also occurred to me that the college kids (and some of the old hippies) should stop shouting out requests of favorite songs, because it might make him all the LESS likely to play them.

Dylan wasn’t vibrant, yet he didn’t seem like an “old guy”, either. As Veronica noted, he “oozed cool”. He is after all, as his introduction stated, “the poet laureate of rock ‘n roll.

The voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the 70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse and emerged to find Jesus.”

And the band kicked ass.


Your turn: Have you seen Bob Dylan in concert? When?
How would you answer this: To Dylan or not to Dylan?

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24 thoughts on “An Argument for Dylan”

  1. If some one needs expert view about blogging after that i recommend him/her to pay a visit this webpage, Keep up the nice work.

  2. what’s the worst that can happen? he sucks? then you have a good story to tell anyway! it’s Dylan, totally worth it.

  3. Saw bob Dylan at a festival over 7 years ago and he was on a respirator between songs, and sounded wretched. I’m not sure he would have improved in the time since then. Proceed at your own risk!

  4. I think I’d go so I could say that I had.
    But after hearing some of his opening acts talk about what it was like to meet him I kinda think he’s a douchebag. A historical douchebag, nonetheless.

  5. I saw him in concert when he came to Tulsa last year, and loved every minute of it. He was in fine form, and for once, had a really good band. Loved too seeing him dance a little jig, and oh! Did he smile all way through the concert! He and all had a really good time!

  6. Nope. Wouldn’t go see him, didn’t like him 50 years ago although I liked some of his songs, as long as someone with a voice was singing them. He’s now an ugly old man who still can’t sing… not much of a guitar player, either.

  7. I have seen him 4 times,I love his music but will never go if it is a very big venue he doesn’t play well in them.

  8. I saw him in concert about 10 years ago and in my opinion, he was pretty much past prime then. Full disclosure: I always liked what he wrote much better than how he sang.

  9. No, wouldn’t go see him. I did like some of his songs but not enough of them to buy tickets. Even when he was younger and I saw him on TV I thought he mumbled too much. lol

  10. I’ve seen Dylan in concert within the last few years and it is both! It was so cool to see him but his voice really HAS changed ALOT. But still…it’s DYLAN. Check that one off my bucket list!

  11. A friend of ours in Italy recently commented that his life would not have been the same without Dylan. His music was almost the soundtrack for his life.

    It is truly amazing that Dylan has made such a mark in people's lives the world over. -David

  12. I was thought of by my friends as a bit avant garde back in the mid-sixties, as I was listening to Dylan's "controversial" amplified albums. I didn't have a clue what he was singing about, but I guess maybe I 'faked" it enough to get by.

    In the late sixties or early seventies, while stoned, I discovered what "Mr. Tambourine Man" was all about. It was all so clear, Bob was singing about an alarm clock! Uh, now I'm not so sure.

    To this day, I remember, and repeat to others, many of Bob's lines. They often seem apropos. (My girl friend may not agree with that last sentence.)

    Well, enough for now. "Sometimes a man must be alone, and this is no place to hide"!

  13. I Love Dylan! So when he came to The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to play for the last time before the Astrodome closed down for good, I convinced a friend of mine to go see him with me.

    Now, I have seen, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis, The Who, Areosmith, AC?DC to name a few, all at the Astrodome and everyone rocked!

    I was so sorry to see that I could not understand a single word Dylan sang. We only knew what he was singing because of the music. My friend and I kept saying, "Well at least we saw him." I still think that. At least I saw a GREAT legend! Remember Bob's spiritual period? I love that album.

  14. I'm going to get beat up for saying this, but I think Bob Dylan is a great song writer who should leave his songs for others to sing.

  15. I think in order to understand Dylan you have to listen and read about Woody Guthrie. Many of the things credited to Dylan I'm sure he would credit to Woody.

    Before Bob wrote his own songs he sang all Woody Guthrie stuff. There's a great tribute CD, Folkways: A Vision Shared, to Woody and Leadbelly I recommend and also a book "Woody Guthrie a Life" by Joe Klein.

  16. you lucked out, smart choice to go and see the concert. No matter what someday you could say you saw Dylan.

    What is a life?

    Is it only the most shining moments ofour careers, our shining moments of SuperHeroism that we miss now that our kids are grown?

    The life of a person, the man named Dylan

    the songs of our childhoods as we ran across Vietnam on TV as we were headed out the door to play with friends.

    The teachers we hated but learned from in school as Dylan wafted through the air.

    Summer Sundays when Dylan played on older brother and sisters record players.

    Dylan for some of us represents a soundtrack of life.

    Every life just as important as the next.

    Here we are

    Dylan is still singing

    amid changes in our kids, their kids,

    electronics, weather, media, economics,

    war, the future is coming quick

    where do the years go?

    Hearing a Dylan song, knowing the familiarity in unfamiliar times

    feels good.


    Marina GypsyNester #3 Billion and One

  17. Dylan’ appearing at the new Liverpool Arena in May and I’ve been trying to decide whether to go and see him or not. I’m a massive fan and grew up as a teenager in Liverpool in the 60’s right in the middle of the Merseybeat era, the Swinging 60’s and the Hippie movement so he made a great impression on my life.

    It wasnt’ until reading your post and realising that at 67 he may not pass this way again so I’m booking 2 tickets today! Still have to convince my wife Barbara to come with me as she cant’ stand him. Philistine!!

  18. Bob Dylan matters. He’s a national treasure.

    What can I say? 30+ years later I’m still smitten with him.

    Nice blog.

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