Monday, October 22, 2007

bob dylan: iconoclast h. christ

so i went to pearly gates and found the bolts rusted. seeing bob dylan is an experience, sure, but i am not sure what was learned. let me put this into context.
a friend of angela and myself gave us two tickets to see elvis costello and bob dylan at the fox theater in st. louis on monday night. fucking rad! i wanted to see this show but the tickets were a little pricey and the show sold out very quickly. but, the cosmos looked out and gave us admission. great. so we arrive at the theater, which is breathtakingly gorgeous, about ten minutes before the show starts which allowed for a cigarette and a little people watching. i was curious who would be there and if you could see a split in the fan base. not that costello and dylan have vast differences in fan population, but i was looking out for the mods there for elvis, and the poli-lits there for dylan. it was strange, the crowd was overwhelmingly normal looking. like christmas shoppers, or people at an airport. kids, parents, grandparents. all there for the same thing. granted it was a pretty caucasian audience, but this is middle america right? what can i expect.

we find our seats, with help from a geriatric usher who looks as if they could have built this fucking theater, and squeeze in to our seats. amos lee was on stage and i as happy to see he was opening because i had never heard him before but had heard good things. his group was phenomenal. folk, blues, soul, country, it was all there being lead by this jeff buckley meets curtis mayfield in a fistfight with joe cocker. it was perfect. he played for about 45 minutes and i was very impressed. very. then the stage was cleared and out comes a rack of five acoustic guitars and a small practice amp. seriously the amp was maybe 100 watts. i turn to angela and ask where the piano is. no piano. expecting elvis costello, solo, to be mostly balladeerish renditions of his pop catalogue, and possibly some of his jazz songs he recorded a few years back, actually he topped the jazz charts, the pop charts and the indie charts at the same time that year, a feat not achieved since miles davis. but here it was, just guitars. okay. then the man walked out. classic black suit, and the signature buddy hollies. it was on. he was placing solo, on an acoustic, but i swear he had an invisible british soul band behind him and he was wailing a gretsch. pure rock and roll energy. you could tell he truly loved being there that night. he loves music, the crowd loves music, he loves the crowd. it was a good performance, full of bows and jokes and political commentary. people seem to forget or overlook just how much politics is masked within his music. it seems like snotty pop rock but the lyrics are angry and desperate. he reminded me of that fact. then with a gracious bow and wave, he was gone.
then comes dylan. full band, three guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and more leather than a gay bar in 77. the first song rocks into a slightly recognizable riff, but it is a little off. the sound is bad and the musicians aren't tight. who cares though, it's dylan. then he begins to sing...well, let me rephrase, he speaks the lyrics over the music. the problem was, you couldn't understand a thing he said. the reason i love dylan is the lyrics, and they are gone, fallen into the mash of bad country music. so if the lyrics are gone, and the music is bad, why are people cheering?

it is simple. dylan is an icon, says the man next to me. well, sure, but an icon of music, and this is horrible. it just seems like he doesn't care. if not, then why do it. he doesn't need the money. is he trying to kill his image. possibly, but these people won't let it die. they clap like fucking seals for fish after every song. he is either laughing to himself or crying. i can't decide.


Skanky Jane said...

Hey Garage Monkey (hope I got that right and where have I heard that name before? Myspace?)

Anyway - it is so good to meet your blog - opinionated, trashy, well written and containing content!

Onya for joining Art Blog Review - slowly but surely the group is growing with a good mix of artists - "high", "low" and mediocre (that's me). Yeah - ha!

I saw Dylan for free too - about ummm.... shite - seven or so years ago - at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre (not a breathtakingly gorgeous venue)and my experience was much the same as yours. I can barely speak (or write) when it comes to music but the band was strangely pineapple - somewhere between Country, Hollywood Hawaiian and folkroclassical (told you I couldn't do this). I couldn't hear Dylan - but hey -

"I saw Dylan"

The inaudibility of Dylan (don't I just ooze old-school-cool when I leave off "Bob"?) stood in stark contrast to the audacious audibility of Patti Smith who played first. She prowled up and down the front stage like a panther and had no trouble topping the full-on rock'n'roll band in back - reckon she could have done so without the mic - and she's no spring chicken. Anyway, Patti was amazing and Dylan - was Dylan - I left being glad I could say ...(what I said a paragraph ago).

The only other remarkable thing was Patti Smith's spitting. The bouncers standing in front of the stage like a set of neckless bookends must have been soaked but they never blinked as shower upon shower of slag sprayed over them. Patti sure is one juicy chic!


David Matthews said...

Dylan has always been notoriously uneven in concert. I was fortunate to catch him on two occasions when he was outstanding, both at the Fox Theater in Atlanta way back in the 20th century. It seems to be a crap shoot. Friends who have seen him often have described performances like the one you saw or when he seemed to be just going through the motions, while other concerts knocked them out. The best of his performances and recordings, e.g., Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, to name three, leave me willing to make allowances for the rest.

Painter Roderick Smith, one of the friends who has seen Dylan many, mnay times, made a ten-minute video of a Bob Dylan marionette performing "Desolation Row" with illustrations from the engravings of Peter Brueghel the Elder. You can find it at < >; click the Desolation Row button in the left column on the home page. I think you might enjoy it.

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