Bob Dylan the IX
King Bob the IX. That cat has had more than nine lives and I won’t be surprised at all when his Never Ending Tour outlives me.
My first Dylan concert was in 1974 and I have been going to Dylan concerts all over the U.S. since then — — about a dozen of them. The “comeback” tour of ’74 was an amazing experience, seeing his return with a deeper voice (his Nashville Skyline voice tailored for the concrete jungle arenas) and The Band backing him up.
Most of the times I have seen him has been a varied mix of his hits with loose arrangements. The last time I saw him, his voice was so shot, I thought he’d either have to retire or have surgery. It hurt my throat to listen.
One thing in common with almost all of the last several concerts is I could not understand a word he was singing and, even though I knew all his songs, it would be halfway into the song itself that I recognized what they were playing.
Part of my fun of being a Dylan fan is like Forest Gump’s immortal box of chocolates: I never know what I’m going to get, so I just keep going to his concerts to see what I could see much like that bear who went over the mountain.
I am a Dylan geek and I know more than the usual Joe about him. I thought I was pretty much “retired” from attending his concerts because I thought Bob had rung out all the water from his sponge when it came to live concerts. That’s not to say I stopped looking forward to his recorded efforts.
I’m a fool for ya baby because it’s not dark yet. News of his concert death I was greatly exaggerating.
Recently, I kept reading about how tight his band was. The combo of Dylan and Red Rocks was a combination I couldn’t miss so I came out of my Bob concert retirement.
It’s been many long and fruitful years being a fan of Mr. Dylan. Here are 8 “Dylans” that I’d already identified going into this concert:
- Guthrie Dylan,
- Protest Dylan,
- Electric Dylan (Actress Cate Blanchette as the “Blonde on Blonde” era Dylan persona in the movie, “I’m Not There”, nails it in a brilliant performance.)
- Country (Nashville) Dylan,
- Family Man Dylan (at home in Woodstock NY),
- Cowboy Dylan (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid),
- Minstrel Dylan (Rolling Thunder Revue),
- Jesus Freak Dylan…
…and all of “those” Dylan personas took place before the end of the 70's!
His latest phase, 15 albums and 33 years later, is his audacity to channel one of the best singers of all time: Frank Sinatra.
At first, I winced and I suppose it may have been the same wincing when he went Christian on me — not that its a bad thing being Christian but holy canoli — the guy had been Jewish the last time I checked and His Bobness never uttered much on stage until he became a minister on stage.
For those who saw him in concert during this phase, it was surreal. He would literally preach from his pulpit. You couldn’t shut him up! Outside of that phase, he has probably belted out a combined total of a dozen words or so.
But I digress. At this latest concert, three decades later, it was the combination of environment and artist that made this concert rise to the top.
How many roads must a fan walk down before he can understand the lyrics being sung? The answer, my friend, is one: the path from the upper south parking lot at Red Rocks last week.
Red Rocks, a nice pleasant 78 degrees, the off-in-the-distance lightning over Lamar light show (Red Rocks goers are treated to this pretty often) and the near-full moon smiled down at Dylan and his amazing band.
Of all things, it is the 2016 version of Dylan’s voice that is the differentiator from all other Dylan concerts I have ever seen.
I dub thee “Crooner Dylan”,
9. Crooner Dylan!
I was at the “Hard Rain” Rolling Thunder Revue in 1976 and the 1974 “comeback” concert at the Coliseum in Denver — those are right up there. Dylan’s voice was buried by The Band for most of the songs in ’74 (perhaps my seats were too far back in that cavernous arena) and the the Revue “Hard Rain” concert was after a hard, cold rain in which drove a lot of people away by the time the artists took the stage. Those of us who stayed were treated to a real spectacle but it was only 20% Dylan or so with all the musicians and actors on tour.
The “Crooner” concert ranked right up there with ’74 and ’76 which is saying a lot.
75 year-old folks are a dime a dozen these days. It’s the old 65. But this man, Bob, isn’t your everyday troubadour. This man, Bob, is giving this dog a bone to chew on. He’s playing knick knack on my drum. Even though night after night he is shredding his vocal cords and his odometer is off the charts, he is melodically hitting notes that I didn’t think he had a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving. Bob Dylan controlling his voice? Priceless.
While his voice is still raw, it is world’s better than a decade ago where we first heard Nettie Moore and Working Man’s Blues #2 for the first time. Does the word “clarity” seem out of place when talking about Bob Dylan? That is what we got the other night at Red Rocks. There is a difference between mumbling and using your voice like a Tom Waits or Satchmo. Carrying a tune has not been Bob’s forte in the last couple decades. It is ironic that now his voice is as important as Donnie Herron’s steel guitar if you are going to arrange the classics of some of the most important songwriters of the American Songbook. In my opinion, he has conquered his latest mountain.
How many Bob’s remain? I’ll be seeing Dylan open for the Stones this fall at “Oldchella’, my name for the upcoming Desert Trip 3-day festival in Indio, CA.
It will be interesting to see if he throws us a curve ball, yet again.