Just like Bob Dylan

When I was a camp counsellor in Webster, Wisconsin way back in the last millennium, I never would have believed that the first time I would see Bob Dylan live would be years later at a casino showroom north of Toronto.

And yes, it was him and not a traveling tribute show.

His performance was amazing. His voice, always like an old man’s, was even more so, filled with grit and gravel. He played his songs, old and new, with a country twang (which I loved).

To borrow from Shelley Duval’s rock critic character in Annie Hall, the experience was ‘transplendent’. What I mean is it was beyond words, Dylan’s words mostly. And that gave the concert its life. Sometimes it felt like he wasn’t singing in English. Maybe he was doing the entire show in scat. My friend Joey Ax said, ‘he’s singing in tongues’.

And his phrasing… The way the words flowed together gave a new meaning to the ones you could understand. He could give a course on hyphenation.

Dylan started off on electric guitar, switched to keyboard and played most of the show with his back to my side of the audience. (So did I really see him?)

The three songs that most stood out for me were:
– ‘Just Like a Woman’ – how did he make his harmonica speak English more clearly than he did?
– ‘When the Deal Goes Down’ – something new that is so powerful you almost remembered the words the first time you heard it.
– ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ – played in such a way that it was familiar though almost unrecognizable.

That was the encore. And you wonder, how many more times can Dylan sing this song?

When it’s this different… I guess we all know the answer to that.


One thought on “Just like Bob Dylan

  1. Hey, Martin!So many of Dylan’s concerts have been like fights, it’s no wonder that a recorded voice-over spewing the history of the comeback antihero served as the pre-show intro. And by fights, I don’t mean any likeness to Hurricane Carter or any other cause-realted film-noir metaphor, I simply claim that getting into these classic songs of monmumental poetry, prophecy and romance was always a fight:listening to garbled raspiness and the strain to hear lyrics of epic works treated so ‘scat-ily’ by their author and the voice of 3 generations of topical poetry. This was a gruellingly academic study of classic songs without melodies or audible lyrics!His band glazed over and simplified so many very important classic riffs that it sounded amateur and almost bubblegum-y!The only word for it is a fight for my ears and mind; an abrupt closing of my heart and soul, and I’m guessing I’m not the only ‘boomer’ who felt this way…I did enjoy seeing Dylan play organ and sing while doing that, but I did that also for a living in Ontario bars in the late ’70’s, so I’m biased…Joey Ax

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