Friday, April 29, 2011

Dylan


An Enigmatic Musical Genius, or a Grumpy Cunt? You Decide.


Just before Easter I went to see Bob Dylan at the Rod Laver Arena. I haven't been to an arena concert since Dire Straits in 1984. And quite an event it was. People were streaming through the heavy rain from all directions, bags were checked at the door and ushers with torches showed you the way to your seat. It was a far cry from the sticky carpet music venues I more often frequent, where barmen shove beers at you across a sodden beer mat and busboys push through dense crowds to collect discarded beer glasses, while some spotty kids skip around on stage belting out pretty much every song from their latest (and so far, only) album.

Dylan has been, in modern times (pardon the pun), much maligned when he plays live. There's always reviews pronouncing him too old, or too grumpy or that he can't sing. Sure, this is all true, but so what? Yes, he's the same age as my dad, but I don't see my dad rocking out on stage. And yes, he's kind of grumpy. But I think more than that, he's just Bob Dylan. He's not so much grumpy as an enigmatic musical genius who's always done things his own way. Sure you don't get exact replicas of his studio recordings. But if you want exact replicas of his studio recordings, you may as well sit in your loungeroom and listen to the studio recordings. No, he doesn't interact with the audience. But nobody ever said he's a great orator, a comic wit, or even particularly smart. I didn't go to hear him talk. He's a poetic rock and roller, and he was there to play his music.

Admittedly it was a trifle comical when he tried to hit few high notes. His voice has degraded to an enormous extent. I mean, he could never really sing in the first place, but that's not what he's all about. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine has said, Dylan's influence on popular music is incalculable. Seeing such a legend of modern music play Like a Rolling Stone, Ballad of a Thin Man, Highway 61, Desolation Row and Don't Think Twice it's Alright, was worth every cent of the $140 I paid for the worst seat in the house.

The cunt turns 70 on May 24. Give him a break.

18 comments:

Alex said...

My Mum thinks his songs are the greatest thing ever and would listen to him 24/7, if she had the chance. Dad hates him because his singing is shithouse. I've been listening to this war of opinions for about as long as tape players have been in cars and I'm willing to accept that there's merit on both sides. In fact, I'd be willing to accept anything that might stop the bickering (Oh God, will it ever stop).

As for the maligning of modern-day Bob: From your post, I get the impression that going to his show wasn't so much about enjoying a good performance as it was about seeing a piece of history -- a bit like how you'd go to look at a museum exhibit. If that's the case, I suppose that, again, you've got merit on both sides. Which side you come down on is going to depend on how interested you are in music history and your level of nostalgia about the man.

squib said...

I disagree. He doesn't give the punters what they came for. He doesn't sing the stuff they want to hear, he's too vain to have his mug on the big screen and he can't sing. In fact given that he wants his privacy, what is he even doing on a stage? (If that's even him. It could have been any guy in a hat. He's probably got some double up there, meanwhile he's at home, raking it in, having a nice old time)

I've never before found myself at a concert wishing I'd brought a book to read

Costello was good though

Lewd Bob said...

Alex, it was certainly an exhibit to some extent. But I'm too young (40) to be nostalgic about him.

squib, I just don't get why people (and reviewers) are disappointed. Doesn't everyone already know what he's like in concert?

Costello was good though

Peter?

patchouligirl said...

Bob Dylan: genius. Would I go to his concert? nah, not even to say "I saw Bob Dylan live" because I don't care much about that stuff. I've got his "Bootleg" CD set at home. You know those 'break glass in case emergency' cigarettes? Bob Dylan's bootleg series and a bottle of red is the only emergency kit I need. When life smacks you in the face, you can find a lot of solace in his lyrics. You can also find the odd laugh. "Bear Mountain Picnic" is great if you get the chance to listen to it.

Alex said...

Pete and Bob touring together? Now there's something to think about.

I'm with you, Patch; I wouldn't go to see him either. Come to think of it, it's been years since I've gone to see anyone.

eat my shorts said...

I don't really have an opinion of Bob Dylan. My sister saw him in concert once and said he was ace (my words, not hers). But she runs marathons and stuff, so I find it hard to trust her opinion. I don't trust the opinions of people who run "for fun".

squib said...

EMS, I think we should be best friends

Alex said...

I don't trust the opinions of people who run "for fun".

Grrrr. Oh yeah!? Well, well ... well, I guess, maybe, you might actually have a point there.

Miche said...

I'm with Squib on this one, he didn't really give the audience what they came for. But then again, he was never much of singer, more a poet. I found him hard to like, but I don't regret going to see him either. Bit of history etc. Compared to the Cat Stevens show last year, it was kind of a let down (let the Yusuf bashing begin!)

Bob was still more entertaining that that malarkey last night. Honestly, Wills is such a wet blanket.

eat my shorts said...

EMS, I think we should be best friends

Capital idea!

Promise that if we see people who are running "for fun" we can throw things at them to make them run faster? Please?

squib said...

Promise that if we see people who are running "for fun" we can throw things at them to make them run faster? Please?

OK but only if they are under 5 years old

patchouligirl said...

I can't remember the last time I went to a concert either Alex. The only concert venue that appeals to me are those Hunter Valley outdoor ones and with a 4 year old that won't be happening any time soon. I've got a big plasma tele; I look at the price of the tickets and think that for the same money I could buy half a dozen of the artists DVD's and watch them whenever I like without having to deal with weather/parking/fuckwits.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

An Enigmatic Musical Genius, or a Grumpy Cunt?

Bob, one can be both you know.

Squib, I thought EMS was your adoptive daughter/maid?

squib said...

Yes, and now she is also my jogger bashing best buddy

Alex said...

I foresee this as being akin to a modern-day spin on Jeeves & Wooster. Only, Squib will be the sensible one.

Patch, I don't have a four-year-old or a big-screen, but I find myself going through a similar thought process. I guess I became less tolerant of being packed into a morass of alcohol/drug-fuelled nobbers at roughly the same time as I stopped being one. The last live show I went to was ROOT! (that bloke from TISM). I think the ticket cost about $20 and they played to a small room of, what appeared to be, dedicated and well-behaved fans. That probably doesn't count so much as a "concert", but it was nice, none the less.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I foresee this as being akin to a modern-day spin on Jeeves & Wooster. Only, Squib will be the sensible one.

EMS: "What-ho, Squib old bean. I'm afraid I got a bit squiffy last night and vomited in the Rhododendron bushes."

Squib: "Yes, EMS I had noted that."

Alex said...

Precisely, Ramon. But exchange "Rhododendron bushes" for "Galleon".

eat my shorts said...

OK but only if they are under 5 years old

Deal. It will be more challenging because they are small, but that's ok, I'm up for the challenge.

Squib, I thought EMS was your adoptive daughter/maid?

I can multi-task. I'm a woman who wears many hats. [Aside: I don't actually wear hats, they look crap on me.]

I foresee this as being akin to a modern-day spin on Jeeves & Wooster. Only, Squib will be the sensible one.

Part of me wants to say: "Hey!", but part of me pretty much agrees with you on that one, Alex.

But exchange "Rhododendron bushes" for "Galleon".

I wouldn't spew on the galleon, I heart it too much. If I had to, I might spew near it. But never on it.